August 2007

Porn, Poverty and unpaid energy bills

by Limbic on August 28, 2007

Many Serbs cannot pay their energy bills. This has been highlighted again by report in the media of massive backlogs in electricity payments. Serbs owe over EUR 187mn to the electricity companies, and many have no hope of paying their debts.

The desperation of may Serbs vis-a-vis energy is underlined in Mladen Djordjevic’s documentary about the Serbian porn industry, “Made in Serbia“, in which a Serbian porn actress explains she does it to “pay for firewood”.

In parts of Serbia life is very much about survival. These people are the victims of the economic suppression of the country and they will benefit most from its economic liberation.

The sooner gangsterism and corruption are seen as the national security and national pride issues, the better. Next time you read about some grafting politician or you demand your own “3 to 5%”, remember you are large part of the reason Serbian girls are driven to porn and grannies freeze to death in the provinces.

B92 – News – Economy – EUR 187mn in unpaid energy bills discusses “Made In Serbia”


Debunking third-world myths

by Limbic on August 28, 2007

This is a superb lecture by Hans Rosling a statistics lecturer showing the improvements in the world using his Gapminder website.

This is a MUST SEE lecture.


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When Shyness Turns Deadly – TIME

by Limbic on August 22, 2007


“Analyzing eight school shootings over the past decade, psychologist Bernardo Carducci and his team at Indiana University found that the young shooters in these incidents shared nearly all of 29 personality and behavior characteristics that Carducci categorizes as cynical shyness. This form, says Carducci, who directs the Shyness Research Institute, differs from normal shyness in that sufferers disconnect with others when their efforts at socialization are rebuffed. “These are people who want to be with others but who are rejected in a very harsh way,” he says. While normally shy people would continue to try, and eventually succeed, in connecting with others, cynically shy individuals internalize the rejection and alienate themselves. “As they develop a sense of disconnect, they move away from people, and as they move away from people, that makes it easier for them to hurt them. These people are becoming a cult of one,” he says.”

When Shyness Turns Deadly – TIME

[Via Abelard]


Lobes of Steel

by Limbic on August 20, 2007

From the New York Times:

The Morris water maze is the rodent equivalent of an I.Q. test: mice are placed in a tank filled with water dyed an opaque color. Beneath a small area of the surface is a platform, which the mice can’t see…those that blunder upon the platform climb onto it immediately.

Scientists have long agreed that a mouse’s spatial memory can be inferred by how quickly the animal finds its way in subsequent dunkings. A “smart”

mouse remembers the platform and swims right to it. …The difference between the smart mice and those that floundered? Exercise.

…Scientists have suspected for decades that exercise, particularly regular aerobic exercise, can affect the brain. But they could only speculate as to how. Now an expanding body of research shows that exercise can improve the performance of the brain by boosting memory and cognitive processing speed. Exercise can, in fact, create a stronger, faster brain.

Lobes of Steel – New York Times


Sao Paolo: A city Without Ads

by Limbic on August 20, 2007

From Ad Buster via Bruce Sterling, come this fascinating news. Sao Paolo has been completely ad busted.

As the driving force behind the measure, mayor Kassab quelled the rebellion from the advertising industry with the help of key allies amongst the city’s elite. On many occasions, Kassab made the point that he has nothing against advertising in and of itself, but rather with its excess. He explained,

The Clean City Law came from a necessity to combat pollution . . . pollution of water, sound, air, and the visual. We decided that we should start combating pollution with the most conspicuous sector ‘visual pollution’

Since then, billboards, outdoor video screens and ads on buses have been eliminated at breakneck speed. Even pamphleteering in public spaces has been made illegal, and strict new regulations have drastically reduced the allowable size of storefront signage. Nearly $8 million in fines were issued to cleanse Sao Paulo of the blight on its landscape.

