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Friday, May 17, 2019

Links - 17th May 2019 (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chronically ill man releases audio of hospital staff offering assisted death

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

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

Trans Mania and Homophobia

Andrew Sullivan: The Nature of Sex

"It might be a sign of the end-times, or simply a function of our currently scrambled politics, but earlier this week, four feminist activists — three from a self-described radical feminist organization Women’s Liberation Front — appeared on a panel at the Heritage Foundation. Together they argued that sex was fundamentally biological, and not socially constructed, and that there is a difference between women and trans women that needs to be respected. For this, they were given a rousing round of applause by the Trump supporters, religious-right members, natural law theorists, and conservative intellectuals who comprised much of the crowd...

It’s an argument that seems to me to contain a seed of truth. Hence, I suspect, the intensity of the urge to suppress it...

The proposed Equality Act — with 201 co-sponsors in the last Congress — isn’t simply a ban on discriminating against trans people in employment, housing, and public accommodations (an idea with a lot of support in the American public). It includes and rests upon a critical redefinition of what is known as “sex.”...

What the radical feminists are arguing is that the act doesn’t only blur the distinction between men and women (thereby minimizing what they see as the oppression of patriarchy and misogyny), but that its definition of gender identity must rely on stereotypical ideas of what gender expression means. What, after all, is a “gender-related characteristic”? It implies that a tomboy who loves sports is not a girl interested in stereotypically boyish things, but possibly a boy trapped in a female body. And a boy with a penchant for Barbies and Kens is possibly a trans girl — because, according to stereotypes, he’s behaving as a girl would. So instead of enlarging our understanding of gender expression — and allowing maximal freedom and variety within both sexes — the concept of “gender identity” actually narrows it, in more traditional and even regressive ways. What does “gender-related mannerisms” mean, if not stereotypes? It’s no accident that some of the most homophobic societies, like Iran, for example, are big proponents of sex-reassignment surgery for gender-nonconforming kids and adults (the government even pays for it) while being homosexual warrants the death penalty. Assuming that a non-stereotypical kid is trans rather than gay is, in fact, dangerously close to this worldview. (Some might even see a premature decision to change a child’s body from one sex to another as a form of conversion therapy to “fix” his or her gayness)...

The Equality Act also proposes to expand the concept of public accommodations to include “exhibitions, recreation, exercise, amusement, gatherings, or displays”; it bars any religious exceptions invoked under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993; and it bans single-sex facilities like changing, dressing, or locker rooms, if sex is not redefined to include “gender identity.” This could put all single-sex institutions, events, or groups in legal jeopardy. It could deny lesbians their own unique safe space, free from any trace of men...

The core disagreement, it seems to me, is whether a trans woman is right to say that she has always been a woman, was born female, and is indistinguishable from and interchangeable with biological women. That’s the current claim reflected in the Equality Act. But is it true that when Caitlyn Jenner was in the 1976 Olympics men’s decathlon, she was competing as a woman, indistinguishable from any other woman? Contemporary orthodoxy insists that she was indeed competing as a woman, and erases any distinction between a trans woman and a woman. Similarly, public high-school girls track or wrestling teams would have to include female-identifying biological males — even if they keep winning all the trophies, and even if the unfairness is staring you in the face.

Most of us, however, intuitively find this argument hard to swallow entirely. We may accept that Caitlyn Jenner, who came out as a woman in 2015, always understood herself as a woman, and see this psychological conviction as sincere and to be respected. But we also see a difference between someone who lived her life as a man for decades, under the full influence of male chromosomes and testosterone, and who was socially accepted as male and then transitioned … and a woman to whom none of those apply. It is highly doubtful that a non-trans woman could have successfully competed against men in athletics in the Olympic decathlon, no less. Whether you look at this biologically (hormones and genitals matter) or socially (Jenner was not subjected to sexism as a man for most of her life), there is a difference. If there weren’t, would the concept of “trans” even exist?

This is the deeply confusing and incoherent aspect of the entire debate. If you abandon biology in the matter of sex and gender altogether, you may help trans people live fuller, less conflicted lives; but you also undermine the very meaning of homosexuality. If you follow the current ideology of gender as entirely fluid, you actually subvert and undermine core arguments in defense of gay rights. “A gay man loves and desires other men, and a lesbian desires and loves other women,” explains Sky Gilbert, a drag queen. “This defines the existential state of being gay. If there is no such thing as ‘male’ or ‘female,’ the entire self-definition of gay identity, which we have spent generations seeking to validate and protect from bigots, collapses.” Contemporary transgender ideology is not a complement to gay rights; in some ways it is in active opposition to them.

This is the deeply confusing and incoherent aspect of the entire debate. If you abandon biology in the matter of sex and gender altogether, you may help trans people live fuller, less conflicted lives; but you also undermine the very meaning of homosexuality. If you follow the current ideology of gender as entirely fluid, you actually subvert and undermine core arguments in defense of gay rights. “A gay man loves and desires other men, and a lesbian desires and loves other women,” explains Sky Gilbert, a drag queen. “This defines the existential state of being gay. If there is no such thing as ‘male’ or ‘female,’ the entire self-definition of gay identity, which we have spent generations seeking to validate and protect from bigots, collapses.” Contemporary transgender ideology is not a complement to gay rights; in some ways it is in active opposition to them.

And so it is not transphobic for a gay man not to be attracted to a trans man. It is close to definitional"

The Unspoken Homophobia Propelling the Transgender Movement in Children

"As I’ve watched as glowing stories about transgender children have flooded every progressive news outlet over the last few years, every one of them appalls and saddens me. Because the underlying story that the public isn’t privy to is that many of these children would have grown up to be gay, but are instead undergoing a new form of conversion therapy...

Therapy that seeks to help gender dysphoric children grow comfortable in their birth sex (known in the research literature as the “therapeutic approach”) has been conflated with conversion therapy, but this is inaccurate. All of the available research following gender dysphoric children longitudinally shows that the majority desist; they outgrow their feelings of dysphoria by puberty and grow up to be gay in adulthood, not transgender.

Children will say they “are” the opposite sex because that’s the only language they have to express to adults that they want to do things the opposite sex does. Cross-sex behavior has also been shown to be a strong predictor of homosexuality in men. Previous research tells us that even children who are severe in their feelings of dysphoria will desist.

Another phenomenon that points to homophobia as a possible motivation for transitioning is that of rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD), wherein adolescent and college-aged girls suddenly declare to their parents that they want to transition, without any previous signs of being distressed about their birth sex. This desire to transition usually manifests during or after puberty, yet these girls don’t meet any of the diagnostic criteria for gender dysphoria.

A study published last month on ROGD—one that gained widespread media attention for infuriating transgender activists—found that a large proportion of these girls had come out as lesbian or bisexual prior to coming out as transgender.

Why would this be the case? Along with the physical and emotional discomfort that is typical of undergoing puberty, it has become more socially acceptable to be a transgender man than a gay woman. The study’s findings also showed that transitioning increased students’ popularity among their peers and offered greater protection from harassment, because teachers were more concerned about anti-trans bullying than bullying that was anti-gay...

[Families] may be more than happy to go along with facilitating their child’s requests to transition to the opposite sex, so that to the outside world, that child will appear heterosexual—an adolescent boy who is attracted to other boys will appear to be straight if he transitions to female. What’s most disturbing is that these parents will be lauded as open-minded and “on the right side of history,” when in actuality, they are homophobic. In some cases, a child may internalize their families’ anti-gay sentiments, which adds to their desire to transition.

Saying any of these things aloud will get a person branded as transphobic...

Many of my friends have told me how relieved they were to not have grown up in today’s political climate. As children, they similarly voiced unhappiness about their bodies and felt that they identified with the opposite sex, but eventually grew up to feel comfortable living as gay men. They fear they would have decided to transition, because transitioning is now considered a viable, and almost commonplace, way to resolve this.

