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Friday, July 25, 2014

Links - 25th July 2014

Speaker: Islam should not be judged by the actions of Muslims | Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) - ""Islam should not be judged by the actions of Muslims just as Christianity should not be judged by the actions of Christians and Judaism should not be judged by the actions of Jews," Ahmed said. "Islam should be judged by the Quran and the example of the prophet Muhammad.""
America should not be judged by the actions of its government, but by its Constitution

Rob Breakenridge: Pornography — Canada’s other sex trade - "Canada is simultaneously dealing with a bit of a crisis in the adult film industry. Earlier this year, three Canadian erotica channels were scolded by the broadcast regulator for falling short of the mandated threshold for Canadian content. In other words, not enough Canadian porn is being churned out by Canada’s porn producers and the federal government is not going to stand for it. Yes, yes, there are plenty of Canadians who have strong moral objections to both prostitution and pornography. But while porn objectors grumble about the proliferation of adult content, the most they’ve called for is online filters or an opt-in system involving ISPs. The government is not under any pressure to criminalize the industry, nor do we see the op-ed pages filled with laments about the “sale of human flesh” or the “commodification of people” or even the classic “you wouldn’t want your daughter/sister/etc., doing this!” that I opened with here."

Women are more likely to be physically aggressive towards their partners than men - "Analysis showed that women were more likely to be physically aggressive to their partners than men and that men were more likely to be physically aggressive to their same-sex others. Furthermore, women engaged in significantly higher levels of controlling behaviour than men, which significantly predicted physical aggression in both sexes. Dr Elizabeth Bates explained: "This was an interesting finding. Previous studies have sought to explain male violence towards women as rising from patriarchal values, which motivate men to seek to control women's behaviour, using violence if necessary. "This study found that women demonstrated a desire to control their partners and were more likely to use physical aggression than men. This suggests that IPV may not be motivated by patriarchal values and needs to be studied within the context of other forms of aggression, which has potential implications for interventions.""
Once again, 'women are being oppressed' fails as a description and 'patriarchy' fails as an explanation

Emerson Dameron's answer to Creepiness: What's the creepiest/weirdest offer of sex you've ever had? - Quora - "I noticed a payphone ringing in the night air. No one else was in sight. I picked it up. I heard a voice of ambiguous gender and a strong WNC accent. It sounded like thousands of cartons of Marlboro Reds. After a few seconds' hesitation, it asked, "Want me to SUCK your DICK?!?!""

Facebook manipulated users emotions in secret study: Report - "A study detailing how Facebook secretly manipulated the news feed of some 700,000 users to study "emotional contagion" has prompted anger on social media. For one week in 2012 Facebook tampered with the algorithm used to place posts into user news feeds to study how this affected their mood...
their institutional review boards approved the research "on the grounds that Facebook apparently manipulates people's News Feeds all the time""
Am pretty sure cussing at people does more harm than manipulating their Facebook newsfeeds. Why is the former not unethical?

Psy’s ‘Hangover’ Doesn’t Reveal All about South Korea’s Drinking Culture: Study - "Another research from Euromonitor International previously reported that South Koreans drink more hard liquor than any other nationality. Psy himself admitted to Billboard he consumes much alcohol. "Yes, I'm a heavy drinker. I can honestly say (I have hangover) half of the year," Psy said. Research analyst Kim Min-ji attributed the high consumption rate to a "team building culture that is centered on alcohol. South Koreans look at drinking as a chance to bond with friends, colleagues and family.""

Ocean's nasty plastic garbage is disappearing: What's going on? - "mesopelagic fish, which live in the hazy twilight zone 660 to 3,300 feet beneath the ocean's surface, may be mistaking these bits of plastic for zooplankton of the same size. Perhaps the fish are gobbling them up at night when they come to the surface to feed, and then bringing the plastic back down to the deeper ocean where they spend most of their lives. Over time, the plastic may sink deeper when excreted or when the fish dies. The researchers also note that recent studies have shown bacterial populations growing on plastic microfragments, weighing them down and causing them to sink."

Study Reveals Biological Identities of Bigfoot, Yeti, Bolstering Case Against Them - "Of the supposed Bigfoot specimens from North America, three were from cattle. Other hairs belonged to sheep, raccoon, and porcupine. (See “Bigfoot Hoax: “Body” Is Rubber Suit.”) The sole study sample attributed to the ape-like Orang Pendek, meanwhile—a creature said to lurk on the Southeast Asian island of Sumatra—proved to be tapir, a large, pig-like tropical forest mammal. Russian samples attributed to the fabled Almasty or Almas, a rumored crypto-hominid from central Asia, were actually horse hair in three cases, according to the study."

Computer gender-perception a valuable tool - "Computers can mimic human perception of gender, according to new research published in the prestigious international journal PLOS One. A multi-disciplinary team of three computer scientists and two human anatomy experts at The University of Western Australia has, for the first time, developed a mathematical model that matches the gender scores people give to human faces ranging on a continuum from very masculine to very feminine."

What Happened After These 15 People Texted The Wrong Number Was Hilariously Epic.

Smart ways to manage work conflicts - "A most satisfying form of self-indulgence, sarcasm is usually not understood or convinces the other person that you are nuts. Searing wit is not well understood, but the intention to wound and denigrate is. So all you will have achieved is alienation without admiration - a waste of time. Write a book about it instead; you can be as sarcastic as you like in that."

Psychologists Find that Nice People Are More Likely to Hurt You - "agreeable people will often choose to do destructive things because they don't want to upset anyone by disagreeing with direct orders."

