A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[BLOG] Some Monday links

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  • blogTO shares photos of Yonge and Bloor from the 1960s.
  • Crooked Timber’s Corey Robin looks at trigger warnings in education.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that Barnard’s Star cannot support a massive planet in its orbit.
  • The Dragon’s Tales has more on the Ukrainian war.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog examines racism.
  • Far Outliers notes how the Ryukyus fared under American occupation.
  • A Fistful of Euros looks at the divergences of Spain and the United Kingdom interest rate-wise.
  • Geocurrents notes another small Kurdish-speaking sect.</li
  • Joe. My. God. notes an attempt to appeal the Irish marriage referendum.
  • The Map Room’s Jonathan Crowe notes a 2016 conference on fictional maps in Poland.
  • Marginal Revolution notes a microhistory of a block in New York City.
  • The Power and the Money examines Ukraine’s debt negotiations and argues that Russia is not as big a player in global oil markets as it might like.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog and Window on Eurasia note how ethnic Russians in Ukraine are continuing to identify as ethnic Ukrainians.
  • Understanding Society considers realism in social sciences.
  • Whatever’s John Scalzi talks about the Sad Puppies.
  • Window on Eurasia notes Tatarstan’s potential separatism and suggests some Russian Germans still want an autonomy.

[URBAN NOTE] “Budget committee says ‘meh’ to Olympic bid”

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The Toronto Star‘s Betsy Powell writes about how the City of Toronto’s budget committee is unexcited by the idea of Toronto bidding for the 2024 Olympics.

Not a single member of the city’s powerful budget committee is endorsing Toronto entering the race to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.

Toronto has only a slim chance of submitting a winning bid, and even if the cash-strapped city is selected, the Olympics could prove to be financial boondoggle for years to come, councillors said after the committee met Monday to begin discussions on the city’s 2016 budget.

Several councillors said an outright no to a bid, while budget chief Gary Crawford and Councillor James Pasternak said they’d only consider Toronto advancing a bid if the cost — estimated at between $50 million and $60 million — is paid for by the private sector.

Toronto is under pressure if it wants to try to secure the 2024 Olympics, an idea that appeared to gain traction after the success of the recent Pan Am Games, the largest sporting event in Canadian history. Los Angeles is poised to enter the contest — its city council is expected to vote Tuesday — and is considered a frontrunner. LA2024 has already released a copy of its bid.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 1, 2015 at 1:42 am

[LINK] On the problems of the Sacramento Delta in California

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NIck Stockton’s Wired article “California’s Katrina is Coming” argues that the agriculturally rich, but low-lying, Sacramento Delta in California is headed for disaster.

California’s always been for dreamers. Dreams of gold brought the forty-niners. Easy seasons and expansive arable acreage brought farmers, dreaming of an agricultural paradise. Fame, natural beauty, and the hang-loose cultural mosaic have brought dreaming millions to the state where summer never seems to end.

The summer dream has become a nightmare drought. But the years-long dry spell isn’t what keeps engineers, economists, and state water planners awake at night. No, they worry about the network of levees at the crux of California’s plumbing—a massive freshwater confluence called the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Most of the state’s water is drawn from the Delta, protected by levees that pretty much amount to mounds of dirt, even when compared to infrastructure that infamously failed New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Hurricanes don’t hit NorCal, but these levees are alarmingly susceptible to disaster. If enough were to breach—in an earthquake perhaps, or severe El Niño storm—sea water from San Francisco Bay could rush in, tainting the water supply serving two-thirds of the state. The worst-case scenario could cause up to three years of severely curtailed water for most Californians.

Even if you’re not a California dreamer, this affects you. Delta water keeps Hollywood in the movie business, Silicon Valley in the tech business, and 750,000 acres of farmland in the business of producing half of America’s veggies, fruits, and nuts. If the levees go, so goes the water for 25 million residents of the world’s seventh largest economy.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 1, 2015 at 1:39 am

[LINK] “Kazakhstan’s quiet balancing act”

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At Open Democracy, William Echols looks at how Kazakhstan is trying to stay stable. It has been doing well so far, but can this continue?

With a ‘president for life’, poor human rights record and hydrocarbon-dependent economy, Kazakstan often appears a mirror image of its northern neighbour, Russia.

Scratch beneath the surface, and you find a post-Soviet state, which, though similar in behaviour to its Russian counterpart, is making its own path.

Over the past ten days, the business world has overwhelmingly been focused on Kazakhstan’s record 23 per cent currency plunge, which followed Astana’s decision to float the tenge. The situation recalls the fate of the rouble after the Russian Central Bank allowed it to float in November 2014.

By that time, the Russian currency had already fallen 50 per cent against the dollar. But the once-maligned 45.6 rouble-dollar exchange rate would soon seem a dream. On December 16, 2014, Russia was hit with its own ‘Black Tuesday,’ when the rouble dropped by 20 per cent —hitting almost 80 to the dollar and inciting panic among a populace no stranger to economic collapse.

