A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for April 2013

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • The Burgh Diaspora writes about the linkages between population and economic change.
  • Centauri Dreams examines the discovery of stellar parallax and its use to determine the distance to the stars in the 19th century.
  • The Dragon’s Tales examines computer models of the settlement of the Americas. The model of migration across Beringia remains intact, while transpacific migration can’t be excluded but can’t be supported by evidence, either.
  • Eastern Approaches chronicles the ongoing ferment in Slovenia and the Czech immigrant history in Texas.
  • At A Fistful of Euros, Edward Hugh warns that the seemingly inevitable slow-motion economic slide of Spain, trapped in the Eurozone and with an aging workforce, may be echoed more broadly.
  • Language Hat comments on the NHL’s Punjabi-language broadcasts.
  • Normblog’s Norman Geras assesses the moral implications of factories in Bangladesh in the light of the recent disaster (1, 2). More subtle and useful responses than a reflex action of shutting them down are needed.
  • Torontoist details historical patterns of neglect of the site of Fort York.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy’s Eugene Volokh notes a court ruling in Israel which allows Jewish women to pray in front of the Western Wall without being arrested.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the ruralization of Dagestan’s cities as the local Russian population leaves and rural migrants arrive, and the transition in Chechnya in the past decade towards a centralized and hierarchical culture under Kadyrov.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell notes UKIP’s desire to not bother researching and developing policy options on its own but rather borrowing them from established think tanks.

[PHOTO] Looking south at Spadina Road and St. Clair Avenue

Looking south on the eastbound streetcar island at Spadina and St. Clair Avenue, the only sign of Toronto Water‘s underground reservoir beneath Winston Churchill Park is the sign (visible, to left).

Looking south at Spadina Road and St. Clair Avenue

Written by Randy McDonald

April 29, 2013 at 4:48 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • Centauri Dreams’ recounts the story of the discovery of Proxima Centauri, the dim red dwarf star C of Alpha Centauri that happens to be the closest star beyond our solar system.
  • Charlie Stross comes out in favour of the United Kingdom’s unilateral nuclear disarmament, on the grounds that there is literally no need for them in an era of smart munitions.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to new findings on the origins of Mayan civilization.
  • Eastern Approaches reports on the unfortunate Boston-related confusion between the Czech Republic and Chechnya.
  • Geocurrents describes the terrible history of Chechnya.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money’s Erik Loomis finds rhetoric that makes the health and safety of workers anywhere a secondary concern, or grants them unrealistic degrees of autonomy versus employers, ridiculous.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer describes how a new Brazilian law giving local governments the right to tax nuclear energy may, at least judging by Japan’s experience with a similar tax, encourage nuclear reactor construction.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy’s Stewart Baker wonders why the elder Tsarnaev brothers wasn’t searched on his return from Russia.
  • Window on Eurasia describes one writer’s arguments in favour of a civic, explicitly non-ethnic, state nationalism in Russia.

[PHOTO] Warning about the phantom at 1025 Lansdowne Avenue

Spraypainted on the plywood covering up one of the doors leading to the now-defunct Bonanza Video, on 392 Spadina Road north of St. Clair, is a slogan, radioactivity warning symbol in red and text in black.




Warning about the phantom at 1025 Lansdowne Avenue

I’ve blogged in the past for my full-throated support of the GE-Hitachi plant at 1025 Lansdowne Avenue. Not only are there no serious safety concerns–not only is a uranium pelletization plant not a nuclear reactor–but it’s not clear that it ever was a secret as its opponents claimed. (I was able to find out all about the plant by simply Googling the address, while neighbourhood residents pointed out that there were references to the plant’s nature in 1984 in Toronto Life and The Globe and Mail. Some secret.) Besides, expelling presumably well-paying industrial jobs beyond the confines of Toronto is a bad idea for the city’s economy.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 26, 2013 at 1:12 pm

[LINK] “Boston bombing suspects planned to attack NYC”

Bombing Times Square, next?. The Tsarnaev brothers seem to have had grand ambitions, certainly. What a pity that they hadn’t blown themselves up

The two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings intended to attack New York City next, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday.