Transgender activism has successfully piggybacked onto the hard-won victories of the gay rights movement. The public understands that attitudes towards gay people were once abhorrent, and they also understand that many interventions aimed at “changing” gay people were unethical. Most empathic people have consequently been persuaded that being transgender is the same, in this regard, as being gay—that it is something that shouldn’t be questioned and should always be affirmed."

At least conversion therapy doesn't permanently alter your body.

Amazing Vox article:

Transgender kids who transition: it’s no big deal if they change their mind in the future


Systematic review finds only “qualified support” for hormonal treatments for gender dysphoria in youth

"[There] is a dearth of quality data on the physical and psychosocial effects of hormonal treatments on gender dysphoric children, teenagers and young adults. The limited evidence that is available provides “qualified support” for these treatments, the review concludes...

When it comes to children, teens and young adults aged under 25, we simply do not yet know much about the psychosocial effects of pubertal suppressors (including gonadotropin-releasing analogs which suppress the development of secondary sexual characteristics) and further hormonal treatments (both gender-affirming hormones and cross-hormonal treatments, such as anti-androgens, which counter the effects of testosterone, and progestins, which suppress the menses)...

The limited evidence available suggests that these interventions are “relatively safe” in terms of their physical side-effects, although there is no long-term data (including potential adverse effects on fertility). Where short-term side-effects occur, these can include, among others, hot flushes, fatigue, weight gain and, most concerning, changes to bone mass density...

One study found oestrogen led to a degree of breast growth that most of those treated found unsatisfactory. There are some cognitive effects to consider – for instance, after taking puberty suppressing drugs, teenagers born male but seeking to transition to female, subsequently showed poorer performance on tests of executive functioning and mental rotation. Perhaps most concerning – especially given the psychological vulnerability of many teens with gender dysphoria – there is simply no data on the psychosocial effects of these treatments.

This lack of data is in the context of a growing concern among some psychologists and psychiatrists that the affirmative approach may have gone too far. For example, psychologist Dianne Berg, Co-Director of the National Center for Gender Spectrum Health in the US (which advocates an affirmative approach), told The Atlantic recently “Under the motivation to be supportive and to be affirming and to be nonstigmatizing, I think the pendulum has swung so far that now we’re maybe not looking as critically at the issues as we should be.”

One critical issue that has yet to be addressed by research at all, is what the effects are of hormonal treatments on children and teens who later de-transition. As of now, Chew and her team say there are “no known studies to date in which researchers have reported the rates and circumstances under which transgender youth cease their hormonal therapy in an unplanned manner or the risk of subsequent regret.”"

Links - 17th May 2019 (1)

Stripping the name of Laura Ingalls Wilder from a children's literature award causing anger - "When the Association for Library Service to Children, which gives out the “Laura Ingalls Wilder Award” every year, announced that the author’s name would from now on be removed from the prestigious book prize, it touched a nerve.“This decision was made in consideration of the fact that Wilder’s legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values of inclusiveness, integrity, and respect, and responsiveness,” said the organization, which gives the award to authors whose work has made a lasting impact on the world of children’s literature.The honor will now be known as the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series, written in the 1930s, definitely made an impact on generations of readers... The reason the award’s name was changed was that in her 1930s novels, Wilder was said to have referred to Native Americans and African Americans in terms considered offensive or insensitive... The books have been considered hallmarks of American literature for children for decades... One celebrity who spoke out was William Shatner, who said on Twitter: “Did you hear about the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award being renamed over negative lines on the indigenous peoples of America? Laura changed the lines in the 50s. I find it disturbing that some take modern opinion & obliterate the past. Isn’t progress @ learning from our mistakes?”Shatner was then widely attacked on Twitter for expressing his views, and told by some in academia he should “stay in his lane” and his opinions did not matter. The Washington Post wrote that the ALSC decision “makes Wilder the latest target of efforts to purge from the cultural landscape symbols that honor historical figures who owned slaves, espoused racist views, or engaged in racist practices.”"
Bowdlerisation is good when it's for liberal causes
First they came for Cecil Rhodes...

Should Lucasfilm CGI Clothes on Bikini Leia in Return of the Jedi? - "we reported on a court ruling that barred video-on-demand company VidAngel from digitally editing the scenes with Princess Leia's space bikini in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi, as well as taking out "objectionable" material from other movies. Since legally, VidAngel is not allowed to filter out what they deem to be objectionable material, should Lucasfilm and Disney consider going back and sanitizing the scenes from Return of the Jedi themselves?... the bikini Leia is causing some distress amongst the masses who now find it highly objectionable.This iteration of Carrie Fisher's iconic character was once known as Slave Leia. That term has since been retired. Some now refer to this version as The Hutt Slayer. And Lucasfilm has already vowed never to make another piece of merchandise with bikini Leia's likeness on it ever again"

Just Imagine - "Imagine moving to Japan then attacking their traditions and culture and opening their borders to the third world and calling any Japanese who complains a "Japanese supremacist" and promoting censorship laws so their own government will imprison them if they criticize you"

Artists boycott Indigenous Music Awards over cultural appropriation concerns - "Several artists are pulling support for the Indigenous Music Awards over concerns about cultural appropriation of Inuit throat singing.Tanya Tagaq, Kelly Fraser and Iva are among the musicians who posted to social media pledging not to participate in the awards until the organization revises its policies or includes Inuit representation on its board.The throat-singing duo PIQSIQ, comprised of Inuksuk Mackay and Tiffany Ayalik, announced on Twitter Monday they are withdrawing the nomination of "Altering The Timeline" for best electronic music album.The Yellowknife-raised sisters said in an interview their decision was spurred by the IMA's nomination of a non-Inuit artist who performs throat singing, which they view as an "insensitive" appropriation of their culture... Ayalik emphasized that there are vast variations between Indigenous cultures, even in communities as close as 50 kilometres apart, and each deserves to be respected."
Better for the culture to die off than for it to be 'appropriated'

The secret cost of pivoting to video - "The strategy, which came into vogue around May 2016, goes like this, with apologies to a famous South Park episode:
lay off most of your writers, who produce stories fast and cheaply for your own website
produce more video, which is vastly more expensive and time-consuming and which only finds an audience on other platforms, like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube
Publishers who pivoted to video have forfeited the majority of their hard-won native audiences in only a year of churning out undifferentiated, bland chunks of largely aggregated “snackable” video. That’s no one’s idea of success... "the publishers that pivoted to video this summer have seen at least a 60 percent drop in their traffic in August compared to the same period from a year ago"... There are four reasons the pivot to video has failed: faulty metrics for measuring the audience; trusting other platforms, like Facebook, to do the hard work of distribution; low-quality video production and weak technological support for video content; and, ultimately, a failure to effectively turn video views into either higher readership or ad dollars... Facebook is claiming to reach millions more young Americans than actually exist in the US... The video that does work online—and drives the thirst among publishers—is about food, lifestyle, and animals"

Why the left can’t lead the yellow vests - "There is a tendency on the left to denounce any shock to the status quo as driven by reactionary forces. The revolting masses are often written off as fascists.That the yellow vests – a mass, largely working-class movement, defying the government and standing up for its interests – makes many on the left, at best, wary and, at worst, scornful is a damning indictment indeed."

