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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Links - 26th June 2014

Levitation Secret Revealed (70 years ago) - "“[The photograph] is nothing short of hilarious. It is a flash-illuminated picture of a séance held at Wortley Hall in Finsburg Park, London, showing the attendees holding hands and medium Colin Evans ‘levitating’. A cord leading from a device in Evan’s hand indicates it was he who triggered the flash-photograph – a critical act since the evidence of the photo itself reveals the mechanism of ‘levitation’ and thus indicates its momentary nature: Evan’s feet are a blur above the seat of his chair, his body is in a partially crouched position, and his hair is in disarray. If springing into the air from a crouched position is levitating[…]”, writes skeptic Joe Nickell in Camera Clues: A Handbook for Photographic Investigation."

CDs for Sale - Classical Music Discoveries
Love how Classical Music Discoveries has their model strike a pose for each week's episode image

Apple partners with patent troll Digitude Innovations -- and wow, what a deal - "This isn’t the first time Apple has been called a patent troll."
Truly a Revolution

An Inside Look at China’s Censorship Tools - China Real Time Report - WSJ - "If you can’t beat China’s censors, why not join them? That’s what a Harvard University professor decided to do, in a creative effort to learn firsthand just how censorship in China works. To get inside the system, professor Gary King and two Ph.D. students started their own fake social network... the company recommended that his team hire two to three full-time censors for every 50,000 users. If that same formula was used at Sina Weibo, China’s most popular microblogging platform, the company would employ somewhere between 2,160 and 3,240 censors to cover its 54 million daily active users. In an interview, Mr. King said his exposure to the broad range of censorship software on the market suggests that China’s government is “allowing competition and innovation in censorship technology.” “They have top-down control of outcomes, but not of the particular process. It’s not a bad strategy,” he said... Mr. King said this week that the study’s findings also reinforce his previous work on Chinese censorship, which found that posts with the potential to stir collective action—for example, those related to protests or Tibetan self-immolations—tend to be most heavily targeted, not the posts that are simply critical of the Chinese government."

Can FreeWeibo's Android App Defeat China's Internet Censors? - "The Android app, also called FreeWeibo, allows users to read posts that are deleted from Sina Weibo, giving Chinese netizens a chance to see what their government censors, and what their fellow countrymen are really talking about... The group is confident FreeWeibo cannot be blocked because of the way they have built it: All of the app's content is hosted on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) S3 could-hosting platform. What makes Amazon's cloud perfect for this project is that it's all encrypted, making the task of censoring content on it almost impossible. When a Chinese netizen visits content hosted on AWS, Chinese censors can see only that the user is visiting s3.amazonaws.com, but not the exact final address. China can't selectively block just some content on AWS without blocking the entire service. And therein lies the key to the project: Thousands of businesses rely on Amazon's cloud in China. The government probably can't afford to block the service entirely just to kill FreeWeibo. It's a strategy researchers call "collateral freedom." It makes it impossible for governments to block access to a service because the collateral economic costs of doing so would be too crippling... The first real-world test of this theory came in January 2013, when China blocked the popular coding site GitHub and had to unblock it just two days later after Chinese developers protested against the move."

5 Avoiding or Exiting the Sex Industry — Ministry of Justice, New Zealand - "Pull factors can include excitement, encouragement from others involved in sex work, and a way of seeking affection. Freedom to work one's own hours to accommodate childcare or study responsibilities is another pull, particularly for brothel or small owner-operator brothel (SOOB) workers... The percentages of sex workers in each sector who indicated that each of the factors listed below was one of the main reasons for entry are presented in Table 12.
Exploring sexuality: 22.5%
Friend was doing it: 31.7%
Minding a friend and was asked to join: 10.0%
Thought it looked exciting/glamorous: 26.0%
Sex workers looked fun to be with: 22.8%
Curiosity: 49.7%
... The fact that few of the sex workers who were interviewed by CSOM indicated that decriminalisation of the sex industry in and of itself was the reason for entering the industry supports the conclusion drawn in chapter two: that the enactment of the PRA has not led to an increase in the number of sex workers operating in New Zealand... The Committee hopes that this will assist in clarifying the misconception that there are significant numbers of sex workers in New Zealand who are in the industry against their will... a 2003 study of 216 sex workers in Queensland aged 18 or older showed an average weekly income of A$1,500 a week when the average weekly earnings in Queensland was approximately A$900 (pre tax). This may largely explain why job satisfaction is higher than is popularly believed... Table 15: Reasons for Staying in the Sex Industry in Each Sector
Enjoy the sex 39.0%
All my friends do it 14.5%
It's exciting and glamorous 22.7%
Sex workers are friendly/fun to be with 42.2%
... it was potentially offensive to be discussing with sex workers how they should be assisted to exit... Many participants from all sectors enjoyed the contact that they had with most clients, as well as the people skills they developed through working in the industry... participants all discussed benefits they experienced from working in the sex industry. These benefits included having flexibility and freedom in their workplace, learning new workplace skills, meeting a variety of people and experiencing a sense of belonging."
Keywords: prostitute, prostitutes, prostitution, meet interesting people, survey, good pay

Tensions Set To Rise In The South China Sea - "Over the last month and a half, seven significant developments indicate that tensions in the South China Sea are set to rise in both the short and long term. The five short-term trends include: Philippine defiance of China’s fishing ban; continued inaction by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); the Chinese navy’s repeated assertions of sovereignty over James Shoal; the possibility of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea; and stronger United States opposition to China’s ADIZ and maritime territorial claims."
The common factor in South China Sea tensions is China. A Peaceful Rise indeed!

