Tuesday, 28 February 2017

The right wing billionaire using big data

In Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media Carole Cadwalladr details some of the activities of companies associated with Robert Mercer in influencing public opinion and disrupting mainstream media.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Michael Mosley's six tips to improve our diet

In Why your diet isn’t working: Michael Mosley’s six things to change right now Bonnie Bayley talks to Michael Mosley about what we're doing wrong in our diets. His six things are:
  • You think diet soft drinks are healthy -- they aren't
  • You’re terrified of your natural hunger signals --we don''t have to eat as soon as we feel hungry
  • You eat low-fat dairy -- full fat lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes
  • You’re partial to bread and pasta -- commercial breads are full of sugar and salt, stick to dark rye bread. As for pasta, reheat it to make it healthier
  • You rely on willpower to make healthy choices -- It's much easier to not have any unhealthy choices available so don't keep them in the house
  • You mainline the smoothies -- you lose the benefits of the fibre which slows sugare absorption. You're better off eating whole fruit and vegetables.

H. R. McMaster on lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan

In The Pipe Dream of Easy War H. R. McMaster looks at lessons to be learned from Iraq and Afghanistan. I especially liked this:
We must not equate military capabilities with strategy.

Michael Mosley post the 5:2 diet

Sarah Berry writes about What Michael Mosley has learnt since the 5:2 diet. Mosley seems to recommend eating mostly vegetables, and NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis), which is just a fancy way of telling us to be more active during the day.
He builds in more NEAT by always walking "if it's less than a mile", always taking the stairs "if it's less than seven flights", and walking up escalators.

"You can easily burn 300-400 calories by just doing that," Mosley says, "[it's the] equivalent of running a few miles and is more achievable for many people."

He also does a set of resistance exercises each morning, including press-ups and squats.
Mosley is in favour of fermented foods, but advises that most of the commercial ones offer no benefits:
"There's a lot of rubbish out there at the moment, and all sorts of probiotic drinks being sold," the father-of-four says. "We did an experiment in the series where we compared the yoghurt drinks that claim to promote good bacteria and compared that to having kefir (a fermented milk drink). The yoghurt made no difference whatsoever ... we couldn't detect any difference ... but the kefir did make quite a big difference."

He adds: "There's such a big difference between the ones you buy, like sauerkraut - out of a jar and the homemade stuff. We tested sauerkraut - it didn't taste great - and the supermarket version had nothing living in it at all. Whereas the homemade version was absolutely rife with bacteria. I've been making some at home myself and ... particularly kefir is really easy to make."
He also recommends a Mediterranean diet:
"One of the main things is switching to a Mediterranean-style diet," Mosley says. "We realised that low-fat diets are not very effective.

"And understanding what a Med-style diet really is - it's not pasta and it's not pizza. It's the oily fish, nuts, olive oil and stuff like that. The evidence is pretty strong now to say that way of eating is one of the healthiest there is.

"When I wrote the Fast Diet, I wasn't all that interested in the things you ate on the fast days, and I've become much more interested in a more Mediterranean-style diet and looking more carefully at looking how much of the sugary, carby stuff you eat.

"Changing what you eat is one of the most important things you can do to lose weight and improve health."

Australia's role in the Iraq War

David Wroe explores Australia's role in the Iraq War in The Secret Iraq Dossier. It seem Australia was basically there to strengthen the alliance, at minimal risk to our forces.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Have renewables kept SA power bills down?

Sophie Vorrath reports that SA power bills rose less in past decade than coal states. This was based on an ANU report commissioned by News Limited.

2006 2016 Increase
NSW $918 $1,922 109%
VIC $ 841 $1,837 118%
QLD $890 $2,102 136%
SA $1,110 $2,080 87%
WA $855 $1,582 85%
TAS $1,317 $2,181 66%
ACT/NT $1,061 $1,785 68%

Sunday, 19 February 2017

4chan and Trump

Dale Beran writes about 4chan: The Skeleton Key to the Rise of Trump.
Trump’s younger supporters know he’s an incompetent joke; in fact, that’s why they support him.