SAS may make entry tests easier for women - "The SAS is reportedly considering changes to its notoriously difficult entry tests to ensure women have a fair chance of making the grade."
Funny, we were told that letting women in wouldn't result in standards dropping

Your Child Is More Resilient Than You Think - "The logic seems to be that some Brown students' belief in the existence of a rape culture in America is based, at least in part, on their own lived experience of sexual assault. If, during the debate, McElroy were to tell them that America is not a rape culture, she could be taken to be saying that their personal experiences are "invalid" as grounds for their assertion.Illustrating concept creep and the expansion of "safety" to include emotional comfort, the student quoted above and some classmates attempted to get McElroy disinvited from the debate in order to protect her peers. That effort failed, but Brown President Christina Paxson announced that she disagreed with McElroy and that at the same time as the debate, the college would hold a competing talk in which students could hear about how America is a rape culture without being confronted by different views.The competing talk didn't entirely solve the problem, however. Because students could still be retraumatized by the presence of McElroy on campus, the person quoted above worked with other Brown students to create a "safe space" where anyone who felt "triggered" could recuperate and get help. The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets, and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members purportedly trained to deal with trauma.The threat wasn't just that painful personal memories might be reactivated; it was also that people's opinions would be challenged. One student who sought out the safe space put it this way: "I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs."... young adults are not candles. They are antifragile, not fragile. Research shows that is true even of victims of violence and those who suffer from PTSD. Studies show that most people report becoming stronger, or better in some way, after suffering through a traumatic experience.That obviously doesn't mean we should stop protecting young people from potential trauma, but it does mean that the culture of safetyism is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of human nature and of the dynamics of trauma and recovery. It is vital that people who have survived violence become habituated to the ordinary cues and reminders that are inevitably woven into the fabric of daily life. Avoiding triggers is a symptom of PTSD, not a treatment for it. Cognitive behavioral therapists treat trauma patients by exposing them to the things they find upsetting—at first in small ways, such as imagining them or looking at pictures. By activating their fears, they help their patients grow accustomed to the stimuli. In fact, the reactivation of anxiety is so important to recovery that some therapists advise their patients to avoid using anti-anxiety medication while undertaking exposure therapy... A culture that allows the concept of "safety" to creep so far that it equates emotional discomfort with physical danger is a culture that encourages people to systematically protect one another from the very experiences they need to have in order to become strong and healthy... The result may be similar to what happened when we tried to keep kids safe from exposure to peanuts: a widespread backfiring effect in which the "cure" turns out to be a primary cause of the disease."

Military Lessons Learned from the Battle of Wakanda - "The world is blessed that Steve Rogers never made it past captain. The Battle of Wakanda in Avengers: Infinity War is a master class in how not to use an infantry battalion"

Look at the phone in your hand – you can thank the state for that | Rutger Bregman - "For years, Moore’s law has been almost single-handedly upheld by a Dutch company – one that made it big thanks to massive subsidisation by the Dutch government... A few years ago the economist Mariana Mazzucato published a fascinating book debunking a whole series of myths about innovation. Her thesis is summed up in the title – The Entrepreneurial State.Radical innovation, Mazzucato reveals, almost always starts with the government. Take the iPhone, the epitome of modern technological progress. Literally every single sliver of technology that makes the iPhone a smartphone instead of a stupidphone – internet, GPS, touchscreen, battery, hard drive, voice recognition – was developed by researchers on the government payroll. Why, then, do nearly all the innovative companies of our times come from the US? The answer is simple. Because it is home to the biggest venture capitalist in the world: the government of the United States of America... True innovation takes at least 10 to 15 years, whereas the longest that private venture capitalists are routinely willing to wait is five years. They don’t join the game until all the riskiest plays have already been made – by governments"
On the libertarian myth that government should just get out of the way, and that it always hurts, not helps

This bicentennial, let's take a more nuanced view of colonialism - "As a political economist, I am used to conducting a comparative institutional analysis, which just means looking at how social, economic and political structures change and evolve across time and place. This leads one to the realisation that colonial experiences differ markedly.One factor explaining the difference would be the varied strategies of rule used by the Western colonial powers. It would be a historical mistake to conflate the colonial experiences of Hong Kong and Singapore, for instance, where the predominantly Chinese population for the most part flourished under the British, with that of the French Indochina, Dutch East Indies and the Belgian Congo, where repression was rife, and atrocities commonplace.This means that in certain circumstances, Western colonisation can leave a positive legacy. In fact, the institutional economists Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, authors of the famous book “Why Nations Fail”, wrote in their journal article "Colonial Origins of Comparative Development" that in areas where disease environments were favourable, Europeans established pro-growth institutions like private property and the rule of law.These eventually contributed to economic success, whereas in other areas, extractive institutions persist, trapping societies in poverty over time.Of course, it also bears remembering that imperialism and colonisation are not solely Western phenomena. Japan colonised Taiwan in 1895, Korea in 1910 and other parts of Asia in the early 20th century. The Ottoman empire, based on Persian, and not Western culture, spanned more than five centuries and covered a large swathe of territories.Once we peer farther back in history, instances of imperial power projected from one society to another are aplenty... former British colonies tend to be more economically successful than other counterparts. The United States of America, once a British colony, has today become a hegemonic imperial power, of sorts... Significant segments of Hong Kong society also expressed fondness for British rule during the 1997 handover. Other former colonies in the Anglosphere include even Jamaica and Botswana, two success stories in a continent that has typically fallen behind... The historian Niall Ferguson put this best: “Without the spread of British rule around the world, it is hard to believe that the structures of liberal capitalism would have been so successfully established in so many different economies around the world.”"
Naturally, he got slammed for saying colonialism wasn't unashamedly bad

Half of foreign nationals in Tokyo experience discrimination, survey shows - "In the survey conducted by the Anti Racism Information Center, a group organized by scholars, activists and university students, 167 of 340 respondents including students said that they have suffered discriminatory treatment such as being told not to talk in a language other than Japanese. Some working as retail shop cashiers said customers asked for Japanese cashiers, according to the face-to-face questionnaire survey conducted in February and March in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo. Among them, a Nepalese man working at a drugstore said one customer told him that they did not like to see foreigners working as cashiers and asked to be served by someone else.A Chinese respondent who works at a convenience store said that a colleague told the respondent not to speak Chinese when the respondent was asked for directions by a Chinese-speaking customer. There were also cases where foreign nationals had apartment rental applications rejected. Some said they were denied entry into stores, but none of the respondents took their cases to the public offices that deal with such issues."
Given that they provide actual examples of discrimination, this is more credible than surveys which just ask people if they think they've been discriminated against.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Links - 16th May 2019 (2)

Why do so many Egyptian statues have broken noses? - "Bleiberg's research is now the basis of the poignant exhibition "Striking Power: Iconoclasm in Ancient Egypt." A selection of objects from the Brooklyn Museum's collection will travel to the Pulitzer Arts Foundation later this month under the co-direction of the latter's associate curator, Stephanie Weissberg. Pairing damaged statues and reliefs dating from the 25th century BC to the 1st century AD with intact counterparts, the show testifies to ancient Egyptian artifacts' political and religious functions -- and the entrenched culture of iconoclasm that led to their mutilation... Without a nose, the statue-spirit ceases to breathe, so that the vandal is effectively "killing" it. To hammer the ears off a statue of a god would make it unable to hear a prayer. In statues intended to show human beings making offerings to gods, the left arm -- most commonly used to make offerings -- is cut off so the statue's function can't be performed (the right hand is often found axed in statues receiving offerings). "In the Pharaonic period, there was a clear understanding of what sculpture was supposed to do," Bleiberg said. Even if a petty tomb robber was mostly interested in stealing the precious objects, he was also concerned that the deceased person might take revenge if his rendered likeness wasn't mutilated... [reusing artefacts as building material] seems especially outrageous to modern viewers, considering our appreciation of Egyptian artifacts as masterful works of fine art, but Bleiberg is quick to point out that "ancient Egyptians didn't have a word for 'art.' They would have referred to these objects as 'equipment.'" When we talk about these artifacts as works of art, he said, we de-contextualize them. Still, these ideas about the power of images are not peculiar to the ancient world, he observed, referring to our own age of questioning cultural patrimony and public monuments"

CNN's portrayal of a "cannibalistic" religious sect in India has exposed the hypocrisy of the Hindu diaspora - "I was not surprised at the outrage from sections of the Hindu-American community (and their self-appointed representatives) following the debut of Believer, a CNN mini-series on the fringe and fascinating religious sects around the world. The show’s inaugural episode was filmed in Varanasi, and half of it is devoted to Iranian-American religious scholar Reza Aslan being immersed with a group of Aghors engaging in various shocking acts, including eating cooked human brains and ingesting faeces... The Hindus most offended by the CNN segment are exemplars of the class who like to portray a homogenous, sanitised and sparkly version of their faith. They either forget or paper over the fact that the Aghors, Naths, and other heterodox tantric sects pay scant regard to the institutionalised hierarchies and lifestyles propagated by bourgeois Hindus, the ones most offended by unconventional approaches to the divine... The NRIs with their knickers in a twist about Aslan’s show somehow never speak out as vociferously against the egregious violations of free speech and human rights in their home country."

