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Valar Qringaomis

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Friday, March 04, 2016

Links - 4th March 2016

Nato commander: Isis ‘spreading like cancer’ among refugees - "In testimony to the Senate armed services committee, US general Philip Breedlove said that the Islamic State terror group is “spreading like a cancer” among refugees. The group’s members are “taking advantage of paths of least resistance, threatening European nations and our own”, he added. Breedlove also blamed Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria, in support of autocratic leader Bashar al-Assad, for having “wildly exacerbated the problem”. The airstrikes, nominally against Isis but largely against the various rebel groups arrayed against Assad, have allegedly killed more than 1,000 civilians, including children. Breedlove said these indiscriminate attacks mean to terrorize Syrians and “get them on the road” toward neighboring countries and Europe. The Kremlin and Assad intend, according to Breedlove, to use migration as a weapon to weaken European unity and infrastructure... Breedlove distinguished between “criminality, terrorist and foreign fighters”, and said that he has seen news reports saying as many as 1,500 fighters have returned to Europe. “I’m not going to talk to you about intelligence,” he said at a news conference, adding that “many [countries] are saying they see planning happening” for a terrorist attack... European leaders have been sharply divided about whether to continue accepting refugees, especially after high-profile incidents including sexual assaults in Germany, the destruction of refugee camps in France and the identification of war criminals in the Netherlands."
"It is better that one citizen dies in a terror attack than that 100 migrants suffer"; You don't need an army to destroy Europe - just a horde of migrants
Keywords: blackstone, 1000 refugees, 10000 refugees, 100000 refugees


Dutch find 30 suspected war criminals among last year's refugee wave - "Under the Geneva Convention, refugees can be refused asylum “when serious grounds exist to believe that they are guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, or other non-political serious crimes”, Dijkhoff said. But 20 of them could not be sent back because of ongoing wars or fears of inhumane treatment. A similar Dutch investigation in 2014 identified 50 war crimes suspects, even though the number of refugees reaching the country was much lower."

Are the Syrian Refugees All ‘Young, Strong Men’? - "For men and women, the bulk of refugees (a little under a quarter each) are between the age of 18 and 59. In Europe, over 800,000 migrants have traveled to Europe by sea in 2015, according to the United Nations refugee agency, and a little over half have come from Syria. About 62% of all migrants that have traveled to Europe this year, however, are men. A little under a quarter, 22%, are children and only 16% are women. The New York Times reported in October the mass exodus of men to parts of Europe could cause problems in both the countries they leave and the countries they enter. The head of the International Organization for Migration in Turkey told the Times: “We know on the positive side that migration can boost economies and trade and lead to cultural exchange … But if it is mismanaged, it becomes a problem for both the receiving states and the countries left behind.”"

Europe's Syrian Refugees -- Why So Many Are Men - "If many of these male migrants are simply traveling alone to spare families they intend to bring to Europe later, it may alleviate one major concern raised by some of the most fervent critics of this population shift, who have bluntly warned of a “Muslim invasion” of fighting-age men into Europe. But a future influx of families could cause another problem, as Zellenberg notes. Europe is already struggling to deal with the financial burden caused by today’s newcomers, who are pouring across European borders at levels not seen since World War II. If the majority of these men plan to bring families later, the current numbers are totally off. Multiply it by four or more, he says."

BBC World Service - The Documentary, Eleanor Roosevelt - "Eleanor's... mother, Anna, seemed to regard her daughter as something of a letdown... 'She told her that she was her greatest embarrassment, that she would end up living in an attic, an old maid because she was so ugly no man would want her'"

BBC Radio 4 - In Our Time, The Empire of Mali - "It's difficult to say exactly why people took up Islam. It had a certain appeal as a religion with writing. Arabic was the language used by the Berber traders and it was a written language... it also has a quite established set of rules for trading and for fair contracts which would make it appealing for merchants possibly"

Freakonomics » The True Story of the Gender Pay Gap: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast - "GOLDIN: I always say that I do not live in a data vacuum. I find it very hard to breathe in a data vacuum... men and women are significantly more alike in terms of how firms and employers would look at them and how they look at themselves... what we do try to do is hold everything constant that we can hold, get the best data that we can get. And what remains we don’t call discrimination, we call wage discrimination. Discrimination is such a loaded word that we don’t want to use that, so we use quotes around “wage discrimination”... we don’t have tons of evidence that it’s true discrimination... men tend to work somewhat harder. And I know that there are many who have done many experiments on the fact that women don’t necessarily like competition as much as men do — they value temporal flexibility, men value income growth — that there are various differences... [the mommy tax is] a very large factor. That anything that leads you to want to have more time is going to be a large factor.
Maybe some feminists will try and femsplain her

Freakonomics » How to Be Less Terrible at Predicting the Future: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast - "TETLOCK: They’re less likely than ordinary people, regular mortals, to believe in fate, or destiny. And they’re more likely to believe in chance. You roll enough dice enough times and improbable coincidences will occur. Our lives are nothing but a quite improbable series of coincidences. Many people find that a somewhat demoralizing philosophy of life. They prefer to think that their lives have deeper meaning. They don’t like to think that the person to whom they’re married, they could have just as easily have wound up happy with 237,000 other people."

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent, The Smell of History - "I have seen too many remarkable moments of political change to believe any longer in new dawns. After all the jubilation in Myanmar over the extraordinary sight of Aung San Suu Kyi
being allowed to win an election, now the really hard work begins...
Last year's military coup in Thailand was welcomed by many people. Not just those grateful for an end to the months of political paralysis, but a significant number who believed that elected governments were no longer the answer. 3 months earlier some had even blocked an election there to prevent the party which had won 4 times previously from winning again. They'd taken the contempt for politicians you hear in so many countries to a new level by actually campaigning against democracy. 18 months later, Thailand is floundering... Driving through the streets of Kabul, you see one phrase displayed everywhere...
In English: Kabul, the City of Peace. Ironically, more often than not, it's painted on high walls with barbed wire and armed men standing next to it... then point out how dangerous the journey to Europe is. 'I'd rather die on the way there than in a suicide bombing here' he tells me"

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent, Turkey on Edge - "A popular Saudi actor was mobbed in a shopping mall by Saudi women trying to take selfies with him on their mobile telephones. That got him arrested for mingling with women unrelated to him. On social media, it prompted more than 100,000 responses on Twitter saying that decision was right...
This week police stormed an opposition TV channel live on air, taking it over along with its affiliate newspaper. 2 boys aged 12 and 14 who tore down an Erdogan poster have been arrested, 4 years in prison sought for their alleged crime. The government narrative is all about the terror that Turkey faces. Critics are labelled propagandists for terror. Officials now always couple the PKK with IS. They worked hand in hand, said the Prime Minister, for the Ankara bombing. No matter that they're sworn enemies and collaboration seems inconceivable. By linking them, the government can paint itself as the guarantor of stability, pushing voters to rally behind it, to regain the majority it lost last time...
[He] tells me about the unique multi-ethnic harmony of this tumble-down community. 'We're the only town in Kosovo where there wasn't a single inter-ethnic killing or house-burning either before, during or after the war of 1999', he says dullfully. 'And look what it's brought us. No one visits, no international organisations invest. When the heads of the town's Turkish, Croatian, Albanian and Roma communities met recently, we agreed we should have taken it in turns to complain about ethnic tension. We'd have gotten a lot more support and investment from foreigners'"
Conservatives know how to use Twitter too

