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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Links - 10th January 2017

Through a Neocolonial Schooling, Darkly | SINGAPORE POETRY - "I remember my Mandarin language teachers repeatedly telling me that I was a “fake” Chinese person since I was really doing badly in Mandarin classes. The fact that the language was not phonetic and was not something I spoke at home as a “mother tongue” really hampered my ability to grasp many of the rudiments. I think what was unspoken as well was the moral and cultural messages that were conveyed by the educational materials used to teach Mandarin. I remember being able to intuit what the responses were to multiple-choice questions simply by choosing the one that best represented traditional values like filial piety and so forth. I also recall being terrified of these teachers: they threw my exercise books at me and poked my arm with red ballpoint pens. It sounds draconian now to think about it! There was also an incident with an English teacher who discovered a stash of pleasure reading (novels, maybe even Virginia Andrews?) in a classmate’s desk and made her kneel in front of the blackboard for what seemed like an eternity to the rest of us until she admitted that she was doing something wrong in reading things that were not on the exam. That marked us for sure. Were these anti-educational measures? I think that depends on what you think an education is for. When you’re running a system where education is being used to mould productive citizens, then these incidents don’t seem out of place. Discipline and punishment in such a system is inevitable, layered with Singapore’s complex relationships with power, race, religion, language, and so on, of course... One of my favourite literature teachers in JC, though, told me to avoid the Ministry of Education and its scholarships at all costs. He told me quite plainly that he did not want the system to kill my love for literature"

I trained a robot to write in Singlish, this is what it wrote.

Big in Japan? Fat chance for nation's young women, obsessed with being skinny - "As women in the United States and across the industrialized world get fatter, most Japanese women are getting skinnier. Still, many view themselves as overweight... The trend is most pronounced among women in their 20s. A quarter-century ago, they were twice as likely to be thin as overweight; now they are four times more likely to be thin. For U.S. women of all ages, obesity rates have about doubled since 1980, rising from 17 percent to 35 percent... "Japanese women are outstandingly tense and critical of each other," said Watanabe, who has spent 34 years treating women with eating disorders. "There is a pervasive habit among women to monitor each other with a serious sharp eye to see what kind of slimness they have." Public health experts say that younger Japanese women, as a group, have probably become too skinny for their own good. Restricted calorie consumption is slowing down their metabolisms, the average birth weight of their babies is declining, and their risk of death in case of serious illness is rising... Researchers have found that Japanese women in urban areas are significantly thinner than those in rural areas. In their first year of college, the weight of young Japanese women falls, unlike that of American women, which increases... daily calorie consumption among young women was often two-thirds of the average adult's actual energy intake. Smoking rates among women in their 20s nearly doubled in the 1990s, jumping from 10 to 20 percent"

Sheryl Sandberg calls on CEOs to make sure employees get enough sleep

The British planned to start World War III by invading Russia with the German army - "You think destruction is your ally? You merely adopted destruction. Russians were born in it, molded by it"

The upper Han | The Economist - "China lays claim not just to booksellers in Hong Kong but, to a degree, an entire diaspora... The Han take their label from the dynasty of that name in the third century BC. Yet the people labelled Han today are a construct of the early 20th century, says Frank Dikötter of the University of Hong Kong. For well over half of the past 650 years, the bulk of territory now called China was occupied by foreign powers (by Mongols from the north, then Manchus from the north-east). Chinese history paints the (foreign) Manchus who ran China’s last dynasty, the Qing, as “Sinicised”, yet recent research suggests that they kept their own language and culture, and that Qing China was part of a larger, multi-ethnic empire... Many Chinese today share the idea that a Chinese person is instantly recognisable—and that an ethnic Han must, in essence, be one of them. A young child in Beijing will openly point at someone with white or black skin and declare them a foreigner (or “person from outside country”, to translate literally). Foreign-born Han living in China are routinely told that their Mandarin should be better (in contrast to non-Han, who are praised even if they only mangle an occasional pleasantry)... China today is extraordinarily homogenous. It sustains that by remaining almost entirely closed to new entrants except by birth. Unless someone is the child of a Chinese national, no matter how long they live there, how much money they make or tax they pay, it is virtually impossible to become a citizen. Someone who marries a Chinese person can theoretically gain citizenship; in practice few do. As a result, the most populous nation on Earth has only 1,448 naturalised Chinese in total, according to the 2010 census. Even Japan, better known for hostility to immigration, naturalises around 10,000 new citizens each year; in America the figure is some 700,000. The conflation of Han and national identity underlies the uneasy relationship between that majority and China’s ethnic-minority citizens. Officialdom theoretically treats minorities as equal and even grants them certain privileges. Yet in practice ethnic groups, particularly those from China’s borderlands, who are visually distinctive, are discriminated against and increasingly marginalised as ethnic Han have moved into their home regions... Although many of China’s citizens are not treated as equals, Han Chinese with foreign passports are welcomed and accorded a special status. Anyone with Chinese ancestry has legal advantages in getting a work visa; foreign-born children of Chinese nationals get a leg-up in applying to universities... Many foreign Han say they are made to feel it is their duty to speak up on China’s behalf... A poll by the Chinese University of Hong Kong found that 9% of respondents identified themselves solely as “Chinese”, down from 32% in 1997, when the territory returned to Chinese rule; the trend is similar in Taiwan... Non-Chinese seem just as beguiled by the purity of Han China as the government in Beijing. Governments and NGOs never suggest that China take refugees from trouble spots elsewhere in the world"

