A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[LINK] “Sea rise threatens Florida coast, but no statewide plan”

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Jason Dearen and Jennifer Kay’s Associated Press article about the growing negative impact of sea level rise on Florida today is grim, not least because no one is apparently doing anything at the level of state government.

St. Augustine’s centuries-old Spanish fortress and other national landmarks sit feet from the encroaching Atlantic, whose waters already flood the city’s narrow, brick-paved streets about 10 times a year — a problem worsening as sea levels rise. The city has long relied on tourism, but visitors to the fortress and Ponce de Leon’s mythical Fountain of Youth might someday have to wear waders at high tide.

“If you want to benefit from the fact we’ve been here for 450 years, you have the responsibility to look forward to the next 450,” said Bill Hamilton, a 63-year-old horticulturist whose family has lived in the city since the 1950s. “Is St. Augustine even going to be here? We owe it to the people coming after us to leave the city in good shape.”

St. Augustine is one of many chronically flooded communities along Florida’s 1,200-mile coastline, and officials in these diverse places share a common concern: They’re afraid their buildings and economies will be further inundated by rising seas in just a couple of decades. The effects are a daily reality in much of Florida. Drinking water wells are fouled by seawater. Higher tides and storm surges make for more frequent road flooding from Jacksonville to Key West, and they’re overburdening aging flood-control systems.

But the state has yet to offer a clear plan or coordination to address what local officials across Florida’s coast see as a slow-moving emergency. Republican Gov. Rick Scott is skeptical of man-made climate change and has put aside the task of preparing for sea level rise, an Associated Press review of thousands of emails and documents pertaining to the state’s preparations for rising seas found.

Despite warnings from water experts and climate scientists about risks to cities and drinking water, skepticism over sea level projections and climate change science has hampered planning efforts at all levels of government, the records showed. Florida’s environmental agencies under Scott have been downsized and retooled, making them less effective at coordinating sea level rise planning in the state, the documents showed.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 21, 2015 at 11:01 pm

[LINK] “A Norway Town and Its Pipeline to Jihad in Syria”

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Andrew Higgins had a grim little article up last month in The New York Times taking a look at the various social and human factors which made the Norwegian town of Frederikstad a notable source of jihadis. Apparenlty it was cool.

The real trouble started when they stopped causing trouble. Torleif Sanchez Hammer and his friends — all residents of the same small cluster of clapboard houses in southern Norway — had been having run-ins with the police for years but then suddenly halted their marijuana-fueled gatherings in the basement apartment of Mr. Hammer’s widowed mother.

Police officers in this placid Norwegian town had busted their marijuana parties so regularly that “we knew them all on a first-name basis,” recalled Ragnar Foss, head of a local police unit responsible for youth crime. But, two years ago, they cleaned up their act. “We wondered what had happened but were glad when they dropped off our radar,” Mr. Foss said.

One by one over the following months, Mr. Hammer and at least seven other young men who lived on or around just one street, Lislebyveien, made their way to Syria to wage jihad alongside the Islamic State and other militant groups.

As Europe tries to fathom such journeys by its young Muslims, politicians and scholars have variously blamed the influence of the Internet and radical mosques, or sources of despair like discrimination and unemployment.

But the subterranean currents that pushed so many young men to Syria from Lisleby, a Fredrikstad district of just 6,000, stand out as an example of a phenomenon none of those theories can explain: Why it is that certain towns, and even small areas within them, generate a disproportionate number of jihadists?

Written by Randy McDonald

May 21, 2015 at 10:59 pm

[LINK] “Scotland’s growing influence on UK foreign policy”

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Kirsty Hughes’ Open Democracy article about the growing influence of Scotland on British foreign policy–and on the growth of a distinctly Scottish foreign policy–reminds me of debates held in Canada over Québec’s international role a generation ago.

Scotland’s policy stances on the EU and on global foreign policy, even in the absence of independence, are set to be of growing importance and influence – but have received remarkably little attention during the election campaign.

And while the outcome of the 2015 general election could transform the UK’s EU and wider foreign policy, one of the few similarities in the different campaigns in England and Scotland is that the focus of debate in both has been primarily domestic.

The probable greater impact of Scotland on UK foreign policy is in part due to the increased devolution of powers to Scotland, promised by the Unionist camp at the time of the referendum campaign and set out further through the Smith Commission Report. It means Scottish views on a raft of EU policies – from agriculture to finance to renewable energy – are going to need to be represented more in Brussels. And there is likely to be growing, quite likely controversial, demands from the Scottish government for a greater role and influence over key UK EU policies.

At the same time, if the SNP ends up with 50 or so MPs at Westminster as the polls predict – a seismic shift in Scottish and UK politics – they would certainly have some important influence over the EU and foreign policies of a minority Labour government. Even a minority Tory government might find that winning some foreign policy votes on sensitive issues that might split their own party could be won or lost depending on the SNP’s stance.

