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Monday, January 26, 2015

Links - 26th January 2015

Palestinians Celebrate Terror Attack With #IAmAKnife Hashtag - "Today in Tel Aviv, a young, knife-wielding Palestinian stabbed 13 Israelis on a bus, seriously injuring four. In response, some Palestinian social media users are celebrating this attack with the hashtag #JeSuisCouteau—”I am a knife.” Clearly, this is a reference to the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag that became popular following the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris two weeks ago. Along with the hashtag, users are publishing images of bloody knives and calling for more attacks. Another associated hashtag, #ثورة_السكاكين (#TheKnivesRevolution), is quickly growing even more popular than #JeSuisCouteau."

The 24 Most Embarrassing Dungeons & Dragons Character Classes - "21) Pacifist
Well, you can't say this Druid class is a Fighter. In fact, they refuse to fight. This isn't actually a bad character concept… for other role-playing games. But again, 2nd Edition AD&D is a game focused almost entirely about murdering things, so you get more experience points to get more powers to be able to murder more things, and taking their gold so you can get better equipment in order to be more efficient at murdering things. How a Pacifist Druid ever advances past first level is beyond me."

What Muslims Really Believe About Cartoons Of Muhammad - "many historical Muslim rulers in India, Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Central Asia actually commissioned artists topaint the story of Muhammad’s life — complete with pictures of Muhammad himself — in centuries past... Shia Muslims, however, are far less troubled by religious images, if at all. Depictions of Muhammad can be found throughout the marketplaces of Iran, for instance, which is a majority-Shia country. In 2010, Omid Safi, the Iranian-American Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Duke University, penned an op-ed entitled “Why Islam does (not) ban images of the Prophet” in which he described his personal attachment to a picture of Muhammad, which he describes as a kind of family heirloom"

NUS student makes $500 an hour from her $5,000 tail - "Mermaids epitomise grace, beauty, elegance and power. I find that combination inspiring."

Dr Marc's Blog: A Pleasing Music - "in many cultures music is functional rather than enriching. Music intended to ward off spirits, to scare birds at sewing time, to mourn the dead or to accompany a sacred rite was never intended to please the ear, and in many cultures that is the only music which has been created. Audience reactions at “world music” festivals when the functional music of differing cultures is performed, rarely touch on how the sound pleases the ear; “fascinating”, “exciting” and (I regret to say as often as not in my case) “troubling” and “incomprehensible” are the usual responses, and on those occasions where words like “beautiful” and “enchanting” crop up, it is tinged with surprise; as if nobody actually expects world music is to be immediately pleasing to the ears. I know of many cultures in which the struggle for daily existence leaves no room for the idle and time-consuming search for something which merely pleases the ears... I am certain that much of Bach’s music was specifically designed not to please the ear, but to satisfy the intellect and, to a certain extent, confuse the ear into feeling that the music was beyond the full appreciation of ordinary mortal man; appreciated and understood only by God, for whom it was written as an act of homage. Hence the emphasis on complex textures – polyphony and counterpoint – which cannot be properly grasped by any human ear in one sitting. Mozart is frequently proclaimed as the penner of beautiful tunes, audiences sit attentive in concert halls lapping up the gorgeous tunes of Johann Strauss, Berlioz is cited as a composer whose music is lovely to hear and people lap up the soothing tones of John Tavener and Arvo Pärt. But not one of them wrote music simply to please the ears of passive listeners. Mozart was writing for performers, aware that as often as not few people were actually listening to his music. Berlioz had profound and burning ideas to express, and stretched the bounds of what was acceptable in order to express them; more than any other composer before the 20thcentury he deliberately set out not to please the ear but to shock it. Strauss wrote his music to accompany dancing, while the music of both Tavener and Pärt is a manifestation of their deep religious convictions – music intended to express the inconceivable rather than titillate the conceived"

Toddler Fatally Shoots His Mother At Idaho Wal-Mart - "the 2-year-old boy, who was seated in a shopping cart, reached into his mother's handbag, found the loaded gun and shot her"

