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Friday, April 26, 2019

Links - 26th April 2019 (2)

Home Office refuses Christian convert asylum by quoting Bible passages that 'prove Christianity is not peaceful' - "The Home Office has refused asylum to a Christian convert by quoting Bible passages which it says prove Christianity is not a peaceful religion.The Iranian national, who claimed asylum in 2016, was told passages in the Bible were “inconsistent” with his claim to have converted to Christianity after discovering it was a “peaceful” faith.The refusal letter from the department states the book of Revelations – the final book of the Bible – is “filled with imagery of revenge, destruction, death and violence”, and cites six excerpts from it... Lawyers and campaigners said the case demonstrated a “distortion of logic” and a “reckless” approach to asylum seekers’ lives, stemming from a tendency by the department to “come up with any reason they can to refuse” cases... The latest immigration statistics reveal an increase in the number of incorrect asylum refusals, with successful appeals against Home Office decisions up 5 per cent since 2015-16, now standing at 45 per cent of all of those that go to tribunal... Stephen Evans, chief executive of the National Secular Society, meanwhile branded it “wholly inappropriate” for the Home Office to use “theological justifications for refusing asylum applications”.He added: “Decisions on the merits of an asylum appeal should be based on an assessment of the facts at hand – and not on the state’s interpretation of any given religion. It’s not the role of the Home Office to play theologian.”"

The Home Office’s shameful treatment of a Christian asylum-seeker | Coffee House - "no, it’s not an isolated incident. It’s also highly unlikely that it’s a single bad apple. According to Stevens a similar refusal in 2016 read ‘You affirmed in your AIR [Asylum Interview Record] that Jesus is your saviour, but then claimed He would not be able to save you from the Iranian regime. It is therefore considered that you have no conviction in your faith and your belief in Jesus is half-hearted’. The charity Open Doors classifies religious persecution in Iran as ‘extreme’. It’s illegal to convert or preach. Conversion can land you in prison for a decade. The Iranian constitution permits worship, but not for converts, and given that 114 Iranians were arrested and detained in a single week last year for suspected proselytism, sticking your head above the parapet to worship is hardly a risk-free enterprise... The lid is slowly being lifted on anti-Christian Britain, and it seems like we have an institutional problem. Or rather, our civil service does. This latest shocker comes hot on the heels of a government review into Christian persecution which was knee-capped by the Foreign Office. Meanwhile, Department for International Development ministers still stick resolutely to the line that no aid should be provided to particular religious groups, and the UK Government still refuses to use word genocide to describe what happened to Christians and Yazidis under Daesh – despite parliament voting unanimously to describe it that way.While in the first three months of 2018 not a single Christian was admitted to the UK out of 1112 Syrian Refugees. An appalling statistic made worse by the fact that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees only recommended four. We rejected even those solitary few. Either people are being led to believe that Christianity brings immunity from persecution or we have a real problem."

The New York Times - Posts - "In a letter rejecting an asylum seeker's claim, the British government quoted passages from the Bible to argue that Christianity was not a "peaceful" religion."
How to get New York Times readers to cheer the deportation of an asylum seeker. If it'd been the Koran...
Comments: "True, but religion is just an excuse for greed and power."
"Britain should know after what it went through in the XVI century."
"We already knew that!"
"The way most Christians practice it is far from peaceful."
"They ain't wrong."
"It's not a peaceful religion."
"Well there were the crusades. And the Spanish Inquisition."

Terrorists Promoted, Victims Ignored - "The Free Yezidi Foundation, which advocates for justice for victims and survivors of the ISIS genocide, expressed anger and frustration over the sympathetic attention that Begum, who willingly joined ISIS, has been receiving from certain politicians in Britain...
Dawood Saleh, a survivor of the Yazidi genocide and author of Walking Alone, told Gatestone:
"I feel so sorry for the thousands of Yazidi women and children who are suffering at the hands of ISIS, while some media outlets in the West are trying to trivialize the actions of those who raped, tortured and killed our people. Those outlets are not giving enough of a voice to Yazidi survivors. "My family has lost their home and ended up in a refugee camp where they have been living for almost five years now, as a result of the actions of ISIS monsters. ISIS has destroyed our villages and temples, and forced us to scatter all over the world. By ignoring our plight, while giving positive coverage to ISIS 'brides' or returnees to the West, some Western media outlets and politicians are destroying any ray of hope that we who have survived genocide may harbor."
Adil Suliman, a Yazidi activist at the protest, told Gatestone:
"Yazidis in Iraq are still scared that all the ISIS atrocities will happen again, because Yazidis there still live among Muslims, and Muslims do not see us as human beings."
Haji Ali Hameka, another Yazidi activist and interpreter, expressed dismay at a recent case of a Yazidi genocide survivor who was horrified to encounter her ISIS captor and rapist in Canada.
"It is very disappointing to hear that Western governments are enabling criminals who have raped and beheaded innocent people to return with impunity""

ISIS bride Shamima Begum ‘was enforcer in morality police squad and sewed bombers into suicide vests' - "the London teenager was a “member of the feared ISIS morality police”.The Bethnal Green schoolgirl tried to recruit younger women to join the jihadist group... the 19-year-old played an active role in the organisation’s reign of terror and was allowed to carry a Kalashnikov rifle, earning herself a reputation as a strict “enforcer” of laws, such as dress code... she sewed vests onto bombers so that they could not be removed without them going off... Ms Begum has previously insisted she was never involved in the terror group’s brutality and said she spent her time simply as a housewife, after fleeing London when she was just 15... She allegedly told one girl: “Don’t believe any of the bad things you hear about Dawla [the State], it’s fake. You have everything you want here and we can help find you a good-looking husband.”"

Liberal media likes its Muslims Radical - "in a supposed new ‘review’ of The Stanatic Verses on the occasion of its 30th anniversary, Sean O’Grady of The Independent manages to ignore the book almost entirely and instead writes a screed which pits the far right against the Islamist protesters calling for the death of Salman Rushdie in 1989. In an age obsessed with racial politics it is not very surprising that an issue all sensible people see for what it is – an intolerant religious fanaticism reacting to secular modernity and freedom of expression – is recast as an oppressed community facing off against racist skinheads.The defiant dereliction of a duty to review the book on its literary merits is demonstrated in the essay’s conclusion. It is a breathtaking example of how progressives have disappeared down a fascist rabbit hole... Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Associate Editor of The Independent and its reviewer of books is now a book-burner. And he is not ashamed to say so... this is the very essence of the Islamist-Progressive nexus. Pasty progressive keyboard warriors – their limbs weak and attrified by life in the glow of phosphors and punishing vegan diets – need the vital and energetic muscle of Islamism to prevail in the final showdown between Progress and the imperialist, neo-colonial, neo-liberal, capitalist patriarchy."

Australian jihadi bride says she doesn't regret joining Islamic State - "Janai Safar, 24, vowed never to return to Australia where she says there are 'naked women on the streets' and she could face ten years in jail... Teenage jihadi bride Zehra Duman, who fled Melbourne to fight with the Islamic State in Syria in 2014, is now begging to come home, claiming her two children have the right to be treated like any other 'normal kids' in Australia.At the time Duman told Daily Mail Australia: 'All you have to know is that the next time I will ever step into Australia, is when we come and make it a part of the Islamic State bi'thnillah"

London mosque warned over 'kill Ahmadis' leaflets - "Piles of the flyers, which say Ahmadis should face death if they refuse to convert to mainstream Islam, were found in Stockwell Green mosque... A BBC investigation found the leaflets were authored by an ex-head of Khatme Nabuwwat, a group based in Pakistan which lists the mosque as its "overseas office". Previously a mosque trustee said he had never seen the leaflets before and suggested they were fakes or had been left there maliciously... Stockwell Green mosque claims there is no connection with Khatme Nabuwwat, despite sharing the same name and evidence suggesting the Pakistani organisation had control over its Imam."

PA Cutting Salaries of Civil Servants to Pay Full Benefits to Terrorists - "The Palestinian Authority has decided to penalize its law-abiding employees to avoid cutting salaries of Palestinian terrorists and their families under the so-called “pay-to-slay” scheme, which led the United States and Israel to cut aid until the PA stops inciting terror.Explaining the decision, Nabil Abu Rudeina, PA Deputy Prime Minister and Fatah Commissioner of Information, said: “The salaries of the families of the martyrs and the prisoners will be paid regardless of the cost, and that it is not possible to abandon or treat lightly the livelihood of the Palestinian people’s heroes.”Abu Rudeina added that “non-payment of the public employees’ salaries,” on the other hand, “is less significant than subtracting one penny from the family of a martyr or prisoner, who sacrificed his life and freedom for Palestine and its heroic people.”"

