Saturday, 21 October 2017

'Who is beautiful, Kerala or Tamil women?': 'Neeya Naana' topic has us scratching our heads

The topic may be 'entertaining' but should a TV show normalize the objectification of women like this?

Vijay TV's Neeya Naana, hosted by anchor Gobinath, has often come under controversy for the views expressed on the show. This time, however, the topic itself has drawn flak.

Vijay TV has been promoting the show's topic thus: Who is more beautiful? Kerala women? Or Tamil Nadu women?

The promo is rather bewildering. The all women show has one side dressed in traditional Kerala dress and the other dressed in Tamil Nadu's attire. From women pretending to cuddle a baby (?!) to arguing about why they were superior to the others, the topic certainly appears to be the most ridiculous chosen in recent times.

It's possible that the topic was triggered because of 'Jimmiki Kammal' fame Sherin and her popularity in Tamil Nadu, which prompted discussions on similar lines on social media. However, should a popular TV show take this objectification one stop ahead and normalize it?

The channel is even running a poll on social media. "Kerala women? Or Tamil women? Sunday afternoon at 3 pm on Neeya Naana." It has got thousands of votes.

As counselor and psychotherapist Veena Jagadeesh has put it, writing on Facebook:

"For the people who say " learn to laugh at yourself, chill, when women themselves can discuss this so nicely, what is your problem?"

Unfortunately, that is the problem. In the name of jokes and fun, we are allowing such subtle discussions, which doesn't serve any purpose. And I am only hope that women get strength to not laugh at themselves on such cheap topics.

Well...TRP targets will be achieved for sure, as this is an "entertaining" topic. So this becomes a "chicken or egg" situation!

Now, another question will be...if this program is doing an episode on men "Kerala men or Tamil Nadu men - who have got better six packs and who look more handsome?" , Will I protest?

I will. And you should. Because objectifying any gender is not ok.

The show is yet to be aired and it is perhaps premature to go hammer and tongs at it. But can there be a sensible discussion on such a topic? Ever? If yes, we'd be very surprised.

(Source: TNM)

Why parents make flawed choices about their kids' schooling

What the economists found when they turned back to the rankings is that New York City parents choose schools that enroll a lot of high-achievers. While schools like that tend to be effective, they aren’t always—and just how effective they are varies, writes GAIL CORNWALL on the Atlantic. Read on: 

A person trying to choose their next set of wheels might see that car A made it farther than car B in a road test and assume it gets better gas mileage. But that’s only true if the two tanks are filled with the same substance. Putting high-octane gas in one and water in the other, for example, provides little useful information about which car makes the most of its fuel. A new working paper titled “Do Parents Value School Effectiveness?” suggests that parents similarly opt for schools with the most impressive graduates rather than figuring out which ones actually teach best. The study joins a body of research looking critically at what it means for a school to be successful.

Take the work of Erin Pahlke, for example. The assistant professor of psychology at Whitman College saw research showing that girls who attend school only with other girls tend to do better in math and science. The trick, she said, is that those studies didn’t analyze “differences in the students coming into the schools.” As it turns out, those who end up in same-sex schools tend to be wealthier, start out with more skills, and have parents who are more proactive than students who attend co-ed institutions. In a 2014 meta-analysis, Pahlke and her colleagues reviewed the studies and found when examining schools with the same type of students and same level of resources—rather than “comparing [those at] the public co-ed school to [their counterparts at] the fancy private school that’s single-sex down the road”—there isn’t any difference in how the students perform academically. Single-sex schooling also hasn’t been shown to offer a bump in girls’ attitudes toward math and science or change how they think about themselves. In other words, it often looks like single-sex schools are doing a better job educating kids, but they aren't. It's just that their graduates are people who were going to do well at any school. They’re running on high-octane gas.

