June 25th, 2010

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Did you know that astronomers have determined that the planet HD 209458b, a gas giant orbiting very close to its sun, has winds in excess of ten thousand kilometres an hour? Centauri Dreams tells us.

  • Crooked Timber reports on the astonishing news of the amazing defense of Leopold II's genocide rule in the Congo by Belgian politician Louis Michel.

  • The Global Sociology Blog is unimpressed by analyses of the French World Cup team which involve the ethnicity and countries of origin of the player.

  • Slap Upside the Head reports on the case of a Yellowknife landlord who violated a contract that he had signed with a young gay couple, justifying the violation on the grounds of his religious freedom. Um.

  • Via Towleroad, more news that the Iraqi government in involved in vicious persecutions of that country's queer population, sending agents to raid safehouses and disappear people.

  • Understanding Society's Daniel Little examines the phenomenon of the truth and reconciliation commission. Where does it come from? Why? How is it run?

  • Window on Eurasia quotes someone who suggests that the Commonwealth of Independent States was a success, not as a regional integration project but rather as a mechanism to help pacify the area.

[LINK] "G20 turning downtown Toronto into a ghost town"

I'm going to have fun exploring Toronto Sunday. Contrasting the crowded old core with a vacant rest-of-the-downtown will be an interesting thing to do first-hand.

There are no tumbleweeds rolling down Bay St. just yet but the signs are everywhere: downtown Toronto is set to become a ghost town once the G20 takes over.

The summit is just days away and while protesters and police are beginning to flood the downtown core, the well-heeled and pinstriped are starting to flee.

Big banks have already kicked in their contingency plans, emptying their Bay St. towers as employees work from home or satellite locations. At the Bank of Montreal, about 20 per cent of its approximately 6,000 downtown workers are already offsite, with as many as 75 per cent expected to stay away Thursday and Friday.

Erika Degroot, a 36-year-old financial adviser, noticed a surprising change while taking the GO Train to work Tuesday.

“I got a seat this morning,” she said. “That’s rare.”

Other commuters also reported a bit of extra leg room during their morning treks and GO Train officials noted a “slight decrease” in ridership Monday and Tuesday.

Near the G20 security zone, a parking lot manager said traffic is down between 35 and 40 per cent. At a Citipark lot near the King Edward Hotel, cars are usually packed three deep but on Tuesday afternoon, the lot sat half empty.

[LINK] "Police powers expanded for G20"


Police forces in charge of security at the G20 summit in Toronto have been granted special powers for the duration of the summit.

The new powers took effect Monday and apply along the border of the G20 security fence that encircles a portion of the downtown core. This area — the so-called red zone — includes the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where delegates will meet. The new regulations effectively expand the jurisdiction of the existing Public Works Act to apply to high-security areas of the summit site.

Under the new regulations, anyone who comes within five metres of the security area is obliged to give police their name and state the purpose of their visit on request. Anyone who fails to provide identification or explain why they are near the security zone can be searched and arrested.

The new powers are designed specifically for the G20, CBC's Colin Butler reported Friday.

Ontario's cabinet quietly passed the new rules on June 2 without legislature debate.

Civil liberties groups are concerned about the new regulations, but Toronto police Chief Bill Blair defended the move to add the new powers and denied there was any attempt to deceive the public about how or when they were enacted.

"It was not a secret," Blair told CBC News on Friday. "It was passed in exactly the procedure as described in our legislation in Ontario.

"It was published by the province ... if you go and Google 'Public Works Act Ontario' it's the second thing that comes up. The first will be the act itself."

Lawyer Howard Morton said the new rules go too far and were brought into effect without proper notice.

Protester Dave Vasey, one of Morton's clients, was arrested Thursday after he failed to produce identification. Morton said his client — who was not aware of the new rules — was held for five hours at a special detention facility on Eastern Avenue.

The "special detention facility" was described in the Toronto Star as "a wire cage, on a metal bench."

Vasey was arrested Thursday afternoon while exploring the G20 perimeter with his friend, Cameron Fenton. He said they were just “walking around” when they were stopped by police at York St. and Bremner Blvd.

“The officer told me, ‘I am going to have to place you under arrest if you don’t show your identification,’ and I replied ‘I’m not comfortable with that.’”

Vasey said he had been provided with legal information prior to the G20 from the Toronto Community Mobilization Network, an umbrella group supporting thousands of protesters descending on the city.

“But (police) told me there was this bylaw,” he said. “I didn’t know what they were talking about.”

Vasey was held under the Public Works Protection Act and charged with refusing to comply with a request of a peace officer. His bail lawyer, Howard Morton, said that, as far as he knows, Vasey is the first to be arrested under the new regulation.