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Friday, August 01, 2014

Teaching Good Sex

Teaching Good Sex - NYTimes.com

"Vernacchio explained that sex as baseball implies that it’s a game; that one party is the aggressor (almost always the boy), while the other is defending herself; that there is a strict order of play, and you can’t stop until you finish. “If you’re playing baseball,” he elaborated, “you can’t just say, ‘I’m really happy at second base’”...

This sex-ed class may well be the only one of its kind in the United States. “There is abstinence-only sex education, and there’s abstinence-based sex ed,” said Leslie Kantor, vice president of education for Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “There’s almost nothing else left in public schools.”

Across the country, the approach ranges from abstinence until marriage is the only acceptable choice, contraceptives don’t work and premarital sex is physically and emotionally harmful, to abstinence is usually best, but if you must have sex, here are some ways to protect yourself from pregnancy and disease. The latter has been called “disaster prevention” education by sex educators who wish they could teach more; a dramatic example of the former comes in a video called “No Second Chances,” which has been used in abstinence-only courses. In it, a student asks a school nurse, “What if I want to have sex before I get married?” To which the nurse replies, “Well, I guess you’ll just have to be prepared to die”...

Sex education in America was invented by Progressive Era reformers like Sears, Roebuck’s president, Julius Rosenwald, and Charles Eliot, the president of Harvard University. Eliot, according to Kristin Luker, author of the book “When Sex Goes to School,” concluded that sex education was so important that he turned down Woodrow Wilson’s offer of the ambassadorship to Britain to join the first national group devoted to promoting the subject. Eliot was one of the so-called social hygienists who thought that teaching people about the “proper uses of sexuality” would help stamp out venereal disease and the sexual double-standard that kept women from achieving full equality. Proper sex meant sex between husband and wife (prostitution was then seen as regrettable but necessary because of men and their “needs”), so educators preached about both the rewards of carnal contact within marriage and the hazards outside of it.

It wasn’t until the 1960s and 1970s that the pill, feminism and generational rebellion smashed the cultural consensus that sex should be confined to marriage. And for a “brief, fragile period” in the 1970s and early 1980s, writes Luker, a professor of sociology and of law at U.C. Berkeley, “opinion leaders of almost every stripe believed sex education was the best response to the twin problems of teenage pregnancy and H.I.V. AIDS.” It was around this time that the Unitarian Universalist Association started its famously sex-positive curriculum, About Your Sexuality, with details about masturbation and orgasms and slide shows of couples touching one another’s genitals. (The classes are still going strong, though in the late 1990s, the program was replaced with another one without explicit images called Our Whole Lives, a joint project of the U.U.A. and the United Church of Christ.)

Back then, even public schools taught what came to be called “comprehensive sex education,” nonjudgmental instruction on bodies, birth control, disease prevention and “healthy relationships” — all geared to helping teenagers make responsible choices, one of which might be choosing to become sexually intimate with someone. But by the end of the 1980s, sex ed had taken its place in the basket of wedge issues dividing the right and left...

Vernacchio gives an assignment asking students to interview a parent about how he or she learned about sex, and the father said his son handled it with aplomb: “He was very natural, and I’m the one thinking, This is embarrassing. He was a lot more mature about the conversation than I was.”

Sexuality and Society begins in the fall with a discussion of how to recognize and form your own values, then moves through topics like sexual orientation (occasionally students identify as gay or transgender, Vernacchio said, but in this particular class none did); safer sex; relationships; sexual health; and the emotional and physical terrain of sexual activity. (The standard public-school curriculum sticks to S.T.I.’s and contraceptive methods, and it can go by in a blink; in a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, two-thirds of principals said that the subject was covered in just several class periods.) Vernacchio also teaches a mandatory six-session sexuality course for ninth graders that covers some of the same material presented to the older kids, though less fully.

The lessons that tend to raise eyebrows outside the school, according to Vernacchio, are a medical research video he shows of a woman ejaculating — students are allowed to excuse themselves if they prefer not to watch — and a couple of dozen up-close photographs of vulvas and penises. The photos, Vernacchio said, are intended to show his charges the broad range of what’s out there. “It’s really a process of desensitizing them to what real genitals look like so they’ll be less freaked out by their own and, one day, their partner’s,” he said. What’s interesting, he added, is that both the boys and girls receive the photographs of the penises rather placidly but often insist that the vulvas don’t look “normal.” “They have no point of reference for what a normal, healthy vulva looks like, even their own,” Vernacchio said. The female student-council vice president agreed: “When we did the biology unit, I probably would’ve been able to label just as many of the boys’ body parts as the girls’, which is sad. I mean, you should know about the names of your own body”...

As to whether his class encourages teenagers to have sex — a protest perennially lodged against even basic sex ed (though pretty firmly disproved by research) — Vernacchio said that he portrays sex in all its glory and complications. “As much as I say, ‘This is how orgasms work, and they’re really cool,’ I say there’s a lot of work to being in a relationship and having sex. I don’t think I have the power to make sex sound so enticing that kids are going to break through their self-esteem issues or body stuff or parental pressures or whatever to just go do it.” And anyway, Vernacchio went on, “I don’t necessarily see the decision to become sexually active when you’re 17 as an unhealthy one.” His goal is for young people to know their own minds, be clear about what they do and don’t want and use their self-knowledge to make choices.

To that end, he spends one class leading the students through a kind of cost-benefit analysis of various types of relationships, from friendship to old-school dating to hookups. When he asked his students about the benefits of hookups, the kids volunteered: “No expected commitment,” “Sexual pleasure” and “Guarding emotions,” meaning you can enjoy yourself without the messiness of attachment.

“Yep,” Vernacchio said, “sometimes a hookup is all you want.” Then he pressed them for drawbacks...

“It’s confusing,” said the student-council vice president.

“Yeah,” Vernacchio said, explaining that two people may have different ideas about what it means to hook up, which is why communication is so important. (“If you can’t talk about it, you probably shouldn’t be doing it,” he says)...

Although Vernacchio encourages students to think about fairness, he certainly doesn’t encourage a direct quid pro quo for oral sex — and the girls, the main givers, were not terribly enthused about being the recipients. “[My boyfriend] completely offered, and I did not want that,” one said. Another agreed: “It just creeps me out.” None were thrilled about performing it, either, and they seemed to be wrestling — in thought and deed — with why they continued to do so. “I do think girls like to take care of people,” the student-council V.P. mused, “and I know that just sounds horrible, like you should send me right back to the ’50s, but my mom is like the most liberal woman I know and still is so happy to make food for people. To some extent, women are just more people-pleasers than men.” One girl said she’d come up with “tricks” to make giving oral sex more enjoyable for her, and that she’d set “strict rules” for herself: “I only do it if they do something on me first, and it has to be below the belt.” And another said she doesn’t enjoy cunnilingus, but taking the personal is political to heart, she asked her boyfriend to do it anyway: if she was expected to service him orally, he should have to return the favor...

Pleasure in sex ed was a major topic last November at one of the largest sex-education conferences in the country, sponsored by the education arm of Planned Parenthood of Greater Northern New Jersey. “Porn is the model for today’s middle-school and high-school students,” Paul Joannides said in the keynote speech. “And none of us is offering an alternative that’s even remotely appealing”...

One of sex educators’ big problems, Joannides told the New Jersey audience, is that they define their role as the “messengers of all the things that can go wrong with sex.” The attention paid to S.T.I.’s, pregnancy, rape and discrimination based on sexual orientation, while understandable, comes at a cost, he says. “We’re worrying about which bathrooms transgender students should use while teens are worrying whether they should shave all the way or leave a landing strip,” he said. “They’re worrying if someone special will find them sexually attractive, whether they will be able to do it as well as porn, whether others have the same kind of sexual feelings they do.”

