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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Links - 18th September 2014

Harvard boffins 'reverse-engineer' Chinese censorship - "they used anonymous volunteers from inside China to create accounts on sanctioned social media sites, and compared the posts allowed to remain to those taken down. The actions of the censors, they argue, “leaves large footprints and so reveals a great deal about itself and the intentions of the government”. Their study, published last week in Science (abstract here), found that criticising officials isn't a route to an automatic takedown. As study leader Jennifer Pan explained in this story at Popular Mechanics, criticisms help leaders form their picture of what's happening on the ground, “seeing which of the roughly 50,000 local governments is being led in a way that is not satisfying people”. Collective action of any kind, however – even in support of the government – quickly brings down the ban-hammer: “the state wants to limit people getting together outside of state control” so the government can “keep a monopoly on mass action”."

Peter Tatchell: The left and the anti-war movement have double standards when it comes to Hama - "Hamas is intensifying its repression of the Palestinian citizens of Gaza, according to recent reports by Amnesty International and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. This repression includes beatings, kneecappings, executions, detention without trial, torture, restrictions on civic organisations and violent attacks on critics and protesters, as reported in the Guardian last Friday. Amnesty International is highly critical of the Hamas "campaign of abductions, deliberate and unlawful killings, torture and death threats"... while progressive opinion is justifiably quick to condemn Israel, it is oddly silent when Palestinians are being persecuted by fellow Palestinians. Why the double standards?... It is therefore disturbing that significant sections (not all) of the left are flirting with Hamas. During the January protests in the UK against Israel's barbaric bombardment of Gaza, there were frequent pro-Hamas chants and placards. "We are all Hamas now!" some marchers yelled. At one rally in Hyde Park, speakers on the main stage urged "Victory to Hamas!" and received tumultuous cheers of approval (with only a few boos)... Some of the left seem to see Hamas as a Palestinian equivalent of the African National Congress of South Africa – a heroic national liberation movement that is resisting the iniquities of Israeli occupation. Sorry, this analogy does not wash, as Brett Lock argued on the Harry's Place blog a couple of weeks ago. He pointed out that Hamas is offering nothing akin to the political and ethical stature of the ANC's Freedom Charter. In fact, Hamas's charter is a charter for discrimination and religious tyranny – the exact opposite of what the ANC stood for"

Liberal Anti-Semitism | Valerie Tarico - "I hear the Israeli attack on Gaza described as genocide. I never hear the American attack on Iraq described that way... Our silence when it comes to the role of the surrounding countries, who want the Palestinians to remain right where they are as pawns in a global power struggle... If we Liberals are willing to assume that it takes a people generations to recover from slavery, can we not assume the same of genocide?... When Arabs or Muslims engage in mass political extermination, we say little. The same with smaller cruelties. Yet we hold the Israelis to a higher standard. Why is this? Why do we scream about Israeli rockets and yet we're mum when Hamas and Fatah are murdering each other?... Sometimes I wonder if it is actually a form of racism against Arabs and Muslims, like when we assume that a kid is fated to be a low-achiever and we write them off. But consider: How would we react if the Israelis treated their women like Saudis do? If they treated their Hindu servants like Omanis do? If they treated their religious minorities like the Iraqis do? If they pledged the extermination of Palestinians the way that Hamas pledges itself to the extermination of Jews?... when Evangelicals cite Leviticus to justify their attitudes toward homosexuals but then ignore the rest of Mosaic Law, something other than biblical literalism is at play. When the suffering of the Palestinian people arouses venom that seeps through in Liberal rants while other suffering leaves us cold, something other than compassion is at play. I loathe the kind of ignorant rant that kicked off this article. But the subtle bigotry of some fellow liberals feels worse. It violates the very humanitarian rhetoric that gives it cover. As a progressive, it shames me. And it makes me scared... We humans are probably hard-wired for tribalism, and we need little excuse to see the "other" as disgusting or evil. But we also are capable of thinking more complexly... Maybe in addition to looking at the dividing lines in the Middle East we could be looking more at the dividing lines in our own hearts."

