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Friday, February 12, 2016

Links - February 12th 2016

Is it fair to blame the West for trouble in the Middle East? - "In his book A Fundamental Fear: Eurocentrism and the emergence of Islamism, Dr S. Sayyid describes five arguments that explain the spread of what is commonly called Islamic fundamentalism, Islamism or militant Islamism.
Islamism is a response to the failure of Arab leaders to deliver meaningful outcomes to their people.
Lacking opportunities for political participation, Arab citizens turned to mosques as public spaces for political discussion. As a result religion became the language of politics and of political change.
Post-colonialism also failed the Arab middle class, as the ruling elite continued to hold power and wealth.
Rapid economic growth in the emerging Gulf States increased the influence of conservative Muslim governments. At the same time, the expansion of the oil-based Gulf economy brought about uneven economic development, the response to which was growing support for Islamism as a mode of expression for internal grievances.
Finally, the spread of Islamism has also been due to the effects of cultural erosion and globalisation contributing to a Muslim identity crisis."

Does Italian surveillance tech firm Hacking Team sell spy software to Singapore’s IDA? - "It’s quite an embarrassing irony indeed for a company named “Hacking Team” to itself be hacked, but that’s exactly what happened to it over the weekend."

Why The Politics Of The 'Star Wars' Universe Makes No Sense - "One controversial conclusion Masket's political science background brings to Star Wars scholarship: that the Jedi knights may have been a destabilizing force who contributed to the downfall of the Old Republic. "They're also a really unusual aspect of a government. They clearly play some role in the Old Republic of enforcing peace; they're some sort of peace officers," said Masket, who jokingly compared the Jedi to the Taliban in Afghanistan. "They play a very weird and undemocratic role and they're secretive and they're religious and they don't seem to be subject to anybody else's rules other than their own.""

Male and female mice process pain differently, study finds - "Jonathan Fisher reports for Business Insider that in 2009, male bias in neuroscience "saw single-sex studies of male animals outnumbering those of females 5.5 to 1"."

What is the Difference Between Vanilla and French Vanilla? - "The difference between vanilla and French vanilla is more obvious in the fragrance industry than the ice cream industry. "French Vanilla" is often marketed as a fragrance unto itself, whereas a standard vanilla fragrance is commonly blended with other floral or fruity fragrances to create a pleasing hybrid scent for air fresheners and other odor-masking products. The French vanilla scent is generally sweet and slightly buttery, while a standard vanilla scent is more floral and subdued."

Cigarettes not illegal in Brunei but way law enforced only benefits smugglers - "It ought to be borne in mind that it is not against the law to smoke here in Brunei or anywhere else in the world, aside from Saudi Arabia (excluding the Western complexes), Bhutan (the sale of tobacco is banned) and Afghanistan (1998-2001)... If smokers are prevented from buying cigarettes at home or legally bringing them across the border they will do so illegally or buy them from a smuggler, with the result that many of the cigarettes bought in this way are counterfeit and more harmful to health because they are not subject to the same quality standards as the real thing. Furthermore, it is well known that excessive taxation of tobacco across the world has created a multibillion dollar international cigarette smuggling business that fuelsorganised crime and corruption, robs governments of needed tax money and spurs addiction to a deadly product. So profitable is the trade that tobacco is the world's most widely smuggled legal substance."
Cigarettes: Brunei's equivalent of Singapore's chewing gum

North Is Not Always Pointing Up – Orientation of Train Station Maps in Japan - "In Japan, maps in public places such as train station and street, are oriented to the direction you are physically facing it, instead of always pointing North at the upper edge of the map... every map in public area has to be customized by install location and orientation. Mass production of the same map layout becomes difficult. Furthermore, if some local business information or landmark in the area is outdated, it costs extra overhead to update all maps in that area... as taught in Japanese school, the first step of using a map is to first orient the North to the right direction. It is considered basic knowledge"

Do No-Fly Zones Work?

Freakonomics » Does “Early Education” Come Way Too Late? A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast - "KEARNEY: We find that kids who were pre-school age in places where they could watch Sesame Street were 14% less likely to fall behind when they got to elementary school. If we try and make a comparison of that number to what we see in the literature studying, for example, the Head Start program, our nation’s publicly funded pre-school program, the estimated effects on school performance are very similar.
Head Start is estimated to cost about $7,600 a year per kid. How about Sesame Street?
KEARNEY: This costs $5 a year per kid to produce... that effect is entirely driven by kids who grew up in counties with higher levels of economic disadvantage. So, I mean places that had higher levels of high school drop-out, had a higher rate of single-parent households, had lower household income on average — these were the kids that really saw a relative improvement in their school performance. The effect is largest for boys and African-Americans... We don’t find a persistent effect on ultimate educational completion or, looking further down the road, we don’t see that large of an effect on wages or employment. So, you could think of our finding — of a strong academic elementary school outcome but not much in the long run — as being consistent with this idea that Sesame Street wasn’t impactful on those non-cognitive skills that will show up later in employment outcomes, for example."

1 Reason McDonald's Coffee Will Never Match Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts - "Dunkin' Brands already serves that consumer segment better than McDonald's ever could. Despite its name, Dunkin' Donuts makes most of its money by selling coffee. In 2013, 57% of Dunkin' Donuts U.S. franchisee sales were derived from coffee and other beverages. Over the years, its locations have been transformed to efficiently deliver beverages and move people through the line as quickly as possible. Unlike Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts does not try to create a wonderful environment in which coffee drinkers can linger. Instead of spending money to spruce up its locations, Dunkin' Donuts passes the cost savings on to consumers in the form of lower coffee prices."