Does Reza Aslan's 'Believer' Make Religion Relatable? - "Positing that all religions are essentially the same, as Aslan does, carries another risk: It makes one overly inclined to interpret faith in the light of this thesis. In an upcoming episode, Aslan explores the tension between Israel’s ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews. Adhering to his formula, by the end of the episode, he has discovered an ostensible middle path: the Na Nachs, a group of Hasids who follow the teachings of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov... Having lived among both ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews in Israel, I know that the Na Nachs are a tiny minority who aren’t taken seriously by either camp. At best, they’re amusing; at worst, embarrassing. They’re tolerated because they’re viewed as harmless hippies, not as real agents of change—unlike the mainstream ultra-Orthodox, who are a powerful political force. Onscreen, Aslan’s apparent desire to fit the Na Nach into a preconceived template invests them with false importance, obscuring the truth."

Govt: Amazon, Netflix Could Be Forced to 'Represent Full Diversity of UK'

Emojis join Van Gogh and Picasso at Museum of Modern Art - Los Angeles Times - "Kurita, who now sits on the board of another Japanese telecom, sought inspiration through manga, Chinese characters and street signs. He was buoyed by existing emoticons that email had made popular such as the ubiquitous :) smiley face.The idea was to develop symbols that would make it much easier to communicate than using Japanese in the limited amount of space available on mobile phone screens of the era... In 2013, a group of 800 volunteers translated Moby Dick into emojis."

Report: Emojis Increasingly Being Referenced in Court Cases - "Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman has been tracking references to emojis in court cases since 2004, and discovered over 50 cases in 2018 alone which referenced emojis and emoticons.The emojis and emoticons were referenced in cases as diverse as sexual predation, fraud, trademark disputes, various types of discrimination, and murder.In 2018, a “winky face” emoji was referenced in a case about stalking, while a firearm emoji was referenced in a case about robbery."

Living in Asia Ironically 3 - Posts - ""The lasting impact of white teachers who mispronounce minority student names"
Comments: "What pisses me off is that whoever wrote this thought this was a "minority issue". All throughout school I had teachers mispronounce or misspell my last name. AND I'M FREAKING WHITE!I honestly didn't care and corrected them if needed. If you're so worried about people not knowing what your child's first name is, maybe don't name them "abcde" or "dequanda"."
"Pretty sure in any country in the world a native teacher could have trouble pronouncing a foreign name they never heard being pronounced. Come to Brazil and try to have any teacher in the country correctly pronounce the surname "Laughlin"."
Dani Lynn Roberts: "I've been called diane, Dana, donnie, du-nay, daenie..."
"My friend is from Bosnia, we've taken basically every class together during high school. I've never once seen a teacher pronounce his name correctly."
""Saoirse Óg Ní Súilleabháin liked this"I do remember my Mandarin teacher in school being embarrassed, because he had to ask one of the school's teachers who'd came into the room (idr why, not important) how to pronounce "Siobhan""
Brian Broviak: "Lmfao two people ever have pronounced my last name correctly"
Corey J. Kothenbeutel: "Having your name mispronounced must be awful."
"QQ. Like we never mispronounce each others names"
"because people in Asia always pronounce European names correctly"

Tudung-wearing woman who works at S'pore Google office asked if she works in the canteen
Comments: "Overreaction. Driver won't know things like "stereotypes", "microaggression", etc...he merely tried his best to break ice"
"Why are ppl so easily triggered?WHO'S THE ONE WITH STEREOTYPE ?????A canteen lady is not a lowly job !!!(No jobs are lowly)"
"Why so insecure? I once wore a suit and someone thought I was a waiter. Just let it go. This is a pointless write-up. Everyday someone gets mistaken for something. Do they all write about it? No. They just move on."
"I took cab once to sgh. Driver asked what time my appt. Is chemo painful etc. Just because I say Cancer centre. For goodness sake can't I be working there."
"Wow she felt humiliated... but "nothing wrong working in canteen". If nothing wrong why humiliated? "
"She thinks too much. The driver was just a bad conversationalist. One time I wore white long sleeves shirt boarded a cab to Joo Chiat, the uncle straightaway asked if I was on my way to work in the restaurant. I didn't have to tweet about it."

Want to Change the Way White Women Vote? Move to a Red State and Join an Evangelical Church. - "blame for progressive losses in Texas, Georgia, and Florida were immediately cast upon white women—and not just the white women who actually voted for Republican candidates. If you were paying much attention to social media, you may have gotten the message that white women, even those who voted for Dems, are due for a reckoning. And this rhetoric wasn't just limited to Twitter, a site that runs on instructing women what to do... "What is wrong with white women?... They find “racist sadism gratifying," Donegan wrote. "It is fun for them." Maybe Donegan is right and over half of white women are not much better than the white family in Get Out (at least those people didn't vote for Trump), but her evidence comes more from feminist theory than from actual surveys of white women themselves. She cites feminist philosopher Andrea Dworkin, but not a single Trump-voting woman. While Donegan could, I suppose, have tapped into some secret zeitgeist of racist, sadist white women, there's another explanation that Donegan and other professional scolds have largely failed to consider in their haste to assign blame for Democrataic losses: white women, as I wrote last week, lean conservative. It's possible they voted for Trump simply because he ran as a Republican. This isn't new. White women have gone for Republican presidential candidates for decades, and Trump's 53 percent support was solidly in line with other recent elections... Republican economic policies benefit the wealthy while harming the middle and working classes, including women, but politicians, both on the left and the right, have convinced millions of middle and working class voters that moral issues like abortion and prayer in schools are more important than things like access to healthcare, paid family leave, equitable tax policy, and a functioning social safety net... The idea that those women are going to change their mind because a bunch of faraway progressives are saying it’s their duty as women to join the Resistance seems pretty ludicrous to me, but plenty of people keep trying... it is possible to help other people change their own values. Daryl Davis, a black musician, famously collected the robes of over 200 former Klansman, and he didn’t do it by writing scathing columns in progressive media about white supremacy; he did it by befriending them. That’s how change really works. Homophobic people, for instance, don’t become less homophobic because someone they fundamentally disagree with decides to reason with them. They become less homophobic when their children come out to them.I suspect that most progressive attempts to reform white women are going to have the opposite effect"
If poor people are stupid for voting against their economic interests, rich liberals are too - voting to increase their taxes
Keywords: voting against their interests

Two Enemies Became Friends and Twitter Exploded in Anger - "Bari Weiss and Eve Peyser... have much in common. They are both Jewish women and writers living in New York. They are roughly the same age, and they even sort of look alike. And while there are some deviations in their politics, they are hardly on opposite sides of the political chasm... Their story of coming together is a nice, uplifting piece about how social media platforms make enemies out of people who should be friends and how we could all stand to be just a little more tolerant. As Peyser wrote, if we dismiss everyone we disagree with, where does that leave us? And then Twitter got a hold of the article and twisted a story about finding common ground into something terrible and devious. That two people can disagree on some things and yet manage to be friends was treated as further evidence that both Weiss and Peyser deserve to be shipped off to the closest re-education center. Why? Because the fact that they aren’t diametrically opposed—the fact that they refused to continue to hate each other—was seen as just two privileged white ladies uniting over the one thing they really had in common: white privilege. As Paste Magazine’s Jason Rhode declared, “Bari Weiss and Eve Peyser Cannot See Past Their Own Privilege”... I think the response to this piece isn’t about Weiss or Peyser at all; it’s about the people doing the responding. They are signaling to their own friends and followers that they are a part of the in-group. They are bonding over a shared hatred of two people that few of them have ever actually met. As journalist Mark Heid wrote recently on Medium, a handful of studies now show that “sharing negative attitudes with someone — and, in particular, sharing negative opinions about other people — seems to be among the quickest and most effective ways for two strangers to form a bond. If you want to cozy up to someone, there may be no better way to do it than to gossip about the people you both hate.”"

