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

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Links - 20th January 2017

Skipping Saturday’s protests could be the most ethical choice Trump opponents can make - "thanks to the way that we tend to think about our own moral behavior, these public displays of political identity could actually hurt protestors’ long-term goals. The potential harm comes from a phenomenon known as moral self-licensing. When we do something we perceive as good, like attending a protest march, we give ourselves permission to do something bad, like skipping political activities with arguably more consequence. In other words, moral self-licensing can thwart our efforts to make the right ethical choices. “There are times when you should step out and be a hero and this [inaugural protests] isn’t one of them,” Brennan says. “Save your energy and your time and use it when it really matters.” This isn’t a position universally shared among political philosophers."

Vladimir Putin says Donald Trump didn't use prostitutes because he's met so many beautiful women - "Putin said that Trump wasn’t a politician when he visited Moscow in the past and Russian officials weren’t aware that he held any political ambitions. It’s “complete nonsense” to believe that Russian security services “chase after every American billionaire,” he said... Trump is “a grown man, and secondly he’s someone who has been involved with beauty contests for many years and has met the most beautiful women in the world,” Putin said. “I find it hard to believe that he rushed to some hotel to meet girls of loose morals, although ours are undoubtedly the best in the world.”"

The White House Gets Into the Nudge Business - Freakonomics Freakonomics - "the national school lunch program, which offers low-income students free and reduced-price meals at school. And I remember hearing that unfortunately many, many kids who are eligible for free meals at school were actually going hungry every single day because of a burdensome application process. And this was really remarkable to me, right? You don’t think about barriers like application processes as actually deterring kids from being enrolled in programs. But I was excited to hear that the U.S. Department of Agriculture took steps to eliminate the need for an application altogether for those students whose eligibility could be determined through existing administrative data"
Meanwhile in Singapore the process is often designed to humiliate you

Is the Internet Being Ruined? - Freakonomics Freakonomics - "BENKLER: When browsers first came out in the 1990s, the idea was: here is a universal standard for describing what it is you want to say or show and if you use that universal language, then anyone using any device can implement this reader. And essentially what the browsers did was they decentralized power from the operating system. If you were writing for Windows, you needed to write for Windows in this way. If you were writing for Apple, you needed to write for Apple in that way. Once you could write something on the web, you could write to this general purpose reader, the browser, and anything could run. What happened with the app is that you got special-purpose containers, if you will, for every kind of content. So you shifted from a general-purpose platform that’s based on open standards and anyone can write what they want, to a platform that says, “Write a very special program that fits only your data.” It’s a complete transformation...
Apple has been known to reject apps that it finds objectionable:
BENKLER: For example, someone developed a game that essentially criticized the manufacturing conditions and the worker conditions at the Chinese company Foxconn that was putting together the iPhone. That got banned on the App Store and removed from the App Store.
TUFEKCI: There was another app that was blocked that sent out a notification every time a drone had been used to kill people. So, it was a political statement to say, “Look, this is how much we’re using drones to do this.” And the App Store wouldn’t approve this"...
WERTH: And while these may sound like fairly minor examples, Benkler says, consider the deal that Apple made to restrict the use of Skype when it first became available on the iPhone in 2009. At the time, AT&T was the iPhone’s exclusive carrier. And AT&T essentially told its customers, “by the way, we have this rule about Skype”...
TUFEKCI: There’s all these really smart engineers. They’re the brightest computer scientists, and all they’re thinking about is: “How do I keep someone on Facebook for 10 more minutes? What’s the exact combination of things that will keep them staying on the site for as long as possible so we can show them as much advertisement as possible?” And given the amazing, revolutionary, fascinating disruptive potential of the Internet, it really feels like a waste to have this much intelligence and smarts being used to figure out how to keep you clicking on ten more animal videos. Basically Facebook is an environment in which you’re structurally, architecturally encouraged, to be positive and liking things. And that means that most people’s feeds are dominated by happy news"

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, Meet the Author: Jodi Picoult - "It's really hard to talk about racism without offending people. And honestly, that is what keeps most white people silent on the topic of racism. They're terrified and paralysed by saying the wrong thing. It is far more important for us to talk about this"

BBC World Service - The World This Week, Russia: The Arrest No-one Can Quite Believe - "The interesting thing is that in all the discussion about it, what many people are focusing on is that that's such a small amount of money. People are saying things like $2 million, that's what a city mayor would ask, no a minister, so this is ridiculous. So that shows the peculiar Russian take on things but it also shows the level of doubt. People just don't believe this story as it's presented to them:"