Why Chinese Food Isn't Hip - WSJ - "Anyone worried about the rise of China on the world stage, as made clear by last month's lavish Olympics display, can take a kind of cold comfort from the almost total failure of the world's biggest culture to break into the foodie world. Yes, there are tens of thousands of places to buy second-rate pork buns and wontons in any town you might happen to be in, from Lima, Peru, to Lima, Ohio. There are also deeply rooted Chinese expat cuisines in Malaysia and the Philippines. And even these peripheral adaptations of Mother China's food can be found in modern restaurants in Manhattan outside Chinatown. But tell me where I can find a quality, high-end Chinese restaurant anywhere in a U.S. urban center aimed at nonethnic diners and I will beat a path there"

Why is Chinese food so cheap? Guest blog by Chinese food expert Sam Lipoff - "They ranged from Big Think’s Lindsay Beyerstein‘s hypothesis that it was cheap overhead and ingredients, to Boston food writer’s MC Slim JB‘s observation on different cultural perceptions of what makes a good restaurant. Friend Sam Jackson and Jimmy Li thinks it’s a marketing/image issue. Serious Eats intern Leah Douglas cites her history class and the economic class of immigrant foodways. Another SE intern, Aaron Mattis postulates it might be lack of restaurant culture... In the modern world, how does food become haute? Typically by applying French technique to the traditional ingredients. Conceptually, Chinese food doesn’t follow this rule, one possible reason why the American-Chinese version is inexpensive... Modern haute cuisine tends to feature artisanal, high-quality proteins, cooked in a simple method to bring out the natural flavors of the protein, often with a simple sauce that pairs well with those flavors, and some accompanying vegetables to balance those flavors. However, Chinese cuisine is based on different principles. Chinese food often uses protein less for flavor and more for texture, and utilizes extremely complex cooking methods and involved sauces to provide the flavor. You might have better luck on a Chinese menu ordering by cooking method than by protein. This doesn’t mean at all that Chinese food is inexpensive, but it means that expensive Chinese food isn’t just a matter of purchasing the kind of expensive proteins reared in the West for Western-style meals... There also may be a slight mismatch between what “restaurants” mean in different cultures. In many Chinese restaurants in the United States, you can order a $6.25 lunch plate during the week. But you can also host your wedding banquet there, and the same restaurant will be transformed with white linen, and $200+ a person food, from abalone to geoduck clam. Try getting Per Se to serve you lunch for $6, or try getting a McDonalds to provide black-tie clad table service and Filet Mignon for a banquet... It is extraordinarily difficult to get Chinese restaurants to produce authentic food for non-Chinese patrons. By contrast, it is extraordinarily difficult to get (real) Japanese restaurants to produce inauthentic food to cater to foreign tastes. I think this has something to do with deep ways in which these cultures define themselves. To Japanese it is obvious that foreigners should like authentic Japanese food, because Japanese food is obviously the best, so why wouldn’t everyone like it? To Chinese, however, the boundaries of the authentic are circumscribed by what foreigners can’t appreciate"

Why the nice guy gets the girl...but the nice girl gets left on the shelf - "For women, being well groomed appeared to have the biggest impact on getting married.. having a good personality barely made a difference to a woman’s chance of becoming a bride"

Taxes and the rich: Looking at all the taxes | The Economist - "MY COLLEAGUE suggests that America’s wealthy already pay at least their fair share of the cost for the public goods they depend on to prosper. He notes that in recent years, the top 5% of earners have received 32% of the country’s adjusted gross income, but paid 59% of federal individual income taxes. “If that’s not giving something back, what is?”, he asks. This is a case of cherry-picking the data. Yes, the federal income-tax system is progressive through most of the income distribution—although it becomes extremely regressive at the high end, because of the low rates applied to qualified dividends and long-term capital gains (as Mitt Romney can attest). However, federal income taxes account for just 27% of total government revenue collected in America. And the remaining three-quarters of the tax pie is quite regressive... The fact of the matter is that the American tax code as a whole is almost perfectly flat. The bottom 20% of earners make 3% of the income and pay 2% of the taxes; the middle 20% make 11% and pay 10%; and the top 1% make 21% and pay 22%. Steve Forbes couldn’t have drawn it up any better."

Singaporeans not as wealthy as GDP figures suggest - "In Singapore, personal consumption expenditure has steadily fallen over the years as a percentage of GDP and, at 35 per cent, is now barely half of what it is in Hong Kong. This is an oddity characteristic of a startup economy, not of a wealthy town like Singapore. But it means that, on the basis of our money-in-your-hands measure, Hong Kong at US$24,000 per capita still outranks Singapore at US$21,000. The second chart gives you a clue as to why the two economies are so different on this measure. Industrial investment in Singapore, always predominantly foreign, has become even more so in recent years, accounting for an average of about 80 per cent of total investment over the past 10 years... This foreign investment in Singapore has in turn produced a huge trade surplus in both goods and services. Over recent years, it has run at about 30 per cent of GDP. And most of this money goes right back out again to pay foreigners for all the confidence they have shown in Singapore by investing in it so heavily. In short, Singapore's high GDP numbers are mostly an anomaly created by very generous industrial concessions to foreigners. They do not really reflect domestic wealth... All that their relative state of wealth really tells you is one has fewer scruples than the other about how low it is willing to go. On this measure, I definitely rate Singapore as the more successful."

