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Valar Qringaomis

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Links - 22nd July 2014

When you let assholes be the public face of atheism, it’s no wonder we have a bad reputation » Pharyngula - "Atheist organizations, step it up, clean up your act, and put together a clear statement of what you stand for. If it’s just that you agree that you believe there is no god, fine; if you think the only cause worth fighting for is separation of church and state, that’s a good cause and it’s reasonable to limit your goals; if you want to promote science education, I’m all for it. But I think you need to go further. You need to recognize the implications of godlessness, that there is no Chosen People, that there is no godly support for patriarchy, that everyone is equal under Nature’s law, and that that means there is a whole raft of social and political causes under your purview…and that you should have a broader statement of the meaning of atheism. I want to know what you stand for. This current vacuum of any attempt at an understanding of what atheism ought to mean is exactly what allows assholes to flourish."
Coming from PZ Myers, this is hilarious

Sexual behaviour in context: a global perspective - "A recent review of the prevalence of same-sex activity in men identified 67 studies, none of which were from Africa, the middle east, or the English-speaking Caribbean. Estimates of lifetime prevalence of sexual intercourse with men ranged from 3–5% of men in east Asia 6–12% in south and southeast Asia, 6–15% for eastern Europe, 20% for Latin America. The prevalence is 6% in the UK and 5% in France... Varying operational definitions of sex work frustrate efforts to interpret prevalence at different times and in different places. The continuum of sexual exchange ranges from expectation of gifts or favours within personal relationships, to more formal trading of sex for money. The proportion who reported having “sex in exchange for money, gifts, or favours” in the past year is highest in countries in central and southern Africa (medians 13·6% and 11·3%, respectively), followed by eastern and west Africa (9·8% and 8·9%, respectively). More recent African surveys that used the more restricted definition of paying for sex have reported reduced prevalence. In the Caribbean, 6–7% of men reported having paid for sex, and estimates for Latin America, eastern and western Europe, and central Asia were less than 3%. Cautious estimates are available for northern Africa and the middle east (1–3%), south Asia (3–5%), southeast Asia (3–10%), and China and Hong Kong (11%)... In some countries, such as Brazil, condoms are available to young people in schools; in others, for example in parts of Indonesia, their possession is a criminal offence... Enough studies have shown that first intercourse is retrospectively regretted by many women, and some men... The issue of recommending non-penetrative sex (such as mutual masturbation) is seldom tackled... information gained through social networks is more salient, and more likely to lead to behaviour change, than that conveyed by more impersonal agencies... The 100% condom-use programme in Thailand, implemented nationally in 1991, has been widely recognised and documented as an impressive success in achievement of behaviour change... The proportion of northern Thai army conscripts who report visits to sex workers fell, and decreased even more sharply in older men from 81% in 1991 to 64% in 1995... the apparent absence of an association between regional variations in sexual behaviour and in sexual-health status might also be counterintuitive. In particular, the comparatively high prevalence of multiple partnerships in developed countries, compared with parts of the world with far higher rates of sexually transmitted infections and HIV, such as African countries, might hold some surprises. Only rates of condom use are predictably lower in countries with lower sexual-health status, and this is likely to be attributable to factors relating to access and service provision... The greatest challenge to sexual- health promotion in almost all countries comes from opposition from conservative forces to harm-reduction strategies... Policy-makers and programme planners need to be able to show that the effect on sexual- health status of providing services to unmarried young women, supplying condoms, decriminalising commercial sex and homosexual activity, and prosecuting people who commit sexual violence is likely to be beneficial rather than detrimental, and that to do otherwise will force stigmatised behaviours underground, leaving the most vulnerable people unprotected"
Prostitution is illegal in Thailand - yet the "100% condom-use programme" succeeded. This gives the lie to the claim that symbolic laws (e.g. 377A) impede public health programmes. As the study notes, the social context is more important

