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Friday, October 18, 2013

Why didn't the Chieftains of the Dúnedain before Aragorn II claim the throne of Gondor?

Thomas Snerdley's answer to The Lord of the Rings (books, movies and creative franchise): Why didn't the Chieftains of the Dúnedain before Aragorn II claim the throne of Gondor? - Quora

"The claiming of the reunited throne of Arnor and Gondor was driven by the geopolitical realities of Middle Earth rather than whether the shards of Narsil were reforged into Andúril. Military victory over Sauron was a necessary precursor to political reunification.

***

The heirs of Isildur (Chieftains of the Dúnedain) before Aragorn II could not hope to reunite the North and South Kingdoms for several reasons:

1) The existential threat to Gondor posed by the lord of Mordor.

2) The non-existential but significant threats facing the former territories of Arnor -- and in particular the Chieftains of the Dúnedain -- due to the depredations of the orcs of the Misty Mountains and other vassals, minions and spies of Sauron.

3) The growing threat posed to Rohan and eastern Enedwaith (which separated the North and South Kingdoms) posed by Saruman's machinations against King Théoden.

In the decades before the War of the Ring, the Chieftains of the Dúnedain lacked the capability to nullify any of these threats. In fact, both Rohan and Gondor were severely challenged merely attempting to repel encroachments against their borders and peoples. At this time, the public pronouncement of the existence of a legitimate Heir of Isildur would merely have resulted in Sauron launching waves of assassins against him. Numerous Chieftains of the Dúnedain had been slain by either orcs or wolves/wargs upon discovery by Sauron's agents (including Arathorn I, Arador and Arathorn II).

Happily, during the Chieftainship of Aragorn II all of the necessary ingredients came together enabling him to terminate Sauron's existential threat to Gondor as well as relieving incidental threats against Rohan and Rhudaur (eastern Arnor). By far the most important aspect of this was the discovery of Sauron's Ruling Ring which offered the only viable prospect of completely destroying Sauron. Other ingredients included:

1) the White Council driving Sauron from Dol Guldur (relieving pressure against Lothlórien and northeastern Rohan

2) the death of the dragon Smaug which removed a massive potential threat to eastern Arnor or Gondor

3) the tripartite union between the elves of Mirkwood, the men of Dale and the dwarves of Erebor

4) knowledge of the Paths of the Dead and the potential utility of the Dead men of the White Mountains

With these geopolitical elements in place ... and with a tremendous dollop of luck and heroic actions by all the members of the Fellowship of the Ring, Lady Galadriel and warriors of both Rohan and Gondor ... it was possible to remove the threat of Sauron from Middle Earth. In the event, Narsil/Andúril played a relatively minor role.

Only with Sauron dispatched, Saruman de-fanged and both of their armies dispersed could the North and South Kingdoms be reunited and the Heir of Isildur claim the throne without being swiftly assassinated."


Me: Why not long before Sauron's return, though?

Before he declared himself in Mordor he wasn't quite as powerful. During the Watchful Peace, for example.

Him: 1) By the time of the Watchful Peace (years 2063 - 2,460 of the Third Age) the Kingdom of Arnor hadn't existed for over 1,200 years. When Eärendur, the tenth and last King of Arnor, died in the year 861 of the Third Age, his three sons split up the kingdom into three separate provinces, Arthedain, Rhudaur and Cardolan.

2) The kings of the three divided provinces squabbled amongst each other for power and were bled white by over six centuries of conflict with the Witch King of Angmar from around the year 1,300 to 1,965 of the Third Age.

3) The Dúnedain kings in Rhudaur had already been ousted from leadership, and possibly all slain, by hill-men who allied themselves with the Witch King.

4) In 1409 of the Third Age, the Witch King's forces overwhelmed the province of Cardolan and slew its last Dúnedain king.

5) The remaining Dúnedain of Arthedain were grievously weakened when the Witch King of Angmar overran Arthedain and King Arvedui drowned in the Bay of Forochel. In fact, they would have been annihilated and gone extinct had not King Eärnil II and Glorfindel of the House of Elrond arrived together at the head of powerful armies to defeat the Witch King.

6) Following this, the Dúnedain of Arthedain struggled merely to keep their lineage unbroken and to avoid discovery and assassination. In the period of the Watchful Peace, Aragorn I was slain by wolves (possibly evil Wargs of the Misty Mountains). Far from entertaining ideas about expanding their claims, they merely limped along hoping not to be exterminated.

7) Any Chieftain of the Dúnedain in Arthedain with delusions of grandeur would still be painfully aware of King Arvedui's attempt to assert his rightful claim to the kingship of Gondor, which was rebuffed in favor of King Eärnil II.

8) During the years of the Watchful Peace the Stewards of Gondor had relaxed their vigilance against Sauron since he seemed to be quiescent. The formerly powerful border defenses in the east and west (including the Tower of Orthanc) were abandoned or allowed to crumble. The Stewards' attention was devoted to internal reconstitution rather than external expansion.

In short, the only realistic scenario for reunion of the North and South Kingdoms was to destroy Sauron, revitalize Gondor and use that legitimacy to reassert control over the fractured northern areas that had once comprised the Kingdom of Arnor. Because of the disappearance of Sauron's Ruling Ring, this simply wasn't possible during the years of the Watchful Peace.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Most Exciting Movie So Far This Year


"Game of Bones: Winter is Cumming"

Links - 17th October 2013

Youth more likely to be bullied at schools with anti-bullying programs - "Boys were more likely than girls to be victims of physical bullying, but girls were more likely to be victims of emotional bullying. A lack of involvement and support from parents and teachers was likely to increase the risk of bullying victimization. These findings are all consistent with prior studies. Notably, researchers found that race or ethnicity was not a factor in whether students were bullied."
A comment on Fark points out, "here's the HSBC form that they've based the study on... If you'd been taught that name calling and social media attacks are also bullying you'd be more likely to mark the box than if you only thought that someone beating you up counted."
Another comment: "As a person who worked in Primary schools for a short period of time there were a few similarities I noticed about children who were bullied... the child who was constantly bullied and in 90% of the times would fit into one of these two categories
1. Has a special need and those were often aspergers or austism. In this situation I believe that the parents as well as giving them intense early lessons should also give them social lessons. This is because children with these difficulties can lack the human understanding of emotions and from that can seem very rude.
2. The baby. The child who can't laugh at themselves, who has to tell the teacher when anyone's doing anything wrong. The one who cries over everything. Teach your child not to tell all the time.
My rule is if someone is being physically hurt you tell other wise you mind your own business. So if Tommy is drawing dicks on the table keep your mouth shut. We also insult each other so she learns to laugh"


