"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Links - 22nd September 2016

G20 'honey trap' warning: Fears Prime Minister's officials will be seduced by Chinese spies and have hotel rooms bugged - "Officials travelling with Mrs May have been issued with temporary mobile phones and email addresses in an attempt to evade Chinese state hackers. Security advisers are also warning staff not to keep gifts they receive and to be particularly wary of electronic devices, such as free computer memory sticks, mobile phone SIM cards or chargers which they are offered by their Chinese hosts. One Whitehall source said security chiefs had warned them that hotel rooms used during the summit were likely to be bugged. “We have been told that if you feel uncomfortable about people seeing you naked, you should get changed under your bedclothes,” the source said... During Mr Brown’s visit to China in 2008, one of the No 10 officials accompanying the then Prime Minister reportedly fell prey to a “beautiful” female Chinese spy. She went back to his hotel room, drugged him, stole his mobile phone and documents from his briefcase... The No 10 team was “accosted on one side by a beautiful posse of Chinese girls and on the other side by an equivalent group of Russian blondes”

Letter gets there by hand-drawn map - "Rebecca Cathrine Kaadu Ostenfeld was reportedly surprised when a letter was delivered to the horse farm where she lives with her husband and three children near Búðardalur in the west of Iceland. Instead of a postal address or a recipient's name, the sender had drawn a map of where they believed the farm to be, together with the following, in English: "Country: Iceland. City: Búðardalur. Name: A horse farm with an Icelandic/Danish couple and three kids and a lot of sheep!" The sender had also added a further clue to the intended recipient: "the Danish woman works in a supermarket in Búðardalur." The letter had been written and sent from the Icelandic capital Reykjavík by a tourist who had stayed at the farm but who obviously did not know the address. And, extraordinarily, it arrived at the right place"

A world without mosquitoes - "scientists acknowledge that the ecological scar left by a missing mosquito would heal quickly as the niche was filled by other organisms. Life would continue as before — or even better. When it comes to the major disease vectors, "it's difficult to see what the downside would be to removal, except for collateral damage", says insect ecologist Steven Juliano, of Illinois State University in Normal. A world without mosquitoes would be "more secure for us", says medical entomologist Carlos Brisola Marcondes from the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Brazil. "The elimination of Anopheles would be very significant for mankind"... Ultimately, there seem to be few things that mosquitoes do that other organisms can't do just as well — except perhaps for one. They are lethally efficient at sucking blood from one individual and mainlining it into another, providing an ideal route for the spread of pathogenic microbes."

Shoes speak louder than skills in London's City: Report - ""Opaque" dress codes practised by those from more formal backgrounds are being used to judge candidates, with brown shoes a fashion faux-pas that many from poorer backgrounds may not be aware of, said the study. "Managers often select candidates for client-facing jobs who fit the traditional image of an investment banker and display polish," it said. "For example, some senior investment bankers still deem it unacceptable for men to wear brown shoes with a business suit"... 'see that tie you're wearing? It's too loud. You can't wear that tie with the suit that you're wearing'"
Women aren't the only ones to be judged by what they wear

Why this radical activist is disillusioned by the toxic culture of the left - "I’m tired of watching people turn into pretentious assholes who think their activism makes them better than everyone else, even the oppressed and marginalised groups with whom they claim “allyship”... [The real oppressed] don't bother with policing their language and worrying about how their words might unintentionally perpetuate certain stereotypes. They are more concerned with their voices being heard. Yet I witness so many “activists” who ignore the realities of oppression despite saying that they care about those at the bottom of society. They think that being offended by something is equal to experiencing prison time or living on the streets. They talk about listening, being humble and not having preconceptions. Yet they ignore the lived experiences of those who don’t speak or think properly in the view of university-educated social justice warriors... I've witnessed incidents where people have lost their jobs because of mistakes they've made in the eyes of left-wing activists. I've seen relationships and friendships destroyed. I've known people who have been banned from participating in certain places, and become so alienated from “the community” that they are afraid to go out in public at all. This has caused serious mental distress to people I've worked alongside, and has even resulted in suicide. Social "justice" indeed. These incidents tend to happen over allegations that rest on each person's word. Yet only one party is allowed to tell their story, while the other one is told to sit down, shut up, and accept the potentially life-destroying consequences. And if anyone tries to step in or question how things are being done, they are immediately silenced and threatened with the same fate if they don't comply... As Noam Chomsky put it: “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” We have the right to challenge other people's speech, but what many people are seeing is the shutting off of dialogue entirely for the purpose of “safety”. What could possibly be safe about censorship? What could possibly be safe about a group of people who claim to be freedom fighters dictating who can speak and what can be said, based on whether or not we agree with them? Study any kind of history and you will find that censorship has never been on the right side of it. The world is not a safe place. It is extremely dangerous, flawed, full of bloodshed and corruption. By sheltering ourselves from its harshness we are doing nothing meaningful to change it"