Cultural Diversity and Saccade Similarities: Culture Does Not Explain Saccade Latency Differences between Chinese and Caucasian Participants - "A central claim of cultural neuroscience is that the culture to which an individual belongs plays a key role in shaping basic cognitive processes and behaviours, including eye movement behaviour. We previously reported a robust difference in saccade behaviour between Chinese and Caucasian participants; Chinese participants are much more likely to execute low latency express saccades, in circumstances in which these are normally discouraged. To assess the extent to which this is the product of culture we compared a group of 70 Chinese overseas students (whose primary cultural exposure was that of mainland China), a group of 45 participants whose parents were Chinese but who themselves were brought up in the UK (whose primary cultural exposure was western European) and a group of 70 Caucasian participants. Results from the Schwartz Value Survey confirmed that the UK-Chinese group were culturally similar to the Caucasian group. However, their patterns of saccade latency were identical to the mainland Chinese group, and different to the Caucasian group. We conclude that at least for the relatively simple reflexive saccade behaviour we have investigated, culture cannot explain the observed differences in behaviour."
The blank slate fails once again - culture/socialisation don't explain everything

Why Muslims can't rise to Senior Positions in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)

From 2011:

"Before dinner officially begins, a punch ceremony is held to concoct a mixture that embodies the SAF"

"This punch ceremony that we have is to mix a few drinks into a concoction, to show the flavor of our SAF. And the service chiefs led by Chief of the Defence Force and the SAF Sergeant Major will do the honors."

"Water, an important part of life, signifies purity and neutrality. Bombay Sapphire gin, the color of the sky and named after a gemstone represents the Air Force, the jewel of the SAF, always ready, capable and above all.

Blue Curacao, the colour of the sea, represents the Navy and conveys importance, confidence, efficiency, authority, stability, and unity.

Campari, a vibrant red, represents the army and symbolizes dynamism, speed and confidence which are the backbone of the army.

Johnnie Walker gold label. A deep golden hue is a mark of power and refinement, and represents excellence in leadership, grandeur, as well as richness in every aspect.

When mixed together, they form a concoction that represents and brings together the many aspects of the SAF."



Perrier Sparkling Mineral Water
Bombay Sapphire Gin (Air Force)
Blue Curacao (Navy)
Campari (Army)
Johnny Walker Gold Label (Leadership)

I find it funny they call this an SAF tradition when this is the inaugural dining in.


"Uhh the ones pouring are your CEOs of ST kinetics, CPF board, Perm Sect of education and minister for education... Interesting..."

Links - 16th May 2019 (1)

Barcelona primary school bans ‘sexist’ Little Red Riding Hood | World | The Times - "A Spanish primary school has banned children from reading Sleeping Beauty or Little Red Riding Hood because they do not contain a balanced “gender perspective”.The classic fairytales are among 200 books that have been withdrawn from the library at the Tàber School in Barcelona because they show women as victims and men as strong protagonists.A gender commission, comprised of parents of the children aged under six at the state school, labelled 30 per cent of books available for that age group “toxic”. They said another 60 per cent of titles had less serious problems."
It's not just an Anglo malady
I'm sure those who protested the gay penguin books in Singapore being removed are cheering this

A Racist Exam Question—or Was It? - "Which of the following gangs generally do the least graffiti?
A. Black. B. Asian. C. Hispanic. D. White...
certainly there must be some statistical answer to Fischer’s exam question. To assume it is racist is to assume the professor is suggesting that the answer to “which gang does the least graffiti” must be white? An assumption that to me seems pretty racist itself. Shouldn’t someone in the media at least try to find that out? Did any reporter even bother to ask him the answer to this question? Nothing in these slight articles, whose details are being recycled by ABC and NBC and the Los Angeles Times, suggests as much... a quick two-second scan of the course description for the class H SC 411B Health Science for Secondary Teachers on the CSULB website reveals that his question may not be so out of context after all:
Contemporary teaching of health education in secondary schools; emphasizes coordinated school health, integrating health content and instruction into other subjects, drugs, sexuality, nutrition, child abuse, violence, community and human ecology. Based upon California Health Framework, meets state credential requirements... The query in question refers ‘to one of the leading causes of death (homicide due to gang violence) among teens,’ Fischer added, saying that the answer is Asian gangs: ‘Asian gangs are less likely to tag/write graffiti as they typically do not claim a geographical territory as some other gangs may.’"
Of course, if the topic is ignored then someone else will be claiming that it's racist that 'minorities' are affected more by gang violence

The Incredible Cloth Womb Of 18th Century Midwife Angélique Marguerite Le Boursier du Coudray - "TO combat high infant mortality rates and teach young mothers about giving birth in the 18th Century, midwife Angélique Marguerite Le Boursier du Coudray (1712-1790) created this fantastic full-size obstetric mannequin, consisting of the lower part of a female body, a newborn doll and anatomical parts. It’s made from leather, cotton and canvas."

Melissa Chen - It's Tax Day and I thought you guys should know:... - "It's Tax Day and I thought you guys should know:
1. H&R Block and the makers of TurboTax spent $6.6 million lobbying last year. They want to ban the IRS from offering its own free, simple tax filing service.
2. Congress is about to pass a law doing exactly that.
Coming from Singapore, I can't tell you how byzantine and backwards the US tax system is"

Untangling the Meereenese Knot, Part I: Who Poisoned the Locusts? - "The Shavepate being the true poisoner might seem like a cool little Easter Egg, but it actually has a great many implications to how we should view the Meereen plotline as a whole. It shows that GRRM wrote the Meereen plotline very subtly and carefully, with intricate schemes underneath. It shows that we should not necessarily trust our POV characters’ impressions about Meereenese politics.It also shows that GRRM can write a character arc that reads one way on the surface, but has a completely different hidden meaning. As I mentioned, most readers cheer Barristan’s actions in these chapters, as the bold and badass moves of a Kingsguard man who’s discovered a surprising aptitude for the game of thrones. He’s often compared favorably to Ned. In reality, the Shavepate appears to be playing him just like Littlefinger played Ned."

/tv/ - What did D&D mean by this? - Television & Film - 4chan - ">""""""""""rape victim""""""""""
>pumped and dumped by several foreign Chad's
>devotes her life to social justice but ends up making things worse and annoying everyone
>extremely entitled
>no kids, becomes a cat (dragon) lady
>career woman
>Finally meets a nice guy but scares him off with her career ambitions
>ends up going crazy and ruining society"

Fantasy and Sci-Fi Rock My World - Posts - "Dani: When my dragons are grown we will take back what was stolen from me. We will lay waste to armies and burn cities to the ground.
Y'all: yas
Dani: I will take what is mine through fire and blood.
Y'all: yas
Dani: *does that*
Y’all *ewww I hope Jon kills her*"

Game of Thrones season 8: Researchers create algorithm to predict who dies - "To make their predictions, the team at TUM used approaches familiar to medicine and life insurance. They mined statistical information about how long people lived, along with biographical data that might correlate to when they die. In real life, that might include information like whether someone is a smoker or how frequently they exercise. But in the world of Game of Thrones, the more relevant information is what house a particular character belongs to, whether they’re married, and who their allies are."