Anti-Gay: Homosexuality and Its Discontents by Mark Simpson - "Have you ever wondered (to yourself, in private): Why most gay culture these days is mediocre trash? Why so many lesbians have such a problem with long hair and dainty footwear? Why being gay is like being a member of a religious cult, except not so open-minded? What happens when a gay activist takes 'celebrating diversity' seriously and sleeps with someone of the opposite sex? If you have, it's ok. You're not alone any more. Anti-Gay, the shameful anti-dote to prideful feel-good politics, will give you the strength to tell the world you're not glad to be gay after all"

A wedding in Westeros: Couple tie the knot as Game Of Thrones' 'Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow'

The Economics of Sex - YouTube - "How do women decide to begin a sexual relationship? Pricing"

Rushing to cash in - Equal Ground - "A few years ago, in its over-zealousness to profit from the trend, a major hotel promoted a “Ramadan luncheon”. This was quickly stopped after the hotel received a barrage of criticisms from Muslim groups and the Malay media. In another instance, a radio station overstepped the line when it asked its listeners which was the more important event – fasting or celebrating Hari Raya? Fasting, one of the five tenets of Islam, cannot have its decree questioned nor its merits debated."
What else in Islam cannot be questioned or debated?

Sex Researchers Rethink Female Sexuality - "the problem I’ve long had with the arousal studies is this: the vagina is not the homologue to the penis. The penis's homologue is the clitoris. The vagina comes from different embryological tissue altogether, so why should we expect it to behave in a way that is comparable to the penis? The reason the clitoris gets an erection when a woman is sexually excited, the reason most women reach orgasm via their clits and not via their vaginas, is because the clitoris is the organ that corresponds to the penis... An international group of sex researchers working out of the Netherlands has managed to cleverly redesign the usual laboratory vaginal measuring device to also measure the response of the clitoris. (Their paper is referenced here.) They even managed to design one that did not require lab personnel to hold it to the subject; this is one the subject can insert herself, alone in a laboratory test room... “the inverse relationship between VPA [the vaginal response] and CBV [the clitoral response] at moments of high sexual arousal suggests that VPA may be a more automatic, preparatory response rather than a measure of genital arousal per se.” In other words, their results suggest that, sure enough, women’s arousal patterns may be a lot more specific—more like men’s—than the vaginal measurements reveal... how could we explain the life histories that seem to show that women are on average more sexually fluid than men? Maybe the truth is that women choose sex partners—especially long-term partnerships from which surviving children may be more likely to result—based less on immediate arousal than on other considerations. Like what? Oh, you know, like a consideration of who can be trusted to find their clitorises."
The flippant dismissal of women being sexually fluid in their revealed preferences is really lazy. If nothing else, some ex-lesbians get together with men - who presumably are less able to find the clitoris - and vice versa (from which children cannot result)

What’s Wrong With Choosing to Be Gay? - "Brandon Ambrosino is thinking this orthodoxy through for himself, and concluding that “I can’t help myself” is an insulting narrative... No wonder he’s getting corrected by the LGBT thought police... Desire happens unbidden. Exactly what you’re supposed to do with a deviant flicker has varied over time and space: become a nun or priest; get slotted into a third gender between male and female, called “hijra” or “fa’afafine” or “two-spirit”; marry heterosexually and rear a family, while having “special friends” on the side. But if you get that flicker, you’re faced with a choice, whether or not you choose consciously. Do you suppress the flicker, or follow its lead? If you follow, do you do so openly or secretly? According to Kinsey, up to 37 percent of men had some sexual experience with another man. “Lesbian until graduation” is by now a well-known phenomenon, and plenty of lesbians and gay men have tangled with those who come to visit for a few nights but head back to heterosexuality once vacation is over. And of course, many gays and lesbians who now identify as 100 percent homosexual have had opposite-sex relations when they were younger. Many adults, in other words, have a little internal leeway to choose which of their desires they will pursue... Gay isn’t the desire; it’s the social identity we layer on top of the desire—and it’s only yours if you claim it. Even men who have sex with men (MSMs, in the lingo) are not gay unless they say so... having teammates who refuse to wear the T-shirt is only half of the problem with wrapping an identity around desire. Here’s the other: desire is not a fixed or reliable compass. It varies, usually not in a willed way. I know many women who say that they were once so identified with one direction of desire that it never occurred to them it would ever vary—and yet fifteen or thirty years later, are stunned to find that their attractions take a U-turn. Some women who spend their younger adulthood identifying as lesbians shift in midlife and get involved with men. Some straight women have serious, meaningful relationships with men—and are stunned when they fall hard for a woman, not with a mild crush, but with full-on love and desire. These women often don’t call themselves “bisexual.” They say: at one point I was straight and then became gay (or vice versa). And that involves choice... Our society protects chosen identities. One’s being a Seventh-Day Adventist, Sufi Muslim or Hasidic Jew may be strongly influenced by the culture one is born into—but it’s not genetic. People convert in and out, in a way that involves new conceptions of their core identity. In some parts of the world, and in large swaths of Western history, choosing the “wrong” religion can be a death-penalty offense. But in our era we protect your freedom of religion. It’s time to be neutral about orientation in just the same way, protecting personal freedom of choice. Because really, who cares?"