How to make epic pancakes with your Japanese rice cooker

On being a chicken

A man found a chicken's egg and put it in a nest of an eagle. The chick hatched with the brood of eaglets and grew up with them.

As he was growing up the chicken did what the eaglets did, thinking he was an eagle. He witnessed the others killing their siblings. He ate morsels of meat from his 'parents'. He stretched his wings and tried to fly.

Yet, try as he might, he could not fly as well as the eaglets.

He would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air, watching in frustration as the other eaglets glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat on their strong golden wings.

Frustrated, he thought to himself: "I can do anything I want. The only thing holding me back is my negative beliefs!"

So he launched himself off the eyrie and opened his wings... only to plummet down, dashing himself on the rocks far below.

As he lay dying, he saw a gawkish bird walking past him. It scratched the earth beside him for worms and insects, and then started to peck at the dying body of the chicken.

The mortally wounded chicken looked up in pain. "Who are you?" he asked. "I'm the chicken. I belong to the earth. And now I'm going to eat you, dying 'eagle'."

So the chicken lived and died an eagle, for that's what he thought he was.

For all of his short life, anyway.


Adapted from: On being an eagle by Anthony de Mello

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Links - 25th June 2014

PM Lee: You can work beyond 65, downgrade your flat and pay higher CPF Life premiums | The Real Singapore
Comment: "So basically work till you die, sell your apartment for a cheaper one to get more money and then use that money to pay the higher CPF installments and live on while we raise the CPF mininum amount one more time in 2015. Nice!!"

The Science Of Why Bacon Smells So Damn Good - "the amazing aroma stems from 150 organic compounds. As heat is applied, sugars, amino acids, and fat in the meat undergo Maillard reactions, and creates the molecules used in their aroma. While many of these compounds smell amazing on their own, they are a force to be reckoned with when they are smelled in concert."

Upworthy Generator - Instantly create Upworthy-style articles
Choice ones: "You Will Dig Your Fingernails Into Your Desk When You See What An Actress Wrote."
"Try Not To Weep When You Listen To This One Verb."
"What Happens When One Angry Woman Doesn't Worry About What Anyone Thinks."
"I'll Never Look At This Bullied NBA Coach The Same Way Again."
"Before You Say America's Disparity In Income Is All Bad, Listen To This Battlecry From A Veteran."


Why Are Upworthy Headlines Suddenly Everywhere? - "They make an emotional promise. They usually have two phrases. They paint their political proposition as obvious, as beyond debate. They’re headlines in the Upworthy style, and they seem to have colonized every news source... Founded in March of last year, its headline style was so obvious that the New York Times could parody it by July... Clickbait has been around for years. Through ridiculousness, sexiness, or just by withholding critical information from a reader, it tantalizes people in such a way that they can’t help but see what’s on the other side—tallying, crucially, a page view (and then maybe a Facebook like) for the clickbaiteer."

TV News & Upworthy Are Transforming Us All Into Dumb, Ill-Informed, Simple-Minded Sheep - "That's the evolving state of modern journalism, folks: race, sex, religion, superficial political analysis, and disaster stories, all slathered in a veneer of outrage. Notice what's missing: Regular coverage of federal legislation, scientific developments, substantive corruption pieces, real debates that go beyond name-calling, stories on foreign wars (we are still in Afghanistan, right?), structural racial and gender disparities... the list goes on and on."

11 titillating minutes with Ashley Madison renders me impressed - "e27: In your interview with Today Online, you mentioned that infidelity has societal benefits. What are these benefits that you spoke of?
Biderman: It’s pretty rare to meet a married couple who says “Sex is the priority,” that “Sex is number one”. That’s not to say they want life to celibacy. That is important to them, but it’s not the most important. So why would you ask someone who’s maybe struggling with monogamy to give up all the other things I just mentioned? The child rearing, the economics, the homes, the extended family, in exchange for a new sexual … That doesn’t make any sense. What most people in affairs are seeking is to have their cake and eat it too. They want to stay married. They want to keep that foundation going, but they want to break the monogamy. Ultimately, we have to stand back as a society and ask, “What’s the value of marriage?” There’s primarily the raising of kids together in that marriage. That is incredibly valuable because the data around the room is uniform. Kids raised by single parents don’t have as much access to higher education. Get into more trouble with the law. Have more issues around drug and alcohol use. If we want to prevent those real societal issues, we have to find a way to keep marriages together. By forcing monogamy down their throats, we’re doing the exact opposite...
When you create prohibitions like this, it only backfires. That’s why … prohibitions around alcohol and different things. Even more so when it comes to human sexuality, you can’t have these prohibitions. Think about it. Right now, there are places on Earth where if a woman has an affair, they will put her to death. You know what, sadly, people still have affairs in those places. Because it’s asking you to not have food to eat, or water to drink. It’s that much of a biological drive. So women risk their lives to have affairs, so do you really think that this ban will accomplish… will stop a single affair from happening in Singapore? I doubt it...
The most successful affair is being never discovered, and the kids will much rather have their both parents together even if one is unfaithful than have them break up."