What to do with HIV-positive Jennifer Murphy and the Russian roulette she plays with her sex partners? | Toronto Star - "What Murphy did not do was tell any of the three sexual partners that she was HIV-positive and no condom was used. In Canada, that’s a crime. Only last year, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling unanimously absolving HIV carriers of the legal obligation to inform sex partners about their status — as long as they have a low load of the virus and use a condom. A week ago, Murphy was found guilty by Justice Gregory Mulligan on one count of aggravated sexual assault — the van intercourse incident — because, though the virus was almost undetectable and she was on anti-viral medication, the man was nevertheless exposed to a significant risk with no condom used. Murphy was acquitted on the two other charges of aggravated sexual assault. In one case the “victim” — himself a convicted sexual offender, which he didn’t disclose — was deemed not credible; in the other, there was no risk, Mulligan concluded, because the man “only’’ performed oral sex on Murphy. The woman has a long history of not telling. Murphy gain national notoriety in 2005 when she was convicted of having unprotected sex with two soldiers from CFB Borden without disclosing her HIV status to them. Such was the alarm triggered by Murphy’s arrest that soldiers from the base area were urged to seek medical attention if they suspected they’d had sexual relations with her... Murphy was defiant: “I’m a liberated woman and there isn’t anything that’s going to shut me up,” she said, vowing to be an activist for the HIV community and safe sex practices. “I’ve been slandered, degraded and discriminated against”... Murphy’s lawyer, Angela McLeod was livid over the development, which she’d only learned about just before court began, calling the manoeuvre “an abhorrent misuse of the justice system . . . it’s outrageous.” McLeod didn’t object to the victim making an impact statement “other than I hope he apologizes to his wife, for putting her health at risk and betraying his marital vows.” A man, a van, and slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am sex. Apparently, he’s the villain. Murphy, vixen, is just the vessel."
Naturally, feminists and activists are upset about the "witch hunt"

9 Crappy Messages About Love & Friendship We Learned By Watching Rom-Coms - "Some other stuff happens, but the basic crux of the movie is that if your friend is kind of self-absorbed it's totally okay if you lie to her and sleep with her fiance. Especially if you and the dude went to law school together and you could have dated him, but you were just too much of a shy pussy to make a move. "

What is the feminists obsession with the vagina? - Yahoo! Answers - " Why must they try to have television shows about the vagina, hold mirrors to their vaginas so that they can inspect them in women's groups, talk about them all the time.? Are men this obsessed with their penises? Do they reserve air time on radios and television networks to discuss the various incidents and mysteries of their penises? Do they stand in front of mirrors in groups and gaze at their penises?
Top Answer: "Men are just as obsessed, only they spend their time playing with their penises instead of talking about them. I suggest we women do the same thing and spend our time playing with our vaginas instead of discussing them! Are you with me?""

16 Of The Best Vagina-Related Yahoo! Answers Questions - "Thank God for Yahoo! Answers. Where else would the befuddled, the curious, the totally clueless find out about life, love and sex?"

22 Sexy Lingerie Models Who Are Missing Their Vaginas - "we found an epidemic that seems to be plaguing lingerie models. Their vaginas have gone missing! (The nipples were just the beginning.) But where did they go? Let’s “Law & Order” this shit. Dun … dun … dun. We have some theories"

Twin Study Says Breastfeeding, Moisturizing and Hormones Stall Aging Breasts - "Soltanian collected data from consenting women between the ages of 25 and 74 at the annual Twins Days Festival in Twinsberg, Ohio... Soltanian acknowledged there is "no objective measurement" for what makes a breast "beautiful." But researchers looked for skin tone, droopiness, shape and areola size... The study seemed to refute myths about the negative effects of nursing a baby, findings that even surprised Soltanian. Even though the size and shape of the areola had suffered, the skin quality was better in women who breast fed"

Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History Explores Evolution of Organ - " Breast milk contains substances similar to marijuana and is sold on the Internet for 262 times the price of oil, she wrote. Another interesting factoid: Hour-glass figure Barbie was created by Ruth Handler, a cancer-survivor responsible for inventing the first breast prosthesis in the 1970s"

Woman Dislocates Her Jaw Biting Into a Giant America Burger, Still Claims Burger Was Amazing!

I went to Oxford. So why am I so angry about it? - "when I read about Alastair Herron, who was rejected out of hand by Merton College, Oxford – yet achieved seven A*s this week and has had scholarship offers from Stanford and Harvard – and when I read the Guardian's story, following a freedom of information request, which showed that applicants from private schools are 9% more likely to win a place at Oxford than state school candidates with the same grades, I quietly despair."
Amused by people who claim that grades are meaningless - unless they are used to support allegations of bias.
Featured comment: "A 9% higher probability of privately educated students with the same grades being accepted is not necessarily evidence of bias. Oxford doesn't decide whether to admit candidates or not solely on their grades, so the flaw in that test could be the way that you are measuring their suitability as candidates.. Someone wrote about the confidence that private schools give their pupils. I hate the idea of private schools, but I would have loved to have gone to any school where I didn't have to hide my enthusiasm for any subject until the age of 16 for fear of getting the shit kicked out of me."


Open door: Does the Guardian employ too many Oxbridge graduates? | Comment is free | The Guardian - ""I think Oxbridge is a bit of a red herring – and that the private schools issue is much more relevant. Yes, Oxbridge is an elite – but, in theory, it should be an elite selected by ability. To object to Oxbridge graduates having places in government/media/academia should, in theory, be like objecting to the fastest runners getting all the places in the Olympic team: absurd. The private schools issue is different: private schools form an elite selected not by ability, but by parents' ability to pay." The fiercest view was expressed by those who went from state schools to Oxford or Cambridge: "I was encouraged to apply because I was bright, and I got a place because I worked bloody hard, twice as hard as anyone else at my school … In truth, Oxford was the most meritocratic place I have ever experienced because if you got good results nobody cared one jot where you were from … I am not remotely apologetic about my degree, I know I earned it." Alan Rusbridger, the editor-in-chief and a Cambridge graduate, said: "I think we have moved a mile from where we were. We have tried really hard to get diversity into the debate – Comment is free has inverted the model where a group of Oxbridge graduates write down to people. We have just gone to Cairo to recruit 35 Egyptian bloggers to give us voices on the ground. "We are far more diverse than ever before, and even if there is a strong Oxbridge presence, they have done more to tear down the walls than anyone else.""

Seatbelts on planes are pointless, says Ryanair boss - "Michael O’Leary claims legislation forcing passengers to wear seatbelts is useless, unnecessary and insisted upon only by authorities he deems “plonkers”... “If there ever was a crash on an aircraft, God forbid, a seatbelt won’t save you”... "You don't need a seatbelt on the London Underground. You don't need a seatbelt on trains which are travelling at 120mph and if they crash you're all dead..."... "The problem with aviation is that for 50 years it's been populated by people who think it's this wondrous sexual experience; that it's like James Bond and wonderful and we'll all be flying first class when really it's just a b----- bus with wings"... When questioned over the fairness of charging travellers to print a boarding pass, he said: ““We think [they] should pay 60 euros for being so stupid.”"