Pornography and Social Ills: Evidence from the Early 1990s by Winai Wongsurawat - "Beginning from the hypothesis that private post office boxes accommodate consumption of pornographic magazines by lowering some aspects of the cost (risk of social stigmatization) associated with the purchasing of such items, I demonstrate that a positive correlation between the abundance of such boxes and the subscription rate to Penthouse magazine across markets in the United States can be observed. I then proceed to estimate the effect of pornography on violent sex crimes and family instability, with and without using P.O. Box availability as an instrumental variable. Results suggest that unobservable population characteristics severely bias upward the estimated harmfulness of adult magazines. My OLS estimates imply, like several previous studies, that consumption of pornography contributes to both higher frequencies of rapes and divorces. When instrumental variables are employed, however, the correlation between rapes and pornography turns negative while the statistical significance of the coefficient for pornography on the rate of divorces disappears."
In other words, porn prevents rape and doesn't affect divorces

Gay Danish couples win right to marry in church
If the anti-gay lobby concentrated on such cases they would get more support

Comparative study of isomalt and sucrose by means of continuous indirect calorimetry. - "Isomalt (Palatinit) an equimolar mixture of alpha-D-glucopyranosido-1,6-sorbitol and alpha-D-glucopyranosido-1,6-mannitol, was compared to sucrose in a prospective double-blind controlled crossover study. The acute effects of oral ingestion of 30-g loads of isomalt or sucrose on plasma glucose, insulin, free fatty acids (FFA), lactic acid, and carbohydrate (CHO) and lipid oxidation were studied over six hours by means of continuous indirect calorimetry in ten healthy normal-weight subjects. Unlike sucrose, whose ingestion was followed by significant changes in plasma glucose, insulin, and lactic acid during the first 60 minutes of the test, no significant changes in these parameters were observed following the administration of isomalt. The increase in CHO oxidation occurring between 30 and 150 minutes was significantly lower (P less than 0.01) following isomalt than after sucrose. Conversely, the decrease in lipid oxidation was significantly less (P less than 0.01) after isomalt in comparison to sucrose. It is concluded that the rise in CHO oxidation and in plasma glucose and insulin levels is markedly reduced when sucrose is replaced by an equal weight of isomalt. In contrast to other sugar substitutes, no increase in plasma lactic acid was observed after isomalt administration."
Not all carbohydrates are created equal

Scalia v. Scalia - "In Scalia: A Court of One, Murphy painstakingly reviews the evidence, much of which lies in Scalia’s own writing and speeches over many decades, going back to his college commencement address at Georgetown University. Murphy does not shrink from adjudicating Scalia’s dueling public claims: that separating faith from public life is impossible and, at the same time, that he himself has done just that on the Court. Murphy’s conclusion—at once obvious and subversive—is that Justice Scalia is very much the product of his deeply held Catholic faith. The pristine border between faith and jurisprudence is largely myth and aspiration."
Why are we looking at his college commencement address to critique his legal judgments? The only claim made about his inconsistential jurisprudence is that Scalia in 2014 contradicted Scalia in 1990.
Comment 1: "Isn't the change in his positions explained by the passage of RFRA? He said in the 1990 case that religious objections can't overcome laws of general applicability. Congress then passed RFRA, which instructs the court to employ strict scrutiny to even generally applicable laws that burden religious belief. So now the Hobby Lobby case is being decided under a standard, imposed by Congress, that tilts the scales in favor of the religious objector."
Comment 2: "Exactly right. The Free Exercise Clause is not implicated in Hobby Lobby, which involves statutory (not constitutional) interpretation. Thus, Scalia is not contradicting himself. The author of this piece should have known that."
Comment 3: "Pretty sure the author of this piece does not know that; it's been pointed out over & over again on legal blogs, in reviews of this book, etc. When it comes down to choosing between taking a shot at Scalia or being honest, Lithwick chooses the former."