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent, History's Long Shadow - "[On Sulawesi] It's something of a Bates Motel moment for me. 72 year old Lydia Rattak Barn (sp?) has in fact been dead for 6 months. But it's the Torajan custom to claim that until burial, relatives are simply sleeping, or sick. Mother lies in an open coffin. The Toraja mummify their deceased, and she is well-preserved, having been injected of 4 litres of formalin. Her hair is brushed smooth and her face made up. A neighbour calls by to enquire about Mother's health. 'She's fine', Jehana (sp?) responds cheerfully. 'Just a little tired'. It's all very bizarre... [They] host the deceased before burial, sometimes tor years. The reason internment can take so long is a considerable time is required to gather together the mourners, sometimes thousands of them. And to find the money for the funeral rites. Stinting on a relative's burial is socially unacceptable. 'I know one funeral that cost a million US dollars', says Vandi Amir (sp?), my local Sulawesi guide. 'The Toraja spend more on death than they do on living, and find themselves with a lifetime of debt', he added... 'our funeral customs must continue alongside Christanity' he insists. 'It's what we Toraja are known for. Without these funerals, we would have no cultural identity at all'"

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent, A Feast of Fungi - "[On the new generation in South Africa] They mock the idea of a Rainbow Nation, scoff at any suggestion they need white friends and rightly ask why is there more wealth in the hands of whites now than there was back then"

Al Azhar and ISIS: Cause and Effect - "Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah Nasr, a scholar of Islamic law and graduate of Egypt’s Al Azhar University—regularly touted as the world’s most prestigious Islamic university—recently exposed his alma mater in a televised interview... Nasr joins a growing chorus of critics of Al Azhar. Last September, while discussing how the Islamic State burns some of its victims alive—most notoriously, a Jordanian pilot—Egyptian journalist Yusuf al-Husayni remarked on his satellite program that “The Islamic State is only doing what Al Azhar teaches… and the simplest example is Ibn Kathir’s Beginning and End”... Egyptian political writer Dr. Khalid al-Montaser revealed that Al Azhar was encouraging enmity for non-Muslims, specifically Coptic Christians, and even inciting for their murder... The prestigious Islamic university—which co-hosted U.S. President Obama’s 2009 “A New Beginning” speech—has even issued a free booklet dedicated to proving that Christianity is a “failed religion.”

Job ad scams involving male social escorts on the rise - "It was in early January this year when Harry (not his real name) decided to embark on a “social experiment” to research the lifestyles of “sugar mummies”, a term used to describe rich women who pay men for their company. But the 30 year old fell prey to a scam which cost him S$2,500 instead. “I wanted to do this study because nobody has done this before and I wanted to use the study to apply for a research job,” Harry said in a phone interview with Channel NewsAsia. The bachelor, who has a diploma in psychology and works in the private sector, said he did not consult his ex-lecturers before doing this study... police said they received 20 reports from victims - between December last year and February this year - who were allegedly cheated after responding to online ads involving hiring of male social escorts."

Curious tale of the Wall-of-Death hero who buried his lion sidekick outside a rustic villa - "It seems impossible to believe now that anyone might have been able to easily acquire something as exotic as a lion cub. Up until as late as 1976, however, when the Dangerous Wild Animals Act was passed, almost anyone with the money to do so might have placed order via the Harrod's department store an order via the Harrod's department store in Knightsbridge. A short British Pathe newsreel clip from the Thirties helps illustrate the whole incredible story. The clip opens with shots of Marjorie Dare walking a large lamb (actually almost a fully grown sheep) on a lead through a busy Southend street. Subsequent footage shows her swimming in the sea with the creature. There follows footage of her husband parading his lioness around on a lead. The film ends with husband and wife alongside their lioness and lamb, all sat cheerily outdoors together, at a table sharing tea and cakes. Dubbed over the film is an unintentionally hilarious commentary, in the Cholmondley-Warner style of comedian Harry Enfield. The clip allows a window into the recent past, a world so different from our own that it seems almost Monty Pythonesque... With regard to his lioness, who was reportedly, somewhat fierce as a cub, Smith did actually have a contingency plan. In case she should ever turn on him during a performance, he always carried a loaded pistol"
Too bad the lioness wasn't in the Wall of Death sidecar

It takes ZOO to tango: Woman cleared of glassing love rival in party ‘catfight’ - "A MEERKAT expert accused of striking a monkey handler with a wine glass during a row over a llama keeper boyfriend was yesterday cleared of assault.

Tory students lobby for Margaret Thatcher statue - "Student union officials have approved an initial petition to install the 250ft “Iron Lady”, complete with a handbag of “highly polished bronze”. Started by Kent University’s Conservative Society, the petition, states: “The statue would be built in the Greco-Roman style with a design inspired by the Colossus of Rhodes".... Landmarks that would be dwarfed by the Iron Lady include the Statue of Liberty (151ft), Nelson’s Column (170ft), Sydney Opera House (213ft), the O2 Arena (164ft) and Tower Bridge (213ft)."

Piers Morgan on Donald Trump

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, Piers Morgan on Donald Trump

"I got to know him when I took part in the first series of Celebrity Apprentice.

I was in the show for about 5 weeks and I spent most of that time watching Trump in his natural habitat of his boardroom and I was very impressed with him.

I saw a pretty smart guy who knew how to play that boardroom of very varied human contestants like a concert conductor.

I saw somebody who had a warmth, a good humour, a sense of perspective.

So when I see Trump being more outrageous in some of the things that he's saying and doing now, I think he's just doing that to grab media attention. And I think the reality of a Trump Presidency, if it came to it, would be an awful lot more moderate.

Y'know, Trump to me is somebody - I've known him, like I said, a decade. I've spoken to him regularly on the phone. He rang me about a month ago. And we had a long chat about the election.

And if people could hear him when he hasn't got, y'know, the TV cameras in front of him and it was just one-on-one, he's a very different beast. He's a lot calmer, he's a lot more rational.

This is a guy who, remember has never had an alcoholic drink. Never had a cigarette. He doesn't even have coffee.

This is a bloke who's completely in control, who knows exactly what he's doing...

[On outrageous things he says and whether he means it] I would treat almost everything he says in this campaign cycle with a lot of skepticism.

He is like all campaigners in every election, saying a lot of stuff purely designed to get votes.

When he talks about, for example, his policy with Muslims. I don't believe for a moment that if Trump was President he would try and ban Muslims for any short-term period from entering the country.

And I think we're already seeing him dialing back on some of that more extreme rhetoric. But of course, by saying what he did, he dominated the news cycle and the media for another week...

[On a wall to keep out Mexicans] It is very offensive if we take it in the way that it was portrayed in the media. I think probably quite deliberately...

But what was Trump actually saying when he said that?

I don't agree with his wall. I don't agree with his short term ban on Muslims entering the country. I don't agree with him about climate change or guns... I don't agree with him about half these things, and I personally wouldn't vote for Trump...

As a Republican candidate in this election, the reason he's been successful is that he has very very adroitly tapped in to the popular mood about a number of hot button issues.

And the question of Mexico and illegal immgiration: It is undeniable that there are a large number of illegal immigrants pouring over the border from Mexico into America and a lot of Americans - and I'm talking about tens, hundreds of millions of Americans, are fed up with it...

[On being scared about him as President] I would look at a lot of Trump's businesses in America. He's a fantastically successful realtor as they call it - property tycoon...

[On his lying about his wealth] The discrepancy of his wealth is: is he worth 3 or 4 billion or 10 billion? So once you get into splitting hairs about how many billions somebody has, we can probably relax... he's pretty wealthy.

Put it this way: he seems to be funding most of his campaign and flying everywhere in a massive private plane which: that's expensive, so we've got to assume that Trump's pretty wealthy.

And I think from a business perspective he runs pretty good businesses and he tends to put very smart people in charge of them, and he likes high quality. Nobody disputes the quality of his buildings, or his golf courses, or of his resorts.

So I think if you look at what he's actually done and what he's actually achieved, you can probably slightly relax a little bit about how outrageous he would be. And I read: Trump's gonna be the new Hitler and I find that an absolutely facile way of looking at a guy who's basically a right wing Richard Branson.

