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Thursday, February 20, 2014

No compromises in Human Rights

BBC Radio 4 - Moral Maze, Sochi

Andrew Fagan, University of Essex Human Rights Centre:

"Perhaps with the exception of some Scandinavian countries... all states violate human rights to a certain degree. Some do so almost accidentally, some do so almost as the very raison d'etre for their existence. It's a real problem, clearly confronting human rights as a human rights defender requires a realistic appraisal of just how widespread human rights violations are"

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Links - 19th February 2014

Why Cell Phones Should be Allowed in Hospitals - "The prohibition against mobile phones in hospitals may do more harm than good, a new report reveals. Medical facilities prohibit cell phone use, but some doctors already use them. And it turns out they reduce medical errors because communication is more timely, a new study finds. Mobile phones rarely cause electronic magnetic interference, Yale School of Medicine researchers reported today... the 2.4 percent prevalence of electronic interference with life support devices such as ventilators, intravenous infusion pumps, and monitoring equipment should be weighed against the known 14.9 percent risk of medical error or injury due to communication delays"

Is reading in the dark bad for your eyesight? - "A twin study conducted in the UK demonstrated that 86% of the spread of people’s eyesight scores could be explained by genetic factors... perhaps some children inherit a susceptibility to eye problems, which is then activated by the strain they put on their eyes when they are young. Donald Mutti and his colleagues in the United States tried to disentangle these complications in a study conducted in California, Texas and Alabama. They found no evidence of a genetic susceptibility and found that the children of parents with poor eyesight spent no more time staring closely at books than other children did. Heredity, the authors insist, was the stronger factor... Perhaps it’s not the time spent inside squinting at the page that’s the problem, but the lack of time spent outside. The Sydney Myopia Study followed more than 1,700 six and twelve year olds living in Australia and found that the more time the children spent playing outdoors, the less likely they were to have short-sightedness. A systematic review of studies including those from Australia and the United States found a protective effect overall of spending some time outdoors, particularly in East Asian populations."

3D Movies Boost Headaches, Not Enjoyment | Eyestrain, Vision Trouble More Common Among 3-D Moviegoers - "Moviegoers who watch 3-D films do not experience more intense emotional reactions or a greater sense of "being there" than those who watch 2-D movies, a new study finds. The 3-D versions also don't help you remember the movie better than 2-D versions. The 3-D movies did, on the other hand, come with a risk of discomfort. Compared with 2-D movie watchers, 3-D movie-watchers were about three times more likely to have eyestrain, headache or trouble with vision, the study showed."

Where Did the 8 Glasses of Water A Day Myth Come From? - "We have all been told at some point that proper hydration requires us to consume eight glasses of water a day. That works out to about two liters, which is an awful lot of fluid, considering the average human stomach (when unexpanded) is about the size of a balled fist. But health researchers have refuted the eight-glasses-a-day claim as a silly myth riding a wave of flimsy scientific literature. In fact, many of the groups behind the public push for over-hydration have been exposed as having — surprise! — monetary interests in the fluid industry... Despite the widely held notion that tea and coffee dehydrate us, they actually count toward our overall water intake, says Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, a nephrologist (kidney researcher) at the University of Pennsylvania. Even though we're told it's important to drink eight glasses of water a day, "there's no evidence that benefits health in any real way and it really represents an urban myth," says Goldfarb. Even something like, say, a baked potato, is 75 percent water."

Chinese car safety: "We kill you faster" - "Or at least that's what we can deduce from the recent crash test performed on Chinese automaker Geely's CK1 saloon by Latin American NCAP crash tests. They received a zero out of five stars, and driver protection was labeled as "poor for most body regions." The car has no airbags, as is "standard" for the region apparently, and the NCAP discouraged Geely from simply adding them, stating that the structural weakness of the car was such that they wouldn't do any good anyway."

Healing Mysteries of Edible Birds’ Nests Remain - "Protein is the most abundant constituent of the nests, which contain all of the essential amino acids, the building blocks out of which proteins are made. They also contain six hormones, including testosterone and estradiol, the researchers write. The nests also contain carbohydrates, ash and a small quantity of lipids (naturally occurring molecules that include fats). Previous research has indicated that the nests contain substances that can stimulate cell division and growth, enhance tissue growth and regeneration, and that it can inhibit influenza infections. But not everyone reacts well to them. Birds’ nests are known to cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction."

