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Saturday, June 15, 2019

Links - 15th June 2019 (1)

Pakistani Christian girls targeted by Chinese as brides - "Parents receive several thousand dollars and are told that their new sons-in-law are wealthy Christian converts. The grooms turn out to be neither... Augustine accused the Chinese government and its embassy in Pakistan of turning a blind eye to the practice by unquestioningly issuing visas and documents. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied that, saying China has zero tolerance for illegal transnational marriage agencies... Brides initially came largely from Vietnam, Laos and North Korea. Now men are looking further afield... “It’s purely supply and demand,” she said. “It used to be, ‘Is she light-skinned?’ Now it’s like, ‘Is she female?’”... Among all faiths in Pakistan, parents often decide a daughter’s marriage partner. The deeply patriarchal society sees girls as less desirable than boys and as a burden because the bride’s family must pay a dowry and the cost of the wedding when they marry. A new bride is often mistreated by her husband and in-laws if her dowry is considered inadequate.By contrast, potential Chinese grooms offer parents money and pay all wedding expenses."

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh Resigns Amid Scandal - "Baltimore’s mayor resigned under pressure Thursday amid a flurry of investigations into whether she arranged bulk sales of her self-published children’s books to disguise hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks... She came to office contrasting her clean image with her main opponent, ex-mayor Sheila Dixon, who was forced to depart office in 2010 as part of a plea deal for misappropriating about $500 in gift cards meant for needy families."
"Let's elect Black women... More. women."
If you just want to hit a quota...

Gay Men Used to Earn Less than Straight Men; Now They Earn More - "the gay male earnings penalty had disappeared. And not only had it disappeared, it had turned into a 10% premium, meaning that gay men in recent years earned substantially more than straight men with similar education, experience, and job profiles... Previous studies have found that lesbians tend to earn more than straight women with similar education, experience, skills, and job characteristics... fundamental changes in family opportunities and responsibilities brought about by recent nationwide same-sex marriage may be exerting very different influences in gay male households than in lesbian households, and this changing nature of household specialization – theorized by Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker – could be producing some of the patterns we have documented. A gay male couple who gets married may have one partner select out of the workforce to focus on caregiving responsibilities; this might make the other partner more productive at work, resulting in relative improvements in gay men’s earnings relative to those of straight men. If the relatively lower earning partner systematically selects out of the labor market, this productivity effect would be compounded by a compositional change in the sample of relatively higher earning gay men we observe working"
Interestingly, one possible explanation for this (comparative advantage) also helps explains the gender wage gap
Doubtless the answer from some will be discrimination - just like a feminist explanation for why Google found that it was underpaying men was that women were discriminated against

Why Do Women Earn Less Than Men? Evidence from Bus and Train Operators (Job Market Paper) | Valentin Bolotnyy - "Even in a unionized environment where work tasks are similar, hourly wages are identical, and tenure dictates promotions, we find that female workers earn $0.89 on the male-worker dollar (in weekly earnings). We use confidential administrative data on bus and train operators from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to show that the weekly earnings gap can be explained by female operators’ taking less overtime and more unpaid time off using Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) than do male operators. We find that women value time outside of work more than men, and also have greater demand for schedule predictability and controllability. When overtime hours are scheduled three months in advance, men and women work a similar number of hours; but when those hours are offered the day before, men work nearly twice as many. When selecting work schedules, female operators avoid weekend, holiday, and split shifts more than do male operators. Women earn less in weeks with these unfavorable shifts, whereas men earn more by taking leave during the undesirable shift and substituting it with considerable overtime. Moreover, to avoid unfavorable work times, women prioritize schedule convenience over route safety, selecting routes with a higher probability of accidents. These results suggest that policies that increase schedule controllability, like shift-trading and expanded cover lists, can reduce the gender earnings gap and disproportionately increase the wellbeing of female workers."
Even in an environment where pay discrimination is literally impossible, there's a 11% gender wage gap. Such is the power of the patriarchy!
See also: Uber gender wage gap study