Google reverses decision to delete British newspaper links - "The Guardian protested the removal of its stories describing how a soccer referee lied about reversing a penalty decision. It was unclear who asked Google to remove the stories... Privacy advocates say the backlash around press censorship highlight the potential dangers of the ruling and its unwieldiness in practice. That in turn may benefit Google by stirring debate about the soundness of the ruling, which the Internet search leader criticized the ruling from the outset. Google, which has received more than 70,000 requests, began acting upon them in past days. And it notified the BBC and the Guardian, which in turn publicized the moves. The incidents suggest that requesting removal of a link may actually bring the issue back into the public spotlight, rather than obscure it. That possibility may give people pause before submitting a "right to be forgotten" request"

Women's Sexual Aggression Against Men: Prevalence and Predictors - "Almost 1 in 10 respondents (9.3%) reported having used aggressive strategies to coerce a man into sexual activities. Exploitation of the man's incapacitated state was used most frequently (5.6%), followed by verbal pressure (3.2%) and physical force (2%). An additional 5.4% reported attempted acts of sexual aggression. Sexual abuse in childhood, ambiguous communication of sexual intentions, high levels of sexual activity, and peer pressure toward sexual activity were linked to an increased likelihood of sexual aggression"

Man has bizarre new Lego-style hair do to impress a girl - "'My friends call him blockhead, I can imagine he might have found someone as he had a good and respectable job as a medical laboratory scientist at the National Taiwan University Hospital. But he should act his age.' Wu who is still single despite the expensive hairdo said: 'I can't understand it. I make an attractive monthly income of TWD 70,000 (£1,400). 'I adopted this hairstyle because I wanted to look like a guy in his 20s or 30s to attract the girl who rejected me. Or in fact any girl.' Styling his hair was not an easy task. He reportedly needs to use up two cans of gel and spends two hours doing his hair. He can also only comb it once every 15 days to get rid of dead hair."

Weird private photographs of Hitler practicing dramatic gestures for his speeches - "Hitler actually characterized different effects for the various poses, such as “gebieterisch” (domineering) or “kämpferisch” (pugnacious)."

Reunited at 80: Childhood sweethearts separated by war finally tie the knot after 70 years - "Bob wrote to her regularly from France, but unknown to both of them, his letters were never passed on by Bernie's parents who disapproved of the relationship. With the missives having seemingly dried up, she later met Roy Bluett – a Kiwi bomber pilot who had spent most of the war recovering from a crash which shattered both his legs. The pair went on to marry and she emigrated to New Zealand where she has lived ever since. Bob, meanwhile, also married after thinking Bernie had simply rejected his love and the pair remained apart for seven decades."

‘Can’ or ‘may’? - Oxford Dictionaries - "There is a widespread view that using can to ask for permission is wrong and that it should only be used in expressions to do with ability or capability, e.g.:
Can she swim?
Can you speak Italian?
But the 'permission' use of can is not in fact incorrect in standard English. The only difference between the two verbs is that one is more polite than the other. In informal contexts it’s perfectly acceptable to use can; in formal situations it would be better to use may."

Why You Need To Stop Posting #100HappyDays Updates | Thought Catalog - "the 100 Days of Happiness phenomena fosters a faux-positive culture while pandering to the twin pitfalls of social media: narcissism and banality. Let’s talk about the pitfalls first. According to the website, 100happydays.com, the 100HD challenge “is for you — not for anyone else.” If that’s true, why are you plastering it all over Facebook? Social media is exactly that — it’s inherently social. If this exercise is solely personal in nature, write it down in your Trapper Keeper. Once upon a time, they even made a website that was specifically designed for such navel-gazing — it was called Livejournal. (Remember that website that you used to obsessively post Bright Eyes lyrics?) But if you throw up a photo of your brunch on Instagram with a #100happydays and a #blessed hashtag, you’re putting it out there for public consumption. And if that’s the case, you’re assuming that the public cares. Which probably isn’t the case. The even larger problem with 100HD is that it encourages, nay, demands banality. No one has 100 exciting days in a row, not even Rihanna or Beyonce. Definitely not you. So while you can feign (or even feel) excitement over the fact that the vending machine gave you two Snickers bars instead of one, the rest of us can’t. Which is kind of the problem with social networking in general, isn’t it? Imagine for a second that you’ve been transported to a dystopic near-future where everyone on your friends list is concurrently participating in this infernal challenge. What fresh hell would await you every day, logging onto Facebook only to be greeted by a veritable cavalcade of the insipid, the trivial, the nominally positive? Which brings us back to my first point. 100 Happy Days misses the mark because it draws a false dichotomy between being busy and being happy, and unfairly makes the implication that negativity is so pervasive on social media because people are busy... Moreover, this obsession with pushing positivity into the public forum overlooks a more fundamental reality: the human experience is inherently dualistic. To focus on the happy to the exclusion of the sad is to do a disservice to both facets of human emotion — we appreciate joy and sorrow in part because we understand them in relationship to each other. To manufacture emphasis on one over the other is to distort reality."
This might be the highest quality Thought Catalog article ever

Egypt and Ramadan: Hot and slow | The Economist - "A reduction of two hours’ work a day means that 40 hours are lost in the month, equalling a week of full-time work for everyone in the formal sector. A study published last year by Dinar Standard, a consulting group that specialises in the Muslim world, suggests that Ramadan may cut the month’s GDP by nearly 8%. Last year in Egypt that would have meant a loss of $1.4 billion."

- About Us : Bottling Plant - "Villa d’Equilibrium is more than just a bottling plant. The Villa and the verdant surrounding stands beautifully on the southern slope of Mt. Salak (2211 meter above sea level), on the island of Java. Radiating the Grecco-Roman architecture, but yet breathing out the Oriental culture, the Villa is an icon of equilibrium. Harmony with nature is portrayed by its perfect 10 geomancy (Fengshui) score. Visitors can easily feel the serenity and peacefulness created by the Yin-Yang balance in the sprawling bottling plant."

