kutsuwamushi: from a Married to the Sea Comic (edumacation)
Via BoingBoing:
"Unlike the "modern math" theorists, who believe that mathematics is a creation of man and thus arbitrary and relative, A Beka Book teaches that the laws of mathematics are a creation of God and thus absolute....A Beka Book provides attractive, legible, and workable traditional mathematics texts that are not burdened with modern theories such as set theory." — ABeka.com
A Beka is a textbook company that services the fundie education market. And they dislike set theory. The BoingBoing post goes into just what it is about set theory that pisses the fundie set off, and it is both interesting and horrifying.
kutsuwamushi: photo of Fever Ray being all goth (serious face)
An interesting blog post about being a Muslim in politics, sparked by Bachmann's most recent attempts to stir up hate.

Huh.

Mar. 14th, 2012 07:39 pm
kutsuwamushi: (Default)
Apparently, Paypal decided to forbid people from using its services to buy or sell dirty books.

Apparently, Paypal has now reversed that decision, for the most part - but will still forbid "obscene" images.

I missed this entirely. That's what I get for not reading my friends list, I suppose.

This wouldn't have affected me much; I don't use Paypal to start with. But in a broader sense, when one company has the ability to basically shut down small internet publishers with a change of policy, that does affect me. Our reliance on private companies for the technology and services that drive the internet means that free speech online is in a weird place.

This is just a couple days after I ran across yet another story of PayPal arbitrarily shutting someone down on Regretsy. Regretsy itself has an interest in this kind of story because of PayPal's shutting their charitable drive down.

Linkspam

Aug. 22nd, 2010 12:42 pm
kutsuwamushi: (korra)
Cleaning out my bookmarks.

Photographs of Kaiping. Most photos in this flickr set are of diaolou, residential towers built by wealthy Chinese who needed protection against bandits--and to show of their status. They're fascinating; many were built in the early part of the 20th century by merchants who had business abroad, and have a lot of Western influences. It's also interesting how the builders took the largely horizontal layout of traditional Chinese dwellings and made it vertical.

Neda Lives An article about another Neda, whose life was thrown into chaos because she had a similar name. Neda Agha-Soltan died, and Neda Soltani was eventually forced to leave the country.

Monkeys hate flying squirrels, report monkey-annoyance experts

Mila's Daydreams. Photographer has baby and lots of time.

Professor Newt's Distorted History Lesson. The medieval history blog, Got Medieval, takes on some of the misrepresentations of history being used to argue against the "ground zero mosque."

Colonialism, Soap, and the Cleansing Metaphor. Sociological images has some old advertisements for soap.

The most isolated man on the planet. His tribe was murdered for their land. Now he lives alone in the jungle, rebuffing all attempts at contact--sometimes violently--by outsiders. He's still a target for land developers, because according to the Brazilian government, the land he lives on is his own. The story is tragic in so many ways.

A Lifetime, Washed Away. A New York Times op ed by a Pakistani reflecting on the incomprehensible destruction there.

Linguistics Challenge Puzzles. Ranging from really easy and suitable for children to pretty difficult. Some of the pages seem to be broken, but most work for me.

Russia in color, a century ago. An amazing Big Picture post of pictures taken in Russia at the turn of the century. The colors are as vibrant as if they were taken yesterday... or maybe in 1980.

A Secret History. A New York Times article on the history of female Islamic scholars.

LOL WUT

Aug. 11th, 2010 05:38 pm
kutsuwamushi: (FAIL)
This quote stunned me with its breathtaking irony. Hipsters of the world, you have been outdone. You may as well put down your PBR, take off your flannel shirts, and declare once and for all that you don't actually like the Decemberists that much, because Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association has beaten you for all time:
Permits should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America ... Because of this subversive ideology, Muslims cannot claim religious freedom protections under the First Amendment. They are currently using First Amendment freedoms to make plans to destroy the First Amendment altogether. There is no such thing as freedom of religion in Islam, and it is sheer and utter folly for Americans to delude themselves into thinking otherwise.
Yes, he's seriously suggested that we destroy the First Amendment in order to protect it. Presumably, so those subversive Muslims can't do it first.

Imagine applying this approach to crime prevention. Worried that that guy at the end of the bar might start a fight with you? Punch yourself in the face! That will totally show him. About to walk through a high crime area? Burn all your money! Does gun violence scare you? SHOOT YOURSELF IN THE FACE!

Brilliant.
kutsuwamushi: (Default)
I hate to be the bearer of late and redundant news, but this is too smile-making to assume you've all seen it already:

PROP 8: UNCONSTITUTIONAL ... for now

We haven't won the war, but winning a battle feels nice, doesn't it? Here is the Metafilter thread on this, which has the most informative discussion about the decision that I've seen yet. It was posted earlier today, before the decision was announced.

New York Times article with a briefer summary of what this probably means.

The Big Picture takes on same-sex marriage. Some beautiful pictures. Ignore the comments.

More links that I've been collecting over the past few weeks days:

Cordoba House, a Muslim community center whose founders' values include rejection of religious extremism, has come under attack; right-wing pundits and politicians are using it in a cynical attempt to capitalize on anti-Muslim sentiment, turning it into the "ground zero mosque." There are so many ways to respond to this: It's not a mosque and not even visible from the site; Muslims are not our enemies and in fact suffered and died on 9/11 as well; there is already a mosque as close to ground zero. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has responded to the outrage in a speech defending freedom of religion.

Those scanners that the TSA promised can't store the "nude" pictures they take of you? Actually, the U.S. Marshals now admit to saving tens of thousands of those pictures.

