Monthly Archives: August 2010

Bloggez-vous? have picked up and will support the idea of a multilingual day of blogging on 26 September, to mark the European Day of Languages. I met with someone today who got very excited about the event and will try to get someone pretty senior on board for it, which would be great. My language colleagues will be promoting it in their general EDL work, and I will use our Facebook and Twitter networks to try to get more people on board. Do let me know if you are hoping to take part by leaving a comment below or contacting me via the contact page, and I’ll try to get a list up. First milestone – 100 people signing up to it by end August! And can anyone think of a good hashtag? #langblog? #edl2010?


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Links 9 August

I would love to do a proper post, but it’s been quite busy the last few days, probably due to the arrival of the new boss. so here are some links in the meantime.

Sometime our justice system is not all it could be, or that we would like it to be, but Shirin Ebadi’s article on stoning in Iran in the Guardian puts that in context.

On the face of things, stoning is not a gendered punishment, for the law stipulates that adulterous men face the same brutal end. But because Iranian law permits polygamy, it effectively offers men an escape route: they are able to claim that their adulterous relationship was in fact a temporary marriage (Iranian law recognises “marriages” of even a few hours duration between men and single women). Men typically exploit this escape clause, and are rarely sentenced to stoning. But married woman accused of adultery have access to no such reprieve.

This article in the Boston Globe about facts backfiring is so interesting for our work here.

Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

And there are some pretty powerful lessons in SciencePunk’s  Skeptical about Skeptics post, primarily about talking just to your community:

The internet is a wonderful thing, and has allowed groups of people to find one another and work collectively over huge distances, and is very much at the heart of the skeptic movement. But it has also lent an illusion that the online world is an accurate reproduction of the world at large, when it is something of a hall of mirrors. Even this blog is victim to that recursive effect. Writing in a particular style, on a particular subject, from a particular point of view, all this shapes my audience, in effect choosing like-minded individuals who are fairly likely to agree with me on a lot of points. This can create something of a confirmation bias – because unless I come into contact with contradictory views, from someone I respect, I’m unlikely to really be challenged on many of my views. And similarly, lazy or false views will thrive longer than they would in the harsh environment of the outside world.

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Links 3 August 2010

Interesting piece by JohnJoe McFadden on the GM milk issue. I was particularly interested to read

As far as is known, no one has ever died or even got sick from eating GM food. Why are people so scared of GM ingredients, while cheerfully accepting far greater hazards?

This issue of risk perception is one I find really interesting. For example, all the people who started cycling after the 7/7  bombs. More than 3000 cyclists are killed or seriously injured every year on London’s roads. So the odds of getting killed are much higher going to work on a bike than on the Tube. I’m not saying people shouldn’t have made that decision, just that the psychology of decisions goes way beyond the rational choice I learnt about in my Public Policy lectures at LSE.

I loved this – just as I love courgettes…

In recent years courgettes have extended their repertoire to include round varieties and brilliant yellow “banana” courgettes. Such a clever vegetable – what’s not to love?

The Grahnlaw blog is examining the best of the Euroblogs this summer. He doesn’t follow me, so I’m not in contention (cough cough), but it is nonetheless 🙂 a discussion worth following.

EU geeks might want to check out the Business for New Europe paper on the case for a UK Sovereignty Bill, which concludes that

We consider that the maintenance of the status quo, with enhanced parliamentary scrutiny of EU matters, is the most constructive way forward.

We have lived through 25 years of EU treaty change and then all the uncertainty over the issue of British membership of the euro. We now have the prospect of a treaty-free decade, without all the parliamentary upheavals that parliamentary ratification entails. Our members would find it perverse and damaging for a Conservative / Liberal Democrat government, declared business-friendly to be adding uncertainty by opening up this particular can of worms.

And finally (as they say), this amazing set of photos which superimpose photos from World War Two on the same buildings and settings today.

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