Taxman kept quiet while £8bn fraud helped fund bin Laden | News | The Sunday Times - "Gangsters have stolen billions of pounds of British taxpayers’ money and used tens of millions to fund terrorism, according to police and intelligence files.A network of British Asians based in London, Buckinghamshire, Birmingham, northwest England and Scotland mounted VAT and benefit frauds against the exchequer over two decades and made further gains from mortgage and credit card fraud targeting banks and individuals. The group netted an estimated £8bn in public money alone. The gang, which has links to the 7/7 London bombings in which 52 people died, is alleged to have sent 1% of its gains, or £80m, to al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where it funded madrasahs, training camps and other terrorist activities... The sum the gang extracted from the Treasury is almost triple the annual government expenditure on MI5, MI6 and GCHQ and approaches the central government grant for policing in England and Wales each year... A customs officer told this newspaper that he was repeatedly prevented from sharing intelligence with MI5 because HMRC wanted to maintain the confidentiality of the terror suspects’ tax records... Nazir Afzal, a leading prosecutor who brought the Rochdale sex-grooming gang to justice in a series of linked trials, said the situation was unprecedented.“The scandal here is that individuals have been to prison and come out of prison, yet the public still don’t know about it,” he said.“I have never heard of reporting restrictions being in place for defendants who have fled the country. You can’t have a situation when we wait several more years to find out what has happened here. This is of major public interest.”... Those involved in the investigation say the gang was extremely difficult to penetrate. Undercover agents eventually resorted to attaching a camera to a dog and encouraging it to run around inside one of the network’s factories to find out how many people worked there... For years HMRC and other agencies did little to disrupt it and took almost no formal enforcement action. The files show that at least four rank-and-file HMRC intelligence officers implored bosses to launch prosecutions. Their requests were rejected “due to their complicated nature and a lack of resources”.

Female ballet dancers can no longer keep up with the men says Dame Darcey Bussell - "Strictly Come Dancing Star Dame Darcy Bussell has claimed that female ballet dancers are finding it hard to keep up with the men.The retired dancer said the creation of new ballets with more equally weighted roles had led to a 'transformation', and women were struggling to keep up with the physical and technical attributes of some male dancers.Dame Bussell said that in classics such as Swan Lake, the dominant roles were for women and the men were there to 'make women look as good as they could'"

55% English Speaking Netizens Afraid Of Posting Political Views Online, Reveals Study - "55% of people were afraid to express their political views because they are afraid of getting into trouble with authorities, 49% were scared of being judged by friends and family and 50% worried about being judged by their colleagues and other acquaintances."
On India

Over 1/3rd Of Urban Indians Wouldn't Even Converse With Someone With Opposing Political Views: Survey - "Across the world, the survey conducted by Paris-based international market research company Ipsos conducted for BBC exhibit that around 24% of people believe that it is not worth to have a conversation with someone who happens to carry opposing political views. However, in India, the figure was found to be 35%... 43% of Indians believe that their political opposers don’t care about the country’s future, which was in stark contrast to that of 28% of respondents globally. India holds the second spot after Turkey which saw 46% of respondents agree with its statements."

Why Indonesia’s minorities can’t depend on political parties to stand up for them - "Grace Natalie, a Christian Chinese who chairs the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), said that her party intends to oppose syariah-based regional by-laws if elected into Parliament next year.She said this in a speech — in the presence of President Joko Widodo — to mark the party’s fourth anniversary.Mr Eggi Sudjana, an opposition politician from Partai Amanat Nasional (PAN), claimed Ms Natalie’s comments on the syariah law went against the Quran and filed a police report.Ms Natalie’s plight reminds one of what befell Jakarta’s former governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama or Ahok.It also underlines how Islamist identity politics in Indonesia has reached such proportions that there is no real champion for minority rights in parliament and a further erosion of such rights may be inevitable... The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom's annual report for 2018 places Indonesia as one of 12 countries where violations of religious freedom are "systematic, ongoing and egregious"."
What would Reza Aslan say?

Chinese viewers balk at 'Bohemian Rhapsody' film censorship - "While LGBT content is generally less taboo than other topics that Chinese authorities deem sensitive, same-sex relationships are still virtually absent from mainstream media."
So much for religion - especially Abrahamic religion - being responsible for homophobia. Maybe some people will try to blame colonialism. But never Communism

Deconstructing the evidence-based discourse in health sciences: truth, power and fascism.

Even in 2006 the rot was evident:

Deconstructing the evidence-based discourse in health sciences: truth, power and fascism.

"Drawing on the work of the late French philosophers Deleuze and Guattari, the objective of this paper is to demonstrate that the evidence-based movement in the health sciences is outrageously exclusionary and dangerously normative with regards to scientific knowledge. As such, we assert that the evidence-based movement in health sciences constitutes a good example of microfascism at play in the contemporary scientific arena...

We can already hear the objections. The term fascism represents an emotionally charged concept in both the political and religious arenas; it is the ugliest expression of life in the 20th century. Although it is associated with specific political systems, this fascism of the masses, as was practised by Hitler and Mussolini, has today been replaced by a system of microfascisms – polymorphous intolerances that are revealed in more subtle ways. Consequently, although the majority of the current manifestations of fascism are less brutal, they are nevertheless more pernicious...

Within the healthcare disciplines, a powerful evidencebased discourse has produced a plethora of correlates, such as specialised journals and best practice guidelines. Obediently following this trend, many health sciences scholars have leapt onto the bandwagon, mimicking their medical colleagues by saturating health sciences discourses with concepts informed by this evidence-based movement. In the words of Michel Foucault, these discourses represent an awesome, but oftentimes cryptic, political power that ‘work[s] to incite, reinforce, control, monitor, optimize, and organize the forces under it’ (p. 136). Unmasking the hidden politics of evidence-based discourse is paramount, and it is this task that forms the basis of our critique...

The philosophical work of Deleuze and Guattari proves to be useful in showing how health sciences are colonised (territorialised) by an all-encompassing scientific research paradigm – that of post-positivism – but also and foremost in showing the process by which a dominant ideology comes to exclude alternative forms of knowledge, therefore acting as a fascist structure.

At first glance, EBHS [Ed: evidence-based health sciences] seems beneficial for positive patient outcomes, which is a primary healthcare objective...

EBHS comes to be widely considered as the truth. When only one method of knowledge production is promoted and validated, the implication is that health sciences are gradually reduced to EBHS. Indeed, the legitimacy of health sciences knowledge that is not based on specific research designs comes to be questioned, if not dismissed altogether. In the starkest terms, we are currently witnessing the health sciences engaged in a strange process of eliminating some ways of knowing. EBHS becomes a ‘regime of truth’, as Foucault would say – a regimented and institutionalised version of ‘truth’...

We believe that health sciences ought to promote pluralism – the acceptance of multiple points of view. However, EBHS does not allow pluralism, unless that pluralism is engineered by the Cochrane hierarchy itself... the evidence-based movement is neither ‘progressive’ nor a ‘natural’ development in health sciences: it is a trend that is engineered. As a response to this, a vigilant resistance must arise from within the health disciplines themselves, and one way of deploying such resistance is by using a tool called ‘deconstruction’...

We believe that EBM [Ed: evidence-based medicine], which saturates health sciences discourses, constitutes an ossified language that maps the landscape of the professional disciplines as a whole. Accordingly, we believe that a postmodernist critique of this prevailing mode of thinking is indispensable. Those who are wedded to the idea of ‘evidence’ in the health sciences maintain what is essentially a Newtonian, mechanistic world view: they tend to believe that reality is objective, which is to say that it exists, ‘out there’, absolutely independent of the human observer, and of the observer’s intentions and observations. They fondly point to ‘facts’, while they are forced to dismiss ‘values’ as somehow unscientific. For them, this reality (an ensemble of facts) corresponds to an objectively real and mechanical world. But this form of empiricism, we would argue, fetishises the object at the expense of the human subject, for whom this world has a vital significance and meaning in the first place. An evidence-based, empirical world view is dangerously reductive insofar as it negates the personal and interpersonal significance and meaning of a world that is first and foremost a relational world, and not a fixed set of objects, partes extra partes...

Arendt herself draws the link between totalitarian ideology and the modern sciences, and so we are justified to turn to her, among others, to find a trenchant critique of EBHS. The ‘regime of truth’ that has emerged from the EBM is an ideology that is supported by a number of contingent factors – contingencies that EBHS would mistakenly classify as ‘truths’. An ideology is monolithic: those who adhere to the ideology believe it ‘can explain everything and every occurence [sic] by deducing it from a single premise’ (p. 468). She warns that totalitarianism ‘is quite prepared to sacrifice everybody’s vital immediate interests to the execution of what it assume[s] to be the law of History or the law of Nature’ (pp. 461–462). But, as we have remarked, History and Nature are made; these forms therefore call for an ever-renewed critique...

