When you can't live without bananas

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Thursday, May 30, 2019

Links - 30th May 2019 (2)

The untold story of how Malays in the 1800s used Orang Asli as slaves - "In the 1870s, there was a war known as the Perang Sangkil that was fought between the Malay and Orang Asli. “Sangkil” was an Orang Asli term given to those who came from the Indonesian Islands, especially the Rawa and Mandailing, and it is said that it was the Sangkil that attacked and enslaved the Orang Asli.During the conflict, the Orang Asli had to evade enslavement by constantly migrating from one place to another. Those who dared to fight back were mercilessly killed. According to a book based on the Perang Sangkil events, Orang Aslis were frequently sold as slaves or concubines to Malay Pembesars.Surprisingly, the culture of the Malay enslavement of Orang Asli was also observed and recorded by the British officials who were stationed here. Among them was the Perak Resident J.W.W Birch, whose famous assassination was still being taught in our sejarah books... We all learned that J.W.W Birch was killed because he was meddling in the affairs of the Malay Pembesars. Plus, he showed no respect to the Malay customs and traditions, as he even forcefully tried to change them. But at the same time, the slave trade was one of the traditions he was looking to put an end to, a fact that we will not find in our textbooks... CNN released a video detailing the alleged human trafficking syndicate in Libya. In the video, 2 African men were sold for USD400 (about RM1,634) each in a human auction... Slavery has never discriminate against skin colour or ethnicity. Although Europeans are more commonly thought of as the ones doing the enslaving, the truth is they have also been on the receiving end, and had been enslaved by others as well. So instead of shifting the blame, the safekeeping of human rights begins at the individual level"

The Feminist Life Script Has Made Many Women Miserable. Opt Out - "The famous (or infamous) psychologist and advice guru Jordan Peterson hears this all the time from highly intelligent, driven female clients. In their 20s, they think they want the career. But in their 30s, they start to realize that they also really want a family, and that it’s in fact more important to them than abstract notches on some career totem pole. At that point, however, given the vagaries of finding someone and getting across the marriage and then pregnancy finish line, it’s far more difficult for them to make the life they wanted... Peterson argues our society has “lied to women”"

A Message to Young Women from a Career Woman - The Dennis Prager Show - "I was raised by a feminist mother with no father in the home. My mother told me get an education to the maximum level so that you can get out in the world, make a lot of money. And that’s the path I followed. I make adequate money. I don’t make a ton of money. But I do make enough to support my own household.“I want to tell women in their 20s: Do not follow the path that I followed. You are leading yourself to a life of loneliness. All of your friends will be getting married and having children, and you’re working to compete in the world, and what you’re doing is competing with men. Men don’t like competitors. Men want a partner. It took me until my late 40s to realize this.“And by the time you have your own household with all your own bills, you can’t get off that track, because now you’ve got to make the money to pay your bills. It’s hard to find a partner in your late 40s to date because you also start losing self-confidence about your looks, your body. It’s not the same as it was in your 20s. You try to do what you can to make your life fulfilling. I have cats and dogs. But it’s lonely when you see your friends having children, going on vacations, planning the lives of their children, and you don’t do anything at night but come home to your cats and dogs. I don’t want other women to do what I have done.”... you do act like ‘My career is everything. I love working.’ But it’s a lie on the inside for me. It’s unfortunate. I didn’t realize this until it’s too late. I don’t know if it’s too late. I would like to find somebody to go on vacation with."... “I’m stuck now because I go to work every day. I smile like I love it, but it’s very painful to not plan a vacation with someone. It’s painful to not have a Thanksgiving dinner with someone. You sit home alone and you do nothing. I avoid my friends now that have children because I have nothing in common with them.“Somebody asked me the other day, ‘Why did you stay single and never have kids?’ There’s answers: Because I was brainwashed by my mother into this. But it’s hard and it’s shameful to tell people, ‘I don’t know. I ran out of time.’“There’s not a good answer for it except ‘I was programmed to get into the workforce, compete with men and make money.’ Supposedly, that would be a fulfilling life. But I was told that by a feminist mother who was divorced, who hated her husband — my father.“She tried to steer me on what she thought was the right path, but feminism is a lie. That’s what I want women to know. “I didn’t realize this until late in life. I want to tell women: Find someone in your 20s. That’s when you’re still very cute. That’s when you’re still amiable to working out problems with someone. It’s harder in your 50s, when you’ve lived alone, to compromise with someone, to have someone in your home and every little thing about them annoys you because you’re so used to being alone. It’s hard to undo that, so don’t do what I did. Find someone in your 20s.”"

Can salaries and re-election prevent political corruption? An empirical evidence - "First, relatively higher wages do not reduce politicians’ incentives to be corrupt. Second, when politicians want to be re-elected, corruption decreases"

Do higher salaries lower petty corruption? A policy experiment on West Africa’s highways - GOV.UK - "In one of the most ambitious public sector reform experiments in Africa, the Ghana government doubled its police officer salaries in 2010 in part to mitigate petty corruption on its roads, while leaving salaries for other officials unchanged. Neighboring countries in the West African region left their police salaries unchanged. Using unique data on bribes paid from over 2,100 truck trips in West Africa and representing over 45,000 bribe opportunities, we evaluate impacts of higher police salaries on petty corruption using a difference-in-difference method that exploits the exogenous policy experiment. By following bribes paid by the same trucks in different countries as well as to different civil servants in Ghana we identify whether salaries affect the effort to seek bribes, their value and the total amount paid by truckers. Rather than decrease petty corruption, the salary policy significantly increased the police efforts to collect bribes, the value of bribes and the amounts given by truck drivers to policemen in total. Robustness checks show the higher bribe efforts and amounts are stable across alternative specifications."
Higher salaries, more corruption

Motivating Politicians: The Impacts of Monetary Incentives on Quality and Performance - "higher wages increases political competition and improves the quality of legislators, as measured by education, type of previous profession, and political experience in office. In addition to this positive selection, we find that wages also affect politicians' performance, which is consistent with a behavioral response to a higher value of holding office."

Strengthening State Capabilities: The Role of Financial Incentives in the Call to Public Service - "We find that higher wages attract more able applicants as measured by their IQ, personality, and proclivity towards public sector work - i.e., we find no evidence of adverse selection effects on motivation; higher wage offers also increased acceptance rates, implying a labor supply elasticity of around 2 and some degree of monopsony power"

Xi Jinping Thinks China Is World's Only Sovereign State - "Carter, and almost all others who comment on Chinese foreign policy, see Beijing competing for influence in the current international order. That existing order, accepted virtually everywhere, is based on the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, which recognizes the sovereignty of individual states that are supposed to refrain from interfering in each other's internal affairs. Those states now compete and cooperate in a framework, largely developed after World War II, of treaties, conventions, covenants, and norms.Many Chinese policymakers believe they are entitled to dominate others, especially peoples on their periphery. That concept underpinned the imperial tributary system in which states near and far were supposed to acknowledge Chinese rule. Although there is no "cultural DNA" that forces today's communist leaders to view the world as emperors did long ago, the tributary system nonetheless presents, as Stephen Platt of the University of Massachusetts points out, "a tempting model" of "a nostalgic 'half-idealized, half-mythologized past.' "... Xi Jinping has employed tianxia language for more than a decade, but recently his references have become unmistakable. "The Chinese have always held that the world is united and all under heaven are one family," he declared in his 2017 New Year's Message. He recycled tianxia themes in his 2018 New Year's message and hinted at them in his most recent one as well... China's ships had over a long period tailed the USNS Bowditch, an unarmed U.S. Navy reconnaissance vessel. The American crew, who at the time were trying to retrieve the drone, repeatedly radioed the Chinese sailors, who ignored their calls and, within 500 yards of the U.S. craft, went into the water in a small boat to seize it. The Chinese by radio told the Bowditch they were keeping the drone.The site of the seizure, about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay, was so close to the shoreline of the Philippines that it was beyond China's expansive "nine-dash line" claim. There was absolutely no justification for the Chinese navy to grab the drone. The intentional taking of what the Defense Department termed a "sovereign immune vessel" of the United States showed that Beijing thought it was not bound by any rules of conduct.Beijing now thinks it can, with impunity, injure Americans. In the first week of May, the Pentagon said that China, from its base in Djibouti, lasered a C-130 military cargo plane, causing eye injuries to two American pilots."

