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More adventurous than the average bear

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Links - 18th April 2014

Great Wall graffiti gets free hand - China - "Mutianyu, a famous section of the Great Wall, now has a designated area for graffiti to better protect it after media reported that many foreign tourists left their words on the old buildings."

Giant Virus Resurrected from Permafrost After 30,000 Years - ""We are inundated by millions of viruses as we move through our everyday life," said Curtis Suttle, a marine virologist at the University of British Columbia in Canada, who was not involved in the study. "Every time we swim in the sea, we swallow about a billion viruses and inhale many thousands every day. It is true that viruses will be archived in permafrost and glacial ice, but the probability that viral pathogens of humans are abundant enough, and would circulate extensively enough to affect human health, stretches scientific rationality to the breaking point." "I would be much more concerned about the hundreds of millions of people that will be displaced by rising sea levels than the risk of being exposed to pathogens from melting permafrost.""

About those industry funded GMO studies… - "Monsanto is a medium sized company ($57.43B). Is it really possible that they’ve manipulated tens of thousands of scientists performing thousands of studies for three decades with no whistleblowers? Could Monsanto’s power have resulted in a scientific consensus that has been bent completely to their will? In comparison, fossil fuel behemoths Exxon Mobil ($394.83B), Chevron ($215.45B) and BP ($150.07B) (total: $760.35B) have been completely stymied in their efforts to buy a scientific consensus on climate change... There are lots of industry funded studies. The majority in fact. But there are also many independent studies. How can we judge if the industry funded studies are reliable? If the independent studies and the industry studies come to the same conclusions, then we can conclude that the industry studies are reliable. And that is exactly what we find... An even more robust review of the total literature published in 2014 is more conclusive in their findings: “The scientific research conducted so far has not detected any significant hazards directly connected with the use of genetically engineered crops.” In An overview of the last 10 years of genetically engineered crop safety research, the authors collected and evaluated 1,783 research papers, reviews, relevant opinions, and reports published between 2002 and 2012, a process that took over 12 months to complete. The review was published in Critical Reviews in Biotechnology and covered all aspects of GM crop safety, from how the crops interact with the environment to how they could potentially affect the humans and animals who consume them... No association was found between financial conflict of interest (COI) and article outcome. The authors did find a correlation between “industry affiliation” and favorable study outcome. But realize how far we have moved the goal posts. We started with the proposition that we couldn’t trust any of the research because it was it was all paid for by the industry. But we found that’s not true... dismissing an entire body of research because it’s supposedly bought and paid for is foolish and lazy. When you shout ‘Conflict of Interest’ before evaluating the evidence and analysis, it becomes an excuse for discounting inconvenient evidence. Asking about conflicts of interest should be a safeguard against getting snookered by weak evidence. Instead, it becomes an excuse for dismissing good evidence. Examining the soundness of the evidence must come first. Then you can decide whether questions of funding and loyalties are relevant. This is how you maintain a firm footing on solid ground. Use awareness of conflicts of interest to avoid motivated reasoning. Otherwise you are only fueling the fire of your own biases."
Keywords: genetically modified, dismiss

Michael Martinez’s letter may have been marked spam—Palace - "The e-mail of figure skater Michael Christian Martinez’s mother that was sent to President Benigno Aquino III was probably marked spam, a Palace official said Tuesday. Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma reiterated that they did not receive any letter from Martinez’s mother, supposedly asking the government to support the skater’s bid in the Winter Olympics. "

Sean Parker: My Critics Are Nazis

Wireman gets 32 months for threatening to post 17 women's nude pictures online - "An electrical wireman who threatened to post nude photos of 17 women online if they did not have sex with him was jailed for 32 months on Thursday. Mani Velmurugan, 28, an Indian national, had posed as a Caucasian to the women he met through an online live chat website called Badoo last year. Using a photo of a Caucasian for his profile, he told some of them he was from England or Canada and introduced himself as Adam, Mark, Adam Mark or Mark Adam. His victims, aged between 21 and 39, hailed from a range of professions, such as clerk, manager and interior designer. A district court heard on Thursday that he would send the women nude photographs purportedly of himself and tricked them into sending him their nude pictures and in some cases, things like their passport information. He threatened to post their nude photographs online if they did not go to bed with him. Two had sex with him so as to delete their nude photographs and personal details from his mobile phone"
It's amazing how many stupid people there are out there

The Ethics of the PAP Internet Brigade - "the views expressed by the PAP IB have been anything but insightful. There has been no substantive and well-informed critique of the programmes of various Opposition Parties, other than cynical caterwauling and ad hominem attacks. Most pathetically, they do not even defend their own Party's many controversial policies... The PAP IB project also throws up the question of political ethics. Given the involvement of many ministers, the Brigade is operating under official sanctions. The question hence arises if the PAP or the Government is financing it."