Applying the work of Orwell in a critique of EBM in health sciences might surprise the reader; however, after an in-depth reading of 1984, we feel that Orwell’s vision is gradually becoming a reality. Currently, a large number of scholars in the health sciences follow their colleagues in medicine down a narrow path leading to uniformity and intolerance. There is therefore in our opinion, the creation and advancement of a new ‘language’ that is supplanting all others, attempting to discredit or to eliminate them from the discursive terrain of health. This is scientific Newspeak. It is a highly normative and recalcitrant scientific language that stands in opposition to that sense of hope that sustains every freedom-loving individual."

Remarkably no evidence is given for the grand claims made here - just the throwing out European names and the most tenuous of connections to the argument.

Dawkins's famous quote applies with very few changes:

"Show me a cultural relativist at thirty thousand feet and I’ll show you a hypocrite. Airplanes are built according to scientific principles and they work. They stay aloft and they get you to a chosen destination. Airplanes built to tribal or mythological specifications such as the dummy planes of the Cargo cults in jungle clearings or the bees-waxed wings of Icarus don’t."

Links - 26th April 2019 (1) (Plastic)

Plastic or paper: Which bag is greener? - "it "takes more than four times as much energy to manufacture a paper bag as it does to manufacture a plastic bag."Unlike plastic bags (which the report says are produced from the waste products of oil refining) paper requires forests to be cut down to produce the bags. The manufacturing process, according to the research, also produces a higher concentration of toxic chemicals compared with making single-use plastic bags.Paper bags also weigh more than plastic; this means transportation requires more energy, adding to their carbon footprint, the study adds... paper bags needed to be reused at least three times [to have lower global warming potential than a plastic bag]... Paper bags are not as durable as bags for life, being more likely to split or tear, especially if they get wet.In its conclusion, the Environment Agency says "it is unlikely the paper bag can be regularly reused the required number of times due to its low durability"... Many people forget to bring their reusable bags on their weekly supermarket trip, and end up having to buy more bags at the till"
If you've used a paper bag you may realise that sometimes they can't even be used once, let alone 4 times

All About Bags - Paper Versus Plastic Bags - Which is More Environmentally Friendly? - "Plastic bags were invented as an alternative to paper grocery bags in the late 1970s to protect trees and prevent clear-cutting of our forests.
Plastic bags are a by-product of natural gas extraction and provide an environmental solution to the burn off of this gas during the refining process... The differences between paper and plastic strongly supports why bans don't work. In 2006, Taiwan rescinded a ban on plastic bags in their fast food sector. The ban led to an increase in the use of paper bags with a resulting massive increase in tonnage, waste management costs and greenhouse gas emissions"

Are Plastic Bag Bans Garbage? - "People in the cities with the bans used fewer plastic bags, which led to about 40 million fewer pounds of plastic trash per year. But people who used to reuse their shopping bags for other purposes, like picking up dog poop or lining trash bins, still needed bags. "What I found was that sales of garbage bags actually skyrocketed after plastic grocery bags were banned," she says. This was particularly the case for small, 4-gallon bags, which saw a 120 percent increase in sales after bans went into effect. Trash bags are thick and use more plastic than typical shopping bags. "So about 30 percent of the plastic that was eliminated by the ban comes back in the form of thicker garbage bags," Taylor says. On top of that, cities that banned plastic bags saw a surge in the use of paper bags, which she estimates resulted in about 80 million pounds of extra paper trash per year.Plastic haters, it's time to brace yourselves. A bunch of studies find that paper bags are actually worse for the environment... Taylor says a fee is smarter than a ban. She has a second paper showing a small fee for bags is just as effective as a ban when it comes to encouraging use of reusable bags. But a fee offers flexibility for people who reuse plastic bags for garbage disposal or dog walking."

The best and worst replacements for the single-use plastic bag - "Cotton bags must be reused thousands of times before they meet the environmental performance of plastic bags—and, the Denmark researchers write, organic cotton is worse than conventional cotton when it comes to overall environmental impact. According to the report, organic cotton bags have to be reused many more times than conventional cotton bags (20,000 versus 7,000 times), based on the assumption that organic cotton has a 30% lower yield rate on average than conventional cotton, and therefore was assumed to require 30% more resources, like water, to grow the same amount."
This is fascinating. Reusable bags are bad enough for the environment when climate change alone is considered. When water use, energy use and all other environmental impacts are taken into account they're even worse

Bans on plastic straws: Just another eco-fad that will soon fade - "the city of Santa Barbara, Calif., passed a new ordinance that could result in up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine for restaurants who hand out plastic straws to patrons. Those penalties, which kick on a second violation of the ordinance, are cumulative — so handing out four straws to a single table could mean two years in jail for a restaurant owner who practices their own vigilante brand of drink justice... When Seattle banned plastic straws, it allowed an exemption for compostable plastic, but Santa Barbara went even further, allowing only straws made from paper, bamboo, or metal.Environmentalists argue that 500 million plastic straws per day are polluting our oceans, a number that appears to have come from a phone survey conducted by a 9-year old Vermont boy. In fact, studies estimate straws make up only about 0.02% of the plastic waste that makes it into the ocean or to coastlines. Further, the United States is only accountable for around 1% of the world’s marine plastic waste, far behind China at 28%. But of course, these types of meaningless bans aren’t about actually saving wildlife; they are simply the latest weapon in an arms race of smug self-regard. We saw this charade a decade ago when municipalities began to ban plastic bags out of environmental concern. As Reason Magazine reminds us, 10 states (including Wisconsin) had to deal with customer backlash by banning municipalities from banning plastic bags... businesses should probably keep some straws on hand for either disabled people who can’t drink directly from a cup or to aid servers who don’t want to spend time cleaning up spilled drinks from children"

Commentary: Banning Plastic Straws Could Make Pollution Worse - "manufacturing a disposable paper cup requires at least 20% more fossil fuel and almost 50% more electricity than a styrofoam cup does. Paper goods, the most likely alternative to EPS, create more waste and water and air pollution than EPS does. The California State Water Resources Control Board released a study concluding that “mere substitution would not result in reduced trash generation if such product substitution would be discarded in the same manner as the banned item.”There’s little difference between throwing away a styrofoam cup and a paper one, and paper products used for food handling are less recyclable than EPS products. They can’t be washed like EPS, and any food contamination makes them unrecyclable. Moreover, paper products frequently are thinly lined with plastic to make them sturdier and water-resistant... small businesses would bear the brunt of styrofoam bans. In fact, an MB Public Affairs study found that banning styrofoam in food service and drink containers in New York City would equate to a 94% tax. Since local eateries generate fewer sales than large chain restaurants, they have less wiggle room for compliance costs. As such, these bans are likely to have disproportionately negative consequences for small business owners. To address the problems caused by plastic pollution, it’s better to target its improper disposal than plastic itself. Most of the plastic waste in the oceans comes from countries that don’t have good systems for putting trash in landfills. Around 90% of the plastic in the oceans comes from just 10 rivers: eight are in Asia and two are in Africa. So banning plastic here in America will have little measurable effect on pollution worldwide."

Zero-waste grocery store aims to dump all single-use plastics - "At a new Toronto grocery store, if you want to buy milk, it's BYOB. That's bring your own bottle.You then fill up a glass bottle or jar from a large stainless steel dispenser... don't bother looking for the roll of plastic bags in the fruit and vegetable aisle. Instead, customers bring their own re-useable bags or they can buy cotton ones at the store"
We already need to bring around our own bags. Now you need to bring your own bottles to go shopping

Plastic bag bans are actually terrible for the environment and make us sicker - "The ill-conceived ban is a policy that cannot possibly pass a cost-benefit analysis, not least because politicians have no way of measuring the cost of the regulation — that is, the amount of inconvenience that the ban forces consumers and businesses to suffer. Meanwhile, there is pretty strong evidence that the benefits of the regulation (supposedly a cleaner environment) are either zero or negative.In the first place, one of the reasons plastic bags are so popular is because of all the ways they make the environment cleaner and less hazardous to humans. Dog walkers use plastic bags to clean the environment of pet waste. People use plastic bags to carry clothes and books and everything else from place to place in order to keep their belongings clean from the dirt on the ground.Plastic grocery bags are also an excellent way to protect people from bacteria in the environment, because they are disposable. By contrast, reusable grocery bags can be “a serious threat to public health,” according to Charles Gerba, a University of Arizona microbiologist and co-author of a study on grocery bags. He noted that health risks of reusable bags came “especially from coliform bacteria including E. coli, which were detected in half of the bags sampled.” Another study by professors at the University of Pennsylvania and George Mason University examined the connection between San Francisco’s plastic bag ban and bacteria-related illnesses. They concluded that “both deaths and ER visits spiked as soon as the ban went into effect"... the bans “appear to be victories of symbolism over sound policy” and that “predatory politics may often be found lurking beneath the green veneer of plastic bag bans.” Indeed, there is no better way to describe the politics of those who ban, without good reason, products shoppers want to use."