The Myth of Israeli Collective Punishment - "Every time Israelis are murdered, the Jewish State is accused of punishing Muslims in the West Bank and Gaza for the actions of a few individuals. Israel is fighting an enemy that insists on having all the advantages of a state and statelessness with none of the disadvantages. The PLO/Hamas unity government is a state when it wants something from the United Nations or the United States, but it’s not a state when it comes to taking responsibility... When the Palestinian Authority unity government of Hamas and the PLO wants to go to the UN, it is said to represent the political will of a populace. But when Hamas attacks Israel, suddenly it’s not a collective act, but an individual crime. If Israel targets Hamas leaders, then it’s attacking political representatives. But if Israel blockades an area run by terrorists who claim to be a state, it’s accused of engaging in collective punishment. The terrorists claim political immunity as leaders of a collective and immunity from collective attack as individuals, rather than leaders and citizens of a political entity. Critics of Israel not only want to have it both ways, they want to have it every single possible way that advantages the terrorists and disadvantages Israel, so that in every possible scenario Israel is wrong. The paradox deepens when it comes to Israel. The PLO and Hamas political leadership of the PA aren’t held responsible for their terrorist attacks, but Israel is held responsible for the individual actions of its civilians... When Israeli teens are killed by Hamas terrorists, instead of it being a case of a statelet engaging in random terror as a collective punishment, it’s put down to some populist impulse as a result of the “occupation.” But when Israel strikes Hamas, it’s suddenly collective punishment if any members of the civilian population that support the terrorist group and willingly act as its human shields are killed. And it’s collective punishment if Israel further shuts off access to territory ruled by Hamas. Collective punishment, like everything else about the conflict, only works one way. Anything that Israel does to the PLO and Hamas can be considered collective punishment. Anything that they do to Israel, including randomly firing rockets at schools and houses, isn’t... When half-a-million Israelis have to flee to bomb shelters, that’s not an individual crime. It’s a war. All the peace process accomplished was to give the PLO and Hamas the power and infrastructure to wage full scale war without the obligation to follow any of the rules of war and without giving their victims the right to fight back by treating them as an enemy state."
With Hamas using civilians as human shields, it's a wonder the casualties aren't higher

Joseph Wang's answer to Why do people who are homeless, hungry and without family not break the law intentionally so that they can go to prison? - Quora - "He made his money asking game show questions to tourists, and if the tourists don't feel safe, then he doesn't make his money. One other tip is if you want money, find a couple. If you go to a lone female, you will scare them. If you go to a lone male, they will ignore you. If you go to a couple, then the woman will feel safe but sorry for you, and pressure the boyfriend to give you money."

Why School and Welfare are Bad

"Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby "schooled" to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is "schooled" to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavor are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question...

Welfare bureaucracies claim a professional, political, and financial monopoly over the social imagination, setting standards of what is valuable and what is feasible. This monopoly is at the root of the modernization of poverty. Every simple need to which an institutional answer is found permits the invention of a new class of poor and a new definition of poverty. Ten years ago in Mexico it was the normal thing to be born and to die in one's own home and to be buried by one's friends. Only the soul's needs were taken care of by the institutional church. Now to begin and end life at home become signs either of poverty or of special privilege. Dying and death have come under the institutional management of doctors and undertakers.

Once basic needs have been translated by a society into demands for scientifically produced commodities, poverty is defined by standards which the technocrats can change at will. Poverty then refers to those who have fallen behind an advertised ideal of consumption in some important respect. In Mexico the poor are those who lack three years of schooling, and in New York they are those who lack twelve.

The poor have always been socially powerless. The increasing reliance on institutional care adds a new dimension to their helplessness: psychological impotence, the inability to fend for themselves. Peasants on the high plateau of the Andes are exploited by the landlord and the merchant-once they settle in Lima they are, in addition, dependent on political bosses, and disabled by their lack of schooling. Modernized poverty combines the lack of power over circumstances with a loss of personal potency...

Today in the United States the black and even the migrant can aspire to a level of professional treatment which would have been unthinkable two generations ago, and which seems grotesque to most people in the Third World. For instance, the U.S. poor can count on a truant officer to return their children to school until they reach seventeen, or on a doctor to assign them to a hospital bed which costs sixty dollars per day-the equivalent of three months' income for a majority of the people in the world. But such care only makes them dependent on more treatment, and renders them increasingly incapable of organizing their own lives around their own experiences and resources within their own communities.

The poor in the United States are in a unique position to speak about the predicament which threatens all the poor in a modernizing world. They are making the discovery that no amount of dollars can remove the inherent destructiveness of welfare institutions, once the professional hierarchies of these institutions have convinced society that their ministrations are morally necessary...

Between 1965 and 1968 over three billion dollars were spent in U.S. schools to offset the disadvantages of about six million children. The program is known as Title One. It is the most expensive compensatory program ever attempted anywhere in education, yet no significant improvement can be detected in the learning of these "disadvantaged" children. Compared with their classmates from middle income homes, they have fallen further behind. Moreover, in the course of this program, professionals discovered an additional ten million children laboring under economic and educational handicaps. More reasons for claiming more federal funds are now at hand...

It should be obvious that even with schools of equal quality a poor child can seldom catch up with a rich one. Even if they attend equal schools and begin at the same age, poor children lack most of the educational opportunities which are casually available to the middle-class child. These advantages range from conversation and books in the home to vacation travel and a different sense of oneself, and apply, for the child who enjoys them, both in and out of school. So the poorer student will generally fall behind so long as he depends on school for advancement or learning. The poor need funds to enable them to learn, not to get certified for the treatment of their alleged disproportionate deficiencies...

All over the world the school has an anti-educational effect on society: school is recognized as the institution which specializes in education. The failures of school are taken by most people as a proof that education is a very costly, very complex, always arcane, and frequently almost impossible task.

