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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘belarus

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • The Dragon’s Tales links to news of remarkably thorough reconstruction of Neanderthal and Denisovan genomes.
  • Eastern Approaches visits eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.
  • Geocurrents’ Martin Lewis notes that Pakistan still apparently lays claim to the former Muslim-run princely state of Junagadh in Gujarat.
  • Joe. My. God. and Towleroad both note a proposed bill before the Russian parliament that would require the fingerprinting of all HIV-positive people in a national database.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes a continuing crisis in the availability of rental spaces in the American housing market, linking it to low-density zoning.
  • Torontoist notes the sad loss of a pet pigeon on Queen Street West.
  • Towleroad notes continuing controversy over the use of the HIV drug Truvada as a prophylactic against infection.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy visits controveries over affirmative action in the United States where different minorities (here, Asian-Americans) have different claims.
  • Window on Eurasia visits the increasingly problematic lot of Crimean Tatars in their Russian-occupied homeland, notes that traditionally pro-Russian Belarus is newly wary of its eastern partner, and quotes from a journalist who predicts catastrophe from a Russian pursuit of empire.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • At The Dragon’s Tales, Will Baird reports that Sweden and Finland, spooked by Crimea, are now contemplating NATO membership.
  • On a very different note, The Dragon’s Tales also notes that Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus, with a Europa-like ocean underneath, is perfectly suited for a space mission.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that workers are dying on World Cup construction sites in Brazil as well as in Qatar.
  • At the Planetary Society Blog, Emily Lakdawalla notes the very recent discovery of Kuiper belt object 2013 FY27, big enough to be a dwarf planet.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy links to a profile of the blog and its blogger in Tablet magazine.
  • Window on Eurasia has a series of links. One argues that Russia’s weakness not its strength motivated the move into Crimea, another argues that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be a catastrophe and that the Russian government knows it, another observes Belarus’ alienation from federation with Russia.

[URBAN NOTE] “Public Works: Finding New Uses for Old Infrastructure”

Torontoist’s Peter Goffin has pointed to the Minsk Forest City project in the capital city of Belarus that might have interesting lessons for Toronto, specifically in the area of Downsview Park.

U.S.-based designers Sasaki Associates [. . .] have created an innovative master plan for the city of Minsk, Belarus, that, if implemented, would transform a disused airport into a a residential, commercial, cultural, and ecological hot spot.

Commissioned by a Russian consulting firm to conjure up a vision for what used to be Minsk-1 Airport, Sasaki has come up with “Forest City,” a 3.2-square km mixed-use district in the middle of the Belarusian capital, where museums, homes, businesses, and, yes, forests lie side by side. It’s still just the stuff of renderings and project descriptions, but whether or not the City of Minsk bites, Forest City is garnering a fair amount of buzz on architecture and urban design blogs from around the world.

Under the Forest City plan, structures that once served the airport would be updated and integrated into what Sasaki calls “a 24/7 vibrant, diverse, and balanced mixed-use program.” In a nod to the area’s history of aviation, the original terminal would be transformed into an air museum. Meanwhile, the old airstrip has been reimagined as “Runway Park,” a long strip of green space, in which vegetation grows through holes cut into the tarmac.

In fact, Forest City would be veined with a whole connected system of parks, woodland, and waterways winding their way toward a natural tributary south of the district. With space earmarked for everything from canoeing, to ice skating, to art galleries and community centres, Forest City would be just what its name suggests: rural and urban, all at once.

To Torontonian ears, this Forest City thing sounds a lot like Downsview Park—a derelict airfield due to come back from the dead as a mixed-use community where urban housing abuts parkland. Could Toronto offer a real-world model for Sasaki’s master plan? Perhaps not. Downsview Park has been a divisive, ever-changing, sometimes ignored initiative since it was announced in 1999 by the Jean Chrétien government. Originally planned as a National Park in an urban setting, it was handed over in 2012 to Canada Lands Company, the guys who sell off government property for profit. Last November, builders Mattamy Homes struck a deal to construct 1,000 residential units on the park’s lands. In fact, you can already stake your claim to one. To some, the Mattamy deal is the first step in developing a planned community of city homes in pastoral surroundings right by the subway line. For others, it’s sparked worry that the National Park vision is dead and that Downsview will one day be a Mississauga-style housing development.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 22, 2014 at 6:05 pm

[LINK] “The Myth of the Orthodox Slavs”

At Transitions Online, Bulgarian Boyko Vassilev writes against Samuel Huntington’s famous arguments that Eastern Orthodox Slavs–Bulgarians, Ukrainians, Russians among others–aren’t so inherently distinctive from western and central Europeans as is often claimed. At least they aren’t so distinctive that Bulgarians don’t aspire to the same sorts of things as others.

