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[BLOG] Some Monday links

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  • blogTO shares a new transit map that combines streetcar and subway routes.
  • Crooked Timber’s Chris Bertram notes, in light of the ongoing massacres of Iraq and the desperate plight of a party of Afghanistani Sikhs smuggled into the United Kingdom, that persecution combines with general bars on refugees to force people-smuggling.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining how planetesimals form.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Edward Hugh writes about the imminent debt catastrophe facing the Italian economy, and Marginal Revolution picks up on it.
  • The Frailest Thing’s Michael Sacasas wonders how some people get the sense that the world is technophobic.
  • Language Log examines how Muslims around the world learn to read the Qu’ran in Arabic. Fascinating comments.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes Russia’s new problems in the Pacific Rim and notes the unseemly pro-Russian propaganda of The Nation.
  • More Words, Deeper Hole’s James Nicoll reviews the Niven/Pournelle collaboration Lucifer’s Hammer and notes it a competent distillation of the fears of the mid-1970s.
  • The New APPS Blog looks at a study examining alloparenting, the raising of a child in part or in whole by a non-parent, and notes that the most successful of these societies don’t teach their children fear of the outside world.
  • Peter Rukavina shares an old Prince Edward Island news article commenting on how celebrations of Confederation were postponed by the outbreak of the First World War.
  • Torontoist tells the story of Toronto astronomer and popularizer Dr. Helen Sawyer Hogg.
  • Towleroad celebrates the recent birthday of gay icon Madonna.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy looks at the controversies of Michael Brown and Steven Salaita.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that the Putin who annexed Crimea can be foudn in the Putin who tried to cover up the Kursk submarine disaster in 2000, and notes the desire of Chechnya’s dictator to have North Caucasians serve in the Russian military as conscripts.

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto’s Civic Election”

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Livejournaler jsburbidge wrote an interesting post on the prospects of the major candidates in Toronto’s mayoral election later this year. John Tory might actually get elected.

First, even with the latest Forum poll, it’s not really clear whether John Tory has a decided lead or not. Forum adjusts its polls for likely voters, and the current rolling average calculations at ThreeHundredEight.com show Chow’s “recent high” overlapping with Tory’s “recent low” (31% as opposed to 28%). In other words, they’re still in competition within the margin of error.

Still, Tory’s weighted average is 33.9% and Chow’s is 29.1%. I think it’s fair to say that if trends continue as they have been Chow will be in trouble.

You can see from a breakdown in a recent poll as to why Chow has a bit of a dilemma. She has strong support (naturally) from the NDP, but also the largest block of Liberal support. If her aim is to increase her overall share of the vote, she can do one of two things — try to peel away more Liberal – identifiers (or equivalent voters who don’t identify as Liberals but whose views are generally more middle-of-the-road), or come out swinging strongly in a bid for popular support among more disaffected voters.

In a “normal” election, the latter might make sense: there are more voters who will identify with her immigrant experience and early background than with Tory’s background as a scion of Tory, Tory, Deslauriers and Binnington (as it was when I was in Law School, now Torys LLP). Unfortunately, many of these potential voters are in the disaffected category on which Rob Ford has an even stronger lock — as a number of analyses have pointed out, Ford’s populist base isn’t necessarily all conservative, and certainly his strength among the young and in the black community points to a strength based in pure populism. (Serious conservatives of any sort have probably given up on Ford because even if he were to win, the last several years have shown that he can’t work well enough with others to make things happen; better to back a less radical conservative withe better coalition-building skills.) So Chow’s growth prospects depend on not scaring off centrist voters.

That’s why her campaign is so bland. She’s safe pointing out her own background, but she’s presenting as someone pushing minor adjustments to the system rather than major overhauls. Soknacki, who is a self-declared small-c conservative, has more radical positions than she does.

In contrast the same breakdown shows why Tory’s campaign is so much closer to the fiscal position of the city government over the past four years than his background in the CivicAction Alliance might lead one to expect: if Chow basically occupies the left and centre left of the spectrum, he has little to gain from trying to compete with her there, given his background and history. Campaigning to the right is his obvious strategy.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 19, 2014 at 2:43 am

[URBAN NOTE] “The Killing of Sammy Yatim”

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Mary Rogan’s Toronto Life article on the shooting death of teenager Sammy Yatim on a Dundas West streetcar by Toronto police has gotten quite a lot of attention online. This is not only because of the article’s detailed timeline of the event but because of what many commenters think is an unduly sympathetic approach towards the policeman responsible, James Forcillo.

I’ve touched on the event before, most recently here noting Forcillo’s arrest and charge of murder. This is an event that will not go away.

