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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Links - 14th February 2018 (3)

Turkey's new school year: Jihad in, evolution out - "For Turkey's Islamist-rooted government, the idea is for a new "education of values"... The same controversial textbook defines women's "obedience" to men as a form of "worship". But government officials say that is understandable as the book is about Islam and quotes Koranic verses. "Allah says it, not me. Should I correct him, or what?" said Alpaslan Durmus, who chairs the Board of Education."

Don't invite me to your straight wedding until we all have the right to marry - "They expressed this support for marriage equality, all while they designed their rings, those precious-metal symbols of an eternal commitment to each other — the ultimate, public declaration of being unified with the love of your life in the eyes of society and the eyes of the state and the eyes of each other... I've felt uncomfortable with the marriages of straight friends who support marriage equality for a while now."
This is why we can't have nice things

'Excommunicate me from the church of social justice': an activist's plea for change - "As a Cultural Studies scholar, I am interested in uncovering the ways that culture does the work of power. And as someone who has spent the last decade recovering from a childhood conversion to evangelical Christianity, I see a disturbing parallel between the authoritarian dogmas of orthodox religion and social justice activism. What am I talking about? I'm talking about the quest for purity. There is an underlying current of fear in my activist, queer, and trans people of colour communities. It is separate from the daily fear of police brutality, discrimination, or street harassment. It is the fear of appearing impure... I self-police what I say in leftist spaces. I stopped commenting on social media with questions or pushback because I am afraid of being called out. I am always ready to apologize for anything I do that a community member deems wrong, oppressive, or inappropriate — no questions asked... Activists are some of the judgiest people I've ever met, myself included... Telling people how to live their lives is central to dogmatic religion and dogmatic activism. Both create an environment that encourages people to tell each other what to do. This is especially prominent online. Scrolling through my Facebook feed sometimes feels Iike sliding into a pew to be blasted by a fragmented, frenzied sermon"

Swedish 'man-free' festival comes under fire from transgender groups - "She had previously suggested men should be barred from music festivals until they had "learned to behave." But the festival has come under fire from users of Instagram, the photo-sharing social network, who claimed the policy was discriminatory against transgender people. This is because the ban on men only applies to what Ms Knyckare described as "cisgender men", a term for a person whose gender identity corresponds to their sex assigned at birth. One user angrily asked whether the ban extended to transgender men - people who are biologically female but identify as male.
Is it more transphobic to ban transmen from a no-men festival or to allow them in?

Did a Premature Obituary Inspire the Nobel Prize? - "The newspaper incident is often cited as the driving force behind Nobel’s philanthropy, but historians have yet to find an original copy of the “Merchant of Death” obituary. Some now dismiss the story as a myth, while others argue that it was only one of many factors that helped shape the inventor’s decision"

The Only Way to Save Orchard Road is to Let It Die - "Orchard Road does not have an identity, and this is where we have to take the blame. While it used to be the instinctive shopping choice two decades ago, the cookie-cutter approach to establishing retail chains has hugely diluted its significance and even exterminated its cohesiveness. Take a 15-minute walk starting from Wheelock Place towards Somerset, and you will find four Zara outlets, two H&M stores and two Uniqlo shops... Shopping boulevards work when there is diversity. The Harajuku-Omotesando stretch in Tokyo exemplifies how a shopping district can cater to different demographics of shoppers. In some regard, the street is a representation of the development of Japanese youths into adulthood, starting with street fashion and outrageous designs in Harajuku and Shibuya on one end of the street, and graduating to finer luxury tastes in Omotesando on the other. Duplication of shops is rare, and even if they do, they are not located a stone’s throw from each other. Orchard Road, on the other hand, is less a shopping district and more a turf war among property developers. To ensure that they get a slice of the shoppers pie and not lose out, every developer has built their Orchard mall in more or less the same mould – an anchor departmental store complemented by a limited range of international brands and, of course, the food outlets. A popular choice is Starbucks. Also, unlike Japan, there is a dearth of local designers and labels in Singapore, thus limiting retail tenant diversity. Most ply their trades at Arab Street and Bugis, where the rent is significantly cheaper than in Orchard. Consequently, they do not get the visibility needed to grow the local industry. Of the more than 20 malls along Orchard Road, only two have dared to go against the grain in their retail concept – Orchard Central and Orchard Gateway. They are probably the worst-faring of the lot."
The fact that malls which dare to be different do the worst suggests that Singaporeans get the Orchard Road they deserve

Bringing back Orchard Road buzz - "Analysts say Singapore is "over-shopped" - too many malls for such a small country. In fact, RHB Research Institute Singapore said in an August report that Singapore has the highest concentration of retail space per capita in South-east Asia: 1.08 sq m or 11.6 sq ft of retail space per capita, compared with 0.8 sq m per individual for Bangkok and 0.71 sq m for Kuala Lumpur. But that is lower than Hong Kong's 1.5 sq m (16.2 sq ft) as at end-2015, said consultancy JLL... "Most malls are under Reits (real estate investment trusts), so they will fall back on the bread-and-butter tenants, which are more established, so as to ensure sustainable yields for the mall." This results in the cookie-cutter look of many malls. Retailers say landlords are often inflexible in rental negotiations, compounding their troubles."