Facebook Stories - Twinsters - "Adopted, raised on different continents and connected through social media, Samantha and Anaïs realized they might be twins separated at birth."

The Limited Relevance of Drug Policy: Cannabis in Amsterdam and in San Francisco - "Methods. We compared representative samples of experienced cannabis users in similar cities with opposing cannabis policies—Amsterdam, the Netherlands (decriminalization), and San Francisco, Calif (criminalization). We compared age at onset, regular and maximum use, frequency and quantity of use over time, intensity and duration of intoxication, career use patterns, and other drug use.
Results. With the exception of higher drug use in San Francisco, we found strong similarities across both cities. We found no evidence to support claims that criminalization reduces use or that decriminalization increases use."

Teacher pleads guilty to committing indecent acts on 13-year-old student - "A 42-year-old primary school teacher pleaded guilty on Wednesday to committing indecent acts on a 13-year-old student by kissing him on the lips and giving him love bites on his neck and shoulder."
Love bites are indecent in Singapore!

Video showing MBS in flames sparks police probe - "Mr Caleb Rozario, 23, is assisting in police investigations after he uploaded an animated clip showing the landmark being attacked by missiles on social media site Facebook in December. The diploma student at private media school SAE Institute told The Straits Times yesterday that the video was a special-effects assignment. "It wasn't a threat or a malicious video," he said. "I chose Marina Bay Sands in particular for cinematic effect. In Hollywood movies, they have a tendency to attack landmarks"... Most netizens were convinced he was a foreigner making disparaging remarks against the country, with some demanding he be "deported" and calling his school project a "terrorist threat". Mr Rozario, who is Eurasian and has served national service, said people online assumed he was a foreigner because of his name - which may have stirred up some anti-foreigner sentiments as well. Nanyang Technological University assistant professor Liew Kai Khiun said the case showed how people get "reckless" and still cannot "grasp that things they do online have implications in real life""
Original comment: Lucasfilm should stay away from showcasing Singapore in its works. This is why creativity is dead here
Comment after finding out Straits Times screwed up the reporting again (he did really make a thread): Any idiot can make threats. You don't have to be an idiot to take all of them seriously

Free OCR Software - Optical Character Recognition and Scanning Software for Windows - import from PDF and Twain Scanners - "FreeOCR is a free Optical Character Recognition Software for Windows and supports scanning from most Twain scanners and can also open most scanned PDF's and multi page Tiff images as well as popular image file formats. FreeOCR outputs plain text and can export directly to Microsoft Word format. Free OCR uses the latest Tesseract (v3.01) OCR engine. It includes a Windows installer and It is very simple to use and supports opening multi-page tiff documents, Adobe PDF and fax documents as well as most image types including compressed Tiff's which the Tesseract engine on its own cannot read .It now can scan using Twain and WIA scanning drivers. FreeOCR V4 includes Tesseract V3 which increases accuracy and has page layout analysis so more accurate results can be achieved without using the zone selection tool."

Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham: It’s not about science versus faith. It’s about public education. - "The real question that drives the struggle between creationists and "evolutionists" (i.e. nearly all scientists and people who accept empiricism generally) is not "science vs. religion" so much as "education vs. indoctrination." As Ryan Stoller, a young man who was raised in a conservative Christian homeschooling environment explained to Kathryn Joyce for the American Prospect, the Christian right approach is to “teach the kids what to think, you keep them isolated from everyone else, you give them the right answers, and you keep them pure." The long-term plan of folks like Ken Ham is to make indoctrination look enough like what most people understand as education, so that they can smuggle it into the classroom. That's why I agree with my colleague Mark Joseph Stern that it was probably a bad idea for Nye to debate Ham. It's not a debate when one side is making factual arguments with evidence, while the other just makes assertions. Events like this end up implying an equivalence between the two when there is none... The elevation of incuriosity to the same level as critical thinking was on full display in the audience for the debate, as Matt Stopera from Buzzfeed found when he asked Ham supporters to write signs of what they want to say to the pro-evolution side. A lot of the signs were people asking questions they assume stump scientists, but actually do not, such as where do sunsets come from or how did a single-celled organism spontaneously form or how could we have evolved from monkeys if there are still monkeys. (Or, as one commenter at a science blog put it, "If the Pilgrims came from England, why are there still English people?") The questions are an attempt to imitate what critical thinking looks like while not engaging in it. There are actual answers, but these folks clearly don't want to hear them"