And American policies right now really does need somebody who is good at doing deals. Barack Obama's been paralysed from gun control onwards in the Senate in his inability to actually get anything done.

Trump - whether you love him or hate him - is one of the great dealmakers in the world. And if he was in charge of the White House, at the very least I would pay good money to see him in a room with Vladimir Putin striking a deal."

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Links - 2nd March 2016

The Economist explains: Why lesbians tend to earn more than heterosexual women | The Economist - "In a survey of 29 studies published in January 2015, Marieka Klawitter of the University of Washington found an average earnings premium of 9% for lesbians over heterosexual women, compared to a penalty of 11% for gay men. Establishing with certainty why this premium exists may be an impossible task, but various theories have emerged. One possibility is that lesbians might face positive discrimination, perhaps if employers expect them to be more competitive and more committed to work than their straight female colleagues. One study did find that in the (less heavily regulated) private sector the penalty for gay men was heavier and the premium for lesbians was larger, which is consistent with this theory. Another idea is that lesbians are responding to the gender of their likely partner. They might have to work harder to plump up household income in the absence of a male partner. Or, it could be that in same-sex couples women find it easier to shrug off expectations that they will take on the bulk of childcare or household chores. Same-sex couples do seem more likely to be dual-earners, even when there are children, and they also appear to share chores more equally than different-sex ones."
Lesbians are more manly than straight women. Gays are more feminine than straight men. Perhaps it's not that men are paid more, but that manly people are.

Easy Email Extractor: Extract email addresses from files and folders - "NoVirusThanks Easy Email Extractor is a handy freeware application which allows you to easily extract email addresses from files, folders and urls. You can extract email addresses from entire folders or hard disks by filtering file extensions to search. Other supported options are: copy the email addresses list to the Windows clipboard and then paste it anywhere you like, export the email addresses in a specific file."

Goth teens are more prone to be depressed or hurt themselves, study shows

Kenya restaurant owner arrested after 'No Africans' row - "Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper carried a story Monday that its reporters had been barred entry to the restaurant, being told by a guard at the entrance that "the time for Africans is over" when the journalists arrived at 7 p.m. Only locals accompanied by Chinese, European or Indian patrons would be admitted... the Chinese-owned eatery lacked liquor, health or change-of-use licences -- the latter needed as the property had been converted from a residence to a restaurant. Co-owner and restaurant manager Esther Zhao told the newspaper that the "no Africans at night" policy had its roots in security concerns. "We don't admit Africans that we don't know because you never know who is Al-Shabaab and who isn't," she said, referencing the Islamist militant group that is active in Kenya and neighboring Somalia... "Because of the concern of the business environment at night and the bad memory of (a robbery in) 2013, we adopted certain measures. Unfortunately, some of the measures were inappropriate, we sincerely apologize for this," the management said in a statement."
Chinese are consistent - they discriminate against majorities due to operational/pragmatic reasons (see also: Beijing shop that didn't allow local Chinese in)

Petition · African Governments: Please Give Asylum to African Americans · Change.org - "African Americans - the descendants of Africans stolen from the continent more than 400 years ago - are experiencing what can only be called neoslavery on the land that our ancestors were forced to build. We experience daily, relentless attacks by the police, suffer high rates of incarceration due largely to discriminatory laws and sentencing, not to mention economic, health, and employment disparities for no other reason than being Black in America. One can only turn on the news to see the treatment that we are receiving in the United States, and it is only getting worse. We are writing to request that any and all African nations consider granting us asylum within your borders."

I've read Pratchett now: it's more entertainment than art - "This is the difference between entertainment and literature – the novel as distraction and the novel as art. You cannot divorce a literary novel from the way it is written. Sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, literature is the words and nothing but."

The retro cult around Fighting Fantasy gamebooks - "In Jonathan Green's forthcoming book, You Are The Hero - A History of Fighting Fantasy, he notes that while the books were targeted at boys, the character's gender in the gamebooks was never identified. Thus large numbers of girls also read Fighting Fantasy. Not everybody liked the books. Livingstone recalls: "The Evangelical Alliance published an eight-page warning guide saying, because children were interacting with ghouls and demons, they would be interacting with the devil. One housewife phoned her radio station and said her son levitated having read one of my books. A vicar also threatened to tie himself to the gates at Penguin Books until Fighting Fantasy was banned." But there was a clear positive. "It got children reading," says Livingstone."

A Point of View: What does vanilla yogurt have to do with the secret of happiness? - "while fruit flavourings in yogurt made no difference to anyone's happiness, there was, and I quote, a highly marked hedonic response to vanilla. Eating vanilla yogurt made people happy... one simple explanation is that vanilla is just inherently pleasing. It has long been known that vanilla scents in hospital waiting rooms make patients calmer and happier"

No Sharks Were Harmed in the Making of This Shark Fin Soup - "The greatest compliment Lee has received so far came from Cecelia Chiang, the revered chef and restaurateur who is credited with introducing Northern Chinese cooking to America. “She had no idea it was faux,” he said... Chiang, Lee said, has come back many times."

Sunandha Kumariratana - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - "The queen and her daughter drowned when the royal boat capsized while on the way to the Bang Pa-In Royal Palace (Summer palace). Despite the presence of many onlookers, they were forbidden on pain of death to touch the queen – not even to save her life"

SAF regulars in high demand after retiring from military - "eight in 10 retiring servicemen take an average of six months to land a new job in the civilian sector... most of these outgoing regulars are prepared for jobs which eventually see them ending up as supervisors, managers or directors in defence manufacturers, banks and security firms, while others become their own bosses. Human resource specialists told the English daily that former SAF regulars are noted for their strengths in adapting to different cultures quickly, leading people and working in teams."
If they're in such demand why do they take 6 months to get a job?

Yandere Simulator: Video game lets Japanese schoolgirl stalk, murder peers - "the main character, a deranged teen enraged by jealousy and driven by social status, does everything possible to keep her boyfriend to herself — even if she has to kill... “We could spread nasty rumours about her until the entire school is bullying her and she becomes so depressed that she stays home from school or commits suicide. We could stalk her until we see her breaking the school rules then report her and get her expelled... He said the very specific way Japanese schoolgirls bullied each other was also an inspiration. “When a girl’s reputation drops, other students will begin to bully her. Japanese bullying is very unique and is different from what you might expect to see,” he said. “For example, in Japan, when a student dies, a flower is placed on their desk. However, if you place a flower on someone’s desk while they are still alive this basically means: ‘I wish you were dead’.”

Woman Found Frozen To Death After Leaving Party In Shorts, Tank Top - "A 21-year-old woman was found frozen to death outside a Milwaukee home after leaving a party in subzero temperatures in just a pair of shorts, stockings and a tank top"

Did Singapore sell Christmas Island to Australia? - "Amidst accusations of “selling” Christmas Island, the Acting Chief Minister, Abdul Hamid bin Haji Jumat, told the press on 8 June 1957 that, “Christmas Island did not belong to Singapore. The Colony was asked to administer it and nothing more”. At the 19 June 1975 Legislative Assembly, he stated that “the island was placed under Singapore’s jurisdiction for administrative reasons in 1900, but it had been excluded from the present constitution of Singapore. As I said before, this island did not belong to Singapore but to the British Government”. Hence, Britain decided to transfer it to Australia and Singapore took note of the position."