Rowan Williams tells 'persecuted' western Christians to grow up - ""When you've had any contact with real persecuted minorities you learn to use the word very chastely," he said. "Persecution is not being made to feel mildly uncomfortable. 'For goodness sake, grow up,' I want to say." True persecution was "systematic brutality and often murderous hostility that means that every morning you wonder if you and your children are going to live through the day". He cited the experience of a woman he met in India "who had seen her husband butchered by a mob"... He said the word "spiritual" in today's society was frequently misused in two ways: either to mean "unworldly and useless, which is probably the sense in which it has been used about me", or "meaning 'I'm serious about my inner life, I want to cultivate my sensibility'"... Neuberger said she found some uses of the word self-indulgent and offensive"
Presumably this also applies to religious, racial and sexual minorities who are made to feel uncomfortable?

We cherish the southern European lifestyle, yet scorn southern Europeans - "in August, we leave our frantic modus vivendi behind, to enjoy theirs. "Oh, look at those little old men playing chess on the pavement – so sweet!" "Campari-soda per favore!" "Tasha, you MUST try the époisses, it's divine!" "I so love the way they whizz about on scooters without helmets and no one wears seat belts – it's such fun!" Then September comes, back to balancing the books, the shareholders' interests, the "aggressively managed portfolio", the FTSE and Dow Jones. That's enough Caravaggio and mortadella for one year, time for a new austerity package – those lazy bloody Latins…"

Is it true that we're all a little racist?

Racism: Is it true that we're all a little racist? - Quora
Like the Avenue Q musical says (sings)

Me: It depends on what you mean by racist.

If you mean that we all hold attitudes about racial groups, and that some of these attitudes are negative (as the Avenue Q song implies), then yes.

Attitudes we have about groups are cognitive heuristics, and these are usually both useful and justified (The Unbearable Accuracy of Stereotypes: http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~juss...).

We have attitudes about groups all the time - it's just that some of them are more socially acceptable than others. For example, we assume that lawyers make more money than construction workers. Sure, the odd construction worker might make more money than the odd lawyer but overall the stereotype holds. So if I were meeting a construction worker for lunch, I wouldn't suggest going to Morton's Steakhouse (a famously expensive joint).

Given that many people of the same racial group have something in common, attitudes about racial groups are also justified. For example as someone of East Asian descent I was taught by my mother how to use chopsticks, and I would assume that most others of East Asian descent would also know how to use chopsticks. However, the same sort of reasoning is just as true for women, Seventh Day Adventists etc.

Race is, then, just one of a large category of classifications (including gender, class, sexual orientation, religion and many more) with which we make sense of the world, and which helps us interact with others (once we know more about them, more relevant individuating information about them comes into play - the previously linked paper talks about this).

People don't usually have a problem with positive stereotypes, but the flipside of positive stereotypes is negative ones. For example women are supposed to be more caring than men, but the flipside of this is that men are more heartless. So even if one concentrates on positive stereotypes of racial groups, one is still being racist.

So yes, once again everyone is a little bit racist, because that's how we make sense of and interact with a complex world.

Ironically, the people who rail about racism are usually themselves also racist.

Take the popular accusation of "privilege" - it assumes that the "majority" race inevitably benefits compared to "minorities", and compensates by vilifying it:

HENRY. Do you know what you can say? To a black man. On the  subject of race?

CHARLES. “Nothing.”

HENRY. That is correct.

(pause)

CHARLES. Black people can talk about Race.

--- Race by David Mamet

In closing, here is a line I like from Bruce Hubbell's answer to Obama First Term (2009-12): Why has Obama lost support among whites?:

"President  Obama got a lot of votes from people based on the color of his skin.   Many people wanted to elect a black man president to send a message  about race relations in this country.  They also wanted to be perceived  as "color-blind" when it comes to race.  So the only criteria was his skin color."

I'll let you reflect on the irony of wanting to be seen as colour-blind and yet voting based on skin colour, and what that says about colour-blindness, racial attitudes, racism and racial discourse.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Good Thai Girl


"Goodthaigirl.com

Dating
Email
Blogs
Videos
Chat"

Links - 16th October 2013

Cricket Australia Allows Ahmed to Drop Beer Logo from Shirt - "Cricket Australia (CA) have agreed to let Muslim leg spinner Fawad Ahmed compete without the logo of a sponsor’s beer brand on his shirt out of respect for his “personal beliefs”... South Africa’s Muslim batsman Hashim Amla has also been excused from wearing a beer brand logo on his shirts."
Cricket Australia is also sponsored by Commonwealth Bank. If I support Occupy Wall Street, can I not have their logo on my jersey?

What Did Karl Popper Really Say About Evolution? - "'I have changed my mind about the testability and logical status of the theory of natural selection; and I am glad to have an opportunity to make a recantation'... the creationists were never correct in stating that Popper believed that evolution was not falsifiable (and hence not scientific), nor are they now correct in citing him as an authority for the claim that natural selection is tautological and not falsifiable!"

Welcome back to school, girls. And mind those breasts! - "On night two of the new school year, my daughters' high school principal sent out the following email: "kids" were not to show "the three Bs: No bellies. No buns. No breasts." Lucky me. The educational authorities were on the clothing case. Our collective parenting failure to enforce proper dress fobbed off on the public school system. And yet, something was missing. Oh right, male body parts."
I am pleased that the staff selected this comment (among other things obviating the need for me to make a similar one): "If male and female fashion showed similar amounts of skin, this would be a valid article. But really, boys these days do not saunter into school in short skirts, leggings, undone shirts or package-hugging trousers. Men have to cover up far more skin and have way less liberty in fashion choice in a formal environment than girls. This is a simple fact, enforced by the stereotype of males being uncreative. You think us girls have it bad because we're not allowed to wear belly tops and hotpants? I have more sympathy for my mates stuck in a 30° classroom in black trousers and formal shoes when I'm wearing a knee-length skirt and pumps."

Wurst luck – how Zeppelins hit German sausage-eaters - "the quantity of cow intestines used in manufacturing the airships was so enormous – and the military appetite for the dirigibles so strong – that the making of sausages was temporarily outlawed in Germany and allied or occupied parts of Austria, Poland and northern France"... "The most interesting thing is that you would have thought that a big bag of hydrogen would be easy to shoot down and set light to," he said. "But for the best part of a year and a half, it was impossible to shoot Zeppelins down. They built 140 of these enormous airships over that period and it was only at the very end of that – towards the end of the war in 1917 – that we finally worked out how to shoot them down.""

Should I choose my mother or my lesbian partner? - "On telling my mother about my new relationship she said she would never accept it and that my behaviour is more devastating to her than my father leaving us via an affair when I was a baby. Now, two years on, she says that if I continue with the relationship, she will sever all contact with me"

A Response To #SlaneGirl - "what struck me was how people assumed the culprits behind the incriminating photographs were male, evincing the ubiquitous paradigm of men as soulless sexual predators. Unfortunately, for the female species at least, the person responsible for uploading at least one of the pictures is a woman"

Who comes first, your partner or your kids? - "If your marriage goes tits-up, your children are unlikely to benefit, so tending your relationship is, indirectly, a way of tending your children. On the other hand, there are some serious taboos in this area... children are just passing through, while marriage should be for ever... Look out for your children but do not micromanage them. If you put all your energy into raising the next generation, you risk identifying so closely with your children that their success is your success and their failure is yours, and this will put them under unnecessary pressure... it is easy to hide behind the comfortable intimacy of being Mum and Dad together, and forget the problems of being husband and wife."