So too are high schools widely thought to be “life-changing”—the elite ones that students must test into. In a 2014 Econometrica paper titled “The Elite Illusion,” the economists Atila Abdulkadiroğlu, Joshua Angrist, and Parag Pathak wrote that while students who attend extremely competitive public schools like Stuyvesant High School in New York City clearly excel, that may not mean the schools provide an education that’s superior to their less competitive counterparts. The researchers looked at a group of borderline kids, the last few eighth-graders who made the cut-off to go to an elite school and the first few who didn't; that meant there was little if any academic difference between them when they started their freshman year. If a school like Stuyvesant were more effective—that is, taught more material and produced better outcomes—than the less competitive public school, the economists would expect to see a difference in how those kids performed academically four years later. But when the researchers analyzed indicators of success, such as AP exam scores and state standardized tests, they saw no difference between the borderline kids who got to attend Stuyvesant and the borderline ones who didn’t. And yet, said Pathak, a professor of microeconomics at MIT, “these are massively oversubscribed schools. People would give an arm and a leg to send their child to a school like Stuyvesant.”

That raises the question: Are parents able to figure out which schools are doing the best job? The new working paper—published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and authored by Abdulkadiroğlu, Pathak, Jonathan Schellenberg, and Christopher Walters—discusses data from the New York City Department of Education, which enrolls around 90,000 ninth-graders every year at more than 400 high schools. For better or worse, the city’s high-school system doesn’t rely on an automatic process where students head to the school down the block; instead, eighth-graders submit a ranked list of up to 12 high schools they’d like to attend, some of which, like Stuyvesant, require a test. That system equipped the researchers with quite a bit of information about which schools parents and their children are choosing. Their task was to use other data about the students and schools to figure out what drives those choices.

Do parents prefer a school nearby? Yes, they reliably gave higher rankings to schools located in their own borough than they did to those elsewhere. But what about choosing between two nearby schools? Here, things get trickier. The economists had a pretty good measure of the type of gas in each tank: the eighth-grade test scores of schools’ incoming students. They also wanted to figure out fuel efficiency—how well each school helps kids advance academically regardless of where they start out their freshman year. In order to do so, they looked for similar students—ones who shared the same gender and race, lived in the same neighborhood, and got the same eighth-grade test scores—who went to different high schools. The researchers identified many of these “matched pairs” and looked at follow-up data similar to that used for the Stuyvesant study: scores on state tests, PSAT scores, high-school graduation records, and college-enrollment information. Then they asked if the kids who went to school A did better at these things than did their essentially identical counterparts at school B; if so, they labeled school A more “effective” than school B.

What the economists found when they turned back to the rankings is that New York City parents choose schools that enroll a lot of high-achievers. While schools like that tend to be effective, they aren’t always—and just how effective they are varies. Yet parents didn’t seem to pick up on that: When school A and school B had the same type of student body but school A was much more effective, parents didn’t apply to it more often or rank it more highly.

The free-market rationale for school-choice programs ... “depends on [having sufficient] information,” and this study suggests parents don’t.

If these results hold up under scrutiny by other economists (the paper will soon be peer-reviewed), they could prove problematic for school-choice advocates such as U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. To see why, it’s worth recalling a 1955 paper in which Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman proposed applying the principles of the free market to education. When it comes to goods like, say, cereal, buyers decide how valuable that good is, which in turn determines its fate. If I eat Crispy Grain O’s and like it, I buy it again. If I eat it and hate it, or my neighbor hates it and tells me, it doesn’t get bought, and that cereal company goes belly-up. In economics jargon, “demand-side pressure” manages the cereal market, ensuring that the tasty ones buyers demand continue to grace the aisles while those that taste like cardboard disappear. Friedman said a similar system would produce better schools. Let parents choose, the theory goes, and schools that are doing a good job of educating kids will thrive, while the bad ones will have to close their doors for lack of interest.

But the free-market rationale for school-choice programs, Pathak noted, “depends on [having sufficient] information,” and this study suggests parents don’t. What’s more, Pathak and his colleagues worry that, absent sufficient information for parents, choice-based education systems “penalize schools that enroll low-achievers rather than schools that offer poor instruction” and give school leaders a perverse incentive to focus on “making sure your school’s got the best kids” rather than improving school quality. That, Pathak said, undermines “one of the narratives for why choice-based reform may lead to [more effective] schooling.”

