"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 04, 2018

Links - 4th May 2018 (1)

Forum | The Donald by The_Romford_Blue - "There’s something weird about the glee that overcame certain Brits when they heard Trump is visiting Britain in July. They can’t wait to dust down their placards, don their pussy hats, and take to the streets to rage against the ‘tangerine tyrant’. But if they’re so political, surely they’d have marched against Theresa May at some point, over Syria, or Windrush? And why didn’t they raise a peep during the visit of Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman last month? He really mistreats Muslims: represses them, beheads them, plunges them into famine (see Yemen). He denies women basic rights, yet no pussy hats for him. Next month President Erdogan of Turkey is coming here: there are no excitable tweets about railing against this persecutor of journalists and warmaker against the Kurds. Why Trump and not them? Because protesting against Trump isn’t actually political – it’s therapeutic, it’s visceral, it’s virtue-signalling with bells on. It’s about venting an often snooty emotional angst about the state of the world and against disobedient voters who won’t do as they’re told and choose Hillary or the EU. The big anti-Trump demo won’t really be a political march – it will be a middle-class primal scream"

Managing the managers: The rise of the business 'philosopher-kings' - "McKinsey was a big character - tall, and fond of chomping cigars, ignoring his doctor's advice. His ideas caught on with remarkable speed: by the mid-1930s he was hiring himself out at $500 (£380) a day - about $25,000 (£19,000) in today's money. And as his own time was limited, he took on employees. If he didn't like a report they wrote, he'd hurl it in the bin. "I have to be diplomatic with our clients," he told them. "But I don't have to be diplomatic with you bastards!""

Do welfare states boost economic growth, or stunt it? - " Imagine a single parent with two children. He or she might qualify for various payouts: housing benefit, child benefit, unemployment benefit. Could he or she accumulate more from the welfare system than they could get by working at the minimum wage? In 2013, according to research by the Cato Institute, in no fewer than nine European countries, the answer to that question was "Yes". In three of them - Austria, Croatia and Denmark - the marginal tax rate was nearly 100%. That means, if the single parent took a part-time job to earn some extra cash, he or she would immediately lose it in reduced benefits. Such a "welfare trap" hardly seems sensible. But it's also plausible to think that welfare states can improve economic productivity. If you lose your job, unemployment benefit means you don't have to rush into another one: it gives you time to find a new position that makes best use of your skills... the weight of evidence suggests that it's a wash - the positive and negative effects balance out. Welfare states don't make the pie bigger or smaller. But they do change the size of each individual slice. And that helps to keep a lid on inequality. At least, it used to. In the past two decades, the data shows welfare states haven't been doing that so well. And that's not surprising - they're creaking under the weight of a rapidly changing world. There's demographic change: people are living for longer after retirement... one of the biggest ways welfare states shaped the modern economy was to take the heat out of demands for much more radical change. Otto von Bismarck was no social reformer in the Frances Perkins mould. His motives were defensive. He feared that the public would turn to the revolutionary ideas of socialists Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In America, the New Deal was attacked from the left and right."

How air conditioning changed the world - "Boston entrepreneur Frederic Tudor amassed an unlikely fortune doing something similar. He took blocks of ice from frozen New England lakes in winter, insulated them in sawdust, and shipped them to warmer climes for summer. Until artificial ice-making took off, mild New England winters caused panic about an "ice famine"... Historically, theatres often shut down for summer: no windows, human bodies tightly packed together and, before electricity, lighting provided by flares. New England ice had been briefly popular. In the summer of 1880, New York's Madison Square Theatre used four tons a day: an eight-foot fan blew air over the ice and through ducts towards the audience. Unfortunately, though cool, the air was also damp, and with pollution increasing in New England's lakes, the melting ice sometimes released unpleasant smells. Willis Carrier's "Weathermaker" was much more practical... air conditioning is good news for many reasons. Studies show that it lowers mortality during heat waves. Heat makes prison inmates fractious - air conditioning pays for itself by reducing fights. When the temperature exceeds 21C or 22C in exam halls, students start to score lower in maths tests. In offices, air conditioning makes us more productive: according to one early study, it made US government typists do 24% more work... human productivity peaks at between 18C and 22C."

