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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Links - 28th February 2018 (3)

Stop trying to be like Arabs, Johor ruler tells Malays - "The Sultan of Johor has called on Malays not to discard their unique culture, saying he was disturbed that some people want to stop Muslims from practising the traditional salam greeting... "I also welcome you to live in Saudi Arabia."

The mystery: Are activists and artists being locked out of academia? | Tan Tarn How Too - "I have a list: a black list, a grey list, a list of ­– if you will – Cherian Georges. It is a list of 15 artists and activists who say they have been denied jobs in academia or asked to leave their full-time or part-time jobs in our universities, polytechnics and sometimes schools... A few cannot even point to anything specific that had done that might have offended the authorities. Others wonder if they can be sure that they are being punished... Most of the cases happened in the last three to four years. They roughly coincide with the tightening on freedom of expression (see here) that began in 2013 after the brief false spring following General Election 2011... None on the list are academics who publish critical work exclusively in academic journals; this is probably because few read their work. To be sure, some would say that those on the list deserve what they got and that they should not expect to find employment if they want to criticise. That is true, but such as system than cannot claim to be democratic or meritocratic. Others would say 15 is a small number. That may be true, but their stories are a symptom of the wider ills of an intolerant, punitive political system... There are a few reasons why academics mindful of tenure and advancement are not interested in research on Singapore. One is the difficulty of getting Singapore-focused work published in top tier journals and of getting data. However, a few have said privately that they avoided researching on Singapore because they feared reprisal, and because it was better to be safe than honest."

Will Uber, Grab and Didi ever make money? - "“The ride-hailing business, as it is currently structured, is not sustainable,” says Aswath Damodaran, a professor who teaches equity valuation at New York University. “What Uber and other ride-hailing companies have found is that it is easy to grow the business, but actually very difficult to make money”"

Ian Miles Cheong on Twitter: "VICE: Right-wing newspapers are a threat to free speech because they shame SJWs. To protect free speech, we must end free speech. https://t.co/34SkRVDfIH"

China Refuses to Admit It Has a Rape Problem. I Would Know. – Foreign Policy - "economic changes were helping cause the moral and behavioral ones — and the state preferred to lionize the former while officially opposing the latter. So rather than acknowledge the ways that urbanization, industrialization, and globalization were undermining traditional ways of life, Chinese authorities conveniently blamed their country’s new bedroom behaviors on an insidious, foreign enemy. As early as 1990, state media blamed the proliferation of pornography within China on “Western cultural infiltration.” A rash of recent laws prohibit television and movies from depicting cleavage, one-night stands, and “admiration for Western lifestyles.” But these chastisements did little to alter anyone’s behavior, and it wasn’t long before China’s free market economy had exploited, for its own ends, the association between sex and the West. Pictures of foreign women — typically blonde Caucasians, like me — came to regularly grace packages of lingerie, sex toys, and knockoff condom brands. Inevitably, the connection entered the Chinese vernacular. I’ve heard Chinese men describe the Chinese women who frequent Shanghai nightclubs as “more Westernized than the West”... When Chinese looked at the bodies of Western women, they saw freedom, democracy, abandon, critique of morality, or any number of different ideas... In the four years I lived in China over the past decade and a half, I lost count of the number of Chinese men who assumed that because I was American, they could touch me, say lewd things to me, or take me home with them; they often said as much. “Many Chinese people, older and conservative-minded especially, ” said Lijia Zhang, journalist and author of the novel Lotus, “think all Western people are sexually loose, women in particular”... In a 2013 U.N. Population Fund survey of one Chinese county, fully one in five male respondents admitted to having committed rape. Two percent admitted they had participated in a gang rape; 44 percent of men said they had engaged in physical violence against an intimate partner."

