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Thursday, June 25th, 2015
7:02 pm - [URBAN NOTE] Chris Selley on how Bombardier failed Toronto with its streetcars
At the National Post Chris Selley notes Bombardier's multiple problems in delivering streetcars to Toronto on time, and wonders why we should protect it.

If the bidding process for these streetcars wasn’t rigged in Bombardier’s favour, you can’t blame people for being suspicious. Skoda’s highly regarded 10T model was conveniently excluded because the TTC insisted on a 100 per cent low-floor model. (The 10T was 50 per cent low-floor; its successor is 100 per cent.) Siemens struggled with the Cancon requirement, and dropped out of the initial, aborted bidding process at the last minute. You certainly can’t say Toronto did everything possible to get the best deal — indeed, then-TTC chairman Adam Giambrone had hoped to aim for 50 per cent Cancon, and board member Glenn De Baeremaeker tried to have whole thing sole-sourced to Bombardier, all based on the premise that Thunder Bay will suffer if we don’t buy domestic, and that that’s the TTC’s business.

It is a maddeningly parochial, small-minded view masquerading as benevolence, and it’s not just confined to transit. Last year, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives warned that CETA, the Canada-Europe free trade deal, would turn all of government procurement on its ear: It would “substantially restrict the vast majority of provincial and municipal government bodies from using public spending as a catalyst for achieving other societal goals.”

Daniel Schwanen, vice-president, research, at the C.D. Howe Institute, agrees it’s a big change — but a positive one, inasmuch as Canadian firms now have reciprocal access to the enormous European procurement market. Indeed, even as Vancouver buys Canada Line trains from South Korea, and Metrolinx buys UP Express trains from Japan, and Edmonton buys LRT units from Germany, the vast majority of Bombardier’s business in Thunder Bay is domestic — in large part because it’s so tough to sell to our most obvious potential foreign customer.

“When we negotiated the NAFTA, the U.S. and Mexico were ready to talk business regarding more open state and provincial and local procurement markets,” says Schwanen. But Canadian provinces weren’t up for it. Schwanen suggests they were more amenable during the European negotiations precisely because their companies found themselves locked out of the U.S. market, and didn’t much like it.

In short, instead of imagining job losses in Thunder Bay, we could be imagining all the jobs freer trade might create there to serve foreign markets.

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6:58 pm - [LINK] "Federal Court orders government and RCMP to hand over all Quebec gun registry data"
Wow. Hosted at the National Post, Bruce Cheadle's Canadian Press article tells a damning tale of the government.

A Federal Court judge has ordered that Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and the RCMP commissioner immediately hand over an external hard drive containing a copy of all Quebec gun registry data.

Judge Luc Martineau gave the government until 10 a.m. Tuesday morning to deliver the hard drive to the court — effectively issuing a vote of non-confidence in government assurances that all the remaining long-gun registry records would be preserved while court challenges continue.

It’s the first decisive legal skirmish in a battle that could last for some time between information commissioner Suzanne Legault and the Harper government over the long-defunct long-gun registry.

[. . .]

Martineau’s order came after a day-long hearing in which Justice department lawyers argued it was unnecessary to produce an actual physical copy of the records because the public safety minister had issued “four separate undertakings” to preserve the data.

Lawyer Richard Dearden, representing Legault, presented affidavits, letters and email evidence showing that previous assurances from the Conservative government in 2012 were ignored as it pushed for the speedy destruction of all gun registry records outside the province of Quebec.

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6:54 pm - [LINK] On why the Galilean moons, unlike Titan, lack atmospheres
The Dragon's Tales links to a paper, "The formation of the Galilean moons and Titan in the Grand Tack scenario", that provides an explanation for why Galilean moons like Ganymede and Callisto lack atmospheres despite being as massive as densely-shrouded Titan. Migration in the early solar system explains this.