Perhaps used to the shocks, perhaps fatigued with bad news, the Russian public has been less swift to react as the rouble hit a seven-month-low last Monday, reaching 71 to the dollar. Some analysts believe the Russian currency could hit 85 by year’s end. Having less and expecting less is perhaps the new norm. 

In contrast, the tenge has begun a slow, though turbulent recovery. Kazakhstan has no plans to intervene to prop up the currency should the situation deteriorate. The central bank claims there is no specific devaluation target they are aiming for.

As Bloomberg reports, Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister Karim Massimov claims the free float ‘will create the necessary conditions for a recovery of economic growth, increased lending and investment activity, creation of new jobs and a decrease in the inflation rate to between three per cent and four per cent in the medium term.’ Such high hopes, however, may be wishful thinking.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 1, 2015 at 1:37 am

[LINK] “Catalonia’s regional elections: scenarios for independence”

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Open Democracy’s Fernando Betancor writes about different scenarios for Catalonian independence following upcoming regional elections. He makes a compelling case that things could get very bad indeed.

Nothing that has come before has mattered; it has been all talk. Up until and including the September 27, every action of every politician and of the Catalan government will be legal; no one is going to go off-script and give Madrid an excuse to intervene. But as the Romans used to say: “res, non verba” or “act, don’t talk”. Now everyone will have to declare themselves in positive action. As soon as the government is formed, it will execute what it perceives to be its electoral mandate: attain independence for Catalonia. It is likely to proceed in the following manner:

1. The Catalan government will formally request secession negotiations with the Spanish government and the Catalan representatives of this list in the national legislature will attempt to submit a bill to that affect;

2. Both efforts will be immediately and conclusively rebuffed;

3. The Catalan government will then draft (or has already drafted) a unilateral declaration of independence and will submit it to the regional legislature for a vote. If the Catalan Parlament can muster a quorum, they will undoubtedly hold an immediate vote on the measure, which will probably be passed by the same majority, or slightly greater, that the pro-independence parties enjoy in the chamber.

At this point, Mariano Rajoy will have the legal justification to intervene. The intervention include many actions, but at a minimum he will use his constitutional authority from Article 154 to declare a state of exception in Catalonia, suspend the civil institutions and attempt to reassert the national authority. And this is when the feces begin to strike the ventilation unit.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 1, 2015 at 1:33 am

[LINK] “Vice journalists jailed in Turkey on terror charges”

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Al Jazeera America reports on the arrest of two Vice News journalists and their translator in Turkey.

Two British journalists working for Vice News and an Iraqi fixer were arrested in Turkey’s southeastern city of Diyarbakir on Monday, accused of “engaging in terror activity” on behalf of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The journalists were detained late last week while reporting from a city in Turkey’s mostly Kurdish southeast. They were there to cover renewed fighting between the security forces and Kurdish rebels has killed scores of people.

A fourth suspect, their driver, was allowed to go free Monday.

The three have been taken to a jail in Diyarbakir ahead of an eventual trial. There were no further details over the evidence of their alleged links to ISIL.

The Toronto Star has more.

British journalists Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury and their Turkish translator were detained on Thursday while reporting from Diyarbakir, a city at the heart of deadly clashes between security forces and Kurdish rebels.

Kevin Sutcliffe, head of news programming in Europe, called the charges “baseless and alarmingly false.”
Hanrahan and Pendlebury were filming a documentary about police clashes with the pro-Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

A court official said the court in Diyarbakir ordered the three arrested on Monday. It wasn’t immediately clear which organization the journalists are accused of aiding.

“Today, the Turkish government has leveled baseless and alarmingly false charges of ‘working on behalf of a terrorist organization’ against three Vice News reporters, in an attempt to intimidate and censor their coverage,” Sutcliffe said in a statement published on Vice’s website on Monday.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 1, 2015 at 1:30 am

[LINK] On the New Horizons visit to 2014 MU69

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CBC reports on the New Horizons probe’s planned 2019 flyby of Kuiper belt object 2014 MY69.

A spacecraft that made a historic flyby of Pluto in July has a new destination — an icy rock that may reveal what the outer solar system was like shortly after it formed 4.6 billion years ago.

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft’s next target is 2014 MU69 and nicknamed PT 1 or “potential target 1,” the U.S. space agency announced Friday afternoon. The mysterious icy object is less than 45 kilometres across — a tiny fraction of the size of Pluto, which is 2,370 kilometres wide. PT 1 is 1.6 billion kilometres farther away than Pluto, which was itself 4.7 billion kilometres from Earth when the spacecraft flew by.

Both Pluto and PT 1 are in an outer region of the solar system known as the Kuiper Belt, which contains thousands of icy objects, some very small and others that are large enough to be considered dwarf planets, such as Pluto.

New Horizons will begin changing direction to target PT 1 in late October or early November and is expected to arrive on New Year’s Day 2019. If all goes well, it will take measurements and detailed images of a type of celestial object that has never been seen before.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 1, 2015 at 1:27 am


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