Game of Thrones fan theory corner: Varys is a merman (really)

Some Men Are Pissed That Arya Was The Hero, Because Of Course
The misandry is thick
I love how the mob is turning on Ezra Klein, showing that you either die a liberal or live to see yourself become a bigot - no amount of past virtue signalling will save you once the mob turns on you

Strategic military analysis of the Battle of King’s Landing in Game of Thrones. - "What happened after that battle—the sack and burning of King’s Landing—has been the subject of much morning-after debate. Many ascribe the actions of the leader of Team Dragon, Daenerys Targaryen, to a kind of madness. Yet as we teach at the United States Army War College, political considerations infuse military strategy: Viewing her actions through that lens suggests the destruction of King’s Landing may serve Targaryen purposes"

"Game of Thrones": Don't be shocked by Daenerys — her King's Landing turn was very much earned - "From the very first season, Dany has violently lashed out at those who don't idolize her enough"
I'm surprised Amanda Marcotte isn't using a feminist lens for this

I,Hypocrite - Posts - "i hope she burns kings landing to the ground"
"ten years developing a strong, loving, and kind hearted character just to ruin everything she stood for in one season, daenerys targaryen you truly deserved better"

Candice Aiston on Twitter- "I’m so fucking mad right now. Game of Thrones has been a waste of my life.
Gotta be white guys that ultimately save the day after years of women killing it. Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you.
Women ultimately can’t be trusted. Let me find out the writers are Trump supporters. Or Bernie supporters. Ok.
I’m literally crying right now because a decade of my life has been wasted on a show ultimately guided by the white male viewpoint."

Facebook bans users from saying if they’re a ‘top’ or ‘bottom’ - "The new content policy makes things like saying you’re a ‘top’ or a ‘bottom’ off-limits, in a move the social media behemoth says will combat content that “facilitates, encourages or coordinates sexual encounters between adults” and bars “sexually explicit language that may lead to solicitation.”“Sex positions,” “sexual preference” and any number of other sexy umbrellas pertaining to “sexual hints” are all means for moderator intervention now.Another common phrase you see a lot — “send nudes” — is a no-no, whether its meant as a joke or an actual request. The new rules ban “offering or asking for nude images.”"

The consequences of the differing meanings of gender in policy and activism for politics - "one must not wonder that people not acquainted with social justice activism and gender policy, not to mention with theoretical debates within gender studies cannot make sense of “what gender really is”"

Kelly Wickham Hurst: Worship of Reading Is 'Tenet of White Supremacy' - "An education activist complained Tuesday about the criticism she received after claiming last month that “Worship of the written word is a tenet of white supremacy.”Kelly Wickham Hurst, feminist and executive director of a non-profit organization that advocates for black students, accused critics of misinterpreting a tweet in which she expressed her belief that people who were overly focused on reading and writing were upholding racist ideals."
Abolish English classes!

Southern cooking may be killing African-Americans, study finds - "To some degree, the Southern diet represents the American diet overall — loaded with white flour, sugar, salt and meat. But this study showed big differences between blacks and whites in terms of eating the least-healthy foods.“African-Americans eat not just more of this diet, but a lot more of this diet,” Howard said.And blacks were also less likely to eat healthy foods that lower the risk of heart disease, including vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Obesity plays a role as well, but only for women, the team found. “Black men and white men have the same BMI (body mass index),” Howard said. Black women were more likely to be obese than white women, however, the study found, and for women, obesity was linked with a higher likelihood both of having high blood pressure and of dying young."
Healthy eating is white supremacy

The Hazards of Herbal Cigarettes - "some are considerably more dangerous than normal cigarettes. As the director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Affairs once stated, "There's no such thing as a safe smoke.""Simply being free of additives -- or in the case of herbal cigarettes, free of nicotine -- doesn't make them safer," says Matthew Gold, a staff attorney for the FTC. "Any kind of cigarette you smoke has tar and carbon monoxide, which have very real health hazards associated with them." Gold won a case against Alternative Cigarettes, Inc. that forced the company to display health warnings on its products"

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Links - 15th May 2019 (2)

WeChat is suspending one of its favorite features because people are using it to sell porn - "You type in a message on your phone, place it in a virtual bottle, and throw it to the virtual sea within WeChat, China’s most popular social platform. And then you wait for someone to pick it up and answer you.This is called “drift bottle,” a feature that WeChat came up with during its early years when it needed to attract users. It allowed people to have fun and turn complete strangers into pen pals. Online forums still whisper tales of those that have found true love through drift bottle – and even got married."

Unfair Restaurant Tipping: Research shows it rewards blondes - "Touching the customer
Having blond hair
Drawing a smiley face on the check—but only if you’re a woman
Wearing an ornament in their hair
Crouching next to the table
Wearing red"

Tipless restaurants: The Linkery’s owner explains why abolishing tipping made service better. - "we wanted to distribute the “tip” revenue to our cooks as well as our servers, making our pay more equitable. Servers and cooks typically made similar base wages—and minimum wage was the same for both jobs—but servers kept all the tips, which could often mean they were taking home three times what the cooks made, or more. In California at that time, it was illegal to distribute any tip money to cooks... By replacing tipping with a service charge, we were legally able to redirect about a quarter of that revenue to the kitchen, which reduced the income disparity and helped foster unity on our team... When we switched from tipping to a service charge, our food improved, probably because our cooks were being paid more and didn’t feel taken for granted. In turn, business improved, and within a couple of months, our server team was making more money than it had under the tipped system. The quality of our service also improved. In my observation, however, that wasn’t mainly because the servers were making more money (although that helped, too). Instead, our service improved principally because eliminating tips makes it easier to provide good service... if you don’t have to always think about money, you can focus on doing your job well. Software engineers, marriage counselors, bridge builders, you name the profession—in almost every industry, it’s expected you’ll be able to do your best work if you’re not constantly distracted by compensation issues. Why don’t we want that for restaurant servers?... In any workplace, everyone is required to perform well, and tips have nothing to do with it. The next time you see your doctor, ask her if she wouldn’t do better-quality work if she made minimum wage, with the rest of her income from her patients’ tips. I suspect the answer will be a version of “no."... Studies have shown that tipping is not an effective incentive for performance in servers. It also creates an environment in which people of color, young people, old people, women, and foreigners tend to get worse service than white males. In a tip-based system, nonwhite servers make less than their white peers for equal work. Consider also the power imbalance between tippers, who are typically male, and servers, 70 percent of whom are female, and consider that the restaurant industry generates five times the average number of sexual harassment claims per worker. And that in many instances employers have allegedly misused tip credits, which let owners pay servers less than minimum wage if tipping makes up the difference... people were angry even though they had spent less than they otherwise would have, because they had been robbed of their perceived power over their server."
Somehow tipping works in the rest of the world

No Tipping — Optimism Brewing Company - "Customers don’t like having to tip. Tipping feels awkward and compulsory. Doing math when the bill arrives is a pain. We don’t like having to tip, so why would we make our customers do it?...
Tipping fosters competition between co-workers for the best shifts and sections, instead of cooperation and teamwork."

FAQ — Optimism Brewing Company - "Why all-gender bathrooms?
It is the best use of resources to make all water closets available to all visitors at all times instead of arbitrarily segregating into two sets. (Men generally only use the urinals so any toilet in the mens room was never getting used.)
Individual rooms for everyone is more private and comfortable.
Unisex bathrooms are not discriminatory. Because everyone uses the same room, no one can judge whether someone else is using the correct gender segregated bathroom, and so it is safer for everyone as a result.
It is easier for parents to accompany their opposite gender kids to the restroom when all genders are together.
When everyone is watching, more people will wash their hands afterwards, because no one will want to be perceived as skipping it."