What Can the U.S. Health System Learn From Singapore? - The New York Times - "In the end, the government holds the cards. It decides where and when the private sector can operate. In the United States, the opposite often seems true. The private sector is the default system, and the public sector comes into play only when the private sector doesn’t want to.In Singapore, the government strictly regulates what technology is available in the country and where. It makes decisions as to what drugs and devices are covered in public facilities. It sets the prices and determines what subsidies are available.“There is careful scrutiny of the ‘latest and greatest’ technologies and a healthy skepticism of manufacturer claims,” Dr. Lim said. “It may be at the forefront of medical science in many areas, but the diffusion of the advancements to the entire population may take a while.”... In Singapore, campaigns have encouraged drinking water, and healthier food choice labels have been mandated. The country, with control over its food importation, even got beverage manufacturers to agree to reduce sugar content in drinks to a maximum of 12 percent by 2020.Should beverage companies fail to comply, officials might not just tax the drinks — they could ban them."

Coca-Cola, PespiCo and others agree to cap sugar in drinks in Singapore - "Seven major drinks companies including Coca-Cola and PepsiCo will limit the sugar content of drinks they sell in Singapore, as part of the city-state’s campaign to fight diabetes

How Powerful Is Vladimir Putin Really? - The New York Times - "The gulf between what Mr. Putin says and what happens in Russia raises a fundamental question about the nature of his rule after more than 18 years at the pinnacle of an authoritarian system: Is Mr. Putin really the omnipotent leader whom his critics attack and his own propagandists promote? Or does he sit atop a state that is, in fact, shockingly ramshackle, a system driven more by the capricious and often venal calculations of competing bureaucracies and interest groups than by Kremlin diktats?... A plethora of bureaucratic and political forces both reinforce and sap the president’s power: the security services, the Russian Orthodox Church, billionaire oligarchs, local officials and others, each with its own sometimes competing and sometimes overlapping interests. Mr. Putin has to manage them as best he can, but he doesn’t control everything they each do... “It is a great illusion that you just need to reach the leader and make him listen and everything will change,” she added. “This is not how it happens.”The illusion, however, is largely a result of the Kremlin’s own propaganda about the man at the top of what it calls the “power vertical.”"

How does legalization of physician assisted suicide affect rates of suicide? - "Legalizing PAS has been associated with an increased rate of total suicides relative to other states and no decrease in non-assisted suicides. This suggests either that PAS does not inhibit (nor acts as an alternative to) non-assisted suicide, or that it acts in this way in some individuals but is associated with an increased inclination to suicide in other individuals."
So much for the claim that you should legalise euthanasia to reduce suicide, and that if you don't let people get euthanised they will kill themselves anyway

'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' director Rian Johnson doesn't care if J.J. Abrams retcons for 'Episode IX'/
So he didn't care about his movie in the first place

Poet stumped by standardized test questions about her own poem - Los Angeles Times - "Poet Sara Holbrook, who often writes humorous verse for kids, had some harsh words for the Texas Education Agency after she discovered she couldn't answer questions about poems on the its standardized tests — poems she herself wrote.In an essay for the Huffington Post, Holbrook wrote that she felt like "such a dunce" after she didn't know the answers to questions posed on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests about her poems — "A Real Case" and "Midnight" — meant for seventh- and eighth-grade students... Holbrook argues that asking students to dissect poems isn't an effective way to teach them about the joys of literature... Holbrook wrote that asking students to guess an author's intent in writing a piece of literature is doomed to be a pointless exercise."My final reflection is this: any test that questions the motivations of the author without asking the author is a big baloney sandwich," she wrote. "Mostly test makers do this to dead people who can’t protest. But I’m not dead. I protest.""
Since the author is dead, can she really complain?
This suggests that literature should not be an examinable - or perhaps even academic - subject

Netizens are up in arms after Netflix featured Singapore and Indonesia in a show on Asian street food, but left out Malaysia - "According to Netflix’s statement, four Singaporean dishes will find their way onto the show: wonton noodles made by the late Tang Siu Nam, chilli crab by KEK Seafood, and chicken rice from Sin Kee Chicken Rice.Also featured is putu piring, a steamed rice cake filled with palm sugar, made by professional pastry chef Aisha Hashim, whose family owns Michelin Guide-approved Haig Road Putu Piring... One netizen even tagged Malaysia’s tourism minister, Mohammadin Ketapi, to ask why."
Malaysia never disappoints
"Out of the 4 places featured in the Singapore ep of Netflix's Street Food (clarified by seetoh that we don't have those, by the way), one stall closed cos the chef died, one stall closed cos the chef got poached elsewhere and one had to use a central kitchen to mass manufacture the ingredients. The remaining was a restaurant. Hawker food is literally dying out.
PS: A friend pointed out this ep is like Our Planet, but for hawkers.."