How to Cheat at Xi Jinping Thought – Foreign Policy - "A study app named 学习强国 (Xuexi Qiangguo) was released by the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on Jan. 1. Since the third character, 强, can be used as either a verb or an adjective, the name can be read either as “Study the Great Country” or “Study Makes the Country Great.” So far, it has racked up more than 17 million downloads in the Huawei App Store and is the number one app in the Apple App Store. This isn’t a spontaneous demonstration of enthusiasm. According to official announcements and documents, employees of the government and state-owned enterprises, particularly party members, have been “encouraged” to download and use the app. Study and quizzes of dogma have always been part of life for China’s party members—but the app puts their dedication on display for everybody to see via publicly available leaderboards... many reportedly asked their kids to help them download and answer questions so they could rank up on the leaderboard. And like leveling guides for video games, there are plenty of popular articles online guiding busy officials on how to earn points most efficiently... Ironically, while the party has criticized the likes of Tencent for making addictive games, it seems perfectly happy putting the dark arts of these so-called freemium products to use for propaganda purposes... The app was developed in collaboration with the Chinese tech giant Alibaba. Besides strict propaganda functionality, this app is decked out with an array of Alibaba-enabled goodies, such as copious cloud storage space and the inclusion of DingTalk, Alibaba’s chat service. For Alibaba, this isn’t just a convenient way to demonstrate its allegiance to the party as it has done several times in the past—co-founder Jack Ma once said in an interview that Alibaba is a state company and he’d turn Alipay over to the state if needed"

South Korea′s struggle with cultural diversity - ""When I asked in Korean, not in English, whether I could get in if I spoke the language, I was told I still wasn't allowed." These are the words of 24-year-old Megan Stuckey talking to The Korea Herald about her recent experience of being denied entry into a bar in Hongdae, a popular multicultural area in the country's capital Seoul.Stuckey told the English language newspaper that she wasn't allowed in because she was a foreigner. In fact, a sign at the entrance read: "Only Koreans are allowed in because our employees cannot communicate in English."Cases like these are, however, not uncommon in South Korea.In 2014, African expatriates in South Korea were denied entry into a pub in Itaewon, an area in Seoul popular amongst young people. A sign outside the establishment at the time read: "We apologize but due to the Ebola virus, we are not accepting Africans at the moment.""

View to a cull: is grey squirrel the ultimate sustainable meat? - "conservationists across the country agree that curbing the grey squirrel population – or eradicating it, as Prince Charles, a trustee for the Red Squirrel Survival Trust, has advocated – is crucial to the survival of the reds... When it comes to grey squirrel, Robert Gooch, the owner of The Wild Meat Company, says he can’t think of a more sustainable product: beyond the culling aspect, grey squirrel requires none of the human intervention and energy consumption that the production of farmed meat does. He has been selling squirrel for 15 years – on the website and in farm shops and local co-ops – and demand has steadily risen."

‘Kill them, kill them, kill them’: the volunteer army plotting to wipe out Britain’s grey squirrels - "Some consider the grey squirrel one of these “alien” invaders imperilling the red. But is its slaughter a futile expression of nativist xenophobia? And is it ever ethical to target one species for destruction, in order to conserve another?... Red squirrels may be defenceless against squirrelpox, but their cuteness has given them a staunch ally: humans... academics are increasingly careful with their language. Instead of bandying about terms such as “alien invaders”, biologists now prefer phrases such as the “McDonaldisation of ecosystems” to describe the damage caused by some non-native species. In effect, writes Peter Coates, a professor of environmental history at Bristol University, they are championing a kind of “tasty” local diversity, rather like those campaigning for regionally specific cheeses or varieties of apple against the bland produce of globalised agribusiness. Shuttleworth used a similar analogy. If we don’t control invasive non-native species, he said, “we will end up with a homogenised world where it’s all seagulls, magpies, crows, bracken, rhododendron and grey squirrels. A bit like high streets – they are all the same.”... For animal lovers horrified by the potential expansion of culls of non-native species, Shuttleworth mounted a more philosophical justification. On Anglesey, he argued, a comprehensive cull ultimately saved more lives than it took; the 6,000 greys culled will be surpassed by the number of reds born in years to come."

Singapore girls are materialistic (and picky)

From 2011:

S’pore girls are materialistic: SMU study

A new research has shown that Singaporean women are "significantly" more materialistic than their American peers. Published earlier this year, the study by Singapore Management University (SMU) psychology professor Norman Li surveyed about 400 psychology students aged between 19 and 21.

The local females polled an average of 3.98, compared to the American women's score of 3.74. The closer the score is to five, the more materialistic one is deemed to be.

Survey findings also named a man's social status as the top criterion for Singaporean women when it comes to looking for a potential spouse, reported The Straits Times. Next on the list is kindness, followed by a lively personality. On the contrary, American women valued kindness the most, followed by looks, then a man's social standing.

While the study did not ask respondents for the reasons behind their answers, Professor Li said he is not surprised by the findings.

"Maybe Singaporean women are just being realistic. Here, you need a lot of money to survive and afford an affluent lifestyle. Maybe they are just being practical," said the 45-year-old American-born Chinese.

Those surveyed were students at SMU and the Northen Illinois University in the United States. They were surveyed on their attitudes towards marriage, children and preferences when it comes to choosing a partner.

"I think it is reasonable," said 22-year-old undergraduate from Nanyang Technological University, Valerie Fong.

"Social status is parallel to money, and having that is like a validation from other people. It makes you feel good because others will approve of you. That and social comparison too, I guess."

"It is not a must but if you happen to chance upon one, why not? If you get a choice, you can certainly place yourself in an environment," she added.

"I guess that's true when you're looking for a husband, financial stability is definitely important," agreed Lydia Chan, 27, sales associate.

"But at the end of the day, money is not going to guarantee you a happy marriage unless you're seeking materialistic gains," she warned.

Other women Yahoo! Singapore spoke to were quick to disagree.

"I'm afraid I'm still old fashioned and traditional, but personality and kindness come first for me," shared Sharon Lim, 23, HR officer.

Said Deborah Tan, 23, an undergraduate, "I don't think the study reflects female students as a whole and it is unfair if it does. I think we have moved past materialism. To me, it does not have any meaning other than superficiality and shallowness which is what girls don't want to be associated with."

Lim Yan Han, 22, also agreed that the results are not representative.

"This is not something new," said the final-year National University of Singapore psychology student. "The findings back up the evolution theory that says men look for attractive women while women look for successful men."

"But what's the use of having a spouse who's a high flyer at work but doesn't communicate with you and instead, cares only about himself or his work?"

Professor Li's research found no major differences when it comes to men's preferences, however. His findings showed that looks remain the most important trait in a spouse for both Singaporean and American men, before kindness and a lively personality.

"Men are wired to go for looks," he explained, adding that a woman's physical attractiveness is a visual cue for fertility. Features such as "soft skin, full-looking lips and colourful cheeks" are not just attractive, but also associated with youth, which indicates a woman's fertility. That is why men tend to go for younger women, he added.

Related from 2015:

Singaporean women more picky than men when it comes to love: Survey, Women

It seems Singapore women are the pickier lot when it comes to dating, according to a survey by mobile dating application, Paktor.

The survey found that many female users are still not as willing to date men who are shorter than them (only 22.6 per cent were agreeable), and more than half would want to date someone who earns more than they do.

Bald or balding men are also a major turn-off for 2 in 3 women polled.

Almost three-quarters of male users, however, were open to dating older, as well as taller women. And most men (92.5 per cent) were fine with dating a woman who earns more than them.

But one thing both genders can agree on is that bad breath and body odour are the biggest turn-offs. For men, the other top turn-offs are materialism (65.5 per cent), high expectations of a partner (44 per cent), and wearing too much makeup (41.7 per cent).

Another finding from the survey is that Singaporeans are not as conservative as is often thought when it comes to dating.

A large majority of male and female Singaporean users were open to the concept of interracial and cross-cultural dating. Slightly more than half of the users surveyed were also open to dating a divorcee, but they are less inclined to date someone who already has kids.

And contrary to what most women might think, men actually do make the effort when it comes to first dates. 9 in 10 men responded that they will research their date's interests and the venue for the date beforehand. They would also proactively offer to send their date home.

Over 2,800 Singapore users participated in the Paktor Singapore Dating Survey, which took place from July to August this year. 51 per cent were women and 49 per cent were men.

(This replicates Lunch Actually's 2009 study)

Links - 30th May 2019 (1)

Religion, ethnicity, coping style, and self-reported self-harm in a diverse non-clinical UK population - "White participants and participants with no religious affiliation were more likely to report repeated incidents of self-harm, mainly scratching and cutting skin. Hindu religion was associated with lower levels of repeated self-harm. Asian males were less likely to report self-harm than both Asian females and other males. Black students were less likely to report cutting and scored highest on Rational coping style"
Maybe religion provides a way of coping with stress

GraphicsPedia - Posts - "Weirdest People Ever Spotted Riding On The Subway"

Meme - "Congratulations to the Man Who Unmatched With Me the Moment I Told Him I Was a Journalist
Keep It Classy Middle America
Also Guess Who's Name I'm Running Through the Court Records Tonight"
Looks like he dodged a bullet

Daniel Jordan - I have a fair bit of conservative friends on... - "Questions raised about Canada’s embrace of female leaders after Notley is turfed from office in Alberta"
"I have a fair bit of conservative friends on Facebook, not a single one of them said anything misogynistic about Notley or alluded to the fact that they think her policies and ability to govern which they did not agree with has to do with her being a woman.What I do see is almost every left leaning person on my feed declaring half the province are women haters, homophobes and racists. And I see all the left leaning MSM playing that narrative. There is a perception gap here big time.