Behind the Scenes Pictures of a NSFW Playboy Photoshoot are so Awkward (NSFW)

As a Christian this just blew my mind... - 9GAG

Tikhon Jelvis's answer to Offensiveness: Why do some people seem to be looking for things to be offended by? - Quora - " some people—a definite minority—actually are looking to be offended. They want to make a specific point, a loudpublic statement. They're looking for something symbolic to push their views or agenda. They do it because, unfortunately, it's a reasonably effective strategy... Among other things, this is also a good signalling mechanism for showing which group you belong to as well as your level of loyalty. Decrying Harry Potter definitely served as a handy way to both signify your religion to outsiders and demonstrate the strength of your faith to insiders... Since I can't generally draw a reasonable, objective line between most things I do and do not find offensive, I've generally decided to err on the side of letting things go. This is very similar to how I generally don't reprimand people for annoying habits (making noise, cracking knuckles) even if they're distracting me from work. It would just put others off without gaining me much, especially because I can ignore or work around it. It's part of my general preference for fewer rules (including social ones), simpler manners, less formality, less social hierarchy... etc. So I, at least, have definitely tried to move towards accepting uncomfortable humor, beliefs, statements and such without assuming malice or trying to stop it. I wouldn't want people to be afraid of making me uncomfortable, especially because many of the things that domake me uncomfortable are just products of my own internal quirks and upbringing (like, again, my general antipathy towards anything even mildly religious). Ultimately, it all comes down to consistency. When I find myself acting inconsistently on something, like what constitutes "offensive" or how I should react to it, I try to fix that. It just seems that my way of making things consistent turns out to be the opposite of many people I know."

Wrong to call Malaysia a moderate Muslim country, NGOs tell Obama - "It would be inaccurate to describe Malaysia as a “moderate Muslim country” despite repeated attempts by the country’s leaders to project such an image, civil society groups told US president Barack Obama during his visit. In an “intimate and candid” meeting with Obama on Sunday, 10 local non-governmental organisation (NGO) leaders said they had highlighted that there were still a slew of issues affecting the country, which included extremism and the worrying process of Islamisation that was “tearing at the fabric of Malaysian society”. “If you look at the issues that are affecting us, both from an ethnic religious perspective, as well as a human rights and respect for rule of law. We cannot be described as moderate,” Bar Council president Christopher Leong told Astro AWANI today... Leong said that Malaysia constantly faced “widespread and institutionalised ethnic and religious unfair discrimination”, citing the cases of minority Muslim sects, Syiah and Ahmadis, being persecuted, and the seizure of Bibles and holy books by the Home Ministry... “I found it very interesting and ironic that president Obama began his visit with us on Sunday with the national mosque, and had toured National Mosque with imam Tan Sri Syaikh Ismail Muhammad, who is reported to have said that he found it endearing and kind of President Obama’s efforts to use Bahasa Malaysia. And President Obama in the course of conversation also said InsyaAllah (God willing) and terima kasih (thank you). It is ironic that the imam finds that endearing and kind, when Malaysian non-Muslims who say that in almost all states would face prosecution.""

Rise of strict Islam exposes tensions in Malaysia - "Muslim women without headscarves are a common sight on the streets of the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur. But engaging them in a discussion about the hijab is difficult. Norhayati Kaprawi is a Malaysian activist whose recent documentary Aku Siapa (Who Am I) deals with the issue of how women in Malaysia should dress. She found some women unwilling to show their faces in her film - not on religious grounds, but because they feared reprisals. This is a damning reflection on Malaysia's Muslim society, says Ms Norhayati. "It's full of fear. If you don't follow the mainstream you will be lynched"... Islamic officials in Selangor state entered a Methodist church without a warrant in early August, breaking up a fundraising dinner. They recorded the details of several Muslims who attended the function... "This action sets a dangerous precedent and makes a mockery of the sanctity and inviolability of all religious places in our beloved country," said the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hindusim, Sikhism and Taoism in a statement."

‘Moderate Muslim’ invented by ‘enemies of Islam’, claims Isma leader - "The concept of “moderate Muslim” was invented by “enemies of Islam” aiming to undermine and exert control over the Muslim world, a leader of Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma) claimed today. Suriani Sudi, the deputy chief of the group’s women’s wing, urged Muslims to be uncompromising when defending their religion. Suriani, also a lecturer at Kolej Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Selangor, said it is unfair to label Muslims who are simply defending their religion as “extremists.” “The word ‘moderate’ has been made a weapon where anybody who opposes the moderates will be labelled conservative, extremist and extreme,” Suriani said in an article carried by Isma’s website. “It is as if among the Muslims, it is the Moderate Muslims who are right, true, moderate, non-extreme, modern, up-to-date, and parallel with human rights”... Suriani alleged that despite his modest demeanour, the Prophet Muhammad had acted uncompromisingly in order to defend the rights of Muslims... Earlier this month, Isma claimed that the influx of Chinese migrants into the country had been “a mistake” which must be rectified, but stopped short of saying how this could be achieved. According to Isma president Abdullah Zaik Abd Rahman, ethnic Chinese are considered trespassers on Malay land, and had been brought by British colonialists to oppress Malays... Suriani also suggested that there is nothing wrong with defending one’s race as it had served well Muslim civilisations of the past... The article followed a defence by Isma deputy president Aminuddin Yahaya, who said that the recent racial and religious tensions were sparked by “chauvinist” non-Malays and non-Muslims who claim that Malaysia is a secular country where they are marginalised. According to Aminuddin, Malays are the most tolerant race in the world and have been accommodating even as non-Malays entered the country and transformed its racial makeup. That tolerance has not been reciprocated by other races, he added."

Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex

What Judith Levine is Really Saying

"Few issues cause as much consternation as the sexual lives of young people, a fact made abundantly clear to author Judith Levine and the University of Minnesota Press upon publication of "Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children from Sex."