Creationists Go Apoplectic Over Dr. Pepper Ad

Cure for Anton Casey is to befriend Singaporeans less well-off than him: Hri Kumar - "Mr Hri Kumar believes that the former wealth manager would not have made those remarks if he had Singaporean friends "who are less well off than he is". The MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC said those who have made rude remarks about people of a different race, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic status and sexual orientation "are unlikely to have friends in those groups". "Why? Because no one, not a single person, would ever mock or demonise his real friends," he wrote. Mr Hri Kumar referred to a survey done by political scientist Robert Putnam, who found out that people tend not to trust someone who is different from them, or whom they do not know. "It is hard to demonise people of a certain group when you are close to someone in that group," he said... There was also no need for the public to issue death threats to his family"
But then, supposedly, saying "some of my best friends are black" means you're racist
Was there a need to issue death threats to him?

Hilarious exchange on Twitter between SCDF and SGAG

The Perfect Way to Hold a Hamburger, Proven by Science - "The researchers did a 3D scan of a hamburger, trying to figure out how the particles interacted while holding a large hamburger. Using the data, they showed that the typical way to hold a burger—thumbs on the bottom and fingers on top—results in pushing the contents of the burger out of the buns"

The Little India Riot and Culture in India

There seem to be 3 major competing theories about Singapore's Little India Riot:

1) Alcohol (favoured by the government)
2) Bad living/working conditions (favoured by liberals/activists)
3) Singapore having too many foreigners/a culture clash (favoured by 'xenophobes')

The hoi polloi (make no mistake, the government and liberals/activists undoubtedly look down on the 'xenophobes' as the unwashed masses) might actually be the most right of the three; there indeed seems to be a culture in India of attacking drivers and public authorities and destroying property after a traffic or train accident:

Rajasthan: Crowd burns 2 trains after accident

"In a shocking incident in Rajasthan, a goods train was set on fire by an angry mob after it rammed into a truck at an unmanned railway crossing on the Jaisalmer-Bikaner line, killing eight and injuring several others.

While the injured have been shifted to a hospital, the mob also burnt a relief train that was sent to the accident site.

The furious mob continues to block the affected line."

50 charged for rioting after Sohna accident
Nov 8, 2013

"A day after students and villagers went on the rampage, setting ablaze a PCR van and blocking Sohna-Palwal road for hours, police have charged 50 students and villagers with rioting and obstructing public servants in discharge of their duty...

Two engineering students were killed and another was injured when a speeding dumper crushed their motorcycle near Lakhuwas. The World Institute of Technology students were riding triple and only the driver was wearing helmet.

When police reached the spot, students and villagers pelted stones at them and set ablaze a PCR van."

West Bengal: Train runs over woman, protestors squat on track

"Train movement to and from the terminal Howrah station was stalled on Monday evening as protestors, angered by a train running over a woman, squatted on track, hurled stones and damaged four trains and injured an assistant driver."

Dozens die as train runs over pilgrims in India, crowd assaults driver
19 August 2013

"At least 37 people, mostly Hindu pilgrims, were killed and several injured when an express train ran them over in India's eastern state of Bihar on Monday, police said.

Angry locals and pilgrims set six coaches of the train on fire, assaulted the train driver and took railway officials hostage...

"There are three rail lines at the station and the people were trying to cross over the tracks to the platform on the other side. The train came speeding in on the middle line, crushing people under its wheels," senior police official SK Bhardwaj said.

A dozen people were injured in the accident, 160 kilometres east of state capital Patna.

Locals told news channels that there was no railway staff or arrangements to alert passengers not to cross the tracks that were in use...

Angry crowds pelted stones at the train which stopped near the station, pulled out the driver and beat him. They later took some railway staff hostage and set the train on fire.