European churches say growing flock of Muslim refugees are converting - "Johannes, another Iranian, left Tehran for Vienna. Born into a Muslim family, the 32-year-old – who was previously called Sadegh – began questioning the roots of Islam at university. “I found that the history of Islam was completely different from what we were taught at school. Maybe, I thought, it was a religion that began with violence? “A religion that began with violence cannot lead people to freedom and love. Jesus Christ said ‘those who use the sword will die by the sword’. This really changed my mind”... the Austrian bishops’ conference published new guidelines for priests, warning that some refugees may seek baptism in the hope of improving their chances of obtaining asylum... “We still try our best to serve people. Jesus Christ knew Judas was going to betray him but he still washed his feet. Thank God it is not my job to judge them.”"

Paris Attacks Highlight Jihadists’ Easy Path Between Europe and ISIS Territory - The New York Times - "One of the militants in the Paris attacks traveled to Syria from his hometown in France and back, officials said, even after his passport had been confiscated and he had been placed under judicial oversight. So did another, despite having been arrested eight times in petty crimes and having been listed as a national security risk in France. Even the man suspected of organizing the massacre on Friday, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a well-known figure in the Belgian jihadist scene, is believed to have traveled between Islamic State-controlled territory and Europe a number of times — including for an attack plot in Belgium in January... More British Muslims have joined the Islamic State — about 750 — than are currently enrolled in the British armed forces, according to Shiraz Maher, a senior research fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College London, who has been monitoring the social media accounts of Western jihadists over the past two years. The Islamic State, he said, “has mobilized the largest volunteer army of Sunni fighters in recent history”... Not all volunteer fighters returning from conflict become terrorists. Some academic research suggests that one in 10 do, while other sources say the ratio is as high as one in four. Either way, the end result is a terrorist threat expanding at a rate that alarms security experts... The biggest challenge, counterterrorism experts and officials said, was not so much identifying those who represent a potential threat, but knowing whom to put under the tightest surveillance. In France alone, about 3,000 people are considered potential threats, officials said."

Brutality of life in Saudi Arabia exposed: Woman who killed stepdaughter screams "I did not do it" as she is beheaded in street - "Saudi Arabia Uncovered aims to reveal the hidden reality inside one of the world's most secretive and strict Islamic regimes and questions Britain's relationship with the country. In one particularly shocking scene in ITV's Exposure documentary, a woman is pinned down at the side of a public road by four Saudi officers and executed after she has been convicted of killing her stepdaughter. The policeman pins her down and decapitates her with a sword after she screams, 'I did not do it'. In another beheading scene the executioner, dressed in white robes, raises the sword above his head and brings it down in just one sweep. So far this year the country has been executing people at a rate of one per day. In the Saudi capital of Riyadh, viewers are introduced to a large public space nicknamed Chop Chop Square because so many people are executed there. The drainage system is stained red from the blood spilt in the square... Women are considered to be second-class citizens and police beating women is the norm. In one scene a male supermarket customer violently pushes a woman to the floor for no reason and walks past her. Another gruesome scene shows five bodies hanging from a pole that is suspended between two cranes. It serves as a public reminder to those who might consider turning to crime. The gang of five robbers were publicly beheaded before their corpses were strung up in public for days. In Saudi Arabia, blasphemy is punishable by stoning or execution and theft by amputation. If anyone is found guilty of insulting Islam they face 10 years in prison or 1,000 lashes."
Saudi Arabia has nothing to do with Islam

What is the food than can really improve your eyesight? - "They found that boosting the diet with the three macular pigments - lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin - led to significant improvements in the protection of the delicate macula, as well as improved eyesight."

