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More adventurous than the average bear

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Friday, September 30, 2016

Links - 30th September 2016

A George Carlin Special Too Raw After Sept. 11 Resurfaces Now - The New York Times - "In “I Kinda Like It,” Mr. Carlin addressed mass killings in a way that seemed on the surface out of touch with the tragedy that followed. In a cavalier tone, he says that he enjoys news of disasters the way a sports fan raves about seeing breaking records. An earthquake, he says in an outer-borough accent, “put up some really big numbers,” adding that he’s “always rooting for a really high death toll.”.. “I watch television news for one thing only — entertainment,” he said in “Jammin’ in New York,” his 1992 special. “My favorite thing is accidents and fires. I’m not interested in the budget. You show me a hospital on fire and I’m a happy guy.” What Mr. Carlin is doing here is satirizing American blood lust, bringing to the surface the impulse that makes professional wrestling and crime stories so popular. As he put it more bluntly in 1992, “At least I admit it.”"

Mandatory music classes hit a bad note with some Muslim parents - "When music class begins this week at Toronto’s Donwood Park elementary school, Mohammad Nouman Dasu will send a family member to collect his three young children. They will go home for an hour rather than sing and play instruments – a mandatory part of the Ontario curriculum he believes violates his Muslim faith. The Scarborough school and the Toronto District School Board originally had offered an accommodation – suggesting students could just clap their hands in place of playing instruments or listen to acapella versions of O Canada – but not a full exemption from the class... “We here believe that music is haram [forbidden]. We can neither listen to it, nor can we play a role in it,” said the mosque’s imam, Kasim Ingar. Conceding that Muslims have to adjust when they send their kids to public school, he suggested that some matters, such as teaching music, are beyond debate. “We do not compromise with anyone on the clear-cut orders and principles conveyed by the Prophet,” said Mr. Ingar, who also leads the Scarborough Muslim Association."

Scott Mitchell releases surveillance video of ex-fiancee Mary Hunt beating herself up - "A millionaire has released video of his former fiancee hitting herself in the face during a temper tantrum to rubbish claims he abused her. Scott Mitchell, 45, has released the footage of Mary Hunt, 29, supposedly beating herself up as part of a tense legal battle. The businessman from Tampa Bay, Florida, has accused her of stealing $2.1million worth of jewelry from the safe in his sprawling mansion when they split last summer. Hunt has claimed Mitchell was violent towards her, giving her black eyes and bruises, before he broke off the wedding in August"

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, The Invention of Photography - "Hooker says that: this would be good for copying drawings of plants and no good for making an image of a plant that brings out what a botanist wants to know"

BBC World Service - The Food Chain, Plough Your Own Furrow? - "[On New Zealand being the only developed country with no subsidies for farmers]
'About 40% of our farmers' income was coming from subsidies back in those days. But the government couldn't afford to do that... It was a really difficult time for New Zealand... we probably lost, you know, 5% maybe of family farms. In those days we had 70 million sheep in New Zealand. And that was being armed on land that was not necessarily best place to be farming sheep. But it was being done because you were being paid to do it'
'And not necessarily because there's a market for the lamb that those sheep would yield'
'Absolutely. And so now we have half that number of sheep, but we produce almost the same amount of sheep meat because we've invested quite heavily in genetics.... bigger [animals], or what the market wanted. Back in those days when we had 70 million lambs, they were small. And there was a lot of sheep that people didn't wanna buy. They didn't want a small leg for a Sunday roast'
'Do you think the change away from subsidies brought about more of an entrepreneurial streak in farmers?'
'Absolutely. We can see that today... dairy prices are terrible. All across the world at the moment. Some of our dairy guys are looking at raising a little bit of beef from the dairy herd as well, because beef prices in the United States have been very good for us. So it's made us kinda think about what we produce. And I look sometimes at what comes out of Europe and the response to poor dairy prices has been let's look at export credits'"

BBC World Service - The Food Chain, Fertile Food - "Where does all this go? Do we end up in a situation where people have no responsibility over what they eat? They don't take responsibility for eating a healthy diet anymore. If we go down this path of fortifying with all the things that governments and scientists say we must have"

BBC World Service - The Food Chain, Survival Stories: Lost in the Desert - "It's the way that the plants naturally defends itself from other animals and insects. But some of these compounds are very toxic to us. Now there's nothing in nature which is sweet which is harmful for us. If you taste a leaf or a root or a tuber and it tastes vaguely sweet, then that's nature's way of saying that's safe to eat. But if it tastes very bitter that's an indication that it's toxic"

BBC World Service - The Food Chain, Survival Stories: Fish bacon for breakfast - "You actually excrete quite a dilute solution of electrolytes in your urine. And by drinking that again you would be supplying your body with some water. But of course when you're dehydrated the body is very good at adapting to concentrate your urine even further so the next lot of urine he would've produced would've been even more concentrated and that wouldn't have been good to drink. You'd be putting back too many salts into your body. So you could drink your own urine for about the first day of the survival but after that it becomes too concentrated"

Episode 39: The Malayan Dream - "Having been crushed in the Hong Lim by-election, Lee Kuan Yew cast about for a way to restore his authority and win the next election without conceding any of his power, especially to the party’s left wing. He floated a variety of schemes, including deliberately creating a bad situation, then resigning so that a successor government would be doomed to fail, thus forcing people to accept his return on his terms. This is totally true, he actually discussed doing this. It really shows how he placed himself above his country... UMNO politicians, thus insisted that the Chinese had assimilate into their definition of “Malay” identity, of which a core tenet was accepting Malay political dominance. Specifically, UMNO political dominance. Hence the central paradox confronting Singapore’s Chinese: The reasons which made them eager to reunify were the same reasons conservative Federation leaders could not countenance their participation in Malayan politics. Singapore’s Chinese saw themselves as loyal Malayans and were eager to participate in the politics of Malaya, to help form the future of Malaya - but progressive ideals and aspirations to equality and their formulation of a non-ethnic Malayan identity would have been fatal to the conservative Alliance coalition. Ironically, if Singapore’s Chinese had been less enthusiastic, more apathetic about politics, then maybe the UMNO leaders would have been more willing to accept them, knowing that they then would pose less of a political threat. Conversely, any concession to the UMNO vision of Malayan identity by the Chinese would mean the Chinese accepting a subordinate existence in Malaya. This was little different from their current colonial existence, so they would never agree to it."