Different as they are, Ukraine has much in common with Bulgaria. Both are divided in their attitude to Russia – it’s just that in Ukraine the division is territorial, in Bulgaria philosophical. Both have been rocked by protests, although those in Ukraine ended with an explosion, those in Bulgaria with implosion. And both belong to a seemingly unhappy family – the Orthodox Slavs.

These countries of Slavia Orthodoxa (Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine) top the surveys for fatigue, unhappiness, and pessimism. All have low rates of fertility and high rates of crime. Some fought recent wars – and lost them. There is no spectacular business success here. Only one, Bulgaria, was not a member of either Yugoslavia or the USSR. And only one, Bulgaria again, is an EU member. Still, Bulgaria is the poorest country in the EU and is not known for its stability.

[. . .]

First, not all Orthodox Slavs are hard-line Russophiles. Serbs and Montenegrins are, but from a distance – a luxury Belarusians do not possess. Bulgarians and Ukrainians are at least divided. There, you have many people who are culturally Russophile but politically pro-Western; it is possible to love Dostoyevsky and democracy simultaneously.

Second, not all members of Slavia Orthodoxa are anti-Western; quite the contrary. Bulgarians are more pro-Western even than some fellow EU members. Even Russians have a strong pro-Western tradition. Russian historian Alexander Yanov traces it to Kyiv and Novgorod.

Third, Eastern Christians are not by nature spoiled losers; they also can prosper and flourish. “Byzantine” is not a synonym for tyranny and obedience; it marks one of the cradles of European civilization, a continuation of Rome. Misery is caused by corrupt cliques, not by the blood in your veins or the faith in your soul. Culture is not only what you inherit, but also what you acquire. In this sense, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Russia could be free, prosperous, and democratic