In the furor over the book, most commentators have missed Levine's main point: "Sex is not ipso facto harmful to minors." In fact, "America's drive to protect kids from sex is protecting them from nothing. Instead, often it is harming them."

Despite what critics contend, "Harmful to Minors" is not about pedophilia. It tackles a wide range of issues including censorship, statutory rape laws, abstinence-only sex education, abortion, gender, AIDS, and child welfare...

Why does the proposition that youth deserves sexual autonomy, pleasure, and privacy seem so radical? In the 1970s, the sexual revolution was in full swing and the idea that children and teens were sexual beings was accepted, at least among progressives. Books such as Heidi Handman and Peter Brennan's "Sex Handbook: Information and Help for Minors" and Sol Gordon's "You!" showed respect for young people and their ability to make their own sexual decisions.

For the past two decades, though, the religious right has been winning the war against comprehensive sex education, access to abortion and contraception, and the sexual autonomy of young people. By the late 1980s, Gordon had shifted his advice toward parents with "Raising a Child Conservatively in a Sexually Permissive World," and child pornography laws made it illegal to even possess a copy of "Show Me!," an award-winning sex education book for children.

What happened? Levine does not place all the blame on the right, acknowledging the role cultural feminists played in imposing a regime of overwhelming sexual protectionism...

The sexual liberationists of yesterday are parents today, facing all the typical parental fears. As the joke goes, a conservative is a liberal with a teenage daughter...

As Levine documents throughout the book with copious studies and reviews of news sources, fears of rampant pedophilia, child abduction, ritual abuse, and Internet sexual predators are at best exaggerated, at worst completely unsupported by evidence.

For example, studies commissioned by Congress show that between 50 and 150 children are kidnapped and murdered by strangers each year, yet in a Mayo Clinic survey three-quarters of parents said they are afraid their children will be abducted. And a 1994 U.S. government report analyzing over 12,000 accusations of Satanic ritual abuse found "not a single case where there was clear corroborating evidence."

Nevertheless, parents are nervous -- even squeamish -- about their children's and teens' sexuality, often seeking to deny their offspring the sexual freedoms they themselves demanded at the same age. (Physician Victor Strasburger has even penned a paean to hypocrisy entitled "Getting Your Kids to Say 'No' in the '90s When You Said 'Yes' in the '60s."

In the past two decades youthful sexual desire has become widely pathologized. As Levine notes, "It's as if (parents) cannot imagine that their kids seek sex for the same reasons they do: They like or love the person they are having it with. It gives them a sense of beauty, worthiness, happiness, or power. And it feels good."

The panic surrounding youthful sexuality can perhaps best be compared to the war on drugs: Both are based on ideology rather than science, and no amount of evidence can change the minds of true believers. Both mask underlying social agendas in which concern for children is used to control the behavior of adults. And both engender problems of credibility as young people reject exhortations to "do as I say, not as I did."

Many adults recognize that they made mistakes in their youth and understandably wish to spare children similar missteps, especially in the age of AIDS. Yet too often, Levine contends, censorship and abstinence-only sex education are really an effort to hold back children's coming of age, offering parents an illusory "freedom from watching their kids grow up."

But denying young people knowledge about sex will not help them become responsible sexual citizens. As Levine notes, children today know about IPOs and the hole in the ozone layer, just as they know about abortion and sadomasochism. Parents cannot block out all uncomfortable knowledge.

In order "to give children a fighting chance in navigating the sexual world," Levine says, "adults need to saturate it with accurate, realistic information and abundant, varied images and narratives of love and sex."

If a person truly has the good of young people in mind, one would hope he or she would be interested in what research has to reveal. "Harmful to Minors" offers a plethora of findings, from studies showing that exposure to sexually explicit images does not harm children, to evidence that teens' sexual relationships with adults are not uniformly devastating, to research on the ineffectiveness of abstinence-only education in delaying sexual activity.

But more crucial than research is listening to what children and teens have to say about their own experiences, honestly acknowledging our own experiences at those ages, and applying a healthy dose of common sense. While we are constantly reminded of the importance of believing young people's allegations of coercion and abuse, too often we give considerably less credence to their avowals of consent and pleasure.

Most of us came across sexual images in our youth, and most of us did not turn out to be sexual monsters. Further, there is no evidence that cultures in which explicit sexual imagery is prevalent (such as Denmark or the Netherlands) produce more sexual pathology than those in which such material is forbidden; in fact, there are indications that quite the opposite is the case.

In the explosive realm of adult-youth sex, many teens say that such relationships can be consensual and positive. And more than a few of us remember having such positive sexual relationships with adults when we ourselves were teens.

"Teens often seek out sex with older people, and they do so for understandable reasons: an older person makes them feel sexy and grown up, protected and special," writes Levine. "Often the sex is better than it would be with a peer who has as little skill as they do. For some teens, a romance with an older person can feel more like salvation than victimization."

Romantic heartbreak -- and plain old bad sex -– are just as likely with same-age peers as with older partners.

Within the gay community, especially, one often hears fond reminiscences of youthful sexual relationships with adults. For many gay men, a teenage relationship with an older man was their release from a homophobic family and peers and their introduction to a supportive community.

As lesbian syndicated columnist Paula Martinac recently wrote, the differences of opinion between gay men and lesbians regarding adult-youth sexuality represent an ongoing rift within the gay community...

