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Given that more Indian women have been beaten up by their husbands than are in work, there is room for improvement.

The Economist, Volume 428 Number 9099, July 7th 2018, p. 8
Link to article

It has been shown that soldiers do not need commanders to issue orders to torture in order to commit acts of torture. Rather, soldiers need commanders to issue orders that prevent them from committing acts of torture. Normal human beings placed in combat circumstances may be liable to torture unless institutions shape their behavior.

“The Absolute In-Practice Human Right Against Torture” by Ian Fishback, Philosophy Now, issue 118, February/March 2017


77 percent is the chance that a child born in the upper-income quartile will complete college by age 24.

9 percent is the chance that a child born in the bottom-income quartile will complete college by age 24.

“The Stamp of Poverty” by John D. E. Gabrieli and Silvia A. Bunge, Scientific American Mind, Volume 28, Number 1, January/February 2017, page 57 (doi:10.1038/scientificamericanmind0117-54), Box 1

In a January 3rd interview with Bild, a German newspaper, Witold Waszczykowski, the foreign minister, condemned Poland’s previous centre-right government for pursuing a “left-wing” political agenda: “As if the world, in a Marxist fashion, were destined to evolve only in one direction—towards a new mix of cultures and races, a world of bicyclists and vegetarians.”

Source: The Economist

The summer 2013 issue (Vol. 48 No. 1 #389 p. 34) of the Fifth Estate contains a fascinating review of Eric Berkowitz’s book entitled Sex and Punishment: Four Thousand Years of Judging Desire (click here to read the full article by Rod Dubey). Quoted below are some particularly noteworthy excerpts describing monstrous laws and customs that reflected and reinforced state and church power, their hypocrisy, and the treatment of slaves and women as less than human.

Hebrew law changed everything. […] Sex could now be sin and a source of guilt. Sexual transgressions were viewed as a crime against the community and punishment was administered by the church. […] In Hebrew law, for the first time, the body itself became regulated. […] By the Middle-Ages the body itself was under attack from Christianity. Flesh was an evil that inhibited the attainment of a spiritual life. Married sex was a necessary evil to increase the tribe and this was its only justification. Whatever interfered with pregnancy, such as masturbation and coitus interruptus, was condemned. […]

Throughout this history we see how sex laws were used to reinforce state and church power. […] What constitutes a sex crime always reflected local beliefs and the needs of authority. In spite of the general restrictions against adultery in Sparta, for instance, it was often overlooked because it was a warrior society where soldiers weren’t at home and the state needed a constant source of recruits. […] The differential treatment of the powerful when they transgressed rules occurred in every culture. In one instance, in thirteenth century England, many rapists were priests and they tried to get their cases heard in church courts because they would be treated leniently. In continental Frankish areas, of the same time period, the fine for rape depended on who the victim was. Raping a servant became an affordable option for a few; something in the order of a speeding ticket.

The hypocrisy of those who made the rules was another perennial. During the rigid Middle-Ages, to cite only one instance among many, prostitution was often allowed as a safety valve. This led to both municipalities and the Catholic Church owning brothels across Europe, and in some cases it was nuns servicing the customers.

The most prominent historical constant, without a doubt, was the lack of legal protection for women. Men controlled women’s bodies as part of their ownership of them. Rape was frequently seen, not as a sex crime, but as a property crime against a husband or father. An Assyrian father whose virgin daughter was raped might get, in return, three times her dowry value from the rapist (who would be forced to marry the girl and restore the father’s honor–her feelings of no consequence) and gain possession of the rapist’s wife, as his slave, to rape whenever he chose. In fifteenth century Venice, courts viewed rape as a form of seduction. As late as nineteenth century America, a slave was property to be treated however her ‘master’ saw fit. Since the children of female slaves were also deemed to be slaves, rape became an instrument of economic growth. […]

Sexual relations, in slave holding America, between a black slave and a white woman, were inevitably seen as rape because of the view that a respectable white woman could not possibly feel sexually attracted to a black man. The treatment of slaves as less than human typified the racist attitudes that always followed sex laws. In the Middle-Ages, Jews were viewed as being in league with Satan and animals. In 1222 a deacon who married a Jew was executed on a charge of bestiality.

What’s commercial advertising? It’s a means to undermine markets. Business doesn’t really want markets, since markets are supposed to be based on informed consumers making rational choices. Take a look at a television ad. It’s trying to create an uninformed consumer who will make a totally irrational choice – buy a Ford Motors car because some football player is standing next to it and it’s flying up to the sky or something.
The same firms run political campaigns and simply carry over the same ideas and techniques to undermine democracy, to make sure that you have uninformed voters making irrational choices.

– Noam Chomsky in The Progressive, October 2013, page 36 (interview by David Barsamian)

In the current issue of “Scientific American Mind” (Volume 23, Number 5, November/December 2012, page 63) Sandra Upson and Lauren F. Friedman consider the question of why women have been under-represented at the top of their fields. Although the article is by no means revelatory to experts in the area of gender studies, it may serve as an accessible introduction to the subject.

The authors begin by pointing out the scarcity of female geniuses in the popular consciousness. Readers are reminded that for most of history cultural imperatives reinforced by false assumptions regarding women’s abilities made it virtually impossible for them to develop their talents and pursue eminence. Then the authors quote research proving that “in aggregate, women and men perform about the same on intelligence tests.” While acknowledging that gender discrimination still accounts for some of the differences in creative output of men and women, the authors cite studies suggesting that the gap results from “preferences relating to family and work-life balance.” They conclude by calling for measures designed to alleviate legitimate concerns about conflicting priorities such as a career in academia, caregiving and household responsibilities.

It might be tempting to dismiss the article as lacking the depth and breadth the topic deserves. It could be argued that the authors neglect or barely touch upon a wide range of factors contributing to gender disparities in scientific and professional realms. In addition, a number of valid criticisms could be made with regard to the article’s narrow focus and its frame of reference. The fact remains, however, that it was written with a general audience in mind and published in a popular science magazine. Viewed from this perspective, it should be appreciated as a small step towards raising public awareness about the issues discussed.

Click here to read the article (available for non-commercial educational purposes only).

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