“We have to go where the data leads us.”
Ultimately, research on the merits of school-choice programs is extremely mixed, and not everyone who reads the latest NBER paper shares its authors’ concerns. Paul Peterson, who directs the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, said the data Pathak and his colleagues report show that having high-achieving students is actually a good proxy for school quality. Most of the time, these two things are happening in tandem, he said. What about when the researchers identify school A and school B that have comparable students but a different level of effectiveness? Peterson’s not so sure they can actually tease those two things—student body composition and school quality—apart. “I’m not saying they did the wrong thing,” Peterson said, “I’m just saying we don’t know…. This paper has yet to be peer reviewed, so we can't be sure.” As for the argument that administrators are given the incentive to invest in marketing and screening rather than school quality, he said: “They just made that up. There’s nothing in the study that compels that conclusion.”

Pathak defended the study’s methodology and conclusions. “I certainly can understand why such a finding might be uncomfortable for school-choice advocates,” he said, “but we have to go where the data leads us.” He acknowledged that the analysis is limited in its heavy reliance on test scores as an indicator of student and school success and in its inability to measure every factor that goes into the parental decision-making process. For example, he and his co-authors didn’t track safety metrics, nor did they gauge how happy schools make their students.

That said, none of these objections calls into question a central implication of the study: School-choice systems would benefit from parents having more information. “If you were in New York City trying to figure out what high school to send your kid to, where would you figure this stuff out?” Pathak asked.  Parents might rely on playground chatter, advice from middle-school guidance counselors, schools’ brochures, accountability reports put together by administrators, “school finder” apps, or websites like—but none of these sources seems to be leading parents to put weight on school effectiveness. Should data such as that contained in the new NBER study be distributed to families with schoolchildren?

Jack Schneider, an assistant professor of education at College of the Holy Cross and the author of Beyond Test Scores: A Better Way to Measure School Quality, said doing so would still promote “a culture in the United States of talking about school quality … as if there are only a few good schools, and that’s largely because there can only be a few winners in terms of who comes out on top in the battle of the test scores.” What’s needed, he said, is for parents to understand that test scores track so closely with a person’s background—their parents’ education level and income—that they say little about the quality of a school. “And if we were more honest about that,” Schneider said, “I think that would do a great deal to get parents searching for better information”—information on things like the relationships between teachers and students, how students interact with each other, and “the degree to which students are engaged and happy to be there.”

Her last few hours: Smita Patil loved life till the end

13 December 1986. The bleary eyed city had barely started on its mid-morning chores when a hint of the terrible tragedy that was to follow first came. Following a PTI flash, the afternoon papers screamed, ‘Smita Patil critical!’ The suspense continued all evening and then at 12.30 in the night, the voice over the phone said, ‘It’s all over!” A mere 12 hours later, the hideous suggestion had become an irrevocable fact. Smita Patil was no more. The city was shocked. After Guru Dutt’s demise, some two decades ago, this was possibly another untimely tragedy to have hit the film industry. At 31, she died an idol, a cult figure reaching beyond her grave. As Kaifi Azmi said in his inaugural speech at a charity function, ‘Smita Patil is not dead. Her son is still amongst us.’

12 December 1986 begins like any other ordinary day. At 6 AM, when the baby begins to cry, Smita turns in bed, feeling slightly weak. Then softly, very softly, taking care not to wake up husband Raj, who has been up all night working for Hope ‘86, she moves out of the room, carrying the baby to the nursery. There, she flops herself on the bed, and nurses the baby, thinking for the hundredth time of all the wonderful things she will share with him, when he grows up.

He is going to be a great man. Of that, Smita is absolutely certain. No other child, when he is only six days old, could lift his head and blink his eyes the way he did. She often wonders if he would be an actor like his parents or a politician like his grandfather. She likes the name Prateik and calls him by that name while playing with his tiny hands, laughing, feeling happy. Only the baby isn’t in the mood. Cranky and a little restless, he keeps turning his head away from her.