The plastic backlash: what's behind our sudden rage – and will it make a difference? - "Plastic is everywhere not because it was always better than the natural materials it replaced, but because it was lighter and cheaper – so much cheaper, in fact, that it was easier to justify throwing away... In the same way steel enabled new frontiers in building, plastic made possible the cheap and disposable consumer culture that we have come to take for granted. To take on plastic is in some way to take on consumerism itself... The most astounding thing about the anti-plastic movement is just how fast it has grown. To travel back even to 2015 is to enter to a world in which almost all of the things we currently know about plastic are already known, but people aren’t very angry about it. As recently as three years ago, plastic was just one of those problems – like climate change, endangered species or antibiotic resistance – that everyone agreed was bad, but which few people considered doing much about... some scientists seem vaguely embarrassed by the scale of the backlash. “I scratch my head about it every day,” says the Imperial College oceanographer Erik van Sebille. “How is plastic public enemy No 1? That should be climate change.” Other scientists I spoke to downplayed plastic pollution as one problem among many, albeit one that had crowded out public interest in more pressing problems... There is a slight tinge of mania to all this. Natalie Fee, an activist who founded the Bristol-based campaign group City to Sea, told me that after appearing on the BBC last year to talk about plastic she began receiving multiple requests to speak at banks and corporate boardrooms about her work, like a motivational guru. And there is also a clear note of opportunism. A former highly placed staff member at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) told me that the recent focus on plastics was widely seen within the department as a ministerial scramble for popular non-partisan policies to fill the void after the Brexit referendum. “[Michael] Gove was keen to show we could do it alone, and to show he was doing something good as environment secretary. It’s turned out both of those have worked really well for plastics,” the Defra staffer said... plastic did more than merely take the place of existing materials, leaving the world otherwise unchanged. Its unique properties – being simultaneously more malleable and easier to work with, and also far cheaper and lighter than the materials it replaced – actually helped kickstart the global economy’s shift to disposal consumerism... plastic is one of the worst materials for recycling. Glass, steel and aluminium can be melted and reformed a nearly infinite number of times to make new products of the same quality as the first. Plastic, by contrast, significantly degrades each time it is recycled. A plastic bottle cannot be recycled to make a plastic bottle of the same quality. Instead, recycled plastic becomes clothing fibres, or slats for furniture, which then might go on to be road filler, or plastic insulation, neither of which are further recyclable. Each stage is essentially a one-way ratchet towards landfill or the ocean. “The future of plastics recycling is still a total mystery”, the University of Wisconsin engineer Robert Ham said, in 1992, noting the limited number of things that plastic consumer products could become... some environmental campaigners refer to household pickup as “wish-cycling”, and recycling bins as a “magic box” that assuages people’s guilt without really helping much."

We Depend on Plastic. Now We’re Drowning in It. - "plastics have transformed all our lives as few other inventions have, mostly for the better. They’ve eased travel into space and revolutionized medicine. They lighten every car and jumbo jet today, saving fuel—and pollution. In the form of clingy, light-as-air wraps, they extend the life of fresh food. In airbags, incubators, helmets, or simply by delivering clean drinking water to poor people in those now demonized disposable bottles, plastics save lives daily.In one of their early applications, they saved wildlife. In the mid-1800s, piano keys, billiard balls, combs, and all manner of trinkets were made of a scarce natural material: elephant ivory. With the elephant population at risk and ivory expensive and scarce, a billiards company in New York City offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who could come up with an alternative... Besides sparing at least some elephants, celluloid also helped change billiards from solely an aristocratic pastime to one that working people play in bars... The flat is in a garbage-filled slum named Aroma, next to another slum named Happyland... the fastest way to make a big difference, Siegler says, is low tech. It’s more garbage trucks and landfills."

Government warned plastic bag ban would hurt the poor
In 2018 I was pleasantly surprised that New Zealand hadn't fallen to plastic bag mania yet. But 2019 is the year they will

Sustainable Menstruation- The Impact of Menstrual Products on the Environment - "A plastic, industrially manufactured, disposable sanitary pad requires about 500–800 years to decompose. Thousands of tons of disposable sanitary waste is generated every month all over the world.432 million pads/sanitary napkins are generated in India annually, the potential to cover landfills spread over 24 hectares.This is a ridiculous amount of pollution which is hazardous with toxic chemicals leaching the soil, strong and harsh odours emitted by the waste disposed of in landfills or buried in the soil. This waste is toxic and hazardous to human health as well"
Maybe a viral photo of an albatross choking on a sanitary pad will lead for greenies to call for bans on disposable sanitary pads - instead of looking at the real problem of waste disposal

Menstrual Products Are the Fifth Most Common Plastic Polluting the Ocean - "Tampons and menstrual pads might not be the first thing that comes to mind when we think about the “plastic problem,” but according to a recent report by the European Commission, they are the fifth most common type of plastic waste washing up on beaches.When the UK’s Marine Conservation Society did its annual beach clean-up in 2016, it found 20 period products per 100 meters of shoreline... The average menstrual pad contains the equivalent of four plastic grocery bags"

Why cloth diapers might not be the greener choice, after all - The Washington Post - "those bad old disposable diapers may be better than the allegedly green alternatives.Although there is a growing market for all-in-one reusable diapers made from synthetics, most cloth diapers are still cotton prefolds — rectangles of fabric that fit into waterproof liners. And as a crop and a fabric, cotton undermines its own reputation as safe and green. Safety, a concern raised for some by chemicals and dyes in disposables, is in the eye of the beholder; cotton production is so chemical-intensive that it has been directly linked to poor health outcomes among producers. As for environmental friendliness, the data on cotton is damning. And if “better for the planet” includes notions of what’s better for its inhabitants, there is a social dimension of cotton diapers that is unequivocally more harmful than disposables. Cotton fertilizers are major greenhouse gas emitters, and trucking cotton from farms to industrial gins, spinners and weavers generates transportation emissions, compounded by repeated energy-intensive heating and cooling processes... recent improvements to standard disposables shift the ecological balance in their favor... If the environmental improvements related to disposables don’t influence cotton-diaper fans, perhaps the labor conditions for disposable-diaper manufacturing will. Pampers and Huggies are subsidiaries of mega-corporations Procter & Gamble and Kimberly-Clark, respectively. Manufacturing is U.S.-based, and both companies’ workforces make wages above the national minimum, with salaries starting at more than $11 an hour"
Time to get rid of all diapers!

Singapore goes through 1.76 billion plastic items a year, recycles less than 20% - "In a survey of more than 1,000 people online, the non-governmental organisation found that people in Singapore take 820 million plastic bags yearly from supermarkets. Only 2 per cent of these supermarket plastic bags were recycled by consumers. Two-thirds were used for the disposal of waste."
Since two thirds of supermarket plastic bags in Singapore are used for waste disposal, charging for or banning bags just transfers costs from supermarkets to households
We should ban disposal tampons, sanitary pads and diapers next

ORAL REPLY BY DR AMY KHOR, SENIOR MINISTER OF STATE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND WATER RESOURCES, TO PARLIAMENTARY QUESTION ON MARINE PLASTIC POLLUTION AND SINGLE USE PLASTICS, 6 AUGUST 2018 - "Regarding single-use plastics, a recent NEA life-cycle assessment study found that available alternatives to plastics, including biodegradable bags, also have an environmental impact. For example, they consume water during production or result in forest destruction. Substituting plastics with these alternatives is not likely to improve the environmental outcome. This is especially so in Singapore where we incinerate our waste instead of landfilling it"

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Links - 25th April 2019 (2)

Parents of Peter Zhu, dead West Point cadet, can keep his sperm to continue family name in accordance with Chinese tradition - "his parents say they only have one chance of “fulfilling Peter’s wishes and preserving his incredible legacy” – by retrieving their only child’s sperm and saving it... the Zhus asked medical professionals at Westchester about a procedure they had never done before: postmortem sperm retrieval."

In Singapore, even wanting to egg a minister gets you in trouble with the police - "In 2001, Britain’s former deputy prime minister John Prescott punched a protester in North Wales who had hurled an egg at him during an election campaign."