China: Beijing store 'bans Chinese customers' - "The store is embroiled in a racism row after posting a sign which reads: "Chinese not admitted, except for staff", the official Beijing Youth Daily reports. By way of explanation, one of the shop's employees tells the paper some Chinese customers are "too annoying" and that "Chinese women often try lots of clothes but end up buying nothing." The shop was also forced to pay a foreign customer $5,000 (£3,170) after his wallet was stolen, and surveillance camera footage showed a Chinese customer was responsible, the employee says. But another member of staff suggests the ban is actually to prevent rivals from copying the shop's clothing designs... a legal expert tells the Beijing Youth Daily that while the sign is discriminatory, the shop's owner hasn't broken the law because China doesn't have a legal ban on racial discrimination"

FactCheck: do black Americans commit more crime? - "Over the last three years of data – 2011 to 2013 – 38.5 per cent of people arrested for murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault were black. Clearly, these figures are problematic. We’re talking about arrests not convictions, and high black arrest rates could be taken as evidence that the police are racist. But academics have noted that the proportion of black suspects arrested by the police tends to match closely the proportion of offenders identified as black by victims in the National Crime Victimization Survey. This doesn’t support the idea that the police are unfairly discriminating against the black population when they make arrests."

Prolific lingerie thief uncovered when ceiling gave way under strain of hoard

OECD figures show public benefits more than individuals from tertiary education - "Australia bucks the international trend as one of only five OECD countries where the public profits at a higher rate than the individual. It ranks second out of 29 countries – behind only Britain – for the biggest benefit to the public, while in 24 countries the private rate of return outweighs or equals the public rate. Economist David Richardson from The Australia Institute says the OECD study "demolishes the claim" that higher education benefits individuals more than the public. "The rest of society does get a hell of a lot of benefit out of educated people," Richardson said. He said the OECD's analysis "only includes what governments can tax, which is a fairly narrow definition." For example, the report doesn't quantify the economic benefits of critical thinking skills, deeper civic engagement and better health. He cited a 2001 OECD study that found an additional year of education raised output per capita by an average of 4 to 7 per cent across OECD countries... For every public dollar put towards the cost of higher education, a man repays $6 through higher taxes and reduced unemployment benefits. By contrast, the man himself – who benefits personally from higher earnings and higher chances of employment – gets back only $3.20 for every dollar he pays for the cost of his education."

Psychologists Have Uncovered a Troubling Feature of People Who Seem Nice All the Time - "Those who are described as "agreeable, conscientious personalities" are more likely to follow orders and deliver electric shocks that they believe can harm innocent people, while "more contrarian, less agreeable personalities" are more likely to refuse to hurt others... People who were normally friendly followed orders because they didn't want to upset others, while those who were described as unfriendly stuck up for themselves."

Confucius institute: The hard side of China's soft power - "Last December the Canadian Association of University Teachers called on all universities currently hosting Confucius Institutes to cease doing so. And in June this year the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) made the same call to US universities. Confucius Institutes, the AAUP statement said, "function as an arm of the Chinese state" and "advance a state agenda in the recruitment and control of academic staff, the choice of curriculum, and in the restriction of debate".

Archie D'Cruz's answer to How does Emirates manage to rake in profits from their A380 flights operating to so many destinations? - Quora - "It is cost-efficient. All of the above ties in finally to a critical metric used in the airline industry, Cost per Available Seat Kilometre (CASK)... Emirates has a low CASK compared to major world airlines. Why?
Newer, fuel-efficient aircraft means less is spent on this critical component. (Fuel is 39% of Emirates' cost base).
Lower maintenance costs since the fleet is relatively young.
Lower labour costs than in North America and Europe because Dubai has no income taxes and attracts workers from the Indian subcontinent, the Philippines and other countries where wages are generally low.
Wide-bodied aircraft means more seats available to generate income.
Long-range aircraft means more kilometres flown per passenger. The cost of producing a seat-kilometre falls as average sector length increases since the fixed costs are amortised over more seat-kms and variable costs such as fuel are more efficiently consumed in longer flights.
Lower taxes than what North American/European airlines must pay."

Ayn Rand Reviews Children’s Movies - "“Mary Poppins”
A woman takes a job with a wealthy family without asking for money in exchange for her services. An absurd premise. Later, her employer leaves a lucrative career in banking in order to play a children’s game. —No stars."

Of $5.4 billion pledged for Gaza, only a fraction delivered - ""The Arab countries haven't paid anything until now," Mufeed al-Hasayna, the Palestinian housing minister, said this month. "The Europeans just a few millions, maybe something from the Swedes." It was not clear what happened to promises of $200 million from each of Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. In part, officials said, the problem is that it always takes time for donors to follow through on their commitments."
Muslim solidarity!
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