Why Europe Sucks: Bad Beaches, Small Portions, And Other Problems - "You have to wedge yourself into cars that’re only slightly larger than filing cabinets, drive on streets designed for horses, and eat at restaurants with tables that barely fit the salad plate. Apartments are so small they have those all-in-one washer/dryers, which is great if you enjoy perpetually damp clothes"

Academic Decolonisation: the Slippery Slope of Dismantling Knowledge - "in many ways, the discourse surrounding decolonisation furnishes today’s intellectual and moralistic justifications for racism, albeit unintentionally... At first sight, the rhetorical focus on critical concepts of globalisation, oppression and justice might seem far removed from the literary and linguistic concerns of post-modernism, but both share an aversion to reason as the means of judging one idea, argument or knowledge claim as better than another. And once reason and rationality are ruled out of court, either because they lead to totalising grand narratives or because they have illegitimate priority and oppressive effects, both the claims of the postmodernists and those of the proponents of decolonisation to epistemic authority can only be asserted... truth as the ultimate arbiter in intellectual work is equally marginalised... With no epistemic criteria for judging one form of knowledge over another, any differences in the value and status attributed to knowledge and knowledge procedures from different cultures can only be the effect of prior relations of political and economic inequality. In this outlook, power trumps knowledge every time... The relativistic presuppositions of academic decolonisation advocates means they are unable to recognise new realities and problems. For example, wedded to an outdated prism of nineteenth century colonial relations, despite empirical evidence to the contrary, they still subscribe to some version of dependency theories. New studies suggesting that, in America, the suicide rate is growing among white, rather than black, males – a reversal of earlier trends – are ignored. Unable to properly recognise the nature of a social problem, the solutions proposed by Decolonisers tend to focus on imposing a faux equality in the symbolic realm rather than engage with the more difficult work needed to solve contemporary problems in ways that contribute to overall social progress."

Fighting Against ‘Rape Culture’ Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry - "The harshest charge that one can level against Erdely and her associates at Rolling Stone is that they knew full well that their story was full of holes, but that they considered their political objectives to be of greater value than were the facts in question. (When Sabrina Erdely proposes bizarrely in her “apology” that her job is to “weigh my compassion against my journalistic duty to find the truth,” she opens herself up to this charge.)... Over the last decade or so, we have witnessed the rise of a political movement that hopes to set the investigation and punishment of sexual assault outside of the limitations that are imposed by respect for due process, for rational inquiry, and for common intellectual decency. By and large, this movement is populated by people who despise the truth if it contradicts the narrative; who regard evidence and process as tools of oppression; who interpret skepticism and questioning as acts of hostility; and who, at least as it relates to “rape culture,” consider unthinking credulity as a virtue and not a vice... the lawyer and journalist Rachel Sklar... confirmed for posterity that she considers “women who speak of their own experiences” to be automatically “credible,” and anybody who asks questions to be a rape apologist... Even her apology — such as it was — followed a classic path: To wit, “I’m sorry for getting the details wrong, but I hope you won’t think this means it wasn’t true.” Taking up this lattermost point, the lawyer Scott Greenfield observed today that Erdely has “not only failed to apologize to those she wrongfully smeared in her story, but used it as a vehicle to further promote the very cause that blinded her from truth.”"

Scientists Find Religion Triggers Same Area of Brain as Sex, Drugs and Love - "what they feel is caused by activating the brain’s reward circuits that control our ability to feel pleasure. It’s the part of the brain associated with sex, drugs, music as well as love"

Where China goes to relax - "As the Chinese believe, Europeans want to conquer nature, keeping plants and bushes behind their appointed boundaries. Chinese garden designers, on the other hand, seek to find the ultimate harmony between man and the natural world."

The Silhouette of Oppression - "There is no freedom of information in Singapore, and many procedures and processes happen in black boxes with little transparency. Visas and jobs can be denied with no reasons given, thus restricting methods and grounds for appeal. Legislation is worded broadly enough for all sorts of activity to fall within its confines. Opportunities can vanish in circumstances that are just enough to trigger suspicions, but not verify anything. Only once in a while will someone come across a tidbit that suggests interference, whether from the Internal Security Department or elsewhere, but even these crumbs can be difficult to document, whispered as they are in off-record conversations with no paper trail... stories of educators/researchers/journalists being denied work visas or tenure or clearance are now so familiar to me they are almost trite... The police came knocking on my door at the end of a long weekend in September. They handed me a letter informing me of an investigation into an illegal assembly: a vigil for a death row inmate’s imminent execution. A vigil at which police officers had been present, and had allowed us to stay. We would later find out that our names had been flagged with the immigration authorities, and that we were not allowed to leave the country before our interrogations. These are the stories you hear again and again when you fall in with Singapore’s activists... This is the autocrat’s dream: a state of affairs that privileges the powerful, a way to exert control without attracting public shame. When there is no evidence or clear sign of oppression, there is no report or complaint to make, no documentation to file for posterity. When a survey from a human rights organisation asks you if activists face reprisals from the state for their work, “not really, but…” isn’t something you can place on a Likert scale."