Yosemite 'firefall' has hikers transfixed

The Size and Connectivity of the Amygdala Predicts Anxiety - "measuring the size and connectivity of the amygdala—a part of the brain associated with processing emotion—can predict the degree of anxiety a young child is experiencing in daily life. Prolonged stress and anxiety during childhood increase the risk of someone developing anxiety disorders and depression later in life. In the breakthrough study(link is external), the researchers at Stanford found that the larger the amygdala—and the stronger its connections with other regions of the brain responsible for perception and the regulation of emotion—the greater the amount of anxiety a child was experiencing"

Profile of George Galloway - "Dubbed the 'member for Baghdad Central' by some fellow MPs the generally sun-tanned politician has also been nicknamed 'Gorgeous George'. In 1994 he was shown on television telling Saddam: "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability." After a more recent trip he said that he had been offered Quality Street chocolates by the dictator... During the war, in an interview with Abu Dhabi television, Mr Galloway said Tony Blair and George Bush were "wolves" for the "crime" of military action against Iraq."

Emily Bright's answer to What are the flaws in the Bechdel test? - Quora - "2 girls 1 cup passes the Bechdel test along with most lesbian porn"

BBC World Service - The World This Week, Not Much Shelter from Market Chaos - "To our ancestors of course the supernatural helped make sense of an otherwise baffling world, but in modern secular societies we don't believe in it. Only in children's stories or novels of magic realism is it permissible. Or is it? It turns out there are modern folk tales. We call them urban myths or urban legends. And guess what? They often contain an element of the supernatural or at least the eerie. Like the story of the Phantom Hitchhiker who hedges a lift only to vanish suddenly and mysteriously. Or the one about a maniac with a hook for a hand who escapes from a mental institution and interrupts a pair of lovers in a car. These are stories calculated to make the hairs on your neck stand up. It's the kind of thrill the earliest listeners of Jack and the Beanstalk might've felt. So maybe we aren't so different from our Bronze Age forefathers after all"

BBC World Service - The World This Week, Syria peace: what Russia & Turkey want - "I was watching these schoolgirls. They must've been about 18. And they were feeding the ducks. They didn't know I was watching them. We weren't filming them or anything. I was just watching them. They fed the ducks and they went over to the statues of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il and when they came away, their eyes were moist. This was not a display for cameras or for security apparatus. This was them being moved by those two leaders. And we underestimate that at our peril...
When it comes to paying taxes, just like Facebook and other technology giants, it's no less adept at organising its affairs in them most efficient way than any other multinational. It's not Google's fault that there're all these clever weases to shift profit around the world to minimise tax liabilities. And to fail to take advantage of these loopholes would amount to negligence in the eyes of many shareholders. So when politicians, journalists and the public ask rude questions about how Google can pay its chief executive more in one year than it hands over to the British tax authorities, the company should have a simple answer: you make the rules, we obey them. If you don't like it, make some new rules. Otherwise, go away and leave us alone. That is in essence what Google has been saying, except that something of that Don't Be Evil ethos till seems to lurks at the back of the corporate mind. Whatever dreams they start with, and hold on to, it is all about the money for technology companies. At least if they want to survive and grow into the kind of business that can pay the boss 200 million dollars a year"

BBC World Service - Forum - Sixty Second Idea to Improve the World, Forget big 'grand design' ideas. - "My idea to change the world is: don't do it. I mean, don't even think about doing it. For self-conscious attempts to change it only make it worse. Grand revolutionary designs always come to grief. Exhortations to change ourselves only leave us remorseful for failing to be better than we are. And the Saints are so boring. So even the piecemeal approaches prove tiresome, frustrated by feelings of deja vu all over again. The many illusions of progress unpicked by the law of unexpected outcomes. Trailing human misery in their wake. So leave the world alone. Forget the big ideas of better, more moral, more perfect and focus on the small pleasures and pains of those most near about you. The small things. The modest claims to well-being. Might be called the English path to contentment: empirical and ironic. But go this way and you may just possibly become part of the solution, not part of the problem
... An old friend of mine from when I was a student in the Soviet Union which was a grim place to be. Where you definitely couldn't have any grassroots movements. And she always used to say: focus on the *something*. On the little joys of life, the little things every day that make you feel better, because you know you're not going to change anything"

Mishandling Rape

Mishandling Rape - The New York Times

"Research suggests that more than 90 percent of campus rapes are committed by a relatively small percentage of college men — possibly as few as 4 percent — who rape repeatedly, averaging six victims each. Yet these serial rapists overwhelmingly remain at large, escaping serious punishment.

Against this background, the federal government in 2011 mandated a ramped-up sexual assault adjudication process at American colleges, presumably believing that campuses could respond more aggressively than the criminal justice system. So now colleges are conducting trials, often presided over by professors and administrators who know little about law or criminal investigations. At one college last year, the director of a campus bookstore served as a panelist. The process is inherently unreliable and error-prone.

At Columbia University and Barnard College, more than 20 students have filed complaints against the school for mishandling and rejecting their sexual assault claims. But at Vassar College, Duke University, The University of Michigan and elsewhere, male students who claim innocence have sued because they were found guilty. Mistaken findings of guilt are a real possibility because the federal government is forcing schools to use a lowered evidentiary standard — the “more likely than not” standard, which is much less exacting than criminal law’s “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” requirement — at their rape trials. At Harvard, 28 law professors recently condemned the university’s new sexual assault procedures for lacking “the most basic elements of fairness and due process” and for being “overwhelmingly stacked against the accused”...

Consider the illogical message many schools are sending their students about drinking and having sex: that intercourse with someone “under the influence” of alcohol is always rape. Typical is this warning on a joint Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith website: “Agreement given while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs is not considered consent”; “if you have not consented to sexual intercourse, it is rape.”

Now consider that one large survey showed that around 40 percent of undergraduates, both men and women, had sex while under the influence of alcohol. Are all these students rape victims? And what if both parties were under the influence? Asked this question, a Duke University dean answered, “Assuming it is a male and female, it is the responsibility in the case of the male to gain consent.” This answer shows more ideology than logic.

In fact, sex with someone under the influence is not automatically rape. That misleading statement misrepresents both the law and universities’ official policies. The general rule is that sex with someone incapacitated by alcohol or other drugs is rape. There is — or at least used to be — a big difference. Incapacitation typically means you no longer know what’s happening around you or can’t manage basic physical activity like walking or standing...

According to an idealized concept of sexual autonomy, which has substantial traction on college campuses today, sex is truly and freely chosen only when an individual unambiguously desires it under conditions free of coercive pressures, intoxication and power imbalances. In the most extreme version of this view, many acts of seemingly consensual sex are actually rape. Catharine A. MacKinnon took this position in 1983 when she argued that rape and ordinary sexual intercourse were “difficult to distinguish” under conditions of “male dominance.”

Today’s college sex policies are nowhere near so extreme, but they are motivated by a similar ideal of sexual autonomy. You see this ideal in play when universities tell their female students that if they say yes under the influence of alcohol, it’s still rape. You see it in Duke’s 2009 regulations, under which sex could be deemed coercive if there were “power differentials” between the students, “real or perceived”...

Sexual assault may not be perfectly defined even in the law, but that term has always implied involuntary sexual activity. The redefinition of consent changes that. It encourages people to think of themselves as sexual assault victims when there was no assault. People can and frequently do have fully voluntary sex without communicating unambiguously; under the new consent standards, that can be deemed rape if one party later feels aggrieved. It will take only one such case to make the news, with a sympathetic defendant, and years of hard work building sexual assault protections for women on campus will be undermined...

Attending fraternity parties makes women measurably more likely to be sexually assaulted.

If colleges are serious about reducing rapes, they need to break the links among alcohol, all-male clubs and campus party life. Ideally, we should lower the drinking age so that staff or security personnel could be present at parties...

Moreover, sexual assault on campus should mean what it means in the outside world and in courts of law. Otherwise, the concept of sexual assault is trivialized, casting doubt on students courageous enough to report an assault...