Councilman Jim Kenney tells Chik-fil-A president Dan Cathy to 'take a hike' for anti-gay marriage comments - ""So please – take a hike and take your intolerance with you. There is no place for this type of hate in our great city of Brotherly and Sisterly Affection.”" Kenney said that he plans to introduce a resolution during City Council’s next session condemning Chik-fil-A and Cathy for his “expression of intolerance and hate.”"
Apparently being against gay marriage is 'hate'

No country for single women - "Essentially, if a single woman lives an independent life, away from her family it's assumed she may have loose morals."

World War One: Germany's forgotten war - "He regrets the fact very much and thinks it is because World War One in German consciousness was so over-shadowed by World War Two... A short distance from the massed graves in their lines is a grand statue. It was erected by those in power after the war. It is a regimental remembrance, consisting of a large, black plinth on which there is a statue of a dead soldier, completely shrouded in a flag. On his chest are a broken sword and a helmet. Only one part of his body is visible: From under the shroud, the dead soldier's clenched fist sticks out into the air. Under the body is the inscription: "Wir starben, auf dass Deutschland lebe, so lasset uns leben in euch" - "We died that Germany lives, so let us live in you"... It is an admonition to the living to make good the sacrifice of the dead - "let us, the dead of war, live through you, the living". This was a sentiment which was strong in the 20s and which caused much further catastrophe. The implication is - and was then - that Germany had lost the war because of a "stab in the back", an idea used by Hitler to foment violence against those he accused of being Germany's enemies within, principally Jews. It may be that any official reticence over the first war is strong because to open a debate about remembrance of that first war's military victims is to open a debate about German military victims of the war which followed."

The scribe of Bamako - "A love letter is never a one-size-fits-all affair. Maiga has to analyse the nature and magnitude of each passion - "what kind of love are we talking about?" - and assess the situation. Does he need to woo, seduce or charm? Should the billet doux contain a note of contrition, following an argument? Is it intended for a colleague at work, or a lover?"

China’s New Obsession: French Wine - - "some in Bordeaux are keeping their prejudices closer to home. As one leading vintner said wryly, “I don’t care who buys these chateaus, as long as they are not from Paris.”"

BP caught in hilarious worldwide reply all email chain chaos

The Many Benefits, for Kids, of Playing Video Games - "Plato, in The Republic, argued that plays and poetry should be banned because of their harmful effects on the young... Video games have been under attack by the fear-mongers ever since they first appeared, and the attacks have not diminished. If you Google around the Internet using harmful effects of video games as a search phrase, you will find all sorts of frightening claims. One site warns that video games can cause depression, physical aggression, poor sleep, somatic complaints, obesity, attention disorders, and ... the list went on. The only malady they seemed to have left out was housemaid's knee. The most common complaints about video games are that they (1) are socially isolating, (2) reduce opportunities for outdoor activities and thereby lead to obesity and poor physical health, and (3) promote violence in kids, if the games have violent content. On the face of it, of course, the first two of these claims should be truer of book reading than of video gaming. Concerning the third claim, I don't see any obvious reason why pretend murder of animated characters in video games should be any more likely to provoke real murder than, say, reading Shakespeare's account of Hamlet's murder of his stepfather. Yet we make kids read Hamlet in school. If you look into the actual research literature, you find very little if any evidence supporting the fear-mongers claims, and considerable evidence against those claims. In fact, systematic surveys have shown that regular video-game players are, if anything, more physically fit, less likely to be obese, more likely to also enjoy outdoor play, more socially engaged, more socially well-adjusted, and more civic minded than are their non-gaming peers... college students were presented with a frustrating mental task and then were assessed for their feelings both of depression and hostility. The significant finding was that regular players of violent video games felt less depressed and less hostile 45 minutes after the frustrating experience than did otherwise similar students who didn't play such games. Quite a few well-controlled research studies have documented positive effects of video games on mental development... kids who previously showed little interest in reading and writing are now acquiring advanced literacy skills through the text-based communication in on-line video games. When kids are asked, in focus groups and surveys, what they like about video games, they generally talk about freedom, self-direction, and competence"

Nexus of homosexuality and Islam in Singapore - "This particular individual has equated Islam with extreme intolerance, specifically, of homosexuality while preaching a truth which in reality is based on one opinion and interpretation, therefore, unrepresentative of other Malay-Muslims. It signifies a myopic perspective compounded with misleading view of Islam. Should such intolerant and homophobic view is pervasive in the Malay-Muslim community; it does not bode well for the future for all Malay-Muslims, both heterosexuals and gay Malay-Muslims. On the surface is the lack of understanding pertaining sexual identities. At the very core, is the absence of critical thinking in assessing and following Islamic injunctions which are based on diverse interpretations. Waleed Aly, a politics lecturer and a former spokesman for Islamic Council of Victoria (Australia), highlights an important point during a televised debate, which Muslims tend to overlook or even unaware of: Islamic tradition is anarchic, specifically Sunni Islam; as there is no central authority to define an issue within established parameters thus, to be taught anything is “X” is automatically open for contestations. He emphasized that whatever the question or issue is, the position one takes is most likely to be of the majority, and more importantly, Muslims cannot make definitive statements on behalf of God because that is ultimately an act of polytheism"
Does this apply to all aspects of Islam? Can one say nothing definitive about Islam (not even that there are Five Pillars)?
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