Author: Daniella

No more victimisation

At the end of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, actress Jessica Chastain – who was serving as a jury member – said that she found the portrayals of women in the festival’s films “quite disturbing.” To many, this isn’t exactly news. The lack of women in film – in front of and behind the camera – has been at the forefront of Hollywood criticism in recent years, with scholars and writers detailing the various ways women tend to be underrepresented or cast in stereotypical roles. University of Southern California communications professor Stacy Smith, who researches depictions of gender and race in film and TV, found that of the 5,839 characters in the 129 top-grossing films released between 2006 and 2011, fewer than 30 percent were girls or women. Meanwhile, only 50 percent of films fulfill the criteria of the Bechdel Test, which asks whether a film features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. Despite the uphill climb for women in film, it isn’t all doom and …

Theory of Relativity

Einstein’s theory of relativity is a famous theory, but it’s little understood. The theory of relativity refers to two different elements of the same theory: general relativity and special relativity. The theory of special relativity was introduced first and was later considered to be a special case of the more comprehensive theory of general relativity. General relativity is a theory of gravitation that  Albert Einstein  developed by between 1907 and 1915, with contributions from many others after 1915. THEORY OF RELATIVITY CONCEPTS Einstein’s theory of relativity includes the interworking of several different concepts, which include: Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity – localized behavior of objects in inertial frames of reference, generally only relevant at speeds very near the speed of light Lorentz Transformations – the transformation equations used to calculate the coordinate changes under special relativity Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity – the more comprehensive theory, which treats gravity as a geometric phenomenon of a curved spacetimecoordinate system, which also includes noninertial (i.e. accelerating) frames of reference Fundamental Principles of Relativity WHAT IS RELATIVITY? Classical relativity (defined initially by …

Why Islamic State Targeting Tehran?

Attacks by the self-proclaimed Islamic State on Iran’s parliament and the shrine to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, symbols of the republic and Iranian revolution, left seventeen dead on June 8, 2017. They mark the group’s first assault on Iran and come at a time when its purported caliphate, which spans the border of Iraq and Syria, is under increasing military pressure by U.S.- and Iran-backed forces, among others. In the face of this pressure, the Islamic State hopes to demonstrate its resilience and wide reach, says Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University. The group’s attacks are also meant to burnish its credentials as “a defender of Sunnis everywhere” and “vanguard of the struggle against the Shia,” Hoffman says, since even as Saudi Arabia and other Sunni powers rail against Iran for how it wields influence in the Middle East, only the Islamic State has struck it directly. What was your initial reaction to the attacks? Unprecedented. ISIS sees itself in literally an apocalyptic battle with the Shia, and to be able to strike in …

Crisis in Venezuela

Venezuela is in the midst of an unprecedented economic and political crisis marked by severe food and medicine shortages, soaring crime rates, and an increasingly authoritarian executive. Critics of President Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, say Venezuela’s economic woes are the fruit of years of economic mismanagement; Maduro’s supporters blame falling oil prices and the country’s “corrupt” business elites. In 2016, opposition lawmakers took a majority in the legislature—the National Assembly—for the first time in nearly two decades. However, the Maduro government has taken steps since to consolidate the president’s power, including usurping some of the legislature’s authorities. Maduro’s actions have been met with massive protests and international condemnation. Chavez’s ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ Chavez, a former military officer who launched an ill-fated coup in 1992, was elected president of Venezuela in 1998 on a populist platform. As a candidate, he railed against the country’s elites for widespread corruption, and pledged to use Venezuela’s vast oil wealth to reduce poverty and inequality. During his presidency, which lasted until his death in 2013, Chavez expropriated millions …

Church of England’s ban on sex reassignment therapy

The Church of England has called on the government to ban conversion therapy and has condemned the practice, which aims to change sexual orientation, as unethical and potentially harmful. At the end of an emotional debate in which two members of the C of E synod described their experiences as spiritual abuse, the church’s governing body overwhelmingly backed a motion saying the practice had “no place in the modern world”. Conversion therapy is usually described as an attempt to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Some churches in the C of E and other denominations have encouraged LGBT members to take part in prayer sessions and other activities to rid them of their “sin”. Proposing the motion, Jayne Ozanne – who underwent conversion therapy resulting in two breakdowns and two spells in hospital – said conversion therapy was “abuse from which vulnerable adults need protecting”. It was “discredited by the government, the NHS, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of General Practitioners and many other senior health care bodies,” she said. …

Al Jazeera, Qatar’s source of soft power?