Why does the media hide the costs of non-Western immigrants? - "In order to establish this myth, the media have been forced to stop reporting on the actual conditions. For instance when the Danish National Bank in 2008 made it clear that immigration is immensely costly. Or when Human Rights Service, in one report after another, have documented figures with the same conclusion, for instance in ”Tell ikke meg. Innvandringens kostnader og velfærdsstaten” (“Don’t tell me. The cost of immigration and the welfare state”) from 2009... [the Norwegian business newspaper Finansavisen reports that] as approved by researcher Erling Holmøy of Statistics Norway... on average, each non-Western immigrant costs Norway some 4.1 million Norwegian kroner (€550,000) during his lifetime. At the same time, the profitable Western immigration (Nkr 800,000 / €107,000 per immigrant) is neutralized by unprofitable East European immigration (a minus of Nkr 800;000 / €107,000 per immigrant). Summing up, this means that the 15,400 non-Western immigrants that came to Norway last year will cost the country Nkr 63 billion (€ 8.4 billion): ”Accrued and future net expenses for non-Western immigrants and their descendants already resident in Norway totals Nkr 1,200 billion (€160 billion). If non-Western immigration continues at the same level as during the latest five years, total expenses will become Nkr 4,100 billion (€550 billion). That matches the total value of the saved Norwegian oil revenues plus the state share in Statoil,” writes Statistics Norway and Finansavisen... As said by chief economist Harald Magnus Andreassen of Swedbank First Securities, the claim by the politicians that Norway needs a greater workforce makes little sense: ”The aim of financial policy is to make the people you have work in such a manner that productivity and thus the added value per inhabitant is maximized … One forgets that the immigrant increases the need for real capital. They need a house to live in, schools for their children and hospital beds. A rule of thumb states that for each one percent GDP increase they cause , the need for real capital increases by three percent.”

New Initiative at the Met Makes Thousands of Digital Images Freely Accessible - Photo Journal - WSJ - "This month, the Metropolitan Museum of Art released for download about 400,000 digital images of works that are in the public domain"

'Transformers: Age of Extinction' review: Metal illness - "these movies continue to make money, for no easily discernable reason, and so people continue to make them... I've read Chaucer in the original Middle English but I was never sure what was going on in this movie, except that the government was evil, the robots were fighting, and Wahlberg got really angry whenever anybody looked at his 17-year-old daughter... the bi-culturalism is kind of fitting though. Asia sends us their junk as toys. We repurpose that junk and send it back as movies. See? Recyling. Everybody wins. Except audiences."

Puzzle-based video games actually make you smarter!

Not All Green Tea Is Created Equal - "ConsumerLab.com found significant amounts of lead in many of the Chinese grown Teas. But if you make sure that the leaves remain out of your cup, you will be mostly protected. About 90% of the lead remains in the leaf after brewing. As long as you do not eat the tea leaves you will get little lead. To be on the safe side, some experts recommend avoiding Green Tea from China, which grows much of its Tea in polluted areas that have lead in the soil."

Why do men want sex in the morning while women get frisky at night? - "While a man’s levels of sex hormones are at their highest when he wakes up, a woman’s are at their lowest. “Male and female testosterone levels are at their highest at opposite ends of the day, so they are out of synch,” says consultant gynaecologist Gabrielle Downey, of the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust. “It takes more than hormones to get a woman in the mood, so men need to make an active effort”... “Sexual desire in women is not a simple story,” explains Gabrielle Downey. “For men, it’s more down to testosterone. For women, the single greatest factor i­nfluencing a woman’s sex drive is body image and how attractive she perceives herself to be. “It means that if a woman sees herself as unattractive, she is much less likely to want to have sex. “That’s why women with polycystic ovaries, who have increased levels of ­testosterone, don’t have increased libido. “They often see themselves as overweight and not attractive – and that feeling ­overrides their heightened sex hormones.”"