Transgender cyclist is top female finisher at El Tour de Tucson

Stop buying organic food if you really want to save the planet - "Existing GM crops may already be reducing carbon emissions even though they were not designed to do so. Next up: crops that can capture more of the sun’s energy, require less fertiliser and tolerate drought or salt. But the organic movement will have none of it."

BuzzFeed’s hit piece on Chip and Joanna Gaines is dangerous - "A 2016 survey from Pew Research Center shows public support of same-sex marriage is at an all-time high of 55 percent — and it is steadily growing. But the same polls tell us that nearly 4 out of 10 Americans — no small number! — are not on board with it. The minds at BuzzFeed are not naive: They know that the Gaineses and HGTV are going to have to come out with a public statement on same-sex marriage. They also know that if the statement is not 100 percent supportive of same-sex marriage, the network will be pressured to drop them. Think about that for a moment. Is the suggestion here that 40 percent of Americans are unemployable because of their religious convictions on marriage? That the companies that employ them deserve to be boycotted until they yield to the other side of the debate — a side, we should note, that is only slightly larger than the one being shouted down?"

Cops warn those who post Orang Asli arrests online - "Rahman said legal action would be taken against individuals who tried to tarnish the image of the police, while the Orang Asli arrested yesterday were being remanded for two to three days to assist in the investigation"
So much for privileging bumiputeras; can the police ruin their own image?

Who Crushed the Lesbian Bars? A New Minefield of Identity Politics - "Did the lesbian bar disappear because people's identities splintered, leaving behind too few people to patronize women-only spaces? Or did it vanish because mainstream culture has evolved, turning every bar in Portland—from Sloan's Tavern to the Florida Room—into an unofficial lesbian bar? The answer is a little of both. The transgender rights movement that's gained steam in recent years has exploded the categories of gay and straight and male and female. This fall, Portland State University allowed students to choose from nine genders and nine sexual orientations when filling out demographic paperwork. In PSU's recent survey of students and their identities, more students identified as "pansexual" than lesbian... Announcing that a Portland party is intended exclusively for lesbians is stepping into a minefield of identity politics... Stutzman, who has wavy red hair and wears an enameled "I Love Cats" pin on her jean jacket, recalls walking through Vendetta greeting people when someone she'd never met—someone who didn't identify with traditional female conventions like the pronoun "she"—confronted her. "The person was hostile, and wanting to pick a fight," Stutzman recalls. "This person was offended and said they would tell their friends that we were a group of people that were non-inclusive and not respectful of their gender." The person—Stutzman never got a name—left the event, and Stutzman was left feeling confused. As she looked around, she saw many people who fell between male and female. She thought her event was inclusive, even if the vernacular wasn't. "What we wanted to say is, if you're a straight dude, don't come to this event," she says. "Everyone else was fine." Stutzman adjusted her language, no longer calling Fantasy Softball League a lesbian event. Instead, she called it an event for queer women. But even with the change, Stutzman still worried. "Everything I tried, someone was offended," she says. "It got weird and political, and I wanted it to be a fun thing"... After being accused of condoning "trans women exterminationism" in August, the organizers of Temporary Lesbian Bar apologized for imagery used to promote the inclusive monthly event at Mississippi Pizza. The offense? Using the labrys—a double-sided ax often associated with Greek goddesses and a symbol of female strength—as the group's icon. "Hold this group accountable," wrote Viridian Sylvae, a transgender lesbian, on Facebook, noting the image's connection to Greek fascism and violence against trans women... Patrons complained because men were coming in. Other patrons complained when Davis started checking IDs at the door for gender markers. Still others complained when she stopped checking IDs."
Progressivism destroys itself

What will Trump mean for South East Asia? - "according to Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, President Obama's achievements here were often less than they appeared. "The Obama 'pivot' ultimately proved shallow and unreliable, underpinned by rhetorical footwork with little substantive thrust," he says. "It was akin to the inkless 'red lines' drawn in the Middle East, where US leadership was confined to 'leading from behind', eschewing boots on the ground in favour of remote-controlled drone attacks. "Leading from the back often meant not leading at all. "Obama is a popular leader because of his personal appeal, but his policy record is mixed. "His administration too often walked loudly but carried a meek stick.""