Within an hour, a cellphone video was posted to YouTube and quickly went viral. It was reposted on Facebook and ­Twitter and led every newscast across the city. Toronto was transfixed by the last 90 seconds of Sammy Yatim’s life. A city-wide consensus quickly formed: this 18-year-old didn’t have to die. The police could have held their fire and waited for the ­Taser. They could have tried to talk Yatim down instead of working him up, or shot the knife out of his hand, or used ­pepper spray. There had to be a non-lethal option available. And the question on everyone’s mind was, what kind of cop shoots a troubled teenager nine times?

In his six years on the force, James Forcillo had never fired his gun on the job until that night. He had drawn it before, during an arrest in Kensington Market, but managed to persuade two armed suspects to surrender without incident. Forcillo looks older than his 31 years. He has a square, heavyset build and a wary cast to his eyes. A second-generation Italian-Canadian, he spent his early childhood in Montreal, close to his mother’s large family. His father worked in the textile industry, moving from job to job, with long stretches of money troubles in between. A job change brought the family to Toronto when Forcillo was 12. A few years after that, his father found work in California, and Forcillo and his mom split their time between Toronto and L.A. When he was 18, he moved to ­California to live with his dad full-time, and his mother died of lung cancer shortly afterward. He enrolled in a criminal justice program, something that had interested him since high school, and graduated summa cum laude, but he wasn’t able to work without a green card. His relationship with his father soured, and at age 20 he decided to come back to Toronto to pursue a career in policing.

Forcillo met his future wife, Irina, in 2003, when he rented the basement apartment in her parents’ North York house. Like all cops, he’s prohibited from talking about any case that’s in front of the courts, including his own, but the rule doesn’t ­apply to his wife, who agreed to be interviewed for this story. A manager in a financial services firm, Irina is a stylish woman, self-possessed and yet unexpectedly girlish when she smiles. She comes from a close-knit Ukrainian family that immigrated to Israel when she was seven and then to Canada when she was 15. You can still hear the mix of hard Russian consonants and Israeli inflections in her voice.

They were an unlikely couple—Forcillo is shy and quiet, and Irina is outgoing and boisterous—but her family quickly brought him into the fold. Irina was in the last year of her business degree at U of T, and Forcillo was following a well-worn path to the police force. He worked as a security guard and studied psychology at York. In 2006 he became a court officer, escorting prisoners to and from their cells and maintaining order in the courtroom. The following year, he and Irina were married, and the year after that, when Irina was pregnant with their first child, Forcillo got the call that he had been accepted into the police-training program.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 18, 2014 at 11:07 pm

[LINK] “Steppe Children”

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Alicia P.Q. Wittmeyer‘s recent article in Foreign Policy, “Steppe Children”, examining the issues facing people of mixed Tibetan and non-Tibetan ancestry in the diaspora is thoughtful. It’s a matter of relevance to Toronto, actually, since Tibetan-Canadians are one of the largest diaspora communities and they’re concentrated in the Toronto neighbourhood of Parkdale.

Mixed-race Tibetans coming of age in the West like Dondup and his brother are grappling with issues that an increasingly dispersed community will face more of in the future: how they fit into the Tibetan cause, how to preserve a sense of connection to a far-flung homeland now several generations removed, and how to handle the perception that they are contributing to the dissolution of a community that still feels like it must fight to preserve itself.

It’s been more than 50 years since the first wave of Tibetans fled the plateau for Dharamsala, following a failed uprising against Chinese Communist Party rule and the subsequent brutal military crackdown, in which the Chinese government executed or imprisoned tens of thousands suspected of supporting a Dalai Lama-led government. As exiles, this first wave expected to return home quickly once Tibet gained its independence, said Emily Yeh, who researches Tibet at the University of Colorado, Boulder. So instead of dispersing like other diaspora communities, the roughly 85,000 people who first fled Tibet mainly clustered around a central core, built around Dharamsala and the Dalai Lama, in the mountains of India, Nepal, and Bhutan, next to their homeland.

But the past three decades have seen the start of a new chapter for Tibetans living outside of the plateau, a vast landmass of about 965,000 square miles in southwest China. As the decades in exile wear on, and the prospects of returning to the plateau have dimmed, more Tibetans are exchanging refugee life in South Asia for the West. Western countries, won over by the lobbying efforts of the Tibetan government, have arranged for large-scale resettlement programs that bring in hundreds of immigrants. Like Dondup’s father, some of them — there are no good estimates on the number — have married Westerners and raised families with half-Tibetan children.

They’re leaving at a time when a community that’s always fretted about cultural preservation — about how to maintain a strong sense of itself even though Beijing has destroyed many of the hallmarks of its culture — faces increasing questions about what, exactly, constitutes “authentic” Tibetan-ness today.

Parents in Dharamsala worry that their Hindi-speaking children are too Indian, while new arrivals from Tibet to Dharamsala struggle to fit in, considered by their first-wave counterparts too Sinicized to be truly Tibetan. Meanwhile, Han Chinese settlers continue to flow onto the plateau, in what the Dalai Lama has called an ongoing “cultural genocide.”

