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Monday, February 16, 2015

Links - 16th February 2015

Charlie Hebdo: Why Islam, Again? - "Eller denies that all religion is “inherently” violent. Nonetheless, he recognizes monotheism’s tendency toward a dualistic, good versus evil, attitude that not only “builds conflict into the very fabric of the cosmic system” by crafting two “irrevocably antagonistic” domains “with the ever-present potential for actual conflict and violence,” but also “breeds and demands a fervor of belief that makes persecution seem necessary and valuable”... polytheists “have the flexibility of compartmentalizing the divine” and to “place responsibility for … repugnant actions on certain deities, and thus to marginalize them”... Stark assembled a list of all religious atrocities that occurred during 2012. In order to qualify, each attack had to be religiously motivated and result in at least one fatality. Attacks committed by government forces were excluded. In the process, Stark’s team “became deeply concerned that nearly all of the cases we were finding involved Muslim attackers, and the rest were Buddhists.” In the end, they discovered only three Christian assaults—all “reprisals for Muslim attacks on Christians”... present-day religious terrorism almost always occurs within Islam... According to Stark, “it is incorrect to claim that the support of religious terrorism in the Islamic world is only among small, unrepresentative cells of extremists.” In fact, recent polling data tends to demonstrate “more widespread public support than many have believed”... a clear majority in 10 Muslim countries—and a two-thirds supermajority in five—want Shari’a to be the exclusive source of legislation"

At this Zhengzhou restaurant, good-looking people eat free - "Customers going for the free meals have to scan their face, an image of which is then sent to a team of "specialists" who judge their mugs, based a detailed scoring rubric, as the patrons dine. The top five good-looking folk who have achieved the highest scores in 30 minutes will be offered a meal for free."

Chongqing restaurant offers free meals to overweight people - "The more the men weigh, the higher the discount they get, and if a male customer weighs over 140 kilograms (308 lbs), his meal is free, CRI reports. Meanwhile, females get higher discounts for weighing less because this restaurant and this whole goddamn system are bullshit. Any female weighing less than 34.5 kilos (76 lbs) also gets her meal on the house. A restaurant in Shanghai offers a similar discount but based on height. Taller customers enjoy discounted foods."

Sharpening Contradictions: Why al-Qaeda attacked Satirists in Paris - "The problem for a terrorist group like al-Qaeda is that its recruitment pool is Muslims, but most Muslims are not interested in terrorism... Al-Qaeda wants to mentally colonize French Muslims, but faces a wall of disinterest. But if it can get non-Muslim French to be beastly to ethnic Muslims on the grounds that they are Muslims, it can start creating a common political identity around grievance against discrimination. This tactic is similar to the one used by Stalinists in the early 20th century... For the unscrupulous among Bolsheviks–who would later be Stalinists– the fact that most students and workers don’t want to overthrow the business class is inconvenient, and so it seemed desirable to some of them to “sharpen the contradictions” between labor and capital."

7 Realizations That Convinced Me Not To Have Children

Veteran Dario Raschio takes on anti-cop protesters at Portland medal ceremony - "A senator's town hall meeting in Portland, Oregon was called off early on Saturday after anti-police and minimum-wage-hike protesters shouted down a 100-year-old U.S. Navy veteran's medal ceremony... Campus public safety officers attempted to keep some of the protesters outside the building at Portland Community College, drawing threats from one of them. 'I'll bust your jaw, old man!' he shouted in an exchange caught on video. Another argued with security, who asked if there was 'a possible way that we could get on with the meeting.' 'No,' she said. 'We're taking over the town hall. This is our town hall now. ... it belongs to the black people.'"

Just Not Said: Yellow privilege - "The greatest injustice in this country right now is the unearned advantage that Asian-Americans enjoy simply by virtue of their skin color... Asian-Americans enjoy other privileges as well: they do better on SAT's (in 2013, it was 1641 vs. 1578). They have more stable marriages (22% of Asian women, vs. 40% of white women, are divorced from their first marriages). They get more education (31% of Asians graduate from college, vs. 21% of whites)... There's only one way to account for this: yellow privilege. The way yellow people walk around not realizing what unearned privileges they enjoy is enough to drive anyone crazy. Asians have an invisible package of unearned assets that they can count on to cash in every single day of their privileged lives. They may not see themselves as the oppressors in a damaged culture, but this just makes it all the worse... How did Asians come by these unearned privileges? By oppressing whites. Teachers obviously discriminate against whites, as does the Educational Testing Service. It has to be obvious to any right-thinking person that standardized tests have been rigged to discriminate against whites."

