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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Links - 30th January 2019 (2)

The Big Read: From the boondocks to waterfront town, Punggol grapples with growing pains and traffic jams - "Travelling from Sengkang to Punggol should take 20 minutes by bus, but for Ms Denise Wong’s husband, the journey home typically lasts an hour... “The transportation, facilities and malls are not growing as fast as the population. That has caused a lot of inconvenience”... Of the 11 districts in Punggol, seven feature waterfront living"

‘Drunk’ Chinese man’s Singles’ Day shopping frenzy ends with a live pig, peacock and giant salamander - "A man who claims he accidentally bought a live pig, a peacock and a giant salamander while drunk on Singles’ Day – China’s annual internet shopping frenzy – has gone viral on Chinese social media... The listings are still available on the Taobao and sites, where a number of animal traders are active in selling domestic pets and exotic animals, many of which are endangered species that are banned by law from being traded. However, it is legal to deliver live animals by courier services in China... A 21-year-old woman from Shaanxi, northwest China, died in hospital in July after falling into a coma for several days as a result of a bite from a highly venomous snake she ordered."

Making 'heong peah' the traditional way in a kiln - "You can find a number of heong peah (fragrant biscuits in Hokkien) makers in Gunung Rapat, but the biscuits from 362 Heong Peah are what people seem to crave for. Why, you ask? The answer is simple. 362 Heong Peah still makes the biscuits the traditional way in a small handmade kiln and instead of burning charcoal, they use coconut husks. “Coconut husks give a savoury aroma to the biscuits and the oil that is produced through the burning of the coconut husks will stick to the biscuit, giving them a distinctive taste”... “The biscuits made in a traditional oven are crispier than the ones baked in electric ovens”"
In Ipoh

How to Block Your Sugar Cravings With Chemistry - "One way people have been derailing the sugar train throughout the years is by consuming gymnema—a woody vine that grows in the tropics of India, Africa and Australia. Its bitter compounds have been used for centuries in traditions like Ayurveda to control sugar cravings and treat diabetes. There’s even evidence of the herb in use 2000 years ago in the treatment of “honey urine,” a poetic and archaic term for diabetes. Gymnema’s most noticeable effect is that after tasting the leaf, your tongue will be temporarily unable, or less able, to taste sweetness in foods"

Was there ever really a “sugar conspiracy”? - "Over the past quarter-century, historical research has revealed how major industries from tobacco to lead to petroleum have meddled in science to conceal the hazards of their products. Drawing on secret industry documents, these studies have shown how special interests have used financial incentives to influence scientists, fabricate doubt, and delay regulation (1). Recently, similar allegations have been made against the sugar industry, with claims that prominent industry-backed researchers in the 1960s downplayed or suppressed evidence linking sugar and heart disease. Building on a newly popular narrative holding that the low-fat campaign of the 1980s was not based on solid science, these allegations have suggested that if not for the machinations of the sugar industry and its cadre of sponsored researchers, the history of U.S. dietary policy might have unfolded very differently. In this article, we argue that the historical evidence does not support these claims. Although we do not defend the sugar industry and cannot address every aspect of this history, we believe recent high-profile claims come from researchers who have overextended the analogy of the tobacco industry playbook and failed to assess historical actors by the norms and standards of their time. Our analysis illustrates how conspiratorial narratives in science can distort the past in the service of contemporary causes and obscure genuine uncertainty that surrounds aspects of research, impairing efforts to formulate good evidence-informed policies. In the absence of very strong evidence, there is a serious danger in interpreting the inevitable twists and turns of research and policy as the product of malevolent playbooks and historical derailments. Like scientists, historians must focus on the evidence and follow the data where they lead."