In the "Grand Tack" (GT) scenario for the young solar system, Jupiter formed beyond 3.5 AU from the Sun and migrated as close as 1.5 AU until it encountered an orbital resonance with Saturn. Both planets then supposedly migrated outward for several 105 yr, with Jupiter ending up at ~5 AU. The initial conditions of the GT and the timing between Jupiter's migration and the formation of the Galilean satellites remain unexplored. We study the formation of Ganymede and Callisto, both of which consist of ~50% water and rock, respectively, in the GT scenario. We examine why they lack dense atmospheres, while Titan is surrounded by a thick nitrogen envelope. We model an axially symmetric circumplanetary disk (CPD) in hydrostatic equilibrium around Jupiter. The CPD is warmed by viscous heating, Jupiter's luminosity, accretional heating, and the Sun. The position of the water ice line in the CPD, which is crucial for the formation of massive moons, is computed at various solar distances. We assess the loss of Galilean atmospheres due to high-energy radiation from the young Sun. Ganymede and Callisto cannot have accreted their water during Jupiter's supposed GT, because its CPD (if still active) was too warm to host ices and much smaller than Ganymede's contemporary orbit. From a thermal perspective, the Galilean moons might have had significant atmospheres, but these would probably have been eroded during the GT in < 105 yr by solar XUV radiation. Jupiter and the Galilean moons formed beyond 4.5 (+/-0.5) AU and prior to the proposed GT. Thereafter, Jupiter's CPD would have been dry, and delayed accretion of planetesimals should have created water-rich Io and Europa. While Galilean atmospheres would have been lost during the GT, Titan would have formed after Saturn's own tack, because Saturn still accreted substantially for ~106 yr after its closest solar approach, ending up at about 7 AU.

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6:51 pm - [LINK] "Renewables to Beat Fossil Fuels With $3.7 Trillion Solar Boom"
Bloomberg's Ehren Goossens reports. I would also add that other energy technologies should be taken into consideration--nuclear energy comes to mind.

Renewable energy will draw almost two-thirds of the spending on new power plants over the next 25 years, dwarfing spending on fossil fuels, as plunging costs make solar the first choice for consumers and the poorest nations.

Solar power will draw $3.7 trillion in investment through 2040, with a total of $8 trillion going toward clean energy. That’s almost double the $4.1 trillion that will be spent on coal, natural gas and nuclear plants, according to a forecast from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The figures show the traditional dominance of coal and natural gas suppliers will slip in the coming years as cheaper renewables mean developing nations can tap less-polluting sources to meet their swelling energy needs. The forecast from New Energy Finance also indicates that coal will remain an important fuel, suggesting policy makers must take further steps to control greenhouse gases.

“We will see tremendous progress toward a decarbonized power system,” Michael Liebreich, founder of New Energy Finance, said Tuesday in a statement as the research group released its findings in London. Despite this, emissions will continue to rise “for another decade-and-a-half unless radical policy action is taken.”

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6:46 pm - [LINK] "Is memory enough? Remembering the racial legacies of slavery in France today"
Nicola Frith and Kate Hodgson write at Open Democracy about race and slavery and historical memory in France, and their complications.

Race was central to constructing and maintaining slavery in France’s colonies, as it was across the colonial plantation world more generally. Key distinctions between subjects racialised as ‘white’ and ‘black’ shaped economic patterns, legal affairs and social relationships. Enslaved Africans were sought-after merchandise among the French merchants and plantation owners who made fortunes from the sale of what they crudely referred to as ‘ebony wood’. A legal text governing master-slave relations was created called the Black Code (1685). This outlawed relationships between free and enslaved persons, restricted the movements of slaves, and defined the harsh punishments to be used against slaves for any minor infringement or attempt to escape. The original colonial system placed a small white minority in control of a large but enslaved African majority, and was from the start a regime of terror, brutality and exploitation.

Yet the Black Code was not completely successful in its attempt to segregate and subjugate. This is evident in multiple forms of resistance, including poisoning, slave-led uprisings and ‘marronage’ (fugitive slaves). A growing free black and mixed-race population also began to emerge, posing a challenge to the stark, racialised binaries on which the colonial system was based. In response, additional colonial legislation was passed to restrict the activities of free people of colour. A total of 128 categories of skin colour were meticulously catalogued, from black to white, from ‘Sacatra’ to ‘Quarteron’.