What tally sticks tell us about how money works - "Tallies were a way of recording debts with a system that was sublimely simple and effective. The stick would contain a record of the debt, for example: "£9 4s 4d from Fulk Basset for the farm of Wycombe". Fulk Basset was a Bishop of London in the 13th Century. He owed his debt to King Henry III. Now comes the elegant part. The stick would be split in half, down its length from one end to the other. The debtor would retain half, called the "foil". The creditor would retain the other half, called the "stock" - even today, British bankers use the word "stocks" to refer to debts of the British government. Because willow has a natural and distinctive grain, the two halves would match only each other... If you had a tally stock showing that Bishop Basset owed you £5, then unless you worried that he wasn't good for the money, the tally stock itself was worth close to £5 in its own right... the tally sticks themselves became a kind of money, a particular sort of debt that could be traded freely, circulating from person to person until it utterly separated from Bishop Basset and a farm in Wycombe... On Monday 4 May 1970, the Irish Independent, Ireland's leading newspaper, published a matter-of-fact notice with a straightforward title: Closure of banks. Every major bank in Ireland was closed and would remain closed until further notice. The banks were in dispute with their own employees, who had voted to strike, and it seemed likely that the whole business would drag on for weeks or even months. You might think that such news - in what was one of the world's more advanced economies - would inspire utter panic, but the Irish remained calm. They'd been expecting trouble, so had been stockpiling reserves of cash, but what kept the Irish economy going was something else. The Irish wrote each other cheques... The system was finally abolished and replaced by paper ledgers in 1834 after decades of attempts to modernise. To celebrate, it was decided to burn the sticks - six centuries of irreplaceable monetary records - in a coal-fired stove in the House of Lords, rather than letting parliamentary staff take them home for firewood. Burning a cartload or two of tally sticks in a coal-fired stove is a wonderful way to start a raging chimney fire. So it was that the House of Lords, then the House of Commons, and almost the entire Palace of Westminster - a building as old as the tally stick system itself - was burned to the ground."

School Start Times, Brand Names, and Too Much Ground Beef | Tell Me Something I Don't Know - "There's a trade off always between how much a muscle has been used and how tough it's going to be. But the tougher it is also the more flavor it's going to have. So that's the reason that you know a tenderloin's great, you can cook it in five minutes, you can cut it with a fork but it's never going to have the same flavor as a pot roast which you have to cook low and slow for six hours...
A later school start time could have a very beneficial effect on the economy. So our own research shows that if nationwide schools would start at eight thirty AM that would add about nine billion dollars a year to the US economy in terms of larger GDP... They do better in school. So it has been found that one hour more of sleep increases the probability of graduation or attending college by somewhere between eight to thirteen percent. And plus a lack of sleep is heavy associated with car crash and car crashes is one of the leading causes of death among American teenagers... they go to bed roughly at the same time but they get up in the morning later and actually interestingly they benefit from the better quality of sleep that tends to come their way in the early hours of the morning"

All About Bugs (of the Animal and Computer Varieties) | Tell Me Something I Don't Know - "You all know what it's like to go see King Lear if you haven't read it about ten minutes before. You might leave saying oh is wonderful. It wasn't wonderful because it wasn't the language that we speak. Whenever anybody says generous at a Shakespeare play you think that they mean magnanimous. They mean noble. They mean somebody who's living in a castle and you know up high and looking out. So somebody says generous and you think oh they mean magnanimous but they don't. It doesn't make sense and then the person keeps talking. That happens about every six lines...
[On Microsoft research on the money earned from annoying ads vs how much they piss users off (the religious war in online publishing)] If x is the amount of money that we make as a publisher to run the ads, the annoyance amount was 3X. So it cost you more money to apologize for the damage of the ads than you make by running the ads"

Good Night's Sleep Makes Us Happier Than A 50% Pay Rise, Research Suggests - "sexual satisfaction, health of relatives and feeling connected to the local community all impact our overall wellbeing. However, sleep was found to have the largest impact by far, with getting enough shut-eye having a greater impact on happiness than a 50% raise...
These were the five factors found to separate a typical person from those living best:
1. A Good Night’s Sleep
2. Sex Life Satisfaction
3. Job Security
4. Health of Close Relatives
5. Community Connectedness"

Animal mothers trick multiple males they are the father to prevent infanticide - "Closely related species that differ in infanticide and testes size include chimpanzees, where the males commit infanticide, versus bonobos, where males have not been observed to kill offspring. Bonobos have testes that are roughly 15 per cent larger than those of chimpanzees. Similarly, male Canadian Townsend voles do not commit infanticide and have 50 per cent larger testes compared to infanticidal males of close relatives the North American meadow voles"

BBC Radio 4 - Best of Today, Wednesday's business with Dominic O'Connell - "There's a very widespread belief in the UK that the UK gained a great deal from joining the EU. We've looked at that and we find that's absolutely not the case. The data shows very clearly that the UK economic growth if anything was lower after we joined the EU. What people do is to say well our growth was slower than say France and Germany before we joined and afterwards it was faster and therefore we know there was some relative improvement. If it wasn't an actual improvement that was a relative improvement. And a relative improvement only came because France and Germany slowed down so much after the nineteen seventies"

The Internet's Original Sin - "the pop-up ad. It was a way to associate an ad with a user’s page without putting it directly on the page, which advertisers worried would imply an association between their brand and the page’s content. Specifically, we came up with it when a major car company freaked out that they’d bought a banner ad on a page that celebrated anal sex. I wrote the code to launch the window and run an ad in it. I’m sorry. Our intentions were good... The fallen state of our Internet is a direct, if unintentional, consequence of choosing advertising as the default model to support online content and services