Rape on campus is substantially enabled by the fact that rapists almost always get away with their crimes. College punishments — sensitivity training, a one-semester suspension — are slaps on the wrist. Even expulsion is radically deficient. It leaves serial rapists free to rape elsewhere, while their crimes are kept private under confidentiality rules. If college rape trials become a substitute for criminal prosecution, they will paradoxically help rapists avoid the punishment they deserve and require in order for rape to be deterred."


Comments (the first is really troubling, is part of the "women had/have to suffer so men must too", and perhaps worst still, was highly recommended by readers; some others are troubling to a lesser extent for similar reasons):

""Under this definition, a person who voluntarily gets undressed, gets into bed and has sex with someone, without clearly communicating either yes or no, can later say — correctly — that he or she was raped."

Right, and this is a problem because....why, exactly?

All that's happened is that now young men face the possibility of serious consequences for their actions.

It used to be that young women were told to be careful, because something bad could happen to them.

Now we're telling young men to be careful, because something bad could happen to them--such as a charge of rape if they don't obtain consent.

I don't see why this is a problem. The world is dangerous. Take proper precautions--including documenting consent if you're a male who doesn't want to be drawn into (founded or unfounded) rape accusations.

What I can't figure out is that for decades the message of "girls be careful" was perfectly fine. Now that the message is "boys be careful", oh noes o noes! Society is coming apart at the seams!

Is the message of male responsibility really so devastating to our notion of what constitutes a functioning society?"


"It seems to me that the colleges need simple rules to deal with complaints of rape. Such a rule would be that if the sex occurs on campus in a dorm or frat or sorority and the girl says after the fact that it was rape, then as far as the university is concerned it was rape, and the boy is expelled. The message then to boys would be to keep it in your pants or get a motel room. And if the girl complains that she was raped in a motel room, tell her to call the police.

Would that not solve it?"


""At Harvard, 28 law professors recently condemned the university’s new sexual assault procedures for lacking “the most basic elements of fairness and due process” and for being “overwhelmingly stacked against the accused.”

Did the same 28 protest when the process was overwhelmingly stacked against the accuser? The fact is, those 28 would likely appose balanced risk, or any risk that a man would face, but no matter what, where were their voices when women were taking a beating with little hope of justice. Those 28 can likely avoid all charges by stopping sleeping with students."


"Actually I would say some of the assumptions outlined in the article are sexist against males. On a whole range of issues today's amateur psychology, politically correct social reaction is often over reaction;"curing" one wrong with another wrong. People then wonder why the "cure" doesn't work.

I would think some of the current practices on campuses will make forced, violent rape against a woman's fully conscious will worse before it gets better and will victimize a bunch of males by practically criminalizing regretted consensual sex. It may perhaps even turn some towards rape or hatred of woman that would not otherwise do so. Sexual drive is an extremely powerful force with complex impacts and if you mess with it in a way that is not entirely clinical (and even then) you are asking for major other unforseen new problems without even improving the real/original problem."


"Energy should go towards finding and removing serial rapists from society rather than toying around with college age mating patterns.

It is unfortunate that there are men and women who get off on serial seduction but if this is done with of-age partners who are cooperative and fully aware of what is happening ('eyes wide open'), it should not be a potentially criminal, life-changing act."


"Look at Brandeis University, where the President has taken wide actions to address and fight sexual assault, even leading to an accused student filing a complaint against the University through the Department of Education. Despite all of this, student groups that insist the University does nothing to combat sexual assault continue to silence any voices for dialogue and instead hung a banner at the top of the campus taking a quote grossly out of context from one of the President's speeches."

"There's only one possible message from all this: University men need to take their romantic interests off campus. Chose older, working women as partners who have nu university affiliations. "

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Links - 1st March 2016

YourClassical from American Public Media - "The modern French composer Olivier Messiaen played the piano part in one of the strangest premiere performances of the 20th century on today’s date in 1941. As the composer put it: “My Quartet for the End of Time was conceived and written during my captivity as a prisoner of war and received its world premiere at Stalag 8a in Görlitz, Silesia”... Pasquier reports that the performance was a great success, and led to the release of Messiaen and his three colleagues, as the Germans assumed—wrongly, it turns out—that the four musicians must have all been non-combatants"

Antievolution Legislation Shows Descent with Modification - "legislators make slight alterations in bills either from their own state or other states in the hopes that this time the particular wording will get the bill passed. “With the phylogenetic analysis we can tell when do these steps happen and how influential are they on future antievolution legislation…so it’s worth alerting people to the fact that these bills exist and alerting people to how these strategies change through time.”"

The Reason There is No "Nobel Prize for Mathematics" Had Nothing to Do With Any Wife/Mistress of Alfred Nobel - "Myth: The reason there is no Nobel Price for Mathematics is because Alfred Nobel’s fiancée wife had an affair with a mathematician... Nobel wasn’t very interested in the subject and didn’t grasp the practical benefits to the world of advanced mathematics. The Nobel Prizes were created as awards for people who made the greatest contributions to mankind in subjects that interested Nobel. So it would seem Nobel just didn’t see the benefit in providing one for mathematics, a subject he didn’t care for anyways"

Marry up and stay home - "Graduate women are not necessarily career-oriented, even if they welcome interesting jobs and good salaries in the period before they marry and have children. As well as providing training for better jobs, colleges and universities give access to superior marriage markets... studies in Britain and the United States show that educational qualifications have a small impact on women's sex-role attitudes and interest in a career. The majority of women hold ambivalent attitudes on the relative importance of career versus family life... In Britain, the proportion of marriages in which the husband is significantly better educated than his wife doubled between 1950 and 2000, while the proportion of marriages with equally educated spouses halved in the same period. Similar trends are found across Europe, Australia and the US. Only in Germany has the proportion of women marrying up the educational ladder declined over the past century... Although we live in a century of constant and accelerating change, the social sciences have not been very successful in theorising social change"

Choosing to be different - "couples who believe in the symmetrical family type are almost twice as likely to be divorced or separated (13%) as those who prefer some differentiation of roles (7%).22 This concurs with previous findings from the National Child Development Survey showing that role- differentiated marriages are generally happier and less prone to divorce. Further confirmation emerged from a more recent study by Professor Susan MacRae of Oxford Brookes University which reported that mothers returning to full-time work soon after having a baby are much more likely to end up divorced than those who stay at home or work part-time... Hakim finds some inconsistency in women’s views about equality. Only one-third of those wives who believe in the symmetrical dual-earning model of family life actually regard their jobs as central to their identity... Hakim’s findings largely concur with a 1999 survey conducted by the Cabinet Office Women’s Unit. Called Listening to Women, its results showed that most women see themselves as having jobs, not careers, and that their family and child care commitments come first. The women interviewed said they want choice, and when they are not working, they want motherhood to be valued and respected. As many as one-third believe that home and children are a woman’s main focus in life. This was probably not the message that the Women’s Unit had been looking for. The findings were not publicised"

Hong Kong’s best kept secrets: real flowers that will last for three years | South China Morning Post - "By withdrawing the natural nutrients and injecting a solution containing glycerol, dye and other chemicals, flowers and plants can hold their shape and colour for years without any water or sunlight."

Dead Swedish refugee worker Alexandra Mezher's mum says Sweden is no longer safe - "The mother of a Swedish woman allegedly stabbed to death by an asylum seeker last night declared her country was 'not safe' any more... Officers in Molndal say they have had to ignore lesser offences such as drug-dealing because they are so overrun by migrant crime, with gang fights and violent assaults. And in capital Stockholm police this week warned that the capital's main train station was 'overrun' by gangs of Moroccan street children 'stealing and groping girls'. Swedish police revealed they have sent plain-clothes officers to monitor swimming baths in Stockholm after increased reports of sexual harassment of girls and women. Last night it was also claimed police had been forced to flee after being attacked by a mob of asylum seekers as they tried to relocate a ten-year-old boy amid allegations he had been 'raped repeatedly' at a refugee centre. The country – with a population of 9.8million – took in more than 160,000 asylum seekers in 2015, with 35,369 of them unaccompanied minors... Miss Mezher's mother, 42, said: 'We left Lebanon to escape the civil war, the violence and the danger. We came to Sweden where it was safe, to start our family. But it is not safe any more. 'And I just want to know why… why Alexandra? She wanted to help them, but they did this. I just want answers'... She blamed Swedish politicians for a dramatic rise in immigration in Molndal, a suburb of Gothenburg, where a population of 60,000 has grown by 8,000 migrants in less than a year – 4,000 of whom are unaccompanied children... Lofven admitted that many people are fearful of attacks similar to the killing of Miss Mezher, because 'Sweden receives so many children and youths arriving alone'."