The resentment provoked by this apartheid-esque system exploded with the arrival of French revolutionary ideas to the colonies, culminating in the mass revolt of the enslaved Africans in Saint Domingue. This became known as the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804). The French Atlantic world was transformed with the birth of Haiti as the first black-led, post-slave, post-colonial nation state. One of the most radical aspects of Haiti’s independence was the article in the 1805 constitution that abolished distinctions of skin colour, with all Haitians henceforth identified as black. Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the constitution’s creator, did this to help unify a nation still deeply marked by the structural racism of its French origins.

The French colonial bureaucracy took the opposite stance after it abolished slavery in the rest of France’s plantation colonies in 1848. In contrast to Haiti’s assertion of blackness, French republicanism embraced a ‘neutral’ identity based on the idea of assimilation to French cultural values and a desire to forget the slave past. This rhetoric of neutrality towards racial difference masked the reality of continued exploitation, including forced labour, indenture, and the use of detention centres. These and other practices effectively created a two-tier system of national identity based upon racial divisions. Numerous individuals who grew up during this period have testified to the profoundly alienating effects of a colonial education that worked to deny their history and erase their identity.

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3:26 pm - [BLOG] Some Thursday links

  • Centauri Dreams reports on a theory suggesting the distant dwarf planet Sedna and its kin were captured from another star in the sun's birth cluster.

  • Crooked Timber reports on a Dutch court ruling arguing that the Netherlands is legally obliged to reduce carbon dioxide output.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes that hot Neptune Gliese 436b has a comet-like tail.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes that DARPA is working on Martian terraforming bugs.

  • Far Outliers looks at Comanche inroads on bison herds in the 19th century.

  • Geocurrents maps the recent Turkish elections, looking for patterns.

  • Marginal Revolution argues that the campaign against the Confederate flag couldn't work if the two American political parties were competing for rural white votes.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog shares an Economist ranking of the top tne economies in 2050, Indonesia ranking notably higher.

  • Torontoist notes a local publication of nerd fangirls.

  • Window on Eurasia argues that the Russian Orthodox Church's ongoing losses in Ukraine will marginalize it internationally.

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11:56 am - [PHOTO] Seen at the station
Seen at the station #toronto #pride #bdsm #yongeandeglinton #ttc #wellesleystreet

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Wednesday, June 24th, 2015
5:50 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "A tour of Queen & Spadina a hundred years ago"
Spacing Toronto's Adam Bunch shares some vintage photos and history of the intersection of Queen and Spadina.

It has been nearly 200 years since the intersection of Queen & Spadina was born. When the two roads first met, Toronto still wasn’t even a city yet: it was the town of York, home to less than two thousand people. Queen Street had been one of the very first roads the British built when they got here, part of the original plans for Toronto all the way back in 1793. They called it Lot Street back then, the northern edge of the first few blocks built in the new town (right around the St. Lawrence Market). A few decades later, it was renamed in honour of Queen Victoria.

By then, Spadina had also been built. It was laid out as a wide avenue by William Warren Baldwin, a doctor and lawyer who also designed Osgoode Hall and would play a leading role in the political struggle for Canadian democracy. He had just built a brand new house on his sprawling country estate; it stood on the hill above Davenport: the original Spadina House. Baldwin had the grand avenue carved out of the forest south of his home in order to get a better view of the lake. The estate, the house and the new road would all be given the same name: Spadina. It’s an Anglicized version of an Ojibwe word: “Ishpadinaa” (“a place on a hill”).

So it was when Baldwin built his avenue in the 1820s that the intersection of Queen & Spadina was first created.

Back in those early days, the intersection was way off on the outskirts of town, just outside the official border of the tiny new Upper Canadian capital. But it didn’t stay that way for long. Toronto grew quickly over the course of the 1800s. By the time the early 1900s rolled around, Queen & Spadina was at the heart of a bustling metropolis.

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5:46 pm - [LINK] "Military parade with foreign troops an attempt to redraw China’s wartime past"
The Globe and Mail's Nathan Vanderklippe reports on China's new effort to integrate its memory of the Second World War, as a specifically anti-Japanese war in China, with global historical memory. This could lead to any number of interesting things. Thoughts?

On Sept. 3, Beijing will mount the 14th military parade in the history of modern China, as President Xi Jinping seeks to further cement the country’s major-power status by marking the 70th anniversary of the Second World War’s end in Asia. It will be a public display of military might that promises to show off never-before-seen weapons and, for the first time, include troops from other countries.