From video game to day job: How ‘SimCity’ inspired a generation of city planners - "It popularized the simulation game genre and turned Maxis — a start-up launched in Orinda, Calif., by Wright and Jeff Braun — into an industry titan. Maxis capitalized on the game's success, publishing “SimAnt,” “SimFarm,” “SimEarth,” “SimTower,” “SimLife,” “SimIsle” and “SimHealth” in its first decade, along with a handful of less popular non-simulation titles.

Camellia on Twitter - "“You’re fake.” Oh, yeah? Wait til you’re over 25 and work in a real job surrounding, filled with adult colleagues. You’re fake 9-5 everyday. We’re not in high school sweetheart. Fake in the adult world mean polite and manners. Tolerance. Considerations. Or you won’t survive."

‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ Fandango Presales Double ‘Black Panther’
Presales aren't always a good indicator

Jack Sim - I was at the National Gallery with Naureen Nayyar. I... - "I was at the National Gallery with Naureen Nayyar. I tried this experiment by putting a pen on the floor.
Soon, we've got audience wondering how this is a piece of Art and they started taking photos of my pen.
After a while, I pick up my pen and the people realised it was not Art."
At the minimalism exhibition

In Singapore, Modern Slavery Happens Every Day. And We are All Responsible. - "Mary is a foreign domestic worker, whose employers abused her by pouring bleach on her hands and slamming her head against the wall. Eventually, Mary couldn’t take the abuse any longer, and jumped out of her employer’s flat window to escape.Abdul is a construction worker, who suffered an accident while on site. Three days after the accident, Abdul’s boss threatened him to admit the accident happened in the office storeroom instead, compelling him to sign “a piece of paper”—supposedly an agreement of some sort to ensure his silence.Iriana is a trafficked sex worker. She only realised what the work she was in Singapore to do was when she witnessed a friend try to communicate with a man on the streets. In her words, she never expected to find herself in a situation where she had to do this “lowest” form of work.Mary, Abdul, and Iriana are the faces of modern-day slavery in Singapore."
This is why I don't take talk of "modern slavery" seriously. Dodgy labour practices are very far from what "slavery" is supposed to mean

How civilizations fall by Kenneth Minogue - "In principle there is not the slightest reason why women should not take on a priestly role, and one might indeed suspect that feminists may be right in diagnosing resistance in part to an unhealthy attitude to women on the part of some of the clergy. In a pastoral role, women might well be better than men, as some women are in politics. The problem is that women priests raise very awkward questions of Christian theology. Jesus selected only male disciples. Was the son of God then merely a creature of his own culture? Here most conspicuously the entry of women changes entirely the conception of the activity and not for the better. Female clergy have done little to reverse the current decline of the church. Indeed while women as individuals have often enhanced what they have joined, the entry of women in general has seldom done much for any area previously dominated by men—except, significantly, bureaucracy.It is the military case that is the most telling. No one doubts the inferiority of women in physical strength and sport. No football team would think of fielding women against a first-class team of men. Yet the governments of Western countries, currently feeling unthreatened by any major military power, are prepared to gamble their security on female warriors. It would not be so serious if female battalions had been formed whose performance in action could over time be tested in real situations without endangering the security of Western countries. But the feminist program is to make the army, like the rest of society, conform to an idea, and the women want to go where the men are, to be fully integrated so that when dirty and unfeminine jobs must be done, there are men to do them... Let us now return to the teasing question of why the male custodians of our civilization sold the pass. Some element of cowardice must certainly be recognized, because the radicals were tribal warriors making ferocious faces and stamping their feet. The defenders were white, male, and middle class, and the radicals had long been engaged in a campaign to erode the morale of each of these abstract categories. They denoted racism, sexism, and elitism respectively. Caricatured in terms of these abstractions, men found it difficult not to be written off as oppressors of women. Again, the defenders were not united. Many had been longstanding advocates of liberal feminism and from confusion believed that radical feminism was merely a rather hysterical version of classical liberalism. Retreat is a notoriously difficult maneuver to control. Each concession could be used to demand further concessions in the name of consistency. Hence the appearance in all English-speaking countries of legislation mandating equal opportunities—and who could possibly be against that? Before long, the movement had taken over the universities, many public bodies, industrial firms and, above all, the media. Quite rapidly, hiring for status-giving jobs requiring degrees had become closely circumscribed by a set of rules. The dogma was that 50 percent of all jobs belonged to women, though the reality of quotas was long denied."

Meme - "Yes, of course I'm pro choice. I've had two abortions myself. I didn't feel like having kids, and I don't regret it at all.
Yes, of course I'm vegan. I do it for the animals.l just don't like the idea of taking an innocent life for our own selfish reasons."

Science Denial Across the Political Divide: Liberals and Conservatives Are Similarly Motivated to Deny Attitude-Inconsistent Science - "We tested whether conservatives and liberals are similarly or differentially likely to deny scientific claims that conflict with their preferred conclusions. Participants were randomly assigned to read about a study with correct results that were either consistent or inconsistent with their attitude about one of several issues (e.g., carbon emissions). Participants were asked to interpret numerical results and decide what the study concluded. After being informed of the correct interpretation, participants rated how much they agreed with, found knowledgeable, and trusted the researchers’ correct interpretation. Both liberals and conservatives engaged in motivated interpretation of study results and denied the correct interpretation of those results when that interpretation conflicted with their attitudes. Our study suggests that the same motivational processes underlie differences in the political priorities of those on the left and the right."
On the myth that only conservatives are anti-science

The Camille Paglia Protests

The Camille Paglia Protests Represent a Dangerous Trend

"When did college students get it into their head that they should be running the university? The distressing trend of students somehow thinking that they’re the teachers began in earnest in the 1960s, a time when at least some of the grievances of campus protesters—from racism and sexism to the possibility of being sent to die in Southeast Asia—made sense.

A more noxious version of this trend, however, is now in full swing, with students demanding a say in the hiring and firing of faculty whose views they merely happen not to like. This is a dangerous development—a triple threat to free speech, to the education of future citizens, and to the value of a college education...

In Vermont, students at Middlebury College have threatened to disband their own student government if the school does not respond to a hodgepodge of demands ranging from greater student presence in the administration to the creation of a black-studies department... students also want a two-year plan to create an LGBTQ center, hire more counselors who are “femme, of color, and/or queer,” and “provide a more robust health service for transitioning people,” proposals that are likely to be especially expensive for a small institution in rural New England.

Meanwhile, a student group at Sarah Lawrence College that calls itself the Diaspora Coalition occupied some of the school’s offices—because of course they did—and demanded that the conservative professor Samuel Abrams, the author of an October New York Times op-ed criticizing diversity-related events at the school, have his tenure reviewed by a “panel of the Diaspora Coalition and at least three faculty members of color.”

This is inimical to the entire premise of tenure and academic freedom, but the students weren’t stopping there. They also demanded that “the College must issue a statement condemning the harm that Abrams has caused to the college community, specifically queer, Black, and female students, whilst apologizing for its refusal to protect marginalized students wounded by his op-ed and the ignorant dialogue that followed.” They demanded that Abrams issue “a public apology to the broader SLC community and cease to target Black people, queer people, and women.”...

This is the kind of demand that sounds like it could have come out of China during the Cultural Revolution—if Maoists had been as obsessed with race and sexuality as they were with class.

This is not activism so much as it is preening would-be totalitarianism...