In other words, as much as Joannides criticizes his opponents on the right, he also tweaks the orthodoxies of his friends on the left, hoping to spur them to contemplate how they themselves dismiss pleasure. His main premise is that young people will tune out educators if their real concerns are left in the shadows. And practically speaking, pleasure is so braided through sex that if you can’t mention it, you miss chances to teach about safe sex in a way that young people can really use.

For instance, in addition to pulling condoms over bananas — which has become a de rigueur contraception lesson among “liberal” educators — young people need to hear specifics about making the method work for them. “We don’t tell them: ‘Look, there are different shapes of condoms. Get sampler packs, experiment.’ That would be entering pleasure into the conversation, and we don’t want that”...

“What if our kids really believed we wanted them to have great sex?” Vernacchio asked near the end of an evening talk he gave in January primarily for parents of ninth graders who would attend his sex-ed minicourse. “What if they really believed that we want them to be so passionately in love with someone that they can’t keep their hands off them? What if they really believed we want them to know their own bodies?”

Vernacchio didn’t imagine that his audience, who gave him an enthusiastic ovation when his presentation ended, wanted their 14- and 15-year-olds to go out tomorrow and jump into bed or the backseat. Sex education, he and others point out, is one of the few classes where it’s not understood that young people are being prepared for the future...

Parents who support richer sex education don’t make the same ruckus with school officials as those who oppose it. “We need to be there at the school boards and say: ‘Guess where kids are getting their messages about sex from? They’re getting it from porn,’ ” Joannides exhorted. “All we’re talking about is just being able to acknowledge that sex is a good thing in the right circumstances, that it’s a normal thing.”

Of course, sex isn’t all pleasure or all peril, it’s both (and sometimes both at once, though that lesson may have to wait for grad school). Vernacchio has a way of getting at its positive potential without ignoring the fact that, however good sex may feel, it’s sometimes best left off the menu. “So let’s think about pizza,” Vernacchio said to his students after they’d deconstructed baseball. The class for that day was just about over. “Why do you have pizza?”

“You’re hungry,” a cross-country runner said.

“Because you want to,” Vernacchio affirmed. “It starts with desire, an internal sense — not an external ‘I got a game today, I have to do it.’ And wouldn’t it be great if our sexual activity started with a real sense of wanting, whether your desire is for intimacy, pleasure or orgasms. . . . And you can be hungry for pizza and still decide, No thanks, I’m dieting. It’s not the healthiest thing for me now.

“If you’re gonna have pizza with someone else, what do you have to do?” he continued. “You gotta talk about what you want. Even if you’re going to have the same pizza you always have, you say, ‘We getting the usual?’ Just a check in. And square, round, thick, thin, stuffed crust, pepperoni, stromboli, pineapple — none of those are wrong; variety in the pizza model doesn’t come with judgment,” Vernacchio hurried on. “So ideally when the pizza arrives, it smells good, looks good, it’s mouthwatering. Wouldn’t it be great if we had that kind of anticipation before sexual activity, if it stimulated all our senses, not just our genitals but this whole-body experience.” By this time, he was really moving fast; he’d had to cram his pizza metaphor into the last five minutes. “And what’s the goal of eating pizza? To be full, to be satisfied. That might be different for different people; it might be different for you on different occasions. Nobody’s like ‘You failed, you didn’t eat the whole pizza.’

“So again, what if our goal, quote, unquote, wasn’t necessarily to finish the bases?” The students were gathering their papers, preparing to go. “What if it just was, ‘Wow, I feel like I had enough. That was really good.’ ”"

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Tissue Paper Song



This is oddly compelling.

Lady in wheelchair selling tissue paper at Somerset MRT in Singapore and singing an oddly fascinating song (in at least 2 languages) about tissue paper.

It's only $1!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Links - 30th July 2014

“Mistresses are like books; if you pore upon them too much, they doze you and make you unfit for company; but if used discreetly, you are the fitter for conversation by em.” - William Wycherley

***

Israel warns Gazans to flee as air campaign intensifies - "Israel on Wednesday warned 100,000 Gazans to leave their homes as the military intensified its nine-day air campaign, after Hamas snubbed an Egyptian ceasefire effort the day before... “In spite of the ceasefire, Hamas and other terror organizations continued to fire rockets, therefore it is the intention of the IDF to carry out aerial strikes against terror sites and operatives in Shuja’iya and Zeitoun,” the leaflets read. “A high volume of rocket fire at Israel has originated in this area.” “For your own safety, you are requested to vacate from your residence immediately and head towards Gaza City by Wednesday morning, July 16, 2014, at 08:00 AM. The IDF does not want to harm you, and your families. The evacuation is for your own safety. You should not return to the premises until further notice. Whoever disregards these instructions and fails to evacuate immediately, endangers their own lives, as well as those of their families”... However, residents of Shuja’iya and Zeitoun were not evacuating their homes, in spite of the Israeli ultimatum issued, Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip told The Times of Israel. Only a small number of Palestinian residents in the eastern neighborhoods of Gaza City left since the army messages were issued... As on Sunday, Hamas urged residents to ignore the warnings, dismissing it as “psychological warfare”. “There is no need to worry about these (warnings), or deal with them. Do not respond to them in any way,” a Hamas interior ministry statement said. “This is part of the psychological war, intended to disrupt the domestic front.”"
Naturally, they ignored the Jewish lies and stayed there to get killed

Tokyo artist arrested for distributing her vagina via 3D printer

Answer to Feminism: Would feminists prefer a meritocratic or a half-male-half-female system? - Quora - "The only way you can have equal opportunities is by forcefully transferring opportunities and restricting people. Sexism or reverse sexism are the same thing. Both operate by trying to put out fire with more fire. I don't think politicians and bureaucrats should be in the business of engineering a society... What right does one person have to force or "entice" Yemini men to stay at home? And that too with tax-payers money?... In many developed countries, the number of female voters often outnumbers male voters. Yet they elect mostly men. Should such democratic voting be stopped in order to enforce some idea that people must vote around 50-50 men:women ? And why do these "quotas" have to be so one-sided? In Sweden, till a few years back, only men were forced to potentially get killed or maimed on the battlefield. Not to mention unequal laws when it comes to sexual crimes. The laws are definitely slanted against men in this case. Yet I have never heard a movement to forcefully conscript females only or to make rape laws friendlier to men(like asking women to show proof of consent as well), so that the male rape reporting rate is nearly as same as for women."

New Zealand High Court backs schoolboy who refused to cut his hair - "Lucan Battison, 16 from Hastings, was suspended from St John's College on May 22 after ignoring requests from the school to cut his hair, which it said failed to meet the school's requirements of "off the collar and out of the eyes". The Year 12 student headed to the High Court in Wellington on Monday for a judicial review to dispute the suspension claiming that the school's hair policy was unclear... Justice Collins noted Lucan had naturally curly hair, which didn't endanger Lucan or others. "The sole issue is the length of Lucan's hair. Lucan is willing to wear his hair tied back in a neat bun. When he does this his hair is above his ears, off his collar and out of his eyes." St John's College principal Paul Melloy suspended Lucan because he refused to comply with his request that he cut his hair despite Lucan offering to tie it back in a bun."

Israel: Soldiers’ Punishment for Using Boy as ‘Human Shield’ Inadequate | Human Rights Watch - "While the Israeli military has convicted and disciplined several soldiers, Hamas authorities in Gaza have not taken any credible steps whatsoever to investigate its own troops or members of other Palestinian armed groups for alleged war crimes and serious human rights abuses during the conflict, including deliberately launching hundreds of rockets at Israeli population centers and extrajudicially executing alleged Palestinian collaborators."