Rationally Speaking: About Sam Harris’ claim that science can answer moral questions - "Harris begins with a rather startling claim: “The separation between science and human values is an illusion,” adding “facts and values seem to belong to different spheres [but] This is quite clearly untrue. Values are a certain kind of facts. They are facts about the well beings of conscious creatures.” This is a frontal assault on what in philosophy is known as the naturalistic fallacy, the idea — introduced by David Hume — that one cannot directly derive values (what ought to be) from facts (what is)... if we let empirical facts decide what is right and what is wrong, then new scientific findings may very well “demonstrate” that things like slavery, corporal punishment, repression of gays, limited freedom of women, and so on, are “better” and therefore more moral than liberal-progressive types such as Harris and myself would be ready to concede. The difference is that I wouldn’t have a problem rejecting such findings — just as I don’t have a problem condemning social Darwinism and eugenics — but Harris would find himself in a bind. Indeed, he seems to be making a categorical mistake: what he calls values are instead empirical facts about how to achieve human wellbeing. But why value individual human wellbeing, or the wellbeing of self-aware organisms, to begin with? Facts are irrelevant to that question."
Another critique of The Moral Landscape

BBC World Service - The Food Chain, Burnt - "For acrylamide... the academic researchers who have studied dietary acrylamide that humans are exposed to haven't found strong associations...
The idea that acrylamide is something in food that we could actually reduce and have some control over, that might cause cancer is kind of appealing. And in a way the idea that oh industry could just reduce the acrylamide levels in cold cereal or potato chips and that would make us all healthier is nicer than thinking: oh, we really all need to be eating more fruits and vegetables. We need to be eating less processed food. We probably need just to be eating less overall and exercising more. And all of those things would reduce cancer risk. But those are pretty sweeping things that require people to make changes in their everyday lives. Whereas the idea that there is just one chemical that we could focus attention on and industry could focus attention on is kind of appealing as a way to reduce cancer risk"

BBC World Service - The Food Chain, Full English Brexit - "95% of the vets working in abattoirs in the UK are actually from the EU. It's very hard to get British vets to do this thing... when British people decide they want to be vets, remember it takes a long time to be a vet. It takes absolutely years. It's not much easier than being a doctor... and most people that do that have an image of them curing the family dog and seeing the looking of happiness on the girl's face. They're not really imagining that they're going to spend their life working in an abattoir watching cows get slaughtered and watching former convicts washing down the carcasses. That's not really what they're aiming for in their career"

What do these kind of feminists actually think... - Madelaine Hanson - "If you’re white, don’t call yourself an intersectional feminist because-
you do not experience the type of oppression that the term was coined to discuss
it has been used by white feminists as a shield to avoid being held accountable for bigoted actions or words
some white feminists fixate on it as a way to separate themselves from other white feminists in order to seem less problematic without putting in actual intersectional work (again, avoiding accountability)
intersectionality is often used without proper credit being given to the creators of the concept (Black women)
claiming it as a white woman erases Black women and pushes away the issue of anti-blackness"
"What do these kind of feminists actually think they achieve in our movement, other than massively pissing people off and creating unnecessary anger, frustration and division?... What they mean is: I'm angry at white women, I don't want them in my feminism. Which is, in itself, gender based racism."
"If you use caps for one ethnicity and lower-case for another in the same sentence, you're probably a racist cunt."

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, Italian vote 'big rejection' of the establishment - "'I'm skeptical of the term populism, which increasingly people are using for anything that's just popular. Oh and anything they don't like and want to put scare quotes around. Anti-establishment, I think, certainly. And that is the great mistake that Matteo Renzi made, which was to make a referendum that was on a very specific set of constitutional reform issues on to effectively a referendum on him, the establishment, the established order, even the EU. And every time the public are getting a chance to kick against that established order, they are taking it. And I think, instead of denigrating this trend, one should try harder to understand it. There's a lot of pooh-poohing of it but the public may not be on to nothing. And this is something that mainstream politicians really have to think about... instead of saying that... they're being, their brains are being stolen by crazy politicians and lying media and so on, we should consider that the public have a real concern. In Italy, for instance, with such high youth unemployment, the public have a real concern. When the Eurozone crisis has gone on, crisis after crisis, they have a real concern. When as many people as were in the Calais Jungle... arrive every single day on the Southern Islands in Italy, you know the public have a concern that's justified about immigration. And again and again we see this tendency from the political mainstream, instead of saying ok they are actually on to something, and we're going to do something in response, is either to sort of tweak around the ideas of their rhetoric or to describe the people as being wrong. As populist. As people who've absorbed fake news and so on. This is a big mistake in the long term'...
'It's used much too broadly. And people should really define it very carefully. I think populism is about parties that simply say it's impossible for there to be pluralism and for reconciliation of competing interests in society. They posit a claim that there is a corrupt elite and there's we the people and these two things cannot be reconciled and that they are fundamentally at odds with one another. And in an open society that's a real problem because it means that you can't go for the kinds of compromises and negotiations between interests that are the essence of democracy. So the question is whether political systems can now absorb the new energy coming from new upstart radical parties, some of whom will become part of the establishment in due course, just as the Greens have done in many countries'"

Man in the Netherlands euthanised due to his alcohol addiction - "More than 5,500 people ended their life using Holland’s euthanasia laws last year. One of those who died was a sex abuse victim who suffered severe anorexia, chronic depression and hallucinations. Fiona Bruce, a Conservative MP, told the Daily Mail news of Mr Landedijk's death was "deeply concerning and yet another reason why assisted suicide and euthanasia must never be introduced into the UK". “What someone suffering from alcoholism needs is support and treatment to get better from their addiction – which can be provided – not to be euthanised," she added. “It is once again a troubling sign of how legalised euthanasia undermines in other countries the treatment and help the most vulnerable should receive.”"
What was that about the slippery slope being a fallacy?