Plans for the parade have been made in secret. But on Tuesday, propaganda and military officials partially parted the curtains on an event they hope will bolster their argument that Beijing should be taken seriously as a long-time contributor to global security while also helping Mr. Xi secure even more power at home and shape a new identity for his country.

In a novel step, China is asking other countries to support its argument that it has played a historically important global role in fighting aggression, calling out Canada among a list of more than two dozen other nations whose “anti-fascist soldiers directly participated” in China’s efforts to fight Japanese aggression in the 1930s and 1940s.

Wang Shiming, vice-minister of publicity with the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee, specifically mentioned Canada’s Norman Bethune as he spoke about China’s desire to include foreign troops in the parade. Dr. Bethune was a physician who helped Mao Zedong’s Communists during the war; Mr. Wang mentioned him to buttress his argument that fighting in Asia is a shared memory.

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5:43 pm - [URBAN NOTE] "Chinese envoy says lack of oversight behind Vancouver’s house-price crisis"
The Globe and Mail's Iain Marlow reports on the entirely accurate statement of the Chinese consul-general in Vancouver blaming high housing prices on a lack of effective regulation. Canadian cities need to do much better on housing.

The Chinese government’s top envoy in Vancouver says the city’s skyrocketing house prices and affordability crisis are due to a lack of regulation in the booming real estate market.

In a wide-ranging interview over tea at the Chinese consulate in Vancouver, Consul-General Liu Fei said local residents are blaming wealthy Chinese buyers for the city’s increasingly costly real estate but that the real blame lies with officials who monitor buyers, sellers and real estate developers.

“People are blaming the buyer. It’s the wrong direction,” said Ms. Liu, who has served in Vancouver since 2011. “I mean, the regulation here, nobody’s playing the role.”

Ms. Liu said this situation would not be allowed to occur in China, and pointed out that China’s government frequently wades into the country’s real estate market, and has strict policies with regard to affordable housing. She suggested a number of possible measures Vancouver could take to make housing more affordable, including the introduction of quotas to increase the number of affordable housing units within new buildings, greater oversight of real estate developers from the city and a tax or fee for overseas investors who want to buy luxury properties in the West Coast city.

“If there are not enough [affordable] houses, you can set up rules – saying, ‘Okay, we have to save 30 or 40 per cent of [the units] for those families who need housing,’” she said. “And we can put on luxury houses … a higher price for the overseas investors. We can do it this way. So everybody could enjoy [Vancouver].”

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5:39 pm - [ISL] "Pitcairn Island passes gay marriage but has no wedding plans"
Towleroad linked to Nick Perry's Associated Press article reporting how, despite an apparent dearth of gay people, Pitcairn Island now has same-sex marriage.

Pitcairn Deputy Governor Kevin Lynch said Monday the new law came into effect May 15 but initially wasn't published online after the island's website encountered some technical issues. He said the change was suggested by British authorities after England, Wales and Scotland legalized same-sex marriage last year. He said the law change was unanimously approved by the local council.

Seventh-generation resident Meralda Warren said there haven't been any same-sex marriages since the law passed and she doesn't know of any gay couples wanting to wed. As with most law changes, she said, a notice was put up on the verandah of the town hall and a second at the island's general store.

"It's not Pitcairn Islanders that were pushing for it," she said. "But it's like anything else in the world. It's happening everywhere else, so why not?"

She said it wasn't even a point of discussion until the outside world began catching up on the news in the last few days.

"I kind of cracked up when I saw the Google alert in my inbox," she said. "I scanned down, and smiled again, and thought 'We've kept that one quiet for a couple of months.'"

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5:35 pm - [ISL]

Syriza’s surprise plan to axe a lower tax rate for Greeks living far from the mainland has raised fears of a ‘tragic’ cost of living effect and a blow to tourism

The old town in Rhodes. Photograph: Linda Nylind

Angelique Chrisafis in Rhodes

Wednesday 24 June 2015 15.15 BST Last modified on Wednesday 24 June 2015 16.52 BST

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Just outside the medieval walled splendour of Rhodes’s old town, tourists and locals sip iced coffees at the pavement tables of the Gran Caffe restaurant and bar. Its owner, islander Seltsouk Atakli, is laughing and joking with customers. “Keep smiling is what I always say,” he shrugs. “But sometimes a smile is not enough.”

