February 3rd, 2017

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • blogTO notes that a waterfront LCBO is set to become another Toronto condo development.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at the difficulties involving with slowing down a light sail launched at relativistic speeds towards an extrasolar destination.

  • Dangerous Minds looks at a 1972 mail-order catalogue from a German retailer, full to the brim with retro-ness.

  • The Dragon's Tales reports on the discovery of a hot Jupiter orbiting T Tauri star V830 Tauri.

  • Language Log looks at Trump's odd phrasing regarding Frederick Douglas, while Marginal Revolution notes the man's opposition to racist immigration bars.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at how some children at Cambodian orphanages are not actual orphans, but are merely taking advantage of foreign funding.

  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at a proposal for a new probe to study Enceladus and Titan for signs of habitability.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes Trump's command responsibility for a failed military raid in Yemen.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog shares a map looking at the word for "church" in different European languages.

  • Towleroad notes a court ruling in the United Kingdom barring an Orthodox Jewish transgender woman from interacting with her children in real time, and reports on a Russian website that purports to warn users how many gay people are in any given city.

  • Understanding Society describes the problems with implementing ideologies and even policies in a very complex world.

  • Window on Eurasia notes one Russian parliamentarian's call for taking northern Kazakhstan, and reports on new border controls between Russia and Belarus.

[LINK] "How a former editor allegedly used Vice Canada to recruit drug mules for a global smuggling

Sean Craig and Adrian Humphreys's National Post article reports on criminal allegations of international drug smuggling which have the potential to harm emergent international media empire Vice Media.

A former editor with Vice Media used the Canadian headquarters of the youth-focused publishing empire as a recruiting ground to draw young journalists and artists into a transnational cocaine-smuggling ring, according to allegations by current and former Vice employees who spoke to the National Post.

Three current or former Vice journalists independently told the Post that Yaroslav Pastukhov, then Vice Canada’s music editor who went by the name Slava Pastuk, personally tried to recruit them as international drug couriers, offering each of them $10,000 to carry illicit cargo hidden in the lining of suitcases from Las Vegas to Australia. They say they did not accept the offer.

Meanwhile, Pastukhov’s one-time roommate, a promising Toronto electronic music artist named Jordan Gardner whom Vice had featured in a profile, now sits in an Australian prison, awaiting sentencing after being caught at Sydney airport with a large stash of cocaine.

Gardner, three other Canadians and one American — a New York-based model — were arrested on Dec. 22, 2015, when cocaine valued between US$5.1 million and US$6.6 million in Australia was allegedly discovered in the lining of their luggage. The Australian Federal Police described it as the work of “a transnational criminal syndicate.”

According to Gardner’s Australia-based lawyer, friends and family, he blames Pastukhov for badgering him into making the trip. When Gardner and some of his traveling companions tried to back out of the deal in Las Vegas, his lawyer told the Post, unknown men threatened Gardner with a gun.

[URBAN NOTE] "Toronto’s economy doesn’t get the respect it deserves"

At MacLean's, Armine Yalznizyan argues that Toronto deserves much more attention from Canadians at large for its positive economic contributions, and its heft.

It’s the city that every Canadian loves to hate, yet Canada wouldn’t be Canada without Toronto. No, this isn’t troll bait. People should care what happens to Toronto. Here’s why.

On Monday Statistics Canada put out a new data series about “local” economies, showing how much our cities contribute to the national economy. The census metropolitan area* of Toronto pumped out $330 billion in 2013, the last year for which StatsCan conducted this exercise. That’s virtually equivalent to the GDP of the entire province of Alberta GDP ($331 billion) and within spitting distance of Canada’s second-largest province, Quebec ($337 billion).

Since the 2008 global economic crisis, much has been made of how Alberta’s rapid rise created a new economic magnetic pole in Canada. But as vital as resource growth was to Canada’s recovery, Toronto’s relative economic importance was only slightly diminished between 2009 and 2013 as Alberta boomed; Toronto’s share of national GDP declined from 19.2 per cent to 18.6 per cent. But of course since 2013 the story of Alberta’s economic miracle was interrupted—and possibly ended—as the price of oil collapsed in 2014 and again further in 2015. Meanwhile, since 2013, growth in numerous and diverse sectors that are disproportionately concentrated in Toronto (construction, real estate, finance, professional and technical services, IT and even some manufacturing) mean that Toronto’s economy has likely continued to generate roughly one-fifth of Canada’s GDP. Much as it has since at least 2001, according to analysis by Statistics Canada.

This shouldn’t really be a surprise when one considers the second important fact about Toronto that nobody ever talks about: The Toronto census metropolitan region is North America’s fourth-largest city, and Canada’s largest city, home to 20.4 per cent of all Canadians. According to World Bank statistics, Toronto is bucking an international trend, as a higher concentration of Canadian residents have steadily chosen to live in the city over time, the opposite of what is happening in all G7 nations.

[URBAN NOTE] "New agency aims to attract foreign investment to Greater Toronto Area"

The Globe and Mail's Josh O'Kane describes how, in an era of incipient protectionism in the United States, the city of Toronto has set up a new agency to attract investment.

Toronto and its surrounding municipalities are doubling down on efforts to entice foreign investment, with a new agency designed to pull new business and money into the region.

The cities and regions of Greater Toronto will join the federal and Ontario governments in spending $19.5-million over three years to launch the agency, which is to be called Toronto Global. It will be chaired by former Canadian Football League commissioner Mark Cohon, with former airport executive Toby Lennox as chief executive officer.

The initiative seizes a moment where global trade and investment patterns are shrouded in uncertainty because of the protectionist agenda of Donald Trump. The new U.S. President has said his administration will renegotiate the North American free-trade agreement and has used the threat of border taxes to discourage manufacturers that sell into the U.S. market from making products outside the United States.

Despite those threats, the new Toronto agency aims to lure investors into Canada’s biggest metropolitan area to boost economic growth and attract jobs across multiple sectors such as advanced manufacturing, technology, life sciences and financial services.

Toronto’s census metropolitan area accounted for 18.6 per cent of Canada’s GDP at basic prices in 2013, the latest year for which Statistics Canada has such data. Mr. Cohon described Toronto Global as a “concierge service” to both advise interested companies and attract new partners to set up business in the region.