Is love colour blind? Mixed race couples tackle challenges - "Indian Catholic Martin Silva, 41, proposed to Esther Low, 40, a Chinese Buddhist, after dating for three years. They are now planning for their wedding in 2017... While they have agreed on a church wedding, said Martin: “We haven’t decided on this gate crashing thing, this Chinese custom - the groom goes over and picks the wife up. I’ve believed all these years that seeing the bride before getting to church is like bad luck. So that is what we both are discussing. She really, really wants it.”
Chinese Catholics don't have a problem, apparently

Apostasy in Singapore, Reza Aslan's Moderate South East Asia, and Sally Kohn's Laughable Tweet (A Conversation) - "If you are born a Muslim in Singapore then you are put into the Muslim registry. We have a system called the Faraid which is about inheritance law. If your name is not in Faraid (which happens when you legally apostatize) then you can't do anything if a Muslim relative contests the will. Since you're not in the registry you don't exist, you're a persona non grata... Marriage, by the way, is not done through a civil court. It's done through the Muslim marriage registry. So Muslims get a separate registry called the Registry of Muslim Marriages. Imagine then if a Muslim couple doesn't want to believe anymore and decides to nullify their Muslim status, then their marriage also gets nullified and they have to go through another process to be registered as a married couple under the Registry of Marriages... a lot of people here decry Donald Trumps Muslim registry, but they are themselves part of a registry in Singapore... If I say to a Muslim, "in Islam, apostasy means death." Then they might say, "well that's offensive, you're taking the Quran out of context." I'm not taking it out of context! It's right there you can read it yourself! Quran 4:89... recently there is a rise in identity politics which has made it difficult for people who call themselves liberals to understand what they are fighting for. They talk about Muslims as if Muslims are one homogenous group -- and Muslims reformists are trying to get away from that mentality. They're trying to promote being able to practice Islam in their own ways. Promoting being able to apostatize and even criticize Islam. But as you know, a lot of these liberals think any criticism of Islam is Islamophobia... I've been called Islamophobic more than once. I've been told, "you just wanna be a white person on the inside." And I say, "Well, maybe I'm transracial. Maybe I'm white on the inside? Are you going to criticize me for that? Race is a social construct. I'm race fluid." (Laughter) Sometimes you just have run along with their logic to make them realize how ridiculous they are... When Muslims talk about modesty culture that's pretty much what they're talking about. It's the idea that if you cover up you're morally superior to someone that doesn't cover up. That to me is slut shaming. In the west, it would be called slut shaming. You look at a woman who is dressed "provocatively" and you call her a slut, to a Muslim mindset, provocative just means showing your hair. But when a Muslim does it it's not slut shaming? It's essentially the same thing."

Stuart Jeffries on the revival of the exclamation mark - "why did Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! get its enviable name? The Commission de Toponymie de Québec says that Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! is so named because in olden times "le haha" in French meant an impasse, and that there was just such an unexpected obstacle blocking a waterway near the site of the future town. Eighteenth- and 19th-century canoeists paddling down the local river came across such a haha, then had to get out of their canoes and take a vexing 80km detour. Hence the town's name... In the ninth book of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, Eric, one of the characters insists that "Multiple exclamation marks are a sure sign of a diseased mind"... Carol Waseleski's unexpectedly diverting paper, Gender and the Use of Exclamation Points in Computer-Mediated Communication, found that women used more exclamation marks than men. But why was this? Are women more excitable? Some theorists (notably D Rubin and K Greene in their paper Gender-Typical Style in Written Language) had argued that the exclamation mark was often a sign of excitability, and that "a high frequency of exclamation points can be regarded as sort of an orthographic intensifier signalling 'I really mean this!'" They also argued that this might convey the writer's lack of stature; that, in fact, a confident person (read: man) could "affirm their views by simply asserting them"... Waseleski found otherwise. She concluded that exclamation marks were not just marks of excitability but of friendliness, and suggested that one reason women use them more than men is because they were, as a gender, less likely to be socially inept, funless egotists - which isn't quite how she put it... George Orwell once purged A Clergyman's Daughter of the semi-colons, arguing they were unnecessary."
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