…Although legal challenges from businesses have left a handful of billboards standing, the city, now stripped of its 15,000 billboards, resembles a battlefield strewn with blank marquees, partially torn-down frames and hastily painted-over storefront facades. While it‚Äôs unclear whether this cleanup can be replicated in other cities around the world, it has so far been a success in S√£o Paulo: surveys indicate that the measure is extremely popular with the city‚Äôs residents, with more than 70 percent approval.

Though materialism and consumerism, along with gang violence will continue to pollute the city of S√£o Paulo, these human dramas may at least begin to unfold against a more pleasant visual backdrop.

In 2007, the world’s fourth-largest metropolis and Brazil’s most important city, Sao Paulo, became the first city outside of the communist world to put into effect a radical, near-complete ban on outdoor advertising. Known on one hand for being the country’s slick commercial capital and on the other for its extreme gang violence and crushing poverty, Sao Paulo’s ‘Lei Cidade Limpa” or Clean City Law was an unexpected success, owing largely to the singular determination of the city’s conservative mayor, Gilberto Kassab.

Later in the same article On The Media’s Bob Garfield interviewed Vinicius Galvao, a reporter for Folha de Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest newspaper, about Saoo Paulo’s ban on visual pollution.

Bob Garfield: I’ve seen photos of the city, and it’s amazing to see this sprawling metropolis completely devoid of signage, completely devoid of logos and bright lights and so forth. What did Sao Paulo look like up until the ban took place?

Vinicius Galvao: Sao Paulo’s a very vertical city. That makes it very frenetic. You couldn’t even realize the architecture of the old buildings, because all the buildings, all the houses were just covered with billboards and logos and propaganda. And there was no criteria.

And now it’s amazing. They uncovered a lot of problems the city had that we never realized. For example, there are some favelas, which are the shantytowns. I wrote a big story in my newspaper today that in a lot of parts of the city we never realized there was a big shantytown. People were shocked because they never saw that before, just because there were a lot of billboards covering the area.

BG: No writer could have [laughing] come up with a more vivid metaphor. What else has been discovered as the scales have fallen off of the city‚ it’s eyes?

VG: Sau Paulo‚ is just like New York. It’s a very international city..


Blind Spots – American Scientist Online

by Limbic on August 19, 2007


William B Swann, Jr reviews “Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts” Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. xii + 292 pp. Harcourt, 2007. $25.

There are at least two kinds of deceptive statements. The more common and familiar type (“I did not have sexual relations with that woman”) is made willfully, with the goal of misleading listeners into believing something that the deceiver knows to be untrue. The second sort (“They’re trying to say ‘Did you make a mistake going into Iraq?’ And the answer is ‘Absolutely not.'”) is made when the speaker has persuaded himself that something false is actually true. In Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me), authors Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson focus on this latter category, which involves self-deception. The authors make a compelling case that self-justifications of this sort are especially pernicious, because they allow the person making them to feel better while remaining unaware of what is happening. Thus emboldened, he or she will not only fail to take corrective action but will be prone to make additional mistakes, be untruthful about them and so on. Even if this individual is not the leader of the free world, the results can be catastrophic. MORE

American Scientist Online – Blind Spots


Stirring up racial hatred – not the medium

by Limbic on August 19, 2007

Generally I try and stay away from stories moaning about Islamists western governments and institutions operating an appeasement strategy. It is old news and we know the problem well and there are many people doing a fine job of highlighting the maddness.

One story, however, caught my attention recently. It involved an episode of Dispatches on Channel 4 several moths ago where cameras were sneaked into mosques and various imams were recorded openly promulgating the most vile bigotry, racism and general hate speech.

There was an outcry and thousands of people demanded an enquiry, which was launched the the West Midlands Police. The results of that enquiry was not at all what was expected. Instead of the imams being arrested and deported, the documentary makers came under scrutiny. That’s right, the journalists who exposed the imams were themselves investigate for – get this – stirring up racial hatred! It is a frightening story about just how far the appeasement and denial of reality has gone.

