"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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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Links - 11th September 2018 (2)

Couples With Daughters More Likely to Divorce - "Focusing on what "keeps a father around" may be a mistake, however, said Anita Kelly, professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, because it fails to acknowledge that in the United States an "overwhelming majority of divorces are initiated by women" -- 73 percent, statistics show"

Out Of The Closet: Gillyn & Jolyn Share Their Story - "Celebrating their wedding in Singapore however, wasn’t quite as straight forward. Most of the hotels the couple approached turned them down. When one hotel finally accepted their request, they demanded that the couple not wear a gown during the ceremony"

Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients - "It significantly reduced the body weight and body mass index of the patients. Furthermore, it decreased the level of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and blood glucose, and increased the level of HDL cholesterol. Administering a ketogenic diet for a relatively longer period of time did not produce any significant side effects in the patients"

Masked Priest Thrills Visitors - "A Shinto priest in Kanagawa Prefecture is wearing an array of masks to draw bigger crowds to her shrine."

Hidden Figures: Replication Failures in the Stereotype Threat Literature - "Research on stereotype threat and women’s performance on math tests is one example where publication bias undermines the findings in a seminal study that produced a large literature of studies on gender differences in math performance. After correcting for publication bias, this literature shows very little evidence that stereotype threat has a notable and practically significant effect on women’s math performance (Flore & Wicherts, 2014).

"Hot Ones" Problematic for Women: Professor - "A YouTube show that challenges contestants to eat increasingly spicy chicken wings has raised the ire of a Tulsa media-studies professor"

Banning Plastic Bags Is Great for the World, Right? Not So Fast - "advocates of these laws and journalists who cover the issue often neglect to ask what will replace plastic bags and what the environmental impact of that replacement will be. People still need bags to bring home their groceries. And the most common substitute, paper bags, may be just as bad or worse, depending on the environmental problem you’re most concerned about... Studies of bags’ environmental impacts over their life cycle have reached widely varying conclusions... If your chief concern is climate change, things get even muddier. One of the most comprehensive research papers on the environmental impact of bags, published in 2007 by an Australian state government agency, found that paper bags have a higher carbon footprint than plastic... A single mom, or someone working two jobs, is more likely to have to do her shopping in a rush on the way home from work than to go out specifically with a tote bag in hand... a cotton bag has major environmental impacts of its own. Only 2.4 percent of the world’s cropland is planted with cotton, yet it accounts for 24 percent of the global market for insecticides and 11 percent for pesticides... cotton, unlike paper, is not currently recycled in most places."
If your chief concern is virtue signalling, then it doesn't matter

Ditching plastic bags a windfall for supermarkets but won't do much for the environment - "Moves by major supermarkets to stop providing free plastic bags could save these businesses more than $170 million a year in direct costs, while potentially creating a $70 million revenue stream, but may only have a small impact on the environment... Some shoppers simply forget to bring reusable bags with them. The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs found the average UK household had 40 plastic bags stashed away around the home. Also a South Australian parliamentary review found only about 30 per cent of shoppers actually recycled their reusable bags... many people still threw away reusable bags."
Maybe big business is behind the anti plastic bag crusade

So Where Should We Put Our Recycling? - "I think there are two misconceptions surrounding responsibility for the plastics and recycling crisis. The first is that it originates out of individual actions. In fact, less than 10 percent of the waste generated in the U.S., Canada, and the EU comes from households. Instead, it's further up the production chain — farms, factories, distribution points, retailers. So that means addressing the problem more systematically. The second misconception is that developed countries are the source of the problem. A 2015 study points out that the vast majority of ocean plastics actually originate in developing countries without good waste management systems. No trash pickups, informal landfills. By contrast, the U.S. contributes roughly 2 percent of the problem. That’s too much. But individual actions in the U.S. won’t change much."

