"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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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Links - 18th April 2019 (1)

In Undertale, you can choose to kill monsters — or understand them / Offworld - "Other monsters you encounter are more aggressive, but just as complicated. One is simply depressed, weeping tears that drip down the screen and wound you drop by drop. One is deeply insecure and just wants someone to laugh at its jokes. One lovingly coats you in lava, believing for all the world that its fiery ministrations are healing you. Another, you're told, simply has a hard life"

A Peek Into Singapore's Love for Japanese Adult Video - "According to Amazon’s Alexa, a website ranking and analysis tool, Singapore is number five on the list of top country visitors to the site javfor.me placing us ahead of countries like India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Myanmar."

Don’t Write What You Know - "Such a writer’s sole ambition is for the characters and events to represent other and superior—read: actual—characters and events. Meaning, the written story has never been what mattered most. Meaning, the reader is meant to care less about the characters and more about whoever inspired them, and the actions in a story serve to ensure that we track their provenance and regard that material as truer. Meaning, the story is engineered—and expected—to be about something. And aboutness is all but terminal in fiction... writing what you know is knotted up with intention, and intention in fiction is always related to control, to rigidity, and more often than not, a little solipsism. The writer seems to have chosen an event because it illustrates a point or mounts an argument. When a fiction writer has a message to deliver, a residue of smugness is often in the prose, a distressing sense of the story’s being rushed, of the author’s going through the motions, hurrying the characters toward whatever wisdom awaits on the last page. As a reader, I feel pandered to and closed out. Maybe even a little bullied. My involvement in the story, like the characters’, becomes utterly passive. We are there to follow orders, to admire and applaud the author’s supposed insight... if the subject or character is intimidating, then that’s exactly what the writer should be exploring in fiction. My students worry about being invasive or predatory, and few things frighten them more than charges of appropriation and literary trespassing. But I see an altogether more menacing threat: the devaluing of not only imagination, but also compassion. And if empathy is important to fiction, compassion is invaluable. Compassion is empathy on steroids."

Rationally Speaking | Official Podcast of New York City Skeptics - Current Episodes - RS 202 - Bryan Caplan on "The Case Against Education" - "the effect of national education on national income, versus personal education on personal income. And again, this is research where what people want to find is that the effect of a year of national education on national income is as big or bigger than the effect of a year of personal education on personal income. Nobody finds that.So there's a paper that I cite where they go over all eight known data sets at the time. Every single one of them finds a much smaller effect of national education on national income than of personal education on personal income. Which again, totally fits with signaling...
'Philosophy departments, on their, like, 'Why you should be a philosophy major' page on their departmental website… They always cite statistics about how there's a high return to a philosophy major, in terms of the starting salaries you get offered. And they say, "See, this is proof that philosophy majors teach you critical thinking skills."... Which is especially ironic, because they're confusing correlation and causation, which is an example of poor thinking skills.'...
'The philosophers do come in with very high test scores… so it might be that if you just look at raw means, what you're saying is true... But if you go and look at how people who had the same test scores but who majored in something else do, then I think philosophy does pretty poorly. Especially if you're not looking at people who go on to get a law degree or something like that. Those people are probably pulling up the average a lot.'"

Forever 21 Upsets Fans After Using White Model to Promote 'Black Panther' Sweater - "This isn't the first time Black Panther merchandise has gotten some negative attention thanks to what some might term "whitewashing". Earlier this year, Disney came under fire when a collectible Black Panther pin available at Disney theme parks were revealed by The Disney Pin Blog to have a remarkably light-skinned appearance than one might expect for Chadwick Boseman's heroic King T'Challa. In that case, the pin appeared to have some sort color variation possibly due to paint differences or even lightning in photos, though fans were troubled by the pin's lighter-appearing coloring."