Is it a good idea to go on holiday with your ex? - "It is not surprising that so many divorced couples choose to go on holiday together, seek each other out in times of crisis or that some will even nurse their terminally- ill former partner. This is partly because about one third of people who divorce regret the decision five years later, but mainly because we fall in love for a reason and that reason is probably still valid – even if events showed that we couldn't actually live together."

Wurst policy ever? 'Veggie Day' plan leaves Greens trailing - "A dramatic fall in the polls for the Green party has been blamed in no small part on their Veggie Day proposal, in which canteens would be obliged to offer only vegetarian food once a week, with Germans (among the most enthusiastic carnivores in Europe) encouraged to follow suit at home."

Aliens Power Loader Baby Costume - Halloween 2012 - YouTube

Liberal attitudes on gay lifestyles not prevalent here - "A middle ground of close to 30 per cent of respondents across age groups and education levels were neutral on the issue of gay lifestyles, which IPS Faculty Associate Tan Ern Ser said should be seen as “neither for nor against, or it could be an unwillingness to choose”. Dr Leong concurred: “Many Singaporeans are just indifferent to this issue, and the large percentage of ‘neutral’ corroborated that. “The implicit compact between the mainstream and homosexuals is that of a mutually respectful and non-confrontational engagement. Singaporeans are not upset as long as gays do not advocate making alternative lifestyles a part of the mainstream.” Using the analogy of left- and right-handers, he said: “It doesn’t matter if a person is left-handed, even if the majority belong to the latter. However, if left-handed people insist that we put in place an alternative left-handed device for every gadget, then, of course, there will be tension between the two groups.”"

Swedish group seeks sex education expansion - "The Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (Riksförbundet för Sexuell Upplysning, RFSU) has called for sex education to be included in all school subjects including religious studies, a move mirrored by a Christian group seeking to have 'walking on water' explained in physics classes. "

Censorship, Sex, and the Bo Xilai Trial - "It’s so interesting. A full circuit of Shanghai judges routinely visiting brothels on public funds gets not a word of mention,” she mused, “but the travails of a small-time businessman is getting around-the-clock coverage on Central China Television! The Chinese government must truly be devoted to the lives of its most ordinary citizens”

Filipino Food Sucks - "Pancit refers to one of what seems like thousands of different noodle dishes. Some noodles are skinny. Some noodles are fat. They all taste like crap. Go to any Filipino party, and you will likely see at least three iterations of this dish sitting right next to one another. I can all but promise you the noodles will be dry and there will be random pieces of overcooked Grade F- beef, imitation crab, and hard boiled egg littering the mess. Even Filipinos who supposedly love this dish usually squeeze lemon on it - either to kill off the bacteria (aka: noodle cooties) they know have accumulated or to give the dish some sort of flavor (albeit the flavor of a NYC taxicab air-freshener)... all lumpia is stale and gross. Vietnamese goi cuon and the also-fried-but-much-lighter Thai version of spring rolls are far superior in flavor and freshness, and I much rather snack on those then the awful Filipino fried tubes of crap called lumpia."
" I give all foods at least a couple tries. Everyone has to give beer a couple tries at least before it tastes good. Filipino food, never tastes good. Cheap, salty, preservative laden ingredients that they insist on buying are what make the stuff taste so terrible. Adobo... where the fk do you even begin? Could the meat be saltier, fattier? W.T.F. "

Claiming that all men are sexist (image)

When Homework is a Waste of Time - "“Spaced repetition” is one example of the kind of evidence-based technique that researchers have found has a positive impact on students’ learning. Here’s how it works: instead of concentrating the study of information in large one-shot doses, as many homework assignments currently do—reading about, say, the Civil War one evening, and Reconstruction the next—learners encounter the same material in briefer sessions spread out over a longer period of time. With this approach, students would be re-exposed to information about the Civil War and Reconstruction in their homework a number of times during the semester"

How To See Ryan Gosling on Every Web Page You Visit - "“We had a curriculum challenge that involved manipulating webpage elements live using Javascript,” she told Mashable, “and my programming pair and I were having fun changing all of his Dev Bootcamp profile information to make him appear as if he were Channing Tatum.” Eventually, Ryan Gosling replaced Channing Tatum, which makes sense, since the Internet just loves Ryan Gosling."

Singapore library uses analytics to forecast demand - "The National Library Board (NLB) used analytics to improve accuracy in forecasting patrons’ demand by 60 per cent, reducing waiting time for popular books and frequency of patrons not being able to find the book they want."

Navy Hovercraft Gives Sunbathers a Fright During 'Normal' Training Exercise (Video) - "In a scene straight from an apocalyptic film, hundreds of sunbathers basking on a beach in the Kaliningrad region were startled by giant waves and a shattering crash as a Russian Navy hovercraft rolled ashore. Several witnesses captured the Zubr's landing on their cell phones while Russian marine soldiers from the Baltic Fleet jumped onto the beach, put up a barricade, and tried to shoo onlookers away from the ship... "Good, it's not a German U-boat," one man joked, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported."

Harmful psychological effects from bullying are serious - "Victims of bullying have been found to be over six times more likely to be diagnosed with serious illness, smoke regularly, or to develop a psychiatric disorder in comparison to those not involved in bullying. The study revealed very few ill effects of actually being the bully."
Very few people are giving the "correlation is not causation" platitude here. Let me give it a shot: weird kids are more likely to be bullied, and many people with problems are weird

Family history of psychiatric disorders shapes intellectual interests, study suggests - "Students interested in pursuing a major in the humanities or social sciences were twice as likely to report that a family member had a mood disorder or a problem with substance abuse. Students with an interest in science and technical majors, on the other hand, were three times more likely to report a sibling with an ASD, a range of developmental disorders that includes autism and Asperger syndrome."