China Won’t Solve the World’s Plastics Problem Any More - "in November 2017, China said enough. The country closed its doors to contaminated plastic, leaving the exports to be absorbed by neighboring countries like Vietnam, South Korea, and Thailand. And without the infrastructure to absorb all the waste that China is rejecting, the plastics are piling up. Between now and 2030, 111 million metric tons of trash—straws, bags, water bottles—will have nowhere to go... San Francisco and other cities in the US don’t have the infrastructure to reach their zero waste ambitions without exporting recyclables to other countries"
"Sustainability" is not sustainable

Plastic v cardboard: which is greener? - "We all need to understand, far better than we do now, that anything that doesn't last – like paper for packaging – is almost certainly a far greater problem than an almost infinitely recyclable plastic crate. Yes, of course, plastic is an increasingly serious litter problem, in the UK and elsewhere. But it is not a significant cause of CO2 pollution compared to paper... In the longer run, a 'closed loop' recycling system using plastic crates is infinitely more environmentally sustainable than one based on cardboard boxes."
The anti-plastic fetish can end up being worse for the environment

5 reasons that corrugated plastic is greener than cardboard - "Paper mills are some of the largest consumers of energy and water in the world. The process to fabricate paper from wood uses chlorine based bleaches that result in toxic emissions to air, water and soil.
Corrugated plastic is durable enough to be reusable, most cardboard packages are not. Some well constructed corrugated containers can be used dozens of times, which dramatically reduces the consumption of raw materials for packaging.
According to an article published in EBN The recovery rate for old corrugated plastic containers is better than 85%, estimates from 1800recycling.com has cardboard packaging with a recovery rate of 80%.[source: http://1800recycling.com/2013/05/cd-recycling-cardboard]
Some people assume that paper is very biodegradable while plastic is not, but the EPA has stated that in landfills, paper doesn’t degrade all that much faster than plastic. [source: howstuffwordks.com]
It takes about 91% more energy to recycle a pound of paper than a pound of plastic. [Source: howstuffwordks.com]"

What's the real price of getting rid of plastic packaging? - "“Plastics are cheap, lightweight and adaptable in ways many of the alternatives are not,” says Susan Selke, director of the school of packaging at Michigan State University... A 330ml plastic soft drink bottle contains around 18 grams of material while a glass bottle can weigh between 190g and 250g. Transporting drinks in the heavier containers requires 40% more energy, producing more polluting carbon dioxide as they do and increasing transport costs by up to five times per bottle. “In many cases plastics are actually better for the environment than the alternatives,” explains Selke. “It is surprising until you look closely at it.” A report by the American Chemistry Council and environmental accounting firm Trucost estimates that the environmental costs – which places a value on dealing with the pollution generated by a product – would be five times higher if the soft drinks industry used alternative packaging like glass, tin or aluminium instead of plastic. As governments seek to penalise polluting companies with carbon taxes and levies, these costs may be passed onto consumers... What may at first appear to be a wasteful plastic bag wrapped around your cucumber, for example, is actually a sophisticated tool for increasing the shelf-life of your food. Years of research have allowed plastics to push the time food lasts for from days to weeks. “I think people underestimate the benefits of plastics in reducing food waste”... In this light, it might not make sense to ban plastics altogether but instead make plastics better... there is some resistance to the widespread use of biodegradable materials.“Bioplastics like PLA are huge contaminate for traditional recycling”... Anthony Ryan sees other problems with the widespread use of biodegradable packaging. “It treats the symptoms, not the disease,” he says. “If the disease is our throw-away society, making packaging biodegradable only encourages people to throw more away.” Instead, he suggests another solution: use more plastic. “In modern meat or soft fruit packaging you might have several thin layers to give it strength, to stop gas permeability and to act as an adhesive,” he explains. “You could get all of these properties from a single thicker piece of polyethylene. Then you would have a reduced set of materials, which would make separating and recycling this stuff easier.”"
Of course, if your intention is just to signal, we should get rid of plastic

Starbucks to ban plastics straws in all stores by 2020 - "Not using a straw is the best thing we can do for the environment"
They need to cut costs because of all the non paying "customers", of course