Man in Sweden charged with raping Canadian girls, others over the internet - "A man in Sweden is charged with raping girls in Canada and two other countries entirely through online contact, in what prosecutors are calling a potentially precedent-setting case... Under Swedish law, rape does not have to involve intercourse, Wennerstrom said. It can be another act considered to be equally violating."

The 'internet of things' is sending us back to the Middle Ages - "Internet-enabled devices are so common, and so vulnerable, that hackers recently broke into a casino through its fish tank. The tank had internet-connected sensors measuring its temperature and cleanliness. The hackers got into the fish tank’s sensors and then to the computer used to control them, and from there to other parts of the casino’s network. The intruders were able to copy 10 gigabytes of data to somewhere in Finland... One key reason we don’t control our devices is that the companies that make them seem to think – and definitely act like – they still own them, even after we’ve bought them... companies are using intellectual property law – intended to protect ideas – to control physical objects consumers think they own"

Young, healthy and demanding blood tests: The Americanisation of Aussie patients - "Fictional American TV doctors are uncomfortable with uncertainty. They like to label things, and then they like to do something about them. The use of time as a diagnostic aid is unheard of, as is talking, or examining the patient. The delicate art of watch-and-wait is just not done. People are wheeled into the emergency room via a full body MRI scan while the health insurance industry looks on in glee... A small study from 1975, published in the British Medical Journal and drummed into medical students everywhere, concluded that around 82.5 per cent of diagnoses were evident from the story patients tell. Examination solved a further 8.75 per cent, presumably leaving 8.75 per cent of diagnoses for laboratory tests"

Are engineers really more likely to be polyamorous? - "“There is a surprising amount of overlap between the geeky, tech-savvy, comic-book-reading, video-game-and-Dungeons-&-Dragons playing community with the non-monagamy community,” Winston said."

What it feels like to be the last generation to remember life before the internet

Who Wins When Poor People Vote? The Answer May Surprise Bernie Sanders.

Golf club hunts mystery man who keeps shitting in the holes

Video: Jagermeister pool party guest in coma 'after liquid nitrogen reacts with chlorine' - "The victims were poisoned after staff reportedly poured nitrogen into the pool, causing a toxic cloud after the liquid reacted with the chlorine in the water"

Japanese customer service: So amazing that employees will burst out of the walls to help you

What Vietnam Taught Us About Breaking Bad Habits - "Around 20 percent of the soldiers self-identified as addicts... 95 percent of the people who were addicted in Vietnam did not become re-addicted when they returned to the United States. This flew in the face of everything everyone knew both about heroin and drug addiction generally. When addicts were treated in the U.S. and returned to their homes, relapse rates hovered around 90 percent. It didn't make sense... one big theory about why the rates of heroin relapse were so low on return to the U.S. has to do with the fact that the soldiers, after being treated for their physical addiction in Vietnam, returned to a place radically different from the environment where their addiction took hold of them... We think of ourselves as controlling our behavior, willing our actions into being, but it's not that simple."

7 Facts About Drugs and Addiction That Will Make You Question Everything You Know - "85 percent to 90 percent of people who use even heroin, crack or meth don’t become addicted.
Portugal decriminalized all drugs — and injecting drug use fell by 50 percent.
Switzerland legalized heroin for addicts over a decade ago. Nobody has ever died on an overdose there on legal heroin... Most legal heroin users choose to reduce their dose and come off the program over time, because as they find work, and no longer feel stigmatized, they want to be present in their lives again.
A Harvard Professor calculates the murder rate would fall by at least 25 percent after legalization.
Kids find it much easier to get hold of illegal drugs than legal drugs.
When people see drug reform in practice, few want to go back... When Switzerland — a really conservative country — was asked to vote on whether to reverse the legalization of heroin for addicts, 70 percent of citizens voted to keep it legal — because they had seen such remarkable results."
Voodoo Singaporean logic would be that since people change their minds about drug reform when they see it in practice, they should never be allowed to see it in practice so we can remain tough on drugs

