"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 17, 2019

Links - 17th May 2019 (2)

Famous Novelists on Symbolism in Their Work and Whether It Was Intentional - "It was 1963, and 16-year-old Bruce McAllister was sick of symbol-hunting in English class. Rather than quarrel with his teacher, he went straight to the source: McAllister mailed a crude, four-question survey to 150 novelists, asking if they intentionally planted symbolism in their work...
“Do readers ever infer that there is symbolism in your writing where you had not intended it to be? If so, what is your feeling about this type of inference? (Humorous? annoying? etc.?)”...
Ralph Ellison: “Yes, readers often infer that there is symbolism in my work, which I do not intend. My reaction is sometimes annoyance. It is sometimes humorous. It is sometimes even pleasant, indicating that the reader’s mind has collaborated in a creative way with what I have written.”
Saul Bellow: “They most certainly do. Symbol-hunting is absurd.”
Joseph Heller: “This happens often, and in every case there is good reason for the inference; in many cases, I have been able to learn something about my own book, for readers have seen much in the book that is there, although I was not aware of it being there.”
John Updike: “Once in a while—usually they do not (see the) symbols that are there.”
Jack Kerouac: “Both, depending how busy I am.”"
On the vacuity of literature as a subject and seeing meaning where there is none. No wonder the author is dead is so popular - it means you can say whatever you want

The World Bank Must Change Course by Bjørn Lomborg - "Should we help the poor by cutting carbon dioxide emissions now and reducing temperatures a bit in 100 years’ time, or instead focus immediately on malaria and education? The evidence clearly shows that direct policies are much more effective. The World Bank’s climate focus is also at odds with what the world’s poorest citizens want. When the United Nations asked almost ten million people around the world to list their priorities, they emphasized better education and health care, less corruption, more jobs, and affordable food. Global warming came last out of 16 issues. Under Kim, the Bank propagated the simplistic idea that fossil fuels are always damaging, coal must be forbidden, and “climate aid” is the solution. The truth is far more complex... In practice, the World Bank’s policy of ditching fossil fuels and adopting a “climate lens” often means supporting off-grid solar cells that provide only enough power for a single lightbulb or to recharge a mobile phone... solar panels cannot power clean stoves or heaters, or refrigerators that would stop vaccines and food from spoiling. Nor can they power the agricultural and industrial machinery that supports jobs and pathways out of poverty. In that respect, distributing solar panels is mostly a way for rich people to feel good about taking action on global warming.Rich and poor countries alike use coal because it is often still the cheapest, most dependable source of energy. The International Energy Agency estimates that even by 2040, new solar and wind power will still be more expensive in all major markets than existing coal, after the intermittent production of green energy is taken into account... The World Bank itself recently published a study suggesting that living in a community with power shortages reduces a person’s chances of employment by 35%-41%. And unsurprisingly, another study showed that distributing solar panels has no measurable impact beyond providing some electricity, and does not increase savings, spending, employment, income, or educational access for children"

Dick’s Sporting Goods Takes Estimated Loss $150 Million Sales After Restricting Gun Sales - "Dick’s Sporting Goods has reported taking an estimated loss of $150 million in sales or 1.7 percent of annual revenues in a report by Bloomberg. after Dick’s Sporting pulled assault-style firearms from its shelves in response to the Parkland School shooting last year."

The Goodness Paradox—A Review - "To future historians, it may seem strange that science in the early twenty-first century once again fell afoul of dogma. This time it issued, not from the pulpit, but from the university lectern. Today, prevailing intellectual doctrines hold that reality is a social construct, and their adherents do not take kindly to biologists reminding us that nature is comprised of objective facts. Biologists have lately awoken to the news that their science makes them heretics in the postmodern imperium, and guilty of retailing the ideas most heretical to the progressive, constructivist, utopian-egalitarian worldview. Progressives were the natural friends of science when it overturned the altars of biblical certainty, and they continue to invoke its authority in debates about global warming and environmental degradation. However, when it comes to understanding the human animal or, say, the heritability of character traits like intelligence, or the fact that nothing can be had for nothing and that choices carry hidden costs, they are considerably less sanguine. It is not a coincidence that it has been evolutionary scientists, rather than their humanist cousins, who have felt the ire of radical progressivism. The professors who have faced opprobrium for expressing the wrong views are nearly all scientists (Charles Murray, Bret Weinstein, Sam Harris, Steven Pinker, Jordan Peterson, among the more notorious), and not one is a postmodern theorist... [Wrangham] recalls being accused of “political bias” for postulating that murder among chimpanzees was a beneficial adaptation (as if it were hard to imagine that eliminating a group of hostile competitors might benefit one’s offspring). “Evolutionary analysis,” he writes, “is fraught with the potential for emotionally and politically sensitive response.”... nature is a school of hard knocks that knows nothing of diversity, equity, and inclusion quotas, and the successful graduates are those species—our own among them—that ran the gauntlet. The meek, one fears, have not inherited the earth... We are lethally violent because we have grown quiet, deliberative, and cooperative, and thus able to visit organized, methodical, genocidal violence upon fellow human beings."

