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More adventurous than the average bear

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Links - 29th May 2014

HDL ‘Good Cholesterol’ Found Not to Cut Heart Risk - - "Now, a new study that makes use of powerful databases of genetic information has found that raising HDL levels may not make any difference to heart disease risk. People who inherit genes that give them naturally higher HDL levels throughout life have no less heart disease than those who inherit genes that give them slightly lower levels. If HDL were protective, those with genes causing higher levels should have had less heart disease"

Why Alcohol Is Good for You - "Heavy drinkers also live longer than abstainers. (Only 61 percent of heavy drinkers died during the study.) In other words, consuming disturbingly large amounts of alcohol seems to be better than drinking none at all... drinking isn’t just about de-stressing. In fact, the cultural traditions surrounding alcohol tend to emphasize a second, and perhaps even more important, function: socializing... moderate drinkers have more friends and higher quality “friend support” than abstainers. They’re also more likely to be married."

Knee Surgery No Better Than Placebo - "Perez was assigned to the placebo group of the trial: He was given anesthesia and doctors made incisions in his knee so that it looked as though he had an arthroscope inserted. This sham surgery group was compared to other patients who underwent an actual arthroscopic procedure"
Meanwhile, most faith healing is for pain...

The Problem With Eyewitness Testimony - "Bias creeps into memory without our knowledge, without our awareness. While confidence and accuracy are generally correlated, when misleading information is given, witness confidence is often higher for the incorrect information than for the correct information. This leads many to question the competence of the average person to determine credibility issues. Juries are the fact-finders, and credibility issues are to be determined by juries. The issue then arises whether juries are equipped to make these determinations. Expert testimony may not be helpful. Indeed, since the very act of forming a memory creates distortion, how can anyone uncover the "truth" behind a person’s statements? Perhaps it is the terrible truth that in many cases we are simply not capable of determining what happened, yet are duty-bound to so determine. Maybe this is why we cling to the sanctity of the jury and the secrecy of jury findings"

When radiologists take a selfie - Imgur

George R.R. Martin on 'Game of Thrones' and Sexual Violence - - - "Q. Why have you included incidents of rape or sexual violence in your “Song of Ice and Fire” novels? What larger themes are you trying to bring out with these scenes?
A. An artist has an obligation to tell the truth. My novels are epic fantasy, but they are inspired by and grounded in history. Rape and sexual violence have been a part of every war ever fought, from the ancient Sumerians to our present day. To omit them from a narrative centered on war and power would have been fundamentally false and dishonest, and would have undermined one of the themes of the books: that the true horrors of human history derive not from orcs and Dark Lords, but from ourselves. We are the monsters. (And the heroes too). Each of us has within himself the capacity for great good, and great evil... I have to take issue with the notion that Westeros is a “dark and depraved place.” It’s not the Disneyland Middle Ages, no, and that was quite deliberate … but it is no darker nor more depraved than our own world. History is written in blood. The atrocities in “A Song of Ice and Fire,” sexual and otherwise, pale in comparison to what can be found in any good history book. As for the criticism that some of the scenes of sexual violence are titillating, to me that says more about these critics than about my books. Maybe they found certain scenes titillating. Most of my readers, I suspect, read them as intended."
I suppose critics want to bowdlerize Shakespeare too. Why is it okay to slaughter thousands, but not to rape one woman?

For ‘Game of Thrones,’ Rising Unease Over Rape’s Recurring Role - - "At a certain point, you get the feeling that you can’t walk through a chapter without expecting something horrible — almost always to a female character — just to prove that this is indeed a very scary and dark piece of literature"
You have to be a feminist to think that A Song of Ice and Fire visits horrible things "almost always" on females

The Ever Increasing Size of Godzilla: Implications for Sexual Selection and Urine Production - "So why is Godzilla obtaining ever larger sizes with time? Skyscrapers. Skyscraper height has increased dramatically over the last century. For Godzilla to continue to plow through buildings in major metropolises, a more formidable size is needed. Of course this size change can only be evolutionarily adaptive if it changes the fitness of Godzilla, i.e. in the simplest case the number of offspring passed to the next generation. If Godzilla is able to topple buildings this might allow for greater acquisition of resources in this case food in the form of people. This would increase the lifespan of Godzilla allow for more reproduction or allow for greater amount of energy to be passed to the offspring increasing their rate of survival Or perhaps toppling buildings is a sexual display that sexual partners cue on. Sexual selection! Of course the real problem of a 55,000 ton Godzilla is the urine production. Using the handy Kaiju post, we can quickly calculate that, 151,436,928 gallons per day. That is about 1.8 of the largest production oil tankers."

