"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, May 12, 2017

Links - 12th May 2017 (1)

Labour has produced a fantasy-land blueprint for a socialist Britain - "In addition, the manifesto contains a mish-mash of oddball policies that reinforce the sense of a party made up of a series of pressure groups all vying for attention rather than a vehicle for delivering a coherent programme for a 21st-century government. They include rights for gipsies to pursue a nomadic life, the imposition of “diversity” requirements on television, the creation of a network of public bus companies, targets for plastic bottle deposit schemes, a prohibition on the third party sale of puppies and a review of smoking habits in the LBGT community. In addition, Labour would impose Government restraints on a free press, cut the voting age to 16 and abolish the House of Lords. Individually, some of these measures will no doubt be welcomed by the groups affected. But they are simply a gigantic wish list cobbled together from the policy ambitions of dozens of interested parties. Labour is advancing a programme that would leave the country penniless, defenceless and powerless in its literal sense – since they want to end fracking for new gas reserves and cleave to an almost nostalgic belief that central government control of the means of distribution makes it more efficient."

Comey sacking doesn't rise to Watergate levels - "Donald Trump's sacking of his FBI director, while highly unusual and deeply controversial, is constitutionally permissible. No court orders have been flouted. The president, while breaking with the norm of allowing FBI directors to serve out their 10-year terms unimpeded, is not putting himself above the law. Trump's motivations may also be different. Nixon sacked Cox through fear his criminality was about to exposed."

Kindergarten says pupils only acting in Israel-Palestine play with toy guns - "Tadika Hidayah Bestari, based in Bandar Sri Damansara, told local daily New Straits Times that the play was held in 2014 in collaboration with a non-governmental organisation, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organisations (Mapim), that had raised funds for war victims in Palestine and Syria."

This 13-year-old tried to buy porn, lottery tickets, and a gun. Guess which one he got.

It's easier to get a gun than to get a puppy

Iowa grants gun permits to the blind - "blocking visually impaired people from the right to obtain weapon permits would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. That federal law generally prohibits different treatment based on disabilities"

Guns Don't Deter Crime, Study Finds - "This study suggests that it's really hard to find evidence that where there are more guns, there are less crimes, but you can easily find evidence that where there are a lot more guns, there are a lot more gun crimes... Firearm ownership was not related to the number of stranger firearm homicides — cases where someone is killed by a stranger. But when more people owned guns, the nonstranger firearm homicide rate rose — cases where someone is killed by someone they know. "It wouldn't make sense to argue that people only go out to buy guns if the nonstranger homicide rate goes up, but not if the stranger homicide rate goes up," Siegel told Live Science. The data, he said, points to a picture in which confrontations between families, friends, bosses and acquaintances become lethal in the presence of guns... What's known? One, the presence of a gun in the home increases the risk of suicide in that home. "That relationship we really know, no doubt about it," Hemenway said. Second, the research also confirms that more access to guns means more firearm homicides, Siegel added. Research on whether other weapons replace guns when guns are unavailable suggests that they do not: Overall homicide rates, not only gun homicides, creep up when guns are in the picture"

‘Hot lesbians’ ad bashing Saudi oil backfires on Canadian oilsands advocates - "“In Canada lesbians are considered hot! In Saudi Arabia if you’re a lesbian you die!”

Time for Singapore to say 'Yes' to nuclear - "Without radioactive emissions, we would all be dead. The human body is radioactive and much of our food is naturally radioactive. Many medical procedures are radiation-dependent. Exposure to radiation becomes hazardous when the subject receives more than 100,000 microsieverts a year for multiple years. To put this in perspective, the radiation recorded in Tokyo 10 days after the Fukushima accident was 0.125 microsievert an hour or 1,096 microsieverts a year. This level is below the threshold and safe... Natural gas supply can be threatened by political instability or blatant disregard by a party to an agreement to supply it. This would cause havoc to the economy. With water, Singapore has developed fallbacks should its main supplier abrogate a deal. We should be as resilient with natural gas."

Germany Runs Up Against the Limits of Renewables - MIT Technology Review - "At one point this month renewable energy sources briefly supplied close to 90 percent of the power on Germany’s electric grid. But that doesn’t mean the world’s fourth-largest economy is close to being run on zero-carbon electricity. In fact, Germany is giving the rest of the world a lesson in just how much can go wrong when you try to reduce carbon emissions solely by installing lots of wind and solar. After years of declines, Germany’s carbon emissions rose slightly in 2015, largely because the country produces much more electricity than it needs. That’s happening because even if there are times when renewables can supply nearly all of the electricity on the grid, the variability of those sources forces Germany to keep other power plants running. And in Germany, which is phasing out its nuclear plants, those other plants primarily burn dirty coal... Because fossil-fuel power plants cannot easily ramp down generation in response to excess supply on the grid, on sunny, windy days there is sometimes so much power in the system that the price goes negative—in other words, operators of large plants, most of which run on coal or natural gas, must pay commercial customers to consume electricity. That situation has also arisen recently in Texas and California (see “Texas and California Have Too Much Renewable Energy”) when the generation of solar power has maxed out."

