"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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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Links - 22nd August 2018 (2)

This octopus walks on land to devour entire crab like a kraken

A Woman’s Place? The Dearth of Women in the Secular Movement

More savage than Caravaggio: the woman who took revenge in oil - "The dying man is Holofernes, an enemy of the Israelites in the Old Testament, and the young woman beheading him is Judith, his divinely appointed assassin. Yet at the same time he is also an Italian painter called Agostino Tassi, while the woman with the sword is Artemisia Gentileschi, who painted this. It is, effectively, a self-portrait."

Canadian Professors Write About 'Intimacy of Human-Fish Relations' - "the professors ponder how thinking like a fish might enlighten them on their path to a deeper understanding of modern feminism. “How might a fishy thinking animate feminist thought?” they write. The professors then begin to imagine themselves as fish, adopting legs as fins and gills on their necks. All of a sudden, the delusional professors are swimming in a vast ocean, perhaps an escape from the human world in which they claim they “cannot breathe.”... The professors discuss that in order to love fish, they must engage in sensual touching with them."

Turning back boats may be the most humane response to the migrant crisis | The Spectator - "Migrants are taking the risks because, in the vast majority of cases, their journeys are successful — and if they land, they probably get to stay. This is due to EU policy on migration. For every life lost in the Mediterranean in 2016, there were 50 successful landings: a death rate of just 2 per cent. The Britons and Irish who emigrated to America in search of a better life faced far higher chances of dying yet were not deterred. If there is a 98 per cent chance of being able to start a new life on a more prosperous continent, it ought to be no surprise that so many take this risk... It is to David Cameron’s credit that he recognised the most humane solution to the migrant crisis some years ago, at the height of the Syrian war: spend significant sums of money to help refugees in camps near the most affected areas, and take asylum seekers directly from their camps. His position was that Britain ought to play no part — directly or indirectly — in the booming business of people trafficking... Angela Merkel took the opposite approach, admitting 1.4 million refugees and causing political mayhem in Germany... When Australia faced a similar refugee crisis at the start of this century, its government responded by adopting a policy of turning back boats. The death toll then collapsed. When this policy was reversed, seven years later, more than 50,000 people arrived in such boats, of whom 1,000 perished... the Social Democrats in Denmark — generally thought of as one of Europe’s most liberal countries — proposed sending asylum applicants to be processed in an overseas centre. So rather than travelling to Europe to claim asylum, would-be refugees would be able to make their applications at centres in North Africa. If successful, they would be taken to Europe in safety. The option of evading the authorities, and slipping into an underworld, would be taken off the table"
Of course, if your intention is instead to conflate asylum seekers and economic migrants, and legal and illegal immigration...

Chimps Can't Cook, But Maybe They'd Like To - "our closest evolutionary cousins fashion spears to hunt for prey, trade food for sex, play with dolls and don’t take kindly to drones invading their space... Chimps have all the cognitive abilities necessary for the uniquely human behavior of cooking. They don’t do it in the wild because they’ve never learned to control fire."

Was There a Civilization On Earth Before Humans? - "Gavin and I don’t believe the Earth once hosted a 50-million-year-old Paleocene civilization. But by asking if we could “see” truly ancient industrial civilizations, we were forced to ask about the generic kinds of impacts any civilization might have on a planet. That’s exactly what the astrobiological perspective on climate change is all about"

Yayoi Kusama in Singapore - "Lucy [Davis] had first fallen for Singapore as a ten-year-old and had lived here for more than twenty years. Yet, over the course of fourteen years, Singapore downgraded her from PR to foreigner who cannot work here. Why? It could be because of her death penalty activism—she co-organised and participated in arts activities on the subject. It could be because in 2003 she was one of several artists and animal-lovers, including current MP Louis Ng, who attempted to rescue street cats during a SARS-related cull. Nobody knows for sure. And so Lucy joined the long line of artists, writers, academics and social activists, local and foreign, forced to leave Singapore. They are many. But we rarely hear about them because they have actually done nothing wrong; their only crime, often, is having unacceptable political views. So foreigners like Lucy are booted out; locals like Thum Ping Tjin, a Singaporean academic, are effectively barred from employment here. Singapore is left only with those people the PAP finds agreeable... is this really a global city in which tomorrow’s Yayoi can thrive?... You probably know about Cherian George. You probably don’t know about Ben Bland. Ben was a freelancer in Singapore in 2008-09. He wrote for, among other publications, The Economist and The Straits Times. I had just started freelancing for the former at the time, and so found out that Ben’s visa renewal had, after a year, been rejected. No reason given. Most people suspect it is because Ben wrote for the Asia Sentinel, a supposedly taboo publication. And so, just like that, Singapore lost a very good journalist who has, for the past few years, been writing beautifully for the Financial Times. Just not in Singapore. Shame."

