February 19th, 2010

[LINK] Some Friday links

  • Acts of Minor Treason's Andrew Barton points out that genes aren't everything, that the environment (in its broadest sense) controls the expression of genes in any species.

  • blogTO's guest writer Matthew Harris summarizes the controversy surrounding the Bohemian Embassy condo development on Queen Street West.

  • Centauri Dreams speculates about the idea of humanity dispatching biological packages to distant worlds in order to encourage the panspermic spread of our biosphere. The idea is controversial.

  • At Crooked Timber, Henry Farrell speculates that the ongoing debt crisis in Greece might accelerate European integration.

  • Far Outliers visits anti-Chinese legislation in independent Indonesia and the treatment of Chinese in the Dutch East Indies by Japan during the Second World War.

  • A Fistful of Euros' Douglas Muir examines the upcoming examination of the legality of Kosovo's declaration of independence, suggesting that the court's likely to fudge the decision rather than take a controversial stance.

  • Joe. My. God announces the good news that the European Union is requiring aspiring member-states to respect gay rights and the sad news that the Roman Catholic diocese of Washington D.C. has closed down its foster child program rather than stop discriminating against same-sex couples.

  • Language Hat explores the sorts of largely good-hearted ethnic jokes made by people in the very multiethnic Russian Caucasian republic of Dagestan.

  • The Search's Douglas Todd writes about how a Pentecostal preacher has been coordinating chaplaincy services

  • Steve Munro points out that, contrary to rumour, the TTC employs ten thousand people.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests that Lithuania's overlookied Russophone community is starting to mobilize behind demands for greater recognition.

[LINK] "Jack Babcock, Canada’s Last World War I Veteran, Dies at 109"

When I was but a young child in the 1980s, I can remember veterans of the First World war marching in Charlottetown's Remembrance Day parade. Now this is entirely impossible; that link is gone.

Jack Babcock, who talked his way into the Canadian armed forces at 15 and almost a century later was celebrated as Canada’s last surviving veteran of World War I, has died. He was 109.

He died yesterday in Spokane, Washington, where he had lived since 1932, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement. Harper said Canada “mourns the passing of the generation that asserted our independence on the world stage and established our international reputation as an unwavering champion of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

Of the millions who participated in Europe’s so-called Great War, from 1914 to 1918, Babcock lived long enough to become one of three final survivors. He was modest about the honor, pointing out that he never saw combat.

“I feel guilty because I’m not a war hero,” he told Canada’s Kingston Whig-Standard newspaper on his 109th birthday in July 2009. “I didn’t get to accomplish what I set out to do.”

After lying about his age to join the 146th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, Babcock went through training and drills and made it to England before Canadian authorities cracked down on lax age enforcement. Along with about 1,300 other underage soldiers who were not yet 19, he was transferred to a newly formed Young Soldiers Battalion in England.

[LINK] "Did Dick Cheney want to start a war with Russia?"

Wow. I'd hope that Gideon Rachman was wrong in his evaluation of the source, but, wow.

[Author Ron] Asmus doesn’t quite spell it out [in his book A Little War that Shook the World. But the key passages clearly point in that direction. He writes that the White House considered “limited military options to stem the Russian advance”, including “the possibility of bombardment and the sealing of the Roki Tunnel as well as other surgical strikes to reduce Russian military pressure.”

He also writes that there was a disagreement between Steve Hadley, George W. Bush’s National Security Adviser and Dick Cheney, the vice-president. Hadley “thought Russia was focused only on Georgia”, while “Cheney had a different and harder-edged view of Moscow’s goals.” Asmus adds - “Both Hadley and Cheney’s staff had also considered the question of considering limited military options. Hadley had pushed them to think hard about the consequences of any proposed military steps…He was convinced they would lead quickly to a US-Russia military confrontation. But he concluded that is was necessary for Bush to know what his closest advisers, Cheney in particular, thought and for the president to have an open discussion with his key cabinet members …on whether the United States should consider using its military power to help the Georgians.”

That discussion took place on August 11th, 2009. But Asmus records that - “There was a clear sense around the table that almost any military steps, could lead to a confrontation with Moscow, the outcome of which no one could predict …The United States had taken a considered look at the military option and decided against it.”


[LINK] "G20 Toronto location to bump baseball, gay pride activities in late June"

On the one hand, it's nice that Toronto will be hosting the upcoming G20 summit in June. But the timing and the location could be more convenient for Torontonians.

The federal government will hold its G20 summit in the heart of Toronto's financial district over the last weekend of June, The Canadian Press has learned.

The decision will bring tens of thousands of visitors into the downtown core but it will also sideline baseball fans and the gay community as it kicks off a week of Pride activities.

An official announcement is not expected for a few weeks, but sources tell The Canadian Press the Metro Toronto Convention Centre next to the CN Tower has been selected over locations outside the downtown core.

Ottawa has already hosted a G8 summit and other international meetings in the building. Plus, it gives the federal government a chance to put the spotlight on its stable financial district at a time when G20 leaders are looking for good role models.

[. . .]

But the G20 summit will displace far more people than it draws in.

The Toronto Blue Jays are scheduled to play against the Philadelphia Phillies on both June 26 and June 27, in Toronto.

But the Rogers Centre, where the games are normally held, is virtually next door to the Convention Centre, and would likely be encompassed in the security zone that is always set up to protect world leaders at summits.

So discussions are underway to move at least one of the games, sources said.

The Gay Pride Parade, which usually draws over a million visitors from around the world, has already been pushed back a week.

Normally, the parade is held on the last weekend in June, after a week of festivities. The parade is meant to commemorate New York City's Stonewall Riots of June 28, 1969.

Organizers have postponed everything by a week in anticipation of summit activities. Still, Gay Pride activities will start just before the summit, on June 25, and build up to a parade a week after the summit, on July 4.

I can't wait?