Vegan Feminist Cafe That Imposed 18% “Gender Surcharge” on Men Closes Down - "A vegan feminist cafe in Australia that imposed an 18 per cent “gender surcharge” on men and gave women priority seating has closed down.The Handsome Her cafe, which only opened a few years ago and was located in inner city Melbourne, described itself as “by women, for women”.The venue attracted headlines in 2017 for challenging the “gender pay gap” (which doesn’t exist) by charging men extra.At the time, the cafe’s management claimed the attention left them “jam-packed with customers showing their support”... The cafe attracted numerous negative reviews on Trip Advisor, with one man saying he had to deal with an “aggressive and irate woman” who called him a “vile beast” because he said he was dissatisfied with his meal.Perhaps if the staff had focused on providing a good service for everyone and not discriminating against men, it might have been more profitable."

Faith Politics on the Rise as Indonesian Islam Takes a Hard-Line Path - The New York Times - "Nearly 5,000 miles from the birthplace of Islam, Indonesia, the nation with the world’s largest Muslim population, has been widely seen as proof that Islam and democracy can coexist and prosper... Yet as the Muslim world has wrestled with Islam’s role in modern society, Indonesia, too, has engaged in a national spiritual reckoning. In recent years, the country’s Muslim majority has embraced more overt signs of religiosity and shifted toward Arab-style devotion: flowing clothes and veils, Arabic names and Middle Eastern devotional architecture.Most of all, a puritanical Salafist interpretation of Islam, which draws inspiration from the age of the Prophet Muhammad, is attracting followers in Indonesia. Bureaucrats steeped in austere Wahhabism draw converts in government prayer halls. Hundreds of Indonesians joined the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and hundreds of thousands more cheer for the group on social media. Pushed aside are the syncretic traditions that were long the hallmark of Indonesian Islam, a blending with indigenous beliefs that gave the faith its distinct local flavor. “In Indonesia, Salafi ideology has penetrated urban and rural, civil servants and villagers,” said Din Wahid, a theologian at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University. “They see corruption all around them and say that it is only Shariah and restoring a caliphate that will be able to fix society.”Mr. Joko’s opponent in the election on Wednesday, Prabowo Subianto — the European-educated son of a Christian and a connoisseur of fine wines — may seem an unlikely figurehead for hard-line Islam. But he is an astute politician who has shouted for jihad and vowed to welcome home from self-imposed exile Rizieq Shihab, the head of the Islamic Defenders Front, which gained notoriety for attacking nightclubs in Jakarta, the capital, and calling for Shariah law... “Ahok’s downfall was because of populism, like Trump or Brexit,” said Zuhairi Misrawi, a researcher for Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Islamic social organization, which promotes moderate Islam. “Now, political parties are aiming to get more votes by showing how Islamic they are, and it is changing our Indonesian political identity.”... The flowering of a more conservative Islam in Indonesia accelerated after the overthrow of Suharto in 1998, after more than three decades of corrupt, dictatorial rule... “We were colonized for so long by Christians, so we have an inferiority complex,” he said. “But this is a country with the world’s largest number of Muslims, so we must show our true Islamic nature.”As it has elsewhere in the Muslim world, conservative dress has become more common in Indonesia. Polygamy and child marriage are also on the rise here, as democracy has allowed personal freedoms repressed during the Suharto era to prosper. “Radical groups understand that they can use democracy to their advantage,” said Musdah Mulia, a professor of Islamic political thought at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University. “They say that democracy is bad because it allows infidels to have a vote, but then they manipulate it for themselves.”"
What would Reza Aslan say?

The Perverse Effects of Rent Regulation - The New York Times - "these programs actually make the city much less affordable for those unlucky enough not to live in a rent-regulated apartment, Mayer says. The absurdity of New York City’s housing market has become a standard part of many Econ 101 courses, because it is such a clear example of public policy that achieves the near opposite of its goals. There are, effectively, two rental markets in Manhattan. Roughly half the apartments are under rent regulation, public housing or some other government program. That leaves everyone else to compete for the half with rents determined by the market. Mayer points out that most housing programs tie government support to an apartment unit, not a person. “That is completely nuts,” he says. It creates enormous incentive for people to stay in apartments that no longer fit their needs, because they have had kids or their kids have left or their job has moved farther away. This inertia is a key factor in New York’s housing shortage. One East Village real estate agent told me that only 20 to 30 units are available in the entire area any given month. This might be acceptable if all the rent-controlled and rent-stabilized units were inhabited by the poor people the programs were designed to help and if most poor people lived in rent-regulated units. But according to data from N.Y.U.’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, a majority of people in rent-regulated Manhattan apartments make far above the poverty level... [without rent regulation] the subset of apartments that had been market rate would see their rents fall, because there would be, suddenly, twice as many apartments in the market... this is proof that rent regulation is an incredibly expensive program, preventing billions of dollars of development. It also creates an odd lotterylike system in which those who are lucky enough to have a rent-regulated apartment can live in the best parts of the city for next to nothing and everyone else is shunted aside. Eliminating rent regulation would be such a huge windfall for landlords, Mayer says, that he could imagine a sort of grand bargain. The programs go away, but landlords have to pay higher property taxes. The extra city revenue could go to a fund to help poor people afford market-rate apartments. In theory, this could be designed to make the shift win-win-win. The city could stay socioeconomically diverse without any six-bedroom apartments renting for $225."
On rent control

Cow dung hurled by rival Indian villages to mark ‘war of married gods’ (VIDEO) - "Flying cow dung filled the skies of the Indian village of Kairuppala on Sunday as people hurled dung cakes at each other at the annual ‘Pidakala War’. The ritual is believed to bring health and prosperity.The event takes place the day after the Ugadi festival and sees people from Kairuppala and nearby villages in Andhra Pradesh take part in a symbolic war signifying a mythological Hindu marriage dispute. One side throws cow dung cakes, or pidakala, in the name of Goddess Bhadrakali, and the other side does so in the name of Lord Veerabhadraswarmy. After a winner is called, everyone celebrates the two gods’ wedding."

Exposure to opposing views on social media can increase political polarization - "Social media sites are often blamed for exacerbating political polarization by creating “echo chambers” that prevent people from being exposed to information that contradicts their preexisting beliefs. We conducted a field experiment that offered a large group of Democrats and Republicans financial compensation to follow bots that retweeted messages by elected officials and opinion leaders with opposing political views. Republican participants expressed substantially more conservative views after following a liberal Twitter bot, whereas Democrats’ attitudes became slightly more liberal after following a conservative Twitter bot—although this effect was not statistically significant."

Are Social Media Driving Political Polarization? - "tweets with more emotive and moral words were more likely to be retweeted. All voters responded more to words showing moral outrage, but effects were somewhat stronger for tweets from Republican candidates, and Republicans were more likely to respond to emotional words about patriotism or religion. This work suggests that if politicians want to maximize their impact on Twitter, they need to resort to more moral and emotive vocabulary. This in turn might help explain why encouraging people to follow politicians from the opposing side appears to worsen polarization: Politicians tweet the policy positions that their political base wants to hear, of course—but they do so in moral and emotive language that may create negative reactions from the opposing side... According to Gordon Allport’s “contact hypothesis,” contact between groups lessens prejudice. However, decades of research testing this hypothesis has found some limitations. Although intergroup contact does tend to increase cooperation—and reduce prejudice—the positive effect may depend on important contextual factors, such as the nature of the conflict and whether the groups have equal status or a common goal. As Allport put it, sometimes more contact can lead to more trouble. That appears to be the case on Twitter."

Dietary total fat, fatty acids intake, and risk of cardiovascular disease: a dose-response meta-analysis of cohort studies. - "higher dietary trans fatty acids (TFA) intake was associated with increased risk of CVDs [RR:1.14(1.08-1.21)]. However, no association was observed between total fat, monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), saturated fatty acids (SFA), and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), and risk of CVDs. Subgroup analysis found a cardio-protective effect of PUFA in the studies that has been followed up more than 10 years"

Star Wars Sales Keep Dropping For Disney - "More bad news for Disney as the company makes it known in its latest financial report that sales for Star Wars keep dropping.Disney reports in its First Quarter Earning results for 2019 that the company had lower income in its first fiscal quarter ending December 29, 2018 for their Consumer Products Division due to a decrease in Star Wars and Cars products... Disney's 2018 financial report offered that sales in their Consumer Products Division, which also includes Marvel Comics, made less money compared to previous years, so we see the trend is continuing. Worth a note is that presumably due to their Consumer Products Division not making money, Disney now combines in their financial reports the Consumer Products Division along with their Parks and Experiences Division - which does make money - so unless you take a good look at their financial report, the loss from the Consumer Products Division doesn't seem to be happening as it is offset by the success of the Parks Division. Star Wars consumer product and licensing sales have been dropping consistently for Disney since the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This December does see J.J. Abrams' Episode IX released, so more than likely there will be an uptick in numbers if fans respond favorably... Disney's Consumer Products division is also the only division at Disney to have lost revenue in 2018."
Get woke, go broke

Blogger Cries Over Prospect Of 9-5 Job After Instagram Account Is Deleted - "An Instagram blogger who had 113,000 followers has shared an emotional appeal on YouTube after her profile was deleted.In the video, Jessy Taylor can be seen in floods of tears as she warns people to 'think twice' before reporting her because her Instagram account is how she makes her money, and a 9-5 job is not for her... "I'm nothing without my following, I am nothing without my following."... "I was a fucking prostitute... I don't do that anymore because I make all my money online. I don't want to go back to that life."What some of you guys have to realise is I have no skills, I'm twenty-fucking-thousand dollars in debt from college so I can't even go to college if I wanted to."I used to work at fucking McDonalds before I did YouTube, Instagram, before I had 100,000 followers, before I had everything in my life I was a fucking loser... "I have no job qualifications, I could never work a normal job.""