Report: Hamas proposes 10-year cease-fire in return for conditions being met - "Hamas's conditions were the release of re-arrested Palestinian prisoners who were let go in the Schalit deal, the opening of Gaza-Israel border crossings in order to allow citizens and goods to pass through, and international supervision of the Gazan seaport in place of the current Israeli blockade... On Tuesday, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that the Islamist group had not received an official cease-fire proposal, and he repeated its position that demands it has made must be met before it lays down its weapons. Hamas's armed wing, the Kassam Brigades, rejected the reported text of the truce deal, saying: "Our battle with the enemy continues and will increase in ferocity and intensity.""
Using the promise of a ceasefire as a bargaining chip in negotiations... well played

Why Religious Hysteria Must Not Be Placated: S Rajaratnam on the banning of The Last Temptation of Christ - "“racial and religious cohesiveness” can best be ensured in Singapore by enforcing, as a matter of law, what on the basis of Mr Koo’s own analysis is the triumph of the hysterical over the sane -- Christian and non-Christian. I would have thought the best way of ensuring racial and religious harmony would be by compelling the hysterical minority to “empathise” with the sane majority. This is what Western Christian and even non-Christian countries with also a multiplicity of religions and races have had the courage to do in the face of the baying of the hysterical over this book. And as far as I know, no religious wars have erupted as a result of the courageous stand. On the contrary, placating religious hysteria is the surest way of encouraging religious intolerance and, therefore, of religious civil wars."
Funny. I thought Singapore's approach to these matters was to take a very serious view of them and crack down hard on anyone offending minorities

Mitrokhin’s KGB archive opens to public - "having grown disillusioned with the brutal oppression of the Soviet regime, he was taking secret handwritten notes of the material and smuggling them out of the building each evening. In 1992, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, he, his family and his archive were exfiltrated by the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service. Now, more than twenty years after his defection to the UK, Mitrokhin’s files are being opened by the Churchill Archives Centre, where they sit alongside the personal papers of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher."

$700k windfall: Russian man outwits bank with hand-written credit contract - "Disappointed by the terms of the unsolicited offer for a credit card from Tinkoff Credit Systems in 2008, a 42-year-old Dmitry Agarkov from the city of Voronezh decided to hand write his own credits terms. The trick was that Agarkov simply scanned the bank’s document and ‘amended’ the small print with his own terms. He opted for a 0 percent interest rate and no fees, adding that the customer "is not obliged to pay any fees and charges imposed by bank tariffs." The bank, however, didn’t read ‘the amendments’, as it signed and certified the document, as well as sent the man a credit card. Under the agreement, the bank OK'd to provide unlimited credit, according to Agarkov’s lawyer Dmitry Mikhalevich talking to Kommersant daily... Agarkov also changed the URL of the site where the terms and conditions were published and hedged against the bank’s breaking of the agreement. For each unilateral change in the terms provided in the agreement, the bank would be asked to pay the customer (Agarkov) 3 million rubles ($91,000), or a cancelation fee of 6 million rubles ($182,000)... "They signed the documents without looking. They said what usually their borrowers say in court: 'We have not read it,'” says Mikhalevich"

Chinese company names line of sunglasses after Helen Keller (and they insist they knew she was blind) - "The baffling decision may seem like the result of cultural confusion, an example of an Asian firm picking a random English phrase to appear hip. However, since Keller's story is taught in many Chinese schools, it is unlikely that no one at the company understood who she was. So it seems they must have taken a deliberate decision to exploit her positive image for their business."

Feminist group slams LEGO line for girls as 'dangerous' because they have breasts and only go to beauty salons - "The organisation are also unimpressed with the pastimes the ‘LadyFigs’ are lumbered with – getting their nails done, baking and relaxing in hot tubs – in comparison to LEGO men who built spaceships, tackle crime and even fight off alien invasions... While only 10 per cent of children playing LEGO last year were girls now that figure has risen to 25 per cent."
Despite feminists' best efforts, little girls see themselves differently from little boys (and don't value traditionally female activities)
Comments: "My 10 year old daughter has breasts and loves to go into beauty salons with her mother. Does that make her "insulting, condescending and dangerous"?
Feminists should take a valium and calm down.""
"The very first Lego Friends set my daughter got was the INVENTOR'S WORKSHOP (looks like a little science lab)- how is that gender stereotyped or hypersexualized? Last month I gave my daughter the bake shop set because she wants to own her own sweets shop when she grows up; how is a little girl owning her own business so offensive to this group? Because that's exactly what this toy represents for her: her future dreams. My daughter played with her brother's Lego sets all the time, but was always wishing for something a bit more girly. She was thrilled when these sets came out. She still plays with her brother's Legos, and *gasp*, her brothers play with her Legos! (but we all know that would be acceptable to this group; having boys play with girly toys) To me, Lego has become a more balanced company by offering something for everyone. Thank you for this article, it reminds me I want to contact Lego and let them know how much my family loves the Lego Friends collection."
"it is apparent that the past sets have been boy centric. Most girls aren't interested in Aliens, Sea Monsters, and Ninjas. These sets are a great starting point for girls to get into Lego. This article and the feminist group have failed to mention that other available sets include a Tree House, Inventor Workshop, and Car set. But most importantly Legos are not about building what is on the box. It's about building anything you want."


The World's 17 Best Print Campaigns of 2013-14 | Adweek - "Client: CVV / Emotional Support Hotline
Agency: Leo Burnett Tailor Made, São Paulo, Brazil
Gold Lion Campaign
This campaign took suicide notes and rearranged the words to make them mean the opposite. The tagline is: "Inside every suicide is someone who wants to live"...
Client: Rothammer
Agency: Prolam Y&R Santiago, Chile
Gold Lion Campaign
"When love is born, a friend dies," said these guy-friendly beer ads, showing mates mourning buddies who've fallen for girls and have less time for drinking."
Similarly: Inside everyone who wants to live is someone who wants to die
Why are ads for non-English speaking countries in English?


The Fetish of Staring at Iran’s Women - NYTimes.com - "A visitor from Mars or a senior editor from New York might have been forgiven for imagining Iran as a strange land devoid of men, where fundamentalist chador-clad harridans vie for space with heathen babes guzzling cappuccinos... Professional photographers and artists, encouraged by Western curators and seeking fast-track careers, are creating a new wave of homegrown neo-Orientalism. A favorite reworking of an old cliché is the thin, beautiful young woman reclining while smoking a hookah, dancing, or otherwise at leisure in her private spaces. Ingres could sue for plagiarism. In a country where the word feminism is pejorative, there is no inkling that the values of both fundamentalism and Western consumerism are two sides of the same coin — the female body as an icon defining Iranian culture... Many Iranian women still fight for tangible legal equalities; supported by many of our menfolk, we often pay dearly in that effort, whether we wear the chador or the manteau. Showing the world our designer handbags or bra straps does not signify what we have achieved or strive for. Maybe it’s time for the world to stop measuring Iran through the bodies of its women. Maybe we should be careful that, in an effort to repossess our image from the grasp of a strict ideology, we don’t slip into a mindless production of new stereotypes."

Hamas 'Gives Gazans Guidelines For Reporting Israeli Attacks on Social Media' - "The guidelines aim to make sure that coverage of the military action by Israel in the Gaza Strip is controlled and avoids damaging Hamas' image, or leaking information that would be valuable to the Israeli Army... It is reported that the social media guidelines, published on the Hamas Interior Ministry's social media pages, instructs social media users to always refer to Gazans and Palestinians killed during the fighting as "innocent", the Israeli action as a "cruel attack", and to use the narrative of lives vs the narrative of blood to "humanise the Palestinian suffering" in conversations with Westerners. People posting on Facebook should avoid posting pictures of videos of rocket launches or masked fighters with weapons – to prevent the page being closed down by moderators, it adds."