Levine has taken considerable heat for holding up as a "good model" the Netherlands' age of consent law, under which young people ages 12-16 can legally consent to sex with older people who are not parents or authority figures, but under which charges can be brought if teens or their parents (with the Approval of the Council for the Protection of Children) believe the young person is being exploited. But her support for the Dutch law cannot be taken out of the context of that country's social welfare system and relaxed cultural attitudes about sex.

"In the Netherlands, children are respected as citizens with rights like everyone else, to housing, health care, good day care, school, and college," Levine told AlterNet. "They get sexuality education from the get-go, condoms are available in vending machines everywhere, abortion is free from the national health service, their parents receive generous parental leave and, if they choose to stay home longer with the kids, social welfare benefits to subsidize that important work. While protecting children, the Dutch (and other Europeans) do not infantilize them"...

Virtually every sex-related problem, from AIDS to incest, is correlated with poverty. It is these conditions, argues Levine -- not pedophiles or pornography -- that are truly harming young people...

Americans persist in defining sex-related problems as moral rather than material, and thus focusing on solutions that are "character building, not situation bettering"...

Such misplaced priorities are nothing new: In the late 19th century, as industrialization drove children into the factories, moralistic adults worried about saving them from sex.

From Levine's point of view, children are not the property of their parents and must be treated as citizens in their own right.

"Legally designating a class of people categorically unable to consent to sexual relations is not the best way to protect children, particularly when 'children' include everyone from birth to eighteen," she writes.

Indeed, Levine finds such an idea reminiscent of the now discredited dogma -- held by both social conservatives and some feminists -- that women, too, were paragons of innocence who did not experience desire, required protection, and were not truly capable of consent. And how, she wonders, has it come to pass that "it is only in the area of violent criminal activity that children (some as young as 11) are considered fully mature"?

How can we expect children and teens to learn about healthy sex and relationships if they cannot experiment and explore, with access to increasing information, freedom, and responsibility as they get older?

How can we hope that young people who have received abstinence-only sex education, been shielded from sexually explicit material in the media and on the Internet, been deprived of non-sexual touch from adults, and had no opportunity for sexual play with their peers will magically transform into worldly, responsible, sexually healthy adults upon attaining the age of majority (whatever that happens to be wherever they live)?...

The idea that young people must never have -- or even hear much about -- sex makes it difficult to teach them about the differences between consensual and nonconsensual sex, between healthy and exploitative sex, between safe and unsafe sex."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Links - 24th June 2014

University graduates have more risque sex - but those without a degree have more sex overall - "22 per cent of people without a degree have had a threesome, compared to 19 per cent of graduates... The news comes just after it was revealed that high earners have much less sex than low earners. Another study by Lovehoney found that just four per cent of top earners have sex every day - a figure that tripples for low earners. The survey also revealed that a third of people who earn more than £50,000 a year only have sex once a week. In contrast, just 17 per cent of those who earn less than £15,000 have sex just once a week."

Woman tells court: My husband's 'mistress' set me up - "The alleged theft took place on Sept 2 last year when the two women met for the first time while visiting Mr Ong at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, where he was warded after an operation. Dim sum was spilled and the two women got into a scuffle. Madam Koh jabbed her finger at Lee, while Mr Ong threw his drip stand in the direction of his wife, apparently in a bid to separate them, the court heard."

Tyrant of the under 10s: Football coach fired after he tells boys they're not playing for fun - "When the village boys’ team appointed a new manager, they were not expecting a boss with the fervour of a Jose Mourinho or a Sir Alex Ferguson. So parents of the under-10s side were aghast when coach Justin Byrne outlined his win-at-all-costs philosophy. Mr Byrne insisted he was not there so the boys could have fun playing football – he was ‘only interested in winning’. He said parents who complained when their boy did not make the first team were ‘not doing their sons any favours’. Those who opposed him were ‘weak-minded’ and ‘think sport is about knitting’."

These photos of '80s Singapore will make your jaw drop - "In 1980, Parisian photographer Alain Soldeville visited Singapore and discovered a legion of androgynous beauties at Bugis Street, of whom he has amassed an amazing gallery of photos"

Minecraft’s terms and conditions to clarify meaning of “trolling” - "Mojang will change Minecraft’s terms and conditions to clarify the meaning of “trolling” after confusion about the term made one player think he had to remove his Minecraft videos from YouTube, Markus “Notch” Persson said on his website. Minecraft player ZexyZek has a YouTube channel with over 700,000 subscribers. He makes a series of videos called Minecraft Trolling, where he’ll join a server or invite players to his server and annoy them, scare them, destroy their creations, and basically raise hell in a variety of creative but not very mean ways. “Because we apparently have to have them, we have terms and conditions on how you can use Minecraft,” Notch said. “Someone at some point added the term “no trolling” to these terms. I assume this was done in good faith to prevent Minecraft being used to harass or bully people, but ‘trolling’ is a very problematic term.”"