Bertha Henson - Will police investigate me if I say: a. I am going... - "Will police investigate me if I say:
a. I am going to paint the town red (vandalism)
b. Throw pearls before swine (littering)
c. Teach your grandmother to suck eggs (elderly abuse)
d. Kill two/three/four birds with one stone (animal abuse)
e. Throw a lot of smoke when I talk (especially along Orchard Road)
f. Have egg all over my face (self-harm)
g. Elbow my way to the front (assault)
h. Rain curses on someone (causing flooding)
i. I just swallowed a whole lot of crap (attempted suicide - oops. No more a crime!)
j. I handed someone a poisoned chalice (attempted murder)
k. That there would be fireworks at the meeting (which is not allowed unless it's National Day or officially sanctioned)"

Support for gays, Hamas at NY's LGBT Center sparks fury - "The Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA) group unlawfully occupied New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center last week, to protest its refusal to rent space to the fiercely anti-Israel group... While the LGBT Center’s management has consistently declined to comment on the radical anti-Israel rhetoric of QAIA and its support for the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, what has been airbrushed out of the controversy is Hamas’s violent campaign against gays.Dr. Shimon Samuels, the international director for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, told the Post on Saturday that QAIA is ignoring Hamas’s violent homophobia. “It is complicity by omission and stupidity,” Samuels said. QAIA is “defending homophobia and the enemies of democracy.”... What is perhaps not common knowledge among members of the LGBT community are the positions of Hamas toward the West and LGBT communities. Hamas cofounder Mahmoud Zahar has said, “You in the West do not live like human beings. You do not even live like animals. You accept homosexuality. And now you criticize us?”... Zahar blasted rights for gays in Israel and said, “Are these the laws for which the Palestinian street is waiting? For us to give rights to homosexuals and to lesbians, a minority of perverts and the mentally and morally sick?”... Phyllis Chesler, a professor emerita of psychology and women’s studies at City University of New York, termed the activists “Queers for Jihad.” “The members of QAIA seem to know nothing about real apartheid which is Islamic gender and religious apartheid... They are scapegoating democratic and gayfriendly Israel for the enormous sins and crimes of the Muslim world”"

This Little "Game Of Thrones" Detail About Daenerys' Hair Is So Badass - "her braids have multiplied over the seasons as she's won more battles"

Joe Biden Advocates For Men To Become Feminists

The Screen - Posts - "@Alyssa_Milano: I am proud to call Joe Biden a friend. He has been a leader and a champion on fighting violence against women for many years, and I have been fortunate to accompany him to events with survivors where he has listened to their stories, empathized with them, and comforted them."
Lisa Pacino @VLPacino: "You're deranged. And to think you were in the forefront of the "Me Too movement." This is so disturbing. Have you been abducted? Does someone have you in a basement locked in a torture cage? Are they forcing you to Tweet? Are they asking for ransom? Why would they do such things?"

Joe Biden, Lady Gaga team up for sexual assault PSA

A history of Joe Biden's most touchy-feely moments - "The revelation last week of Joe Biden’s creepy encounter with a young female politician was is hardly the first time the 76-year-old has been accused of being too touchy-feely with women.Topping the Post’s Gallery of Biden’s Greatest Hit-ons was the time he grabbed the shoulders of Stephanie Carter from behind and whispered in her ear while her hubby Ash Carter gave his 2015 Secretary of Defense acceptance speech.He awkwardly groped the waist of The Hill’s Amie Parnes at a 2013 holiday party. During a 2012 campaign stop in Ohio he sat so close to a biker chick his forehead touched her temple.The latest accusations — launched amid an international women’s empowerment movement and as Biden is weighing a run for president — were made by former Nevada lawmaker Lucy Flores in a New York Magazine report published Friday."
Male feminists strike again
"Joe Biden: When a woman alleges sexual assault, presume she is telling the truth"

Garbage Human VII - Posts - "Joe Biden's affectionate, physical style with women comes under scrutiny"
"Mike Pence doesn't dine alone with other women. And we're all shocked."

Brighton NHS racial equality boss is sacked for discrimination against white coworker - "An NHS racial equality boss was sacked from her £100,000-a-year job for allegedly telling a colleague he was 'everything she despised in a white manager'.Dr Vivienne Lyfar-Cissé, 58, was fired from her role at the Brighton and Sussex University Hospital NHS Trust for harassing a white coworker because of his race."

Lucas Lynch - Not useful for leftist activism. That is exactly... - "Why do many people don't consider Othman occupation of Baghdad as colonialism?"
"Not useful for leftist activism. That is exactly the faultline along which leftists make "colonialism" the greatest evil of greatest concern in the world, and the cause of all our problems."

Garbage Human VII - Posts - Vice: "Trump is letting companies get away with paying women less than men"
Vice: "UK Companies are going to be forced to reveal the difference between what they pay men and women"
"Vice Media has agreed to pay $1.88 million to settle discrimination claims with about 675 female employees who were allegedly paid less than their male colleagues"

Higher education: Are Indians global leaders in publishing for fake journals? - "Indian universities consistently fare poorly in world university rankings. No Indian institution ranks among the top 200 worldwide and only a few figure among the top 500. This is in large part due to the relatively low quantity and lack of high quality research and publications in journals by faculty members. But growing insistence on research by the government has created a new problem: publications in predatory or fake journals... India is “one of the biggest global hubs” for predatory publishing... “India tops submissions in predatory journals.”... 62% of stand-alone fake journals are published in India and Indian researchers contributed (only) 2,592 articles of a total of 24,840 (10.4%). On the face of it, this seems to make Indian contributions less impressive except for the fact that the numbers are very high relative to the total research output of Indian researchers... the share of publications in fake journals by Indian academics is as high as 10% of the country’s total research output."

Exploring the History of the the Veiled Virgin Sculpture by Giovanni Strazza - "For millennia, sculptors have worked in marble, a medium favored for its softness and translucence. These characteristics make the metamorphic rock particularly suited for pieces requiring intricate detail, including anatomical subtleties and flowing drapery. One sculpture that perfectly illustrates both of these instances is The Veiled Virgin, a 19th-century work by Italian sculptor Giovanni Strazza."

The Screen - Posts - "The Charging Bull represents aggressive financial optimism and prosperity.
Fearless Girl literally stands against that, as a feminist statement.
Feminism is averse to financial optimism and prosperity. Feminism is Marxism in a dress."
"So there's a monument to the suicidal hubris of modern women & their inability to discern their actual abilities vs. their inflated egos"

George Souvlis - true story. - "The essence of liberalism in one photo:
We welcome
All races
All religions
All countries of origin
All sexual orientations
All genders
We stand with you
You are safe here"
"Restrooms are for customer use only""

EU’s Parliament Signs Off on Disastrous Internet Law: What Happens Next? - "In a stunning rejection of the will of five million online petitioners, and over 100,000 protestors this weekend, the European Parliament has abandoned common-sense and the advice of academics, technologists, and UN human rights experts, and approved the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive in its entirety."
And the elites will continue to denounce "populist" anti-EU sentiment

Segments of Random Thoughts - "Macron gets away with this because he is pro-status quo, pro-EU, anti-Brexit and anti-populist. If an Eastern European leader did this, it would be all over the news, there would be liberal fury, and the EU would be imposing sanctions."
On deploying the army against the yellow vests

Boys-only wall of fame at Shirebrook Academy 'a gimmick' - "Members of a feminist group have criticised a boys-only wall of fame for pupils as a "detrimental gimmick".The scheme at Shirebrook Academy, in Derbyshire, aims to address male pupils' "persistent underperformance".Vice principal Andy Gilbert said the school wanted to "change the traditional male culture".However, Feminist Friends of Nottingham said it was wrong to single out boys rather than celebrating the achievement of all pupils.Mr Gilbert said male pupils at the school performed worse than girls in a "whole range of measures"."
Yet, we are told, feminists are for men
Presumably if you criticise the celebration of female achievements you're an incel and a misogynist

Feminist MP Layla Moran admits to being the latest female perpetrator of domestic violence in Parliament - "In September 2016 we reported on how Labour’s Domestic violence spokesperson Sarah Champion MP had received a police caution as a result of her domestic violence against her husband. Astonishingly, Champion kept her job (she certainly has some hands-on experience in the field!) and was widely praised by her feminist colleagues for talking about her unprovoked attack on her husband, with the likes of famous misandrist Jess Phillips jumping in to support her almost instantly.Today, we learn that Lib Dem MP Layla Moran also has hands-on experience when it comes to domestic violence... As with Champion, Moran has no shortage of people coming out to support her and even praise her actions! Those praising her “courage” already include Baroness Meral Hussain-Ece, a fellow Lib Dem and someone who apparently has “zero tolerance of racism” yet plenty of tolerance of violence against men. Lib Dem Councillor Nick da Costa goes further still, suggesting Moran was not only “brave” but in fact an ”inspiration” for talking about her attack on her partner, with his comment receiving 18 “likes” so far from Lib Dems and feminists. The parallels don’t end there. Both Champion and Moran blatantly victim blame for their unprovoked attacks on their partners, with Moran using the pathetic and nonsensical excuse that she had assaulted her partner because she “felt threatened”. If you genuinely feel threatened by someone you flee and or seek help, you don’t assault them...
Moran herself stated in Parliament that:
“Violence against women is still ubiquitous. It still happens in our society and on our streets, and it should absolutely be called out.”"

Spanish attitudes on Smallpox in the Americas

It was claimed to me (in a thread on a mischievous article which tried to mislead people into thinking Europeans conducted genocide in the Americas but actually talking about the impact of smallpox and other diseases) that:

"The Spanish believed it was god cleansing the land for them, a sign that the Americas was for them to conquer, they thus pushed forward and brought the disease into contact with more Natives, effectively using the diseases as a biological WMD (which they wrongly attributed to god helping them out). While they did not spread the diseases knowingly, they did "knowingly" went forward with the belief that god will cleanse the land for them, using god bringing the plague as their main weapon. Thus genocide."