'Child' migrant who killed asylum centre worker is an adult, Swedish migration rules - Telegraph - "It will add to growing suspicions that a large portion of the 35,000 unaccompanied refugee minors who claimed asylum in the country last year have lied about their age, claiming to be under-18 in order to take advantage of more generous asylum rules... According to official figures obtained by SvD newspaper, police have been called out to no fewer than 559 registered assaults, 450 fights, 194 cases of violent threats, 58 fires, two bomb threats, nine robberies and four rapes, all involving recently arrived asylum seekers."

Analysis: New Hampshire - Revolution against status quo under way - "Revolution against the status quo appears well under way on both sides of the aisle – amounting to greater polarization of the American electorate."

Chopsticks: What the ‘big bit’ on the end is really for - "She shared a picture of her snapping the chunky bit off the end of the disposable sticks and using it as a nifty stand. The clever trick ensures your eating tools don’t pick up nasty germs which could be lurking on the table."

Students Say Burlesque Show Violated Their Safe Space - "If I told you a provocative burlesque show at Northwestern University was being restructured in response to student complaints, you would probably assume a handful of whiny, sex-averse conservatives had complained. But no—the event has infuriated left-leaning students who insist that it isn’t going to be inclusive enough... not getting a part in a school production—a fairly typical life experience—now counts as a microaggression... It’s not exactly clear which diversity boxes the directors’ failed to check off, though the Northwestern’s story suggests to me that at least some students merely read the names of the chosen solo performers and assumed they weren’t diverse... Recall what happened last semester at Colorado College, when the screening of a pro-gay film was protested, not by social conservatives, but by the campus’s LGBT+ group, because it didn’t feature a sufficient number of transgender characters. For these students, perfect is truly the enemy of good."

Cologne Carnival: 22 reports of sex assaults despite heavy police presence - "Cologne police reported 22 sexual assaults on the opening night of the city’s annual carnival, an increase in attacks on last year’s event. Of the offences reported at the Women’s Carnival Day, two were described as serious, with a woman believed to have been raped on her way home from the event, Deutsche Welle reported. The other serious incident saw a female news reporter at the carnival being groped live on air."

In the Safe Spaces on Campus, No Jews Allowed - "When Arielle Mokhtarzadeh and Ben Rosenberg arrived at University of California, Berkeley on November 6 to attend the annual Students of Color Conference, they had no way of knowing that they would be leaving as victims of anti-Semitism. The University of California Student Association’s “oldest and largest conference,” the Students of Color Conference (SOCC) has maintained a reputation for 27 years as being a “safe space” where students of color, as well as white progressive allies, can address and discuss issues of structural and cultural inequality on college campuses... Rachel Beyda, was temporarily denied a student government leadership position based solely on her Jewish identity, an event that made news nationwide. Throughout the year, they saw the school’s pro-Palestinian group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), issue criticism of Israel that overstepped into anti-Semitic rhetoric and hate. The campus was supposed to be their new home, their new safe space—so why didn’t they feel that way?... the campus progressives who were fighting for justice on college campuses for students of color weren’t only ignoring anti-Semitism and attacks on Jewish identity—they were sometimes the ones perpetuating it... 58.2 percent of hate crimes motivated by religious bias were targeted at Jews. Jews make up 2.2 percent of the American population, so the FBI’s statistics make it clear that Jews are the most disproportionately attacked religious group in America
Anti-racism means hating Jews, together with white people

This is not Casualty – in real life CPR is brutal and usually fails - "In the unlikely event of a palliative patient actually surviving CPR, they typically will not regain consciousness and if they do, they are in severe pain from the impact of the procedure on their body... The number of CPR recipients that actually leave hospital alive is very small. For patients with cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, the average percentage surviving CPR and then leaving hospital in a study was 1.9%. The average number for patients over the age of 80 in the same study was around 3%... CPR is a hard, ferocious, bone-breaking clinical intervention, and too often prolongs the death and dying event."

San Francisco gays want heterosexuals out of their neighborhoods, can’t stand seeing “butch men” - "As with all brands of political correctness, it never cuts both ways. Imagine if someone had just said the above about gay people. You’d have to pass the smelling salts. But telling people to “stay in their area” becaese of their sexuality? Well, since the intolerance is coming from gays, it’s just another moment in the “age of tolerance.”"

The Most Dangerous Kidnappers: Parents

Jailed for taking upskirt videos of his friends - "For nearly four years, a 29-year-old accountant took more than 120 upskirt photos and videos of seven women he liked, but did not think he had a chance with... Ang has a history of failed relationships and the victims he picked were "girls that he liked a lot, but (had) no courage to approach", the lawyer said. Urging the judge to look at the boyish Ang in court, Mr Quek said: "He is very much like a boy in his personality." But DPP Low said Ang had sought psychiatric treatment only because he had been arrested. That he fancied his victims, but had no courage, was also not a mitigating factor, the DPP said."

Original 1977 Star Wars 35mm print has been restored and released online - "A restored HD version of the original Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope 35mm print has appeared online. While this isn't the first time that attempts have been made to restore Star Wars to its original theatrical version—that's the one without the much-maligned CGI effects and edits of later "special" editions—it is the first to have been based entirely on a single 35mm print of the film, rather than cut together from various sources... Lucasfilm later claimed that the original negatives of Star Wars were permanently altered for the special edition releases, making restoration next to impossible. How Team Negative 1 got its hands on a 35mm print of the 1977 release of the movie is a mystery. But for fans who don't want to see ropey CGI, a pointless Jabba the Hutt scene, and know for a fact that Han shoots first, this restored version of the film—even with some pops, scratches, and colour issues—is the one to watch."

Goodbye to softcore cinema Yangtze

Goodbye to softcore cinema Yangtze

South Korean softcore movie Taste (2013) was the last film to play at Yangtze Cinema, before the 39-year-old theatre closed its doors for good at soon-to-be-demolished Pearls Centre last night.

Mr Mono Chong, the owner, looked upset when The Straits Times caught up with him yesterday, but he is hoping to reopen it in another location.

Choking back tears, the 63-year-old says in Mandarin: "I have been in talks with a partner to see if we can move to another place and reopen. If the talks go through, a new Yangtze may open in three months.

"After managing this place for close to 30 years, I just cannot bear to let it go."

He took over the reins of the cinema from a friend 27 years ago.

Earlier, reports had indicated that the Chinatown cinema might relocate to the East, but he immediately shoots down the rumour.

"That's not possible. It has to be somewhere in the city centre. You cannot play R21 movies in the heartland," he says.

The cinema is closing its doors as the 23-storey Pearls Centre will be demolished so the area can be redeveloped and make way for the Thomson MRT line.

Given how deserted the building has been for the past year, with shopfronts shuttered, it appears that Yangtze was the final tenant to move out.

Mr Chong says he will try to rent storage space to house some of his hundreds of 35mm film reels, but he will have to bid goodbye to some of the bulkier equipment, such as the film platters that feed the film to the projector.

"We have quite a number of antiques here, but I have no choice but to leave them behind. Maybe the museum may want them?"