Who’s Right and Wrong in the Middle East? - NYTimes.com - "A starting point is to put away the good vs. evil narrative and recognize this as the aching story of two peoples — each with legitimate grievances — colliding with each other. Just because the underlying conflict is between two peoples who each have plenty of right, that’s not to say that there are no villains. Hamas is violent, not only toward Israel, but toward its own people, and, in contrast to Israel, it doesn’t seem to try to minimize civilian casualties — its own or Israel’s. Hamas is not as corrupt as the Palestinian Authority, but it is far more repressive, and my impression from my visits to Gaza is that it’s also unpopular at home. Hamas sometimes seems to have more support on certain college campuses in America or Europe than within Gaza. Meanwhile, the Israeli right undermines the best partner for peace Israel has had, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, and Israel’s settlements are a gift to Palestinian extremism. These days, in both Gaza and Jerusalem, hawks are in charge, and they empower each other... Israel responded to aggression by invading Lebanon in 1982 and 2006, and Gaza in 2008; each time, hawks cheered. Yet each invasion in retrospect accomplished at best temporary military gains while killing large numbers of innocents; they didn’t solve any problems. Likewise, Palestinian militancy has accomplished nothing but increasing the misery of the Palestinian people. If Palestinians instead turned more to hugeGandhi-style nonviolence resistance campaigns, the resulting videos would reverberate around the world and Palestine would achieve statehood and freedom. Some Palestinians understand this and are trying this strategy, but too many define nonviolence to include rock-throwing. No, that doesn’t cut it... For Israel, this is a chance to use diplomacy to achieve what gunpowder won’t: the marginalization of Hamas"

Health concerns for Flight Attendants - "We found deaths from illnesses caused by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) were 16 times higher among the male flight attendants in our study compared to men from the general population. A total of 112 male flight attendants died of HIV-related illnesses. We anticipated 7 based on estimates from the general population. Other studies have also noted higher risk of dying of HIV-related illnesses among male flight attendants."

Georgina Lee - "Dear friends,
Happened in holland road. Please do not enter lift with any stranger."
If there's a video of an old Indian woman robbing someone I shall caption it "please do not enter lift with any old Indian women"

Answer to Men: What are some of the ways men feel discriminated against, that women are oblivious to? - Quora - "A lot of girls say they support LGBT people, but not if it's their boyfriend."

Cat feces could contain the cure for cancer: report - "Scientists are studying Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite common in cat feces, for the development of a cancer vaccine."

Encyclopedia of American Loons: #453: Mark Armitage - "Armitage has also written the book “Jesus is like my Scanning Electron Microscope” and given it his very own five-star review on Amazon."

Video: Underwear bomber 'wore same pants for two weeks' - "Asked by his interviewer whether the bomb's fuse had become "damp" from two weeks of wear, Mr Pistole said: "Let's say it was degraded. We're getting kind of personal now.""

Israel Calls Out UNRWA Over Shelling Claims - "UNRWA has made headlines in recent days after it was discovered that Hamas stored rockets in its schools in Gaza. UNRWA found the rockets in one of its vacant schools a week ago. It found a second batch in a vacant school on Tuesday, but said in a statement that because staff were withdrawn quickly, they were "unable to confirm the precise number." In both cases UNRWA said it "informed the relevant parties," but did not identify who had been contacted. It was later reported that rather than destroying the rockets, UNRWA workers called Hamas to come remove them. While UNRWA confirmed the existence of rockets in one of its schools last week, the organization refused an Israeli request to provide a picture of the weapons. A picture could have helped Israel show that Hamas uses civilian institutions to store weapons and launch attacks. On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed alarmover the finding of the rockets and directed the world body to deploy experts to deal with the situation"

Gaza and Israel: The Road to War, Paved by the West - NYTimes.com - "the key issues of paying Gaza’s civil servants and opening the border with Egypt were left to fester. The new government’s ostensible supporters, especially the United States and Europe, could have pushed Egypt to ease border restrictions, thereby demonstrating to Gazans that Hamas rule had been the cause of their isolation and impoverishment. But they did not. Instead, after Hamas transferred authority to a government of pro-Western technocrats, life in Gaza became worse."

DeCal : Critical Sex Studies and Pornography - "No prior experience with pornography or critical theories is needed, as Critical Sex Studies and Pornography will be a safe space to learn, share, and experience."
How can any class dealing with pornography be "safe"?

Why your rigid ‘born this way’ stance won’t cure homophobia - "In her new book “Straight Expectations,” radical feminist writer and campaigner Julie Bindel has recently and very publicly claimed that she’s not convinced by the scientific argument that sexual orientation is innate and she feels she chose to be lesbian. She received a vitriolic response from the gay community on social media, with comments calling her “stupid,” “confused,” and “an awful human being.” One reader comment on Pink News stated that “Julie Bindell’s [sic] suggestion that being gay is a choice is downright offensive to me!”... nobody questions the biological basis of sex and race and yet sexism and racism continue to exist. She also questions whether the notion of choice necessarily lends itself more to the idea of a “cure” than the notion of a “gay gene” or fetal hormone theories. After all, the Nazis were interested in research on the biological basis of homosexuality in order to eradicate it... Even if the biological basis of sexual orientation were proved beyond all doubt, those who subscribe to heterosexist religious ideologies which view non-heterosexuality as morally inferior could argue that while we cannot choose who we are sexually attracted to, we can choose whether to act upon those sexual desires. The “born this way” argument cannot dodge the question of morality; science can never replace the need for thorough and tight moral argument. Either same-sex relationships are of equal moral value to heterosexual relationships or they are not. We should be proudly proclaiming that they are — not attacking those in our own community who experience or make sense of their sexuality differently than we as individuals might choose (yes, choose) to do."

The benefit that became an incentive to divorce - "Many commentators predicted that the Working Families Tax Credit would increase the number of children raised by single mothers. If you make raising a child outside of any partnership financially more attractive than raising one within the confines of marriage or cohabitation, they argued, then more women will choose single motherhood. Still, hard evidence to prove it has been lacking – until now. The prestigious Journal of Economics has published "The Effect of In-Work Benefit Reform in Britain on Couples: Theory and Evidence". It is a technical paper, with the usual quota of equations and graphs so beloved of economists, but its collection and analysis of the data is very thorough and its conclusion is very clear: the introduction of the Working Families Tax Credit has increased the divorce or separation rate by a staggering 160 per cent among women married to or living with a partner who either does not work, or who earns very little because he works part-time."
Despite what liberals think, people do respond to incentives - even for non-economic decisions

First dengue vaccine 'shows promise'

Yo-yo dieter Michael Hebranko loses 65 stone... then piles them back on again

Conversations - 30th July 2014

TMM: I think she's [not ugly, she's] ok

[Yet] there are some issues no matter how enlightenned a woman says or thinks she is
its never wise to approach


Someone: In my experience, open rs or sharing options evaporate after first time she comes.
Then oxytocin comes in and does its work, and poof, no more open

Me: So she shouldn't come
Haha

Someone: Yep. Exactly

...

bj fb versus all the way fb...

btw, a BJ FB doesn't mean you need to go down yourself. You'll be surprised at lucky finds...

I suspect that some of the smarter gals also dislike how they can be gamed so easily

Me: If they're so smart how can they be gamed so easily hehe

Someone: Alcohol lol...

You're one of the few ones online whom I get wary when debating. The others are easy side dishes


Someone else: why do i get the impression that the "humanists" are the ones who are illiterate in science and statistics and who can't read to save their lives?

there's so much ad hominems and red herrings getting thrown around

Me: Ad hominem is not science and stats

Which post do you mean

Someone else: practically any post that covers religion?

Me: Yep. It's called cognitive bias.