Starbucks Bans Plastic Straws, Winds Up Using More Plastic - "even most of the stuff that is put in recycling bins still winds up at the dump. The company did not address, nor did it dispute, that its transition to strawless lids would increase its overall plastic consumption... At most, straws account for about 2,000 tons of the 9 million tons of plastic that are estimated to enter the ocean each year, according to the Associated Press—.02 percent of all plastic waste. The pollution problem posed by straws looks even smaller when considering that the United States is responsible for about one percent of plastic waste entering the oceans, with straws being a smaller percentage still. As countless experts have stressed, truly addressing the problem of marine plastic pollution will require going after the source of this pollution, namely all the uncollected litter from poorer coastal countries that lack developed waste management systems. Straw banners have proven stubbornly resistant to this logic. Instead, they have chosen to rely on either debunked statistics (such as the claim that Americans use 500 million straws a day, which was the product of a 9-year-old's research) or totally unproven notions (like the theory that straws are a "gateway plastic") in order to justify petty prohibitions on innocuous straws. And they have been helped along by an uncritical media. Coverage of Starbucks' strawless move saw The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and National Geographic all cite the 500-million-straws-a-day figure. By adopting a myopic focus on banning straws, environmentalists, city councils, and conscious capitalists are, at best, having no significant impact on the overall problem of marine plastic waste. At worst, they are pushing expensive prohibitions on consumer choice that are counter-productive—at least in the case of Starbucks' ban—and come with all sorts of unintended consequences. For instance, straw bans will likely hurt disabled people who lack the motor skills necessary to pull off a flawless cup-to-lip motion. While reusable straws exist, they are hard to clean and not always handy when one needs them. "What if you decide on the spur of the moment to go have a drink with friends after work but forgot your reusable straw that day? [That] doesn't leave a lot of room for spontaneity—something nondisabled folks get to largely take for granted," Lawrence Carter-Long of the national Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund told NPR. Senior citizens and parents with young children will likely be affected for the same reasons. Why not use more eco-friendly disposable straws? Because they are terrible. Paper straws are known to collapse halfway through a drink. Compostable straws cost six to seven times more than their plastic alternatives, don't keep for long, and fall apart when exposed to high heat."

Banning plastic straws in S’pore is just cosmetic change - "1. Businesses are helping themselves save money... Taleb gave the example of hotels reminding guests about reusing bath towels to cut down on water consumption, the suggestion being that it would be good for the environment...
2. The transference of responsibility from businesses to consumers
3. Using plastic substitutes might make the plastic problem worse...
The only way humanity can go plastic-free is if people can accept a convenience-free life... If all these points cannot convince you humanity has a long, long way to go, the most convenient way is to stop thinking about it and continuing to believe you have done your part because you have partaken a meal at an establishment that doesn’t use straws."

The Human Cost of Sweden’s Welfare State - WSJ - "At 61.85%, Sweden has the highest personal income tax rate in the world. That money pays for the kind of support many American women would welcome, but it comes with pressure on women to return to the workforce on the government’s schedule, not their own. The Swedish government also supports and subsidizes institutionalized day care (they call it preschool), promoting the belief that professional care-givers are better for children than their own mothers... A 32-year-old friend told me that she was in the park with her 2-year-old son, when she was surrounded by a group of women who berated her for not having the boy in day care. The Swedish government attempts to provide equal work opportunities for both sexes, which is laudable. But toward that end, it promotes the false idea that mothers are not uniquely important to babies. Women who prefer to stay home with very young children are stigmatized as regressive and antifeminist. The Feminist Initiative, a radical political party, touts day care as a way to “liberate women from their maternal instincts.” Sweden’s maternity policies may be good for economic growth and egalitarian ideals, but not for the social or emotional health of young children. Ample scientific research shows that institutionalized day care is bad for very young children... Ninety percent of Swedish children under 5 are in day care. This likely contributes to mental-health problems. In 2012 roughly 20% of Swedish adolescents reported at least five instances of self-harming behavior, and the teen suicide rate hit a 25-year high in 2013. For all its concern about equality, Sweden has one of the most sex-segregated labor markets in the world. Nearly 80% of Swedish mothers work, compared with around 70% in the U.S. Swedish women are disproportionately employed in stereotypically feminine fields like nursing and day care and highly underrepresented in “masculine” fields like finance and engineering. Only about 36% of management positions in Sweden are held by women—lower than in the U.S., Canada, France, Russia or Australia. The median wage for Swedish women is 13.4% lower than for Swedish men. And as of 2013, 72% of public employees were women. Many of the day-care centers meant to “liberate women from their maternal instincts” are staffed by mothers separated from their own babies by the need to work... Like Sweden, Americans have devalued parenting, and specifically motherhood, and are creating emotionally impoverished young people who have difficulty in sustaining intimate relationships and functioning as independent adults"
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