Rationally Speaking | Official Podcast of New York City Skeptics - Current Episodes - RS 162 - Sean Carroll on "Poetic Naturalism" - "If you want to say that there are tables and chairs, even though the would is made out of fermions and bosons and quantum wave functions at the deepest level, there's no real conceptual difference between saying that tables and chairs are real and saying that consciousness and free will are real. They're all higher-level ways of talking about reality in an emergent way, organizing the world at a higher level than the fundamental stuff... they really want morality to be objective and they almost inevitably admit it. If you talk to them, they almost inevitably say, "If you don't believe morality is objective, then bad consequences follow," and instead of saying, "Therefore I have a cognitive bias and should be suspicious of it," they say, "Therefore it's true"... I'm not sure that it matters, the answer to the question of whether or not these constructed moral guidelines are real or false... In some sense, they're obviously real. We constructed them, we have them, and we use them. They're real, they're exactly as real as the rules of chess are real. You cannot derive the rules of chess from the laws of physics or the laws of biology or anything like that, but we wrote them down and we agree on them and they're there. They're kind of real so they're not objective, but they're real."

The Great Fire of London | Podcast | History Extra - "I grew up with this belief that: oh it's only 6 or 7 people who died in the Great Fire of London. And you start to look into this for a moment and you realise that's complete and utter rubbish. In a serious fire of this nature there was no possibility that a small handful of handful could've died. I mean it's absolutely impossible to know what the death toll was. I put it at 100s if not 1000s. The reason why we have such sketchy records: this goes for everything else at the time as well, is for all these people who were poor, who were illiterate, who have no means of communicating their presence in England, and those would've been the worst affected by the fire, if they'd been burnt to death they'd have nobody would have come forward and said: my son, my wife, my mother has been killed by the fire. And have it last in any public sphere. So essentially we have all these people who would've died and the fire would've been so hot they would have been completely wiped from the world. I mean there'd have been no bones left, absolutely nothing...
[On anti-French in addition to anti-Catholic sentiment] you had these people who were coming to England. They were dressed very flamboyantly. They carried themselves with great airs and great dignity. So in fact one of the common insults of the day was to call somebody a French dog. And you have to imagine that the French were always seen as people who, because they dressed well, they ate well, they were seen as Other. And I think that especially people who hadn't been exposed to this sort of thing before saw them and thought: you must be in league with the Devil"

BBC World Service - The World This Week, 'Once again, horror has struck France' - "How strong is China's claim to the South China Sea? I mean obviously it goes back centuries doesn't it? But so too does Vietnam argue that it's belonged to them since, say, the 17th century.
'Exactly. The historic argument was totally trashed by the ruling because the ruling said okay. Chinese ancestors have sailed around the area. So have people from other nations. So really you cannot claim exclusive rights to the South China Sea, such a vast area'...
'When China was really thinking about this in the 1930s, it really began to think about the island chains. Obviously Vietnam was occupied by France, Philippines was an American colony and Britain was the colonial power in Malaysia and Hong Kong. And so they saw the claims to the islands that were made then by France and Britain as imperial claims. Whereas those imperial claims are now gone and these are now independent countries but they still look at them with the the same mindset rather than seeing this as a shared sea. There's a mosque in Guangzhou which was built in the 8th century by traders that came from the Middle East. Muslims that came. The ships that you see in traditional Chinese illustrations had design features that came from the Malay World. This has always been a place of exchange. The problem is that China has developed this narrative that they were the exclusive users of the sea. Whereas it's always been a shared sea. And that really should be its future'
'I suppose we shouldn't forget that this is an area that matters to all of us. Because as you've been suggesting, it's a route for trade, it's used for fishing and there could be natural resources there'
'I think the big figure is 5 trillion dollars of trade goes through it'"

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent, Paint on the Cream Cake - "It's hard to find the truth, and even trying to look for it isn't always appreciated. One British journalist here, who appears to me to have provided much coverage that is nuanced and well-reported was singled out by critical Ethiopian voices as being a government lackey. A slanderous online blog post appeared, illustrated with a photo of him having a beer and a cigarette. Intended, I assume, to smear him as a morally dubious character. It reminded me how in Ethiopia, you're usually presumed to be either with the government or against it. There can be no middle ground. There's a pervasive inability to deal with criticism. Or to genuinely consider that there could be anything in the other's position. The longer I've spent in this country, the more this has appeared an almost endemic psychological flaw in the Ethiopian psyche. Make any criticism at all, especially as a foreigner, and immediately you collide with the mindset associated with the 1896 Battle of Adwa which repulsed would-be invaders from Italy. Fierce unity in the face of an enemy and total unwavering defensiveness of of Ethiopia. Sometimes that attitude is even applied to protestors... one man told me better a couple of hundred deaths now than a thousand if the government lost control and there was anarchy."
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