Singapore: From Third World to First? - "already by the 1970s, Singaporean GDP per capita actually exceeded that of the UK. But the main point to take away from that graph is that Singapore entered the community of independent states as a prosperous country, at least by the standards of the time. That Singapore has progressed tremendously since independence is true, but not a story of turning the “Third World” into the first. If anything, it is a story of how to escape the middle income trap."

'Power Rangers' Alum Amy Jo Johnson Talks Movie Reboot, Relocating to Canada in Trump Era - "Amy Jo Johnson, who played the Pink Ranger in the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers TV series, did move north — only before the U.S. election — to launch herself as a Canadian film director. "I'm happy, I'm really happy here. I actually feel like I've become a nicer person, becoming Canadian," Johnson tells the Hollywood Reporter while attending the Whistler Film Festival. "I have friends here who say, 'We're not the backyard that you can just escape to. I tell them, good thing I did that 10 years ago,'" Johnson says of Toronto in the Trump era. The Power Rangers alum, who moved to Canada a decade ago, insists she crossed the border to leave Hollywood behind. "In my 20s, it was super fun (in Los Angeles). I was wild, and partied a lot. And when I got into my 30s, I started to panic. My mother had died, I was single, I couldn't find the right guy, my biological clock starts ticking""

Are animal ingredients included in white sugar? | Frequently Asked Questions | About PETA | PETA - "Bone char—often referred to as natural carbon—is widely used by the sugar industry as a decolorizing filter, which allows the sugar cane to achieve its desirable white color. Other types of filters involve granular carbon or an ion-exchange system rather than bone char."
Oh no even sugar isn't vegan!

Eviltwin's Blog: Bollywood Veggies & Let's get Naked - "right at the furthest end of the farm just passed the Mr Pee Wee and the Jack-A-Loo eco toilet you get to The Sanctuary. During all my explorations I have come across many strange things I thought I would never see in Singapore but this must be the weirdest. Here it is for all those folks who enjoy an even more intense nature experience. The sign reads "Nudity is welcome in the Sanctuary - Be respectful - No cameras Please""
There is a nudist sanctuary in Singapore at Bollywood Veggies!

Genetic Structure, Self-Identified Race/Ethnicity, and Confounding in Case-Control Association Studies - "Of 3,636 subjects of varying race/ethnicity, only 5 (0.14%) showed genetic cluster membership different from their self-identified race/ethnicity. On the other hand, we detected only modest genetic differentiation between different current geographic locales within each race/ethnicity group. Thus, ancient geographic ancestry, which is highly correlated with self-identified race/ethnicity—as opposed to current residence—is the major determinant of genetic structure in the U.S. population"
Funny, I thought race was a myth
Addendum: Racial groupings match genetic profiles, study finds
Related: Genetic ancestry highly correlated with ethnic and linguistic groups in Asia
Keywords: Race is a myth,
Ed: This was previously posted in April 2015

Bad Medicine, Part 1: The Story of 98.6 - Freakonomics Freakonomics - "where there is death there is hope, as a cohort of doctors who rubbished it moved into retirement and then death, the opposition disappeared."

Trust Me - Freakonomics Freakonomics - "Putnam found that social capital was relatively low in the U.S. in the early 1900s and rose fairly steadily through the 1960s. But that’s when the decline began.
PUTNAM: I looked hard to find explanations and television, I argued, is really bad for social connectivity for many reasons.
“More television watching,” Putnam wrote, “means less of virtually every form of civic participation and social involvement.”
HALPERN: As Bob sometimes put it, I think, rather elegantly, when we were looking forward in terms of technology or the Internet and of course, even pre-Facebook and so on, would it be, in his words, a “fancy television”? In other words, it will isolate us more and more. Or would it be a “fancy telephone” and would connect us more and more? Because technology has both those capabilities. So when I played video games when I was a kid, you basically did them mostly by yourself or with a friend. When I look at my teenage kids playing videos, they’re actually talking to each other all the time...
We look like we have certain systematic biases about how we estimate whether we think other people can be trusted. And in essence, we overestimate quite systematically the prevalence of bad behavior. We overestimate the number of people who are cheating on their taxes or take a sickie off work or do other kinds of bad things. This doesn’t seem to be just the media, although that may reinforce it. It seems to be a bit how we’re wired as human beings...
If we were talking in America in the 1920s or 1930s, the difference between Irish people and Italian people would have been enormous. I have some friends who got married in the 1960s, he was from an Italian background, she was from an Irish background, and when they got married everybody called it a “mixed” marriage. Parents on both sides all said mixed marriages never work"
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