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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Links - 11th May 2017 (1)

FBI Interviews Donors For Alleged Bank Fraud By Jane Sanders - "Federal investigators are conducting interviews in Florida regarding accusations Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ wife, Jane Sanders, defrauded a bank while serving as president of the now-defunct Burlington College."

Trump's call for human space exploration is hugely wasteful and pointless - LA Times - "Astronomers and other scientists long have been skeptical of the need for human exploration. In 2010, Astronomer Royal Martin Rees of Britain said, “The practical case gets weaker and weaker with every advance in robotics and miniaturization. It's hard to see any particular reason or purpose in going back to the moon or indeed sending people into space at all." As physicist Steven Weinberg observed more than a decade ago, placing humans on a space mission makes it so much more expensive than an unmanned flight that some elements of the mission get jettisoned — and those are almost always scientific projects. The public obviously considers the human participants to be indispensable, so much so that a loss of life can almost destroy a space program, as happened with the space shuttle program after two human catastrophes. Accordingly, protecting human lives and health becomes paramount; the cost of those arrangements will be much greater on a Mars flight, which is estimated to take as long as nine months. Weinberg makes short work of the best example made for the necessity of humans in spaceflight. This is the series of repair missions on the Hubble Space Telescope performed by shuttle crews, the last time in 2009. The Hubble is one of several orbiting observatories that have added immeasurably to our knowledge of distant space. But because it was launched by the shuttle, it was also uniquely expensive. Weinberg quotes Riccardo Giacconi, the former director of the Space Telescope Science Institute, as estimating that had the telescope been launched by unmanned rockets instead of the shuttle, seven Hubbles could have been launched for the same price as the one we got. “It would then not have been necessary to service the Hubble,” Weinberg writes; “when design flaws were discovered or parts wore out, we could just have sent up another Hubble.” What really underlies the lure of human space exploration is its romance and drama... Among the dangers of cavalier calls for publicly-funded human space exploration is that monumental Big Science programs like the space race tend to suck resources away from any science left on the outside looking in. A multitrillion-dollar program to put an American on Mars, endorsed by a president, will get first call on the federal budget, leaving programs aimed at disease cures, chemistry, and physics far behind. In the current political climate, the biggest threat is to Earth science, which is increasingly devoted to climate change"

Charlie's 'angels' rake in $600,000 for vice ring - "District Judge Joseph said "the scale of his business, the profits earned from the sexual services of the women, the sheer number of women involved, must clearly also attract a deterrent sentence". "These are offences that clearly cause feelings of outrage and revulsion to the community, and the sentence must adequately reflect that feeling," the judge added."
Presumably the community is not outraged and has no revulsion about the licensed pimps in Geylang

Transgender boy wins girls' wrestling championship in Texas - "Under Texas law, the state can issue a new birth certificate with an updated gender marker after the authorities receive a court order granting a request for a sex change"
Orwell is alive in Texas!

What's in your chicken sandwich? DNA test shows Subway sandwiches could contain just 50% chicken

Alpinist sentenced for shaking baby son to death - "Loretan, who was charged with negligent homicide a year ago, admitted to shaking his baby for a couple of seconds to stop him crying... "Everyone knows that you shouldn't hit a child, but not everyone is aware that shaking a baby - even for a few seconds - is far more dangerous and carries more long-term consequences," Lips told swissinfo."

Sorry, this president is way less ‘authoritarian’ than the last one - "The Trump administration just relinquished authority over gender-identity policy in the nation’s federally funded schools and colleges. In other words, Trump was less authoritarian than Obama. And that’s not the only case... This tweet, from Sonny Bunch, is perfect: “Donald Trump is such a terrifying fascist dictator that literally no one fears speaking out against him on literally any platform”... Liberals were blind to Obama’s authoritarian tendencies in part because they agreed with his goals and in part because their adherence to “living Constitution” theories made the separation of powers far more conditional and situational."

Censorship concerns as European Parliament introduces 'kill switch' to cut racist speeches - "MEPs granted the parliament's president authority to pull the plug on live broadcasts of parliamentary debate in cases of racist speech or acts and to purge offending video or audio material from the online system... "This undermines the reliability of the Parliament's archives at a moment where the suspicion of 'fake news' and manipulation threatens the credibility of the media and the politicians," said Tom Weingaertner, president of the Brussels-based International Press Association."
Freedom is Slavery

Uber's secret is out - it avoids certain customers - "Greyballed officials trying to use Uber would have rides cancelled and be shown fake versions of the app, complete with maps showing icons of ghost cars appearing to be on the move. Tactics used included identifying locations of government offices and making them off-limits with "geofences" erected in the mapping software. Ways of figuring out which users might be regulators or police included checking whether the credit cards used for the accounts were linked to governments or police credit unions. "Uber clearly lost its moral compass if it ever had one," entrepreneur and journalist John Battelle said in a Twitter post referring to the Greyball news. The Greyball disclosure comes as accusations of sexism, cut-throat management and a toxic work environment have Uber trying to pull its image out of a skid as competition revs up in the on-demand ride market."