Singapore among world's top digital economies but ranks worst at meeting psychological needs: Survey - "Asia Pacific reflected a very low psychological need score – which measures the impact of digital technology on health and well-being, as well as quality of life – of 28% compared to the global 38%.This comes even as the region’s respondents continue to embrace digital products and services, with 55% more likely to use an app to hail a taxi compared to last year, versus just 44% globally. 81% of Asia Pacific survey respondents also were more likely to shop online than last year, as opposed to the global 76%. Interestingly, Singapore topped this year’s Index across the indicators of dynamism, trust and inclusion in the digital economy despite being a newcomer. Yet, the city state has the lowest score of all markets surveyed with a psychological need score of only 25%. The next-lowest five scores are all from Asian economies as well."
Or maybe the two are linked

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Links - 28th May 2019 (2)

Singapore minister puts Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande on 'offensive' playlist - "K. Shanmugam, Singapore’s home affairs minister, said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that he gave the list as an illustration of things people may find offensive.“Doesn’t mean that it can all get banned, just because some people find it offensive,” Shanmugam, who is also the law minister, posted.In his speech on Monday, the minister had said the government’s approach had to be guided by common sense. He added either banning everything that is deemed insulting or offensive by anyone, or allowing everything that is insulting or offensive, was not doable.The statement came on a day Singapore submitted wide-ranging fake news legislation in parliament, stoking fears among internet firms and human rights groups that it may give the government too much power and hinder freedom of speech."
Maybe the ministerial statement on "Restricting hate speech to maintain racial and religious harmony in Singapore" should've cited "Islamophobic" material instead, then almost everyone would be happy

Parliament: Two out of three Singaporeans back Government's move to cancel Watain concert - "The Government decided to cancel the permit for Swedish black metal band Watain's concert last month when it got reports that mainstream Christians were very concerned and offended by the band, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said on Monday (April 1).And a survey of Singaporeans by government feedback unit Reach found that two in three supported the move, he noted. Among Christians, 86 per cent were supportive of the move to disallow the concert, the Reach poll found."
The sacred cows reign supreme

Shanmugam reveals more info behind decision to cancel Watain’s performance in S’pore - "Shanmugam said that Watain’s music contains anti-Christian messages that were as bad as anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic messages that were banned.Shanmugam revealed that Christian preachers told him that what Watain are saying is “far worse” than the Danish cartoon about Prophet Muhammad and the Satanic Verses book by Salman Rushdie, and both were banned in Singapore."
Of course, some people claim that insulting Christianity is good because it's "punching up", but you cannot insult Islam

Anti-Trump American history textbook 'blatantly biased,' critics say - "A new Advanced Placement honors American history textbook has not been distributed to students yet but it’s already stirring controversy for being anti-Trump and suggesting his supporters are angry xenophobes... Alex Clark, co-host of The Joe and Alex Show on WNOW in Indianapolis, Ind. tweeted the book was the latest example of “an effort going on in public school to indoctrinate kids with an anti-conservative agenda.”The final section of the book, titled “The Angry Election of 2016,” is highly critical of Trump.“Most thought that Trump was too extreme a candidate to win the nomination, but his extremism, his anti-establishment rhetoric, and, some said, his not-very-hidden racism connected with a significant number of primary voters,” Fraser wrote.Trump voters are described as “mostly older, often rural or suburban, and overwhelmingly white” while the book uses the viewpoint of Clinton voters to describe Trump’s supporters as fearful, backwards, sexist people who supported a mentally ill candidate... The book also bashes police for its handling of the Ferguson riots.In a section titled “Black Lives Matter,” Fraser wrote that after the shooting of Michael Brown, Brown’s “parents were kept away at gunpoint.” He paints a negative view of police while glossing over violent tactics carried out by some rioters... According to his bio, Fraser wrote the book to “help make U.S. History courses more lively, with a focus on the agency of everyday Americans or many different communities, times, and places.”"
“By the People: A History of the United States” - it's clear what sort of people the book is trying to represent

Diversity: A Managerial Ideology - "Elite institutions in business and education eventually defined nondiscrimination and equal opportunity as ‘affirmative action.’ Concretely this meant an expanding set of bureaucratic ‘best practices’ including written nondiscrimination policies, targeted recruitment, targeted financial aid, special managerial training programs, formal grievance and disciplinary procedures, an end to job tests, and performance evaluations. It also created hundreds of thousands of managerial best practitioners. From the early 1970s to the dawn of diversity in the late 1980s, the number of large US firms with a personnel office nearly doubled. The number with an equal opportunity office quadrupled. Those with an affirmative action officer grew five-fold. While the rapid spread of affirmative action policies met a backlash in the late 1970s, this resistance was largely a white middle class revolt. Support never flagged among elites. In fact, most of the country’s largest corporations opposed the Reagan administration’s efforts to dismantle affirmative action practices in the early 1980s... The country’s managerial elite now rarely misses an opportunity to demonstrate commitment to diversity. In California (1996), Houston (1997), Washington state (1998), and Michigan (2006), policies barring consideration of race, ethnicity, and sex in the public sector went to referendum. In each case, the largest corporations in the area – Exxon, Enron, Boeing, Microsoft, General Motors, Ford – were among the strongest opponents... Managers embraced diversity long before any meaningful evidence existed for its positive effects. The first systematic academic study of whether diversity policies even produce diversity, much less profitability, wasn’t published until 2006. Business and educational elites certainly aren’t waiting around for academics to tell them what to do now. Higher education managers are in a similar position. Universities claim the case for diversity is an educational one, an argument their most elite representatives pioneered decades ago. Yet academic debate continues, particularly over the degree to which diversity improves student cognitive skills and tendencies... Evidence suggests white women have in fact benefited more than any other group from corporate diversity initiatives... As an ideology and associated set of practices, diversity is attractive to managers and administrators because it is a particular version of the broader ideology of managerialism."

BuzzFeed - Posts - "We can all agree that Arya Stark is actually a lesbian, right?"
Comments: "Wow yeah this is really stereotyping. I also wear "not clothes" and have a "masculine job" Never knew I was a lesbian. Thanks for letting me know"
"So... then let’s talk about Brienne, but then Yara is stereotypically the same and bisexual. Ellaria Sand looked stereotypically straight but was bisexual. Just shut up, there’s plenty of sexuality representation on the show, and it was nice to see a woman wondering whether something was all she thought it would be after she CONSENSUALLY had sex with someone she’s grown with. Bye."
"So she can’t be a tough, independent woman and be straight?"
"Or...OR, she's thinking about the possible imminent death her and her entire family and friends including Gendry are going to face like any second now and is just in a contemplative mood before what very well be her final battle...and with never having the chance to kill Cercei. But sure BuzzFeed, let's reduce her character by thinking she can't possibly be thinking about anything deeper than maybe being knee deep in pussy."
"absolutely no one:
Buzzfeed : "ArYa Is AcTuaLlY A LeSbIAn""
"Ayyyyy Buzzfeed. This is seriously tone-deaf. What? So she can’t be athletic and wear pants and be straight? Hi. Welcome to Westeros, 1950."
"Maybe she looked that way after because she realized she should’ve spent her last night with Poddrick instead"

Thread by @HPluckrose: "OK,I know I wasn't going to be here but I really need to address the surprise at the "Dogs are a tool of white supremacy" thing. Of course t […]" - "My team and I keep trying to explain this thing we call "applied postmodernism." We call it that because of the way it is built on a Foucauldian understanding of the world that sees it as constructed of systems of power and privilege.People are positioned within these systems by their status in society which is tied to their identity and power works through them at all levels through discourses - ways of talking about things and being in the world. It is hard to spot this because it is so natural to us.Nowhere is this conception of the world stronger than in critical race theory... "The question is not "Did racism take place?" but rather "How did racism manifest in that situation?""So, we start with the conclusion that racism must be present but difficult to see & then we look for it & then we find it. It's very much a form of magical thinking. Reading into things for precisely the kind of significance one wants and then finding one's beliefs justified. This is why we called this approach "grievance studies" because its purpose is to start with a grievance & find cause for it... Did it seem to you that that white cashier served the black customer quickly? She wanted him out of the way coz she's uncomfortable with blackness. Did it seem she took her time checking out his stuff? Evidence that she resents having to serve a black person & does so grudgingly.You could then raise this with her as a way of making her racism visible to her and everyone else. She will need to accept it immediately, apologise & promise to do better. If she denies her racism or says she hadn't even noticed the race of the customer, this is white fragility... I can only read this stuff in short bursts and then I need to think about something else because otherwise it infects my perception of the world & how I see my fellow humans. They stop being individuals & become clusters of identity factors embedded within a power structure"