School appropriates the money, men, and good will available for education and in addition discourages other institutions from assuming educational tasks. Work, leisure, politics, city living, and even family life depend on schools for the habits and knowledge they presuppose, instead of becoming themselves the means of education. Simultaneously both schools and the other institutions which depend on them are priced out of the market.

In the United States the per capita costs of schooling have risen almost as fast as the cost of medical treatment. But increased treatment by both doctors and teachers has shown steadily declining results. Medical expenses concentrated on those above forty-five have doubled several times over a period of forty years with a resulting 3 percent increase in life expectancy in men. The increase in educational expenditures has produced even stranger results; otherwise President Nixon could not have been moved this spring to promise that every child shall soon have the "Right to Read" before leaving school...

I recently spoke to a group of junior-high-school students in the process of organizing a resistance movement to their obligatory draft into the next class. Their slogan was "participation not simulation." They were disappointed that this was understood as a demand for less rather than for more education, and reminded me of the resistance which Karl Marx put up against a passage in the Gotha program which-one hundred years ago wanted to outlaw child labor. He opposed the proposal in the interest of the education of the young, which could happen only at work. If the greatest fruit of man's labor should be the education he receives from it and the opportunity which work gives him to initiate the education of others, then the alienation of modern society in a pedagogical sense is even worse than its economic alienation.

The major obstacle on the way to a society that truly educates was well defined by a black friend of mine in Chicago, who told me that our imagination was "all schooled up." We permit the state to ascertain the universal educational deficiencies of its citizens and establish one specialized agency to treat them. We thus share in the delusion that we can distinguish between what is necessary education for others and what is not, just as former generations established laws which defined what was sacred and what was profane.

Durkheim recongnized that this ability to divide social reality into two realms was the very essence of formal religion. There are, he reasoned, religions without the supernatural and without gods, but none which does not subdivide the world into things and persons that are sacred and others that as a consequence are profane. Durkheim's insight can be applied to the sociology of education, for school is radically divisive in a similar way.

The very existence of obligatory schools divides any society into two realms: some time spans and processes and treatments and professions are "academic" or "pedagogic," and others are not. The power of school thus to divide social reality has no boundaries: education becomes unworldly and the world becomes noneducational."

--- Deschooling Society / Ivan Illich

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Links - 22nd July 2014

When you let assholes be the public face of atheism, it’s no wonder we have a bad reputation » Pharyngula - "Atheist organizations, step it up, clean up your act, and put together a clear statement of what you stand for. If it’s just that you agree that you believe there is no god, fine; if you think the only cause worth fighting for is separation of church and state, that’s a good cause and it’s reasonable to limit your goals; if you want to promote science education, I’m all for it. But I think you need to go further. You need to recognize the implications of godlessness, that there is no Chosen People, that there is no godly support for patriarchy, that everyone is equal under Nature’s law, and that that means there is a whole raft of social and political causes under your purview…and that you should have a broader statement of the meaning of atheism. I want to know what you stand for. This current vacuum of any attempt at an understanding of what atheism ought to mean is exactly what allows assholes to flourish."
Coming from PZ Myers, this is hilarious

Sexual behaviour in context: a global perspective - "A recent review of the prevalence of same-sex activity in men identified 67 studies, none of which were from Africa, the middle east, or the English-speaking Caribbean. Estimates of lifetime prevalence of sexual intercourse with men ranged from 3–5% of men in east Asia 6–12% in south and southeast Asia, 6–15% for eastern Europe, 20% for Latin America. The prevalence is 6% in the UK and 5% in France... Varying operational definitions of sex work frustrate efforts to interpret prevalence at different times and in different places. The continuum of sexual exchange ranges from expectation of gifts or favours within personal relationships, to more formal trading of sex for money. The proportion who reported having “sex in exchange for money, gifts, or favours” in the past year is highest in countries in central and southern Africa (medians 13·6% and 11·3%, respectively), followed by eastern and west Africa (9·8% and 8·9%, respectively). More recent African surveys that used the more restricted definition of paying for sex have reported reduced prevalence. In the Caribbean, 6–7% of men reported having paid for sex, and estimates for Latin America, eastern and western Europe, and central Asia were less than 3%. Cautious estimates are available for northern Africa and the middle east (1–3%), south Asia (3–5%), southeast Asia (3–10%), and China and Hong Kong (11%)... In some countries, such as Brazil, condoms are available to young people in schools; in others, for example in parts of Indonesia, their possession is a criminal offence... Enough studies have shown that first intercourse is retrospectively regretted by many women, and some men... The issue of recommending non-penetrative sex (such as mutual masturbation) is seldom tackled... information gained through social networks is more salient, and more likely to lead to behaviour change, than that conveyed by more impersonal agencies... The 100% condom-use programme in Thailand, implemented nationally in 1991, has been widely recognised and documented as an impressive success in achievement of behaviour change... The proportion of northern Thai army conscripts who report visits to sex workers fell, and decreased even more sharply in older men from 81% in 1991 to 64% in 1995... the apparent absence of an association between regional variations in sexual behaviour and in sexual-health status might also be counterintuitive. In particular, the comparatively high prevalence of multiple partnerships in developed countries, compared with parts of the world with far higher rates of sexually transmitted infections and HIV, such as African countries, might hold some surprises. Only rates of condom use are predictably lower in countries with lower sexual-health status, and this is likely to be attributable to factors relating to access and service provision... The greatest challenge to sexual- health promotion in almost all countries comes from opposition from conservative forces to harm-reduction strategies... Policy-makers and programme planners need to be able to show that the effect on sexual- health status of providing services to unmarried young women, supplying condoms, decriminalising commercial sex and homosexual activity, and prosecuting people who commit sexual violence is likely to be beneficial rather than detrimental, and that to do otherwise will force stigmatised behaviours underground, leaving the most vulnerable people unprotected"
Prostitution is illegal in Thailand - yet the "100% condom-use programme" succeeded. This gives the lie to the claim that symbolic laws (e.g. 377A) impede public health programmes. As the study notes, the social context is more important