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • blogTO shares pictures from Toronto in the 1970s and 1980s.
  • Crooked Timber reacts, perhaps not wisely, to the recent British government state that an independent Scotland would not automatically have a currency union with the United Kingdom.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that tidal heating of Mars-mass planets in the circumstellar habitable zones of red dwarf stars could keep them habitable.
  • The Dragon’s Tales observes arguments that Vesta may have had a magma ocean for a long time period.
  • Far Outliers observes the impuissance of the last Ottoman ruler of Syria faced with the Armenian genocide and comments upon how the response of the American government after the First World War to abandon the Middle East did not help things.
  • The Frailest Thing’s Michael Sacasas responds to Nick Kristof’s wondering where all the public intellectuals are by arguing that whole concept may just be an effect of a centralized mass culture.
  • At Halfway Down the Danube, Douglas Muir notes that Kosovo hasn’t had much of a winter.
  • Language Hat has two posts on language standardization, one on Aramaic in the ancient Middle East an the other on Hazaragi, a Persian dialect spoken by–here–Shi’ite Afghanistan refugees in Australia.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the dire situation of tea plantation workers.
  • The Map Room’s Jonathan Crowe links to recent maps of Ganymede and Mercury.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer comments on the tumult in Venezuela by wondering why that country’s government has been so incompetent.
  • Thought Catalog features a first-person essay by Iranian gay refugee in Canada Shawn Kermanipour.
  • Towleroad remarks on the gay icon status of Blondie’s Debbie Harry.
  • Transit Toronto’s Robert McKenzie observes that the TTC is offering transit users the chance to “Meet the Manager” of different stations.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that migration from Belarus to Russia is becoming a serious issue for both countries, whether because of labour shortages in Belarus or Russian immigrant politics.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan are planning their customs union for 2015. Elsewhere in the cosmos, Will links to an astronomy paper summarizing the mysterious existence of three massive planets distant from their star.
  • Clay Aiken for Congress? Joe. My. God. notes it could happen.
  • Johnny Pez summarizes his successful year past creating a Wiki for Sobel’s alternate history book For Want of a Nail (and later fan fiction project For All Nails).
  • Erik Loomis at Lawyers, Guns and Money is unimpressed by David Brooks’ anti-marijuana column.
  • Mark Simpson shares a Gay Liberation Front poster from 1975 purporting to trace heterosexuality’s origins to any number of traumas.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that a fifth of children in China do not live with their parents; they’ve migrated.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer describes energy reform in Mexico and is very skeptical about the claims of New York City’s Stuyvesant High School to be truly elite and worthwhile.
  • Steve Munro describes the planning for the Eglinton light rail route.
  • Torontoist notes that a candidate for my riding of Ward 18 in Toronto is Alex Mazer, an acquaintance of mine from PEI.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that Belarusians want European Union membership, wonders about Ukrainian Orthodox defecting from Moscow, and notes the below-replacement fertility in most of the North Caucasus.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Anthropology.net’s Kambiz Kamrami notes a recent study suggesting that human intelligence is a product not of the need to adapt to new environments but rather to the need to manage large and complex social organizations. The smarter the species, the larger the viable size of the group.
  • Bag News Notes has a photo essay describing the plight of the Batek of Malaysia, beset by the cutting down of their forest.
  • Crooked Timber’s Corey Robin documents the strong support of economist Friedrich Hayek for Pinochet and his dictatorship in Chile, while the more right-leaning audience at Marginal Revolution reacts.
  • The Dragon’s Tales broke for me the news of the discovery of three potentially Earth-like worlds orbiting nearby Gliese 667C, while Centauri Dreams comments here and here.
  • Eastern Approaches notes the shenanigans in the Czech Republic, as the president is trying to appoint a government to his liking against the protests of parliamentarians.
  • Far Outliers describes the Crusaders’ conquest of Constantinople in 1204.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money’s Scott Lemieux is appropriately polite to Ralph Nader.
  • Normblog links to an extended New York Times story describing the human cost of the civil war in Syria, on both sides.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes the success of Venezuela in the Chavez years in reorienting its oil exports from the United States to China.
  • Registan’s Kendrick Kuo notes China’s strategies in presenting conflict in Xinjiang as terrorist or sppontaneous violence, without connecting to root causes of ethnic conflict.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the ongoing assimilation of ethnic Russians even in Russophile Belarus.

[LINK] “Queer Russia”

Open Democracy has a nice feature on GLBT rights and history in Russia and the former Soviet Union, including a variety of interesting essays like Alexander Kondakov’s analysis of two decades of public opinion polls (anti-gay sentiment has been declining) and Ksenia Leonova‘s interview of a closeted twenty-something Chechen. The article I’ve seen shared on Facebook is Alyona Soiko’s “Brokeback in Belarus”, dealing with a gay couple living in rural Belarus describing how they came together.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 25, 2013 at 3:58 am

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • The Dragon’s Tales’ Will Baird speculates that life on Mars, which plausibly got started earlier thanks to quicker cooling, was devastated by multiple devastating impacts.
  • Far Outliers’ Joel examines the 11th century of Constantinople and Venice, a relationship that was shifting as Venice gained strength.
  • Geocurrents takes a look at religious diversity in Ethiopia, making the interesting point that in addition to Christian-Muslim conflict there is also conflict between Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and Protestants.
  • The Inuit Bikini Monster notes that a cat in Mexico is running for a mayoral position.
  • John Moyer makes the point that fantasy literature isn’t necessarily escapist, not least because terrible things happen.
  • Language Hat notes that, for plausible and understandable reasons, the phrase “a sight for sore eyes” is starting to refer to something bad.
  • Marginal Revolution wonders whether traditional dress in the Gulf States is a marker of identity, and to what extent.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer thinks that Edward Snowden made a good choice by seeking refuge in Ecuador, a sufficiently democratic and low-crime Latin American polity.
  • Torontoist notes that Toronto city police is trying to work on improving the relationship with Somali-Canadians after the recent raid.
  • Towleroad notes that late gay writer John Preston has given the Maine city of Portland a new slogan.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy talks about rising nationalism among Burmese Buddhists. Sadly, many commenters talk about how Muslims must be controlled.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the ongoing demographic issues of Russia and Belarus.
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