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More adventurous than the average bear

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Saturday, November 01, 2014

Links - 1st November 2014

What secularism really means - "Focus on the Family Singapore did not advocate religious views in its relationship workshop. Though it took a socially conservative position, its teaching materials were secular in nature. Imposing one's religion on another and holding a perspective that is religiously influenced should not be conflated. Religiously influenced values and perspectives are legitimate in a secular democracy. In fact, Article 15 of our Constitution states that "every person has the right to profess and practise his religion and to propagate it". Convictions that are shaped by religious beliefs should not be deemed any less valid than non-religious beliefs. Convictions that are liberal or conservative, religious or non-religious, are all legitimate values that shape the contours of public discourse... To deny any form of religious influence in public life is to trivialise religion and be intolerant towards socially conservative beliefs. Both secular and religious beliefs are not morally neutral; these beliefs generally produce different moral stances towards issues. The role of the State is to be a neutral arbiter of these religious and non-religious beliefs in its formulation of policies that promote the common good. Secularism means no more than the equal treatment of these diverse views; it does not mean silencing a religiously influenced perspective."

Foreigners taking all the best housing? Sounds familiar - "It is quite expensive, being rich. The stated agenda of the piece was to make one of those self-consciously “unpopular but true” points about inequality: banker-bashing is misguided, because bankers aren’t that rich anymore. Not compared to their Russian neighbours, with their overpaid nannies. But really, it was a story about immigration: with all the anguish and anxiety of the “typical voter”, the one Farage is banking on and Miliband is so afraid of. “These foreigners are edging us out. But we were here first.” You’d be surprised how often you hear this from high net-worth individuals. Under conditions of anonymity, they will complain about living next door to Lebanese arms dealers, their children edged out of the public schools that they thought of as their birthright. “Walking in to those examination halls,” one frustrated mother told me when her son didn’t get into St Paul’s independent school, “it looked like fucking Beijing.” The fundamental question is, does it mean anything, to be born here? Does it bestow anything, any priority or special care? That’s why accusations of racism won’t quite stick to Ukip, even though some of them clearly are racist: it’s why you’ll find foreign-born members of the English Defence League, and a German person willing to marry Nigel Farage. The fundamental question isn’t about a preference for one race over another. It’s a question of what a nation is: is it a family, or is it a business? Does it see its citizens as its children, or its customers? If the first, then we are precious and irreplaceable; if the second, then we can be readily swapped over when someone comes along who is richer or less demanding."

'Game of Thrones is more brutally realistic than most historical novels' - "If Baelish sounds more than a little like Thomas Cromwell, then perhaps that is not entirely a coincidence. He may inhabit a world, Westeros, which features dragons, walking corpses and a 700ft wall of ice – yet it is far from wholly fantastical. George RR Martin, whose series of novels inspired the HBO drama, has woven a tapestry of extraordinary size and richness; and most of the threads he has used derive from the history of our own world... Game of Thrones is fantasy's equivalent of a perfect cocktail. Elements drawn from the hundred years war and the Italian Renaissance, from Chrétien de Troyes and Icelandic epic, fuse to seamless effect. The measure of how credible – on its own terms – people find Martin's alternative history is precisely the phenomenal scale of its popularity. The appeal of Westeros is less that it is fantastical than that it seems so richly, so vividly, so brutally real. The supernatural has no starring role: it is merely as present in the lives of its characters as a trust in the reality of angels, or a dread of demons, would have been in the minds of medieval men and women. People take their pleasures and endure their sufferings with a plausibility that puts to shame a good deal of self-proclaimed literary fiction."

Boob Jam: Games to depict 'unsexy reality' of breasts - ""It" is Boob Jam, a weekend-long event during which game developers will go without sleep to create games that offer players a more truthful and accurate depiction of breasts and what it means to have them. While other game jams take place in a hotel, conference centre or the offices of game developer, Boob Jam will be a virtual event with people gathering in cyberspace... The games it will aim to produce will portray breasts as anything but sexual. Hence the suggestion for a game about the frustrating search for a bra that fits or the fear that travels with every woman that goes for a mammogram."

Identity Crisis - "Meyer began his own study of GIC patients that sought to measure “objectively” the benefits of surgery in the long term. Eight years after that, on Aug. 10, 1979, he announced his results, which were far different than Money’s a decade before. “To say that this type of surgery cures psychiatric disturbance is incorrect. We now have objective evidence that there is no real difference in the transsexual’s adjustment to life in terms of jobs, educational attainment, marital adjustment and social stability,” he said. He later told The New York Times, “My personal feeling is that surgery is not a proper treatment for a psychiatric disorder, and it’s clear to me that these patients have severe psychological problems that don’t go away following surgery.” Meyer’s conclusion codified the concerns some psychiatric members of the committee had voiced from the start and flew directly in the face of Money and Edgerton’s core philosophy. Transsexualism, Meyer was saying, was a mental illness. Thus doctors ought to work with the patients to change their unhappiness, not change their bodies... “Prior to the surgery, these patients were at least male or female, but after the surgery the males converted to females weren’t really females and the females converted to males weren’t really males,” he says. “You’ve created a new breed. You’ve created something you don’t know what to do with.” He adds: “I never saw a successful patient. For the most part they remained misfits.” Other GIC doctors acknowledge that the social-transformation-through-sex-change-surgery theory didn’t work. “I remember one was a petty thief and after the surgery, we ended up having a female petty thief,” says Jones. “If they were prostitutes to start with,” says Migeon, who continues to work as a pediatric endocrinologist at Hopkins, “they were afterward.” (Actually, Money reported in an early article that one patient, following surgery, “was able to be a more effective prostitute”)... When he came to Hopkins in 1975 to become head of the psychiatry department, McHugh intended, as he wrote in a 1992 issue of American Scholar, to help end sex change surgeries, a procedure he described “as the most radical therapy ever encouraged by 20th-century psychiatrists”— with perhaps the exception of lobotomies. But what seemed radical in 1960 and 1970— remaking men with female genitalia; remaking women with male genitalia— can, in a different light, seem almost conservative, because it continues to anchor definitions of “man” and “woman” to anatomy""