Amid all this, some mixed-race Tibetans have struggled to find their footing. There are enough of them asking the same questions about their collective identity that a group of about two dozen organized a conference in June in London, where they received messages from Tibetan Prime Minister Lobsang Sangay, Tibet’s representative to Northern Europe, Thubten Samdup, and even the Dalai Lama himself. Intermarriage for Tibetans was “inevitable,” the Dalai Lama wrote. What was important, he said, was “the preservation of the Tibetan language and culture.”

Written by Randy McDonald

August 18, 2014 at 7:49 pm

[PHOTO] Faded Pride rainbow tulips at night, Church and Alexander

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Faded Pride rainbow tulips at night, Church and Alexander #toronto #Torontophotos #flowers #tulips #churchandwellesley #rainbow #churchstreet #alexanderstreet

On my Canada Day Instagram spree I posted a photo of a row of tulips in the colours of the rainbow at Church and Maitland. The above picture is of these flowers a month later, at night.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 18, 2014 at 2:06 pm

[PHOTO] Flowers of Paul Kane House, Toronto

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Walking by Paul Kane House and its associated parkette last week, I was struck by the flowers in the beds separating the grounds from the street. When I photographed the house on my instagrammed Canada Day walk, these flowers weren’t out. These flowers of August are beautiful, but their colours seemed unlikely, off somewhat: the periwinkle blue of ageratum, slightly odd oranges and yellow among the marigolds, sassy pink flowers of the hibiscus.

Don’t believe me? Here’s proof.

Flowers of Paul Kane House (1)

Flowers of Paul Kane House (2)

Flowers of Paul Kane House (3)

Flowers of Paul Kane House (5)

Flowers of Paul Kane House (5)

Written by Randy McDonald

August 17, 2014 at 10:28 pm

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

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  • Cody Delistraty links to an article of his at The Atlantic examining the connection between beauty and happiness.
  • A Fistful of Euros’ Edward Hugh looks at Abenomics in Japan and notes that Japan’s economic problems run much too deep for simple fiscal and interest-rate changes to change.
  • On Tumblr, I Give In shares pictures of lady slipper flowers growing in abundance at CFB Gatetown.
  • Joe. My God., Lawyers, Guns and Money, and Towleroad all share the news that Texas governor Rick Perry was indicted on multiple felony charges.
  • Language Hat shares a paper suggesting that most languages above a certain size (35 thousand speakers) are not declining).
  • Languages of the World’s Asya Perelstvaig reposts her study of the correlation between ethnicity and political parties in Israel.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money traces the ongoing deterioration in Russian-Ukrainian relations to the point of open war.
  • Marginal Revolution looks at the economy of Switzerland and wonders if deflation is a problem for the European economy.
  • Spacing Toronto shares a photo of the view over the Bathurst bridge.
  • Towleroad notes the struggles of gay Palestinians in Israel.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes problems with regulating certain Jewish rites on sanitary grounds.

[PHOTO] Hole in the wall, Dufferin station

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I have no idea why this substantial hole was cut deep into the concrete wall on the eastbound platform at Dufferin station. I do know that it was an unmissable photo opportunity.

Hole in the wall, Dufferin station (1)

Hole in the wall, Dufferin station (2)

Written by Randy McDonald

August 16, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Posted in Photo, Toronto

Tagged with , , , ,

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait suggests that the ESA’s Rosetta probe may have found evidence for a calving event in its target comet.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at Jupiter’s extraordinarily volcanic moon of Io.
  • The Dragon’s Tales’ Will Baird notes a report that Russia plans on opening a new air force base in Belarus.
  • Far Outliers’ Joel describes how Hakodate, the first city of Japan’s Hokkaido island, hosted multiple consulates.
  • Joe. My. God. and Towleroad note how parishoners at a Roman Catholic church in Illinois are rallying behind their church’s music director, fired for announcing his impending marriage.
  • Languages of the World’s Asya Perelstvaig describes, with maps, the issues of Christians in the Middle East.
  • Language Log explores the complexities of newly popular Sanskrit language programs in education.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money explores the survival of the old South and Confederate ideals in the modern Tea Party (1, 2).
  • Marginal Revolution started a discussion as to what the European Central Bank should do.
  • The Planetary Society Blog hosts a post from Jason Davis describing the innovative online interface for data from the crowd-controlled ISEE-3 probe.
  • The Russian Demographics blog notes the confused population policy of Belarus.
  • Spacing Toronto notes how Logan Avenue in the east end has become an unofficial slow street.
  • Torontoist discusses doorings suffered by cyclists.

[PHOTO] College Park seen at an angle

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College Park seen at an angle

Written by Randy McDonald

August 15, 2014 at 7:46 pm


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