War Veteran Spends 60 Days On The Streets & Warns: Never Give To The Homeless Again - "One fascinating insight that Ed soon learned was that some homeless people are able to make a lot of money on any given day. In Manchester, one homeless person he met by the name of Mark, mastered the art of making easy money by smooth-talking his way through town... By the end of his 60 days on the streets, Ed couldn’t believe that he had actually put on 11 pounds when everything was said and done. He was overwhelmed by how much food people were willing to give him... everyone around who was also living on the streets was involved in some sort of illegal activity, in some shape or form."
Keywords: Never give money to the homeless, Don't give money to the homeless, Don't give the homeless money, Never give the homeless money

Man accused of bringing gas cans to St. Patrick's Cathedral is college professor, was previously arrested at another cathedral - "The man who allegedly brought gas cans and lighter fluid into St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City has taught philosophy at different colleges in New York and New Jersey, school officials said.Marc Lamparello, 37, was arrested on Wednesday night and was charged with attempted arson and reckless endangerment. He was taken into custody after a security guard at the cathedral on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan spotted him"

How much is academic achievement shaped by genes? - "Children differ widely in how well they do at school. In recent years, researchers have shown that around two-thirds of differences in school achievement can be explained by differences in children’s genes... twins’ educational achievement was remarkably stable: children who do well in primary school also tend to perform well in GCSE exams, which are taken at the end of compulsory education... We found that about 70% of the stability in achievement is explained by genetic factors, while 25% is accounted for by the twins’ shared environment, such as growing up in the same family and attending the same school. The remaining 5% was explained by their non-shared environment, such as different friends or different teachers... It’s reasonable to assume that this substantial influence of genes on the continuity of children’s achievement during their time at school can be explained by intelligence. But we found the influence of genes remained substantial – at 60% – even after accounting for intelligence, which was measured using several verbal and nonverbal tests taken by the twins over the course of childhood and adolescence... we could use DNA tests at birth to identify children at genetic risk for developing reading problems and give them early intervention. As preventive interventions have greater chances of succeeding early in life, a great strength of polygenic scores is that they can predict at birth just as well as later in life, which could be of particular help for those children who are likely to struggle the most."
People claim that SES being correlated with educational outcomes shows that meritocracy is a sham. But that only is true if you think everyone is born equally talented. Indeed, a high correlation actually shows that meritocracy is working
Addendum: This is about the paper: "The stability of educational achievement across school years is largely explained by genetic factors"

A belief in meritocracy is not only false: it’s bad for you - "merit itself is, in large part, the result of luck. Talent and the capacity for determined effort, sometimes called ‘grit’, depend a great deal on one’s genetic endowments and upbringing... There are certainly programmers nearly as skilful as Gates who nonetheless failed to become the richest person on Earth. In competitive contexts, many have merit, but few succeed. What separates the two is luck... believing in meritocracy makes people more selfish, less self-critical and even more prone to acting in discriminatory ways"
Luck is necessary but not sufficient for success
Just because moral luck determines merit doesn't mean that merit doesn't exist
Taking a leaf from diversity rhetoric, it doesn't mean that those who succeed aren't meritorious (just as diversity quotas/boosts doesn't mean those who get in aren't qualified - depending on your belief in diversity rhetoric those who get in through diversity might be as qualified, or just sufficiently qualified). And this can hold if we hold up a softer version of meritocracy - it is not that the best succeed the most, but just that those who succeed are good, and if we are more reflexive about it being an ideal rather than a perfect reality
As with all screeds against meritocracy, this doesn't posit a better alternative. It is indeed the worst way of allocating rewards except for all those other ways that have been tried from time to time

On Why Marxism has been Refuted

Studies in Irrationality: Marxism – Fake Nous

"I’ve been known to cite Marxism as an example of an irrational political belief. This is controversial in intellectual circles (indeed, some will probably be outraged by this post), but that doesn’t prevent it from being clearly true; it just means that certain forms of irrationality are popular in intellectual circles. In fact, I regard Marxism as the paradigm of an irrational political belief; if it’s not irrational, nothing is. The theory has been as soundly refuted as a social theory can be. Sometimes, people ask me to explain why I say this.

Let me start with why I say it’s been soundly refuted.

a. Theoretical developments: Shortly after Marx wrote, his underlying economic theory was rejected by essentially the entire field and superseded by a better theory. Virtually no one who studies the subject (outside of oppressive Marxist regimes) believes the labor theory of value anymore. Without the labor theory of value, there’s no theory of surplus value, no theory of exploitation, and thus the central critique of capitalism fails. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read any standard text on price theory. If you learn modern price theory, you are going to agree with it, and you are going to reject the labor theory as well. It’s that clear.

b. Historical developments: Marxism was tried many times. It was tried in many countries with different cultures, on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. By different people, with different variations on the theory, at different times. Every time it went horribly wrong. Not just once or twice, and not just slightly wrong. In the best cases, it resulted in severe poverty and abuse of power. In the worst, it resulted in the greatest human atrocities in history. In total, between 100 and 150 million people were killed by their own, Marxist governments in the twentieth century. To be a Marxist, as far as I understand what that means, is to believe that, knowing all this, we should try again.

c. Predictability: In case you are tempted to say that Marx couldn’t have anticipated this: yes, he could. It’s hardly difficult to figure out that giving total power to the state might cause some problems – it’s not as if the history of government had been completely clean up til the 20th century, when suddenly, for the first time in history, people with power started to abuse it. Nor is this just some right-wing ideological point. In witness: Mikhail Bakunin was a socialist anarchist who was a contemporary of Marx. Very far to the left. He warned Marx about what was going to happen if Marxists took power – that the dictatorship of the proletariat would become the new class of exploiters and oppressors. This is the most obvious objection that should occur to anyone familiar with human beings, within a minute of hearing about Marx’s views.

Marx dismissed Bakunin’s warnings with a series of personal insults and dogmatic declarations. Actual quotations from Marx’s response to Bakunin: “Schoolboy drivel!” “The ass! This is democratic nonsense, political windbaggery!” (The Marx-Engels Reader, 543-5) But what Bakunin predicted is essentially exactly what happened. I give this example to illustrate that even an extreme leftist could see the biggest problem, even back in the 19th century.

The second most obvious objection to communism is that people are not going to selflessly work for the good of society. That was hardly a new, unanticipatable discovery of the twentieth century. That, again, should be obvious to anyone familiar with human beings, if that person devotes any effort to thinking about what could go wrong. And if a person wants to radically remake society but does not devote any effort to thinking about what could go wrong, that person is irrational.

Bertrand Russell — himself a democratic socialist — had this to say of Marx: “My objections to Marx are of two sorts: one, that he was muddle-headed; and the other, that his thinking was almost entirely inspired by hatred.” ("Why I am Not a Communist" by Betrand Russell) Russell visited Russia in 1920, just a few years after the Bolsheviks took over. Even at that early stage, he concluded that the experiment in communism was a failure. I give this example to illustrate, again, that one didn’t have to be a right-winger to see the problems with Marxism long ago.

Now if someone today, after all that we’ve seen, says, “We should give Marxism another try,” I think that is not a possible rational response to the evidence. A rational person cannot think that.

Yet you can actually run into Marxists in the world I inhabit (the academic world), and they generally seem like normal people, even nice people, besides intelligent and educated – except for their being Marxists. I don’t know what is going on, except that politics deactivates people’s reasoning capacities.

Edit: I forgot to mention also: Pretty much every significant, testable prediction made by Marx turned out to be the exact opposite of what happened. E.g., the middle class was supposed to shrink and disappear, the lower class expand, everyone get poorer, and then capitalism would collapse due to its "contradictions". Instead, the middle class expanded, the lower class shrank, everyone got richer, capitalism expanded, and communism collapsed."

Links - 28th May 2019 (1) (Fake News in Singapore)

on speech: has the government ever spread misinformation in Singapore? - "In the late 1980s, Lee Hsien Loong, then trade and industry minister, was one of the politicians who alleged that a group of people were plotting a Marxist Conspiracy.In 2001, Tharman Shanmugaratnam, then senior minister, said “from what I knew of them [the alleged conspirators], most were social activists but were not out to subvert the system.”Sadly, one of our two leaders has got his facts wrong. Since both statements are still in the public domain, I hope our new, superpower “true-or-false” ministers will soon decide and strike down the lie... One curious clause in the government’s new bill is General Exemption #61. “The Minister may, by order in the Gazette, exempt any person or class of persons from any provision of this Act.”Well, dear reader, you don’t need to guess whom they are going to exempt; they already did so in the last election—none of those mainstream media channels were punished.Likewise, no action was taken against PAP politician Charles Chong, whose printed flyers made a wild, false accusation against the Workers Party ahead of the election. Quite the contrary. After spreading what seems to be fake news, Chong was appointed chair of the government’s fake news committee (yes, you read that right.)"