Facebook’s satire tag would be good for Asia - "As a genre and as a concept, satire does not seem to be taught as much in the East as it is in the West. "

Isaac Shabtay's answer to If Hamas was not defending Palestine, who would in the absence of Palestinian military? - Quora - "Early in his role as president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas took a decision that had put him in an odd light within Fatah: he acknowledged the fact that using force against Israel is counterproductive to the Palestinian people, and thus decided that, instead of thinking in terms of "defending", "attacking" and "military", he's going to sit on his ass and build a state.
The result:
Wide acceptance of Mahmoud Abbas as the undisputed leader of the Palestinian people.
Minimum to no violence in the West Bank.
No blockade on the West Bank.
UN recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state.
Immense political pressure in Israel to negotiate with Abbas and get stuff done with, not only from the left wing but also from within his own government.
The Israeli public is beginning to realize that Mahmoud Abbas is a negotiation partner. They may not be his biggest fans—very few people would be willing to forget the fact that he masterminded the Ma'alot Massacre—but they do realize that this is a person willing to sit down, discuss and act.
Is the Fatah "defending the West Bank"? nope. It doesn't need to, because it's not being attacked, because it's not engaging in battle. Instead, it's busy building a fucking state. Now let's look at Hamas and how it is "defending" Palestine."

Mystery meat: Photographer Peter Augustus shows food in original form

Stone Age tribe kills fishermen who strayed on to island

Children of Holocaust survivors 'learn' fear from mothers: researcher - "Mothers use the smell of fear to teach babies about threats, researchers have said, which may explain why children of Holocaust survivors suffer nightmares and flashbacks of events they never experienced. Experiments have shown that mothers may give off particular scents when frightened which their newborn babies pick up on. Even when the fearful event was during pregnancy, the newborns have learned to respond to it, the researchers said. Previous studies have suggested that fears can be inherited through changes in the DNA. The latest experiments were conducted using laboratory rats but the scientists believe the mechanism may explain how children are affected by traumatic events experienced by their mothers.
This probably explains how children can have "memories" of "past lives"

Arundhati Roy accuses Mahatma Gandhi of discrimination - "It is time to unveil a few truths about a person whose doctrine of nonviolence was based on the acceptance of a most brutal social hierarchy ever known, the caste system … Do we really need to name our universities after him?"

The Liberals' War on Science - "41 percent of Democrats are young Earth creationists, and 19 percent doubt that Earth is getting warmer. These numbers do not exactly bolster the common belief that liberals are the people of the science book. In addition, consider “cognitive creationists”—whom I define as those who accept the theory of evolution for the human body but not the brain. As Harvard University psychologist Steven Pinker documents in his 2002 book The Blank Slate (Viking), belief in the mind as a tabula rasa shaped almost entirely by culture has been mostly the mantra of liberal intellectuals, who in the 1980s and 1990s led an all-out assault against evolutionary psychology via such Orwellian-named far-left groups as Science for the People, for proffering the now uncontroversial idea that human thought and behavior are at least partially the result of our evolutionary past. There is more, and recent, antiscience fare from far-left progressives, documented in the 2012 book Science Left Behind (PublicAffairs) by science journalists Alex B. Berezow and Hank Campbell, who note that “if it is true that conservatives have declared a war on science, then progressives have declared Armageddon.” On energy issues, for example, the authors contend that progressive liberals tend to be antinuclear because of the waste-disposal problem, anti–fossil fuels because of global warming, antihydroelectric because dams disrupt river ecosystems, and anti–wind power because of avian fatalities. The underlying current is “everything natural is good” and “everything unnatural is bad.” Whereas conservatives obsess over the purity and sanctity of sex, the left's sacred values seem fixated on the environment, leading to an almost religious fervor over the purity and sanctity of air, water and especially food... Pace Barry Goldwater, extremism in the defense of liberty may not be a vice, but it is in defense of science, where facts matter more than faith—whether it comes in a religious or secular form—and where moderation in the pursuit of truth is a virtue"