In recent years, Yangtze has a reputation for playing seedy Asian and European softcore films, which are restricted to viewers 21 years and older.

Dank and musty, the two-hall, 425-seat cinema is mostly frequented by male retirees who while the afternoons away by watching a movie, followed by a cup of kopi from the dimly lit concession stand.

Retiree Tan Yao Chong, 70, is a customer who has been visiting Yangtze almost every day for the last seven years. He does not watch a movie every day, but he finds it "comforting" to sit around in the lobby.

"When I started coming here, I would watch two or three movies a day, but now, I just treat this place as a place to pass the time. I'm not sure where I will go after it closes," he says in Mandarin, adding that he has lost touch with several of his friends over the years as they do not enjoy watching "this kind of movie" with him.

The future is equally uncertain for the cinema's staff of 10, including Mr Tan Chai Chai, who has worked there as an usher for the last 20 years. The 82-year-old, whose job had been to check tickets before patrons head into the halls, says: "I can't say that I'm sad because none of us had any choice in this matter. I'm grateful that the boss let me work this long."

Mr Chong says that should Yangtze reopen, he would gladly re-employ all of its old staff.

A big part of why he is having a hard time letting go of the cinema is that he has fond memories of the 1980s, when Yangtze Cinema was a flourishing movie theatre.

Back then, it screened popular Hong Kong films starring the likes of Andy Lau, instead of its current staple of restricted content.

"It was only during the mid-1990s that I had to re-brand the cinema as an R21 one, due to fierce competition from modern cineplexes opening.

"People weren't interested in coming to Yangtze because they were going to places such as Yishun, where there are 10 screens and fancy interiors. I had no choice, really."

Before the Malaysia-born Australian citizen took over Yangtze, he worked as a film distributor for Shaw Organisation in Kuala Lumpur for a decade.

After he left the company in 1979, he formed his own film distribution business named Mono Films and also started buying and managing cinemas across South-east Asia.

At his peak, he owned 20 cinemas in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore. Yangtze is his only Singapore outfit, and also his last one, as he has sold the rest.

Mr Chong, who, until the cinema's closure, had insisted on personally buying film titles, says: "Movies are my passion. For both me and my customers, there have been many wonderful memories created at the cinema here.

"Wherever we move to, the rent will cost more than double what we pay at Pearls Centre, so I have some financial calculations to do. But I don't want Yangtze's legacy to be over. I hope this will not be the end."

Monday, February 29, 2016

Links - 29th February 2016

Dr M says he's ready to share a prison cell with Anwar Ibrahim - "I’m prepared for the consequences as my concern is on the people and this country, and for this, I will continue to speak my mind even if it meant going to Sungai Buloh and sharing the same cell with Anwar... I am doing this for the future of this country and if you ask if I am prepared to go to jail, I will say if you stick your neck out, you must be prepared to get it chopped off,"

Baby born with Harry Potter scar - JK Rowling responds

Justice Department Seeks to Force Apple to Extract Data From About 12 Other iPhones - WSJ - "cases don’t involve terrorism charges, sources say... The Justice Department is pursuing court orders to make Apple Inc. help investigators extract data from iPhones in about a dozen undisclosed cases around the country, in disputes similar to the current battle over a terrorist’s locked phone, according to a newly-unsealed court document... Privacy advocates are likely to seize on the cases’ existence as proof the government aims to go far beyond what prosecutors have called the limited scope of the current public court fight over a locked iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters."

More on Agrabah and political ignorance [updated with new information on Republican attitudes towards refugees from Agrabah] - "A survey conducted last week found that some 30 percent of Republicans and 19 percent of Democrats support bombing the fictional nation of Agrabah. This result did not paint Republican voters in a flattering light. In response, the Republican polling firm WPA Research included a question in one of its surveys which asked respondents whether they “support or oppose allowing refugees from Agrabah to be re-settled in the United States.” Predictably, 44% of Democratic respondents said they were in favor, while 27% were opposed (28% said they were “indifferent”)... political ignorance and irrationality is a serious problem across the political spectrum. Neither Team Red nor Team Blue has anything like a monopoly on ignorance. Partisans’ attempts to claim otherwise are yet another indication of the growing problem of partisan bias, which has made much of public opinion even more illogical than it would be otherwise... It is easy to find survey questions on which Democratic voters look worse than their GOP counterparts. For example, my book on political ignorance, I describe a 2007 survey found that some 35% of Democrats (compared to only 12% of Republicans) endorse the “truther” claim that the Bush administration knew about the 9/11 attack in advance, but deliberately let it happen anyway (see also this survey). The popularity of “trutherism” among many Democrats is an interesting parallel to the popularity of “birtherism” among many Republicans. A 2009 study by political scientists Neil Malhotra and Yotam Margalit found that 32% of Democrats then believed that “the Jews” deserve at least some substantial blame for the 2008 financial crisis, compared to 18% of Republicans who held that view"

George W. Bush's page the most edited on Wikipedia

Norway, Rape and Multi-culturalism - "In a 2001 debate about the culture of rape amongst Muslim immigrants in Norway, Wikan said that Norwegian women were ‘blind and naive’ towards non-Western immigrants;
“I will not blame the rapes on Norwegian women, but Norwegian women must understand that we live in a multicultural society and adapt themselves to it.”
“Norwegian women must take their share of responsibility for these rapes” (for example, by not inviting into their homes Muslim men with little knowledge of Norwegian culture).
This second point seems to be denying grown men the ability to make choices, conduct themselves sensibly and adjust to their new surroundings.
Unni Wikan is a complex and a contradictory figure prepared to go against the conventional wisdom in voicing what a substantial number of ordinary people quietly think about provocatively dressed women (see Jan 2011 Haven Refuge survey)."

Why you should try chocolate milk after a workout - "there is nothing magical about the cacao itself in chocolate milk; it’s the extra carbs — the sugars — that create the perfect potion"

Nude tribute to Manet's Olympia ends in cuffing - "A Luxembourg performance artist earned herself a cuffing over the weekend after she stripped off in front of Edouard Manet's Olympia at Paris's Musée d'Orsay. Deborah de Robertis treated art lovers visiting Splendour and Misery: Images of Prostitution 1850-1910 to a recreation of the celebrated work's reclining nude."

Powerball Lottery Winning Made Inevitable (If Not Easy) - "I like to recall the wisdom of statistician Michael Orkin, author of the book What Are the Odds? Chance in Everyday Life. Back in 2001 the Powerball jackpot had reached $295 million and the odds back then were better, only 175 million to one. Orkin told me, “if you have to drive 10 miles to buy a Powerball ticket, you’re 16 times more likely to get killed in a car crash on your way than you are to win.” So if you’re dead set on buying a lottery ticket, at least walk."

Olympias - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - "the families of her many victims stoned her to death with the approval of Cassander, who is also said to have denied to her body the rights of burial."

Why don't petrol prices fall as quickly as oil prices? - Telegraph - "The biggest chunk of the price of fuel is, you guessed it, tax. You pay 57.95p per litre on both petrol and diesel. That's not all. You also pay standard rate VAT at 20pc. So, even if the fuel was free, no charge was made for delivery and retailers didn't take a margin, it would still cost nearly 70p a litre to fill up, based on today's pump prices, all of which would go straight to the Treasury, according to the RAC... The cost of oil is only the second biggest element in the cost of fuel. And this can itself be broken down into several components. Here, again, tax plays a huge role... retailers often stand accused of passing price hikes on to customers quickly but delaying price falls. It's know as the "rocket and feather effect" - up like a rocket and down like a feather."