Smita realizes that it’s her body temperature that is annoying the baby. She’s been feverish for the last two days and hasn’t touched the baby, just in case he catches the virus. But today, she decides she isn’t going to deprive him. So Smita puts a damp cloth around her and feeds him. It helps and after a while, the baby falls fast asleep. Next, Smita goes to wake up raj. He has to attend the Action Committee meetings at 10 a.m. She touches his forehead to check if his fever has subsided. It’s normal. ‘Thank God,’ Smita sighs. It’s going to be a hectic day for Raj. He’s been working the entire month for the show and she hopes for his sake that everything goes all right. After all, this is the first time that Raj is actively involved in an event like this and Smita wants it to be a success.

An hour later, when Raj leaves, Smita attends to her daily chores. She washes her hair and like always worries about her falling hair. She recalls her first meeting with Raj on the sets of Bheegi Palkein. ‘You have an old world look,’ he had said to her. Smita is feeling nostalgic. Full of old memories, she remembers her sisters. Anita, whom she calls Tai, has played surrogate mother to Smita in childhood. Younger sister Manya, Smita has mothered all along. She remembers the time when, as children, they played around their favorite banyan tree in the backyard of their old house in Pune, while their mother sang Marathi folk songs.

Rinsing her hair, she decides that she must copy all those songs in her note-book today. ‘Why do you need them now?’ her mother asks surprised by Smita’s sudden passion to collect them. ‘Just like that, I feel like singing them once again.’ Smita spends a major part of the morning scribbling the songs dictated by her mother. Just like old times, mother and daughter sit by the window, drinking tea from large mugs. It’s sometime in the evening that Smita begins to feel slightly melancholic. Somewhere in her body, a slight ache has begun.

At 10.30 the doctor comes in for his regular check-up. ‘There is slight fever, but nothing to worry about,’ he says, putting her on saline. Then he leaves for his next visit. Perhaps all she needs is rest. Smita lies on the bed, trying to read. She can’t. Memories crowd her mind as she stares at the bottle, waiting for the drip to get over.

Maya, her hair-dresser, drops by with a copy of the video cassette of her godbharai function. ‘The tape is only of 30 minutes,’ informs Maya. ‘We’ll complete it during the naming ceremony, when Tai and Manya are here. They haven’t been photographed with the baby at all,” says Smita. Then, as an afterthought, adds, ‘Maya, I’m not feeling too good. Pray for me, please. Pray that I get well soon.’ ‘Silly girl, nothing has happened to you,’ Maya replies ruffling Smita’s hair affectionately. Though the two women have been working together for only a couple of years, they share a deep bond.

The last two years have been exceptionally trying for Smita. Maya had often witnessed Smita’s bouts of depression and had, at times, even consoled her. Protective to the point of being maternal, Maya did not hesitate to scold her if she found Smita worrying unnecessarily. Today, once again, she reprimands her with, ‘Vedi ahes ka, kay jhala ahe tula ki itki ghabarte?’ (Are you mad? What has happened to you that you are so worried?)

Smita tries not to worry or think too much. Two hours later, when the first bottle of saline is over, Smita, who has by now become impatient, insists that she change the room. Cuddling up to her mother she says, ‘Ma, I haven’t been good to you these last two years. I have quarrelled with you all the time. But now it will all be fine. Now I have sorted out my problems and everything is going to be just fine.’ She feels restless and low and is hankering for contact. To Poonam Dhillon, who calls her at 3 PM, Smita says that she is feeling low. ‘All women feel like this after pregnancy,’ jokes Poonam. ‘Besides, now that you have all that you have always wanted, why worry?’ ‘That’s true,’ Smita muses, ‘but I’m feeling very uneasy. Why don’t you come home just now? We can sit and chat, I will feel better.’

Poonam, who is calling from the sets, promises to drop by. Then as she says goodbye, Poonam coughs and the hysterical mother that Smita is, she shrieks, ‘Don’t come if you have fever. I don’t want my baby to catch an infection.’ Then almost laughingly adds, ‘I’ll be okay in a few hours. I always go through such moments.’