Homeless New Yorkers angered when free lunch doesn’t include $300 ‘dessert’ for all - "Chen Guangbiao, a recycling tycoon, provided the fine food, and he personally performed magic tricks and sang “We are the World” — and all it got him were shouts from the belly-full crowd. The homeless people he had helped blasted him as a “fraud” and a “thief” and worse because the $300 each had expected to receive was instead given in lump-sum to a shelter where they had been staying — New York City Rescue Mission... Chen had taken out full-page newspaper ads in which he said he was aimed at “harmonizing relations between China and the United States,” and “restoring the image of China’s wealthy.” But before the ravenous urban refugees could tuck into their meal, Chen had them sing a song Chinese communists might find catchy. It was called “Good Model Citizen Lei Feng.” It was named after a People’s Liberation Army soldier, who was hailed for his selfless service by the late Chairman Mao. As the homeless ate, Chen performed magic tricks. Four of the attendees were then brought on stage, and each was given three crisp $100 bills while the cameras flashed. “The most important thing is to bring joy and happiness to other people,” Chen said through a translator. Then Chen, backed by 200 Chinese volunteers dressed-up in green military-style uniforms, began belting out the anti-hunger anthem “We Are the World,” singing in his high-pitched voice in English."

Even Do-Gooders Aren't Entitled to Homeless People's Money - "Yes, the stunt was wasteful. But what about the cash? Why didn't these homeless people at least walk out with $300 in their pockets, which would have gone a long way towards redeeming this whole spectacle? From the New York Times:
On Sunday [Chen] met with officials from the New York City Rescue Mission and asked them to supply the homeless people as guests. They said they would participate in the event as long as he did not hand out any cash, said Craig Mayes, the group's executive director. Mr. Mayes said he was concerned that some of the clients might use the cash to buy alcohol and drugs. In return, Mr. Chen agreed to donate $90,000 to the organization, and the two parties signed a contract...
Now: might some homeless people may have spent that money on alcohol and drugs? Yes. Does that mean that the head of the New York City Rescue Mission was justified in denying these homeless people a promised $300 each? Absolutely not. Lots of non-homeless people spend their paychecks on alcohol and drugs too, but that doesn't mean their landlord can come to their job and tell their boss to stop paying them. Homeless people are people with serious problems. But they are people. They are not slaves. "
Somehow I am not surprised that most of the commenters are bashing the charity for "stealing" "the homeless people's money"
Comments: "If you give a junkie $300 ,and he uses it to buy the heroin that kills him, you've made a bad situation worse, no matter how charitable you feel."
"Some would say you're not much of an ally if you would let someone die in the street out of some misguided sense of fairness. This guy runs an organization that provides food and shelter to people who are so mentally ill and/or addicted to drugs that they would otherwise be starving and sleeping outside. Is it so surprising that he is not in favor of a publicity stunt that could absolutely result in the deaths of people he knows and is trying to help?"


Scientists Name 900-Pound Ancient Croc After Fictional Beast From ‘The Lord of the Rings’ - "Much like that giant beast, Anthracosuchus balrogus was from deep within a mine after 60 million years trapped within the rocks of tropical South America"

Grabtaxi, Uber's south east Asian rival, looks to make history - "instead of squaring up for a fight with the established taxi interests, Grabtaxi has looked to work with regulators and the industry. "We’ve nowhere to run. This is our home. You think we can just get away [with] pissing off some big minister or his son? They will make sure we pay for it, one way or another,” Tan told the FT."

Mug Shot Of A Felon Has Virtually Turned On Over 53,000 Women & Men On Facebook! He's Prison Breaking Their Hearts!

Thousands of women have multiple babies removed by the courts - "In the last seven years more than 7,000 mothers were involved in repeat care cases - affecting more than 22,000 children. Most of the cases involve abuse or neglect, often connected to alcohol and drugs. At least two have seen women have 15 children legally removed."
Isn't it more moral to stop them from having more children?

New study reveals that casual sex might actually be good for you - "‘When it came to those who were sociosexually unrestricted, having casual sex was associated with higher self-esteem and life satisfaction and lower depression and anxiety.’ ‘Typically, sociosexually unrestricted individuals reported lower distress and higher thriving following casual sex, suggesting that high sociosexuality may both buffer against any potentially harmful consequences of casual sex and allow access to its potential benefits.’ The students selected to appear in the study admitted leaning towards ‘sociosexuality’, a term which basically means that they did not have a problem with having sex outside of a relationship. The even more surprising part? There were no notable gender differences."

