"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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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Links - 10th June 2017

What Comey described wasn’t obstruction of justice. Here’s why. - The Washington Post - "nothing that Comey said alters the fact that this claim remains fatally flawed in two critical respects: It overlooks both a requirement for corrupt intent and the principle of executive discretion... what would be a legitimate interference with an investigation? This brings us to executive discretion. Every day, in FBI and U.S. attorney’s offices throughout the nation, agents and prosecutors decide to close investigations and decline prosecutions. Many of these cases are viable, but these executive-branch officials judge that the equities weigh against continuing the investigation or filing an indictment... The FBI and Justice Department are not a separate branch of government. They are subordinate to the president. In fact, they do not exercise their own power; the Constitution vests all executive power in the president. Prosecutors and FBI agents are delegates. That means that when they exercise prosecutorial discretion, they are exercising the president’s power"

The end of men: Why feminists won’t accept that things are looking up for women. - "most of the resistance to the idea that men have ceased to be the dominant sex has come from women—not from working-class women, who seem to find what I’m describing painfully familiar, if not totally obvious, but from women in the college, professional class... The women who seemed to be reveling in Coontz’s insistence that reports of the end of men (and the rise of women) have been greatly exaggerated were by and large young and ambitious, and as far as I could tell hadn’t been held back all that much in their careers by “the patriarchy.” Many of them are in positions of influence, widely published and widely read; if they sniff out misogyny, I have no doubt they will gleefully skewer the responsible sexist in one of many available online outlets, and get results. These are exactly the types of woman I portray in the book as benefiting from the new age of female dominance. Why should they feel reassured to be told that men are still on top, that the old order had not been shaken?... This bean counting and monitoring—an outdated compulsion to keep your guard up, because sexism lurks everywhere—has found new life online, where feminist websites (including our own) and the Twitter police are always on the lookout for the next slight... As a form of blogging or tweeting, pointing fingers is endlessly satisfying. But as a form of political expression, it’s pretty hollow and out of tune with reality. This strain of feminism assumes an exquisite vulnerability, an image of women as “creatures too ‘tender’ for the abrasiveness of daily life... if the most obnoxious members of the patriarchy can be brought down by a few tweets, how powerful can they really be? In the early days of the feminist movement, every small victory was celebrated. There was exultation, liberation, a sense of joy at women’s progress that seems largely absent today. Somehow the mood of the movement has shifted into reverse: The closer women get to real power, the more they cling to the idea that they are powerless. To rejoice about feminist victories these days counts as betrayal... the study of inequality has an occupational hazard: After decades of looking for certain patterns, they may become all you can see"

Does tuition help or hinder? - "the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) study on 15-year-olds ranked Singapore first among 18 countries when it came to tuition. But the study found that those who had tuition did not do better in the Pisa test than those who did not. Another study by economists Euston Quah and Roland Cheo published a decade ago even concluded that too much private tuition could hurt performance. The study found that among students of the same ability, those who spent more time on tuition fared worse than those who had fewer hours. Then there are the opportunity costs. Tuition time can be better spent on sports and other activities that build skills such as leadership and teamwork, which may be more crucial for long-term success."

To-Do Lists Don’t Work - "increasing the number of choices we have — Single-ply or two-ply? Quilted or flat? Aloe-infused or extra soft? — actually increases our negative emotions [PDF] because our sense of opportunity cost increases. In complementary research, Iyengar has shown that our brains can only handle about seven options before we’re overwhelmed... When your list contains some tasks that are three minutes long and some that are 33 minutes, you’ll invariably focus on the shorter one for the psychological payoff and dopamine release that comes from crossing an item off your list. That means some of those tasks — proofreading the 135 pages of the new employee benefits handbook — will wait for a long, long time."

The Simpsons' secret formula: it's written by maths geeks - "This prank was planted into the episode by David S Cohen, who later changed his name to David X Cohen, in part to reflect his love of algebra"

Salman Rushdie fatwa turned into Iranian video game - "The Stressful Life of Salman Rushdie and Implementation of his Verdict is the title of the game being developed by the Islamic Association of Students, a government-sponsored organisation which announced this week it had completed initial phases of production."