As the latest proposed deal to avoid Greece’s bankruptcy threatens to unravel, a row is raging on Rhodes and several other Greek islands over fears that they are being unfairly targeted. To the surprise of locals, one of the government’s proposals to its creditors is to get rid of the special lower VAT rate that applies to a number of Greece’s far-flung islands – not just the famous tourist destinations of Mykonos and Santorini, but scores of little-known smaller islands with ageing and depleting populations.

More on this topicTsipras summoned to Brussels for emergency talks over Greek bailout deal

Greece has thousands of islands scattered over a vast area, fewer than 250 of which are populated. Some of those furthest from the mainland have long depended on a special VAT rate 30% lower than elsewhere, which offsets the high cost of having to ship basic everyday goods long distances.

Rhodes, Greece’s fourth largest island, is a case in point, along with all the other Dodecanese islands scattered at the country’s furthest south-eastern point between Crete and Turkey. Sunbathers on Rhodes can contemplate the nearby Turkish coast from their loungers, while Athens is more than 230 nautical miles away. Everything from milk to medicines has to be transported here. Many other countries have similar reduced VAT schemes to support isolated territories, such as Spain’s concessions to the Canary Islands. Indeed, for years the special rate for far-flung Greek islands was considered untouchable.

In January’s Greek election, the radical left party Syriza topped the poll in Rhodes, where islanders believed the special lower VAT rate was protected. A Syriza spokesman this week acknowledged that scrapping the special VAT rate would have a repercussion on island residents. Syriza’s coalition partner, the rightwing Independent Greeks party – keen to court voters on islands – has vowed this week to oppose any abolition of the special island rate “even if the government falls”.

In his restaurant, Atakli says: “At least 90% of my supplies have to be brought in from the mainland. Vegetables are grown here but all milk, cheese – even olive oil – has to be shipped very far, it’s expensive. I’ll have no choice but to absorb this VAT rise myself. I’m not going to put up prices in the restaurant. It’s more important for me to keep my customers. I’ll take a cut on profits.”

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5:27 pm - [LINK] Ta-Nehisi Coates on what the Civil War was all about
In an essay at The Atlantic that demonstrates his typical brilliance, "What This Cruel War Was Over", Ta-Nehisi Coates goes to great lengths to demonstrate that the Confederacy--and, by extension, its flag--were all about slavery and white racism.

This afternoon, in announcing her support for removing the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley asserted that killer Dylann Roof had “a sick and twisted view of the flag” which did not reflect “the people in our state who respect and in many ways revere it.” If the governor meant that very few of the flag’s supporters believe in mass murder, she is surely right. But on the question of whose view of the Confederate Flag is more twisted, she is almost certainly wrong.

Roof’s belief that black life had no purpose beyond subjugation is “sick and twisted” in the exact same manner as the beliefs of those who created the Confederate flag were “sick and twisted.” The Confederate flag is directly tied to the Confederate cause, and the Confederate cause was white supremacy. This claim is not the result of revisionism. It does not require reading between the lines. It is the plain meaning of the words of those who bore the Confederate flag across history. These words must never be forgotten. Over the next few months the word “heritage” will be repeatedly invoked. It would be derelict to not examine the exact contents of that heritage.

This examination should begin in South Carolina, the site of our present and past catastrophe. South Carolina was the first state to secede, two months after the election of Abraham Lincoln. It was in South Carolina that the Civil War began, when the Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter. The state’s casus belli was neither vague nor hard to comprehend:

...A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction. This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

In citing slavery, South Carolina was less an outlier than a leader, setting the tone for other states[.]

I was pleased to see this reference:

Thus in 1861, when the Civil War began, the Union did not face a peaceful Southern society wanting to be left alone. It faced an an aggressive power, a Genosha, an entire society based on the bondage of a third of its residents, with dreams of expanding its fields of the bondage further South. It faced the dream of a vast American empire of slavery.