When I asked for a source, I got stupid glib snark in return.

Fortunately, unlike that person, I actually had sources so I knew he was talking rubbish:

“It has pleased Our Lord to bestow a pestilence of smallpox among the said Indians, and it does not cease. From it have died and continue to die to the present almost a third of the said Indians. And Your Highness must know that all that is possible has been done, and continues to be done, to cure them."

--- Letter from the Jeronymite friars Luis de Figueroa and Alonso de Santo Domingo to Charles V

Given that the friars tried to cure them, this certainly does not support his claim.

"The first plague was an epidemic of smallpox. It broke out in this manner. Hernando Cortes was Captain and Governor at the time when Captain Panf‌ilo de Narvaez landed here. On one of his ships came a Negro stricken with smallpox, a disease that was unknown in this land. New Spain was very thickly populated at this time. When the smallpox began to infect the Indians, there was so much sickness and pestilence among them in all the land that in most provinces more than half of the people died, whereas in others the number was somewhat smaller. The Indians did not know the remedy against smallpox. Besides, they were accustomed, the healthy and the sick, to bathe frequently; and, because they did not cease doing this, they died like f‌lies. Many succumbed also to hunger because, all taking sick at the same time, they were unable to assist one another. There was no one to give them bread or anything else. In many places it happened that all of the same household died. Since it was impossible to bury all the dead in order to remove the offensive odor that came from the corpses, their houses were thrown over them and thus their house became their sepulcher. The Indians called this sickness the great leprosy because the pocks, being so large, covered the Indians in such a way that they resembled lepers. Today, on some of the persons who survived the sickness this is quite apparent from the marks they bear; they are full of pockmarks."

--- History of the Indians of New Spain / Toribio Motolinía (1541/1543)

Motolinía's account is certainly not triumphal.

"Las Casas lamented the disappearance of the island Taino, writing that the epidemic left no more than 1,000 “of the immensity of peoples that this island held, and that we have seen with our own eyes.” The Dominican friar also described the terribly quick death that came to those who, feverish, bathed in the rivers. The Spaniards, when they realized the devastation being caused by massive deaths, attempted to find an effective cure for the ill. Bartolomé de las Casas admonished that really “they should have begun it many years earlier.”"

--- Born to Die: Disease and New World Conquest, 1492-1650 / Noble David Cook

Evidently Las Casas disapproved of the effect that smallpox had on the natives and given that the Spanish tried to cure the natives, this does not comport with his claims.

"This war cost Diego Velazquez a great deal of money, Panf‌ilo de Narvaez his eye, and the Indians many dead, who died, not of wounds, but of disease. It happened that among the men of Narvaez was a Negro sick with the smallpox, and he infected the household in Cempoala where he was quartered; and it spread from one Indian to another, and they, being so numerous and eating and sleeping together, quickly infected the whole country. In most houses all the occupants died, for, since it was their custom to bathe as a cure for all diseases, they bathed for the smallpox and were struck down. They had the custom, or vice, of taking cold baths after hot ones, so a man sick with the smallpox only escaped by a miracle. Those who did survive, having scratched themselves, were left in such a condition that they frightened the others with the many deep pock-marks on their faces, hands, and bodies. And then came famine, not because of a want of bread, but of meal, for the women do nothing but grind maize between two stones and bake it. The women, then, fell sick of the smallpox, bread failed, and many died of hunger. The corpses stank so horribly that no one would bury them; the streets were f‌illed with them; and it is even said that the off‌icials, in order to remedy this situation, pulled the houses down to cover the corpses. The Indians called this sickness huitzalzuatl, meaning the “great leprosy”, and later counted the years from it, as from some famous event. It seems to me that this was how they were repaid for the bubas [syphilis] which they gave our men."

--- Cortes: The Life of the Conqueror by His Secretary / Francisco Lopez De Gomara

The very most you can accuse Gomara of is ironic amusement at one of the probably lesser known elements of the Columbian Exchange - syphilis.

"Let us now return to Narvaez and a black man whom he brought covered with smallpox, and a very black affair it was for New Spain, for it was owing to him that the whole country was stricken and f‌illed with it, from which there was a great mortality, for according to what the Indians said they had never had such a disease, and, as they did not understand it, they bathed very often, and on that account a great number of them died; so that dark as was the lot of Narvaez, still blacker was the death of so many persons who were not Christians."

--- The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico 1517-1521 / Bernal Diaz Del Castillo

Here, we can see that Diaz was actually upset that so many non-Christians were dying of smallpox. Presumably because they hadn't yet converted to Christianity, but the fact remains that he didn't see smallpox as an instrument of God, but as something unfortunate.

Some of the contemporary Spanish sources do note that the natives were weak, but this is very different from seeing smallpox as a divine aid to their conquest.

Links - 25th April 2019 (1)

Why are boys still being discriminated against over vital HPV cancer jab? - "A series of protective jabs has been available for the past ten years to all schoolgirls but – scandalously – not boys, while older girls who missed out on the inoculation are entitled to take advantage of a ‘catch-up’ scheme. As a direct result, pre-cancers of the cervix have fallen by 80 per cent."

Xi Jinping’s Anti-Corruption Campaign: The Hidden Motives of a Modern-Day Mao - "As with the removal of term limits, the expansion of Xi’s anti-corruption initiative was a decisive power play. Since its inception in 2012, the campaign has found over 1.5 million government officials guilty of a variety of corruption-related charges. It is a defining part of Xi’s presidency as well as the principal reason why he has been able to consolidate his power so quickly and effectively... Most telling, though, are the two highest-ranking officials prosecuted: Xi’s main political rivals, Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang... This correlation between indictments of high-level political figures and their political benefit to Xi is indicative of the alternate use that Xi has found for his anti-corruption campaign. Interestingly enough, one of the criticisms made against Bo by a longstanding party chief was that Bo revived songs and culture representative of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The very same ones that, ironically, are now a constant feature of Chinese television under Xi’s administration... Reports from multiple top party officials confirm that a group of six high-ranking party members attempted to overthrow Xi Jinping and seize control of the government. This revelation, surfacing amid Xi’s denials of any power struggles or divisions within the party, suggests that all is not as it seems within the Chinese government. After being accused of corruption and disloyalty, those involved were disciplined and quickly replaced with loyal longtime friends and associates of Xi’s: a trend prevalent throughout this campaign.Additional opposition to Xi was revealed by a recently published article by a Beijing law professor denouncing the recent abolition of the presidential term limit and criticizing many of Xi’s policies. It is a rare instance that disapproval of Xi is voiced publicly and by such a distinguished figure... While Mao targeted anyone whose opinions differed from his own, Xi is focused on the elimination of all political rivals and potential successors. The range of Mao’s crusade was much wider: he did not discriminate between friends and adversaries in his purge, while Xi has yet to implicate a single official for corruption that he sees as unthreatening and loyal to him personally. For this reason, Xi’s questionable prosecutions are more visible to the public eye than Mao’s were during the Cultural Revolution"

What Motivates Chinese President Xi Jinping's Anti-Corruption Drive? - "According to Willy Wo-Lop Lam, author of Chinese Politics in the Era of Xi Jinping, it was now or never. "There was a good possibility, in fact, that if high-level corruption continues, the people would rise up and overthrow the party," says Lam.To date, Xi's anti-corruption drive has led to the investigation and punishment of hundreds of thousands of government officials. Lam says Xi has used the campaign to eliminate key members of rival factions within China's Communist Party — the Shanghai faction, led by former President Jiang Zemin, and the Youth League faction, led by former President Hu Jintao."Xi Jinping has been successfully building up his own faction, the Xi Jinping faction, which has now displaced the Shanghai faction and the Youth League faction as the largest faction in the political party," Lam says."