Ideology Is Out, Identity Is In - "My mentor, [the late political scientist] Samuel Huntington, made this observation back in Political Order in Changing Societies. He was actually extending an observation of Alexis de Tocqueville about the French Revolution. He said the most dangerous people are people that thought they were middle-class and are losing that status. They got fired from a job, they don't make as much money as their father, whatever. But the status loss is really what makes them angry—that they thought they were solidly representative of the average person in their country, and it turns out they're being dragged into an underclass.I think that's really what distinguishes the populism that you see in North America and Northern Europe from the kind of populism you see in Latin America. Because in Latin America, the populism really is driven by poor people... Martin Luther King's demand was just to be treated like other Americans, like white Americans. But in the black power movement, there was a view that black culture is not white culture. It has its own virtues and it needs to be respected as a group identity, rather than individual black people being treated as Americans.It's even more pronounced in the feminist movement, because right from the beginning there's a train of thought that says, "Yeah. Women really are fundamentally different, and in certain respects they're better. They're not violent, they're more empathetic, they have their own ways of approaching social cooperation. It's really the men that are imposing this very aggressive, violent, patriarchal culture on the rest of society.""

U.K. Anti-Terrorism Efforts Are Terrifying to Anybody Who Favors Free Speech - "When you have an overreaching government "anti-terrorism" program tasked with countering violent ideological messages, anything that rubs officialdom the wrong way starts looking like extremist propaganda, ripe for intervention. That includes, it turns out, a standard-issue lefty reading-assignment at England's University of Reading: Cautious about how the message might be perceived, school officials warned students reading Our Morals: The Ethics of Revolution "not to access it on personal devices, to read it only in a secure setting, and not to leave it lying around where it might be spotted" so as to avoid the attention of the "Prevent" program... Primarily targeted at potential recruits to Islamist terrorist groups, but also at Northern Ireland-style sectarian violence and extreme right-wing terrorism, Prevent suffered mission-creep pretty much right out of the gate. In 2015, a politics student at the University of East Anglia was interrogated by police after reading assigned material in an ISIS-related publication... A similar case arose at Staffordshire University when a postgraduate student was questioned for reading a textbook on terrorism in the college library. Concerned about ending up on a watch list, he hired a lawyer and dropped the course."

Four Reasons Drugs Are Expensive, Of Which Two Are False - "Drugs do not become cheap to buy just because they are cheap to manufacture. It seems common knowledge among European payers that certain drugs, known as monoclonal antibodies, are difficult to produce. Therefore, payers tend to be more sympathetic to antibodies’ high prices. However, the “knowledge” is now false. Monoclonal antibodies were hard to manufacture 20 years ago, but there have been huge improvements in yield since then. Production costs today are often only 5% of the selling price. Cheap monoclonal antibodies are still few and far between...
National drug prices have global implications. The details of national pricing policies are horribly complex, but in practice, most countries try to keep a close eye on the price of drugs in other countries, and then behave like 5 year old children at a party. If they see that someone got a great price, the others cry; "It's not fair. I want one." Therefore, companies sometimes walk away from the most obvious low-end value estimates of small and idiosyncratic European health systems...
I was dismissive of cost and value. Power, on the other hand, matters; the power that follows from the rights to a legal monopoly... covering yet one more expensive drug for yet one more rare cancer does not make much difference to the premiums that a health plan charges the employer or the individual. Not covering that one drug, on the other hand, can cause reputational damage and make health cover hard to sell. What if the spouse or child of the CEO of the corporate client ever needs that one drug? The net result is that most insurance plans in the US, by commercial necessity, are forced to cover nearly all drugs, even if in a fairly grudging manner that pushes some of the cost onto the patient... As Simon Baker, an investment analyst at Exane, BNP Paribas, told me last year that “drug R&D is like NATO from 1949 to 1989; something from which Europeans derive huge benefit, but largely paid for by Americans.” And before Americans complain that their high prices are subsidizing Europeans, they should remember that their drugs are mainly expensive because they have a buying process that gives power to the industry. If European’s paid a lot more, American’s would not pay much less (although Americans might get a few more new drugs)... The drug industry is creating an ever-improving back catalogue of virtually free and highly effective medicines, against which new inventions compete. I have called this “The Better than the Beatles Problem.”"