Pornography and Social Ills: Evidence from the Early 1990s by Winai Wongsurawat - "Beginning from the hypothesis that private post office boxes accommodate consumption of pornographic magazines by lowering some aspects of the cost (risk of social stigmatization) associated with the purchasing of such items, I demonstrate that a positive correlation between the abundance of such boxes and the subscription rate to Penthouse magazine across markets in the United States can be observed. I then proceed to estimate the effect of pornography on violent sex crimes and family instability, with and without using P.O. Box availability as an instrumental variable. Results suggest that unobservable population characteristics severely bias upward the estimated harmfulness of adult magazines. My OLS estimates imply, like several previous studies, that consumption of pornography contributes to both higher frequencies of rapes and divorces. When instrumental variables are employed, however, the correlation between rapes and pornography turns negative while the statistical significance of the coefficient for pornography on the rate of divorces disappears."
In other words, porn prevents rape and doesn't affect divorces

Gay Danish couples win right to marry in church
If the anti-gay lobby concentrated on such cases they would get more support

Comparative study of isomalt and sucrose by means of continuous indirect calorimetry. - "Isomalt (Palatinit) an equimolar mixture of alpha-D-glucopyranosido-1,6-sorbitol and alpha-D-glucopyranosido-1,6-mannitol, was compared to sucrose in a prospective double-blind controlled crossover study. The acute effects of oral ingestion of 30-g loads of isomalt or sucrose on plasma glucose, insulin, free fatty acids (FFA), lactic acid, and carbohydrate (CHO) and lipid oxidation were studied over six hours by means of continuous indirect calorimetry in ten healthy normal-weight subjects. Unlike sucrose, whose ingestion was followed by significant changes in plasma glucose, insulin, and lactic acid during the first 60 minutes of the test, no significant changes in these parameters were observed following the administration of isomalt. The increase in CHO oxidation occurring between 30 and 150 minutes was significantly lower (P less than 0.01) following isomalt than after sucrose. Conversely, the decrease in lipid oxidation was significantly less (P less than 0.01) after isomalt in comparison to sucrose. It is concluded that the rise in CHO oxidation and in plasma glucose and insulin levels is markedly reduced when sucrose is replaced by an equal weight of isomalt. In contrast to other sugar substitutes, no increase in plasma lactic acid was observed after isomalt administration."
Not all carbohydrates are created equal

Scalia v. Scalia - "In Scalia: A Court of One, Murphy painstakingly reviews the evidence, much of which lies in Scalia’s own writing and speeches over many decades, going back to his college commencement address at Georgetown University. Murphy does not shrink from adjudicating Scalia’s dueling public claims: that separating faith from public life is impossible and, at the same time, that he himself has done just that on the Court. Murphy’s conclusion—at once obvious and subversive—is that Justice Scalia is very much the product of his deeply held Catholic faith. The pristine border between faith and jurisprudence is largely myth and aspiration."
Why are we looking at his college commencement address to critique his legal judgments? The only claim made about his inconsistential jurisprudence is that Scalia in 2014 contradicted Scalia in 1990.
Comment 1: "Isn't the change in his positions explained by the passage of RFRA? He said in the 1990 case that religious objections can't overcome laws of general applicability. Congress then passed RFRA, which instructs the court to employ strict scrutiny to even generally applicable laws that burden religious belief. So now the Hobby Lobby case is being decided under a standard, imposed by Congress, that tilts the scales in favor of the religious objector."
Comment 2: "Exactly right. The Free Exercise Clause is not implicated in Hobby Lobby, which involves statutory (not constitutional) interpretation. Thus, Scalia is not contradicting himself. The author of this piece should have known that."
Comment 3: "Pretty sure the author of this piece does not know that; it's been pointed out over & over again on legal blogs, in reviews of this book, etc. When it comes down to choosing between taking a shot at Scalia or being honest, Lithwick chooses the former."

Why does the media hide the costs of non-Western immigrants? - "In order to establish this myth, the media have been forced to stop reporting on the actual conditions. For instance when the Danish National Bank in 2008 made it clear that immigration is immensely costly. Or when Human Rights Service, in one report after another, have documented figures with the same conclusion, for instance in ”Tell ikke meg. Innvandringens kostnader og velfærdsstaten” (“Don’t tell me. The cost of immigration and the welfare state”) from 2009... [the Norwegian business newspaper Finansavisen reports that] as approved by researcher Erling Holmøy of Statistics Norway... on average, each non-Western immigrant costs Norway some 4.1 million Norwegian kroner (€550,000) during his lifetime. At the same time, the profitable Western immigration (Nkr 800,000 / €107,000 per immigrant) is neutralized by unprofitable East European immigration (a minus of Nkr 800;000 / €107,000 per immigrant). Summing up, this means that the 15,400 non-Western immigrants that came to Norway last year will cost the country Nkr 63 billion (€ 8.4 billion): ”Accrued and future net expenses for non-Western immigrants and their descendants already resident in Norway totals Nkr 1,200 billion (€160 billion). If non-Western immigration continues at the same level as during the latest five years, total expenses will become Nkr 4,100 billion (€550 billion). That matches the total value of the saved Norwegian oil revenues plus the state share in Statoil,” writes Statistics Norway and Finansavisen... As said by chief economist Harald Magnus Andreassen of Swedbank First Securities, the claim by the politicians that Norway needs a greater workforce makes little sense: ”The aim of financial policy is to make the people you have work in such a manner that productivity and thus the added value per inhabitant is maximized … One forgets that the immigrant increases the need for real capital. They need a house to live in, schools for their children and hospital beds. A rule of thumb states that for each one percent GDP increase they cause , the need for real capital increases by three percent.”