Online falsehoods bill: Will words in legislation mean whatever S’pore govt chooses them to mean? - "It is clear that any prosecution under Clause 7 of the Act would be judged by the courts, not ministers. Clause 7 makes it a criminal offence, punishable by fines and imprisonment, to communicate harmful falsehoods deliberately.What is less clear-cut is how the state will handle correction and take-down orders under Part 3 of the Act.The Bill seems to permit a minister to keep the courts out of the picture for a substantial period. This is because an appellant must first go through him. Under Clause 17(2), it is only after the minister has turned down the applicant that an appeal can be made to the High Court.And, under Clauses 17(6) and 19(3), the order remains binding while the outcomes of appeals are pending. Choosing to ignore the order while waiting for your appeal to be decided is a crime, for which an individual can be punished, under Clause 15(1), with up to a year in jail and a S$20,000 fine.Significantly, the Bill does not give the minister a deadline for responding to an appeal.A minister trying to suppress articles about a scandal that could hurt his election prospects, for example, could defer decisions on appeals until the controversy has died down, or after the election has passed, making the articles impotent.A large proportion of news has a short shelf life. It is called “current” affairs for a reason.To say that ministers will permit the courts to be the ultimate arbiters of truth in the long term may satisfy the historian, but it is of no comfort to citizens concerned about the here and now... Under Clause 2(2), a statement is deemed false even if only a portion of it is false or misleading. This means that the targeted media could be caught out on a technicality. The minister can order the entire article — even if it is a comment piece — taken down for a single, immaterial factual error... the judge may quite legitimately feel that the government’s action is
(d) grossly disproportionate, since an isolated factual error does not merit a take-down order.
She may also feel that
(e) the minister’s order, all things considered, did not serve the public interest.
The problem is that the Bill specifies (a), (b), and (c) as the “only” three grounds on which she can set aside the order...
The Bill does not provide for an independent, professional regulatory authority. This deviates from international best practice. If you must have the state regulating media, the regulator should be insulated as much as possible from the whims of political leaders."

Pingtjin Thum - Thinking over the passage of Singapore's "fake... - "Thinking over the passage of Singapore's "fake news" bill, the thing which stands out to me is what the government very pointedly did not say. Academics who study disinformation, the media, and security (like Mohan Dutta, Cherian George, and Ian Chong) all warned that the bill would not work or could even make the effects of "fake news" worse. They were ignored or worse, insulted. Three NMPs in good faith proposed amendments which would further trust by the public and confidence in the rule of law. The government's response dismissed these on legal and technical grounds. Pritam Singh cited Operation Spectrum and Png Eng Huat talked about the falsehoods communicated by the government in Punggol East during the last election. These were ignored. Collectively, these show the government's priorities. A government which claims it wants to build trust and tackle the issue of online falsehoods would not ignore the advice and recommendations of people who study that issue for a living, nor ignore the importance of public trust in rule of law and in the government, nor ignore obvious cases of falsehoods that were perpetuated by the government. These collectively reinforce the notion that this is not a law put forward in good faith to tackle online falsehoods, but is designed to further cement PAP control and silence dissent."

Bertha Henson - Got a shock when Vikram Nair said that the court... - "Got a shock when Vikram Nair said that the court would be overwhelmed with 100s of applications from ministers for POFMA if judges had to be first arbiter. Leon Pereria asked if he really expected so many orders to be applied, he tried to rescue by saying something about how numbers could be high during election time. Think he put his foot in his mouth. Actually makes me wonder if the law WILL be so liberally used..."

Fake news law – to protect who exactly? | Bertha Harian - "the process of determining if something is wrong and in need of correcting can be time-consuming. It requires investigation, an acknowledgement of the error and an agreement on a form of words on both sides before a correction sees daylight. It’s a worthwhile process if only to ensure that the mistake does not occur again. Contrast this, however, with the powers given to ministers under the Bill. Any minister can “deem” something that comes under his domain false and order a correction or a take-down. This, we are told, is in the interest of speed, that is, to prevent an untruth from going viral. It’s a process that brooks no argument. You are guilty as charged. Sure you can appeal. To the same minister who made the decision, not a separate or higher body... Nor do I find comforting the oft-heard argument that the courts are really the final arbiter – simply because the judicial process is the last of a lengthy process under this massive legislation. I am not a lawyer, but I don’t think anyone should need a lawyer to understand a True or False question. Nevertheless, I won’t even try to understand the definition of what is a statement of fact... I worry that the fake news legislation will result in sanitised public discussion – or very little discussion – that is always in the G’s favour. Why do I say that? Because OB markers work very well in Singapore. In recent years, they have got tighter if you consider acts taken against various individuals. Perhaps, each action has a specific basis but the cumulative effect is, to use a well-worn word, chilling... Fake news laws will pull them further in simply because people don’t understand where the line is. How can they? So they will self-censor in the interest of self-preservation. Truth to tell, even journalists find it difficult to traverse this territory. The reiteration that the law will not punish opinion isn’t illuminating. If you look at the Ms Lim’s example, she argued that she was merely articulating an opinion or what some people feel. But the PAP was strenuous about wanting her to retract a false statement. Couple the fake news legislation with the debate on hate speech which all happened on the same day and you get people wondering if even the truth/facts will get you into trouble if it is mildly offensive. This is despite the G making clear that no new regulations on hate speech is on the horizon... It doesn’t help that the Bill seems to give the judges limited grounds to overturn a directive either... while we can place our trust in individualities and personalities in charge of the system, we must still ensure that our system is robust enough to withstand not-so-good men and women. The People’s Action Party government acknowledged this when it introduced the elected Presidency in 1988 to counteract a future rogue government. Before it dismisses detractors of this Bill, it should consider that it had its own misgivings about power being in the “wrong” hands some three decades ago. This reservation should still apply today... I suppose there will be more support for the Bill if the G sells it as protecting the vulnerable from fake news about fake rice, medical remedies and what is poisonous or not. That’s the good part about the Bill. Then again, the Protection from Harassment Act was sold at first as a recourse for individuals affected by cyber-stalking – until you see even the Defence Ministry resorting to it – unsuccessfully"

Singapore's anti-fake news bill: a primer - "the PAP labelled Human Rights Watch’s report on freedom of expression in Singapore a “deliberate falsehood”. And during the Select Committee open hearing Edwin Tong claimed that my article was misleading because I had referred to “a sit-down demonstration for a cause”, rather than “a sit‑down demonstration for a cause attracts a large group of sympathisers who voluntarily join the sit‑in. For over a week, the group grows and the demonstrators start to occupy the publicly accessible paths and other open spaces in the central business district. Their presence starts to impede the flow of vehicular and pedestrian traffic and interfere with normal trade or business activities in the area.” So that’s the context in which we have to ponder the PAP government’s definition of “false or misleading”... One of the ways in which this Bill has been pitched is that it “follows in the footsteps of other countries like France and Germany, which have enacted similar legislation.” In France, the anti-fake news law allows political parties and candidates to apply to the courts to get false information removed. (This was massively controversial, by the way.) Germany’s NetzDG (also very controversial) applies to social media platforms, not media or messaging services. It requires social media platforms to remove or block illegal content, i.e. content that is already banned by German laws.In neither of these cases are government ministers given the power to issue takedown orders or correction notices. In the French case, politicians apply to the courts—it’s the courts that rule on whether something gets taken down or not, whereas in Singapore it’s the other way ‘round, where the Minister decides first, and then you can appeal to the court if you are rich enough or brave enough."

Academic Freedom in Singapore and the “Fake News” Law - "In recent years, Singapore’s globally recognised and “world class” universities have done exceptionally well in science and engineering, and less well in the humanities and social sciences. This is not by accident. In the latter, especially when it comes to research about Singapore society, we have much room for improvement... Two issues are particularly noteworthy: one, limited access to information about the population and the government; and two, a conservative university culture partly stemming from academics’ fears of offending the government... Among academics in Singapore, it is an open secret that work is circumscribed by the government’s desires. At conferences and workshops, academics awkwardly and regularly “joke”, tilting their heads to glance over shoulders, about their remarks being heard by “the government”. Students and younger scholars regularly ask if they should avoid certain topics because of “sensitivities”.These anxieties have been generated through multiple levers of governmental power. Government officials maintain close contact with academics and directly communicate their preferences and displeasures. Academics are publicly named and sometimes chastised when perceived as critical of the government; without equal access to mainstream media, our right to respond is curtailed. High-profile examples of public shaming, or the denial of jobs or tenure, send shudders through the community. On many important topics about Singapore, research is directly commissioned by government agencies, and academics must seek permission before releasing findings. The government has influence over the funding sources that academics rely on for research... the way the Bill defines a “false” statement: “a statement is false if it is false or misleading, whether wholly or in part, and whether on its own or in the context in which it appears.”This means that an individual who calls attention to matters where information is incomplete—which might be due to the state guarding data tightly—faces high risks. Fears of being partially incorrect will likely further encourage self-censorship."

COMMENT - Fake news bill: Time for lawyers, MPs to speak - "The 90-minute speech was a lead up to the first reading of the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA), which will grant the government wide-ranging powers to act against what it deems to be fake news... This covers six areas, including national security, public health, public finance, public safety and tranquillity in the friendly relations between Singapore and other countries and the weakening of public confidence in the government.It is the sixth condition that has upset and unsettled many. The proposed law allows any minister, without any oversight and check, to act against those whom they believe are guilty of contravening the law. This is unprecedented in modern Singapore’s legal history. Let us not forget that we are talking about human beings, not some supreme saints, and they are more than capable of erring. Even saints, as shown in the sexual abuse cases in the Vatican, are not really saints... Another troubling aspect of the proposed legislation is the proposal to exempt anyone – yes, anyone – from the ambit of the Bill. It reads: “The Minister may, by order in the Gazette, exempt any person or class of persons from the provision of this Act,’’ This is mystifying at best and highly suspicious at worst. Who could this person/persons be? Why should they be protected? What makes them so special? The government has made a big deal of this by saying it doesn’t have the final say and that an aggrieved person can appeal to the court. But there are a few hurdles to cross. An appeal can be made only after an individual or organisation has gone to the Minister of Law to cancel the order and the Minister has refused to do so.Then there is the headache of legal costs. How many will have the money and the stamina to pursue the case in court?"