"The situation is very tense as over 2,000 people are agitating there. Witnesses say the station has also been vandalized and damaged," Prabhakar said...

Local police said angry mobs have started attacking the Rajya Rani Express, an interstate passenger train, and set fire to several carriages. They have also attacked a nearby train station."

To be clear, since those the riot involved Indian nationals, it is reasonable to assume that they were behaving similarly to how they would've behaved in India at the scene of a road accident - they rioted.

This thought is not entirely original; I was reading online that in India, the police and emergency services are seen as corrupt, so the crowd take out their anger on them and try to get vigilante justice by also attacking the 'guilty' party.

Of course, as the opening statement of the Committee of Inquiry states, "it is entirely possible that the incident could be attributable of a combination of factors rather than a single factor".

Nonetheless, if this anarchistic tendency in India is found to be a contributing factor, this will undoubtedly be inconvenient for the government and liberals/activists (albeit for different reasons).

Sudhir Srinivasan's answer to Auto and Traffic Accidents: After a traffic accident (in India), why does the mob generally vent its 'fury' on the driver, vehicle, other people and/or the police, engage in vandalism, as well as cause a road blockade, inconveniencing others? - Quora

"You will notice that the people who stage such public protests, and who often go about vandalising vehicles are often those who are generally downtrodden. They are usually from the economically backward sections of the society. The middle class Indian is too proud to stage a protest on the road. He is too busy to sit with a crowd in public. He is too fearful of his safety to behave aggressively.

A recent conversation I had with a local government councillor shed some light on this. He said, "Do you know why the lower class often get what they want? For example, a traffic light or a speedbreaker in their area? It is because they know how to take advantage of democracy. It is because they sit down in public and stage protests. This gets the job done, as opposed to a middle class educated Indian sending a random e-mail or updating his Facebook with a status." It's a way of life for the poor, especially those in the slums. Staging a public protest is something that they have seen to be pretty useful.

Another reason is the general hatred most people have for the government generally. We all read so much about corruption, and while we struggle to make ends meet, we notice politicians blocking traffic to pass easily, with dozens of government-sponsored cars following them. We hear of their investments. We hear of the crores that are looted. And then we're busy paying taxes and struggling to get deductions. There's much hatred simmering just below the surface. It is my opinion that when you catch a government bus driver being part of an accident, the simmering hatred surfaces. Many of these poor people live lives of quiet desperation, and this sort of a situation breaks the monotony. It gives them some sort of power when they smack the window of the bus. Like they have taken power and done something fruitful.

This is not so much about the victim. This is about the pent-up anger and frustration. This is not about what is right and what is wrong. This is simply an opportunity to take matters into your hands, and to assert your dominance in whatever pointless, trivial way. "Break the damned bus! Let the government spend some money on it, the bastards! Corrupt fucks. Come on, let us teach that driver a lesson by beating the shit out of him." This seems to be the general sentiment. And of course, the mob mentality kicks in. When you notice a group of self-righteous people attacking somebody, you're inclined to joining them.

These are simply my thoughts on this matter, and why I believe traffic accidents meet with irrational, unkind public responses, including damage to public property and road rokos, many times."

France 2012 - Day 13 - Toulouse (Part 1)

France 2012
Day 13 - 25th October - Toulouse
(Part 1)

Once again, I woke up really early to take the train - this time to Toulouse.

At 6+am there was a leaf blower at work. Wah.

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Carcassonne before dawn

The exterior lights were off before dawn so the city was dark from a distance. Must've been austerity!

I realised that I hadn't seen any black people or women in hijabs while in the Cité (the fortified old town) - only in la ville baisse (the lower city). This said something about integration.

The Relay (newsagent) at Carcassonne's railway station had an international press rack. I was impressed.

There was a white guy with 2 East Asian girls, and on his luggage was a "free sex club" sticker. Okay.

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Safari in France. You know it's important because they open every day - even on New Year's. I scribbled that it was interesting that it was also open on 1st September (I think it was written somewhere), but I can't find out why this day is special... except that it was the day Germany invaded Poland in 1939.

