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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Weekend web readin'

Money quote:
A New Mexico woman called the state police to report that she had been the victim of an Internet scam. The police told her they couldn’t come right away. She asked them to call before showing up at her house. They didn’t.  Instead, an officer arrived while she wasn’t home, ignored the woman’s “Beware of Dog” sign, hopped the woman’s fence . . . and then killed her dog.
From The New York Times,  Branding a Soldier With Personality Disorder
Money quote:
“Her records suggest an attempt by her commander to influence medical professionals,” said Michael J. Wishnie, a professor at Yale Law School and director of its Veterans Legal Services Clinic. 
Since 2001, the military has discharged at least 31,000 service members because of personality disorder, a family of disorders broadly characterized by inflexible “maladaptive” behavior that can impair performance and relationships. 
For years, veterans’ advocates have said that the Pentagon uses the diagnosis to discharge troops because it considers them troublesome or wants to avoid giving them benefits for service-connected injuries. The military considers personality disorder a pre-existing problem that emerges in youth, and as a result, troops given the diagnosis are often administratively discharged without military retirement pay. Some have even been required to repay enlistment bonuses.
By comparison, a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder is usually linked to military service and leads to a medical discharge accompanied by certain benefits.
From Crates and Ribbons, The Clothes That Bind 
Money quote:
“For men, the primary erotic effect was a function of the lotus gait, the tiny steps and swaying walk of a woman whose feet had been bound. Women with such deformed feet avoided placing weight on the front of the foot and tended to walk predominantly on their heels. As a result, women who underwent foot-binding walked in a careful, cautious, and unsteady manner.” 
Besides the pain and discomfort that such fashions cause women, it can also lead to needless loss of life. A book by Kat Banyard, The Equality Illusion, cites an example. In 1991, when Bangladesh was hit by a cyclone, 90% of the casualties were women. One of the reasons for this was that women were not allowed to leave the house unaccompanied by a male relative. The other reason was that their clothes made it difficult for them to run or swim to safety.
From The Guardian, Is the US the Only Country Where More Men are Raped Than Women?
Money quote:
There are big differences in social conceptions of sexual assault in the prison population versus the general population – even though one in 10 Americans will be imprisoned at some point in their lives, and the US imprisons more people than any other society in the history of the world. Comparing prison assault with non-prison assault is interesting and necessary, but it's important to keep in mind that they operate in very different contexts (which isn't to say that one is better or worse, just that if we're going to discuss them intelligently, it makes sense to address that fact). 
One overlap, though, between prison rape of men and non-prison rape of women is the way American society views both as an inevitability. That plays out in different ways, but there's a sense that incarceration must naturally lead to rape (see, eg, "don't drop the soap!" jokes), and that femaleness is inherently sexually tempting and therefore also leads to rape if you're not vigilant about preventing it (see, eg, every rape prevention tactic that focuses on what women should or should not do – don't walk home alone, don't wear revealing clothing, etc). At the same time, inevitability is tempered by the perceived ability to prevent rape if you just do things "right" – don't commit a crime so that you end up in jail, don't break any of the Rape Avoidance Rules For Ladies. It's a convenient way to conceptualise assault – if you just behave yourself, you won't be a victim. For women, "doing things right" requires constant vigilance, and an understanding of oneself as inherently vulnerable; it keeps us fearful, and it inhibits our freedom of movement. For populations with high incarceration rates, "doing things right" also requires constant vigilance, and an understanding of oneself as perceived as inherently criminal; it keeps entire communities fearful, resentful, and unable to seek the protection of the police; and it inhibits freedom of movement and expression and speech.
From Feministe, Virginia Transvaginal Ultrasound Bill Proves Effective at Deterring Sex
Money quote:
Most women seem to find Virginia’s proposed bill requiring transvaginal ultrasound for anyone trying to get an abortion horrifying and intrusive. We’re wrong, of course, because Virigina Delegate David Albo (R-Douchebucket) thinks it’s hilarious. Hilarious enough to stand up and joke about getting cock-blocked by his own bill on the House floor. His fellow delegates laughed and hooted like frat boys as he delivered a tawdry three-minute monologue–complete with slap-bass mood music–about his attempts to romance his wife, which were thwarted by a news clip in which Del. David Englin (D-Total square, amiright?) criticizes the bill.
From Yahoo! Games, Study: World of Warcraft Boosts Brain Functions in Seniors 
Money quote:
A new study out of North Carolina State University finds that the massively-multiplayer behemoth can have a beneficial impact on the brains of elderly players. 
Researchers examined two groups of seniors between the ages of 60 and 77. One of those groups did nothing, while the other picked a side with the Alliance or the Horde and played WoW for about 14 hours over two weeks. (Not exactly the marathon sessions of some WoW enthusiasts, but still a respectable amount.) 
When the two groups were retested, researchers found that the gamers showed a significant increase in cognitive functioning — specifically, spatial ability and focus. 
"We chose World of Warcraft because it has attributes we felt may produce benefits — it is a cognitively challenging game in a socially interactive environment that presents users with novel situations," says Dr. Anne McLaughlin, assistant professor of psychology at NC State and co-author of the study's report. "We found there were improvements, but it depended on each participant's baseline cognitive functioning level." 
"The people who needed it most — those who performed the worst on the initial testing — saw the most improvement," adds Dr. Jason Allaire, associate professor of psychology at NC State and another co-author of the paper.

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