The humanities are booming, only the professors can’t see it - "In the English-speaking world, over the past half-century, the proportion of students studying humanities at university has hardly changed"

Why Humans Are Wired for Hype Cycles - "“Play a note for a mouse.” You play B and the mouse turns its little head. Then you play B again, and the mouse turns its head. Eventually, the mouse will habituate to the sound. It’s like you hear construction noise outside your window when you’re working and you learn to forget that it’s there. How do you make the mouse keep turning its head? Well, you play a C note, a different note. The mouse will turn again. The C note won’t just alert the mouse—it will also dishabituate the mouse from the B note. Now, you can go back to distracting the mouse with the B note. If you want to distract a mouse for the longest period of time with the fewest number of notes, that pattern looks like B, B, B, C, B, B, C, B, C, and then a D note to dishabituate from both the B and C. If you look at the sequence B, B, C, B, C, D, and you replace B with verse and C with chorus and D with bridge, you get verse, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, which is essentially the construction of every pop song ever written... The chords are the same as the chords that Elvis Presley or The Who were playing. What’s changed is the sonic properties of the sound are constantly being reinvented. You need to continue to experiment. That forces you to invent new sounds to excite the ear in a new way. That leads you to other technological breakthroughs that don’t necessarily have to do with music...
My concern about universal basic income is precisely that it has taken what work represents now—which is community, income, and meaning—and only takes a single strand from it, the income, and left the other two strands alone. Where does meaning come from? Where does community come from?"

The complexity of social problems is outsmarting the human brain - "these limitations apply to us all. In May 2016, commenting on Trump’s popularity, Dunning wrote: ‘the key lesson of the Dunning-Kruger framework is that it applies to all of us, sooner or later. Each of us at some point reaches the limits of our expertise and knowledge. Those limits make our misjudgments that lie beyond those boundaries undetectable to us.’ (My italics.) Whether inadvertent or Machiavellian in origin, in December 2016 Trump perfectly articulated what few are willing to admit: ‘I think that computers have complicated lives very greatly. The whole Age of Computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what is going on.’... It’s time we asked whether political frustration, anger and resistance to conflicting ideas results in part from a basic lack of ability to sense how the present world works. The best defence against runaway combative ideologies isn’t more facts, arguments and a relentless hammering away at contrary opinions, but rather a frank admission that there are limits to both our knowledge and our assessment of this knowledge. If the young were taught to downplay blame in judging the thoughts of others, they might develop a greater degree of tolerance and compassion for divergent points of view. A kinder world calls for a new form of wisdom of the crowd."

The rise of Arab atheism - "One striking difference between Arab non-believers and those in the West is that scientific arguments about evolution and the origins of the universe, a major part of Western atheist discourse, play only a minor role in Arabs’ drift away from religion – at least in the earlier stages. Generally, their initial questioning is not so much about the possibility (or otherwise) of God’s existence as about whether God could exist in the form described by organised religions."

Ricky Gervais: The Difference Between American and British Humour - "In Britain we stop watching things like Big Brother when the villain is evicted. We don’t want to watch a bunch of idiots having a good time. We want them to be as miserable as us. America rewards up front, on-your-sleeve niceness. A perceived wicked streak is somewhat frowned upon."

How Historical 'Humiliation' Drives China's Maritime Claims - "this is not some ancient claim, but was the response to things that happened in the 20th century. No Chinese official ever went to the Spratly Islands before December 12, 1946, as far as we can tell. They were in the Paracel Islands as early as 1907, and then stuck a flag in at least some of the islands in 1909. But the Spratlys — there was no interest by any Chinese officials in administering or occupying those islands until they got there in the 1940s. The nine-dash line was drawn back in 1947 and it was clearly a cartographic convenience — it didn't have any historical meaning whatsoever, but it's now sort of become an article of faith. In terms of a claim to historic rights in the waters within the nine-dash line, I would say that probably only appeared in the mid-to-late 1990s. So these are not ancient claims by any means; they're relatively modern... China has never been the exclusive owner of the South China Sea, regardless of what it says in Chinese textbooks. It's always been a shared space."

Humans Never Stopped Evolving - "humans across the globe have been living under very different selective pressures since our sub-Saharan roots. And, in fact, the cultural differences that have emerged appear to have accelerated some kinds of evolutionary changes. The domestication of animals led to the invention of dairying, for example, a new dietary niche in which lactase persistence provided a huge advantage. Clearing tropical lands for planting domesticated crops and keeping water in pots changed human ecology in more-disturbing ways, making new habitats for mosquito species that afflict human populations with yellow fever and malaria and spurring protective changes in red blood cell morphology. Moving into new ecosystems also demanded new adaptations from the growing human population, from lighter pigmentation at high latitudes to maintain vitamin D production to improved oxygen metabolism in peoples living at high altitude."