Cheaters Have Higher Risk for STDs than People in 'Open' Relationships - "people in monogamous relationships who cheated on their partners were less likely to use condoms, and less likely to discuss their history of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) during their sexual digression compared with people in open relationships who had sex with someone other than their primary partner"

When Student-Adviser Tensions Erupt, the Results Can Be Fatal - New York Times - "Take the case of Theodore Streleski, a Stanford mathematician. In 1978 he bludgeoned his adviser, Karel deLeeuw, to death with a ball-peen hammer after being told that, after 19 years of graduate school, he wasn’t going to get his doctorate. Mr. Streleski received a sentence of seven years based on a defense of diminished capacity, according to newspaper accounts. He did not admit any remorse when he was freed, but said he didn’t have any plans to kill again... Frederick M. Davidson, an engineering student at San Diego State, began the defense of his master’s thesis by gunning down the three professors on his committee"

Dyke: BBC is 'hideously white' - "The BBC is 'hideously white' according to Greg Dyke, the corporation's director-general. Mr Dyke did not say the corporation was racist but acknowledged that, in common with the Metropolitan Police, it had a problem with race relations. He admitted the management structure at the BBC was more than 98 per cent white"
Good luck if you call an organisation "hideously (minority)"

Nagging could cost the lives of hundreds of men - "For most men a nagging wife can be little more than an irritation, but the arguments and worries that stem from a demanding partner may actually be a health hazard. New research has found that the burden of a demanding partner is linked to hundreds of extra deaths each year. Men who were subjected to 'nagging', constant demands and worries from their partners, were 2.5 as likely to die within ten years than those with less stressful relationships. The effect is so strong it could account for hundreds of deaths a year, the researchers suggested. However women may be more immune to nagging as there was little effect on their death rates, it was found."

Man shoots at 3 women who refuse sex with him and friends, police say

Is Malaysia an Islamic or secular state? - "by the characteristics that define a secular state then Malaysia by definition is not a secular state; it violates the principle attributes of a secular state on multiple fronts. Breaches to the tenants of a secular state are not the exception; it is almost the rule. In Malaysia, religion is not separated from the state but entrenched, empowered, enforced, expressed and elevated."

Drugs, prostitution and smuggling—Italy’s GDP is about to get much bigger - "The drug trade, prostitution and smuggling are to be added to Italy’s GDP calculations from Sep 2014, Italy’s institute of statistics, ISTAT, announced on May 22 (link in Italian). The change is meant to comply with an EU regulation from 2013 that requires all transactions, regardless of their legal status, to be accounted for. Italy is home to several huge organized-crime organizations, and according to a 2012 estimate by Italy’s central bank, the country’s criminal economy is worth about €170 billion ($230 billion), around 11% of 2012 GDP"

‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens | The Onion - America's Finest News Source - "residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past five years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”"

Erotica Authors Lead Hotter Sex Lives Than Most Americans, Says Survey - "The 103 authors surveyed last month are overwhelmingly women, heterosexual, married and publish under a pen name. They’re no more likely to have had sex for the first time any earlier than the average American, and the survey found they’re 10% less likely to cheat on a spouse. But they do report a greater variety and incidence of intimate encounters. Chalk it up to professional development. Nearly half claim to have had sex as research for their work, and three out of four have based a fictional sex scene on an actual experience. According to the survey, erotic romance authors are more likely to have sex on a first date as well as to join a threesome. And among the heterosexual authors who dished on their sex lives, one in five has had sex with someone of the same gender. That range of sexual experience could have contributed to lowering their overall esteem for Fifty Shades of Grey. On average, the authors surveyed gave the novel only two out of five stars."

Registry hack enables continued updates for Windows XP - "A single registry setting makes Windows Update think your XP system is Windows XP POSReady, which will receive updates for another five years."

The brave new world of DIY faecal transplant - "You would have to be desperate to take a sample of your husband's excrement, liquidise it in a kitchen blender and then insert it into your body with an off-the-shelf enema kit... "I kept thinking, 'I'm giving my kid a bag of [faeces] for Christmas. It wasn't ideal, but he was just so sick and I knew if I waited until after the Christmas holidays he would be dead"...
"We had one woman who said: 'Can I use my dog's stool?'" says Brandt. "I'm sure that there are some people out there who are saying, 'Well, I have a horse. He's pretty healthy and he has an adequate supply of stool - I'll use his stool." But using animal stool is absolutely not recommended"

To help youths better appreciate Singapore, send them overseas: MP Ang Wei Neng - "To shape the values of Singaporean students, the Education Ministry could consider sending them on mandatory overseas community service trips to rural villages in neighbouring countries. Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC Mr Ang Wei Neng said in Parliament today (May 29) that such field trips will help youths here better appreciate Singapore's success, combat the sense of entitlement and inculcate the value of service to others."
Friend: "Err so only the young ones have a sense of entitlement and should be sent on hardship trips? Those whose oversights caused huge mistakes and won't apologise nor even pretend to offer to step down are ok? Who are the ones exhibiting a divine sense of entitlement? Why not lead them to Thailand or south korea or maybe the USA and see how politicians are scrutinised by society and how they react with basic dignity and humility.

X-Men: How Famke Janssen Kept Her Days of Future Past Cameo a Secret - ""I really think that it's so much harder for women to star and direct at the same time because we waste so much time in the makeup trailer. It's a sad reality,"; she said. "Whereas for men, they just show up and it's like, 'We love you just the way you are.' We have to go through a process of an hour and a half or however long it takes and then touch ups before and after lunch. It's too much time away from the camera.""