Trans Activist Demands Apology From University For Allowing Dan Savage To Say “Tranny,” Making School “Unsafe” - "Opinionated author and occasional media critic Dan Savage is not the first gay activist to be labeled “transphobic” for his use of the word “tranny,” but he is certainly the first to be labeled such for using the word “tranny” in an actual discussion about the current policing of the word “tranny”... Hex interrupted the conversation from the audience to demand that the term “T-slur” replace the word “tranny” in the ensuing discussion, claiming that their use of the word was “to threaten me and make me feel uncomfortable in that space.” A dialogue between the three created “a tense atmosphere” and Hex reportedly left the room crying... Citing the experience as “dehumanizing,” Hex immediately began circulating a petition to force the University of Chicago to apologize to it and “prohibit the use of transphobic slurs” at future events. The petition garnered over 1,700 signatures."
Those who keep talking about "safe" spaces make spaces more unsafe than those they rail at ever could

A less Savage perspective - "it is disingenuous for the petition’s authors to allege (in some, though not all, of their conflicting, seemingly ever-changing statements), that students had been repeatedly interrupted by Savage and Cox at the seminar, or not given ample opportunity to voice their concerns. In the few instances when Cox and Savage did interrupt students, they did so only to request permission to finish their sentences—only because they had been interrupted by the students first. Near the end of the seminar, Cox even made a point to ask the petition’s only author still in attendance whether she felt like she had been heard. Her answer? “Yes.” It has been even more disingenuous for the students to repeatedly modify their petition’s pre-“update” language without notifying signatories, and to delete an astonishing number of their own and others’ public comments about the incident on social media. Having actually attended the seminar and observed countless inconsistencies between their descriptions and reality, I am taken aback by how many of my peers would sign such a strongly worded petition on the basis of incredibly minimal, misleading information. Even one of the petition’s own authors did not attend the seminar, opting to instead compile a litany of out-of-context quotes from Savage’s decade-old columns for a co-author to recite in their absence... the approach these students are taking is unfortunate, questionable, and destructive. It is akin to transforming important, under-discussed topics into minefields—mines that even LGBTQ allies will, and already are beginning to, fear setting off too much to even broach the subjects. If this is the sort of response speakers and attendees can expect at any kind of event about LGBTQ issues on our campus, even allies will be reluctant to participate. Indeed, such reluctance is already setting in. In the aftermath of the seminar, I have heard many of my peers express concern about being branded transphobic, and thus avoid discussing trans issues altogether"
It is better to ignore issues activists care about than have views they don't agree with - even if you care for the same constituency

WSJ Journalists Delete Tweets About Gaza Hospital Hit by Errant Hamas Rocket | NewsBusters

BBC staff told to stop inviting cranks on to science programmes - "man-made climate change was one area where too much weight had been given to unqualified critics." Van Halen Contract Required Brown M&Ms - "The legendary "no brown M&Ms" contract clause was indeed real, but the purported motivation for it was not. The M&Ms provision was included in Van Halen's contracts not as an act of caprice, but because it served a practical purpose: to provide an easy way of determining whether the technical specifications of the contract had been thoroughly read (and complied with)"

Booed ‘Aida’ in Paris Repels With Klan, Gestapo: Review - "The booing started in Act I and reached tumultuous levels by the time director Olivier Py and Pierre-Andre Weitz, the set and costume designer, stepped in front of the curtain at the Bastille. The Paris Opera hasn’t seen a new “Aida” since 1939 and this isn’t one for the ages. Writing in the house program, Py claims that “Aida” is Verdi’s most political opera, “a great reflection on political violence.” That’s nonsense. Auguste Mariette, the French Egyptologist who wrote the original story, envisioned an Oriental spectacular to celebrate the 1869 opening of the Suez Canal"
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