Live music at Thaipusam after 42 years - "For 42 years, going back to 1973, the playing of musical instruments on the streets during Thaipusam was banned due to past fights between competing groups, which disrupted the procession.During Thaipusam in February last year, three men were arrested for disorderly behaviour after another group was told to stop the use of traditional drums by organisers... The Thaipusam procession is one of three Hindu festivals exempted from a ban on religious foot processions, introduced in the wake of race riots here in 1964. The other two are the Panguni Uthiram and Thimiti (fire-walking) festivals."

Switching to newest HPV vaccine can save billions in health care costs, study says - "By switching to the latest version of the Gardasil vaccine, which can thwart a virus that leads to cervical cancer, the nation’s health care bill could drop by an estimated $2.7 billion over the next 35 years, according to a new study published on Monday.How so? The newer vaccine is expected to lower the incidence of cervical cancer and death. The current vaccines used to tackle the human papillomavirus reduce the onset of cervical cancer by 63 percent and deaths by 43 percent. But by using Gardasil 9, as the newest version is called, the incidence of cervical cancer would decrease by 73 percent and death by 49 percent, the analysis found."

First cousins in love with each other petition to get legally married in Utah - "Two cousins who say they are in love with each other have created an online petition calling for the state of Utah to allow them to get legally married. "My first cousin and I have been in love with each other our whole lives but we are prohibited from marrying in the state of Utah where we live," Angela Peang writes in the petition. "We believe that the law is outdated and it needs to be changed so that we can socially legitimize our love."... Most do not allow marriage between first cousins, but Inside Edition reports six states do permit it under certain conditions. Some impose age limits or require proof of therapy between the couple. Utah is a state that allows marriage between first cousins only if both are over the age of 65."
Who will stand against this bigotry?

Sadiq Khan fails to control knife crime epidemic - but DOES ban unhealthy food ads from the Tube - "EMBATTLED Sadiq Khan has been slammed for concentrating on banning unhealthy food ads from the Tube - as London continues to spiral into a knife crime epidemic.The Mayor of London has been accused of getting his priorities wrong after he blocked an advert for Farmdrop as it contained bacon, butter, eggs and jam. It comes as the capital continues to be plagued by bloodshed with the number of children admitted to hospital with stab wounds soaring by 93 per cent in five years... Mr Khan's policy prevents products which are high in fat, salt or sugar being advertised on the Tube, and at TfL rail stations and bus stops in a bid to tackle soaring rates of childhood obesity. Farmdrop, an organic food home-delivery firm, said they were advised to crop the photo to obscure food that breaches the ban. They were also told to submit evidence demonstrating the compliance of other items - including shortbread, juice, biscuits, yoghurt and elderflower."

London’s ludicrous junk-food ad ban - "The story gives the lie to the idea that TfL’s ban would only affect ‘junk food’, a category defined by snooty prejudice rather than scientific precision. Since it would almost certainly be illegal for a public authority to ban specific companies – the usual burger, pizza and fried-chicken suspects – a more neutral policy was applied. The ban instead covers ‘all adverts for food and non-alcoholic drinks high in fat, salt and / or sugar and considered “less healthy” under Public Health England guidelines’. The trouble is that lots of foods that normal people would regard as perfectly healthy also fall foul of the guidelines: cheese, nuts, eggs and much more"

Rationally Speaking | Official Podcast of New York City Skeptics - Current Episodes - RS 200 - Timothy Lee on "How much should tech companies moderate speech?" - "'One of the interesting things you see on the left is that I really do think you've seen a schism on the left'...
'it's interesting if conservatives are in favor of "free speech," that puts conservatives in the awkward position of supporting regulation of private companies, which is not a typically conservative position. To protect that free speech'...
'certain tech companies, especially Google and Facebook, have become whipping boys for the right'...
'It's interesting that you say they're whipping boys for conservatives, because it also feels to me like they are whipping boys for liberals a lot of the time. Or at least some significant sections of the liberal side. You know, they're now these powerful elites, and liberals are traditionally suspicious of powerful elites.'...
One of the things that was happening was these denial of service attacks, which is people would ... you can go to the internet underworld and contact people that just have lots and lots of server capacity. In some cases it's server capacity, they've hacked into other people's computers and are using stolen bandwidth. But anyway, they would just flood targets with traffic. And so, that is a little bit like mob rule.Think about it in a physical context: if a controversial group is trying to hold a rally, and a bunch of other thugs try to physically shut it down, you do generally expect the police to protect the physical safety of people... if you're providing a kind of basic infrastructure -- if you tried to get the electric company or the water company to shut down somebody's service because they have controversial views -- I think there is a certain layer of the internet where it's kind of like that'