We have to recognize a shameless dereliction of duty among faculty and administrators. Student activism can be an important part of education, but it is in the nature of students, especially among the young, to take moral differences to their natural extreme, because it is often their first excursion into the territory of an examined and conscious belief system. Faculty, both as interlocutors and mentors, should pull students back from the precipice of moral purity and work with them to acquire the skills and values that not only imbue tolerance, but provide for the rational discussion of opposing, and even hateful, views.

Instead, in the name of respect and relevance, even tenured faculty sometimes quail before the anger of people barely out of high school...

The typical reaction to such events is to “hear” the students and to allow them to stomp on the very traditions of rational inquiry they’re supposed to be learning while in college.

To some extent, unbridled and performative student activism is a disease of affluence. Young people who are working their way through school or who are immersed in difficult subjects have less time, and often less economic flexibility, to engage in protest.

Indeed, students at Brown University noticed the time-consuming nature of changing the world, and in 2016 demanded less schoolwork so that they could devote more effort to their “social-justice responsibilities.” As one anonymous undergraduate told the Brown school newspaper, “There are people breaking down, dropping out of classes, and failing classes because of the activism work they are taking on.”...

As I wrote in a book titled The Death of Expertise, much of this, at institutions both great and humble, proceeds from a shift in the late 20th century to a kind of therapeutic model of education, which prioritizes feelings and happiness over learning. Colleges take the temperature of their students constantly, asking if they feel fulfilled, if they like their courses, and if they have any complaints. Little wonder that the students have made the short and obvious jump to the conclusion that they should be in charge.

Indulgent parenting may play a crucial role here...

Students must be reminded that they petitioned the institution for entry, and not the other way around; they asked the university to allow them to enter into a contract in which the professors are obligated to educate them and they are obligated to fulfill the requirements that will allow those professors to recommend them to the university for graduation.

This last point is especially important. The contract is not just a bill for client services from the university’s dutiful employees. It is a promise by the students to accept instruction, rather than to give it."

‘Unbridled and Performative Student Activism Is a Disease of Affluence’: Camille Paglia Edition

"'I pay way too much tuition (around $34k after aid and that's not including room and board) to attend this university to just sit idly by and allow injustices such as this go unnoticed.'...

It's not hard to see that institutions that did give students broad powers to dictate faculty would see their reputations diminished, which in turn would mean fewer students applying for admission in the first place."

UArts Students Want Camille Paglia Gone

"The fight over Sexual Personae was especially vicious at Connecticut College, where a student suggested adding the book to the institution’s 1992 summer-reading list. Some professors were so outraged that they tried to block its inclusion.

“During meetings with the committee, professors denounced the work as ‘trash’ and compared it to Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’” ...

Claire L. Gaudiani, the president of the college, countered, “It is a bizarre idea to think that by placing a book on a reading list that an academic community is endorsing any book as a community. For those who take offense at the various passages is understandable, but we cannot let that influence the book’s selection.”

Sexual Personae stayed on the list.

The student who originally proposed it commented at the time, “I got angry because I was seeing a great deal of intolerance that I would have sworn a few months ago did not exist at Connecticut College. I fear a little bit for the future of the reading program with people here who might try to stifle the diversity of ideas.”...

'Students interviewed on campus said they were more motivated to read the book because the controversy has provoked so much discussion. “When someone tells you not to read something, I suppose that makes you all the more curious to see what all the fuss is about”...

The president of the student government, Colleen Shanley, added: “Now that I’ve started reading the book, I can’t see why people have been opposed to it. But I feel that it’s when people don’t talk about something that it can become really dangerous. I may not agree with the book’s content, but we should not be removing books from reading lists because don’t agree with them.”'...

Now it is a group of students, rather than professors, who believe it is more dangerous to talk openly about her ideas than to ban them from campus.

Any student, regardless of ideology or personal identity, risks discomfort attending a Paglia lecture, given the pedagogical approach she has described:

'The idea that ‘self-esteem’ should be the purpose of education: this is social-welfare propaganda. Development of our intellect and of our abilities has to be the focus … You build identity. Maybe identity comes through conflict...

So we have got to stop this idea that we must make life “easy” for people in school … No. Maybe the world is harsh and cruel, and maybe the world of intellect is challenging and confrontational and uncomfortable'...

It is rare for student activists to argue that a tenured faculty member at their own institution should be denied a platform. Otherwise, the protest tactics on display at UArts fit with standard practice: Activists begin with social-media callouts; they urge authority figures to impose outcomes that they favor, without regard for overall student opinion; they try to marshal antidiscrimination law to limit freedom of expression. David Bernstein described this process in his 2004 book, You Can’t Say That...

'Around 30 to 40 minutes into Camille’s talk, the fire alarm went off (rumor has it due to it being pulled by a student in protest, though I have no way of confirming this), and Terra building was evacuated. Students who were in class or rehearsal joined those who had been protesting outside of Terra building, chanting: “We believe survivors, trans lives matter.” There were probably around two hundred students chanting this, but I can’t be sure. I only observed one or two students (cisgender “allies”) become even remotely aggressive in their behavior, and by this I mean shouting curse words.'...

'In one class the students were to finish projects that they had been working on for weeks, with focused assistance. The fire alarm took them out of class for over an hour while they stood outside to listen to a group screaming “trans lives matter!” at them. What did this produce? Projects weren’t finished, the class wasn’t finished, the students lost out. I don’t care if they were black, trans AND disabled—I was there to help them learn 100 percent. And I was blocked from doing that, that night.'...

I emailed scores of UArts faculty members to solicit comment. A few were willing to speak on the record. Many more on both sides of the controversy insisted that their comments be kept off the record or anonymous. They feared openly participating in a debate about a major event at their institution––even after their university president put out an uncompromising statement in support of free speech––though none expressed any view that couldn’t be broadcast on NPR.

“I’m a faculty member at UArts,” one wrote. “I received your email and thought it prudent to respond using my personal email address. I very much doubt that the IT dept is currently monitoring email activity. BUT they have the ability AND certainly can look up records without privacy concerns. So this is a bit safer. Especially since if I do speak with you it’d be paramount that I be OFF the record. The university has social media/email policies for their faculty.”...

[The students'] argument—a speaker is responsible for harms that are theoretical, indirect, and so diffuse as to encompass actions of strangers who put themselves on the same side of a controversy —is untenable. Suppressing speech because it might indirectly cause danger depending on how people other than the speaker may react is an authoritarian move. And this approach to speech, applied consistently, would of course impede the actions of the anti-Paglia protesters as well...

The student activists wield a double-edged sword. If Paglia’s comments qualify as “insulting, demeaning, and derogatory towards people on the basis of gender,” so does lots of speech that is very common on the academic left. For example, locutions such as mansplaining, man-spreading, white male rage, male privilege, toxic masculinity, male gaze, manterrupting, and bropropriating would all be subject to challenge under similarly broad readings of the very same passages in the faculty handbook...

Would progressive student activists at UArts favor the expansive interpretation of antidiscrimination language that they are urging if they understood that it would likely result in the suppression of many voices on the identitarian left? Perhaps they anticipate a different outcome: UArts could employ a double standard, allowing academics to freely criticize members of some identity groups but not others, because men are historically privileged while women, gay people, and people of other gender identities are historically marginalized.

But adopting different standards for different identity groups—which would of course never fly in a legal context—would ultimately hurt historically marginalized groups...

Left-identitarianism encourages historically marginalized groups to believe that they are less resilient and less capable than their white, male classmates. They suggest, falsely, that “harm” is the only possible result of listening to controversial (or even offensive) ideas."

It is telling that faculty are so terrified of their students that they are unwilling to go on record as defending free speech and academic freedom (and one won't even reply to the email using his work account).

So much for the campus free speech crisis being a paranoid right wing conspiracy theory.

The author doesn't seem to be aware of jurisdictions where there're legally sanctioned different standards for different identity groups - e.g. in Australia
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