One reason Scottish foreign policy views have received little attention is that there is a general but mistaken view that devolution covers domestic issues only, and that even under ‘devo-max’, foreign policy and security would be excluded from Scottish influence. Yet with the UK part of the EU this domestic-foreign distinction makes little sense. With the EU passing laws from health and safety, age discrimination, competition and trade policy to sanctions, renewables targets and so on, what is domestic or ‘foreign’ is blurred and overlapping, and many of the EU policy areas lie within Scotland’s devolved areas of policy.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 21, 2015 at 10:56 pm

[LINK] “Q&A: Iranian Balochistan is a ‘Hunting Ground'”

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The Inter Press Service shares an interview with an Iranian Baluchi leader who argues that Baluchis, like other Iranian minorities and like their co-ethnics in neighbouring Pakistan, face an oppressive state.

You once said that Iranian Balochistan has become “a hunting ground”. Can you explain this?

It´s a hunting ground for the Iranian security forces. Even a commander of the Mersad [security] admitted openly that it had been ordered to kill, and not to arrest people.

As a result, many of our villages have suffered house-to-house searches which has emptied them of youth. The latter have either been killed systematically or emigrated elsewhere.

The fact that our population has decreased threefold since the times of the Pahlevis speaks volumes about the situation in our region.

Human Rights Watch has further documented the fact that the Baloch populated region has been systematically divided by successive regimes in Tehran to create a demographic imbalance.

Less than a century ago, our region was called “Balochistan”. Later its name would be changed to “Balochistan and Sistan”, then “Sistan and Balochistan”… The plan is to finally call it “Sistan” and divide it into three districts: Wilayat, Sistan and Saheli.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 21, 2015 at 10:53 pm

Posted in Politics

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[LINK] “Russians may be sanctioned for O Canada snub”

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CBC shares the Associated Press’ report about the latest Russia-Canada contretemps. The sad thing is that I don’t necessarily believe the Russian statements that this was accidental. You?

Russian news agency TASS reported the Russian team is facing sanctions after players left the ice before O Canada. The Canadians crushed Russia 6-1 in Sunday’s gold-medal game, and most of the Russians quickly departed for the dressing room, a breach of the sport’s etiquette.

“Once we arrive back home after the world championships we will look into this question and we will get in touch with those in charge at the Russian Ice Hockey Federation,” IIHF president Rene Fasel said in the statement to TASS.

“The IIHF has its own protocol and some sort of punishment will be handed down.”

According to TASS, Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Viktor Tikhonov and Dmitry Kulikov were among the few players who remained on the ice for the anthem.

Russia’s general manager Andrey Safronov called the incident “a shame.”

Written by Randy McDonald

May 21, 2015 at 10:50 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Precarious work is now the new norm, United Way report says”

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The Toronto Star‘s Nick Madonick notes the increasing precarity of employment in Toronto. This has an obvious, and negative, impact on the lives of Torontonians.

Precarious employment is here to stay, a new study shows, and Toronto’s new economic reality impacts everyone from the working poor to the middle class.

The research confirms United Way and McMaster University’s groundbreaking 2013 findings that fewer than half of workers in the GTA and Hamilton are in permanent, full-time jobs.

Instead, about 52 per cent of workers are in temporary, contract, or part-time positions.

“All the indicators suggest that this is the trend of the new labour market,” said Wayne Lewchuk, the report’s lead researcher.

“This is the new form of employment.”

Written by Randy McDonald

May 21, 2015 at 10:48 pm

[LINK] “PhD student defends thesis in Mi’gmaw language, a York first”

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Sandra McLean, writer at York University’s yFile, reported on how a graduate student there defended a thesis in the language of the Mi’kmaq of eastern Canada.

While researching the historical rights of his First Nation’s community of Listuguj in the Gespe’gewa’gig district of the Mi’gmaw on the southwest shore of the Gaspé peninsula for his doctoral thesis, York PhD candidate Alfred Metallic came to believe there was something missing in what he was doing – an integral piece of a larger picture.

Not much had been written about that part of the Gaspé Peninsula and northern New Brunswick, the seventh district of the Mi’gmaw Grand Council, until Metallic turned his eye to it, but that didn’t explain the feeling he had.

It wasn’t until after he had written his comprehensive exams and was back in his community that he realized what was missing was the Mi’gmaw language – its connection to the spirit of the people, their ways of life and the land – and the way stories are presented back to the people, his people. Metallic’s dissertation was his story, and he needed to tell it using the oral traditions of his people in the Mi’gmaw language of his community and district, to share the knowledge and learning he’d accumulated, but also to help preserve his native language, which is at risk of disappearing.

“Our language, it’s how we maintain our relations and how we understand where we come from. It gives you access to your place in the world,” says Metallic. In the Mi’gmaw language, the action comes first, then the person. It’s the opposite with the English language.

York environmental studies Professor Anders Sandberg, Metallic’s PhD supervisor, helped put the process in place with the support of Professor Barbara Rahder, dean of the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) and FES Professors Robin Cavanagh, Mora Campbell, Stefan Kipfer and Peter Cole, among others. York became the first Canadian postsecondary institution to officially sanction the use of a language other than English or French in graduate work, and Metallic the first PhD candidate at York to defend his thesis in an Aboriginal language – it was written and spoken in the Mi’gmaw language.

More at the link.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 21, 2015 at 7:30 pm


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