For the purposes of tax law Marvel mutants are not human - "“Dolls” have are taxed at 12% whereas “toys” are taxed at 6.8%. The key difference, according to the law, is that dolls are defined as being representations of humans and only humans, while toys can covers just about everything else — including humanoid creatures."

RESISTANCE: Liberals Cry Tears of Joy After Quran Quoted At Oscars - "The “woke” moment was celebrated by so-called white “progressives” who failed to see the irony in praising a 7th century Islamic religious text."

WATCH: Anti-Trump Feminists in Germany Wear Hijabs, Shout 'Allah Akbar' - "On Saturday, hundreds of thousand of women protested President Donald Trump just hours after he was officially sworn into office because...they didn't vote for him and love abortion, or something. The protests spilled over into other Western nations, too, like Germany, where non-Muslim feminists wore hijabs and shouted "Allah Akbar.""

Peppa Pig pulled: China cracks down on foreign children's books - "A second source who is an editor at a state-owned publishing house said Communist party officials had complained that foreign storybooks had caused an intolerable “inflow of ideology” from the west. “[The government] has deliberately decided to constrain imported books and protect those written by Chinese authors,” the source added. On Friday, e-commerce giant Alibaba announced it would ban the sale of all foreign publications on Taobao, one of China’s most popular online shopping sites in order “to create a safe and secure online shopping environment to enhance consumer confidence and satisfaction”"

Raja Bomoh conducts beach ritual to 'protect' Malaysia from North Korea - "A 3 minute 18 second video of Ibrahim Mat Zin, who calls himself Raja Bomoh Sedunia Nujum VIP with the title of Datuk Mahaguru, conducting a ritual on a beach has gone viral. The video features Ibrahim and three assistants ankle-deep in water with two coconuts, a pair of sticks used as binoculars, five bamboo cannons, a carpet, and a bowl of seawater. Ibrahim, who is wearing a business suit, recites prayers throughout the ritual and then vehemently throws the coconuts into the water as it ends. A cameraman can be seen in the background recording the entire session. There is also a disclaimer in the video, saying that you are forbidden to conduct the ritual at home... Explaining that the bamboo cannon is symbolic, he said the ritual is not to provoke any party but is a cautionary measure to ensure that the conflict will be resolved soon."

Garfield’s a boy … right? How a cartoon cat’s gender identity launched a Wikipedia war. - The Washington Post - "Wikipedia had to put Garfield’s page on lockdown last week after a 60-hour editing war in which the character’s listed gender vacillated back and forth indeterminately like a cartoon version of Schrödinger’s cat: male one minute; not the next... Garfield’s gender swapped 20 times over 2½ days (during which his religion was briefly listed as Shiite Muslim for some reason) before an administrator was forced to step in"
SJWs strike again

Transgender boy’s mom sues hospital, saying he ‘went into spiral’ after staff called him a girl - The Washington Post - "Ehrensaft said that when people “misgender” them, it “pings” them, causing further damage. “Particularly if you already have a child in stress who’s feeling suicidal, you’re going to make them feel more suicidal if you don’t mirror back to them who they’re trying to tell you they are,” she said. “The core of their distress may be that ‘I’m trying to tell everybody who I am, and nobody’s listening.’ ” Not only is it psychologically damaging, Ehrensaft said, it’s also a form of discrimination."
If I tell an anorexic that she's a healthy weight, can I be sued?

'He Will Not Divide Us' Livestream Placed in the Middle of Nowhere, but 4chan Still Found a Way to Troll It - "4channers began looking into flight patterns. One of the few clues available on the stream were the contrails left by airplanes. Greenville was finally confirmed as the location after two planes observed on online flight radars intersected over the town and were seen on the stream. Finally when three planes flew over the area, 4channers were able to triangulate an approximate location of the flag. This area was too large to search unfortunately. The 4channers began looking to the stars, using ancient astronomy to help map the direction of the camera and pinpoint a more precise location."