Rationally Speaking | Official Podcast of New York City Skeptics - Current Episodes - RS 198 - Timur Kuran on “Private Truths and Public Lies" - "[On white supremacists being emboldened if there's no preference falsification] 'It is better to know that such views exist and such communities exist, so that we can take measures that will cause those groups to get smaller over time. We need to study what is actually motivating people to adopt those views. We’re not going to know what to study if they’re completely hidden. This is an advantage that needs to be considered'...
In repressive regimes, secret services... collecting information in settings where they give people anonymity and then asking the same things publicly. But they don’t share this information with others. This sort of information becomes public after these regimes have fallen and their archives are opened up to the public... The communist regimes in Eastern Europe were aware of this phenomenon. They wanted to know exactly where preference falsification is taking place, where their support was soft in the sense that people were still supporting the regime but were private in opposition, were waiting for an opportunity to support the opposition.The regimes wanted to know this -- if nothing else, to know which populations had to be bought off, and where they have to do things differently...
Leading up to 1989 which is when the Berlin Wall came down, the proportion of people giving answers to questions concerning the legitimacy of the East German regime -- the performance of communists, the future of communism and so on -- the percentage of people giving answers that alarmed the regime went dramatically up in the years leading up to the revolution. The regime was aware that discontent was building up. Why exactly, they didn't prevent it -- that's, of course, another question in itself."

Remarkable women through history - History Extra - "‘Can you give us maybe an example of one of the women in the book whose story can be explained via textiles?’
‘Well, one of the stories that struck me most forcibly, and it runs counter to the idea that women's voices aren't heard. We know of a woman called Winflad [sp?] who made a will in the 10th century, so Anglo Saxon woman. She's a wealthy woman. And even though we can say that, generally speaking, women have been oppressed by men, elite women were always better off than poor men. This woman Winflad wrote a will in about the year 950, and we have it. And it's an incredible document. It tells us about who was important to her. It tells us what things were important to her. It tells us about how she saw herself in the world and in the afterlife. So first of all, she leaves she has huge estates, she leaves these first to her daughter. Well, that's interesting.’
‘Does she have a son?’
‘She does have a son… He does get stuff but the bulk of the estate goes to her daughter, right. So this idea that women were not independent property owners is simply not true. Especially when, when you think of widowhood. A lot of men are dying younger than women in battle, or from the physical drudgery of their work. And women widows can accumulate property. And a lot of women have been widowed more than once. In fact, some women make a business out of it okay. That's, that's a whole different narrative… she has a whole load of slaves. So okay, the women's narrative we would like to think of is that you know, if we let women rule the world it would be a much nicer place. But you know, the truth is subtle and nuanced and complex...
‘I would militantly defend the right of anybody to write about anything that they thought needed to be written about and I absolutely would defend any woman's right to write her story about men. And I don't think I need to defend myself [writing about women]’...
‘People are gonna be like, oh, you're a man writing women's stories, is that-’
‘I'm a historian writing about history.’
‘I was like, oh, it's a book written by a man about women. But then I was like, actually, it'd be quite nice if more men wrote stories about women’…
‘I think sometimes the way we're taught history is quite partisan. I don't think women should own the suffragette narrative, any more than that men should own any of any of their narratives’"