Andrew Loh - From The Edge. Do note the last point where any... - "Singapore's 'fake news' bill compared with France's and Germany's"
"From The Edge.
Do note the last point where any member of the public can make a complaint of offensive posts.
In Singapore's proposed fake news law, all the power seems to be given to the ministers, almost exclusively, to decide what is falsehood."

Bertha Henson. - "//Conversely, mistrust in public institutions facilitates the uptake of falsehoods. According to Dr Berzins, a national security expert from Latvia, any gap between the authorities and society is a key vulnerability that can be used as leverage by adversaries. He cautioned that when people lose faith in public institutions, the chances of success for disinformation operations increase significantly. In that regard, public institutions are a central source of information for society. If people lose trust in public institutions, they may turn instead to less reliable alternative sources of information. Other representors echoed the similar view that deliberate online falsehoods thrived on the lack of public trust.//
Agree. Falsehoods fester when public institutions are not FULLY transparent with information. Case in point: ministerial salaries and calculation of bonuses."

Poll: 63% Of Singaporeans Afraid They’ll Get In Trouble For Expressing Political Views - "63% of Singaporeans are concerned that openly expressing political views online could get them into trouble with the authorities. These figures were released by the Reuters Institute in their 2018 Digital News Report... In a survey of 37 countries, Singapore came in 2nd, behind Turkey, when it came to concerns about expressing political views for fear of retaliation from the government... countries like Singapore and Turkey have introduced legislation in recent years curbing free speech and political dissent. Singapore’s Parliament recently passed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (POFMA) which criminalizes the dissemination of fake news online. The law gives the government far-reaching powers to determine what is fake news and who is exempt from the law. Critics have argued that the potential that it could be abused for political purposes is high.In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime has been widely condemned for its imprisonment of hundreds of journalists and human rights activists on trumped up charges of “terrorism” or “insulting the President”."

Lynn Lee - "Just finished going through the draft “fake news” bill. Had to stop a few times to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating. So, under the proposed legislation, the government gets to decide what constitutes a falsehood. It gets to order takedowns, to demand the posting of “correction notices”, to insist that access to certain sites be blocked. Failure to comply can lead to lengthy jail terms and hefty fines. In its press release, the Law Ministry attempts to assure us there’s nothing to worry about - because appeals are allowed and judges get the final say on what is false. But how many people have the time or the means to go to court? Or are brave enough to do so? Folks, the PAP just made itself the arbiter of truth. If this doesn’t frighten you, consider the fact that this is the party that conjured up the falsehood that was the “Marxist Conspiracy”. Innocent people were imprisoned without trial, Singapore’s mainstream media roped in to help propagate lies. This is the government that’s happy to change the meaning of words to suit its own agenda. So, a single person can constitute an “illegal assembly”. An indoor Skype discussion is a “public assembly”. A lone artist walking down the street with a mirror is an illegal “procession”. Taking a photo is the same as holding a protest. Scotch-taping two pieces of paper on a train is “vandalism”. The PAP aren’t satisfied with being able to say whatever shit they like. No. They want to be able to stop us from saying things they don’t like. And just to make sure we know who’s boss, the draft bill gives the Minister the right to exempt any person from any provision of the proposed act. It seems a bit shameless and self-serving. And given that this is likely an election year, entirely too convenient. But apparently, it’s all for our own good. The Law Ministry insists the government isn’t trying to curb free speech. Rather, they’re promoting “healthy and robust public discourse”. They’re protecting “democratic processes and society”. Yeah, and freedom is slavery and weakness is strength. Welcome to 1984, everybody."

Andrew Loh - ""[If] you say the government is made up of idiots no one can sue you because that will be considered an opinion, and you are entitled to that opinion, based on your assessment of government policies."
- K Shanmugam, November 2012.
"Opinions have to be grounded in fact, in truth."
- Heng Swee Keat, May 2019.
So, now after POFMA, can still say gahmen is made up of idiots anot? Must be "grounded in fact, in truth" anot? If not "grounded in fact, in truth", then does it come under fake news law anot?
So confusing lah.
Aiya, better just shut up lah."

Bertha Henson - After the way the POFMA bill was rushed through,... - "Dialogue key to fostering trust between Govt and people: Heng"
"After the way the POFMA bill was rushed through, the deafening silence of PAP MPs to concerns, I am not sure I believe him anymore. That’s my opinion."

When I told a friend in Taiwan that the... - Roy Yi Ling Ngerng - "When I told a friend in Taiwan that the Singapore government has created a new law that would allow the ministers to decide what fake news is, and ask for articles to be taken down, my friend said: this is not a fake news law, this is a censorship law.In effect, the PAP government has created one law to rule them all. This law will now give the PAP ministers a sweeping right to persecute individuals swiftly without having to go through the cumbersome-ness of previous laws... Just before 2014 when everything happened, many Singaporeans were still holding on to the misconception that our CPF retirement funds are not invested in GIC. After May 2014 when everything began, the government finally admitted to the truth. Your CPF is invested in the GIC. This is a fact.Not long ago, Singaporeans still believed the government's claim that HDB public housing flat prices will keep rising. Today, we know flat prices will drop because they only have 99-year leases. This is a fact... When the former Malaysian governing party came out with a fake news law, the citizens overthrew them at the election."

Twitter blocks French government with its own fake news law - "France requires online political campaigns to declare who paid for them, and how much was spent.But now Twitter has rejected a government voter registration campaign.The company could not find a solution to obey the letter of the new law, officials said – and opted to avoid the potential problem altogether... Interior Minister Christophe Castanter also took to the platform to express frustration with the decision. "Twitter's priority should be to fight content that glorifies terrorism. Not campaigns to register on the electoral lists of a democratic republic.""
Maybe they should have carved out an exemption for the government, like they do in Singapore (e.g. PDPA)

Monday, May 27, 2019

Links - 27th May 2019 (2)

Massive And Terrifying ‘God Emperor Trump’ Presides Over Parade In Italy - "A massive likeness of President Donald Trump mashed up with the “God-Emperor” character of the Warhammer 40K video games presided over a parade in Italy over the weekend.The float at the Viareggio Carnevale featured a giant Twitter sword and clawed hand, and was animated to turn and shift as it moved through the procession."

jkoweal on Twitter - "Use Google Analytics to track your OFFLINE marketing campaigns - flyer distribution at events - and track ur marketing efforts. Here's how"

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent Podcast, Marching bands in Myanmar - "When the foreign desk wakes you up shortly before Christmas to tell you there are reports of a tsunami, you just go. So almost robotically, I kiss my sleeping boys on the head and turn to Fitri.... When I became pregnant for the first time, I wanted to do it all by myself. Nannies seemed otherworldly and elitist. I was uncomfortable seeing upper class families in Jakarta, having dinner in glitzy malls, and the nannies often in uniforms, sitting on a different table, sometimes without a meal. But the reality of being a mother hit me like a freight train. Sleep deprived and without any family to help, I was a mess. Get a nanny, I was told, over and over by Indonesian and foreign friends. So finally after some very difficult months, I came to embrace the idea that is universally accepted here - that it takes many women to be a good mother. In Bali, they believe babies are little gods. And across Indonesia, children are overwhelmingly loved. Screaming kids on planes, people feel sorry for them, not annoyed by them. And children running around a cafe are super cute, not brats. And there have been four wonderful patient women who at different times have lived with us and made parenting while reporting in the ring of fire a joy"
Maybe women having it all is really possible only by 'exploiting' other women - so by making such 'exploitation' impossible, it's really women who are being held back (as in the Nordics)

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent Podcast, Where To Next? - "Nearly 600 municipalities across Spain don't have a single resident under the age of 10"

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent Podcast, Losing hope in Venezuela - "It's the simplicity of the sausage. Its lack of fuss or pretension, which explains its enduring position at the heart of German culture. This is after all, a country
which prizes efficiency and values substance over style. When Angela Merkel hosted what was reportedly an emotional farewell dinner for Barack Obama, she served sausage. When recent talks to form a coalition government turned into a hideously convoluted all night marathon, stressed out politicians sustained themselves on sausage. And if you believe the tabloids, the supermodel Heidi Klum, who is planning her third marriage intends to serve her guests sausage. So prized is the humble wurst that it pervades everyday speech. If you want to convey the gravity of the situation you're likely to say *something*. Now it's about the sausage. Conversely, could there be a more cutting way to tell someone that you don't care for them than to employ the phrase *something*. You’re sausage to me. There's even one for Brexit. I've lost count of the times politicians have shrugged, smiled ruefully and told me there will be no extra wurst for Britain. That's any special concessions for the UK ruled out, then. The linguistic formulations are as varied as those of the sausages themselves. A German connoisseur could probably detect their geographical position blindfold just by tasting the local wurst, but even the uninitiated will notice profound differences. Most famously, Germany is horizontally divided by the Weißwurstäquator. The white sausage equator. No one above that imaginary line would consider tucking in to the pale boiled wurst served up in the south. Tradition there dictates that the sausage should be consumed by sucking the meat out the skin. But if you really want your taste buds to dance, head to Berlin and tuck into some currywurst… it’s said that without the British it would never have been invented. In the ruins of post war Berlin, so the story goes, a woman managed to obtain some ingredients including curry powder from a British soldier. *Name* then concocted a recipe so legendary that a blue plaque now commemorates the site of her *something* or snack stall, and this year as the currywurst celebrates its anniversary, the national mint plans to strike a special coin by way of celebration. Times are changing though. The sausage may well be so ubiquitous in Germany that the Volkswagen car factory even produces its own special kind, thick bangers proudly stamped with the letters VW. But official figures show that national appetite for sausage is waning… Germany's own Interior Ministry recently had to issue an apology after serving up pork sausage to delegates at a conference on Islam."

