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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Links - 26th March 2013

Placebos Are Getting More Effective. Drugmakers Are Desperate to Know Why. - "It's not that the old meds are getting weaker, drug developers say. It's as if the placebo effect is somehow getting stronger... geographic location alone could determine whether a drug bested placebo or crossed the futility boundary... ratings by trial observers varied significantly from one testing site to another. It was like finding out that the judges in a tight race each had a different idea about the placement of the finish line. Potter and DeBrota's data-mining also revealed that even superbly managed trials were subject to runaway placebo effects... response to placebo was considered a psychological trait related to neurosis and gullibility rather than a physiological phenomenon that could be scrutinized in the lab and manipulated for therapeutic benefit... Like any other internal network, the placebo response has limits. It can ease the discomfort of chemotherapy, but it won't stop the growth of tumors. It also works in reverse to produce the placebo's evil twin, the nocebo effect. For example, men taking a commonly prescribed prostate drug who were informed that the medication may cause sexual dysfunction were twice as likely to become impotent... volunteers in this high-interaction [with the doctor] group got as much relief as did people taking the two leading prescription drugs for IBS. And the benefits of their bogus treatment persisted for weeks afterward, contrary to the belief—widespread in the pharmaceutical industry—that the placebo response is short-lived... The main objections to more widespread placebo use in clinical practice are ethical, but the solutions to these conundrums can be surprisingly simple. Investigators told volunteers in one placebo study that the pills they were taking were "known to significantly reduce pain in some patients." The researchers weren't lying... Soothing blue capsules make more effective tranquilizers than angry red ones, except among Italian men, for whom the color blue is associated with their national soccer team... why would the placebo effect seem to be getting stronger worldwide? Part of the answer may be found in the drug industry's own success in marketing its products."

Wealth Over the Edge | WSJ.Money Spring 2013 - WSJ.com - "Past the bouncers, a walk through a long tunnel with blue ultraviolet lights and a ride up an elevator reveal one of the world's most exclusive parties. Michael Ault, Pangaea's founder, sits at the club's most prestigious table by the bar, on cushions covered in exotic African ostrich skins. His table is covered with bottles of Belvedere vodka, Cristal champagne, buckets of ice and dozens of glasses for his friends. His wife, Sabrina Ault, a former fashion model and now his business partner, wears a fake shark's head and wields a plastic gun while dancing on a table top. At Pangaea, all surfaces are made for dancing—even tables made from the trunks of 1,000-year-old trees and the crocodile-skinned couches... [In Singapore] the rich feel, well, rich, and unusually secure. And where they seem to know only one common language, the language of excess—all too shamelessly displayed in his club... "What I see here is what I imagined must have happened in the U.S. in the 1880s, in the Gilded Age, when it first took over England in terms of wealth," he says. "It is truly shocking how much wealth there is—and how willing people are to spend it." Welcome to the world's newest Monaco, a haven for the ultra-rich in what until recently was mocked as one of the most straight-laced, boring cities in the world... Singapore also now has the highest gross domestic product per capita in the world at $56,532, having overtaken Norway, the U.S., Hong Kong and Switzerland, according to a 2012 wealth report by Knight Frank and Citi Private Bank... what really checks all the right boxes for many of the world's ultra-rich is Singapore's obsession with order, predictability and control, all of which give comfort to individuals whose fortunes have recently gone down the drain in many parts of the world. It doesn't hurt that Singapore has some of the lowest taxes in the world, including none on capital gains and most foreign dividends. But it also has relatively secretive private banking laws and zero harassment from paparazzi or protestors, whose activities are narrowly proscribed by Singaporean authorities, further creating an aura of order and stability... The irony, as with other earlier boomtowns, is that the very sources of Singapore's success may ultimately prove its undoing. The gushers of cash that have flooded Singapore in recent years have put relentless upward pressure on property prices... "aged Singaporeans with grossly inadequate savings can be seen on the streets collecting plastic bottles for recycling"

Couples Thrive When They Have a Common Goal - WSJ.com - "the upturn in our standard of living has been accompanied by a downturn in our patience and tolerance for each other"

Alex Bryce: A Regressive Move Which Would Further Stigmatise and Endanger Sex Workers - "Rhoda Grant MSP and Lord Morrow were invited to speak about their respective proposals to criminalise the purchase of sex in Scotland and Northern Ireland at an event in the House of Commons tellingly entitled 'Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation: Tackling Demand in the UK'... They are not supported by public opinion, academic evidence, sex workers themselves or by the majority of those delivering front-line support to sex workers... Rhoda Grant and Lord Morrow both lauded the Swedish model - where the purchase of sex is criminalised - as an ideal without possessing a thorough understanding of the impact the legislation has had since it was introduced in 1999. Classic displacement occurred with consistent reports of sex workers using their own cars to collect clients, doing business in taxis, advertising online (often on Danish websites) and dispersing to neighbouring countries to avoid the law. According to the Rose Alliance, a sex worker led organisation in Sweden, there is no evidence at all that the indoor sex markets are slowing down and, if anything, more people are entering the industry. In addition, reports from sex workers and those working front line with sex workers confirms that, as expected, a drop in custom has resulted in lower prices charged, less choice in clients and clients pressing for quicker, more risky transactions all of which increases the levels of risk and danger. In addition, though the expected dip in the numbers of visible street sex workers occurred initially, according to the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare, by 2007 "about two thirds of street prostitution [was] back"... It was pointed out by a representative of the English Collective of Prostitutes at the meeting that for many reasons - such as being a single parent, or the fact that elements of their work is already criminalised and many have criminal records as a result - feasible alternative employment is not always available to sex workers, so these proposals, whatever their intentions, would plunge them into poverty... she suggested that damage to individual sex workers was a price worth paying for the settlement to be established. A fascinating insight into the mind of an individual so focused on the ideology that the impact for those she seeks to 'help' is of little consequence.