In the evening, by the time Raj returns from his meeting, Smita’s tubes have been removed and she’s already feeling better. Humming a tune, she pulls out the clothes that Raj plans to wear for the Hope ’86 function.

She pleads with him to let her accompany him for the show. ‘I’m feeling better. I always do when you are with me. Let me come along too. When will I ever get to see a show like this?’ But Raj isn’t willing. He tucks her into bed, covers her with a blanket and goes into the bathroom for a shower. He returns barely 10 minutes later to find Smita looking pale as chalk, doubled up with convulsions, cringing in pain and vomiting blood. He panics. Moments later, quick arrangements are made to get in touch with the doctor.

‘I won’t go to the hospital,’ Smita pleads, as they put her on the stretcher. ‘I don’t want to be away from my baby. Don’t take me to the hospital. Please don’t take me away from him. I want to be at home with everybody.’ Her hysteria increases as she weeps and argues with Raj and her mother. Then somewhere anger gives way to fatigue and Smita leans on Raj’s shoulder and falls asleep. It’s only when they reach the hospital that they realize that Smita isn’t sleeping, but has slipped into a coma.

News of her critical situation spreads rapidly. In a couple of hours, a lot of people from the film industry and the press have gathered at Jaslok hospital. Everyone has only one question, ‘How is she?’ The hospital staff had only one answer. ‘She is the same!’

Worried visitors do all they can to extract further information. Different people have different reasons for her illness. Some say its meningitis, some say viral encephalitis, some say its disseminated intravascular coagulapathy, some say it is DSC and others describe it as stress. The speculations continue while every half an hour a fresh health bulletin is circulated.

Its late evening, somebody comes down and says that she has finally stopped bleeding, but now it’s her blood pressure that is falling. Smita is on the respirator and twenty doctors are examining her. Some say her brain has stopped functioning but the doctors still have hope.

In a room filled with people clad in white, Vidya Patil, who had been unconscious for long hours, now sits in a daze staring at her daughter’s photograph ‘Her brain gave away,’ says Vidya Patil, Smita’s mother, the next morning at the funeral held at her daughter’s Bandra residence. ‘Otherwise my daughter was a fighter. She fought all her battles, be it her career or her personal life. She would have fought death too, if only her brain hadn’t let her down’ says Vidya, before she breaks down again. Every time tears fill her eyes she wipes them away angrily. Shivaji Patil, Smita’s father, watches his wife quietly from a corner. There is no trace of emotion on his face, or rather he has suppressed all emotions for the time being.

Hours pass by as more visitors in white fill the room. They offer condolences but Vidya Patil is inconsolable. Shivaji Patil walks towards his wife and sits by her side holding her hand. ‘The loss is ours,’ he whispers to her in Marathi. ‘The world will continue and life will move on. What is unforgivable is that we lost her through negligence. If only we had been more careful!’

It is said that a dear friend once read her palm and predicted that Smita Patil would die early and she was not surprised. ‘I don’t mind, but as long as I live, I want to lead a healthy and wholesome life. A life I believe in. In fact I’ll be happy if I can cross my thirties,’ Smita had once said in an interview.
Perhaps she had a premonition and this reflected in the way she raced through life. In just a decade, Smita graduated from a TV announcer to become an actress to reckon with. The youngest star honored with a Padmashri, she was the first Indian actress to be honored with a retrospective abroad. When that happened her detractors said, ‘Isn’t she too young for such a big honour? After all, her career spanned only a decade. There is still plenty of time. What’s the hurry?’

There was, for somebody up there knew that there was very little time. And in that time, god wanted Smita to live life fully and passionately. The way Smita wanted to.

(Source: The Quint)

First sex doll-only brothel opens in Germany

The bizarre sex doll craze sweeping across Europe has reached Germany, with the country's first sex doll-only brothel opening for business.

Evelyn Schwarz, 29, runs the aptly named 'Bordoll' in Dortmund - a fusion of the words 'bordello' and 'doll'.