Parliament: Allow employees to call in sick without doctor's note, NMP suggests - "New Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Irene Quay on Tuesday (Nov 20) called on the Government to encourage employers to allow their employees to take up to three days of non-consecutive sick leave each year without submitting medical certificates (MCs), saying that the move could help build trust and boost morale. Speaking in Parliament, Ms Quay - who is also president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore - said that individuals who queue at clinics to get an MC for common ailments such as the flu might inadvertently end up infecting others... As for the amendment requiring employers to recognise MCs from all doctors, Ms Quay asked the MOM and Ministry of Health (MOH) to consider allowing Collaborative Practice Prescribers (CPP) who run clinics in hospitals and polyclinics to issue MCs. CPPs are highly qualified pharmacists and nurses who can review and prescribe medication independently within the scope of their Collaborative Practice Agreement."
Plus it'll reduce healthcare costs and waiting times

Profit margins for hawker fare? As low as 20 to 30 cents - "He raised his price by 50 cents, but to his dismay, his business dropped by 40 to 50 per cent... Good-quality hawker food can only come from increasing the prices of the fare, he still reasons. But some consumers are also still unwilling to fork out that bit more for their hawker food... One man thought the profit margin for a plate of nasi lemak was S$1 to S$1.50. When told it was 30 cents, he exclaimed: “I don’t believe it. How to survive with that!”Another man was also surprised at the same profit margin for a S$3.50 bowl of ban mian (flat noodle soup), thinking it was S$1.50 instead.But despite saying that 30 cents was a low margin, he would not pay for the same bowl if the price were S$4. “I’d change my food,” he said. “Because hawker food is mostly catered for the low-income group.”... As for hiring a stall assistant, there is no guarantee the person would even stay.“Some of the workers … work for one day only. On the second day, they (stop) coming,” he complained. “They give the reason that (it’s) too hot – ‘I can’t take it.’ Seriously, it’s that bad.”... This perception that “hawker food has to be cheap, has to be good” must be changed, he stressed, suggesting that an across-the-board price increase of 50 cents to S$1 would be fair.That would, ideally, lead to hawkers buying better ingredients, hiring more hard-working assistants and churning out quality food for consumers. “It’s a win-win for everybody,” he added.If nothing is done, the danger is that in the next five to 10 years, “maybe 40 to 50 per cent of the hawkers will be gone, and then this heritage will die off”, he warned."

China Stimulus Efforts Are Failing for Good Reason - "China’s vaunted economic managers aren’t infallible — and they’re currently making a familiar mistake. They are trying to accomplish too many objectives simultaneously, many of which conflict with each other. Instead of engineering a recovery, the resulting confused policy mix is only feeding a growing feeling of uncertainty among Chinese markets, businesses and households. That will continue to depress growth in China — and the global economy — in 2019... policy tends to work best in China when there’s one clear, overarching priority. That’s exactly why regulators were so successful in their initial efforts to de-risk the banking system last year. Back then, after President Xi Jinping stated at an April 2017 Politburo study session that financial risk had become a national security risk, each economic or financial agency and official knew to put their energies squarely into reducing those risks.Now, though, banks are being told to de-risk while supporting risky companies. Local governments are being asked to crank up local infrastructure projects while hardening budget constraints. Investment authorities are told the economy should simultaneously be more self-reliant and more open to foreign businesses."

China blacklists millions of people from booking flights as 'social credit' system introduced - "Millions of Chinese nationals have been blocked from booking flights or trains as Beijing seeks to implement its controversial “social credit” system, which allows the government to closely monitor and judge each of its 1.3 billion citizens based on their behaviour and activity... Punishments are not clearly detailed in the government plan, but beyond making travel difficult, are also believed to include slowing internet speeds, reducing access to good schools for individuals or their children, banning people from certain jobs, preventing booking at certain hotels and losing the right to own pets"

Why has Cantonese fallen out of favour with Guangzhou youngsters? - "“The schools and the government have been discouraging Cantonese in the community for a long while. My son and almost all his classmates are unwilling to learn both traditional and simplified characters because they think they are useless for daily life.”... Children are discouraged from using the local dialect at school, and local heritage is being given less prominence in community activities. Guangzhou’s Cantonese speakers and the local media cheered last year when a textbook designed to teach to teach spoken and written Cantonese was launched at the city’s Wuyang primary school. It included the basics, such as Cantonese romanisation and grammar, and the history and origins of the dialect, and the aim was to promote its use in other schools across the city.But the textbook’s author, Rao Yuansheng, said the local authorities soon put a stop to the project. He declined to comment further... Only one Hong Kong movie with Cantonese dialogue, Mad World, debuted on mainland cinema screens last year... “In many migrants’ eyes, Cantonese culture was advanced and developed,” Liang said.New arrivals had been keen to learn Cantonese and discover the local culture, viewing such knowledge as a way to get ahead in business. People paid hundreds of yuan to learn the dialect, and Hong Kong’s transformation into an ultra-modern, international community – with a flourishing entertainment industry – added to its allure.Until the late 2000s, Cantonese was the fashionable language among Shenzhen teenagers, whether at school, shopping centres or karaoke clubs. And there were protests in Guangzhou in 2010 when the city government proposed that its two main television stations switch from broadcasting in Cantonese to Mandarin."