New Initiative at the Met Makes Thousands of Digital Images Freely Accessible - Photo Journal - WSJ - "This month, the Metropolitan Museum of Art released for download about 400,000 digital images of works that are in the public domain"

'Transformers: Age of Extinction' review: Metal illness - "these movies continue to make money, for no easily discernable reason, and so people continue to make them... I've read Chaucer in the original Middle English but I was never sure what was going on in this movie, except that the government was evil, the robots were fighting, and Wahlberg got really angry whenever anybody looked at his 17-year-old daughter... the bi-culturalism is kind of fitting though. Asia sends us their junk as toys. We repurpose that junk and send it back as movies. See? Recyling. Everybody wins. Except audiences."

Puzzle-based video games actually make you smarter!

Not All Green Tea Is Created Equal - "ConsumerLab.com found significant amounts of lead in many of the Chinese grown Teas. But if you make sure that the leaves remain out of your cup, you will be mostly protected. About 90% of the lead remains in the leaf after brewing. As long as you do not eat the tea leaves you will get little lead. To be on the safe side, some experts recommend avoiding Green Tea from China, which grows much of its Tea in polluted areas that have lead in the soil."

Why do men want sex in the morning while women get frisky at night? - "While a man’s levels of sex hormones are at their highest when he wakes up, a woman’s are at their lowest. “Male and female testosterone levels are at their highest at opposite ends of the day, so they are out of synch,” says consultant gynaecologist Gabrielle Downey, of the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust. “It takes more than hormones to get a woman in the mood, so men need to make an active effort”... “Sexual desire in women is not a simple story,” explains Gabrielle Downey. “For men, it’s more down to testosterone. For women, the single greatest factor i­nfluencing a woman’s sex drive is body image and how attractive she perceives herself to be. “It means that if a woman sees herself as unattractive, she is much less likely to want to have sex. “That’s why women with polycystic ovaries, who have increased levels of ­testosterone, don’t have increased libido. “They often see themselves as overweight and not attractive – and that feeling ­overrides their heightened sex hormones.”"

Homeless New Yorkers angered when free lunch doesn’t include $300 ‘dessert’ for all - "Chen Guangbiao, a recycling tycoon, provided the fine food, and he personally performed magic tricks and sang “We are the World” — and all it got him were shouts from the belly-full crowd. The homeless people he had helped blasted him as a “fraud” and a “thief” and worse because the $300 each had expected to receive was instead given in lump-sum to a shelter where they had been staying — New York City Rescue Mission... Chen had taken out full-page newspaper ads in which he said he was aimed at “harmonizing relations between China and the United States,” and “restoring the image of China’s wealthy.” But before the ravenous urban refugees could tuck into their meal, Chen had them sing a song Chinese communists might find catchy. It was called “Good Model Citizen Lei Feng.” It was named after a People’s Liberation Army soldier, who was hailed for his selfless service by the late Chairman Mao. As the homeless ate, Chen performed magic tricks. Four of the attendees were then brought on stage, and each was given three crisp $100 bills while the cameras flashed. “The most important thing is to bring joy and happiness to other people,” Chen said through a translator. Then Chen, backed by 200 Chinese volunteers dressed-up in green military-style uniforms, began belting out the anti-hunger anthem “We Are the World,” singing in his high-pitched voice in English."

Even Do-Gooders Aren't Entitled to Homeless People's Money - "Yes, the stunt was wasteful. But what about the cash? Why didn't these homeless people at least walk out with $300 in their pockets, which would have gone a long way towards redeeming this whole spectacle? From the New York Times:
On Sunday [Chen] met with officials from the New York City Rescue Mission and asked them to supply the homeless people as guests. They said they would participate in the event as long as he did not hand out any cash, said Craig Mayes, the group's executive director. Mr. Mayes said he was concerned that some of the clients might use the cash to buy alcohol and drugs. In return, Mr. Chen agreed to donate $90,000 to the organization, and the two parties signed a contract...
Now: might some homeless people may have spent that money on alcohol and drugs? Yes. Does that mean that the head of the New York City Rescue Mission was justified in denying these homeless people a promised $300 each? Absolutely not. Lots of non-homeless people spend their paychecks on alcohol and drugs too, but that doesn't mean their landlord can come to their job and tell their boss to stop paying them. Homeless people are people with serious problems. But they are people. They are not slaves. "
Somehow I am not surprised that most of the commenters are bashing the charity for "stealing" "the homeless people's money"
Comments: "If you give a junkie $300 ,and he uses it to buy the heroin that kills him, you've made a bad situation worse, no matter how charitable you feel."
"Some would say you're not much of an ally if you would let someone die in the street out of some misguided sense of fairness. This guy runs an organization that provides food and shelter to people who are so mentally ill and/or addicted to drugs that they would otherwise be starving and sleeping outside. Is it so surprising that he is not in favor of a publicity stunt that could absolutely result in the deaths of people he knows and is trying to help?"