Is common ground between atheism and belief possible? - "Top of the list was Karen Armstrong, since she has been the most prominent advocate of seeing religion as mythos not logos: roughly speaking, as about values and practices, not beliefs about what exists or has happened on earth or beyond. So not surprisingly she agreed with the first article, which asserts that creeds or factual assertions are at most secondary and often irrelevant to religion. She also agreed, with some reservations about the wording, with the second, that religious belief does not, and should not, require the belief that any supernatural events have occurred here on Earth, and the third, that religions are not crypto- or proto-sciences. Although she said that she was with me on "religious texts are the creation of the human intellect and imagination", she said "your wording is prohibitive", because it "would antagonise a lot of people. It is too bald and needs nuance. There needs to be some acknowledgement that the 'supernatural being' is only a symbol of transcendence – something that many religious people understand intuitively – even though they might not express it explicitly. That religious language is essentially symbolic – pointing beyond itself to what lies beyond speech and concepts". I have to say I can't see why my wording makes any of this problematic. Still, with caveats, Armstrong is basically with me... the rejection of the articles [by most] suggests that either most liberal religious commentators and leaders are inconsistent or incoherent; or that they ultimately do believe that when it comes to religion, creeds and factual assertions matter; belief that supernatural events have occurred here on Earth is required; religion can make quasi-scientific claims; and that human intellect and imagination are not enough to explain the existence of religious texts. If that is indeed the case then DiscoveredJoys is right that when it comes to belief: the middle ground is virtual deserted."

Is American atheism heading for a schism? - "The founders of Atheism+ say clearly that "divisiveness" is not their aim, but looking through the blogs and voluminous comments in the two weeks since A+ was mooted, trenches have been dug, beliefs stated, positions staked out and abuse thrown. A dissenting tweeter is "full of shit", while, according to one supporter, daring to disagree with Atheism+'s definition of progressive issues and not picking their side makes you an "asshole and a douchebag"."

40 Days of Dating: would you go out (and have sex) with an old friend? - "The 40 days came to an end on 28 April, but it was only in July that they started publishing the answers on their blog, 40 Days of Dating – capturing the attention of readers worldwide. Walsh and Goodman now have a combined Twitter fan base of more than 40,000, a Vimeo page with hundreds of thousands of views, and have signed up to Hollywood talent agency to handle the onslaught of film offers they've received for their story. So what is the magic that has made 40 Days become a viral hit? The main aspect that people appear to be attracted to is the "what if" scenario"

Have we literally broken the English language? - "It's happened. Literally the most misused word in the language has officially changed definition. Now as well as meaning "in a literal manner or sense; exactly: 'the driver took it literally when asked to go straight over the traffic circle'", various dictionaries have added its other more recent usage. As Google puts it, "literally" can be used "to acknowledge that something is not literally true but is used for emphasis or to express strong feeling"... "Literally" has been playfully abused since the time of Walter Scott"

'Eleven Jinping': Indian TV fires anchor over blooper

Canadian Inuit post 'sealfies' in protest over Ellen DeGeneres' Oscar-night selfie - "Canadian Inuit have embarked on a unique form of protest against the decision by host Ellen DeGeneres to highlight an anti seal-hunting charity on Oscars night... members of Canada's indigenous population have hit back with their own version, the "sealfie". Inuit have begun to post pictures of themselves dressed in sealskin clothing, Canoe.ca reported. The move aims to highlight the cultural and financial benefits of a practice they see as a sustainable, ethical choice."

Iran: threat of lashes or fine for walking the dog - "A group of Iranian MPs has proposed making it a criminal offence to keep dogs as pets or walk them in public, with offenders subject to 74 lashes or a fine... “Walking and playing with animals such as dogs and monkeys outdoors and in public places are harmful to the health and the peace of other people, especially kids and women, and are against our Islamic culture,” the bill says."

Well-off families create 'glass floor' to ensure children's success, says study - "Children from wealthier families but with less academic ability are 35% more likely to become high earners than their more gifted counterparts from poor families, according to findings from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission"
You get equality when everyone is equally miserable

Research links cancer to fruit and vegetables - "Glasgow University researchers, led by Professor Kenneth McColl, have discovered a link between nitrates in fruit and vegetables and gullet cancer... it was unlikely that organic food would be any healthier, because it also contained substantial levels of nitrate, some of which came from natural fertilisers such as manure"

Argentinians react to report linking meat to cancer: 'I'd rather die than give it up'

Condom challenge: teens invent a new way to potentially maim themselves online - "As a rule, please do not put airtight seals over your mouth and nose, particularly when they are also filled with water. It is a Bad Idea."