A Saudi-led bloc has demanded Qatar shutter Al Jazeera, the global news broadcaster it sponsors, as one of its conditions for restoring diplomatic relations and lifting an embargo after breaking ties in early June 2017. Qatar rejects the demand along with the bloc’s other conditions. The broadcasting giant, which has given Qatar outsize influence in the Middle East and beyond, helps the small Gulf emirate buck the foreign policies of its larger partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and beat an independent path. Thus, Qatar has refused to shut down what it sees as an extraordinary source of soft power. Financing from Qatar’s royal family has freed Al Jazeera from the usual market pressures facing cable news. As an alternative to the censored state media typical of the region, Al Jazeera’s reporting on popular grievances and protest movements has angered powerful regimes. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain accuse Al Jazeera of inciting terrorism. The network, in turn, accuses them of attempting “to silence the freedom of expression in the region.” …

Brazilian Government Corruption Probe Fallout

Corruption probes that began in 2014 have reached the highest levels of the Brazilian government and corporate elite, implicating President Michel Temer, former presidents, and dozens of cabinet officials and senators. Operacao Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash) and overlapping investigations have led to prison sentences for top executives and politicians, mass layoffs, and billions of dollars paid in fines. The scandals have complicated efforts to revive the economy amid its largest downturn in more than a century. The country’s biggest corporations have faced numerous setbacks, and the fallout from the scandals is expected to reverberate through Brazil’s 2018 general election. Millions of Brazilians have demonstrated in favor of the investigations, and many hope that shedding light on the scandals will end the widespread corruption that has plagued their country. Launched Lava Jato in 2014 Federal prosecutors led by Judge Sergio Moro launched Lava Jato in March 2014, after the Finance Ministry’s intelligence unit discovered unusual bank transactions involving the state-owned oil company Petrobras. They suspected that Petrobras was accepting bribes from firms, including the construction giant …

Artificially inflating the threat from Russia does nobody any good

Artificially inflating the threat from Russia does nobody any good Sumantra Maitra, University of Nottingham Much has been written lately about Russia “hacking” the US presidential elections, and how Vladimir Putin’s government is in a new Cold War with the West. Molly Mckew, who advised Mikhail Saakashvili when he was president of Georgia, writes that the West is already fighting a war in defence of the values on which its liberal order is based. Like many others, she never attempts to define what exactly “The West” is, or what its contradictory state interests add up to. In the Financial Times, meanwhile, Lilia Shevtsova is even more pessimistic. She claims the current situation is without historical precedent, and that current Western strategy “requires ideological clarity, but the ambiguity of the post-Cold War world made the strategy irrelevant”. Countless pieces like these are churned out in the Anglophone media every day. They share a remarkable deficit of proportion and objectivity; they present what’s happening today as historically unprecedented, an incorrect diagnosis that simply stirs up hysteria and …

Skepticsociety Magazine Blog

Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus, by Laura Kipnis

Everyone lies about sex, though maybe every generation lies about sex differently,” says Laura Kipnis, adding that each era is almost right to believe “its own sexual narrative”, since it does largely determine the way sex is experienced. The argument of Unwanted Advances depends on a portrait of this woman—known, pseudonymously, as Nola Hartley in the book and Jane Doe in the suit—as dishonest and unreliable. The suit contends that the book itself is fundamentally untrustworthy. Side by side, the book and the lawsuit present an intellectual and moral puzzle touching on issues of sex, free speech, privacy, journalistic ethics, and academic freedom.