How Often Men Think About Sex - ""We weren't able to study how long the thoughts lasted or the nature of the thoughts. We also don't know if all of our participants followed the instructions and really clicked every time they had the sort of thought that they were supposed to track," Fisher wrote. "However, even if they didn't, the fact that they were supposed to be clicking probably made them more aware of their thoughts about their assigned topic than they might otherwise have been, and that would have been reflected in their daily reports." The perfect technology would directly measure one's brain activity and somehow translate that into the number of sexual thoughts one had, but even that might prove very difficult. What we call "a thought" is not the discrete thing that we like to pretend. "There’s also the tricky issue that thoughts have no natural unit of measurement," Stafford writes. "Thoughts aren’t like distances we can measure in centimetres, metres and kilometres. So what constitutes a thought, anyway? How big does it need to be to count? Have you had none, one or many while reading this?""

Sex and Silicon Valley: the veritable arms race of the dating app industry - "Business models old and new are responding to demand for one-night stands as well as soul mates. The competition between dating apps has been called an “arms race”, with one startup flying in single women from New York to meet potential partners. Sex workers, meanwhile, are charging thousands of dollars per night... The startup mentality of perpetually seeking the next new thing influences dating habits, he said. “You go to bars, prospecting new opportunities, pick someone up, and then you move on to the next thing.” Lucrative salaries and stock options tend to embolden the diffident, said Barry. “There is truth in the awkward geek stereotype but being 22 and being worth $350,000 boosts your ego. It goes a long way to building up your confidence”... Siouxsie Q, a 28-year-old sex worker who declined to reveal her real name, said about half her clients were tech workers, ranging in age from 21 to 61. The boom had augmented their spending power, she said, but some were too busy or shy to find girlfriends. “I see lots of first-timers, people straight out of college. Not everyone is great at bar culture.” She considers her service a form of “self-care” which offers a respite from a work culture of continuous connectedness and instant responses. “I think one of the things they pay me for is that I turn off my phone and they have my undivided attention.” Another appeal was the ability to schedule and compartmentalise sex with no strings. “I won't call in the morning. I won't be grumpy if they don't have breakfast with me. I won't Facebook them at work while they're trying to fix an app that just's crashed.” Siouxsie Q charges $800 for two hours and $3500 for overnight. She usespodcasts as a marketing tool. “It's really transformed how I do business. Apps are the new gold”... Her advice to male clients: don't flash wealth or sell yourself too hard at the outset. “Women could easily end up with the sports car man for the wrong reasons, I mean that lifestyle, 'caviar, champagne, fast cars', is pretty appealing to just about anyone.” Her advice to women: don't show up wearing a baggy dress. “Men hate this, they really do. This isn’t about looking like Pamela Anderson wearing a bustier and leather leggings but about maybe channeling your inner Natalie Portman. “You’re classic, ladylike, stylish, not trying too hard, not showing too much skin, but perfectly presentable.”"

Why I'm Not in a Hurry for a 'Smart Home' - WSJ - "The Complexity Added by Automation Outweighs the Convenience"

Some Gays Can Go Straight, Study Says - "Spitzer says he spoke to 143 men and 57 women who say they changed their orientation from gay to straight, and concluded that 66 percent of the men and 44 percent of women reached what he called good heterosexual functioning — a sustained, loving heterosexual relationship within the past year and getting enough emotional satisfaction to rate at least a seven on a 10-point scale. He said those who changed their orientation had satisfying heterosexual sex at least monthly and never or rarely thought of someone of the same sex during intercourse. He also found that 89 percent of men and 95 percent of women were bothered not at all or only slightly by unwanted homosexual feelings. However, only 11 percent of men and 37 percent of women reported a complete absence of homosexual indicators... Spitzer says his study shows that some homosexuals making some effort, usually for a few years, make the change. Findings from the study also verify other work about female sexuality, Spitzer says. "We found that women in our sample moved from a less extreme homosexual to a more heterosexual level than did men," Spitzer says. "Now that's actually what you might expect from the literature. It is known that female sexuality is more fluid. "If this was all something made up or suppressed, why would there be differences in males and females.""
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