What you see in this picture says more about you than the kangaroo - "It was a photograph that touched the world. An intimate portrait of a dying mother kangaroo being gently cradled by her mate, while with her last breath she reached out to caress her innocent baby. Yet, as it turns out, that is not what the photo shows at all. As an Australian expert swiftly pointed out, rather than protecting the female, the male appears to be trying to mate with her, holding her close to fend off any rivals. Indeed, his unwanted attentions may even have led to her death."

Baby Jesus statue in Canada turns heads with artist's 'shocking' restoration - "A handmade terracotta sculpture of baby Jesus’s head that was added to a broken statue outside a Catholic church in Canada has prompted amusement and disappointment, with some likening it to the now infamous attempt by a Spanish woman to restore a crumbling fresco of Jesus... The head sparked bemusement on social media, with some pointing out the striking resemblance between baby Jesus and Maggie Simpson"

32GB iPhone 7 significantly slower than more expensive versions, tests show - "some have much poorer 4G reception"

Spaniards’ lack of sleep isn’t a cultural thing – they’re in the wrong time zone - "It is no accident that the Spanish are sleeping an hour less. Spain is in the wrong time zone. Madrid is almost directly south of London, so it should be in the same time zone as the UK, yet for over 50 years the country has adhered to Central European Time. In 2013 a Spanish national commission looking at this issue revealed that Spaniards sleep 53 minutes less than the European average, and that this level of sleep loss raised absenteeism, stress, work-related accidents and failure at school... Spanish workers typically work 11-hour days, from 9am to 8pm. With dinner at 9pm and a couple of hours of TV, they tend not to get to bed before midnight. So it’s not surprising that the birth rate is plummeting"
Meanwhile, in Singapore...

Man's best friend, bacteria's worst enemy: dog sniffs out superbug in Canadian hospital - "The two-year-old English springer spaniel is believed to be the only canine hospital employee in the world trained to sniff out the notorious superbug Clostridium difficile, or C difficile."

Manslamming: are men more likely to bump into people? - "Breslaw bumped into people. She bumped into a lot of people. Mainly, though, she bumped into men. One might be inclined to believe that the lesson learned from all this is that you shouldn’t act like a douchebag when navigating a crowded city. But that would be reading too little into the experiment. No, says New York magazine, Breslaw’s experience is indicative of “the sidewalk MO of men who remain apparently oblivious to the personal space of those around them … a phenomenon that perhaps we could call manslamming.” Yes, perhaps we could call it that but, also, perhaps we shouldn’t. Not just because it is a ridiculous word, but because there are so many things wrong with the experiment that I feel inclined to slam my palm into my face. A feeling indicative of a phenomenon that, perhaps, we could call palmslamming. First there’s the fact that manslamming kinda smacks of, well, man-slamming. One of the challenges feminists face is having to constantly reiterate that, no, feminism has nothing to do with hating or belittling men. Feminism is about equal rights. And while this experiment was based on the valid and very important premise that male privilege manifests itself in even the most basic tenets of everyday life, it doesn’t follow that all the many microaggressions of city life are a direct result of that privilege. Ironically, having the time to turn “manslamming” into a phenomenon is itself a result of privilege; if it’s your main annoyance as a woman, then you’re doing pretty well. Then there’s the whole “science” part of the experiment... It is a social media science whose results are not measured in an increase in women’s rights, but in click-throughs, video views, and – the holy grail – being accepted into the Oxford English Dictionary. Experimental feminism follows a simple four-step procedure: 1) You come up with a hypothesis that will make a good headline; 2) test out that hypothesis under conditions that mean it will probably be proved right; 3) come up with a snappy neologism that describes said hypothesis; 4) write it up in a blogpost. Extra credits if you have a YouTube video. Somewhere, in an urban newsroom filled with millennials, someone is trying to come up with the next great feminist experiment. Here’s one for free: manstraining; the act of having to squint your eyes really hard to find an affront to your daily experience as a woman, despite so many bigger ones to battle."
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