The island country of Genosha in the Marvel universe is a state off the east African coast notorious for its practice of mutant slavery.

If only I could exercise my wit and intelligence in as thorough and topical a manner as Coates! Read the essay: it's superb.

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2:15 pm - [BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Gerry Canavan shares his collection of links.

  • Centauri Dreams reacts to the discovery of a polar cap at Charon.

  • Language Log considers rhoticity and class in New York City.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money examines Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell from a productive intellectual property perspective.

  • Marginal Revolution wonders if Wikipedia will survive the displacement of the personal computers used by contributors by mobiles.

  • Steve Munro looks at the latest on the Yonge relief line.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer compares Greece to the Baltic States and Slovakia, and notes the depth of the Greek collapse.

  • The Planetary Society Blog's Emily Lakdawalla shares the latest from New Horizons
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  • The Russian Demographics Blog reports on censuses in British India.

  • Window on Eurasia notes the intense anti-Americanism of Russia.

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11:55 am - [PHOTO] One McLobster
One McLobster #mclobster #mcdonalds #lobsters #sandwiches

I split a McLobster sandwich last night in Toronto. The sandwich, traditionally a feature of Atlantic Canadian McDonald's outlets, has this season been the subject of a national roll-out. Why not try it? I argued. $C 8 is not that high a price.

I'm used to lobster sandwiches being fresh, with a flavourless sauce like mayo. This lobster was not especially fresh, the lemony sauce was suspicious, and the lettuce-to-lobster ratio was high. This was not a bad sandwich, mind, certainly compared to the alternative of having no lobster sandwich was much better. It was fast food, for better or for worse. Expecting more would have been inappropriate.

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Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015
8:05 pm - [BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • D-Brief reports on some highly unusual formations, including more bright spots and a pyramid (?), found on Ceres.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper examining the effect the activity of our own sun would have on the discovery of Earth.

  • Joe. My. God. quotes Jim Parsons on how he never quite came out.

  • Language Log reports on multilingualism in China.

  • Marginal Revolution suggests that the question over state debt in Greece is extending moral hazard to private debt.

  • Steve Munro notes how the TTC has to balance spending on infrastructure and on operations.

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw reflects on what the Australian equivalent to the New Zealand haka might be.

  • Spacing Toronto wonders why carding refuses to die.

  • Window on Eurasia argues Ukraine should press Russia harder on Crimea.

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6:55 pm - [LINK] "Straightening Europe’s crooked timber into a democratic eurozone"
Open Democracy's Mathew Lawrence considers at length how to improve democratic governance in the European Union, or at least the Eurozone.

The Eurozone’s nemesis – the ongoing Greek debt crisis – has once again returned to centre stage. With Greece’s existing bailout package expiring in just nine days time, today in Brussels the Greek government and its creditors – the ECB, the IMF, the European Commission and the Eurogroup - are meeting in a last-minute attempt to find a deal that can avoid default.

Much is at stake. Without an agreement, Greece risks defaulting, potentially triggering an exit from the Eurozone that could cause economic turbulence across the world economy. For the Greek people, meanwhile, the conditions of the bailout continue to extract a heavy social cost: unemployment has spiralled to 26 per cent, and food consumption has fallen by 28.5 per cent since austerity measures have been introduced. Both sides desperately require breathing space.

Yet whatever the outcome, the latest day of drama is unlikely to be the last. For the intransigence of the crisis is underpinned by a central contradiction: what is necessary is near-impossible politically. Critically, while monetary union necessarily involves losing - or pooling - some form of sovereignty, the creation of the Eurozone and its various coercive economic instruments has not been matched by political or fiscal union, with little democratic accountability or control over the decision-making institutions of the Eurozone. Central to any efforts at reforming the EU must therefore be grasping the nettle implied by the creation of the Euro: the economic logic of monetary union must be matched politically. Monetary union requires deeper fiscal and banking union which in turn requires greater political union.

This necessity – of deeper integration to overcome the debt crisis matched by more effective democratic decision-making within the Eurozone’s structure - is near-impossible, however, in a Europe deeply divided between the interests of creditor and debtor states and their different political economies, between the ‘core’ dominated by Germany and the ‘periphery’ of southern Europe.