The Western Elite from a Chinese Perspective - "One class was about strategy. It focused on how corporate mottos and logos could inspire employees. Many of the students had worked for nonprofits or health care or tech companies, all of which had mottos about changing the world, saving lives, saving the planet, etc. The professor seemed to like these mottos. I told him that at Goldman our motto was “be long-term greedy.” The professor couldn’t understand this motto or why it was inspiring. I explained to him that everyone else in the market was short-term greedy and, as a result, we took all their money. Since traders like money, this was inspiring. He asked if perhaps there was another motto or logo that my other classmates might connect with. I told him about the black swan I kept on my desk as a reminder that low probability events happen with high frequency. He didn’t like that motto either and decided to call on another student, who had worked at Pfizer. Their motto was “all people deserve to live healthy lives.” The professor thought this was much better. I didn’t understand how it would motivate employees, but this was exactly why I had come to Stanford: to learn the key lessons of interpersonal communication and leadership."

Low-income and owning a car. Why? - "“It’s quite (difficult) trying to travel with two young children on public transport.” (Watch the episode here.) With the nearest MRT station about a 10-minute walk from her home, she added: “If I want to go to the MRT station, I have to either walk in the sun or squeeze onto a bus.”"

Commentary: Can intermittent fasting help tackle diabetes? - "The days of restricted eating gave the pancreas a break that allowed it to remove and recycle many of its cells. Then, when the mice started eating again, new cells that were capable of producing insulin emerged."

The Fascinating Afterlife of Peru's Mummies - "In the Andes, mummification was a way of preserving power, not memorializing it. As the Spanish discovered, the western spine of South America might be the Earth’s largest natural laboratory for making mummies. The sands of its bone-dry coast, stretching from Peru down to northern Chile, first made them naturally. Then, 7,000 years ago, the Chinchorro people learned to mummify their dead—2,000 years before the ancient Egyptians"

Academic Freedom Under Threat in Sweden - "“You will include Judith Butler in your course.” That was announced to Erik Ringmar, senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Lund University, after the September meeting of the department’s board of directors. Not that there’s anything wrong with reading the queer studies feminist Butler. It’s just that the course Ringmar teaches is primarily about the reaction to modernity at the turn of the last century, with a focus on fascism... The department’s goal, set by the board and approved by the academic board, is that the proportion of female authors must never fall below 40 percent of the reading lists. A course like Erik Ringmar’s—”Modern society and its critics“—which focuses on original texts from around the turn of the last century, immediately gets into trouble since fascism in the 1930s wasn’t exactly a bastion of gender equality... The gender equality plan of the Faculty of Social Sciences makes it clear that teachers must include sufficient literature from gender studies... All of this is guided by the underlying principle that it is not just about recruiting more women, it is about getting the right kind of gender perspectives which are influenced by the postmodernist and poststructuralist theories dominant within the humanities. While these perspectives may be interesting in some contexts, they are usually strongly ideological and almost always impossible to falsify. The direction to include Judith Butler on his reading list made the Director of Studies and Erik Ringmar decide to not hold the course again. Students who want to learn about the emergence of fascism at the turn of the 20th century need to apply to another university, and all this at a time when right-wing reaction is on the rise again in Europe. This is just one example of academic freedom being traded for a specific vision of social justice, and similar processes are taking place across the country. This process is called gender mainstreaming and it threatens academic freedom at all Swedish universities... One would think that the universities would have carried out an investigation to determine the extent to which the oppressive power structures they purport to exist permeate their organisations and student bodies. (Generally, when you contend that something exists, you need to prove it). But the National Secretariat for Gender Research recommends against this. In their feedback, those who have surveyed the situation at their own universities are mildly reprimanded... At Malmö University, it means, among other things, that parts of the education of a specialist nurse will be earmarked for gender studies... Swedish universities are willingly turning themselves into a commissariat for a one-sided and simplistic vision of social justice. And when the search for truth and the ideology of social justice collide, which do you think is likely to win?"
Ahh gender quotas. Just like if you can't get enough girls into sports, close down the boys' teams

Cutting Men’s Programs Now to Stay Title IX Compliant Later - The New York Times - "Delaware is one of dozens of universities that have eliminated low-profile men’s teams like wrestling, gymnastics and swimming in an effort, the universities say, to comply with Title IX, the federal law that bans sex discrimination in education. But in cutting the men’s varsity track team, Delaware took the practice a step further. The university did not make the argument that it needed to cut the team to immediately comply with the law — after all, it plans to add a women’s golf team in the fall. Instead, officials say they are ending the track program, which has its 100th anniversary this year, out of concern hat they could not remain compliant in the future... Rather than spend money on expanding sports for women, many universities have instead cut men’s teams in order to comply with the proportionality method"

How Title IX Hurts Female Athletes - "Title IX has inflicted significant collateral damage, including increased health risks for the players, a drop in the number of women coaches, and increased exposure to sexual abuse."
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