New report highlights the BBC's Islamism and immigration bias - "Ed West, the author of the study, writes that like any organisation, the BBC has a "tendency towards groupthink" and one that perhaps reflects "minority - even elitist - viewpoint[s]". Examples of the bias include the use of "unanimously pro-migration interviews" for a special feature on migration in 2002 - a feature which has been slammed as "propaganda". Even the television soap opera, Eastenders, has been criticised for masking the real truth about immigration in Britain, with the report suggesting that the predominantly white cast in East London is not reflective of reality. It states, "a realistic East London soap opera would have to show a white family moving out every year, to be replaced by Bangladeshis or Somalis, and much of the programme would need to be subtitled." Broadcaster Jeff Randall, formerly of the BBC, suggested that the organisation's attitudes to multiculturalism were not impartial, stating, "When I was there, this was not up for grabs. Multiculturalism was 'a good thing'. The BBC supported it. Don’t take my word for it because, when I complained to the BBC about our coverage of asylum-seekers, this is what I got back from a very senior BBC news executive: 'Jeff, the BBC internally is not neutral about multiculturalism. It believes in it, and it promotes diversity. Let’s face up to that'." On the subject of Islamism, the report asserts that the BBC "tends to downplay activities on the part of Islamists". An unnamed producer revealed that, "The BBC has a set of anxieties about Islam... they think it's quaint." The BBC's schools website, aimed at educating children, apparently gives an uncritical view of Islam, one in which men and woman are equal and 'the Prophet Muhammed stressed the importance of women'. But coverage of Christianity tends to be more harsh, with the same website stating, "Many people think the Christian Church is sexist. It does not treat men and women equally." The corporation has also been charged with being, "soft on honour killing and FGM (female genital mutiliation)" according to an unnamed producer working within the organisation"

Sony Crams 3,700 Blu-Rays' Worth of Storage in a Single Cassette Tape - "Stupid hipster 80s fetishism notwithstanding, cassette tapes don't get much love. That's a shame, because magnetic tape is still a surprisingly robust way to back up data. Especially now: Sony just unveiled tape that holds a whopping 148 GB per square inch, meaning a cassette could hold 185 TB of data"

Military Personnel Reveal The Most Unusual Punishments They've Ever Seen | Business Insider

How Singapore’s media restrictions hurt even the PAP - "Singapore’s recent past suggests that governance has suffered as a result of the media regulatory regime. Problems were not tackled in time, not because they emerged suddenly and out of the blue, but because censorship allowed the government to remain in denial for too long. I recall that back in the 1990s, when I was a journalist in the national media, there were already signs of unease about the government’s immigration policies. I had colleagues who felt it was in the public interest to investigate the generous Singapore Inc scholarships for foreign nationals, for example. Certainly, there were also many journalists knew they should report and comment on the great public unhappiness about the new policy on market-pegged ministerial salaries. And newsrooms were fully aware of the mounting anxiety about healthcare and other costs, as a result of the PAP’s neoliberal turn towards market fundamentalism... By dampening doubts and dissent, by allowing government to operate in an echo chamber, the media gave yesterday’s policy makers an easier ride. But, today’s policy makers are paying the price."

Singapore Inc. Needs a Rethink, Economists Say - Southeast Asia Real Time - WSJ - "the current social contract – optimal for places with young populations, rapid growth, full employment, and rising real wages – “would not be sufficient to ensure equitable and inclusive growth in the face of the changes unleashed by globalization, rapid technological change, and our own policies,” the economists said in the paper released Monday on the IPS website. The authors include academics and former senior civil servants who carry significant heft in policy-making circles, including Manu Bhaskaran, a partner at consultancy Centennial Group and adjunct research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy; Donald Low, a former senior bureaucrat at Singapore’s finance ministry; Tan Kim Song, an economics professor at the Singapore Management University; and Yeoh Lam Keong, former chief economist at the Government of Singapore Investment Corp... These electoral setbacks “reflected a discontent with the current model of economic and social development: the over-riding emphasis on growth over distribution; the inadequacy of our social safety nets and the uncertainty this creates; wage stagnation for significant elements of the workforce even as a small segment at the top enjoys large increases; and the increase in inequality,” the economists wrote in the paper... The solution, they said, involves creating sturdier social safety nets and rolling back a market-fundamentalist approach that has transferred risks from the state to citizens in areas like public housing, social security, and healthcare. While retaining the essence of Singapore’s admired social institutions, policy makers should also borrow successful ideas from Scandinavian and East Asian contemporaries, and reject existing dogma – like the insistence on the virtues of small government and low taxes, and a reflexive rejection of expanded welfare – the economists said."
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