Understanding Chinese President Xi’s anti-corruption campaign - "Xi’s enthusiasm to root out corrupt officials isn’t based on his own rectitude. Indeed, Xi’s family has inexplicably managed to accumulate over $1 billion in wealth... Corruption is built into the structure of China’s governing institutions. Xi’s campaign is more about managing the scope and consequences of corrupt practices than rooting them out altogether. As China scholar Minxin Pei has documented, corruption in China typically takes the form of organized schemes involving groups of bureaucrats and private business people to plunder state resources.Corruption fuels job promotions, the awarding of government contracts and the transfer of public assets into private hands at fire sale prices. Corruption in China is rooted in the blurred lines that come with a system combining weak rule of law, considerable autonomy on the part of local officials and an economic model featuring opaque relations between private enterprise and a large state-owned sector... If Xi were serious about rooting out corruption more thoroughly, deep institutional reforms would be required. In countries where corruption has been successfully addressed, these have included strengthened rule of law, greater judicial independence, democratic accountability, institutional transparency and greater space for media and civil society watchdogs... Yet Xi has shown little interest in these kinds of reforms, which would threaten the leading role of the Communist Party. Indeed, his attacks on rights lawyers, independent media and non-governmental organizations – precisely the groups that in other societies hold public officials to account – have pushed in the opposite directions... In The Dictator’s Handbook, political scientists Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith theorize that authoritarian leaders cannot rule without the support of other powerful players, such as military generals, business leaders and key intellectuals. Their demands must be met. Such leaders survive, therefore, by channeling rewards to those supporters most essential to the leader’s maintenance of power. Over time, however, the number of individuals attached to the ruling coalition tends to grow, as does the price that each member demands for support. We might call this the “too many pigs at the trough” problem.This may be sustainable if the economy is rapidly growing, but becomes more problematic once growth slows, as indeed it has in China in recent years. Because the monetary gains extracted by corrupt officials serve as dead weight from an economic perspective, corruption itself can become a source of worsening economic performance... All of this explains why newly installed leaders move quickly to cull the number of pigs at the trough, as Xi has done since taking power in 2012. By retargeting private rewards only to those whose support is truly essential and reducing the size of payoffs to the minimum necessary to avert defection, the leader thereby shores up his power position with a smaller and more manageable ruling coalition."

Is the Chinese Corporate Anti
-Corruption Campaign Genuine?
- "specific affiliations with the investigated formerleaders increases investigation likelihood, whileconnections with the current leaders decrease investigation likelihood, indicating possible politicalfavoritism. Chinese firms in general exhibit little overall decrease in measures of potential corporatecorruption, with the exception of heavily scrutinized entertainment expenditures."

The Belt and Road Initiative Is a Corruption Bonanza – Foreign Policy - "When former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was ousted from office in May 2018, it’s possible that no one was more dismayed than officials in Beijing... an explosive Wall Street Journal report exposed the most damning evidence yet: minutes from a series of meetings at which Malaysian officials suggested to their Chinese counterparts that China finance infrastructure projects in Malaysia at inflated costs. The implication was that the extra cash could be used to settle 1MDB’s debts. According to the report, Najib, who has denied any part in corruption, was well aware of the meetings.If true, the report puts tangible proof behind widely held suspicions that China exploits corrupt regimes to propel its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)... Many countries that receive BRI investments suffer from high levels of corruption. On the TRACE Bribery Risk Matrix, most rank in the lower 50 percent, and 10 are among the riskiest 25 countries in the world. They often have opaque legislative processes, weak accountability mechanisms, compliant media organizations, and authoritarian governments that don’t permit dissent... In no part of China’s lengthy declaration of the BRI’s principles is any attempt made to discourage corruption. And according to a report by Transparency International, no charges have ever been brought in China against a company, citizen, or resident for corrupt practices committed overseas."

China's ranking declines in Transparency International's latest Corruption Perception Index - "China’s global ranking has moved down 10 places and its CPI score has declined by two points in 2018"
Clearly Xi's campaign is not working

Forgotten Singapore: evicted islanders grieve for lost 'paradise' - "From the 1960s on, residents of Singapore's idyllic southern islands were forced out of fishing villages and into high rises. A documentary finds many still grieving for their old way of life... most of the islanders had been hopeful Lee's People's Action Party would affect change. They'd been promised amenities such as a police post, community clinic and Malay school. Within a decade, they didn't even have an island."

China database lists 'breedready' status of 1.8 million women - "An open database in China contains the personal information of more than 1.8 million women, including their phone numbers, addresses, and something called “BreedReady” status"

Data Leak Reveals China Monitoring 364 Million Social Media Accounts - "There were chats from teenagers. Direct messages that were supposed to be private... Gevers discovered a Chinese company called SenseNets accumulated a database of 2.5 million people using its facial recognition software and left it wide open to intruders, without even rudimentary password protection. The database included ID card numbers, home addresses, birthdates, and the precise location of the individual ever time a SenseNets camera noticed them.Gevers spent a day quietly monitoring the database and watched 6.8 million location hits pile up, fed into the system by cameras at police stations, hotels, public parks, Internet cafes, and mosques. Most of this surveillance data came from Xinjiang province, where China is oppressively controlling the Uighur Muslims.“Knowing when someone is not in the office or at home can be useful for simple burglar crimes, but also social engineering attacks to get into buildings,” he noted."

Pop Music Lyrics Average a Third-Grade Reading Level - "a great many of our most popular songs are written at just a third-grade reading level. That's the conclusion reached by an analysis of 225 songs that spent at least three weeks at the top of the Billboard charts over the last 10 years... Perhaps more surprisingly when it came to song lyrics, country music pulled the other genres to above a third-grade level, averaging a 3.3 reading level while pop and rock tied at 2.9 and R&B/hip-hop ranked lowest at a grade level of 2.6... Since 2005, the intelligence level of lyrics has steadily declined, moving from a high of about 3.5 in 2006 to its present low of about 2.7."


Free speech is under threat over Islamophobia | Comment | The Times - "I try to avoid the term Islamophobia. Anti-Muslim hatred is much better, since it focuses on prejudice against Muslim people and their life chances. I speak as someone who has defended the rights of Muslim people for decades but who also defends freedom of expression.From personal experience, I know how the smear of Islamophobia is used to silence debate and critics. In 1994, I protested against the Islamist extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. It had endorsed the killing of LGBT people, women who have sex outside of marriage and Muslims who turn away from their faith. I was denounced as Islamophobic"

Muslims demand full legal protection from Islamophobia - "Muslim organisations are urging Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and all other party leaders to adopt a newly proposed working definition of Islamophobia in an attempt to put pressure on a reluctant Home Office to follow suit."

Islamophobia: The new tool to silence liberal Muslims - "Islamophobia has become a synonym for blasphemy by means of which Islamists smear dissent and hound liberal Muslims... he recent European Court of Human Rights’ affirmation of the conviction of an Austrian woman who criticized Islamic tradition and its prophet has made the matter more worrying.Her remarks were considered to have gone “beyond the limits of a critical denial” of religious sanctity. The decision was highly criticized by human rights activists, scholars and victims of Islamic blasphemy laws around the world who described the ruling as infantilizing towards Muslims, while also making Islam immune to criticism. The ruling marked a conspicuous blow to efforts to decriminalize blasphemy as a ‘crime’ since the decision came down in the midst of ongoing efforts to remove the ‘crime’ of blasphemy from the Irish constitution and the acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian embroiled in a false case of blasphemy who remains in hiding because of Islamist threats to her life."

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Links - 24th April 2019 (2)

Stefan Molyneux on Twitter - "Many female “friendships” are based on mutual “you go girl!” boosterism, and if one woman ever criticizes the other - especially morally - she is immediately attacked and ostracized.
“Eternally praise me or I’ll destroy you” is more like a cult than a friendship.

A new N.J. bar’s dress code was called racist. The owner says it was ‘an oversight.’ - "The sign at The Ashford, which referred to its dress code as “upscale business casual,” banned oversized jeans and shirts, head gear, ball caps, work boots, gym sneakers, shorts or athletic apparel, sweatpants or joggers, cargo pants, oversized jewelry and chains, sunglasses, camouflage, low or baggy pants and headphones. The code also required belts be worn with pants."
Isn't it racist to assume certain forms of dress are particular to certain races?

The Latest Example of Reverse Discrimination - "We have three communications directors. One slot is reserved for minorities. So we hire this Latino guy. It turns out he has a Latino-sounding name but really, he's Russian. He turns out to be a total failure but we end up having to keep him because we had had to get rid of another minority manager six months ago and our organization's Diversity Committee would give us hell if we fired him. So we hired someone to train him, which cost us (and ultimately the sick people we're trying to serve) a fortune. After a year, we gave up. It was hopeless and we fired him and his trainer. Now we're looking for another person of color"

Prior Dengue Infection Protects Children against Zika Symptoms

How Trump and the Nazis Stole Christmas To Promote White Nationalism - "critics counter that Trump is promoting a version of the holidays that excludes members of other religions, and that his crusade to bring back Christmas is part of a larger attempt by the president to define America as a country for white Christians alone.Wishing people “merry Christmas” instead of “happy holidays” is thus in line with Trump’s decision to ban citizens of Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, critics say. It fits neatly with his refusal to condemn white supremacists when they march against diversity, and with his condemnation of athletes who protest police brutality against black men.With this in mind, the fight to end the war on Christmas is exclusionary politics at its most flagrant. “I see such invocations of Christmas as a kind of cypher, what some would call a dog whistle. It does not appear to be intolerant or extreme, but to attentive audiences it speaks volumes about identity and belonging—who and what are fully American,” Richard King, a professor at Washington State University who studies how white supremacists exploit culture, told Newsweek... Nazi Germany’s propagandists rooted their idea of Christmas in visions of ethno-nationalism. They rewrote the lyrics of Christmas carols, promoted Nazified holiday traditions and launched numerous Christmas charity events for poor Germans. The ultimate goal was to draw a clear line between those who belonged and those who should be excluded and not benefit from the joys of Christmas.Trump’s rhetoric differs from that of Nazi Germany’s, most notably because he has never advocated genocide. But Trump’s talk about Christmas coexists with re-emerging white identity politics, Randy Blazak, a sociology professor who studies white nationalism, told Newsweek."
Someone better tell the Japanese they're not allowed to celebrate Christmas since they're not white and not Christian
This is a subtle acknowledgement that there really is a War on Christmas (which is more real than the "War on Women", i.e. making women pay for their own birth control)