From The Daily Telegraph:

There are lots of stories running at the moment about how television makes things up to suit its purposes. It was into this pattern that prominent press reports on Thursday appeared to fit. The reports said that the Crown Prosecution Service and the West Midlands police had decided that a programme called Undercover Mosque, made for Dispatches on Channel 4, had “completely distorted” the remarks of Muslim preachers featured in the programme. The CPS and the police announced that they were making a complaint about the programme to the television regulator, Ofcom.

Few seemed to notice what a strange story this was. Why is it the business of the CPS or the police to make complaints, which are nothing to do with the law, about what appears on television? Aren’t they supposed to be fighting crime, not acting as television critics?

When you poke around a bit, the story becomes a little clearer, but no less strange.

After the programme appeared earlier this year, many people who watched it were horrified by the extremism it depicted. It was, indeed, horrifying. The programme, all of whose material was collected, sometimes covertly, from British mosques, mainly in Birmingham, showed film, DVDs and internet messages from Islamist sermons and speeches. One preacher speaks of a British Muslim soldier killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan and says: “The hero is the one who separated his head from his shoulders.” Another says that all Jews will be killed at the end of time, and makes a snorting noise as if imitating a pig.

One pronounces that woman is “deficient” and that homosexual men should be “thrown off the mountain”, another that children should offer themselves for Islamic martyrdom, a third that Aids was deliberately spread in Africa by Christian missionaries who slipped it into inoculations.

As a result of all this, people, including, I believe, local MPs, asked the police to investigate the preachers to see if prosecutions for crimes of racial hatred could be brought against them. C4 itself did not ask for these investigations, but co-operated with police inquiries.

But then, on Wednesday, without any warning to Channel 4, the CPS and the West Midlands police issued their fatwa. Not only had they investigated, and decided, as they were entitled to do, that there were no charges to bring against people featured in the programme: they also announced that they had investigated the programme itself for stirring up racial hatred.

[click to continue…]


Keith Allen proves that according to their beliefs the Mother of Westboro Baptist Church is going to Hell.

read more | digg story


Cardboard kids

by Limbic on August 7, 2007

Another gem from Abelard:

“A peril of city life is the speeding driver, endangering children and scaring bicyclists. We all have a right to share the roads but the cars win every time. Some cities install traffic calming devices like bumps and mazes, but other cities think the car is king and won’t do anything to slow the cars down. Mike Wood of West Salem, Ohio took matters into his own hands and started manufacturing homemade full size cutout children. Local News 6 reports “First when (motorists) saw them, it scared them that the kids were so close to the road,” Woods said. “And they thought why are they letting their kids play next to the road like that?” The Woods family house is on the fringe of town so many drivers have a tough time slowing down to 35 mph. Now he is getting calls from police departments and neighbourhood associations from across the USA.” From TreeHugger


 Thanks to Abelard for directing me to this.  From the LA Times

Her front brain is telling her he’s trouble. Look at the facts, it says. He’s never made a commitment, he drinks too much, he can’t hold down a job.

But her middle brain won’t listen. Man, it swoons, he looks great in those jeans, his black hair curls onto his forehead so adorably, and when he drags on a cigarette, he’s so bad he’s good.

His front brain is lecturing, too: She’s flirting with every guy in the place, and she can drink even you under the table, it says. His mid-brain is unresponsive, distracted by her legs, her blouse and her come-hither stare.

“What could you be thinking?” their front brains demand.
Their middle brains, each on a quest for reward, pay no heed.

Alas, when it comes to choosing mates, smart neurons can make dumb choices. Sure, if the brain’s owner is in her 40s and has been around the block a few times, she might grab her bag and scram. If the guy has reached seasoned middle age, he might think twice about that cleavage-baring temptress.

Wisdom — at least a little — does come with experience.

Source: This is your brain on love – Los Angeles Times [Link may expire]