Labour woes, high rents: Why popular restaurant chain Chili’s shut in Singapore - "Labour woes, high rents and slower footfall brought on by the proliferation of shopping malls led to the abrupt closure last month of popular American restaurant chain Chili’s Grill & Bar in Singapore... “escalating labour expense, difficulty in hiring and training people, exceptionally high leasing expense, and the general expansion of shopping malls in Singapore have fractured the market”.Mr Blakney said that the foreign-worker quota for the services sector is set to drop in the next two years and this will make it “considerably difficult” for restaurant operators... Belgarath Investments’ utilisation of foreign workers was “higher than average” among food-and-beverage (F&B) companies.“The average and median wages for its local employees are also lower than their industry benchmarks”... it was expensive to train employees and those who learnt the ropes would leave after several months, as restaurants compete for qualified workers.“There are so many people looking for qualified restaurant employees and people trained at Chili’s were valuable in the market,” he added.The problem was made worse because few Singaporeans are willing to take up such jobs... Despite raising wages for most workers by 30 to 50 per cent in the past five years, Mr Blakney said that his firm still could not get people to work in the industry... “There will be dozens of brands failing these coming years. The market is completely unsustainable.”... the proliferation of new malls has reduced human traffic in many places except where the MRT stations are.While the chain has tried its best, he said that the challenges posed by rental and food costs, and its lack of ability to raise prices, scrambled its profits very quickly... it is not the only established F&B chain that has called it quits in the past year.In September last year, TODAY reported on British coffee chain Costa Coffee’s exit from Singapore.Earlier this week, The Straits Times reported that Kenny Rogers Roasters will shut its last store in Great World City mall on Sunday (April 14), although it is unclear if the chain is leaving Singapore for good."

Denied ‘assisted life,’ chronically-ill Ontario man is offered death instead: lawsuit - "An Ontario hospital that wants to discharge a suicidal man with a crippling brain disease threatened to start charging him $1,800 a day, and suggested his other options included medically assisted death, according to a new lawsuit. It also claims Canada’s new assisted dying laws are unconstitutional and should be struck down because they do not require doctors “to even try to help relieve intolerable suffering” before offering to kill a terminally ill patient... Critics have long feared that, once assisted dying was legalized, its legal borders would creep ever wider to include children and the mentally ill, and that hastening death would become the knee-jerk solution to the many intractable problems of end of life care."
So much for euthanasia being a slippery slope

Chronically ill man releases audio of hospital staff offering assisted death

‘Ludicrous’: Calls for plants to be given legal rights - "Researches at the University of Sydney have conducted a study into allowing flora and fauna the same legal rights as humans.The taxpayer-funded research, Multispecies justice, will explore granting plants and animals ‘moral, legal and political status’."
The slippery slope strikes again

Ottawa father claims CRA child benefit policies are 'sexist' - "An Ottawa father is accusing the Canadian Revenue Agency of outdated and sexist policies after being told that child-care benefits for his sons from a previous marriage wouldn’t go to him, but instead to his fiancée... Henderson applied for the benefit, but was recently presented with a letter stating that it would be automatically diverted to his fiancée in assumption that she was the primary caregiver.“When a child lives with a man and a woman, who are spouses or common-law partners, the law considers the woman to be primarily responsible for the child’s care and upbringing,” read Henderson’s letter from the CRA.In order to rectify the situation, his fiancée Deidre Vance needs to write a letter stating that she is not the primary caregiver of the two boys, aged 13 and 15.“It’s ridiculous the fact that my gender overrides that I’m the custodial parent. That to me, in the 21st century, is ridiculous,” said Henderson. “I consider myself a feminist, but to me feminism is supposed to be no sexism at all. It doesn’t mean we can turn a blind eye when sexism is perpetrated toward the male gender.”"
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