White Men Have Committed More Mass Shootings than Any Other Group
If Islamophobia and blaming Muslims for terrorism creates more terrorists, what does blaming white men do?

Does Isis really 'claim every terror attack'? How do we know if a claim is true? - ""A simple tabulation of past claims of responsibility for attacks in the West shows that Isis has been surprisingly disciplined in only claiming attacks that the terror group has either directed, enabled or else inspired," Rukmini Callimachi, a New York Times correspondent focusing on Isis and al-Qaeda, told The Independent. She added: "A large share of attacks now are inspired by the terror group. They are carried out by attackers who imbibed the ideology online, as opposed to carried out by the terror group's own personnel. "What people seem to not understand is that an inspired attack is an attack by the terror group."... Making false claims would also leave the group open to accusations they claim attacks they have not committed, which while spreading fear and dismay, would undermine trust among supporters. The group's Amaq news agency "thrives on accuracy," Mr Amarasingam explained. He said some Isis supporters told him they view the group's media as more accurate than Western reporting... While the misconception Isis simply claims everything portrays them as "a bunch of disorganised and opportunistic maniacs," it "doesn't really help us in understanding their internal logic or their future trajectory," Mr Amarasingam said. Experts cautioned against underestimating the group, with Mr Sampson saying it is important not to give Isis or other terror groups "more credit than they deserve or less credit than they merit when it comes to being a danger." Ms Callimachi warned: "This misperception is not just among laypeople, but has spread to the highest levels of government."


Wimbledon station commuters flee train in 'Bible' panic - "the man's Bible-reading led to a "commotion" and a "crush". He said someone then asked the man to stop speaking "as he was scaring people" and "the guy stopped and stood there with his head down"."
Luckily this wasn't the Koran

Evergreen State College Sanctions 80 Students, Debuts 'Free Speech Guide' - "Evergreen is facing both a budget and an enrollment crisis since students attacked Professor Bret Weinstein last May, alleging that he was "racist" for choosing not to participate in an event designed to show the impact of minority students on campus — but would have required all white students and faculty to stay home. Students became so enraged at the incident that they seized control of campus facilities, driving off campus safety officers and forcing the school to shut down for several days."

Heartland brothels make residents see red - "Ms Vanessa Ho, director of sex workers' rights group Project X, believes increased police raids on unlicensed brothels in Geylang could have resulted in businesses moving to public housing... There is also a specific demand for brothels within HDB units as customers prefer to visit them because of convenience, said Ms Ho. "They don't have to go all the way to Geylang. The location is more private and discreet and they are less likely to bump into someone they know," she said... A website hawking sexual services online has introduced an app that allows clients to browse its website discreetly."

'Media Contagion' Is Factor in Mass Shootings, Study Says - "People who commit mass shootings in America tend to share three traits: rampant depression, social isolation and pathological narcissism, according to a paper presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention that calls on the media to deny such shooters the fame they seek... this approach could be adopted in much the same way as the media stopped reporting celebrity suicides in the mid-1990s after it was corroborated that suicide was contagious. Johnston noted that there was “a clear decline” in suicide by 1997, a couple of years after the Centers for Disease Control convened a working group of suicidologists, researchers and the media, and then made recommendations to the media."

Yet Another Major Russia Story Falls Apart. Is Skepticism Permissible Yet? - "Sometimes stories end up debunked. There’s nothing particularly shocking about that. If this were an isolated incident, one could chalk it up to basic human error that has no broader meaning. But this is no isolated incident. Quite the contrary: this has happened over and over and over again. Inflammatory claims about Russia get mindlessly hyped by media outlets, almost always based on nothing more than evidence-free claims from government officials, only to collapse under the slightest scrutiny, because they are entirely lacking in evidence... Each time the stories go viral; each time they further shape the narrative; each time those who spread them say little to nothing when it is debunked... Seeing Putin lurking behind and masterminding every western problem is now religious dogma – it explains otherwise-confounding developments, provides certainty to a complex world, and alleviates numerous factions of responsibility – so media outlets and their journalists are lavishly rewarded any time they publish accusatory stories about Russia (especially ones involving the U.S. election), even if they end up being debunked."