“Last night, we were informed by the FBI that the surviving attacker revealed that New York City was next on their list of targets,” he said at a news conference.

Police commmissioner Ray Kelly said Dzhokar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect, discussed exploding bombs in Times Square with his brother Tamerlan, who was later killed in Boston in an exchange of gunfire with police.

Kelly says the two suspects had a pressure cooker bomb and five pipe bombs they wanted to set off.

Dzhokar told investigators in the Boston hospital where he is recovering from his wounds about the plan, which Bloomberg said was spontaneous.

Tsarnaev travelled to New York at least once last fall. There is a photo of the suspect in Times Square.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 25, 2013 at 7:06 pm

[PHOTO] Train entering Dupont station, northbound

Train entering Dupont station, northbound

Written by Randy McDonald

April 25, 2013 at 11:32 am

Posted in Photo, Toronto

Tagged with , , , ,

[LINK] “After cathedral clash, Copts doubt future in Egypt”

I’ve been mulling over Ulf Laessing’s Reuters article recounting general despair among Egypt’s Copts that they can ever find themselves at home in their country, and that to save themselves they must leave, since the article’s publication on the 11th of this month. Is there some exaggeration afoot, or are things really that irresolvably bad? (I will note that Mubarak’s regime was hardly especially kind to Christians, either; ongoing issues with religious freedom in Egypt seem to long predate 2011.)

When Egyptian Christian Kerollos Maher watched on television as petrol bombs and rocks rained on Cairo’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral he had only one thought – emigration.

“Egypt is no longer my country,” said the 24-year-old construction worker, standing in the courtyard of the country’s largest cathedral where one Copt and one Muslim died in sectarian clashes this week.

“The situation of Christians is worsening from day to day. I’ve given up hope that things will improve,” he said.

Christians, who make up a tenth of Egypt’s 84 million people, have been worrying about the rise of militant Islamists since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

But after days of fighting at the cathedral and a town outside Cairo killing eight – the worst sectarian strife since Islamist President Mohamed Mursi was elected in June – many Copts now question whether they have a future in Egypt.

An angry young fringe of a community that has lived in Egypt since the earliest days of Christianity may also be turning to violence.

“The attack on the cathedral was the crossing of a red line,” said Michael Sanouel, a 23-year old technician in a steel plant. Sanouel rushed to the cathedral “to defend it” when he heard about the clashes that lasted more than five hours.

“I have been looking for a while for a job abroad, in Italy or Germany,” he said, standing next to a piece of charred wood from a tree hit by a petrol bomb hurled over the compound wall.

“I have two children but I don’t want them to grow up under a Muslim Brotherhood regime,” said Sanouel, who slept in the cathedral compound like dozens of others after the clashes, ready to defend it if more confrontations erupted.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 25, 2013 at 3:59 am

[LINK] “Is Huawei Giving Up on the U.S.? Pretty Much”

I’ve blogged in the past about the problems faced by Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei in gaining access to North American markets, on security grounds. (For the record, both my cell phones have been Huawei models.) BusinessWeek‘s Bruce Einhorn now reports that Huawei is giving up its efforts.

Is Huawei, the huge Chinese technology company, giving up on efforts to build its business in the U.S.? Today, spokesman Scott Sykes told Bloomberg News in an e-mail that the U.S. won’t become a primary revenue source for its network equipment business for the “foreseeable future.” He was responding to reports by Reuters and the Financial Times citing Deputy Chairman Eric Xu saying at a meeting with analysts that Huawei is “not interested in the U.S. market anymore.”

Huawei Technology (002502) has good reason to sour on the U.S., given the strong opposition it has encountered from lawmakers and regulators in Washington. For instance, on April 8, Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told Bloomberg Television that Huawei is a security risk to the U.S. Rogers also said he wants to ensure that Clearwire, the wireless company owned by Sprint Nextel (S), won’t use Huawei equipment. While Clearwire relies on equipment from Cisco Systems (CSCO) and Ciena (CIEN) for its core network, it does use some Huawei equipment, said Chief Technology Officer John Saw in October.