Sex changes are not effective, say researchers - "There is no conclusive evidence that sex change operations improve the lives of transsexuals, with many people remaining severely distressed and even suicidal after the operation... Research from the US and Holland suggests that up to a fifth of patients regret changing sex. A 1998 review by the Research and Development Directorate of the NHS Executive found attempted suicide rates of up to 18% noted in some medical studies of gender reassignment... Mr Bellringer, who works at the main NHS gender identity clinic at Charing Cross hospital in west London, said: "I don't think that any research that denied transsexual patients treatment would get past an ethics committee. There's no other treatment that works. You either have an operation or suffer a miserable life. A fifth of those who don't get treatment commit suicide.""
18% is curiously close to a fifth

Electricity Revives Bali Coral Reefs - "The coral is thriving on dozens of metal structures submerged in the bay and fed by cables that send low-voltage electricity, which conservationists say is reviving it and spurring the growth"

Local halal exports hit wall in Middle East - "Thai halal food exports had been banned in the United Arab Emirates because the halal certification appeared on "nonsense" products... "Many goods were certified halal, despite it not being necessary. The problem has led to a misunderstanding by consumers," he said. "For instance, drinking water and salt exported from Thailand has been certified as halal, even though it was not necessary at all.""
Keywords: UAE, Dubai, suspended, The Nation, 2006, June

15 nudists' nationalities identified - "Seven out of 18 nudists who were recorded on video frolicking in Pantai Kerachut near Teluk Bahang here in May were Malaysians... Southwest district police chief Superintendent Lai Fah Hin has vowed to leave no stones unturned in investigating the group, as a video of them frolicking in the nude on Teluk Kampi beach went viral on the Internet. Police had taken DNA samples and finger prints from a house the nudists were believed to have stayed in. A team of 10 personnel from the districts' forensic unit had started combing for evidence at several spots where the nudists were believed to have hung out... Police have classified the case as gestures intended to insult the modesty of a person"

One Theory of Marriage and Kids: 'Very Cute in the Abstract' - ""For men, yeah, being married makes you happier, and the good news is, it doesn't matter at all who you're married to. It could be like a mail-order bride from Russia—does not matter at all"... For women, happiness fluctuates significantly based on the quality of their marriages... "What else do we think makes us happy but really doesn’t? Children," said Sanderson, the mother of three kids who must have been raised with excellent dinner-table banter. "Children are very cute in the abstract," she said. "In the abstract, they’re much easier—like, they’re much quieter. The idea of children is very appealing. But the reality is, if you ask people who have children, especially young children, life consists of chores they don’t really like doing." And they're damned expensive. "Has anyone here looked at their children and said, 'If I didn’t have you, I’d have a vacation home?'" she asked the room. Sanderson's solution to finding satisfaction as a wife and mother? "My husband and I have been married 20 years, and the secret to our marriage is as followed: We have three kids, and we have a dog. We decided several years ago that if one person left the other one, the person who left would have to take all three kids, and the person who didn’t leave would get the dog," she said."

Sleep loss from Gaza rockets also harmful: study - "being jolted awake several times a night may be as physically detrimental as getting no sleep at all. The study, according to lead researcher Prof. Avi Sadeh of Tel Aviv University’s School of Psychological Sciences, “demonstrates that induced night wakings, in otherwise normal individuals, clearly lead to compromised attention and negative mood.”

Photographs as Weapons of War in the Middle East - "He painstakingly reviewed the evidence and concluded that perhaps the single most iconic anti-Israel image did not in fact document an Israeli action at all. Muhamed al-Dura was, we were told, the name of a 12-year-old Palestinian boy shot dead by Israeli soldiers, as he crouched against a concrete wall beside his helpless father. This image still defines the conflict for millions in the Muslim world. It was cited by Osama bin Laden as justification for his crimes... 'Hamas intimidated him, forcing him to leave Gaza, and how Hamas terrorists use a section of Shifa hospital, just a few meters from the emergency room, as their offices …. The next day, Mr. Dagga asked Libération to remove his article from their website, apparently out of fear for his family still in Gaza'... 'Many, including grisly images from the Qana tragedy, clearly are posed for maximum dramatic effect. There is an entire series of photos of children's stuffed toys poised atop mounds of rubble. All are miraculously pristinely clean and apparently untouched by the devastation they purportedly survived. (Reuters might want to check its freelancers' expenses for unexplained Toys R Us purchases.) In some cases, the bloggers seem to have uncovered the same photographer using more than one identity. There's an improbable photo by Hajj of a Koran burning atop the rubble of a building supposedly destroyed by an Israeli aircraft hours before. Nothing else in sight is alight. (With photos, as in life, when something seems too perfect to be true, it's almost always because it is.) In other photos, the same wrecked building is portrayed multiple times with the same older woman—one supposes she ought to be called a model—either lamenting its destruction or passing by in different costumes... What's hard to imagine is how anybody can look at the photos and not conclude that they're riddled with journalistic deceit.'"
"It's worth noting in this context that there is no similar flow of propagandistic images coming from the Israeli side of the border. That's because one side -- the democratically elected government of Israel -- views death as a tragedy and the other -- the Iranian financed terrorist organization Hezbollah -- sees it as an opportunity. In this case, turning their own dead children into material creates an opportunity to cloud the fact that every Lebanese casualty, tragic as he or she is, was killed or injured as an unavoidable consequence of Israel's pursuit of terrorists who use their own people as human shields. Every Israeli civilian killed or injured was the victim of a terrorist attack intended to harm civilians. That alone ought to wash away any blood-stained suggestion of moral equivalency. That brings us to the most troubling of the possible explanations for these fraudulent photos, which is that some of the photojournalists involved are either intimidated by or sympathetic to the Hezbollah terrorists"
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