In 2004 then 19 year old Sara Reedy was raped at gunpoint. Six months later, she was jailed for false complaint. Today, a federal appeals court reinstated her lawsuit against the police detective who orchestrated her arrest. (Another MeFi link)

Probably everyone has already seen this, but here is Rachel Maddow's wonderful take on the difference between a democracy and a constitutional democracy: we don't get to vote on rights.

Iroquois Lacrosse Team was not able to compete in world championship because the British government did not accept their passports.

North Korean football team shamed in six-hour public inquiry over World Cup. The team's coach has apparently been forced to go into construction work.

A motorcyclist has been charged with wiretapping and faces up to sixteen years in jail for videotaping a police stop in which a plainclothes police officer approached him with his gun drawn and yelling.

Big cats on catnip
kutsuwamushi: (FAIL)
Girl, 16, banned from school for wearing hijab in Spain.

She sounds like a remarkably ungrateful brat. Her school only has her best interests at heart. She should be down on her knees thanking them for taking such an interest in her freedom.

How can anyone, especially the beneficiaries of such kindness, fail to recognize that when the government forces women out of school, work, and public life for refusing to change their religious beliefs, they're liberating them from oppression?

The government knows what's best for her. By expelling her from school, the administration is breaking the patriarchal chains that have kept women in Muslim countries uneducated and unable to make their own choices. And they're also showing her classmates as well that these values--equality, freedom--are important.

Why she doesn't understand all this, I have no idea.
kutsuwamushi: photo of Fever Ray being all goth (serious face)
WellPoint routinely targets breast cancer patients: An article on how the largest health insurance company in the country specifically targeted women diagnosed with breast cancer and canceled their policies on the flimsiest pretexts. Here is the story of one woman they targeted:
Losing her policy had serious consequences for Beaton, the retired Texas nurse. In June 2008, she learned that her insurance had been dropped just as she was about to undergo surgery for breast cancer. She had been recently diagnosed and told her cancer was a particularly aggressive type that would require a double mastectomy.

On the Friday before the Monday she was scheduled for surgery, Beaton's insurance company said it would not pay for the operation. It also informed her that it was launching an investigation of her medical history to see if she had misled the company and would sue if it found that to be the case.

Beaton's insurance problems stemmed from a visit to the dermatologist's office just before her breast cancer diagnosis. A word written on her chart was mistakenly determined to be precancerous, she said in testimony last year before the congressional committee. In fact, she was being treated for acne.

Even after her dermatologist told the insurer he indeed had only treated her for acne, her lack of insurance meant Beaton could not schedule her surgery.

Her doctors had told her that even the slightest delay might endanger her life, so Beaton was frantic. She contacted anyone who might be able to help her. As a nurse, she knew which charities and hospitals to plead her case. Still, she got nowhere until her congressman, Republican Representative Joe Barton, successfully took up her cause.

Five months elapsed between the time her surgery was originally scheduled and the time WellPoint agreed to pay for it. During that delay, the cancerous mass in her breast had more than tripled. She had to undergo a radical double mastectomy and her survival rate is a fraction of what it would have been had she been allowed to have the surgery earlier.
Beaton may die for their profit.

Health care reform is supposed to prevent rescission, but it still allows for it in cases of fraud or intentional misrepresentation. But who decides whether it's fraud? And how strict will enforcement be?

This does have personal impact for me. )
kutsuwamushi: photo of Fever Ray being all goth (serious face)
A few months ago, some researchers found that women who ate a lot of breakfast cereal were more likely to give birth to boys. It got brief mention in the media and the blogosphere, and a lot of people questioned how that could be possible.

It turns out that it was a basic methodological error.

The authors had performed 132 tests on the same data set, and by doing so, had increased the odds that they would get at least one strange result. You can read more about it here.

Statistics is a funny thing. And it matters.

DNA's Dirty Little Secret

A man named John Puckett is arrested for a murder committed decades earlier. He has no known connection to the victim apart from the DNA in her mouth, which was discovered to match his after law enforcement did a database search. The jury is told that the chance of a false match is less than one in a million.
Typically, law enforcement and prosecutors rely on FBI estimates for the rarity of a given DNA profile—a figure can be as remote as one in many trillions when investigators have all thirteen markers to work with. In Puckett’s case, where there were only five and a half markers available, the San Francisco crime lab put the figure at one in 1.1 million—still remote enough to erase any reasonable doubt of his guilt. The problem is that, according to most scientists, this statistic is only relevant when DNA material is used to link a crime directly to a suspect identified through eyewitness testimony or other evidence. In cases where a suspect is found by searching through large databases, the chances of accidentally hitting on the wrong person are orders of magnitude higher.
In fact, due to the age of the DNA evidence, and the method used to identify Puckett--searching a database for matches, rather than testing people already connected to the crime--the actual odds of a false match were closer to one in three.

Puckett's lawyers, one of whom has a master's degree in biology and molecular genetics, are barred from arguing this in court; the judge calls it "essentially irrelevant." The jury never hears their corrected statistic, about the high rate of coincidental matches in database searches, or even the fact that Puckett is identified through a cold hit. This is not unusual. Similar things happen in courts across the country.

Puckett is convicted for the murder.

Meanwhile, the agencies in charge of these databases, including the FBI, actively block academics and defense counsel from access to them, making it difficult to research the true odds of matches. The FBI cites privacy concerns, but many researchers believe that their real reason is that investigation might undermine faith in database matches using the FBI's figures.

The article has much more and is worth reading.

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