Someone else: i give up on the vincent wijeysingha liar thread

idiot humanist said i didn't mention the EASTERN CHURCH etc etc

well obviously i didn't because vincent's accusation was on the western church
Phht

i like how attempted rape is rape in the eyes of liberals
but how attempted molest of vincent wijeysingha is not molest in the eyes of liberals

Me: "He's a liar. But he's our liar"

Someone else: i'd like to see some guy try out this defense in court

"i did not molest her on the bus. i ATTEMPTED UNSUCCESSFULLY to molest her on the bus."

you may extract that as a quote

amused that... etc

Me: Hurr


Someone: Seems to me [having a car is] a criteria for many women [for dating]

Me: no wonder people here go into debt to get one
no wonder guys go for vietnamese brides


Me:I guess for calling out his cyber bullying I got blocked

Someone else: oh, then you are blocked
and so am i

anyway, you can just log out of facebook
and read the link
apparently he's a facebook retard
sets everything to public

blocks people who call him out
without realising they can still see what he posts if they don't log into facebook

i only block people who don't bother to argue logically and resort to ad hominems and other fallacies

Me: I don't block people unless they're stalkers. keep your friends close, and your frenemies closer


Someone: re: ***'s post + the comments... i give up. :P

Me: lol

as I said once you see "privilege"...

that's why I'm looking for a lesbian, post-op transsexual, muslim, poor woman from a post-colonial country

she'll be invincible in liberal circles

cannot disagree with her
or you're homophobic, transphobic, islamophobic, bourgeois, colonialist, sexist...

Someone: I'm female and I cannot stand feminists with no sense of humor. And people who argue by throwing all that academic arguments at me... Well, my job takes up too much of my soul already. I don't need all that shit, summore on Facebook.

Haha when u find such a woman... Lemme know. I'd love to speak to her too

Me: :D

well whatever I say will be dismissed because I am male and not queer
so no point

Someone: I'm female, bi and still I'm dismissed but only because I don't see it from a feminist's pov

Me: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Someone: Feminists are hard to cross. Once u do... Terbaboom

Me: how do they dismiss you?

Someone: its buried somewhere inside all that feminist's arguments and defense statements. i bet some of the girls in there are like... HOW CAN SHE NOT SEE IT AND SHE'S FEMALE.

maybe they need to lighten up. oh wait. cannot. BECAUSE OTHERWISE WOMEN WILL FOREVER BE MARGINALIZED AND DISCRIMINATED AGAINST FOR BEING WOMEN.

ZZZ

Me: that's why they have such venom reserved for sarah palin and margaret thatcher

because they are female yet disagree

Someone: i cannot argue with extremely educated feminists. i lose cos i not crever enough. i am just a human being who appreciates humour when i see it.

Me: However crever I am useless. Cos I'm a man.

Someone: ur appendage is ur disadvantage. what to do.

Me: Chop it off.

Someone: pls even if u do, u wont be able to please feminists (they're really hard to please eh) and worse, u won't be able to please other females too. so keep it, and just stay out of gender-related arguments that feminists have decided to participate in.

Me: one of my friends scolds me for wasting time reading what stupid people wrote
and that she's resolved not to argue with feminists because it's a waste of time


Someone else: I was in sg last week
and for some reason
I found the girls in sg to be less pretty on average than when I last was there
which I found rather surprising since there are fewer fatties in sg than the uk

Me: Hehe your standards have risen

Someone else: yeah my standards seem to have risen by stealth
without me being aware

spoke to my friend about it and apparently it was the same for him
but his theory was different

he said the chinese girls overseas (at least where he was based) were better dressed and well spoken on average than the chinese girls in sg

I guess that is true, but I don't think its the entire reason
:s

the accent the girls from china have in speaking chinese sound a lot more pleasant than those girls from china in sg
I think its the effect of the wealth the chinese expats uk draws compared to sg

The Relativity of Wrong

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was wrong.

The Rape of Nanking was wrong.

But if you think that the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was just as wrong as The Rape of Nanking, then your view is wronger than both of them put together.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Links - 29th July 2014

Like in Humans, Genes Drive Half of Chimp Intelligence, Study Finds - "Studies of humans have produced similar estimates to the primate study, suggesting that intelligence is approximately 50 percent heritable. But human development is heavily influenced by cultural factors, such as formal education systems, and so nature and nurture are difficult to tease apart, Hopkins said. Being one of the closest relatives of humans, he said, "chimps offer a simpler way to think about that question.""

The older you get, the fewer f**ks you have to give. - 9GAG

Ruth Marcus: Missing the point on binge drinking - "Oh please. This isn’t a gender studies class; it’s the real world."

User's data can be extracted from smartphones post factory reset - "The experts were able to extract 40,000 photos, out of which 1,500 of those were family photos and others included selfies with theirmanhood.Other data included emails, text messages, Google search history and even browser history. Avast also added that the factory reset feature does not wipe out the data from the phone. Rather, it only erases the index information. According to what was found, the data can be easily extracted even after using the factory reset option using forensic tools that can be easily purchased online. The only way you can ensure that these private and even embarrassing data are properly erased is by over-writing the phone with new data."

Plunge in teen pregnancies to record low in Singapore last year - "The number of teenage girls who gave birth plunged to a record low last year, and it is not because fewer youngsters are having sex. In fact, the opposite is true, said social workers. What has changed, they said, is that more sexually active teens are using contraception. Recent court cases involving men and youths being dealt with for having sex with underage girls also hit home, and taught boys to use condoms to avoid making their girlfriends pregnant and getting found out by parents."

What the World Rejected - "Even many people who consider themselves well-informed about Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich are ignorant of the German leader’s numerous efforts for peace in Europe, including serious proposals for armaments reductions, and limits on weapons deployment, which were spurned by the leaders of France, Britain and other powers. Hitler’s first major speech on foreign policy after taking office as Chancellor, delivered to the Reichstag on May 17, 1933, was a plea for peace, equal rights and mutual understanding among nations"
Germany's peaceful rise!

Answer to Why are Eastern European women so beautiful? - Quora - "Because they generally don't see femininity as a bad thing. One of the goals of feminism has been a trend to eliminate any distinctions between men and women (even though virtually every species has these distinctions) such that "looking feminine" is considered a bad thing, whereas I've heard this too many times in EE that "looking feminine" is instead something useful and very powerful. Genetically speaking there isn't a large difference between say Germans and Poles, but living in Germany it's the first time in my life that it happens every day that I see women that are visually indistinguishable from men, something which would never happen across the border. Perhaps some would describe this as progress, but most straight men don't find people looking like men to be beautiful at all."

Game of Thrones fifth series: more than 10,000 Spaniards apply to be extras - "It is one of the world's most popular TV series and it is planning to film its next series in one of Europe's most unemployed countries. So it is no surprise that the firm in charge of producing the fifth series of Game of Thrones has been overwhelmed with requests from people eager to appear in the international hit show."

How the “Disco Clam” Lights It Up Underwater

How Politics and Lies Triggered an Unintended War in Gaza - "The crime set off a chain of events in which Israel gradually lost control of the situation, finally ending up on the brink of a war that nobody wanted — not the army, not the government, not even the enemy, Hamas."

Examining the Impact of Later High School Start Times on the Health and Academic Performance of High School Students: A Multi-Site Study - "Teens getting less than eight hours of sleep reported significantly higher depression symptoms, greater use of caffeine, and are at greater risk for making poor choices for substance use. Academic performance outcomes, including grades earned in core subject areas of math, English, science and social studies, plus performance on state and national achievement tests, attendance rates and reduced tardiness show significantly positive improvement with the later start times of 8:35 AM or later. Finally, the number of car crashes for teen drivers from 16 to 18 years of age was significantly reduced by 70% when a school shifted start times from 7:35 AM to 8:55 AM"

It reads: Feminist Double standards This is barbie. Throughout the - Comment #106 added by thehumor at - Player Select -

Firebomb and Rocks Hurled at Jews Trapped in Paris Synagogues - "On Friday night a firebomb went off at the entrance to the synagogue Aulnay-sous-Bois which is a northeastern suburb of Paris. On Saturday a crowd outside a synagogue in an eastern suburb of Paris chanted “death to the Jews” and “slaughter the Jews” in both Arabic and French, and protesters spit on the Jews. So far no one has been hurt. And so far, the call is for the Israelis to show restraint. And so far, the Jews do not fight back, but instead wait for rescue from someone else, or for their leaders to write angry letters. In Lyon, France, protesters waved Hamas flags and called for the murder of Zionists."