Does Reza Aslan's 'Believer' Make Religion Relatable? - "Positing that all religions are essentially the same, as Aslan does, carries another risk: It makes one overly inclined to interpret faith in the light of this thesis. In an upcoming episode, Aslan explores the tension between Israel’s ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews. Adhering to his formula, by the end of the episode, he has discovered an ostensible middle path: the Na Nachs, a group of Hasids who follow the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov... Having lived among both ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews in Israel, I know that the Na Nachs are a tiny minority who aren’t taken seriously by either camp. At best, they’re amusing; at worst, embarrassing. They’re tolerated because they’re viewed as harmless hippies, not as real agents of change—unlike the mainstream ultra-Orthodox, who are a powerful political force. Onscreen, Aslan’s apparent desire to fit the Na Nach into a preconceived template invests them with false importance, obscuring the truth. Believer’s best moments come when the template cracks. In the same episode, Aslan takes a drive through the heavily ultra-Orthodox city of Beit Shemesh with one of its few moderate religious inhabitants. When she describes the abuse she’s suffered at the hands of her ultra-Orthodox neighbors (she’s had stones, saliva, and shouts of “Whore!” hurled at her), Aslan exclaims, “I have to say, it sort of sounds like you’re describing Iran!” The woman views this as a facile comparison and rebuts it, saying, “No, it’s not Iran. I’m not afraid that someone’s going to arrest me in the middle of the night. The law is on my side, the courts are on my side.” To the show’s credit, it doesn’t edit this out: It lets the differences breathe. What results is nuance... dissimilarities are what make religion tick, for better and for worse. As the drivers of dispute and, often, of conflict, they’re arguably the more urgent aspect to tackle"

China congress: BBC team forced to sign confession - "While such violence can be part of the risk faced by foreign reporters in China, what happened next is more unusual. After we left the village, we were chased down and had our car surrounded by a group of about 20 thugs. They were then joined by some uniformed police officers and two officials from the local foreign affairs office, and under the threat of further violence, we were made to delete some of our footage and forced to sign the confession. It was a very one-sided negotiation, but it at least gave us a way out - a luxury denied to the petitioners who find themselves on the receiving end of similar intimidation and abuse... Even for those who do make it to Beijing, the threat of being caught remains. Outside the petitioning office this week, hundreds of "interceptors" have gathered, the squads of goons sent from each province to search out and cajole or coerce their petitioners to return home... the desperation of their own provincial governments to catch them gives those who make it to Beijing a certain leverage. Ignored all year round, often by the same officials they're petitioning against, they suddenly find themselves on the receiving end of offers to negotiate. One petitioner showed us the text message exchanges she has had with the interceptors trying to track her down, with one even offering to take her on holiday. Anything to get her out of Beijing."

Why It's Taking Jon M. Chu A While To Assemble The "Crazy Rich Asians" Cast - "“One of the biggest questions now is: Do we have to hire a Chinese to play a Chinese? Can you have a Korean play a Chinese? Can you have a Japanese play a Chinese? Can you have a mix?” Chu said. He admitted to consulting many friends and colleagues involved in Asian-American entertainment — his own private “brain trust” — for their thoughts on the matter. So far, he’s heard a range of opinions, though he thinks limiting his cast to solely those of Chinese descent would be “a ridiculous ask.”"
If "whitewashing" is problematic isn't having a Korean playing a Chinese problematic? Maybe the subtext is that Yellow People are all the same (which is even more racist than "whitewashing")

Hackers using Facebook quizzes to get your personal info

How the Design of Hotels Makes Housekeepers Invisible - "Today, one initiative found at many Starwood properties around the world that has an enormous impact on its workers (unbeknownst to most guests) is a program called Make a Green Choice. Starwood frames this as a “guest-facing sustainability program,” allowing customers to assuage anxieties about their carbon footprints by opting out of housekeeping for up to three nights in exchange for a limited number of Starpoints, which can be used for free hotel stays, or a $5 food voucher for each day that a guest waives housekeeping services. In 2011, I spoke with numerous Starwood housekeepers in Hawaii, where the hotel workers’ union successfully bargained to end the Make a Green Choice program earlier that year. These conversations indicated that this ostensibly progressive initiative had placed an onerous burden on staff. Devising a work schedule that had employees cleaning contiguous rooms became impossible with so many guests selecting the “green” option. This meant that a housekeeper who used to push her cart (carts can weigh a few hundred pounds, with ones that are fully loaded sometimes exceeding 500 pounds) down a single hallway to clean 15 adjacent rooms now had to move the cumbersome apparatus from floor to floor—or even from building to building, in the case of one hotel on the island of Kauai—in order to meet her daily quota of rooms. Moreover, housekeepers now had to clean sometimes-filthy rooms that had not been maintained by housekeeping for several days. Most significantly, with fewer hours of work per week, they lost pay in the wake of so many guests electing to Make a Green Choice."
Save the Earth. Screw Humans
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