Dog 'Donates' Blood to Save a Cat's Life

I love Chinese Food

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Links - 15th October 2013

"Slap a mask on a drunk and you're going to have trouble. It's like having a live reenactment of anonymous forum comments." - Randy K. Milholland

***

South feast Asia - "I pop a grape-sized, smoked quail egg into my mouth. It bursts like a cherry tomato, the sea salt-dusted white flesh unleashing a luxurious, smoky liquid yolk. Heaven! I’m having dinner at Burnt Ends (20 Tek Lim Rd., burntends.com.sg), where everything is smoked, cooked or singed by apple- and almond wood-fed ovens and open grills. Australian chef David Pynt’s Sanger, containing juicy pulled pork shoulder, chipotle aioli, jalapeño and coleslaw on a soft brioche roll, bests any barbecue sandwich I’ve sampled in the American South or Brooklyn’s own Smorgasburg... In June, Bourdain appeared at Singapore’s first annual World Street Food Congress, advocating for international hawker culture and ranting for laksa, a spicy noodle soup, the way a meth head would for a fix. “I need laksa . . . I need it badly . . . I need it now”... Eating is Singaporeans’ top leisure-time activity — about two new restaurants opened daily in 2012 — and every local seems to maintain a food blog, just like Los Angelenos have all written a screenplay"
And some people claim you cannot find "authentic" food outside of its supposed place of origin

I won't apologise - dog trainer Maznah accuses critics of DEFAMING her - "Maznah said it was not her fault nor responsibility if the public misinterpreted the intention behind the making of the video which shows her performing ablution upon herself and her three dogs on Hari Raya three years ago. "If I apologise over the video, it means I am submitting that I have indeed done something that is opposed to the Islamic teachings. The video did not insult Islam. Accusing me that I wanted to insult Islam is akin to defaming me." The 1 minute 44 second footage shows Chetz, clad in a black Baju Melayu, washing the paws of her dogs to the call of the Azan prayers. The clip features her bathing her dogs with Aidilfitri prayers and a popular song as background audio, before preparing Raya savouries for the mutts... "Is rearing dogs something non-Islamic? I want to ask, who is actually insulting Islam? I make sure my dogs are clean. I take care of them well. So, what is the problem?" Chetz said that she took care of her dogs in accordance with Islamic teachings and that the person who uploaded the video had misinterpreted its contents... She now feared for her safety, her dogs and her family after receiving death threats by text messages."

Men With Big Balls Are Less Involved Parents

Will Buffett Avoid the Buffett Rule? - WSJ.com - "Billionaire Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett is once again thrilling the political class by volunteering other people to pay higher taxes. Long-time observers recall his opposition to former President George W. Bush's efforts to reduce the tax rate on dividends. Since Berkshire pays no dividends, Mr. Buffett had little at stake but enjoyed the opportunity to pose as if he were a rich guy eager to cough up more dough to Washington... as for capital gains taxes, well, Mr. Buffett has already made clear that he'll largely avoid them by transferring his fortune to the Gates Foundation and to charitable trusts controlled by his family. In fact, at the 2010 Berkshire annual shareholders meeting, according to Dow Jones Newswires, Mr. Buffett urged attendees to "follow my tax dodging example" and give away their wealth. Democrats in Washington may enjoy using Mr. Buffett as cover to raise taxes, just as long as they understand that he won't necessarily be paying them."

Penn Medicine News: Onset of Sexual Activity in Tweens Delayed By Theory-based Abstinence-only Program - "While abstinence-only intervention did not eliminate sexual activity all together, this is the first randomized controlled study to demonstrate that an abstinence-only intervention reduced the percentage of adolescents who reported any sexual intercourse for a long period, in this case two years, following the intervention... “Abstinence-only interventions may have an important role in delaying sexual activity until a time later in life when the adolescent is more prepared to handle to consequences of sex. This can reduce undesirable consequences of sex, including pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections like HIV/AIDS”... Researchers determined that none of the interventions had significant effects on consistent condom use or unprotected sex. For those who lost their virginity during the two year study, there was no difference in consistent condom use between the abstinence-only intervention and the control group"

Images of battered Hindu goddesses unveiled to highlight plight of India's sex trafficking
Religious offence! Blasphemy!

Crazy Rich Asians presents a whole new wave of stereotypes - "Kwan delves into the world of the Singaporean "overseas" Chinese – an elite breed sporting Huntsman blazers and matching Queen's English accents, who shoot off to island getaways in their private jets... A male author – an Asian one at that – has pushed past the velvet ropes of race, culture and gender, to tap that exclusive genre: chick lit"

Sex talk that turned me into a prude - "My mother never set me down to learn about the birds and the bees. Her idea of sex ed was the following sentence, shouted over her shoulder into the backseat just before my 18th birthday: “You are NOT ALLOWED to have SEX!” This speech was not devoid of positive attributes: It was succinct and to the point. But it did not impart much valuable information or foster open communication. The fact that it wasn’t terribly effective as an abstinence tool will come as no surprise. Of course, one of the most rewarding parts about becoming a mother is showing your own mother how much better you are at the job. Not that you hold it against her – she did her best – but still, your best is far better. In the category of sex ed, I figured, I’d be a natural... Now, charged with composing a reply to the question at hand – “What is sex?” – I wasn’t a puritan so much as a wimp. My relationship with sex was one thing; this was something altogether different. I felt the same squeamishness I had when I was 15 and stumbled upon a box of Trojans in my parents’ nightstand, namely: Eeeew. Gross. Gag me with a spoon. Unfortunately, in this scenario, I wasn’t the kid but the grown-up."

Why are there so few penises on television? - "There's an insidious double standard in operation on the small screen - naked breasts abound, but we never get to see a man's sexy parts... Most societies operate a “no naked breasts” rule in most public spaces, while granting men permission to go shirtless if they want: a man’s chest is not equal to a woman’s. It follows that the corresponding “sexy” part on a man would therefore be his penis, yes? Yes. So why are there so few penises on television? I am not the first person to query this. Mhairi McFarlane’s hilarious essay on a blog called The Flick is my favourite piece on the subject, and recently the American comedy website CollegeHumor released a video, featuring four female comedians and entitled “HBO Should Show Dongs”, which asked the same question."
Of course, if you're the Guardian you'll ask Are vulvas so obscene that we have to censor them? and imagine that penises are okay but vulvas are not

Why Batman's "The Dark Knight Rises" Is An Instant Conservative Classic - "The third film in the Batman series is a direct polemical assault on the French Revolution and its political heirs, which includes Occupy Wall Street and perhaps Barack Obama. I would say that it is the exact opposite of so many revolutionary-wannabe films from Fight Club to V for Vendetta (which has provided the tell-tale Guy Fawkes masks to the Occupy movement)... This film shows no ideological sympathy for the Occupy Movement. Bane, the terrible villain of the film, literally occupies Wall Street... This is Nolan’s way of saying “Hey, idiot in the Che t-shirt, smarten up. If deep down you are the decent person you claim to be, you’ll hate the revolution you’ve been wishing for”... The debate between left and right in the modern world has largely been a debate for and against the French revolution... In some ways the film is a throw-back to the original Batman, not the comic book one, but the one on whom the whole masked hero genre was based, the Scarlett Pimpernel, the nobleman cum masked counter-revolutionary hero who went about saving victims of ‘the people’s justice’ from the guillotine"

After I banned tipping at my restaurant, the service got better and we made more money - "Researchers have found (pdf) that customers don’t actually vary their tips much according to service. Instead they tip mostly the same every time, according to their personal habits. Tipped servers, in turn, learn that service quality isn’t particularly important to their revenue. Instead they are rewarded for maximizing the number of guests they serve, even though that degrades service quality. Furthermore, servers in tipping environments learn to profile guests (pdf), and attend mainly to those who fit the stereotypes of good tippers. This may increase the server’s earnings, while creating negative experiences for the many restaurant customers who are women, ethnic minorities, elderly or from foreign countries. On the occasions when a server is punished for poor service by a customer withholding a standard tip, the server can keep that information to himself. While the customer thinks she is sending a message, that message never makes it to a manager, and the problem is never addressed."
Someone should rebut this biased science based on the "reality of lived experience"

Women, Liberals and Young People Say They Have 'Cute Aggression' - "Have you ever caught yourself saying "That baby is so cute, I can hardly take it," or found yourself overwhelmed by an almost uncontrollable urge to squeeze a tiny prancing puppy?... 70% of parents wondered if cute aggression was a real thing, while 58% of people who want children someday know all about it. Could this be because parents deal with the less cute side of children and baby animals (tantrums and potty training) more often? How quickly we forget..."

Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Dispositions of Self-Identified Libertarians - "Compared to self-identified liberals and conservatives, libertarians showed 1) stronger endorsement of individual liberty as their foremost guiding principle, and weaker endorsement of all other moral principles; 2) a relatively cerebral as opposed to emotional cognitive style; and 3) lower interdependence and social relatedness"
This is a lot more helpful than just calling them all assholes (i.e. a relatively emotional cognitive style; inasmuch as being emotional is a form of cognition)

Compassionate liberals and polite conservatives: associations of agreeableness with political ideology and moral values. - "using a personality model that divides each of the Big Five into two aspects, the present research found that one aspect of Agreeableness (Compassion) was associated with liberalism and egalitarianism, whereas the other (Politeness) was associated with conservatism and traditionalism. In addition, conservatism and moral traditionalism were positively associated with the Orderliness aspect of Conscientiousness and negatively with Openness-Intellect"
More evidence that liberals are rude/not nice (inasmuch as that is measured by politeness) people

The moral stereotypes of liberals and conservatives: exaggeration of differences across the political spectrum - "Across the political spectrum, moral stereotypes about "typical" liberals and conservatives correctly reflected the direction of actual differences in foundation endorsement but exaggerated the magnitude of these differences. Contrary to common theories of stereotyping, the moral stereotypes were not simple underestimations of the political outgroup's morality. Both liberals and conservatives exaggerated the ideological extremity of moral concerns for the ingroup as well as the outgroup. Liberals were least accurate about both groups."
Liberals understand conservative morality less well than conservatives understand liberal morality (though both are inaccurate)

"There were no PRCs, India Indians, Bangla or Pinoys to annoy us"

I would say this is the funniest thing I've read today, but I haven't read a lot of things today:

Singapore party ban on whites at Botanic Gardens event attacked as racist

ORGANISERS of a "Singaporean only" event could be found to have breached anti-discrimination laws for turning away Caucasians at the door.

The event, organised by the Overseas Singaporean Unit at the Royal Botanic Gardens over the weekend, was put on to celebrate Singapore Day - where people learn about the latest developments in their home country, listen to music performances and eat local food.

But the concert was yesterday embroiled in controversy after refusing to let non-Singaporeans through the doors to the free event.

On their website, the event is open exclusively for "Singaporeans and their families" only.

"Singapore Day aims to bring a slice of home to Singaporeans abroad so as to emotionally connect them back to Singapore," the website reads.

"It is also an event to galvanise the Singaporean community so that the sense of identity and belonging remain strong."

Irate people phoned 2GB talkback host Ben Fordham yesterday to complain that "white people" had been "turned away in droves" to the event.

The organisers did not return emails yesterday.

Anthony Sim, who attended the event and then blogged about it online, wrote that he had never seen so many Singaporeans congregating in the one place.

"It is quite heartwarming to know we are not alone. Everyone of us were on the same page," he wrote.

"There were no PRCs, India Indians, Bangla or Pinoys to annoy us."

Royal Botanic Gardens acting executive director Brett Summerell said the group responsible had hired out a large area for the day.

"My understanding was it was a private event and they paid a fee to hire out the area," he said.

"We had initial concerns over people not being let in but they had told us only people would only be turned away if it reached full capacity or they didn't pre-register online."

He said there was some "community concern" over the situation.

"Obviously it has created a bit of community concern and that is enough for me to review it and see if it's appropriate for the Botanic Gardens to be involved with them in the future," Mr Summerell said.

What is it like to go through National Service in Singapore?

"I know a lot about cars. I can look at a car's headlights and tell you exactly which way it's coming." - Mitch Hedberg

***

Gabriel Seah's answer to Singapore: What is it like to go through National Service in Singapore? - Quora
(29 votes, top answer as of the time I scheduled this post)

"Terrible.

Stupidity, Sadism and Senselessness best sum up the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces), as its real core values (not the 7 that are promulgated).

National Service was an incredibly brutalising experience. Force and the threat of force were omnipresent. "Non-compliance will be severely dealt with" was a stock phrase popping up everywhere, for even the most minor of infractions.

The most petty ways were found to torment us - one superior forced us to indent (order) breakfast even though most of us would rather sleep a little bit longer instead of having to wake up early to go to the cookhouse (naturally, if breakfast was indented and you didn't eat it, it was a chargeable offence).

The SAF (or at least the Army) is filled with incompetent, cruel regulars, who take out their frustrations (and satisfy their sadistic urges) on Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs), even as NSFs do the bulk of the work which the regulars are unable and/or unwilling to do.

In particular, one individual stands out for his behavior. He literally treated us like dogs. On one occasion all of us were sitting on the floor of the training shed. He came in and barked orders at us:

"UP!" (all of us scrambled to our feet)
"DOWN!" (all of us sat down pronto)
"UP!" (all of us scrambled to our feet)
"DOWN!" (all of us sat down pronto)
"KNOCK IT DOWN!" (all of us went to pushup position - presumably we weren't obedient enough dogs and didn't stand up and sit down quickly enough)

(Well, almost like dogs - once on a Standard Obstacle Course (SOC) training run, he threw a dummy rifle at one of the stray dogs in camp, and on other occasions he kicked them. He didn't that to anyone of us. I think.)


The most minor infraction potentially attracted harsh recriminations. I saw people being punished or even charged for trivial offences. As Georges Clemenceau noted, "Military justice is to justice as military music is to music".

The whole system of the SAF promotes a contempt for authority and law; one rule of  jurisprudence is that laws should be sensible, justified and realistic - having laws that are openly and repeatedly flouted is bad for the rule of law. The SAF has a bevy of senseless rules, and there is tacit encouragement in getting around them (The Zeroth SAF Core Value, we were told repeatedly, was to "do anything you want but don't get caught").

For a whole year, I was targeted by my whole unit from the CO (Commanding Officer) down, because he got the idea of forcing the fat people to lose weight. While that might be a justifiable aim (within the framework of military logic), I was subject to scrutiny, snide remarks, shouts and pressure.

Perhaps the most tragic aspect of the whole experience was that with the propaganda machine going at full steam, many people actually buy into the lies it peddles:
That there is "glory" and "honour" in a peacetime army
That testosterone-fueld acts of bravado have profound meaning
That there is no alternative to National Service as it currently stands.
That everything we were subjected to was necessary for National Defence.
In short, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori (it is sweet and proper to die for one's country).