Lara Croft in Tomb Raider: I don't need reminding that she's a woman - "She's wearing a conveniently skimpy, low-cut vest top which every time she bends down gives viewers an uncanny excuse to look straight down it. The reason she's not wearing a T-shirt? She was resting in her bed when the boat she's on crashes, and doesn't have time to find any decent clothing. Naturally... Lara Croft ends up swimming underwater a lot, with conveniently placed camera angles"

Soshiok.com - Flavourful Cajun chicken at Botak Jones - "Five other outlets, branded as Botak's Favourites, are halal - which means the menu is not authentic American; Mr Utchenik, who is Muslim by marriage, said the halal outlets were started under the heat of the recession. Still, the taste is as close as he can get it, and he is adamant about keeping things as authentic as possible: "If some people didn't care for the flavours, well, that was to be expected. As they say, if you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.""
TURKEY BACON IS NOT AUTHENTIC EITHER

On Choosing Sex Music - "A good rule of thumb, I think, when it comes to selecting music to have sex to is to choose stuff that is as nondescript as possible"

Japan man dies after hospitals reject him 36 times - "Paramedics rushed to his house but were told in turn by all 25 hospitals in the area that they could not accept the man because they did not have enough doctors or any free beds"

Controversial Hong Kong fortune teller 'gives up feng shui' - "Now Mr Chan has described feng shui as the work of the devil after he recently embraced Christianity and changed his name from Tony to Peter... "This is the happiest day in my life. It felt like getting married, and I could tell everyone that I am a Christian""

Tibetan self-immolators inspire Chinese painter

Visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Geramny - "Starting Monday, March 11 I will spend 2-weeks driving around Germany with the goal of exploring 28 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 27 of which I have not previously visited"

The Single Biggest Thing You Can Do To Stay Safe While Traveling - "STAY AWAY FROM NIGHTCLUBS Nothing good happens at nightclubs. Nothing. The best you can hope for is to spend outrageous amounts of money for the same stuff you could buy at a liqueur store. "

Indian tribe puts women in control - "The Khasi tribe in the picturesque state of Meghalaya places women at the centre of its society from the cradle to the grave. “Go to any hospital and stand outside the maternity wards and listen,” says Keith Pariat, a men’s rights activist. “If families have a boy, you will hear things like: ‘oh okay, he’ll do’. But if it’s a girl then there is joy and applause.” Pariat is the chairman of Syngkhong Rympei Thymmai (SRT), an organisation fighting to eradicate a tradition with tremendous staying power. According to Khasi tradition, the youngest daughter inherits all ancestral property, men are expected to move into their wives’ homes after marriage and children must take their mother’s family name. And, in a ruling which helps explain the grand welcome for female babies, all parents with ancestral property but no daughters are required to adopt a girl before they die, since they cannot leave the inheritance to their sons. The matrilineal system has endured for thousands of years here, but now activists like Pariat are determined to overthrow it. “When a man has to live in his mother-in-law’s house, it tends to make him a little quiet,” Pariat says. “You are just a breeding bull. No one is interested in hearing your views about anything, you have no say in any decision whatsoever.” The 60-year-old businessman believes that the matrilineal system has been “totally detrimental” to Khasi men. “It puts no responsibility on their shoulders so they tend to take life easy and they go into drugs and alcohol and that cuts their life short,” he told AFP in the state capital Shillong. It also makes them unappealing to Khasi women, who exercise their right to marry outside the community instead. Teibor Langkhongjee, a 41-year-old entrepreneur and SRT member, says the choice is easy to understand. “Khasi men don’t have any security, they don’t own land, they don’t run the family business and, at the same time, they are almost good for nothing,” he said. A men’s rights movement did emerge in the early 1960s but petered out after hundreds of Khasi women turned up at one of their meetings, armed with knives... Men’s rights have never been the subject of debate. In Shillong, most women dismiss the suggestion that their society is biased. Although Khasi women are empowered to make their own decisions over marriage, money and other matters, political participation remains low, with women accounting for only four out of 60 state legislators... The state’s sex ratio currently stands at about 1,035 females for every 1,050 men, higher than the global norm of 1,000 women for every 1,050 men"
Again I had a quick look and the feminists seem to be silent; it is telling that even in a matriarchy women do not participate in politics
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