Fever Increases Numbers of Immune Cells

Jeans and flip-flops at work? Generations collide as dress codes relax

Spices: How The Search For Flavors Influenced Our World - "In the Middle Ages, spices were valued commodities, but not, as most people assume, for their ability to preserve meat. Rather, it was because medieval cuisine placed a premium on a variety of flavors. Spices were also thought to have medicinal properties, adding to their allure... Spices were more expensive than meat, and fresh meat was available, as suggested by extant records of municipal ordinances prohibiting butchers from throwing unwanted animal parts and blood in the streets. Medieval purchasers consumed meat much fresher than what the average city-dweller in the developed world of today has at hand. However, refrigeration was not available, and some hot spices have been shown to serve as an anti-bacterial agent. Salting, smoking or drying meat were other means of preservation... given the modern preference for spicy dishes, we can appreciate the medieval culinary aesthethic that emphasized color, ingenuity and a high degree of processing. Far from the idea of simply grilling meat, medieval food required chopping, molding, simmering and various steps including sauces or aspic... Spices faded from European cuisine not only because of changing tastes, but also because ancient medical ideas lost currency, more exciting drugs arrived from the New World, and the prevalence of opiates rose. Nonetheless, spices' eclipse in later centuries should not obscure their role as the basis for the first large-scale global economic network and the force behind the first expansion of Europe."

Gender gaps in performance: evidence from young lawyers - " The gender gap in earnings for the lawyers in our data is 20%. Half this gap can be explained by lawyers’ characteristics and the size of their firm: working for a large firm pays more. In the absence of performance indicators, the other half would be left unexplained, and the temptation might be to attribute this part to discrimination because there do not seem to be ‘observable’ differences between the lawyers. But accounting for performance differences, we can explain a large part of the other half. According to our analysis, maternity and aspirations generate performance differences between the sexes – and these have consequences for employees and the firms that hire them... Asked about how satisfied they are with their career progression and opportunities for advancement, the female lawyers in our sample were as satisfied, if not more satisfied, than their male counterparts. While levels of job satisfaction may be driven by a number of factors,they are important indicators of whether these highly skilled women feel fairly treated in the workplace"

Bully – and risk being bullied - "I looked at the protests about the show which basically centred on Mr Khong’s uncompromising public attitude towards those of a different sexual orientation. Like many, I wondered what his magic show had to do with his views, unless he chooses to use it as a platform to “convert’’ others to his point of view through some magical brainwashing technique. Or maybe his magic show is so bad that IKEA should be ashamed to support it... Actually, the LGBT lobby shot itself in the foot by talking about diversity. IKEA made a pointed reference to its support of the Wild Rice production of Public Enemy, helmed by a prominent gay man, Mr Ivan Heng. It looks as though IKEA had been rather even-handed in its choice of activities and organisations to support... IKEA incorporated Mr Khong’s magic show as part of its loyalty programme of discounted rates for members. That, it seems, is enough to rile the LGBT activists who show themselves to be as intolerant of other people’s views as they say other people are of theirs. Does the community intend to hound Mr Khong’s magic show wherever he goes – and will corporate sponsors pull back because they don’t want any heat from the vocal lobby? Will the lobby claim victory then, never mind that it acquires an image of being strident and, hmmm, intolerant? There’s another point which the community should consider. If the boot was on the other foot and the pro-traditional family lobby comes out in force to do the same, what would it do for its cause of getting the community recognized as part of the mainstream? What if, for example, the members of the lobby decide to boycott all the organisations who sponsor the annual Pink Dot? Would the LGBT lobby then start denouncing them as intolerant homophobes? Even worse, what if they start petitioning the civil service not to hire gays, because their employment runs contrary to the State’s pro-traditional family stance? In the case of IKEA, what if the pro-Lawrence Khong supporters and traditional family groups decide to boycott the store BECAUSE it sponsors Mr Heng’s play or pulls Mr Khong’s show?... there are many people who emphatise with the LGBT community and wish the members well. They are not anti-gay and go about their business quietly. Bullying tactics, however, will make them sit up and take sides. Might it not be better to let things happen naturally than start a culture war?"

How to Stop Being a Perfectionist | Nathalie Thompson - "In my experience, the problem with perfectionism is that if you never feel like you measure up to your own standards, you're constantly focused on negativity and always in a state of stress. Perfectionism can also lead to a habit of avoiding situations that could help you to expand your skills and accomplish your goals, if the fear of failure overshadows the desire for growth."

Giant statue of ex-Chinese leader Mao Zedong demolished - "It cited reports from unspecified media as saying the likeness of the man who ruled China with an iron grip for nearly three decades until his death in 1976 "was not registered or approved" by the local government."

When Ronald Reagan Embraced Gun Control - The New York Times - "Two years after he left office, Mr. Reagan surprised the nation by endorsing the proposed Brady Law that established federal background checks of firearm buyers for criminal records and histories of mental disturbance. The former president noted that the law was inspired by the case of Jim Brady, his devoted press secretary who was partially paralyzed by a gunshot wound to the head during the assassination attempt. “This nightmare might never have happened” if the Brady Law had been in effect, Mr. Reagan emphasized in an op-ed in The New York Times. His support was significant in the eventual passage of the law in 1993. No less important was Mr. Reagan’s endorsement in 1994 of the assault weapons ban that was a major attempt to deal with efforts by domestic arms makers to sell adapted weapons of war to civilian buyers in the name of sportsmanship... One lawmaker who dropped his opposition, Representative Michael Andrews, a Democrat and hunter from Texas, declared, “Anyone that needs a 20-round clip of high-velocity ammunition to fell a duck or deer needs to look into taking up golf.”"
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