Swiss drug policy should serve as model: experts - "Switzerland’s innovative policy of providing drug addicts with free methadone and clean needles has greatly reduced deaths while cutting crime rates and should serve as a global model... Countries whose drug policy remains focused on punishing offenders, including Russia and much of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, should learn from a Swiss strategy based on “harm reduction” that protects both users and communities, they said. Even Iran and China -- while far from espousing Switzerland’s system of direct democracy -- have copied its methadone substitution programs"

Habits: Most drug users are happy, successful people with a taste for the good life - "The young people trusted and respected their families in much the same way as their non-drug-taking contemporaries, disapproved of "out of control" behaviour by so called "problem" users or addicts, and were no more fatalistic than other teenagers. They viewed drug-taking as a vital part of everyday living and were only slightly more rebellious than other young people."

No-go zone? Here's how one of Sweden's roughest areas edged out its drug gangs - "The postal company confirms to The Local that its policy not to deliver parcels to individual addresses at Seved remains in place, although there has been talk of easing it. In the past year there have been several instances of car burnings, and the drug trade moved from the street inside the buildings to avoid surveillance cameras. In November a man in his 30s was shot dead, one of 11 fatal shootings in Malmö last year (there were three in 2015)."

Addiction: The View from Rat Park (2010) - "the rats in Rat Park, called the “Social Females” and “Social Males” in this graph, are consuming hardly any morphine solution, but the “Caged Females” and “Caged Males” are consuming a lot. In this experiment the females consumed more than the males, but that gender difference did not hold up in later experiments. It soon became absolutely clear to us that the earlier Skinner box experiments did not prove that morphine was irresistible to rats. Rather, most of the consumption of rats isolated in a Skinner box was likely to be a response to isolation itsself. So, we published the results of our experiments in psychopharmacology journals... the drug only becomes irresistible when the opportunity for normal social existence is destroyed... When I talk to addicted people, whether they are addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling, Internet use, sex, or anything else, I encounter human beings who really do not have a viable social or cultural life. They use their addictions as a way of coping with their dislocation: as an escape, a pain killer, or a kind of substitute for a full life. More and more psychologists and psychiatrists are reporting similar observations. Maybe our fragmented, mobile, ever-changing modern society has produced social and cultural isolation in very large numbers of people, even though their cages are invisible!"

What’s So Bad About Casual Drug Use? - "14.5% of Americans ages 12 and older have tried cocaine at least once, but just 1.8% report using the drug recreationally in the past year. And just 0.6% have used it in the past 30 days, which would seem to be the minimal definition of a casual user... That pattern simply shouldn’t be possible if these drugs were as addictive as commonly thought... at three years, only 12% of those addicted in Vietnam had been addicted at any time in the three years since return, and for those readdicted, the addiction had usually been very brief.” It wasn’t for lack of access to junk, either: half of the returning addicts said they’d tried heroin at least once since arriving back home... regular drug users can often function quite well. Sigmund Freud used cocaine habitually for years, and his first major scientific publication was about the wonders of the drug (he eventually forsook it). Another pioneering late 19th and early 20th century man of medicine, William Halsted, was dependent on cocaine and morphine during an illustrious career that revolutionized and modernized surgical techniques."

Legal marijuana is finally doing what the drug war couldn’t - The Washington Post - "Legal marijuana may be doing at least one thing that a decades-long drug war couldn't: taking a bite out of Mexican drug cartels' profits. The latest data from the U.S. Border Patrol shows that last year, marijuana seizures along the southwest border tumbled to their lowest level in at least a decade. Agents snagged roughly 1.5 million pounds of marijuana at the border, down from a peak of nearly 4 million pounds in 2009. The data supports the many stories about the difficulties marijuana growers in Mexico face in light of increased competition from the north. As domestic marijuana production has ramped up in places such as California, Colorado and Washington, marijuana prices have fallen, especially at the bulk level... And it's not just price — Mexican growers are facing pressure on quality, too
Voodoo Singaporean logic: drugs are harmful because they are expensive so people commit crimes so they can afford drugs. And if drugs become cheap they become more harmful because more people can afford to buy them
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