The legacy of Islamic philosophy

Feminist Scholar Examines Genitals of 10,000 Dogs for Canine 'Rape Culture' Study - "The journal Gender, Place, and Culture, is a monthly peer-reviewed publication that focuses on issues of feminist geography. In 2015, it was ranked the thirteenth most influential women’s studies academic journal in the world."

How disgust made humans cooperate to build civilisations - "If you’re skeptical that parasites have any bearing on your principles, consider this: our values actually change when there are infectious agents in our vicinity. In an experiment by Simone Schnall, a social psychologist at the University of Cambridge, students were asked to ponder morally questionable behaviour such as lying on a résumé, not returning a stolen wallet or, far more fraught, turning to cannibalism to survive a plane crash. Subjects seated at desks with food stains and chewed-up pens typically judged these transgressions as more egregious than students at spotless desks. Numerous other studies – using, unbeknown to the participants, imaginative disgust elicitors such as fart spray or the scent of vomit – have reported similar findings. Premarital sex, bribery, pornography, unethical journalism, marriage between first cousins: all become more reprehensible when subjects were disgusted... Interestingly, women rarely become psychopaths – the disorder affects 10 males for every one female – and they have larger insulae than men, relative to total brain size. This anatomical distinction might explain why women are most sensitive to disgust, and might also have bearing on yet another traditionally feminine characteristic: women score higher than men on tests of empathy – a useful trait for gauging when a cranky baby has a fever or needs a nap."

How French “Intellectuals” Ruined the West: Postmodernism and Its Impact, Explained - "We see in Lyotard an explicit epistemic relativism (belief in personal or culturally specific truths or facts) and the advocacy of privileging “lived experience” over empirical evidence. We see too the promotion of a version of pluralism which privileges the views of minority groups over the general consensus of scientists or liberal democratic ethics which are presented as authoritarian and dogmatic. This is consistent in postmodern thought... We see too the equation of language with violence and coercion and the equation of reason and universal liberalism with oppression... We see too a rejection of the need for clarity in speech and argument and to understand the other’s point of view and avoid minterpretation. The intention of the speaker is irrelevant. What matters is the impact of speech. This, along with Foucauldian ideas, underlies the current belief in the deeply damaging nature of “microaggressions” and misuse of terminology related to gender, race or sexuality... Whilst the first postmodernists mostly challenged discourse with discourse, the activists motivated by their ideas are becoming more authoritarian and following those ideas to their logical conclusion. Freedom of speech is under threat because speech is now dangerous. So dangerous that people considering themselves liberal can now justify responding to it with violence. The need to argue a case persuasively using reasoned argument is now often replaced with references to identity and pure rage... one wonders why Derrida bothered to explain the infinite malleability of texts at such length if I could read his entire body of work and claim it to be a story about bunny rabbits with the same degree of authority."
This is linked to the liberal mentality that words speak louder than actions

La chanson de Frédéric Fromet - "Frédéric Fromet dit adieu au Royaume Uni avec "Rosbif, mon Rosbif" pour positiver le Brexit"

Jogger accidentally crosses US border from Canada and is held for two weeks - "It started as a leisurely jog along a Canadian beach on a cool spring evening. But it turned into a two-week nightmare after Cedella Roman accidentally veered across the US border and was seized by US border patrol agents. The French citizen was visiting her mother and studying English, when the family headed to White Rock, about an hour’s drive from Vancouver in May"

Feminist bookstore to close this month, blames white supremacy - "A quarter-century-old feminist bookstore in Portland, Oregon is slated to close its doors at the end of this month, and part of the reason, it says, is its “inability to ‘reform and re-envision’ a space founded on ‘white, cis feminism (read: white supremacy).'” In Other Words, founded in 1993 by Portland State University professor Johanna Brenner and a pair of women’s health activists, also cited difficulty with funding and a lack of volunteers."

Builders working in the hot sun beat a no-shorts rule by turning up in frocks and skirts - "SWELTERING builders told they could not wear shorts under health and safety rules beat the ban —  by turning up in skirts. The brickies, working on a development of flats and houses in 26°C heat, were stunned when told a long trousers-only dress code was in force on their site... Bodybuilder Adam Houdoire, 29, spent £10 at a supermarket on an above-the-knee leopard-print dress. He said: “I love it. It gives you far more freedom.” A Health and Safety Executive spokesman said: “There are no specific regulations about wearing shorts on sites. “How workers are dressed is a matter for the employer.”"

Skirt wearing builders back in shorts after bosses lift long trousers-only rule
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