Coca-Cola Friendly Twist - YouTube

Cynicism linked to greater dementia risk - "Tindle was the lead author on a study that examined the health outcomes of over 97,000 women and found that cynical women had a higher hazard of cancer-related mortality... Research shows cynical people also tend to smoke more, exercise less and weigh more. They also have a harder time following even the best medical advice, because their cynical natures won't let them believe what people tell them, Tindle said. Past studies have also found that people who are cynical have a higher rate of coronary heart disease, cardiovascular problems and cancer-related deaths. Cardiovascular disease can contribute to dementia because it essentially damages small blood vessels everywhere in your body, including in your brain. Cynical people also tend to have greater stress responses"

Tabby named Puddy Cat and owner defrauded of $450K, prosecutors say - "A 7-year-old tabby called Puddy Cat is at the center of an extensive embezzlement case out of Suffolk County, Massachusetts. Puddy Cat once stood to inherit part of a trust fund worth at least $450,000, until its owner fell victim to a couple of swindling neighbors, prosecutors said. Puddy Cat belongs to a 74-year-old Brighton woman who is suffering from progressive dementia and living in a nursing home. The woman created the "Puddy Cat Trust" in her will and specified that upon her death, the tabby was to be cared for through the trust and that all remaining assets would benefit animal welfare groups."

Monday, June 23, 2014

Being Surprised that the Pope is still Catholic

Pope Francis’ new clothes: Why his progressive image is white smoke and mirrors

"On January 17, 2014, Politico pointed out that in an interview given by the pope in August 2013, and published in September of that year, “Pope Francis said the church did not have to talk about gay marriage and abortion all the time.” And yet, “the very next day [after the interview was published] Francis condemned abortion as ‘unjust.’” Furthermore, after the interview was given, a week before its publication, the pope excommunicated a priest from Melbourne, Australia, Greg Reynolds, for advocating for female clergy and gay marriage.  Pope Francis’s seemingly understanding words about gay marriage and abortion were sandwiched in between two events that completely undermined that message."


According to Salon, because Francis talks about abortion once, he is talking about abortion all the time and he was lying when he claimed that the church didn't have to talk about it all the time.


From a more level-headed source:

With few words on abortion, Pope Francis shows a new way to be pro-life

"The pope's comparative reticence on abortion became evident to many observers a few months into his pontificate. At a June Vatican Mass dedicated to pro-life causes, an event that had been planned under Pope Benedict, Pope Francis surprised many when delivered a homily without any reference to abortion, euthanasia or any other specific threat to life.

During his weeklong visit to Brazil the following month, the pope said nothing about the country's moves to liberalize abortion (or its legalization of same-sex marriage), explaining afterward to reporters that the "church has already expressed itself perfectly on that."

Among people used to regarding the pope as the world's foremost advocate for the unborn, his silence was disquieting.

"Some people think that the Holy Father should talk more about abortion," Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston said in a speech to the Knights of Columbus in August"


Comments:

"Liberals actively discourage the practice of religion and then complain when a major religious institution doesn't reflect their views."

"I think the author needs to to study the history of christianity a little to understand how even a word is a small revolution in this institution. In 1964, in Vatican II, the Church has "forgiven" the Jews for the crucifixtion of Jesus Christ, and around the same time admitted that Galileo shouldn't have been excommunicated. This is the timing of the Chruch, if you are disappointed by this pope study some history"

"The whole article was replete with a kind enraged disappointment because Catholicism is not going to be completely reconfigured in order to cosy up to secular liberalism; that isn't going to happen today, tomorrow or indeed, ever."

"The Pope is no Stalin, nor Gregory the Great, nor Constantine. He cannot just fly in the face of culture or he will be pissing into the wind. Doesn't the writer get that?"


"to insist that NOTHING HAS CHANNGED based largely on birth control (which is decidedly NOT going to change, not any time soon) is disingenuous. He's making pope statements that are unusual and shifts are happening.

I'm also unimpressed by the big "reveal" that they have a publicist. Of course they have a publicist. They're a mammoth international organization, they're going to have a publicist.

Now I'll scroll down and read about how religion is the source of most or even all bad in the world. Which is absurd. Humans organize themselves into all manner of groups, and as soon as they've achieved an "us" and a "them" someone gets shitty to the "them." It would be nice if religion actually WAS above this particularly ugly human trait, but it clearly is not."


"Oh my god. It's still the Catholic Church. It's an almost 2000 year old institution with converts ALL OVER THE WORLD. They still get the vast majority of their US donations from the elderly, most of whom are very unlikely to share your urbane and progressive worldview. I know my grandmother doesn't.

Anyways, I'm glad to have to Catholic Church around despite their relatively backwards views/policies. Lord knows one priest has done more to change lives (for the better) and the organization has done more to help the poor than the rest of you ever will b****ing from the sidelines. (Oh wait, I heard you gave a quarter to a homeless guy today - nevermind!)

In this current political climate, liberals kind of have to take what we can get. I, for one, would like to keep the Catholic Church on our side. There's no use arguing over small potatoes like birth control coverage for church employees."


"If you expect this Pope to single-handedly reverse all of the Church's teachings on the above topics, you'll probably be disappointed.

But if you expect him to bring the Church into fuller involvement with movements for economic equality, and to work to silence the exclusionary and bigoted rhetoric coming out of certain bishops, you're probably on the right track.

I would urge you not to trip your allies as they walk in the door to join you."


"Translation: "He isn't doing exactly what I WANT about the issue I CARE ABOUT, therefore he SUCKS AT EVERYTHING!!!"

As always, the perfect is the enemy of the good."


"A kinder and gentler Joe Ratzinger."
"Yeah, because Ratzinger initiated an overhaul of corrupt Church practices, had meetings with survivors of abuse, went up against the Mafia, told all the ultra-rich that their way is godless and evil, etc., etc.

Yep, they're exactly the same. *eyeroll*"
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