What Rogers thinks about what equipment Clearwire can buy is of significance now, since Japanese telecom operator Softbank (9984) is trying to acquire Clearwire’s parent, Sprint. In Japan, Softbank is a Huawei customer, and Rogers seems intent on making sure the Japanese company doesn’t continue that relationship in the U.S. Indeed, his April 8 statement is just the latest in a series of comments expressing worries about risks posed by Huawei. On March 28, Rogers told Bloomberg News that the companies had told him they wouldn’t use Huawei products in Sprint’s network. “I expect them to make the same assurances before any approval of the deal,” he wrote. “I have met with Softbank and Sprint regarding this merger and was assured they would not integrate Huawei into the Sprint network and would take mitigation efforts to replace Huawei equipment in the Clearwire network.”

The GOP isn’t the only party taking shots at Huawei. In Washington, speaking out against the perils posed by the Chinese company is a rare issue of bipartisan accord. Last month, President Obama signed the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of Fiscal Year 2013. Amid the appropriations bill’s many provisions is Section 516, prohibiting the Departments of Commerce and Justice, NASA, and the National Science Foundation from buying IT systems from Chinese companies unless those agencies cooperate with the FBI or other Federal investigators to assess the potential for cyber mischief.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 25, 2013 at 3:42 am

[LINK] “Toronto court rules woman must remove niqab to testify”

I’m not sure what I think about this, as reported by CBC. I will note that the ongoing controversy over the niqab has meant that alleged sexual predators have not been investigated.

An Ontario judge has ruled a woman must remove her niqab to testify in a Toronto sexual assault case.

Justice Norris Weisman announced his decision after applying a new test set out by the Supreme Court of Canada dealing with witnesses wearing a veil. The woman at the centre of the case is known only as N.S.

“I conclude that to permit N.S. to testify at the preliminary inquiry with her face obscured by the niqab will impair defence counsels’ ability to assess her demeanour, as well as the [judge’s] ability to assess her credibility,” Weisman said.

The woman has been fighting for six years for the right to wear her niqab during the trial of her uncle and cousin, who are accused of sexually assaulting her when she was a child in the 1980s.

Weisman had first ruled in 2008 that N.S. must remove her niqab during testimony. That decision was appealed all the way up to Supreme Court.

The test set out by Canada’s top court in December includes four issues a judge must consider, including: the potential witness’s depth of religious belief, and whether the veil could lessen the fairness of the trial.

The preliminary hearing for the two relatives accused of sexually abusing the woman is scheduled to begin next week, but her lawyer said the ruling on the niqab will be appealed.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 25, 2013 at 3:20 am

[LINK] “Via terror plot suspect says Criminal Code ‘not a holy book'”

The CBC coverage of Chiheb Esseghaier’s statement in court has received a lot of coverage for its audacity. I’ll just note that two of the tags I’m using are “oddities” and “humour”.

One of two men accused of an al-Qaeda-directed plot to derail a Via Rail passenger train appeared to question the authority of a Toronto court on Wednesday, saying that the Criminal Code should not apply to him because it’s “not a holy book.”

Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, of Montreal, asked to address the court and was warned to be careful with what he said because it could be used in future appearances.

“All of those conclusions was taken out based on Criminal Code and all of us we know that this Criminal Code is not a holy book,” Esseghaier said. “It’s just written by a set of creations and the creations they’re not perfect because only the Creator is perfect.

“We cannot rely on the conclusions taken out from these judgments.”

The judge thanked him for his comment but told him to “save that for another court.”

Esseghaier, who the Tunisian Embassy in Ottawa confirmed Wednesday is from that North African country, was represented by duty counsel but said he did not want a lawyer and would like to represent himself.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 25, 2013 at 2:58 am