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I like the design of the onyx's head

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Toulouse - where Spanish appears on signs

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Announcement of train strike grr

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"Committing fraud (or how to turn a movie night into a tv night)"
Ad about train fraud and its severe consequences
What's wrong with a TV night?
I love the verb "frauder"

The Toulouse métro announced stations in what I thought was Spanish but have since found out was Occitan. There were free transfers within 1 hour - but I got on the bus one minute too late. Gah.

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Team spirit in the subway

The buses in Toulouse displayed and announced the next bus stop. We tried that with TIBS buses in Singapore, but we stopped. Perhaps because the bus stops were too close? Or the bus stop names were too generic and similar (e.g. Block 10, Block 12)?

My hostel was just beside the University of Toulouse, so naturally there were interesting sights:

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"Faced with the Far Right. Immediate retaliation!"
"Anti-Fascist Union of Toulouse"
These seem to be calling for the beating up of "fascists"

Ed: A black man is not the best choice as poster boy for an anti-racism, anti-extreme right campaign. It aggravates the other side more, and pigeonholes anti-racism as an ethnic issue - and reinforces stereotypes of the Angry Black Man (especially with the violent language).

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Hostel - which was a converted house

There was an Albi-Cordes tour. Unfortunately it was on the day that I flew from Toulouse back to Paris.

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University of Toulouse

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"Elections. Do they still amuse you?
Abstention! Revolution! Autogestion! Anarchist federation" (autogestion means self-management - without a counter-revolutionary ruling class)
It was indeed interesting being near a university

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"Social justice? General strike! Anarchist federation"

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"Vegetarian! Information stand about vegetarianism and veganism... Every year, more than a billion animals are killed in French abattoirs"
"Neither God nor Master nor State nor boss. Anarchist federation"

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Kebab stand. At first I wanted to takeaway then I decided it'd be easier to sit and eat, since it'd take 5 minutes anyway. Too late I saw the "cocotte" option. Ah well.

Interestingly, right next door to the kebab stand was a liquor store. The guy beside me disappeared and went to buy beer.

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Dome de la Grave
There's a Spanish writeup! But none in English
The hospital was for plague victims, then poor people
The hostel guy claimed that it was a UNESCO site. BAH.

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La Garonne river

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I don't know why I took this

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Rue Larrey
The road signs are also in Occitan

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Rue Pargaminieres

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I can't match this Rue Joseph Lakanal sign to a road

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"Do you have a slab of concrete [?]? Best of Halal Fast Food"
"As many fries as you want"

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Unfortunately the Hotel de Ville was blocked by some fair

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Road through Hotel de Ville complex

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On square in front of Hotel de Ville - Place du Capitole. It got renamed from Place Royale to Place de la Liberté and then to its present name.

From the tourist office I got a brochure from Ophorus Tours. There was an Albi-Cordes tour - but it was today and not the next day. I was offered a substitute tour - Bruniquel/Puycelsi, both on Les Plus Villages de France. I decided to pass since I'd been to Carcassonne and Pérouges and I'd seen pictures of Cordes (which was after all more famous) - it was similar except much higher up than Cordes, so when the clouds came in it was really sur ciel (as its full name Cordes-sur-ciel - Cordes above the Clouds - suggests). If only I'd had one more day!

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Albi tour. I didn't take it because Albi was very accessible and I wanted to wander
If you didn't notice, here is a line from the brochure: "Your guide will make you explore the old town's winding medieval streets and private mansions"

The Hotel de Ville had some stuff to see.

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Le Tournoi

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J Jaures bust

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Bad grammar: "For centuries of fighting for the obtaining of their rights, for their role in the Resistance, French women finally got the right to vote on 21 April 1944"

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Jeux Floraux

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Les Bords de la Garonne

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Side of a Hall

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The Entry of Urban II to Toulouse

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"Law Justice Truth"
This can answer the eternal question, "What is Truth?"

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"Love, Happy Source of Life" (at 40 years)

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"Love, Happy Source of Life" (Cythera)

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Untitled (presumably) by Pierre Laurens. Also: male nudity!

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Back of Hotel de Ville

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Rue d'Alsace Lorraine

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Why is there a John Fitzgerald Kennedy street?

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