Sam Harris - Having some website issues... For the moment, you can... - "re: Nassim Taleb.
"I know many of you love this guy, and think he's a genius. I can assure you, none among you, are as impressed with his intelligence as he is. This guy is just insufferable. I've actually never witnessed a marriage of incompetence and confidence so fully and grotesquely consummated in the mind of a person with a public platform. This is the most arrogant person I have ever had the misfortune of meeting. When you meet him you quickly discover that he radiates a sense of grievance from his pores in a way that few people do. It's kind of like a preternatural force of negative charisma. He is a child in a man's body. And the mismatch between his estimation of himself and the quality of his utterances is so complete and so mortifying to witness in person that you just find you're jumping out of your skin.""

How to wash a very large dog

German Feminists Debate Cologne Attacks - SPIEGEL ONLINE - "Schwarzer: As soon as you opened your mouth and said the word woman, you were beaten down with the argument that you were betraying the class struggle. There are many poignant writings in which feminists first write pages about their class standpoint before getting to their actual issue. What was then known as class warfare is today called anti-racism. The threat of being accused of racism gave birth to false tolerance. Once, about 20 years ago, a police officer in Cologne told me, "Ms. Schwarzer, 70 to 80 percent of the rapists in Cologne are Turkish." I was very upset and said: "Then good God, why don't you bring the issue up?" Because only after you call a problem by name can you change it. And then he said, no way, that's not politically opportune. So you see, the police have long been extremely frustrated by these hush-ups. I think that's changing now, and that's a good thing... Groping, a trivializing word, isn't even a prosecutable offense yet."
You can grope women with impunity in Germany?!

Japan to remove swastikas from maps as tourists 'think they are Nazi symbols' - Telegraph

Otto Frederick Warmbier was 'drinking vodka' before being arrested by North Korea - "The University of Virginia student who was arrested in North Korea was reportedly up drinking vodka until 5am before he was dragged away by armed guards for 'activities against the state' at the airport... Warmbier had been shouted at by armed guards at the terminal before he was dragged away from the terminal. And after the panicked tour leader noticed Warmbier was missing on the plane, she eventually managed to reach him by phone. According to Darragh, Warmbier told her 'he didn't want to leave' and wanted to go to hospital because he had a headache. 'He hung up the phone and that was the last they heard of him.' He said a passenger sitting next to him on the plane told him that Warmbier had something to a guard before he was detained. But he added that the tour group was constantly told how minor things would be considered hostile attacks - for instance, if a book or magazine was folded in a way that would crease Kim Jong Un's face... Kasich says in his letter released Friday afternoon that North Korea arrests U.S. citizens for diplomatic negotiation motives or to antagonize the United States... The term 'hostile act' is a catch-all accusation that has been levelled at numerous foreigners in the past, covering a range of possible charges from espionage to illicit missionary work."

How did knights in armour go to the toilet?

Truth revealed behind petition to ban Oktoberfest 'because it offends Muslims' - "A petition by Muslims demanding the German beer festival Oktoberfest is banned because it 'insults Islam' is understood be a fake. The petition, which had been widely shared online and reported as fact by dozens of news websites, is titled 'Ban the Intolerant and Anti-Islamic event of Oktoberfest'. It was started by 'Morad Almuradi', said to be a Muslim living in Holland, and called on the city of Munich, Germany to cancel the traditional boozy event."

GeBIZ Invitation-to-Quote/ Tender doc: This is why modern slavery exists in S’pore - "In one of the documents, most likely an Invitation-to-Quote or Tender document, one of the “Important Notes” for the vendor putting in a quote or tender, is to be able to provide design work that allows the client to make “UNLIMITED CHANGES“"
Comments: "Those who are not in the design industry shouldn't even comment since they do not know what is really going on. I am in the design industry for more then 5 years and i can tell u, many a times, it is the design firms themselves allow clients to do unlimited major changes that gives the clients impression that unlimited MAJOR changes is their right. This is what the real industry is about. Pleasing the clients. Many small design firms here (majority of the design agencies are small) are doing that in order to keep their clients which are actually spoiling the market and making the designers slaves. Moreever, no one forces you to bid."
"interestingly my friend who has also had a stint in the design industry. has informed me that unlimited changes is the norm."


Feeding Babies Foods With Peanuts Appears To Prevent Allergies - "The researchers found that those who consumed the equivalent of about 4 heaping teaspoons of peanut butter each week, starting when they were between 4 and 11 months old, were about 80 percent less likely to develop a peanut allergy by their fifth birthday... Israeli kids are much less likely to have peanut allergies than are Jewish kids in Britain and the United States. "My Israeli colleagues and friends and young parents were telling me, 'Look, we give peanuts to these children very early. Not whole peanuts, but peanut snacks,' " Lack says."

An anonymous response to dangerous FOSS Codes of Conduct - "The sentiment behind a CoC is that there is no excuse for being an ass, which sounds great until you realize that only a select few people get to decide who's an ass. So when open source leaders want to stop you from doing free work they can pretend that its your fault for violating their code instead of admitting they never really wanted to include just anybody. They've managed to make exclusivity look inclusive, and it makes me crazy that so few people see that."

Boris Kogan's answer to Should Israel take in Syrian refugees? - Quora - "The Talmud tells us that he who is kind to the cruel will end up being cruel to the kind, and brings the example of King Saul, who started off by sparing Agag, the king of Amalek, and ended up by killing everyone in Nob, the city of Kohanim...The Syrians are our enemies, and have been since before we established the state. Every single time they've elected a government, it has been dedicated to our destruction. Every single Syrian popular movement and party, reflecting the attitude of the Syrian people, has condemned our national existence and announced that it would destroy us. It would be foolish, seeing that they are weak and vulnerable, to bring them in and strengthen their hand so as to make ourselves vulnerable to them."

Syrian refugees want to leave Uruguay - "Five families of Syrian refugees granted asylum in Uruguay last year protested outside the president's offices on Monday, demanding they be allowed to leave the South American country in search of better jobs, even back in the Middle East."

Privacy and ERP II

The award of ERP II, the next generation Electronic Road Pricing which will track vehicles' locations by satellite, has raised questions about privacy, which are glibly dismissed by some .

Here are some common objections and responses to them:

Google, Facebook and your Telco are already tracking you. So this is nothing.

You can opt out of Facebook (not have an account), Google (not have an account/use privacy software) or phone tracking (don't have a phone, or turn it off).

You can't opt out of ERPII.

You can give Facebook or Google false information if you're worried about privacy. Many people do that.

If you give the government false information you will go to jail.

The Singaporean Government is Benevolent and will not Abuse this ability to track vehicles

Google's motto is "Don't be evil".

The Singapore government's motto can be summarised as "I am often accused of interfering in the private lives of citizens. Yes, if I did not, had I not done that, we wouldn't be here today. And I say without the slightest remorse, that we wouldn't be here, we would not have made economic progress, if we had not intervened on very personal matters - who your neighbour is, how you live, the noise you make, how you spit, or what language you use. We decide what is right. Never mind what the people think".

Which motto do you trust more?

Furthermore, if after the system is installed the PAP falls from power and a rogue government comes to power, what if they abuse the system?

In addition, CCTVs were installed in MRT stations with the claim that it was for security purposes.

Today they're mostly used to catch people for eating.

What does that say?

Even if the information is not strictly abused, it is used for purposes other than its original justifications.

If you haven't done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear

If I take an upskirt video of a woman for personal consumption but she doesn't notice and I never show it to anyone, have I done something wrong? Is there some harm done to her?

If the government reads my personal email to my wife but I and my wife don't know and the government never tells anyone, has it done anything wrong? Is there some harm done to me and my wife?


In any event, Singaporeans approach to privacy is notable.

When ERP II was first announced I surveyed the ground reaction in online forums frequented by ordinary Singaporeans, and lots of people were complaining... but they were all complaining that this was just another way for the government to earn money.

No one complained about privacy.

Singaporeans don't care about privacy.
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