A Tweetbot Caught the Russian Gov't Editing Flight MH17 Wikipedia Info

Biologists discover electric bacteria that eat pure electrons rather than sugar, redefining the tenacity of life

I Went Gluten-Free for a Year and It Was a Complete Waste of Time - "Many gluten-free foods are heavily processed and full of extra sugar to get them to resemble the gluten versions, so if you try to avoid processed foods, you even have to study the labels carefully on gluten-free foods. I truly don't know why people see going gluten-free as a weight-loss diet; I actually gained weight when I first went gluten-free, before I realized it was because of all the processed crap. And why would you want to inconvenience yourself if you don't have to? But by far, the hardest part was how unhappy not eating things I liked made me. I take a lot of pleasure in food. Being half Italian and half Jewish, I have spent my entire life only knowing how to celebrate anything with food"

So How Do We Talk About This? - NYTimes.com - "PARENTS have learned to expect, and often dread, two sex talks with their children: the early lesson about the “birds and the bees” and the more delicate discussion of how to navigate a healthy sexual life as a young adult. But now they are wrestling with a third: the pornography talk."

Hamas Is Using Civilians as Human Shields but Its Latest Directive Is the Most Shocking - "The Hamas leadership in Gaza is ordering Palestinians to stay in their homes even if they are warned by the Israel Defense Forces to vacate before their neighborhood is bombed... The order in effect turns Gaza civilians into human shields and is apparently designed to deter Israel from striking civilian areas where rocket launchers and terrorist weapons depots are hidden, because Hamas is aware of the reluctance of the IDF and the Israeli public to see civilian casualties. This stands in stark contrast with Palestinian terrorist groups, which are firing indiscriminately into Israeli communities, including hitting a home in Beer Sheba on Thursday. For years, Hamas militants have been hiding weapons and launching sites among civilians, increasing the likelihood of Palestinian casualties from Israeli bombing of terrorist targets in Gaza... Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri encouraged Palestinians to go onto their rooftops to meet Israeli bombs targeting terrorist sites, telling Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV that the human shield tactic has “proved very successful” in the past:"

Employees Who Stay In Companies Longer Than Two Years Get Paid 50% Less

What is the strangest change in meaning that any word has undergone? - "A pedant was in the sixteenth century a schoolmaster, while the OED gives ‘strong and vigorous’ as one of the earliest meanings of nervous (as in full of nerves, or sinews). There are many other such examples. Promiscuous used to mean confused or undistinguished, while the first punk, in the sixteenth century, was a prostitute... Teenage slang is a highly productive generator of new meanings for old words. The motivation for such subversion is similar to that for any code: it excludes those people outside the circle and confers membership on those within it. Words of approval are often bad turned good, including the now familiar bad, wicked, savage, bitchin’, and, more recently, sick and shabby."

This blogger found Upworthy-style headlines very annoying. You’ll find his response utterly plausible - "Being actively inconsistent, making presumptions about an individual, trying to manipulate them; these are all ways to lower someone’s status in an interaction and raise your own. Upworthy-style headlines do all of these constantly, so it should come as no surprise that some people find them infuriating. This may also explain why people reacted so negatively to CNN using Upworthy-style headlines. If CNN is perceived as a legitimate, authoritative "high status" news source, then it copying the youth-orientated content website Upworthy would suggest that said site is actually higher-status again, which would challenge the worldview of many. As stated, people don’t like that happening."

Upworthy's Headlines Are Insufferable. Here's Why You Click Anyway - "The media has criticized the approach for being repetitive and manipulative. (Reuters blogger Felix Salmon, calling curiosity-gap headlines "annoying," compared them to German sentences in that "you don't know what they mean until you get to the end.")... "Such information gaps produce the feeling of deprivation labeledcuriosity," wrote Loewenstein in Psychological Bulletin. "The curious individual is motivated to obtain the missing information to reduce or eliminate the feeling of deprivation.""

Homa Khaleeli: Is fasting for Ramadan healthy? - "While there is no danger to healthy people who fast during Ramadan, many people still feel sluggish without regular food. Research has, not surprisingly, also linked the lack of food and water to increased irritability, changes in mood, and a lack of concentration. "You may feel headachy, light-headed and lethargic," says Denny. Psychiatrist Anna Rahman, 29, from Wanstead, London, fasts every year, but has never lost weight in Ramadan because of the pleasures of iftar, the evening meal that breaks the fast... As well as getting less sleep from the early rises and late nights, eating at unusual hours can affect the way your body behaves. Professor Tom Reilly, of Liverpool John Moores University, has studied the effects of fasting in Ramadan on athletes. He discovered that their performance deteriorated as the month went on, despite training taking place after the evening meal. He says this is because of disturbed sleeping cycles, dehydration, and the new pattern of eating."

Most Mammals Take 21 Seconds to Pee - "An elephant's bladder can hold nearly 5 gallons (18 liters) of fluid, and yet, it can pee just as quickly as a cat. A new study reveals that most mammals larger than rats urinate for about the same amount of time: 21 seconds. That's because their urethras are appropriately scaled to be a "flow-enhancing device," the researchers said."

Acrebury, the one man soap is revived for its fans - "A radio soap opera produced and performed by one man who played all the characters, is being revived for one final time to mark its 40th anniversary."

The Battle of Bagan: Burma’s struggle for UNESCO World Heritage Sites - "In addition to construction, the military have built on top of old structures, or reconstructed them completely. Scholars, in particular Don Stadtner, have disputed the military’s interferences, deeming them to have damaged Bagan’s archeological integrity. Stadtner opposes Bagan’s classification for UNESCO World Heritage Site status"

WTF? Russia bans swearing in the arts - "From today, 1 July 2014, the words khuy (cock), pizda (cunt), yebat (to fuck) and blyad (whore) — a smutty quartet known as mat — will be banned from use in the arts in Russia. Violators of the law face fines of between $70 and $1,400 depending on whether they’re an individual, an official or an organisation... Together, the law on profanity and the bill on foreign words serve as a two-pronged attempt to cleanse the Russian language in order to ensure its “purity”, a moral crusade that dovetails with President Vladimir Putin’s ideological hopes to create a “national and spiritual identity” for Russia... With the ban on swearing, which includes books, film, music, theatre and popular blogs, Putin has the spiritual side of things covered. Films containing expletives won’t receive general distribution, and copies of DVDs, books or CDs will come sealed and labelled as obscene. Yet the law is so hazily worded that it is not known which cursewords are out and which are in — what counts as profane will be determined by an expert panel, making effing and blinding a risky business... The idea of language shaping opinion can be traced back to American linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf, who, in the early 20th century, proposed that language preceded thought. According to this model, the grammar and vocabulary of a certain language determines its speakers’ cognition and behaviour. Although Whorf’s claims have been largely debunked — his theorising about Native Americans’ conception of time has been shown to be well wide of the mark — his ideas have experienced something of a renaissance in recent years, albeit without such dramatic claims. Unlike Whorf, contemporary researchers no longer think that if a concept is non-existent in a certain language then speakers will be unable to grasp it... “If they ban mat totally, what else is there left for us to do?” said Sergei Shnurov, frontman of rock band and swearing powerhouse Leningrad. “We’ll just have to fuck on the stage.”"