Cantonese almost became the official language - "Many Cantonese speakers feel proud of their native language, saying it has more in common with ancient classical Chinese than Putonghua - which is a mix of northern dialects heavily influenced by Manchurian and Mongolian.Linguists agree to some extent. 'Cantonese is closer to classical Chinese in its pronunciation and some grammar,' Jiang Wenxian, a Chinese language scholar, said. 'Using Cantonese to read classical poetry is a real pleasure,' he said. 'Many ancient poems don't rhyme when you read them in Putonghua, but they do in Cantonese. 'Cantonese retains a flavour of archaic and ancient Chinese. Nowadays few people understand classical Chinese, so Cantonese should be protected as a type of language fossil helping us study ancient Chinese culture.'... In the 17th and 18th centuries, Guangdong was the only Chinese province allowed to trade directly with foreigners. Many Westerners at the time learned Cantonese. Up till very recently, there were more Cantonese speakers in overseas Chinese communities than Putonghua speakers. In Canada, for instance, Cantonese is the third most commonly spoken language after English and French."
The headline is an urban legend though

China slams Western ambassadors over plan to grill Uighur persecution - "Beijing justifies its Uighur crackdown as a counterterrorism measure, and has characterized the re-education centers as "free vocational training" camps that make life "colorful."But despite Beijing insisting its Uighur camps are fun, it has consistently refused to allow UN inspections. China's foreign ministry on Friday lashed out at the reported letter, calling the ambassadors involved "very rude."... Hua also accused the signatories of hypocrisy, claiming that all of China's ethnic groups - including the Uighurs and Hans, which are dominant in China - live in harmony and that the Uighur camps were a means of assimilating Uighurs"

Coral: Palau to ban sunscreen products to protect reefs - "The government has signed a law that restricts the sale and use of sunscreen and skincare products that contain a list of ten different chemicals."
Save corals - get skin cancer

The Screen - Posts - "Female respondents think women are the majority of homicide victims whereas male respondents believe it to be roughly 50-50. The truth is, men are the majority of homicide victims
This male gender blindness is not uncommon and can easily play a part in perceptions of domestic violence & other issues which affect both sexes yet are only combatted when women are concerned."

CNN's Sally Kohn says 'I am gay and want my daughter to be gay too' - "A 37-year-old gay mom is set to spark controversy after she said she'd be disappointed if her six-year-old daughter wasn't gay when she grows up.Sally Kohn a political commentator who has appeared on CNN and MSNBC, describes herself as living in the 'liberal bubble of Park Slope, Brooklyn, where 'yuppies' want their kids to be happy.She said: 'I'm gay. And I want my kid to be gay, too.'... In 2014, she wrote that referring to an undocumented person as an 'illegal immigrant' was like calling a black person the N-word... she described her experience of being 'a butch lesbian' taking her five year old daughter for a Princess makeover at Disney World. She wrote: I have been a tomboy all my life. When I played with dolls they were usually being sacrificed in some sort of erupting volcano-like mud hole in my backyard or running for their lives.''My partner and I certainly didn’t teach our daughter to like pink and ruffles and such. And I can’t fathom some genetic or biological nodule that predisposes my girl to like dolls while little boys like trucks. Baloney.'She adds: 'Even in the midst of our hyper-liberal and hyper-diverse neighborhood with girls and boys of all kinds on display every day, it happened.'Did I do something wrong? Is feminism mysteriously skipping a generation? Meanwhile, I have to bribe her to wear jeans.'"
Of course straight people who want their kids to be straight are homophobes
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