The real reason French women have stopped sunbathing topless - ""The ones who do it all look the same – slim and small breasts, which contributes to keeping a social order and aesthetic norm in place." But both agree that the issue is not one of self-consciousness. "[French women] feel comfortable doing it!" says Pfeiffer. The real reason French women cover up, says Costa-Kostritsky, is because "it makes uncovering them for a lover more interesting"."

George Will responds to senators on his sexual assault columnt - "I think I take sexual assault much more seriously than you do. Which is why I worry about definitions of that category of crime that might, by their breadth, tend to trivialize it. And why I think sexual assault is a felony that should be dealt with by the criminal justice system, and not be adjudicated by improvised campus processes"

Downside of dating a beauty: If a woman's more attractive than her man, the relationship may be doomed - "The analysis revealed having an attractive husband or boyfriend was no barrier to a relationship succeeding. But, if it was the woman who was the one blessed with good looks, the relationships tended to last only a matter of months, the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin reports. Researcher Rob Burriss said: ‘This would indicate it is the woman who is in control of whether the relationship continues. Beautiful women may realise they can afford to pick and choose, he suggests. They may also have the confidence to leave behind relationships that have run their course. ‘Attractive women might generally prefer short-term relationships. They’re better placed to move on.’ It is also possible the relationships end due to jealous behaviour from the woman’s less photogenic partner. Conversely, the less attractive women ‘may have to make do with what they have, hence the longer relationships’, he said. "
Marry a woman uglier than you

Antifluoridation Bad Science « Science-Based Medicine - "The implication being implied by anti-fluoride groups is that the fluoridation program in the US and elsewhere is putting children’s IQs at risk. This data, however, cannot be used to support that conclusion. First it should be noted that almost all of the studies reviewed were conducted in China (one was conducted in Iran) – not in the US. China had a limited fluoridation program for a time, and has had no fluoridation of drinking water since 2002. So why, then, are most of the studies from China? There are many rural areas of China that have naturally high levels of fluoride in the well water. The studies were largely looking at this exposure. Two studies looked at fluoride exposure from inhaling smoke from coal burning. So the question is – how do these levels of exposure relate to the amount of fluoride being added to water in the US (because toxicity is always all about dose)? There was a lot of variability across the studies, but generally the high fluoride groups were in the 2-10 mg/L range, while the reference low fluoride groups were in the 0.5-1.0 mg/L range (not including the coal burning studies, which had much higher fluoride levels). The recommended fluoride level for fluoridated drinking water is 0.5-1.0 mg/L (similar in most countries – Australia, for example, uses 0.6-1.1 mg/L). The EPA set the upper safe limit at 4.0, with a secondary (voluntary) recommendation of 2.0. Areas with high natural fluoride actually have some of the fluoride removed from the drinking water. In other words – fluoridated water in the US has the same level of fluoride as the control or low fluoride groups in the China studies reviewed in the recent article, and the negative association with IQ was only found where fluoride levels were much higher – generally above EPA limits. Also – these studies were mostly epidemiological or ecological – they were not experimental studies (like the Grand Rapids study) in which variables were controlled in any way. It is possible, and even likely, that the high levels of fluoride exposure from natural or industrial sources (not deliberate fluoridation) also correlate with exposure to other contaminants, such as arsenic."

Maarten Raaijmakers's answer to What do you think Western women living in Western countries generally find attractive in men in the current times and culture? - Quora - "attraction is not connection. Attraction is temporary, attraction is a moment of joy and giving yourself fully in that moment. Connection is what makes relationships last. A one night stand might be attraction. But a relationship is a connection full of moments fueled by attraction."

Vitamin B12: Are You Getting It? - "Despite the overwhelming evidence that vegans without a reliable source of vitamin B12 are likely harming their health, some vegan advocates still believe that "plant foods provide all the nutrients necessary for optimal health," and do not address vitamin B12 when promoting the vegan diet. Other advocates acknowledge the need for B12, but only as an afterthought. And still others emphasize that humans need only small amounts of B12 and that it can be stored in the body for years. While true that, at the time they become vegan, some people have enough B12 stored in their liver to prevent overt B12 deficiency for many years, people often misinterpret this to mean that you only need to consume a tiny amount once every few years. Actually, to build up such stores, it takes years of consuming B12 beyond one's daily needs (unless you are using supplements which can build up stores more quickly). Some people do not have large enough stores of B12 to be relied upon for optimal health even for short periods."
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