Putin signs law forcing bloggers to register with Russian media office

What I’m Telling My Son About Drunk Sex and Consent - "At one point, my friend held up her iPhone and, half in jest, clicked the video button. In order to protect her two boys, she said, she might advise them never to have sex with a girl before getting her consent on the record."

The Jellyfish That Holds a Key to Immortality - "Shin Kubota of Kyoto University’s Seto Marine Biological Laboratory has managed to keep a colony alive in captivity. He’s done it with complete dedication to the animal, changing their water and feeding them tiny shrimp by hand. He even writes karaoke songs about the jellyfish, which he performs wearing a jellyfish hat after he’s done with his research for the day."

The majors with the largest gender imbalances

Racism & xenophobia – statement by civil society groups disappointing | The Online Citizen - "So for me the statement against racism and xenophobia was disappointing and misguided. It made all the right noises about the political economy as a contributing factor but decided the evil to be excised was instead xenophobia. It should have been the other way around. Civil society would do itself a lot of good if it stopped paying lip service to ‘universal labour rights’. It’d be clear to the average unhappy Singaporean worker that civil society has been far from most of their lives."

The Erasure of Maya Angelou’s Sex Work History - "we read post after post, obituary after tribute, calling her a “pimp” and saying she had “an unsuccessful stint as a prostitute.” The most detailed accounts currently online are making sure to emphasize that she spent a “brief stint,” a “short time” in the sex industry, so as to, without explicit words, solidify the shame they believe she should have felt, the shame we should feel as well. The media uses inflammatory terms to get clicks and to emphasize the terrible and shameful secret that was, in actuality, never a secret at all. Dr. Angelou herself says she was never ashamed... she had no problem stating plainly: “There are many ways to prostitute one’s self.”"

How to survive a plane crash - "there are crashes and crashes. Some, patently, cannot be survived. Others, however – the vast majority, in fact – can be. A US government study found there were 568 plane crashes in the US between 1993 and 2000, involving a total of 53,487 passengers and crew. Of these, 51,207 – or over 90 per cent survived. Even on the 26 crashes deemed the worst, the study found that more than half the passengers and crew survived."

The role of nurses in physician-assisted dying - "Nurses in Belgium who administer life-ending drugs in euthanasia and in cases without explicit patient request often act outside of the law, according to a study in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)."
Study: "128 nurses reported having cared for a patient who received euthanasia and 120 for a patient who received life-ending drugs without his or her explicit request... By administering the life-ending drugs in some of the cases of euthanasia, and in almost half of the cases without an explicit request from the patient, the nurses in our study operated beyond the legal margins of their profession."
Involuntary euthanasia - the slippery slope is in reality quite slippery


Sources And Methods: Reduce Bias In Analysis By Using A Second Language - "people more systematically assessed the problem and came to a more rational conclusion. At the root of this finding is the conclusion that “people rely more on systematic processes…when making decisions in a foreign language.”

Anti-masturbation cross a hoax

I Ditched My iPhone For A Samsung Galaxy S5 And Was Blown Away By What I Was Missing With Apple - "my iPhone was becoming a problem when I needed to work remotely. The calendar and email support on iPhone are far from perfect, and worst of all the keyboard is so tiny that it produces fat-finger errors every time. It’s like a toy phone for children with iddy-biddy fingers... Like most Apple people, I just assumed that Apple automatically gives its iPhone customers all the best things it possibly can. And I assumed that because a phone’s body was made of metal it must be “nicer” than a plastic one. This turns out not to be the case. There are several crucial areas where the Galaxy S5 makes my old iPhone 5 look feeble. Big things, like offering a decent screen and playing video properly. And lots of tiny things, too — I almost wept with joy at having a “back” button to help me navigate around."

Researchers: Children exposed to religion have difficulty distinguishing fact from fiction - "In “Judgments About Fact and Fiction by Children From Religious and Nonreligious Backgrounds,” Kathleen Corriveau, Eva Chen, and Paul Harris demonstrate that children typically have a “sensitivity to the implausible or magical elements in a narrative,” and can determine whether the characters in the narrative are real or fictional by references to fantastical elements within the narrative, such as “invisible sails” or “a sword that protects you from danger every time.” However, children raised in households in which religious narratives are frequently encountered do not treat those narratives with the same skepticism. The authors believed that these children would “think of them as akin to fairy tales,” judging “the events described in them as implausible or magical and conclude that the protagonists in such narratives are only pretend.” And yet, “this prediction is likely to be wrong,” because “with appropriate testimony from adults” in religious households, children “will conceive of the protagonist in such narratives as a real person — even if the narrative includes impossible events.”"

Christians Responsible for Most 'Hateful Internet Speech,' Says Washington Post Religion Reporter - ""I can't tell you how many people wrote in to say that I was a whore and a slut and so much worse that I can't even write it here. And these all came from Christians," wrote Quinn. "I was going to hell. I had made a pact with the devil. Jesus and God hated me. One man wrote that he hoped I would get in a car accident, that the gas tank would explode and I would be burned alive. He was a God-fearing Christian, and he ascertained that I obviously was not one"... "I began to see that there is a big difference between being Christian and following the teachings of Jesus. In fact, sometimes those two things can be polar opposites. Our Christian haters clearly paid little attention to Jesus." Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists never targeted Quinn, she asserted, noting that the only other group that had targeted her in such a manner had been atheists, whom she characterized as "contemptuous, insulting and condescending.""
This is partially because there are so many more Christians

7 Things to Consider Before Choosing Sides in the Middle East Conflict

7 Things to Consider Before Choosing Sides in the Middle East Conflict | Ali A. Rizvi

"Are you "pro-Israel" or "pro-Palestine"? It isn't even noon yet as I write this, and I've already been accused of being both.

These terms intrigue me because they directly speak to the doggedly tribal nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You don't hear of too many other countries being universally spoken of this way... To come down completely on the side of one or the other doesn't seem rational to me.

It is telling that most Muslims around the world support Palestinians, and most Jews support Israel. This, of course, is natural -- but it's also problematic. It means that this is not about who's right or wrong as much as which tribe or nation you are loyal to... the principles that guide most people's view of this conflict are largely accidents of birth -- that however we intellectualize and analyze the components of the Middle East mess, it remains, at its core, a tribal conflict...

1. Why is everything so much worse when there are Jews involved?

Over 700 people have died in Gaza as of this writing. Muslims have woken up around the world. But is it really because of the numbers?

Bashar al-Assad has killed over 180,000 Syrians, mostly Muslim, in two years -- more than the number killed in Palestine in two decades. Thousands of Muslims in Iraq and Syria have been killed by ISIS in the last two months. Tens of thousands have been killed by the Taliban. Half a million black Muslims were killed by Arab Muslims in Sudan. The list goes on...

Amazingly, many of the graphic images of dead children attributed to Israeli bombardment that are circulating online are from Syria, based on a BBC report. Many of the pictures you're seeing are of children killed by Assad, who is supported by Iran, which also funds Hezbollah and Hamas. What could be more exploitative of dead children than attributing the pictures of innocents killed by your own supporters to your enemy simply because you weren't paying enough attention when your own were killing your own?

This doesn't, by any means, excuse the recklessness, negligence, and sometimes outright cruelty of Israeli forces. But it clearly points to the likelihood that the Muslim world's opposition to Israel isn't just about the number of dead.

Here is a question for those who grew up in the Middle East and other Muslim-majority countries like I did: if Israel withdrew from the occupied territories tomorrow, all in one go -- and went back to the 1967 borders -- and gave the Palestinians East Jerusalem -- do you honestly think Hamas wouldn't find something else to pick a fight about? Do you honestly think that this has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they are Jews? Do you recall what you watched and heard on public TV growing up in Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Egypt?