Nonetheless, a way forward must be found, both to resuscitate the effective power of the democracies of the debtor states of the Eurozone and to strengthen the economies of Europe more generally. For in an effort to sustain the single currency, the governance regime of the Eurozone has transformed in recent years, progressively neutralising democracies across the debtor states of southern Europe and undermining their right to oppose decisions imposed upon them by a technocratic-led centre. For example, the European Semester System (2010), the Euro Plus Pact (2011) and the Fiscal Compact (2012) have steadily eroded the ability of debtor states within the Eurozone to control their tax and spend decisions, the very stuff of democratic government.

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6:54 pm - [LINK] "Wolves are better hunters when monkeys are around"
Science Daily reports on an interesting research finding from Ethiopia.

Through extensive data collection from all-day follows on the Guassa Plateau in north central Ethiopia from 2006 to 2011, researchers studied a band of approximately 200 gelada monkeys, who regularly associate with the wolves living in the area.

According to the study's findings, gelada monkeys would not typically move upon encountering Ethiopian wolves, even when they were in the middle of the herd -- 68 percent of encounters resulted in no movement and only 11 percent resulted in a movement of greater than 10 meters. In stark contrast, the geladas always fled great distances to the cliffs for safety whenever they encountered aggressive domestic dogs.

The Ethiopian wolves experienced a foraging advantage on subterranean rodents when among the gelada monkeys -- Ethiopian wolves foraged successfully in 66.7 percent of attempts among the gelada monkeys v. a success rate of only 25 percent when wolves foraged by themselves. The success rate may be attributed to the rodents being flushed out by the monkey herd, which disturb the vegetation as they graze or to what may be a diminished ability for the rodents to detect predators due to a visual or auditory interference posed by the grazing monkeys.

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6:52 pm - [LINK] "There are goldfish the size of dinner plates turning up in Alberta, biologists say"
Postmedia News' Alexandra Zabjek writes in the National Post about invasive life in the waterways of Alberta.

The discovery of dinner plate-sized goldfish and the ongoing threat of a zebra mussel infestation has the Alberta government ramping up awareness of invasive aquatic species in provincial water bodies.

The zebra mussel, which multiplies prodigiously and can clog water pipes, has been the “poster child” for invasive aquatic species. But seemingly mundane creatures can cause problems, too.

“The mussels really scare the crap out of everyone — biologists because of the environmental impacts. And the irrigation industry, the hydropower industry, the waste water treatment industry all potentially have a lot to lose,” said Kate Wilson, an aquatic invasive species specialist with Alberta Environment and Parks.

“It’s a big, scary thing to really engage the public. I’m hoping to use that to get people to think about how … people are dumping their goldfish, which is pretty serious for a whole lot of other reasons.”

Wilson recounted the story of a fisheries biologist who last year saw two children fishing in a Fort McMurray stormwater pond. The biologist discovered they had caught two goldfish, and the municipality then hired a consultant to study the pond.

More, including photos, at the site.

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6:50 pm - [LINK] "Ocean acidification is killing baby oysters"
Al Jazeera America's Lisa Fletcher reports on the dire consequences of ocean acidification for shellfish.

Although it doesn’t get as much attention as melting ice caps or rising sea levels, ocean acidification is one of the most serious effects of greenhouse gas emissions. Nearly a third of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, or about 22 million tons of CO2, is absorbed by the ocean every day. Scientists say this pollution has fundamentally changed ocean chemistry.

When carbon dioxide dissolves in water, it becomes an acid. That acid can be lethal to baby oysters, preventing them from forming shells, Eudeline said. And it’s not just oysters at risk; lobsters, crabs, clams and coral reefs are feeling the effects of ocean acidification too.

Ocean acidity is projected to increase by a factor of five by the year 2100, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In water that acidic, the shell of a common sea creature will dissolve in 45 days.

This outlook has a significant effect on family businesses such as [Wasghington State's] Taylor Shellfish, which began harvesting oysters in the 1890s. Diani Taylor, 26, is part of the fifth generation of Taylors to work on beaches.

“Ocean acidification specifically is an issue in the water that’s difficult to manage around,” said Taylor, who is currently a law student at Seattle University. “And it’s affecting us right now in our hatchery.”

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