One important thing to note is that there is no option of alternative service in Singapore, so it is hard to avoid the draft, even if one has qualities that are not a good mix with conscription (e.g. if one is a pacifist and is going to be viscerally revolted by the experience)."

Monday, October 14, 2013

Links - 14th October 2013

"The United States Congress, like a lot of rich people, lives in two houses." - John Green

***

Girl, 13, and her boyfriend, 12, are both labelled sex offenders after having consensual sex with each other - "'The only thing that comes close to this is dueling,' said Associate Chief Justice Michael Wilkins, referring to two people who take 20 paces and then shoot each other."

Are Young Women Really Racing to Syria's Front Lines to Wage Sex Jihad? - "the political context of the statement could shed light on why the interior minister chose to make this accusation now. The Tunisian government has been under fire for allegedly asking adult women for authorization from their husbands or fathers before they travel to certain countries in the Middle East -- Ben Jeddou was justifying any restrictions by saying that the government was attempting to prevent women from embarking on "sex jihad" in Syria. The interior minister has also made the fight against extremist Salafi groups a centerpiece of his term in office. Suggesting that Tunisian Salafi women are sleeping with dozens of Syrian rebels could be another way to discredit them... The only real evidence of women embarking on "sex jihad," comes not from Syria but from Tunisia's Chaambi Mountains, an area in the west of the country"

Des Hommes et des Chatons - "Le tumblr aussi sexy que mignon qui réunit nos deux centres d intérêts préférés ! // The tumblr as cute as sexy that brings our two favourite things together : kittens and men !"

Who, what, why: How does a skyscraper melt a car? - "It's like starting a fire with a parabolic mirror."

The Art Of Oral Sex: New Class In Russia Teaches Women How To Give A Proper Blowjob

Hamas Charter: Vision, Fact and Fiction - "The Israeli occupation has never missed an opportunity to brand Hamas a fundamentalist, terrorist, racist, anti-Semitic organization. True to the Mossad motto which states 'By way of deception, though shall do war,' it has excelled at taking select articles from the Islamic party’s charter and using them, out of context, to justify its claims.... An internal committee reviewed the possibility of amending the charter during the nineties and ratifying it as a binding manifesto; yet the primary concern, that of being seen as following the Fatah route of offering up concessions on a silver platter, led the group’s leadership to shelve such measures... virtually all liberation movements rely on the language of religion to inspire their peoples, given that such discourse offers the greatest clarity and motive to make sacrifices for liberty. For our part, we do not shy away from shedding light on the historical milestones that underscore our struggle against the fundamentalism inherent in Zionism"
Translation: "it's okay to call for your enemies' deaths, if you tell people you don't really mean it"

Ryan Allen's answer to Borat (character): Is Borat racist? Is liking/laughing at Borat a racist act? - Quora - "There is a concept in satire that I like to call "it's funny, because it's not." South Park, Borat, Bruno, and many other comedies rely on that concept. Racists aren't the ones telling racist jokes, or laughing at them. Racists are generally the ones who think it's not funny, because the joke is a truth in their distorted view. Some people don't care for satire, because it exposes truths that make them uncomfortable. And some people just lack a sense of humor. So, yes, it is racist. It's a satire. That's why it's funny, like punting a small dog off a cliff. It's funny, because it's not."

Goats sacrificed to fix Nepal jet - "Nepal's state-run airline has confirmed that it sacrificed two goats to appease a Hindu god, following technical problems with one of its aircraft... The airline said that after Sunday's ceremony the plane successfully completed a flight to Hong Kong. "The snag in the plane has now been fixed and the aircraft has resumed its flights," senior airline official Raju KC was quoted as saying by Reuters."

Flu vaccine scheme halted over fears of Muslim parents - "in 2001, 100 Islamic scholars had agreed pork gelatine was permissible within a vaccine"

Strengthen NS by Respecting It – Signs of Struggle - "I would love for it to be illegal to denigrate a man’s service to his nation. I want people to know that there are lines they should not cross when talking about the national service that they didn’t do. If my brothers-in-arms would like to whine about how much they hate NS, I will hear them out (and perhaps rebut them), but criticism from the outside must be respectful and discreet. There is a portion of military law that makes it an offence to speak or behave in a way that brings disrepute to the Armed Forces (SAF Act Cap.295, I think). How about we have this in force in civil law as well? Any action that disrespects our servicemen courts the wrath of the law. Any NS-belittling douchebaggery will be met with swift recriminations (or at least strongly worded government statements) for the offending individual. We will find you. We will scold you. In public. Our NS needs to be strong, and that strength will not come primarily from handouts or perks or social benefits. It will come from a high view of the price we have had to pay to keep this nation safe. NS will be strong when NSmen are respected."
What the myth of National Slavery leads to: criminalising disagreement with it

Gender bending in Japan - "‘Have you ever wondered how you look as a female?” A man not predisposed to answer “yes” probably wouldn’t be visiting a website that presumes to inquire. “Cross-dresser’s paradise” — that’s how the Elizabeth Club bills itself. Located in Tokyo’s Asakusabashi district, it is one of hundreds of similar establishments whose existence on the fringes of conventional society suggests conventional society’s failure to accommodate certain aspects — call them deviant if you like, but fewer and fewer people do — of human nature. “Don’t you want to become a lady of your dream?,” the website’s enticement continues... Manga and anime fans will be familiar with the term futanari, or “new half” — hermaphrodite characters endowed with feminine curves, voluptuous breasts and a virile penis... Buddhist monks had other reasons for avoiding women. Religious celibacy vows do not seem to have precluded boys, however. “Boys appear often to have served as surrogates for the females absent from the lives of the monks,” writes historian Gary Leupp in his 1997 book, “Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan.”"

The Way of the Tiger Kickstarter (Guest post by David Walters) - Blog of the Brewin' - "When writing a prequel I had to take care to avoid ‘stealing the thunder’ of significant scenes coming up in later books. For example as book 2 Assassin! ends with a dramatic one-on-one fight with a ninja, the prequel had to avoid single combat against such a foe otherwise it would devalue the later fight. This rule applied whether the reader has read the original series already or not – the series should work as a continuous whole and thus unnecessary repetition and similarity should be avoided."

50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice - "The Elements of Style does not deserve the enormous esteem in which it is held by American college graduates. Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense. Its enormous influence has not improved American students' grasp of English grammar; it has significantly degraded it... The book's toxic mix of purism, atavism, and personal eccentricity is not underpinned by a proper grounding in English grammar. It is often so misguided that the authors appear not to notice their own egregious flouting of its own rules. They can't help it, because they don't know how to identify what they condemn... The book's contempt for its own grammatical dictates seems almost willful, as if the authors were flaunting the fact that the rules don't apply to them. But I don't think they are. Given the evidence that they can't even tell actives from passives, my guess would be that it is sheer ignorance... Strunk and White preferred to base their grammar claims on intuition and prejudice rather than established literary usage... the stipulation in Elements is totally at variance not just with modern conversational English but also with literary usage back when Strunk was teaching and White was a boy... Several generations of college students learned their grammar from the uninformed bossiness of Strunk and White, and the result is a nation of educated people who know they feel vaguely anxious and insecure whenever they write "however" or "than me" or "was" or "which," but can't tell you why. The land of the free in the grip of The Elements of Style."