Rare Earths and Other Chemicals Damaging the Environmental Value of Renewables

Tinder in one picture. : pics

The Behavioral Economics of Recycling - "People who know they are going to recycle after completing a task that generates waste use far more resources than they otherwise would have... the positive emotions associated with recycling can overpower the negative emotions, like guilt, associated with wasting. As a result, consumers feel comfortable using a larger amount of a resource when recycling is an option. Conserving resources in one domain may lead you to waste resources in another—in effect, giving yourself a pass because of your prior good behavior – a phenomenon known in social science as “moral licensing.”"

Can We Build A Clean & Smart Future On Toxic Rare Earths? - "Clearly, the “commercial viability” of all these mining companies would be questionable if environmental costs were to be factored in. Will this then translate in to higher prices for green and clean tech products, which in turn makes them less attractive and affordable? Will manufacturers then use less rare earths and so will their products become less efficient, lose performance?... Under the current pricing, it may not be economically feasible to develop new mines in countries with stringent environment standards and enforcement"

Boom in Mining Rare Earths Poses Mounting Toxic Risks - "According to Gavin Mudd, an environmental engineer at Australia’s Monash University, rare earths mining provides a wide range of economic and social benefits and can be exploited in a responsible way. However, he says no company — including Mitsubishi and Lynas — has managed to set a good example."

Teacher quits after primary school students threaten to behead her - "Students as young as in Year 5 are making the threats and pressuring peers into reading the Koran at Punchbowl Public School in Sydney's southwest, the Daily Telegraph has reported. Documents given to the newspaper reportedly reveal that at least three staff members have taken stress leave, received counselling and been paid compensation after bullying from Islamic students... she was abused by students when she stopped them from hanging a Syrian flag in the classroom. The woman also said she was pushed into a corner by several students who then began marching around her chanting the Koran. Many of the students also reportedly spoke of family members fighting in the war in Syria and pupils would walk out mid-way through a lesson to go and pray. The woman also reported an instance of bullying during which students would say to that the child being targeted had "betrayed his religion" by "not going to Muslim scripture". She said in an earlier incident a "group of boys had stood around a girl and called her horrible names like dog". News Corp reports that the woman said her complaints to the NSW Department of Education were simply dismissed... the principal of that school Chris Griffiths was fired for refusing to allow the department of education to run a counter-extremism program there to target students at risk of radicalisation."

Meta-analysis of the heritability of human traits based on fifty years of twin studies - "For a majority (69%) of traits, the observed twin correlations are consistent with a simple and parsimonious model where twin resemblance is solely due to additive genetic variation. The data are inconsistent with substantial influences from shared environment or non-additive genetic variation"

A longitudinal twin study on IQ, executive functioning, and attention problems during childhood and early adolescence. - "variation in all phenotypes was influenced by genetic factors. For IQ the heritability estimates increased from 30% at age 5, to 80% at age 12. For executive functioning performance genetic factors accounted for around 50% of the variance at both ages. Attention problems showed high heritabilities (above 60%) at both ages, for maternal and teacher ratings"

Shop 'til they drop: Singapore's shopping centres struggling to survive - "Official statistics put the median rental cost for a space on Orchard Road – Singapore’s famed shopping belt – at $6.88 (SGD9.82) per square-foot, or $4.30 (SGD6.14) per square-foot for a less-central location. But searches on real estate listing websites show that in this galaxy of shiny, mammoth-sized malls and opulent designer boutiques, asking prices can reach $11.22 (SGD16) per square-foot and beyond. And that’s not all: many mall operators also charge their tenants a commission, taking about 10% to 20% of their revenue every month. Such hefty expenses have forced smaller businesses to shift their strategies to e-commerce to avoid paying out more... restaurateur Keith McNally penned an opinion piece for the New York Times about the difference between opening a restaurant in Manhattan in the 1980s and opening one today. “One crucial change that’s hurt restaurants in Manhattan is the drastic rise in rents. During my first 30 years as a restaurateur, I expected to pay around 7% of my income on rent. Today, it’s at least 14%,” he wrote. It was a figure intended to shock – to drive home the point of how ludicrously tough it has become to run a restaurant in New York. The reaction among Singapore’s hospitality operators, however, went more along the lines of an eye-roll and a ‘we should be so lucky’. “It’s at the point where most F&B outlets [in Singapore] are looking at rent being 25% to 30% of their revenue. With staff costs and food costs, that leaves you with sliver-thin margins,” explained one of the country’s most successful chefs, Shen Tan."