Australia's first Muslim senator does not support 'traditional' halal slaughter where livestock are conscious when killed - "Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi, who immigrated to Australia from Pakistan in 1992, is against livestock having their throats cut while they are still conscious, as part of traditional Muslim and Jewish custom... Australia backed new Indonesia laws which will require, from October 2019, all meat exported to the Muslim-majority nation to be slaughtered the halal way.Indonesia sources 80 per cent of its beef from Australia."
I guess you won't be able to get quality steak in Indonesia soon

The public health lobby wants to introduce a ‘meat tax’. Don’t bet against it | Spectator Health - "Once you accept that the modern ‘public health’ movement is just the latest incarnation of the puritanism that waxes and wanes throughout history, it is easy to predict its next target. If you further assume – and who can now deny it? – that nanny state campaigners follow a blueprint laid down by the anti-smoking lobby, it becomes easy to guess not only their future targets but also their methods... Coffee is too popular with the upper-middle classes to be done away with yet, but this year saw the start of a minor crusade against energy drinks. The imminent downfall of fixed-odds betting terminals represents the first real scalp for the anti-gamblers in decades, with gambling advertising lined up as the next dragon to slay.Meat has had an easier ride. Until now. A study published today in PLoS One looks very much like the start of a concerted effort to clamp down on processed and red meat. The crusade is beginning, as such crusades usually do, with a push for a sin tax.Like most of the influential policy-based evidence in ‘public health’ of recent years, the study rests on opaque computer modelling... The authors reckon that the global death toll from processed and red meat is 2,390,000 people a year. The link between processed meat and bowel cancer is reasonably robust by the debased standards of nutritional epidemiology and there may be an association between meat-eating and coronary heart disease and stroke. Even so, a figure of 2.4 million defies belief. The authors admit that the Lancet’s Global Burden of Disease reports estimated the true figure to be 900,000 in 2010 and 700,000 in 2013. That is enough of a discrepancy, but they do not mention the most recent edition of the report which put the figure at just 140,000. The estimate published today is therefore seventeen times larger than an estimate of the same risk factor published barely a year ago. How can anyone have confidence in this field of academia?"

Serious Question: What Rigors, Methodologies and Scholarly Qualities Characterize "Feminist Studies"? - "the chair of her department asked her to consider teaching feminist philosophy. Sommers thought, Well, okay, I'm a feminist, and I'm a philosopher, so why not?But then something weird happened.She sent away for the textbooks, assuming that they would read like other philosophy texts: a collection of the best arguments about issues that concerned women -- affirmative action, abortion, maternity leave, etc.The textbooks shocked her. According to Sommers, they presented what looked like a "conspiracy theory" against the patriarchy. The arguments weren't debates -- they were mutually reinforcing. She couldn't, in good conscience, use them."I just thought it was a sacred commandment of college teaching," Sommers told Kristol. "I never saw the classroom as a place to pass on my beliefs to students."So she sent away for more textbooks-- and saw more of the same. So she went to the American Philosophy Association to raise her issues. She entered this presentation knowing that issues brought before the APA are always contentious -- but usually everyone, being reasonable adults, goes out for drinks after.Sommers recalls, "We did not go out for drinks after. There was hissing, and booing, and stamping their feet. And that evening, I was excommunicated from a religion I didn't even know existed."Prior to this event, Sommers' articles had occasionally been included in feminist studies texts -- and after, that stopped.Someone was interested in hearing her thoughts on this, though: The Atlantic. They commissioned a piece from her, and she began doing research -- and was shocked by some of her findings. She read preposterous claims that were not backed by psychology and began further questioning feminist theories.Her article was never published in the Atlantic -- because the feminist philosophers found out she was writing it, and campaigned against the Atlantic"

"Activism Responsibilities" Cause Students at Brown to Fail Classes and Have Panic Attacks - "It reads like satire... but the children at Brown University (Preschool?) seem to genuinely feel this way. Which is kind of sad, considering:
One of the big "causes" students in the article were protesting was an op-ed that was published in the Brown Daily Herald. An OP-ED! Nothing even happened! Students were upset because of someone's opinion... the controversial opinions of one student caused so many others to fail tests, drop classes and start taking anti-anxiety medications... Students have been working with deans to pressure professors into giving them extensions on class assignments so that their homework won't interfere with activism "responsibilities"... As I wrote in Intersectionality is the OPPOSITE of Feminism, many feminists are shamed or pressured into certain social or political beliefs, lest they be rejected by their community. I sincerely hope that every student who has suffered on account of their activism did so of their own free will, and not of a fear of rejection or isolation."

WOMEN’S RIGHTS? Man Forced To Allow Ex To Use Sperm To Get Pregnant - And Then Pay Child Support - "An Arizona court recently ruled that a woman wanting to use her ex-husband’s saved sperm to become pregnant “outweigh[ed]” the man’s desire not to become a father. Due to this court ruling, the man could also be liable for 18 years of child support."
As usual, men have no reproductive rights

When Meth Was an Antidepressant - "How is meth different from modern amphetamines, such as Adderall? There isn’t much of a difference, according to the Columbia University psychiatry professor Carl Hart."

On the Eve of the Great Psychedelic Debate - "Listening to some of the opponents of medical marijuana over the last few years, one could be forgiven for thinking that they have never heard of a psychoactive substance being used in medicine before. These people might be surprised to learn that in England the doctor can send you home with a prescription for pain called diamorphine, a fancy word for heroin. They might be equally surprised to learn that the anti-obesity prescription Desoxyn is nothing more than methamphetamine in a pill, or that the popular ADHD medication Adderall is very similar to methamphetamine chemically and physiologically. If you’ve had throat, dental or nose surgery there’s a chance the anesthetist used cocaine... medical vernacular replaces street names for drugs to provide a line of demarcation between highly stigmatized illicit activities and their pharmacological corollary under medical settings. In its online guide for safe diamorphine use for cancer sufferers, Cancer Research UK chooses to omit the word heroin completely, to obfuscate any connection with its recreational use. Unfortunately, a consequence of hiding normally illegal drugs in plain sight in the medical world is to make them seem especially fringe and troubling when used in other contexts... There’s no clear line separating drugs that make it into club psychedelic from those that do not—marijuana, ketamine, ecstasy and all sorts of substances can at times produce the hallucinogenic effects commensurate with a psychedelic experience... a group of psychologists in Saskatchewan thought they could frighten alcoholics away from alcohol by providing them with LSD and its terrible but similar disorientating effects. The LSD experiments actually seemed to work much better than other treatments for alcoholism, with many of the alcoholics refraining from drinking months later, but for reasons entirely unrelated to those hypothesized. The alcoholics in Saskatchewan reported that their LSD experience was profound and spiritual, nothing like the negative experience that was intended, and that it allowed them to see how their alcohol abuse was affecting those they loved... the problem solving or creative insights inspired particularly by LSD are well known. One user of LSD was the Nobel Prize winning chemist Kary Mullis, inventor of polymerase chain reactions, the process whereby scientists rapidly reproduce new copies of DNA. “It was certainly much more important than any courses I ever took,” Mullis said, crediting an LSD trip with his discovery... Ninety percent of the world’s cultures institutionalize an altered state of consciousness, recognizing and even promoting an altered state of consciousness... As with magic mushrooms, a number of small trials have found ayahuasca to produce experiences considered so profound it that leads to diminished signs of depression in Westerners and reports of a renewed life outlook... psychedelic drugs are some of the least harmful drugs used in society, considerably less harmful than even cannabis, with magic mushrooms given the lowest harm ranking of all drugs... LSD use precedes mid- to long-term improvement in psychological health... psychedelics produced the type of growth in brain cells that prevents them degenerating as they do in people suffering from depression and neuropsychiatric disease. Perhaps in the future we will use psychedelics on a daily basis for brain health as we use vitamins today... The prohibition on psychedelics is microcosmic of the larger war on drugs: moral exhibitionism on the part of the politician caught in a competition to be holier than their rivals"
Of course, the most harmful drugs tobacco and alcohol are legal - while the less harmful ones are banned. Singapore anti-drug people's logic is that anything harmful should be banned, and tobacco and alcohol being legal are unfortunate (i.e. they would ban them if they could). But point out that sugar is harmful and addictive too and...
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