Rules That Eat Your Brain - Lingua Franca - "The worst thing about zombie rules, I believe, is not the pomposity of those advocating them, or the time-wasting character of the associated gotcha games, but the way they actually make people’s writing worse. They promote insecurity, and nervous people worrying about their language write worse than relaxed people enjoying their language."

Four more jailed for paid sex with underage girl - "The court heard that the girl, a Chinese national who was 17 at the time of the offences in May this year, had approached the men in Geylang. They paid her between S$60 and S$70 for her sexual services, which took place at hotels in Geylang. Of the five, four had asked for her age - which she gave as above 18 - though they did not take steps to verify this. Earlier, the court heard that the girl had been forced to work as a prostitute... In meting out the sentence, District Judge Low Wee Ping reinforced the point that this was a case of "forced prostitution - plain and simple". "The sexual services you had with the minor was not consensual. You were a willing buyer, but she was not a willing seller," he noted. The judge also emphasised that the men had participated in the "horrendous" trade of international trafficking of a minor for forced prostitution, and said that unless demand for such trade is eradicated or suppressed, the criminals behind such trade would find it lucrative to continue to take part."
Disturbed by the reckless conflation of underaged sex, prostitution, sex trafficking and forced sex. This is just protectionism to boost the profits of the legal brothels

What Vladimir Putin's address to Americans on Syria really means - "Vladimir Putin's highly unusual and razor-edged comment piece setting out his views on the Syria crisis, addressed directly to the American people and published by the New York Times, is a mixture of closely argued policy points and breathtaking political effrontery... this passage takes the biscuit for sheer chutzpah. Referring directly to Obama's depiction this week of America as an exceptional nation called to do great things in the world, Putin invokes God Almighty, democracy, and the American constitution in one breath to suggest Obama is a menace to global society. You can almost hear the cynical laughter in the Kremlin. It is hard to remember that Putin is the man, more than any other, who has made a mockery of democracy in Russia."
The comments from people hating on the US are amusing: maybe they should all move to Russia

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Is your bowl of shark's fin driving a species to extinction?

It is common to see assertions by anti-Shark's Fin activists that shark populations are in danger of collapse due to overfishing.

Given that I knew that there were over 200 species of sharks, I was wondering if there wasn't a conflation of species, such that all of them were gathered under the general label of "sharks", said to all be in peril.

So I decided to investigate the issue myself.

Anti-Shark's Fin activists are leary of using CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) classifications, since they say that CITES is formulated primarily with commercial considerations, so I decided to look at IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) data.

There are in fact 477 species of sharks according to the IUCN. Unfortunately the data was not in a usable format, but I have cleaned up and restructured it. Here're the summary statistics:

Conservation Status Number of species
DD (Data Deficient) 214
LC (Least Concern) 121
NT (Near Threatened) 69
VU (Vulnerable) 48
EN (Endangered) 14
CR (Critically Endangered) 11
EW (Extinct in the Wild) 0
EX (Extinct) 0
All 477

Removing the data deficient species (where there is not enough information to assess their conservation status) and the extinct ones (incidentally, none) produces some interesting results:

Conservation Status Number of species % of Total
LC (Least Concern) 121 46%
NT (Near Threatened) 69 26%
VU (Vulnerable) 48 18%
EN (Endangered) 14 5%
CR (Critically Endangered) 11 4%
All 263 100%

So of all the shark species for which enough data exists to determine their conservation status, 46% are in the Least Concern category and 72% are either in Least Concern or Near Threatened. Species which are of "Least Concern" are not endangered (in any but the broadest sense of the word) and "Near Threatened" species are not endagered either.

With the help of the Marine and Land Products Association (MPA), an organization comprised of local businesses in the fishing & marine industry whose mission "is to promote full utilization of sustainable seafood" and which represents all shark's fin traders in Singapore, I have identified the 21 species used for shark's fin (at least in Singapore) and mapped them to their conservation status:

Common Name IUCN Red List Status
Angel Shark CR
Argentine Angel Shark EN
Australian Angel Shark LC
Australian Blacktip Shark LC
Blue Shark NT
Bronze Whaler NT
Common Thresher Shark VU
Grey Gummy Shark LC
Japanese Velvet Dogfish DD
Porbeagle VU
Sand Tiger VU
Sandbar Shark VU
Scalloped Hammerhead EN
Shortfin Mako VU
Silky Shark NT
Smalleye Hammerhead Shark VU
Smooth Hammerhead VU
Speckled Carpet Shark LC
Tiger Shark NT
Whitetip Oceanic Shark VU
Whithound (School Shark) VU

(The Basking Shark (Cetorhinus maximus - VU) and Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus - VU) are no longer traded by the association)

This makes for 21 traded species out of 477: only 4.4% of shark species are traded in Singapore. Of the 21, only 3 are endangered or critically endangered, and the MPA informs me that domestically traded shark's fin is mostly from sustainable species such as Blue Sharks, Whithounds (School Sharks) and Grey Gummy; statistics on the species traded will be released once business confidentiality concerns have been resolved. Meanwhile, the MPA "have continuously encourage end users to move towards less endangered and species that are properly managed and utilised".

So as we can see, the occasional bowl of shark's fin isn't going to lead to marine armageddon.

Indeed, many types of seafood that we happily eat every day are endangered:

- Atlantic Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus - EN) (especially popular in sushi)
- Atlantic Halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus - EN) (farmed halibut is available, but Greenpeace says that there is a high risk that the halibut you buy comes from unsustainable fisheries)
- Beluga (aka Beluga Sturgeon; Huso huso - CR) (this is where the most expensive caviar comes from)
- Chilean Seabass (aka Patagonian Toothfish; Dissostichus eleginoides - there doesn't seem to be an IUCN red list status for this but it's known to be overfished)
- Southern Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus maccoyii - EN)

A dogged obsession with shark's fin, then, risks missing the forest for the trees and ignores the medium-long term sustainability issues related to other types of seafood which are often more pressing than for sharks.

Fun fact: the "elephant shark" (Callorhinchus milii, aka Australian ghost shark, Makorepe, whitefish, plownose chimaeras or elephant fish) is used for Shark's Fin. However, it is not really a shark.


Dataset of Shark species, IUCN Red List Status and Usage for Shark's Fin

Note: An effort has been made to highlight the species used in shark's fin, but due to translation issues some species may have been left out. Different species may also be used for shark's fin in different parts of the world.

No remuneration was received from the MPA for this post, but there was a meeting over dinner with a spokesperson of the Association to discuss issues around the Shark's Fin Trade, which was paid for by the Association. The MPA had no control over the editorial stance of this post, but it provided factual information on the species used in the trade.

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