How Uber’s Failure in Japan Can Help Startups Everywhere - "Americans seem uniquely credulous of corporate claims of being the true champions of the consumer and of regulations existing primarily to benefit politicians and their cronies. In the rest of the world, however, when Uber drives into town claiming to be a white knight who will fight the government regulators in order to provide good jobs and affordable services, people simply don’t believe them. Nor should they. It’s a laughable claim... America jails or fines individuals who break the law, but corporate non-compliance is different. In fact, there is a school of thought in the West that when the fines are cheaper than the cost of compliance, it is not only OK to break that law, but that the CEO has a fiduciary duty to break the law."

Meet Dave Rubin, host of the most influential chat show you've never heard of - "Men have veered into some strange territory, especially over the last few decades," the 40 year-old tells me from his Los Angeles home. "Just by existing as men we are automatically guilty of everything in some people's minds. And, on top of that, we've created a situation in the media where men are only allowed to talk about politics and sport." ‘This means the ladies on [popular US female-led chat show] The View are allowed to discuss everything from their personal lives to work and politics, but men are stuck in little boxes only allowed to reveal a part of themselves. That’s why my show exists: to challenge that’... "He also made a great point about the outrage culture we live in and then people were outraged by his comments. You couldn't make this stuff up. I mean, do these people even understand irony?"

Stephen Fry tells sex abuse victims to 'grow up' prompting social media outrage - "Stephen Fry has told sex abuse victims to "grow up" because self-pity is the “ugliest emotion in humanity”"

The Real Reason We Need To Stop Trying To Protect Everyone’s Feelings - "[On Fahrenheit 451] The firemen have been doing it for so long they have no idea. Most of them have never even read a book. Except one fireman—Captain Beatty—who has been around long enough to remember what life was like before. As Montag begins to doubt his profession—going as far as to hide a book in his house—he is subjected to a speech from Beatty. In it Beatty explains that it wasn’t the government that decided that books were a threat. It was his fellow citizens...
In fact, it was something rather simple—something that should sound very familiar. It was a desire not to offend—of an earnest notion to literally have “everyone made equal.” And it’s at the end of this speech that we get the killer passage:
“You must understand that our civilization is so vast that we can’t have our minorities upset and stirred. Ask yourself, What do we want in this country above all? People want to be happy, isn’t that right?…Colored people don’t like Little Black Sambo. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Burn it. Someone’s written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book. Serenity, Montag. Peace, Montag. Take your fight outside. Better yet, to the incinerator.”...
We require kids to read this book in high school and just a few years (or months) later, they’re leading the charge on exactly the kind of well-intentioned censorship Bradbury was talking about... Real empowerment and respect is to see our fellow citizens—victims and privileged, religious and agnostic, conservative and liberal—as adults. Human beings are not automatons—ruled by drives and triggers they cannot control. On the contrary, we have the ability to decide not to be offended. We have the ability to discern intent. We have the ability to separate someone else’s actions or provocation or ignorance from our own. This is the great evolution of consciousness—it’s what separates us from the animals."

Tony Matelli's Naked Man Statue Shouldn't Shock Wellesley Students - "Other than their male professors whom, by and large, they adore, Wellesley students are not used to having men on campus. But an inanimate naked man—a statue—has caused an uproar at my alma mater. The statue is a white man in his underwear, sleepwalking with arms outstretched. It is part of an art exhibit featuring sculptor Tony Matelli at the college's Davis Museum. The sleepwalker has incited nervy indignation among some 300 students, who have started a petition on, asking college president H. Kim Bottomly to have the statue removed. "[T]his highly lifelike sculpture has, within just a few hours of its outdoor installation, become a source of apprehension, fear, and triggering thoughts regarding sexual assault for many members of our campus community"... art is meant to excite, shock, unruffle. It is meant to make you "think." (Shocking!) But the students who have signed the petition will have none of it. As art history major Annie Wong told a local newspaper, “I think art's intention is to confront, but not assault, and people can see this as assaulting.""

Trigger Warnings in College Classes - The New York Times - "Incest and sexual violence are hardly the only sorts of topics that might trigger panic attacks in students. The same can happen with readings about racism or readings critical of abortion or affirmative action, which may give some students the panicky feeling of being attacked. Even depictions of love and success may induce panic in students who fear that they will never have these goods. Here’s why I don’t use trigger warnings: I’m a teacher, not a therapist, and I teach young adults, not children... my job is to provide intellectual thrills, not therapy...
It’s worth noting that many students who want trigger warnings are the same ones who are demanding programs and organizing demonstrations to confront the very issues that some find triggering. They are conflicted about how to engage in constructive discussion of very difficult subject matter."

6 Story Arcs Define Western Literature, Data-Mining Study Reveals - "“Rags to riches” (the story gets better over time);
“Man in a hole” (fortunes fall, but the protagonist bounces back);
“Cinderella” (there’s an initial rise in good fortunes, followed by a setback, but a happy ending)
“Tragedy” or “riches to rags” (things only get worse);
“Oedipus” (bad luck, followed by promise, ending in a final fall)
“Icarus” (opens with good fortunes, but doomed to fail)"
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