Police pursuits

In In pursuit of the truth on police pursuits John Silvester has some interesting stats on the outcome of police pursuits.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Attitudes to immigration and diversity in America

In Immigrant Shock: Can California Predict the Nation’s Future? Emily Badger writes about parallels between the political backlash against growing diversity in California between 1980 and 2000, and in other communities at the moment. The backlash is most notable in smaller communities where changes are more noticeable.
Sociological studies suggest that increasing contact between groups can yield familiarity and tolerance. But it can also unnerve, especially in communities where that rapid change is most visible — and when politicians stand to gain by exploiting it. California lashed out at diversity before embracing it.
However, this only becomes a political issue if a politician attempts to exploit the change, as Pete Wilson did in California in 1994, and as Donald Trump is doing now.
California’s example suggests that the very demographic trend Democrats believe will benefit them in the long run could aid Republicans in the near term. At least, that remains true so long as Republican candidates like Mr. Trump or Mr. Wilson position themselves in opposition to immigration or policies perceived as aiding minorities.

Mr. Trump fared particularly well in the parts of the country where demographic change is accelerating. Scholars say that it’s the change in diversity that helps explain how a community responds. So an influx of Hispanics into Chicago may not be noticeable, but a few new immigrant families into small-town Pennsylvania is.
A Wall Street Journal analysis found during the primaries that the most rapidly diversifying counties in a cluster of Midwestern states were more likely to vote for Mr. Trump.

In the general election, voters were more likely to shift to Mr. Trump in the counties with the strongest growth in the Hispanic and nonwhite populations since 2000, according to research from a coming book by Ryan Enos, a Harvard political scientist. It appears in survey data, Mr. Enos argues, that this shift in 2016 was driven by whites who had previously voted Democratic — and who don’t appear to have responded in the same way to rising diversity before Mr. Trump’s campaign.
“When I talk to people about their concerns about immigration, they often talk about language,” said Daniel Hopkins, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania.“They talk about being uncomfortable having to ‘press 1 for English,’ or seeing Spanish-language signs. They talk about the feeling of dispossession that comes from having lived for a long time in a community and seeing it change.”
One noticable point from the article, this is much more of an issue where there's segregation.
There is no neat tipping point, no level of diversity beyond which the backlash inevitably gives way to greater tolerance. The volume of political bluster matters. So does the level of segregation, because diversity doesn’t necessarily mean communities are integrating. So does the kind of contact that occurs when different groups bump up against one another.

Research from the 1950s found that integrated military units reduced prejudice and stereotyping. And studies since then have shown that soldiers have more interracial friendships than typical civilians (as veterans, they’re also more likely to buy homes in more integrated areas). But soldiers engage in a rare kind of contact: They live together, eat together and work together on common goals.

That’s a different kind of contact than occurs when we pass strangers in the supermarket aisle, or encounter Spanish-language signs. And even in the most demographically diverse cities, there is often little integration of schools, neighborhoods and workplaces.
In Mr. Enos’s earlier work, he found that white voters in the most segregated counties nationally were five to six percentage points less likely to vote for Barack Obama in 2008 than white voters in the least segregated places, with a similar effect within states. That suggests that the nature of contact matters not just for disarming prejudice but for shaping politics. And often, when new groups come into a community, they immediately segregate.
It's interesting that attitudes soften over time:
In another study, Mr. Enos found that the mere presence of a few Spanish speakers on a train platform was enough to raise anti-immigrant sentiment among commuters in the white, liberal Boston suburbs. But as the same Spanish speakers kept appearing over two weeks, those attitudes softened. The commuters began to smile at one another.
To reiterate, this only becomes an issue when you have a politician trying to exploit it. I think this also helps explain the Brexit vote.