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent Podcast, Powerless in Venezuela - "Michel [Soulès , a gypsy] became mayor here [Berriac] almost by accident... he didn't win thanks to the traveler community, but rather in spite of it. For a start most people in the Cité d’Esperance don't vote and they don't like what he had planned for them. Michel argues they need to integrate with the rest of French society in order to break the cycle of poverty most are trapped in. He's now in demand in other towns with large gypsy communities like Perpignan, to offer advice on how to help break their social isolation. And he's working to close down the housing estate of hope for good and relocate its residents elsewhere... On a weekday afternoon there are plenty of men sitting around in cars smoking, drinking, or driving around aimlessly. We talked to Sylvain, who isn't a traveler himself, but married into a gypsy family. His relatives and their friends have the traveler blood still in them even if they don't move around anymore. He says that means they're culturally resistant to change and regulations. They just don't like anything being imposed from above by the authorities... [Michel]'s caught between the traveler community who accuse him of selling out and the rest of the village blaming gypsies for creating an atmosphere of insecurity"
So much for discrimination being the only reason why gypsies are marginalised

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent Podcast, Orban's EU offensive - "[Hungary’s politicians] have done away with many of the institutional checks and balances associated with Europe's more liberal democracies. 500 of the country's media titles are now controlled by a conglomerate run by cronies of the Prime Minister. The Hungarian parliament has made it a crime for NGOs to offer assistance to migrants. And the government continues to wage a vitriolic campaign against the Hungarian born American billionaire financier George Soros, who has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into civil society organizations in his native land. Ironically a youthful Viktor Orban studied at Oxford thanks to a scholarship funded by Mr. Soros... He may despise the EU in its current form, but he has no intention of leaving. His ambition is much bolder. He wants to remake it in his own image"

BBC Radio 4 - From Our Own Correspondent Podcast, Hospitality in the Caucasus - "The three [Russian] teenage girls then disappeared to Syria. She told me she joined IS to learn Arabic and study the Quran directly as she put it... Victoria only began trying to leave she admitted when she saw IS began to collapse. It was like an apple rotting from within she told me... People were turning on each other, settling scores. It was ugly. In 2017, Victoria and her young daughter were among several dozen women and children flown back from Syria after negotiations by Russian officials. Once home she was handed a suspended prison sentence. So I'll admit I was startled when I asked whether she regretted joining IS and got a long pause. She also refused to condemn the group outright. It's not my place to judge, Victoria insisted. She did concede that killing wasn't right or terror attacks. But she immediately talked of air strikes on IS positions and the killing of civilians in Syria. The conversation was deeply uncomfortable. Ultimately, she wanted out because she was scared for her life and for her daughter. Victoria is being monitored in Dagestan. Violating her curfew would mean prison but there is no reintegration scheme or deradicalization, and even her mother seemed worried. When Victoria told me she’d put her daughter in a headscarf soon, Virat snapped. Oh, no, she won't, she vowed, stroking the fair hair of the three year old. This one will go to college and have every opportunity"

Man who killed Ottawa cyclist avoids jail time - "An Ottawa landscaper who covered his tracks and hid from police after a deadly hit-and-run has been spared jail time by a judge who accepted his explanation that a fear of turning himself in was heightened because he’s a “man of colour” afraid of racist police... The maximum penalty for obstruction of justice is two years in prison, but Ontario Superior Court Justice Catherine Aitken instead sentenced St-Hilaire to 100 hours of community service. In the conditional sentence, delivered Wednesday, the judge also gave St-Hilaire a curfew of 10 p.m. for one year, unless it’s snowing. (She wanted to accommodate his winter snow plow job.)The judge noted that St-Hilaire’s fear of racist police was connected to past traffic stops where he said he’d been treated unfairly.Though the Ottawa police don’t normally comment on rulings, Chief Charles Bordeleau issued a rare statement on Wednesday: “It’s unfortunate that these comments were made putting into question the professionalism of our members during this difficult investigation.”... He tarped the truck that was all over the news, had it repaired and took it to the car wash. He also went into hiding and checked in at a motel out by the airport.Ottawa police detectives worked the case around the clock and had St-Hilaire under surveillance before arresting him nine days after the hit-and-run."

London-born baby with British-resident parents denied UK status - "A baby that was born in the UK to two British-resident parents has been denied the right to live in the country. Human rights lawyers called the decision “shameful” and “potentially unlawful”.Dr Charles Kriel, a US national and special adviser to a parliamentary select committee, was returning to Britain from Florida with his fiancee Katharina Viken and their 15-week-old daughter, Viola Pearl Viken-Kriel when they were stopped by border officials."
Too bad they can't complain about racism

British Woman Living In France Complains About Immigrants—And The Irony Is White Hot - "I live in France in a rural area that voted for Macron. We had no immigrants here at all - but they are moving in now. We recently had our first rape! At a car boot sale we did, we had a family who were so insistent and intimidating..trying to push us to sell at ridiculous prices!
All the people slamming her are psychic and know she's a rapist and is insistent and intimidating

Overweight passenger who forced EVA Air flight attendants to wipe his backside dies in Thailand - "The passenger, who was obese and wheelchair-bound, had forced flight attendants on the Jan 19 flight from Los Angeles to Taipei to assist him when he went to the toilet and to help pull down his underwear. He had threatened to relieve himself on the floor otherwise... The chief attendant reportedly donned three latex gloves for the dastardly task. But she was left traumatised when the man started letting out moans, saying, "deeper, deeper, deeper"."

Helen Bell on Twitter - ""London's Christian community make an important contribution to our city".
I'm a Christian Londoner with family going back 3 centuries but it seems I am now just a "Community" in Sadiq Khan's London."

The "Science" of Islamic Fasting

For a laugh, one could do worse than check out how Muslims try to twist scientific findings to support Islam.

Example of the day:

Japanese Scientist Shows how Body is Cleansed during Fasting. Wins Nobel Prize

This article from allamericanmuslim.com starts off with Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi's 2016 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries of the underlying mechanisms of autophagy (roughly, cellular detox).

While they are correct that fasting stimulates autophagy, they make a huge leap of logic in trying to link examples of Islamic fasting to autophagy. Namely, fasting on Mondays and Thursdays, for six days in the month of Shawwal, The White Days (Ayam Al-Beedh), the Day of Ashura - 10th of Muharram, Arafah - 9th of Dhul-Hijjah and the month of Shaban.

Note that fasting in Islam [Sawm] follows the same rules. Namely, you fast from dawn to dusk - which includes not drinking water.

Now, we can see that it is a stretch to claim that Islamic fasting might trigger autophagy, because I have never found any scientific sources which say that dehydration is good for health (indeed, non-religious fasting advice is that you should drink water).

Furthermore, the Muslim fasting window for Singapore for today, 27th May 2019, is 13 hours 27 minutes.

Yet, assuming I eat dinner at 7pm and breakfast at 7am and eat nothing else in between, that's already a 12 hour fast.

Clearly, a longer fasting period is required to trigger autophagy (or the other touted benefits of fasting, or intermittent fasting).

This is why most fasting regimens seem to start at 16 hours (I couldn't find popular fasting recommendations for periods under 16 hours; the closest I found was a recommendation that women fast for 14-15 hours under the Leangains protocol).

Back to Islamic fasting, on Monday 27th May the fasting period in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia is 15 hours and 1 minute. While this might seem to fit in with health-related fasting proposals, bear in mind that the Islamic calendar does not follow the sun (which is why the date of Ramadan keeps changing).

So on the Winter Solstice of 22nd December this year (i.e. the shortest day of the year), a Muslim in Riyadh would be fasting for about 12 hours only (assuming the start time of the fast remains the same as today - 1.5 hours before sunrise). And even on the Summer Solstice of 21st June (the longest day of the year), the fast would only be for about 15 hours and 10 minutes.

Clearly, Islamic fasting, even in the context of Islam's birthplace, does not meet the requirements for health-related fasting for most of the year, and possibly all of it.
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