Beautiful women more likely to pick gay male best friends, study finds - "prettier women gravitated towards gay men because they felt less likely to be sexually exploited or deceived by them. Physically less attractive women felt threatened by gay male friends for fear they might ‘steal their boyfriends’... The most attractive females in the study were also found to be unpopular with other women"

A Tale Of Two Mascots: How Furries Spurned By Tony The Tiger Are Being Embraced By Chester Cheetah - "Gather round for today's trepid Twitter tale -- a story involving two anthropomorphic mascots for beloved corn-based products and the costume-centric subculture that was spurned by one and embraced by another. That's right, we're talking about the official accounts of Frosted Flakes' Tony the Tiger and Cheetos' Chester the Cheetah showing their true stripes, spots or whatever by responding to a few furries in very disparate ways."

Washington Post Disgracefully Promotes a McCarthyite Blacklist From a New, Hidden, and Very Shady Group - "The Washington Post on Thursday night promoted the claims of a new, shadowy organization that smears dozens of U.S. news sites that are critical of U.S. foreign policy as being “routine peddlers of Russian propaganda.” The article by reporter Craig Timberg — headlined “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say” — cites a report by an anonymous website calling itself PropOrNot, which claims that millions of Americans have been deceived this year in a massive Russian “misinformation campaign.” The group’s list of Russian disinformation outlets includes WikiLeaks and the Drudge Report, as well as Clinton-critical left-wing websites such as Truthout, Black Agenda Report, Truthdig, and Naked Capitalism, as well as libertarian venues such as and the Ron Paul Institute... the individuals behind this newly created group are publicly branding journalists and news outlets as tools of Russian propaganda — even calling on the FBI to investigate them for espionage — while cowardly hiding their own identities. The group promoted by the Post thus embodies the toxic essence of Joseph McCarthy, but without the courage to attach individual names to the blacklist. Echoing the Wisconsin senator, the group refers to its lengthy collection of sites spouting Russian propaganda as “The List.” The credentials of this supposed group of experts are impossible to verify, as none is provided either by the Post or by the group itself."

UPDATE: Tributes flood in for legendary fantasy author, Chingford-born Joe Dever - "TRIBUTES from friends and fans are flooding in for the legendary fantasy author behind the Lone Wolf gamebooks, after he died aged 60. Joe Dever, who was born in Chingford, was admitted to hospital at the end of October but sadly died this morning (Wednesday). He had been due to attend a convention in Lucca, Italy, which he was forced to cancel after complications from bile duct surgery in August arose"

The World's Biggest Airport - "In all, it covers a total area of 193,000 acres, or 301 square miles—more than any other airport in the world. To put that into a little bit of perspective, the entire country of Singapore is only 277.6 square miles. The only problem? You likely won’t be going there anytime soon. On paper, its significance is hard to dismiss. In person, King Fahd International Airport fails to measure up. For starters: most of the airport's land sits unused and undeveloped. And worse, it's located in the middle of nowhere—literally. A quick virtual glance on Google Maps opens like a scene from Mad Max, nothing but sizzling tarmac, dirt, and a whole lot of desert. A 45-minute drive from Dammam (Saudi Arabia’s sixth largest city), even locals would have to go out of their way just to reach it."

Sperm donor is not responsible for child support, Kansas judge rules - "A Kansas judge has ruled that a Topeka man who donated sperm so two women could have a baby together isn’t legally the child’s father and doesn’t have to provide financial support"

Did Glenn Greenwald And The Guardian Just Get Spectacularly Trolled? - "we find the article ‘Alt-right’ online poison nearly turned me into a racist ‘ in The Guardian written by an ‘anonymous’ contributor. The standfirst reads ‘It started with Sam Harris, moved on to Milo Yiannopoulos and almost led to full-scale Islamophobia. If it can happen to a lifelong liberal, it could happen to anyone’ which really should have had alarm bells ringing at Guardian HQ. The article also contains hilarious little flourishes such as ‘On one occasion I even, I am ashamed to admit, very diplomatically expressed negative sentiments on Islam to my wife’. Blimey. Although the article is so laughable as to appear blatantly fabricated, given what has become standard-fare for The Guardian, all bets were off. Some had no doubts as to its authenticity however... The Elfwick account claims they were inspired by these type of articles from The Guardian’s Abi Wilkinson... So, here we have it. A mainstream ‘liberal’ newspaper will print any old nonsense just so long as it ticks their prejudices check list. Followed by a gaggle of ‘Journalists’ and glorified trolls who will also amplify any old nonsense just so long as it’s unfavourable towards Sam Harris."

It started with Sam Harris… Has the Guardian just published an excellent hoax parody? - "This then is his equally comical moment of truth. He has decided that he was becoming a racist and a terrible hateful person, even though he has not shared with us anything that could be reasonably described as racist or hateful... We may be confused why our author in Britain feels partly responsible for Donald Trump being elected in America, but we can only assume that is something to do with his imaginary journey from listening to Sam Harris to nearly becoming a racist. But this would be a strange reason for feeling responsible for the election of Donald Trump, given that Sam Harris was one of the most outspoken critics of Donald Trump."

UK economy profits from automation of jobs - "The increasing automation of work has raised £140bn in the UK economy"
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