Yes, there's an unfair and illegal occupation there, and yes, it's a human rights disaster. But it is also true that much of the other side is deeply driven by anti-Semitism. Anyone who has lived in the Arab/Muslim world for more than a few years knows that. It isn't always a clean, one-or-the-other blame split in these situations like your Chomskys and Greenwalds would have you believe. It's both.

2. Why does everyone keep saying this is not a religious conflict?

There are three pervasive myths that are widely circulated about the "roots" of the Middle East conflict:

Myth 1: Judaism has nothing to do with Zionism.
Myth 2: Islam has nothing to do with Jihadism or anti-Semitism.
Myth 3: This conflict has nothing to do with religion.

To the "I oppose Zionism, not Judaism!" crowd, is it mere coincidence that this passage from the Old Testament (emphasis added) describes so accurately what's happening today?

"I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you. Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods." - Exodus 23:31-32...

And to the "This is not about Islam, it's about politics!" crowd, is this verse from the Quran (emphasis added) meaningless?

"O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you--then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people." - Quran, 5:51

What about the numerous verses and hadith quoted in Hamas' charter? And the famous hadith of the Gharqad tree explicitly commanding Muslims to kill Jews?

Please tell me -- in light of these passages written centuries and millennia before the creation of Israel or the occupation -- how can anyone conclude that religion isn't at the root of this, or at least a key driving factor? You may roll your eyes at these verses, but they are taken very seriously by many of the players in this conflict, on both sides. Shouldn't they be acknowledged and addressed? When is the last time you heard a good rational, secular argument supporting settlement expansion in the West Bank?

Denying religion's role seems to be a way to be able to criticize the politics while remaining apologetically "respectful" of people's beliefs for fear of "offending" them. But is this apologism and "respect" for inhuman ideas worth the deaths of human beings?...

3. Why would Israel deliberately want to kill civilians?

This is the single most important issue that gets everyone riled up, and rightfully so.

Again, there is no justification for innocent Gazans dying. And there's no excuse for Israel's negligence in incidents like the killing of four children on a Gazan beach. But let's back up and think about this for a minute.

Why on Earth would Israel deliberately want to kill civilians?

When civilians die, Israel looks like a monster. It draws the ire of even its closest allies. Horrific images of injured and dead innocents flood the media. Ever-growing anti-Israel protests are held everywhere from Norway to New York. And the relatively low number of Israeli casualties (we'll get to that in a bit) repeatedly draws allegations of a "disproportionate" response. Most importantly, civilian deaths help Hamas immensely.

How can any of this possibly ever be in Israel's interest?

If Israel wanted to kill civilians, it is terrible at it. ISIS killed more civilians in two days (700 plus) than Israel has in two weeks. Imagine if ISIS or Hamas had Israel's weapons, army, air force, US support, and nuclear arsenal. Their enemies would've been annihilated long ago. If Israel truly wanted to destroy Gaza, it could do so within a day, right from the air. Why carry out a more painful, expensive ground incursion that risks the lives of its soldiers?

4. Does Hamas really use its own civilians as human shields?

Ask Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas how he feels about Hamas' tactics.

"What are you trying to achieve by sending rockets?" he asks. "I don't like trading in Palestinian blood."

It isn't just speculation anymore that Hamas puts its civilians in the line of fire.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri plainly admitted on Gazan national TV that the human shield strategy has proven "very effective"...

Why launch rockets without causing any real damage to the other side, inviting great damage to your own people, then putting your own civilians in the line of fire when the response comes? Even when the IDF warns civilians to evacuate their homes before a strike, why does Hamas tell them to stay put?

Because Hamas knows its cause is helped when Gazans die. If there is one thing that helps Hamas most -- one thing that gives it any legitimacy -- it is dead civilians. Rockets in schools. Hamas exploits the deaths of its children to gain the world's sympathy. It uses them as a weapon.

You don't have to like what Israel is doing to abhor Hamas. Arguably, Israel and Fatah are morally equivalent. Both have a lot of right on their side. Hamas, on the other hand, doesn't have a shred of it.

5. Why are people asking for Israel to end the "occupation" in Gaza?

Because they have short memories.

In 2005, Israel ended the occupation in Gaza. It pulled out every last Israeli soldier. It dismantled every last settlement. Many Israeli settlers who refused to leave were forcefully evicted from their homes, kicking and screaming.

This was a unilateral move by Israel, part of a disengagement plan intended to reduce friction between Israelis and Palestinians. It wasn't perfect -- Israel was still to control Gaza's borders, coastline, and airspace -- but considering the history of the region, it was a pretty significant first step.

After the evacuation, Israel opened up border crossings to facilitate commerce. The Palestinians were also given 3,000 greenhouses which had already been producing fruit and flowers for export for many years.

But Hamas chose not to invest in schools, trade, or infrastructure. Instead, it built an extensive network of tunnels to house thousands upon thousands of rockets and weapons, including newer, sophisticated ones from Iran and Syria. All the greenhouses were destroyed.

Hamas did not build any bomb shelters for its people. It did, however, build a few for its leaders to hide out in during airstrikes. Civilians are not given access to these shelters for precisely the same reason Hamas tells them to stay home when the bombs come.

Gaza was given a great opportunity in 2005 that Hamas squandered by transforming it into an anti-Israel weapons store instead of a thriving Palestinian state that, with time, may have served as a model for the future of the West Bank as well. If Fatah needed yet another reason to abhor Hamas, here it was.

6. Why are there so many more casualties in Gaza than in Israel?

The popular explanation for this is that Hamas is poor and lacks the resources to protect its people like Israel does. The real reason, however, seems to have more to do with disordered priorities than deficient resources (see #5). This is about will, not ability. All those rockets, missiles, and tunnels aren't cheap to build or acquire. But they are priorities. And it's not like Palestinians don't have a handful of oil-rich neighbors to help them the way Israel has the US.

The problem is, if civilian casualties in Gaza drop, Hamas loses the only weapon it has in its incredibly effective PR war. It is in Israel's national interest to protect its civilians and minimize the deaths of those in Gaza. It is in Hamas' interest to do exactly the opposite on both fronts.

7. If Hamas is so bad, why isn't everyone pro-Israel in this conflict?

Because Israel's flaws, while smaller in number, are massive in impact.

Many Israelis seem to have the same tribal mentality that their Palestinian counterparts do. They celebrate the bombing of Gaza the same way many Arabs celebrated 9/11. A UN report recently found that Israeli forces tortured Palestinian children and used them as human shields. They beat up teenagers. They are often reckless with their airstrikes. They have academics who explain how rape may be the only truly effective weapon against their enemy. And many of them callously and publicly revel in the deaths of innocent Palestinian children.

To be fair, these kinds of things do happen on both sides. They are an inevitable consequence of multiple generations raised to hate the other over the course of 65 plus years. To hold Israel up to a higher standard would mean approaching the Palestinians with the racism of lowered expectations.

However, if Israel holds itself to a higher standard like it claims -- it needs to do much more to show it isn't the same as the worst of its neighbors.

Israel is leading itself towards increasing international isolation and national suicide because of two things: 1. The occupation; and 2. Settlement expansion...

Let's face it, the land belongs to both of them now. Israel was carved out of Palestine for Jews with help from the British in the late 1940s just like my own birthplace of Pakistan was carved out of India for Muslims around the same time. The process was painful, and displaced millions in both instances. But it's been almost 70 years. There are now at least two or three generations of Israelis who were born and raised in this land, to whom it really is a home, and who are often held accountable and made to pay for for historical atrocities that are no fault of their own. They are programmed to oppose "the other" just as Palestinian children are. At its very core, this is a tribal religious conflict that will never be resolved unless people stop choosing sides.

So you really don't have to choose between being "pro-Israel" or "pro-Palestine." If you support secularism, democracy, and a two-state solution -- and you oppose Hamas, settlement expansion, and the occupation -- you can be both.

If they keep asking you to pick a side after all of that, tell them you're going with hummus."

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