Love, sex and dating in Georgian times - History Extra - "So much of how we understand love, and so much of how we experience it comes from the particular culture and the particular society that we're living in. The way that you know you're in love is through this particular range of symptoms that are culturally constructed. So in the 18th century, people knew they were experiencing love through symptoms, like blushing, sighing, swooning, crying, fainting...
Fainting, for example, that was kind of the hallmark of the woman in love. But other symptoms of love, like sighing, and like dreaming of a lover. That's something that men could do as well. But you can see the symptoms are very much of their time. So they're not necessarily how we would experience love today...
A lot of historians have argued that there was a massive change in sexual behavior over the 18th century. So over a third of brides were pregnant on their wedding day... the kind of narrative is that there was this movie away from kind of fumbling and kind of above the waist mutual touching and towards full penetration, of procreative sex during the 18th century. So that's why so many brides are pregnant on their wedding day, you've got a rise in illegitimacy rates. So people having sex on a promise of marriage, hoping that a man will then honor his promise if they then fell pregnant...
Notion that kind of men taking advantage of women before marriage, they were kind of impinging on their virtue. And that's something that you could try and recover by suing a man for damages... You'd always hold on to someone's love letters, because then you could potentially use them as evidence in court if you had to sue for breach of promise. So I found 38% of breach of promise cases bought during this period used love letters as evidence...
You could also make gifts for him... things like handkerchiefs woven with your hair. So then you’re literally giving part of your body… literally giving part of yourself. That can be carried around by a lover that lasts forever. You know, the locks of hair that people exchanged during courtship in Georgian England still survive today."

History Extra Podcast: Alan Johnson On Schools Through History - History Extra - "If you get on a Jubilee line at Westminster and travel 7 stops to Canning Town, your life expectancy goes down a year every stop"

BBC World Service - The World This Week, Peace hopes for Afghanistan - "What is the Afghan government’s view on this? Because after the Russians pulled out in 1989 the Afghan President Najibullah ended up dead hanging from a pole at a roundabout in Kabul so one assumes that Ashraf Ghani is feeling quite sensitive about what happens next...
It's a very interesting problem for Chinese firms. Because within the current structure of how the Communist Party deals with Chinese companies, or how heavily involved they are, most Chinese companies have a member of the board that is a member of the CCP, most of them have committees made up of Chinese Communist Party members. That's just how business is done in China. And there has been a great deal of emphasis by the international community put on the recent national intelligence law, which came into effect in 2017 that basically says that if you're an individual or an entity in China, and if the government asks you to hand over data, you have to do that. So it's very hard to believe when Chinese companies say that they are independent of the Chinese government there. And I think that's why there's so much skepticism and suspicion of firms like Huawei. Now, in its defense Huawei has said it has never been asked, and it would never hurt its customers, but certainly the conditions that we're seeing under President Xi Jinping’s China with the kinds of laws that have come about and the strength of the Chinese Communist Party, the way that it is dealing with business right now makes that very hard to believe"

BBC World Service - The World This Week, No way through for Venezuelan aid - "[On an Indian book fair] Here authors get the sort of adulation that is normally reserved for film stars and cricketers… The most popular genre are self help books... many parents do not want their children reading Hindi or Bengali books. For them, they have to be in English. So you'll find that rather than reading the Nobel Prize winning poet Rabindranath Tagore in his native Bengali, parents are making their children read his poems in English instead. It is a status symbol, he adds. If you're seen with an English book, it's a sign that you're moving up in the world. So you'll find some people here with an English novel in their hands, even though they cannot speak a word of the language. It's ridiculous he adds. So why are people still in love with books, when in other parts of the world, they're going out of fashion? Author Sandeep Roy says one of the reasons is rising literacy rate. Every year, there are more and more Indians who can read so that means the market is growing and it's gonna grow a lot more. This country's literacy rate is currently 75%, which means that over the next few years, there are still millions of people who’ll be looking to buy their first novel. For many, reading is a new experience so they're still in love with it. Another reason is poor internet penetration… many people in rural India have no choice but to read. Every time they go online it just crashes. She has a big smile on her face as she tells me that because it's great for her business"
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