Originally looking into S&M, Schwarz instead decided to buy 11 silicone 'love dolls' - each of which she gave a unique name.
Germany's first sex-doll only brothel featuring a red-headed 'love doll' 
Featuring an anime-style doll
The five stone sex dolls are imported from Asia and cost her €2,000 (£1,786) each.

They all have different heights, hair colours and breast sizes. One sex doll is even made to look exactly like a blue-haired Japanese anime character.

It has been such a success that the dolls are booked around 12 times a day, costing €80 (£71) per hour.

Evelyn Schwarz, 29, runs the aptly named 'Bordoll' in Dortmund (pictured), a portmanteau of the words 'bordello' and 'doll'
Schwarz said: 'For many it is not a fetish, but more of a curiosity.'

She added: 'Actually I was looking for colleagues with good knowledge of German for the S&M scene, because for these practices communication is very important. But I did not find any.'

The brothel operator said that men of every age and profession from all across Germany have flocked to her brothel.
Evelyn Schwarz, 29, runs the aptly named 'Bordoll' in Dortmund. She is pictured preparing one of the dolls at the brothel
Schwarz said: 'From those on benefits to judges. Seventy percent of men also come back.'

Bizarrely, Schwarz said that the wives of many brothel visitors are reacting 'with tolerance' to their desires and are often seen 'waiting outside in the car' while their husband is having sex with a doll.

She said: 'They see it as a toy.'

Schwarz has only had one bad experience at her brothel so far, when an overly excited customer broke a doll, 'Anna' - the most popular one in the establishment.

The dolls all have different heights, hair colours and breast sizes
Schwarz said she had to order a new one.

According to reports, sex industry experts estimate that people with a fetish for sex dolls are a growing group, and that they expect more dolls to be made available by brothels.

Austrian psychologist Gerti Senger explained why some men are more interested in sleeping with sex dolls instead of a real woman.

Senger said: 'First, the man can do anything with the doll. Second, every intention is turned off, which can be a factor with a prostitute.'

But Senger, who is a co-chair at the Austrian Society for Sexual Research, said that she was shocked by some dolls being more popular than real prostitutes and called it 'a real autistic tendency'.

It was reported earlier this year that sex doll 'Fanny' became the top-selling superstar of the 'Kontakthof' brothel in the Austrian capital of Vienna, getting more customers than the real prostitutes.

At the Ars Electronica Festival in the city of Linz, an interactive silicone sex doll named 'Samantha' became so popular that it broke down because so many visitors groped its breasts and soiled its body.

In Germany, a new brothel has now opened that caters exclusively to those who are attracted to plastic sex dolls.

(Source: Daily Mail)

Terrorists are no more religious once they embrace terror: Dalai Lama

There are no Muslim or Christian terrorists because terrorists are no more religious once they embrace terror, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said on Wednesday.

"People cease to be Muslim, Christian or any group the moment they became terrorists," the Dalai Lama said at a public reception here on the second day of a three-day visit to Manipur.

The Tibetan leader also said that he does not like the "America first" slogan of US President Donald Trump.

A strong votary of non-violence, the Nobel Prize winner said violence does not solve any problem.

"India, which has a tradition of 1,000 years of non-violence, could ensure world peace by reviving the ancient knowledge."

According to him, almost all the problems people face today were "our own creation".

He underlined the need to control emotions. Anger weakens people's immune system and as such was bad for health, he warned.

"Out of seven billion people on earth, six billion are children of god while one billion are non-believers."

Problems around the world can be solved through dialogue, said the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since fleeing his homeland in 1959 and who is hated by the Chinese Communist regime.

India with her ancient knowledge and education could ensure world peace, he said. "China has also potentialities except for the Communist ideology."

The spiritual leader said that the widening gap between the rich and poor was morally wrong. "This gap is visible in India and Manipur also."

In his speech, the Dalai Lama recalled how he came to India as a refugee 58 years ago. India is also home to some 100,000 Tibetans.

(Source: TNIE)