The Walking Dead explain why two LGBT characters were killed in season 9 - "Their deaths sparked uproar within the community... ‘We want every single person to have the same full story that anyone would have. Taking death off the table for any group for any reason limits the types of stories we can tell for them, as well as our casting abilities."
How diversity stops you from telling good stories - or even presenting "minorities" as fully human and authentic characters

Twitter's Micro-Slavery - "'“Lizard brain” emotions such as fear and anger produce a more uniform reaction and are more viral in a mass audience. When users are riled up, they consume and share more content. Dispassionate users have relatively little value on Facebook, which does everything in its power to activate the lizard brain'... Public health campaigners and medical researchers have long equated the ravages, cruelty, and exploitation of narcotics addiction to chemical slavery. A virtually identical mechanism unfolds in a brain using Facebook or Twitter... The Hollywood actors who have done mighty work to support the Bolivian cocaine trade in the past can’t put Twitter down now, and that’s no accident.Digital abolitionists grow more and more strident and numerous these days. Many—including early Facebook investor McNamee—hail from inside Silicon Valley. A raft of articles over the last few years have documented the wave of Silicon Valley techno-elites who, like savvy drug cartel bosses, forbid their own children from using the devices and social media platforms they build, while they encourage their employees to spend frequent periods “unplugged.” They know social media and mobile devices create users, and some have been brave enough to lobby the public for a shift in consciousness... Brain researchers and those with unusual common sense have noticed that Twitter produces much the same effect on good judgement as drugs or a gambling compulsion. To watch full-grown adults turn into excrement-flinging six-year-olds, put on a hazmat suit and open up any hashtag... If the reader hasn’t noticed, all roads lead back to fear. Fear of missing out, fear of scorn and loneliness, fear of painful withdrawal, fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of being understood the wrong way, fear that others will have their say on Twitter without someone to correct their immoral use of data and benighted views. God forbid a stranger posts 280 characters on the Internet that goes unchallenged and causes democracy to perish."

How Radical Transparency Cures Web Censorship and Surveillance - "Banning sadistic trolls in mainstream fora serves to push them into desolate corners where their impulses will fester and intensify. The authors of a 2017 UNESCO study say that banning trolls is like playing “whack-a-mole”: They will just pop up somewhere else. A Brookings study similarly concluded that removing the accounts of trolls typically “increase[s] the speed and intensity of radicalization for those who do manage to enter the network.”While having a dialogue with trolls is difficult, it isn’t always impossible. And evidence-based research suggests that engaging even toxic ideological opponents in discussion sometimes can give them a chance to express themselves in a more positive way—while defusing their ability to create the friction and polarization that always attends the use of de-platforming. Which is to say: We don’t need more censorship. We need more soldiers in the fight for rationalism and civility.One of the most persuasive justifications for online moderation is that it helps protect children. But a study in the Journal of Pediatrics shows that at least one in six kids have had a negative online experience—notwithstanding the heavy moderation that already takes place on most popular online fora. According to the study author, Andrew K. Przybylski of the Oxford Internet Institute, “It’s kind of crazy that so much time and effort and money is spent to protect kids in this way when we don’t know if it’s effective at all.”Another study, this one conducted by the American Library Association, shows that controlling access to online content could harm the educational process, because the filters that are placed on school networks can prevent students from creating and sharing content: “Schools that over-filter restrict students from learning key digital readiness skills that are vital for the rest of their lives. Over-blocking in schools hampers students from developing their online presence and fully understanding the extent and permanence of their digital footprint.”"
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