Scientists Name 900-Pound Ancient Croc After Fictional Beast From ‘The Lord of the Rings’ - "Much like that giant beast, Anthracosuchus balrogus was from deep within a mine after 60 million years trapped within the rocks of tropical South America"

Grabtaxi, Uber's south east Asian rival, looks to make history - "instead of squaring up for a fight with the established taxi interests, Grabtaxi has looked to work with regulators and the industry. "We’ve nowhere to run. This is our home. You think we can just get away [with] pissing off some big minister or his son? They will make sure we pay for it, one way or another,” Tan told the FT."

Mug Shot Of A Felon Has Virtually Turned On Over 53,000 Women & Men On Facebook! He's Prison Breaking Their Hearts!

Thousands of women have multiple babies removed by the courts - "In the last seven years more than 7,000 mothers were involved in repeat care cases - affecting more than 22,000 children. Most of the cases involve abuse or neglect, often connected to alcohol and drugs. At least two have seen women have 15 children legally removed."
Isn't it more moral to stop them from having more children?

New study reveals that casual sex might actually be good for you - "‘When it came to those who were sociosexually unrestricted, having casual sex was associated with higher self-esteem and life satisfaction and lower depression and anxiety.’ ‘Typically, sociosexually unrestricted individuals reported lower distress and higher thriving following casual sex, suggesting that high sociosexuality may both buffer against any potentially harmful consequences of casual sex and allow access to its potential benefits.’ The students selected to appear in the study admitted leaning towards ‘sociosexuality’, a term which basically means that they did not have a problem with having sex outside of a relationship. The even more surprising part? There were no notable gender differences."

How Often Men Think About Sex - ""We weren't able to study how long the thoughts lasted or the nature of the thoughts. We also don't know if all of our participants followed the instructions and really clicked every time they had the sort of thought that they were supposed to track," Fisher wrote. "However, even if they didn't, the fact that they were supposed to be clicking probably made them more aware of their thoughts about their assigned topic than they might otherwise have been, and that would have been reflected in their daily reports." The perfect technology would directly measure one's brain activity and somehow translate that into the number of sexual thoughts one had, but even that might prove very difficult. What we call "a thought" is not the discrete thing that we like to pretend. "There’s also the tricky issue that thoughts have no natural unit of measurement," Stafford writes. "Thoughts aren’t like distances we can measure in centimetres, metres and kilometres. So what constitutes a thought, anyway? How big does it need to be to count? Have you had none, one or many while reading this?""

Sex and Silicon Valley: the veritable arms race of the dating app industry - "Business models old and new are responding to demand for one-night stands as well as soul mates. The competition between dating apps has been called an “arms race”, with one startup flying in single women from New York to meet potential partners. Sex workers, meanwhile, are charging thousands of dollars per night... The startup mentality of perpetually seeking the next new thing influences dating habits, he said. “You go to bars, prospecting new opportunities, pick someone up, and then you move on to the next thing.” Lucrative salaries and stock options tend to embolden the diffident, said Barry. “There is truth in the awkward geek stereotype but being 22 and being worth $350,000 boosts your ego. It goes a long way to building up your confidence”... Siouxsie Q, a 28-year-old sex worker who declined to reveal her real name, said about half her clients were tech workers, ranging in age from 21 to 61. The boom had augmented their spending power, she said, but some were too busy or shy to find girlfriends. “I see lots of first-timers, people straight out of college. Not everyone is great at bar culture.” She considers her service a form of “self-care” which offers a respite from a work culture of continuous connectedness and instant responses. “I think one of the things they pay me for is that I turn off my phone and they have my undivided attention.” Another appeal was the ability to schedule and compartmentalise sex with no strings. “I won't call in the morning. I won't be grumpy if they don't have breakfast with me. I won't Facebook them at work while they're trying to fix an app that just's crashed.” Siouxsie Q charges $800 for two hours and $3500 for overnight. She usespodcasts as a marketing tool. “It's really transformed how I do business. Apps are the new gold”... Her advice to male clients: don't flash wealth or sell yourself too hard at the outset. “Women could easily end up with the sports car man for the wrong reasons, I mean that lifestyle, 'caviar, champagne, fast cars', is pretty appealing to just about anyone.” Her advice to women: don't show up wearing a baggy dress. “Men hate this, they really do. This isn’t about looking like Pamela Anderson wearing a bustier and leather leggings but about maybe channeling your inner Natalie Portman. “You’re classic, ladylike, stylish, not trying too hard, not showing too much skin, but perfectly presentable.”"

Why I'm Not in a Hurry for a 'Smart Home' - WSJ - "The Complexity Added by Automation Outweighs the Convenience"

Some Gays Can Go Straight, Study Says - "Spitzer says he spoke to 143 men and 57 women who say they changed their orientation from gay to straight, and concluded that 66 percent of the men and 44 percent of women reached what he called good heterosexual functioning — a sustained, loving heterosexual relationship within the past year and getting enough emotional satisfaction to rate at least a seven on a 10-point scale. He said those who changed their orientation had satisfying heterosexual sex at least monthly and never or rarely thought of someone of the same sex during intercourse. He also found that 89 percent of men and 95 percent of women were bothered not at all or only slightly by unwanted homosexual feelings. However, only 11 percent of men and 37 percent of women reported a complete absence of homosexual indicators... Spitzer says his study shows that some homosexuals making some effort, usually for a few years, make the change. Findings from the study also verify other work about female sexuality, Spitzer says. "We found that women in our sample moved from a less extreme homosexual to a more heterosexual level than did men," Spitzer says. "Now that's actually what you might expect from the literature. It is known that female sexuality is more fluid. "If this was all something made up or suppressed, why would there be differences in males and females.""

State Home for Manic Pixie Dream Girls

"Behind your quirky romantic comedies, lies a secret so dark, it had never been revealed - UNTIL NOW."
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