Don't impose secular views on religious bodies - "The statements by the National Council of Churches of Singapore and the local Roman Catholic Church regarding the "gay moment" in the Disney movie, Beauty And The Beast, are quite clearly meant as advisories to the leaders of their respective congregations and the parents there (Disney's Beauty And The Beast given PG rating for 'mild violence'; March 15). But the statements were picked up and published by various media outlets. Not unexpectedly, a number of netizens took offence and attacked and ridiculed these statements without considering the context."
Somehow, many homophiles are claiming the NCCS statement directed at Christians is their imposing their views on everyone else, and a lot of them said the NCCS should STFU. Wut?

OPINION - Why Golda Meir was right - "It has been more than two and a half years since Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told to Israeli President Shimon Peres’s face, “You (Jews) know well how to kill.” Prime Minister Erdoğan has also declared more than a few times that the main obstacle to peace in this part of the world is Israel, once calling the Jewish state “a festering boil in the Middle East that spreads hate and enmity.”... 11 million Muslims have been violently killed since 1948, of which 35,000, (0.3 percent) died during the six years of Arab war against Israel, or one out of every 315 fatalities. In contrast, over 90 percent who perished were killed by fellow Muslims... Golda Meir, the fourth prime minister of Israel, or rather the “Mother of Israel,” had a perfectly realistic point when she said that peace in the Middle East would only be possible “when Arabs love their children more than they hate us.”"

Tallying Right-Wing Terror vs. Jihad - Bloomberg View - "The most obvious thing to note is the choice of start date: Sept. 12, 2001. That neatly excludes an attack that would dwarf all those homegrown terror attacks by several orders of magnitude. Ah, you will say, but that was a one-time event. Sort of. It is no longer possible to destroy the World Trade Center, but we can't be certain to never again have a large-scale terror attack that kills many people. If you have high-magnitude but low-frequency events, then during most intervals you choose to study, other threats will seem larger -- but if you zoom out, the big, rare events will still kill more people. We don't say that California should stop worrying about earthquake-proofing its buildings, just because in most years bathtub drownings are a much larger threat to its citizens. The other thing to ask is how we're defining a terror event and classifying the motivation. I took a little stroll through the underlying data, and on the "jihadist violence" side, the definition is pretty clear: with the exception of one case in which a Muslim who seemed fond of jihadist propaganda beheaded a coworker for reasons that are not entirely clear, the rest of the attacks involved someone with an ideological commitment to radical Islam trying to kill a bunch of people in a way that made it clear that this was about U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Counting the other types of extremist terrorism is a little murkier. Some of them are fairly obvious: When a white supremacist starts shooting people at a Sikh temple, I don't think we need to wonder too hard what his motives were. On the other hand, the data set The Times relies on also includes Andrew Joseph Stack, who you may remember piloted a small plane into an IRS building in Austin. Stack left a manifesto behind, and it doesn't exactly read like an anarcho-capitalist treatise. Oh, he's mad at the government, all right, but he's mad about ... the 1986 revision to Section 1706 of the tax code, which governs the treatment of technical contractors"

What Gut Bacteria Do to the Human Brain - "the yogurt eaters reacted more calmly to the images than the control group. “The contrast was clear,” says Mayer. “This was not what we expected, that eating a yogurt twice a day for a few weeks would do something to your brain.” He thinks the bacteria in the yogurt changed the makeup of the subjects’ gut microbes, and that this led to the production of compounds that modified brain chemistry."

USA women's national team suffer 5-2 loss against male under-15 team
Damn patriarchy

Swedish soccer hooligans wear Muslim niqabs to get around newly imposed mask ban - The Washington Post - "Swedish government officials thought they had the perfect solution to curtail violent behavior by masked soccer fans — ban their face coverings. The new law, passed in January and enacted in March, was supposed to prevent extremist fans from “disguising all or part of their face so as to make it more difficult to be identified,” according to the bill’s language (via Sweden’s Local newspaper). To make sure the bill didn’t infringe on anyone’s religious rights, however, the law offers an exemption for “people who cover their face for religious reasons.” Well, it appears soccer is now a religion in Sweden."
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