A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for November 2014

[PHOTO] At the Cavalcade of Lights, Nathan Phillips Square

At the Cavalcade of Lights, Nathan Phillips Square

Written by Randy McDonald

November 30, 2014 at 4:04 pm

[LINK] “The Mediterranean town where houses are on sale for less than $2”

The Washington Post‘s Rick Noack writes about an effort to kickstart life in the Sicilian municipality of Gangi by offering houses for ridiculously low amounts. I would note that even if this works for Gangi, this will not work for Sicily as a whole, in much the same way that Fogo Island’s strategy of positioning itself as a hub for artists can’t be adopted across Newfoundland.

With nearly 50 million visitors last year, Italy is among the world’s top tourist destinations. Those interested in staying longer than just a few days could be interested in the special offer of a town on the island of Sicily: The town’s council is selling about 20 houses for less than $2.

Since this summer, about 150 potential buyers have come to Gangi from as far as Brazil and Australia, according to European news site The Local. At least 50 people have formally applied for the properties, and the application process is now closed and the future Gangi house owners are expected to be announced later this week, real estate consultant Marie Wester told The Washington Post. According to estimates, the buyers would need to invest about $50,000 to renovate the houses.

To outside observers, the extraordinarily cheap offer might seem confusing, but the town council thinks the sales will benefit Gangi and its 7,000 inhabitants in the long term. Sicily is known for its beauty, but it’s economy lags far behind other regions of Italy. The inexpensive properties are supposed to revitalize Gangi and prevent the town’s population from declining further.

Unable to find jobs on the island, located to the south of mainland Italy, many people have decided to move toward the north, where unemployment rates are much lower. Hence, Gangi’s population has dwindled and the amount of empty houses has increased, reflecting a broader Sicilian problem.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 29, 2014 at 3:05 am

[LINK] “Crimea is becoming more Russian — and less hospitable to minorities”

The Toronto Star shares Michael Birnbaum’s Washington Post article looking at the situation for minorities–ethnic and religious, here the Ukrainians–in Crimea.

Eight months into the Russian annexation of the Black Sea resort region of Crimea, traces of Ukraine’s 60-year rule here are rapidly being wiped away. Now Ukrainians themselves worry that they are next.

The Ukrainian language has vanished from school curriculums, Russia’s two-headed eagle has been bolted onto government buildings and Russian laws are slowly taking hold. And as the peninsula Russifies, Ukrainians and other minority groups are finding that an area once renowned for its easygoing cosmopolitanism is now stifling. Some are fleeing their native home.

Many complain that they have been written off both by the world and by Ukraine itself, which is focused on the bloody conflict in its southeast. The turmoil is a harsh consequence of the first major land grab in Europe since the Second World War — and it comes despite Kremlin assurances that life would be better in Crimea for Russians and Ukrainians alike.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has quickly become a haven for Ukrainian-speakers in Crimea, who can gather on Sunday mornings to gossip and to send up prayers in sanctuaries whose authorities sit in Kyiv, not Moscow. But Archbishop Kliment, the leader of the church here, fears for his future.

“I get up worried and I go to bed worried,” he said, speaking in the converted school building in Simferopol that houses the church headquarters on this peninsula of 2.4 million. “They are closing down Ukrainian schools, Ukrainian newspapers. It’s all closed, and the Ukrainian church is the only thing left.” One poll taken when Crimea was still part of Ukraine found that about 12 per cent of Crimean residents, or 280,000 people, identified as Ukrainian Orthodox.

Since the Russian takeover, the church leader says, pressure has forced him to close almost a third of his congregations. Several of his priests have fled.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 29, 2014 at 12:34 am

[LINK] “Finland legalises gay marriage”

The Guardian shares the good news.

The Finnish parliament has narrowly approved a citizen’s initiative to legalise same-sex marriage.

Gay couples in Finland have been able to enter into registered partnerships since 2002, but until now the country was the only in the Nordic region not to allow same-sex marriage. Finland is now the 12th European state to do so.

In the vote, 105 members of parliament supported the legal amendment while 92 opposed it.

The measure will end the distinction in Finland between same-sex unions and heterosexual marriages and give such couples equal rights to adopt children and share a surname.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 29, 2014 at 12:32 am

[URBAN NOTE] On how the Toronto real estate market is hard on renovators

The Globe and Mail‘s Denise Balkissoon describes one unexpected effect of Toronto’s tight real estate market.

As Toronto’s real estate market continues its wild run, it’s not just potential homeowners who are having trouble finding affordable properties. For infill developers and resellers – otherwise known as flippers – bidding wars and wild-eyed buyers are making it hard to turn a profit rehabilitating broken homes.

“For years, improving distressed properties was our sole focus,” says Bill Crilly, a structural engineer who runs 3 Stones Custom Homes with general contractor Chris Lawrence. The company focuses on what Mr. Crilly calls “dilapidated houses that no one would want to live in,” in the downtown Toronto core, completely gutting and restoring stately, 100-year-old brick houses and outfitting the insides with luxe, contemporary design touches.

In the past year and a half, the duo has found itself regularly outbid and for the past few months has found itself entirely without a house to fix up. In early fall, for example, they tried for a house on Euclid Street, near Bathurst and College, that was listed at $960,000. 3 Stones offered $1,035,000, planning to spend around $200,000 on a six-month fix and sell for about $1.5 million.

The house sold for $1,220,000, almost $200,000 more than they were willing to pay.

“The thing is, we bought and restored the house right beside it, we know what it needed,” Mr. Lawrence says. He says the eventual buyers are in for an unpleasant surprise if they think they can get away with a cosmetic renovation. “We planned a complete gut right back to the studs.”

Written by Randy McDonald

November 29, 2014 at 12:31 am

[ISL] “Wade MacLauchlan announces P.E.I. Liberal leadership bid”

CBC Prince Edward Island shares the news that UPEI’s former president, Wade MacLauchlan, is running for the leadership of the PEI Liberal Party and hence the premiership.

Wade MacLauchlan, law professor, author, and former president of the University of Prince Edward Island, announced his bid to lead the P.E.I. Liberal Party Friday.

MacLauchlan made the announcement at a news conference in York, just outside of Charlottetown. If he is successful, MacLauchlan will automatically become P.E.I.’s next premier.

Current Liberal premier Robert Ghiz announced on Nov. 13 he would step down pending a leading convention, which has since been scheduled for Feb. 20-21.

MacLauchlan took the stage with the majority of the Liberal caucus standing behind him, including prominent cabinet ministers who were rumoured to be interested in the leadership. Finance and Energy Minister Wes Sheridan, Health Minister Doug Currie, Innovation and Higher Learning Minister Allen Roach, Education Minister Alan McIsaac and Agriculture Minister George Webster were all on the stage.

Transportation Minister Robert Vessey introduced MacLauchlan, and announced his candidacy.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 29, 2014 at 12:23 am

[LINK] “CBC managers told of Jian Ghomeshi ‘assault’ allegations back in June”

CBC notes that CBC managers apparently were told about Jian Ghomeshi’s alleged crimes back in June of this year.

Certain CBC managers were aware back in June of allegations of “assault” — including punching and choking — involving a “series of women” by former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi, an investigation by the fifth estate has found.

Until now, there were few specifics about what CBC managers knew about the rumours that were circulating about Ghomeshi. But new information provides another layer of detail about what was going on at the time.

Prompted by those allegations, CBC says it conducted an internal investigation this summer involving “a cross-section of managers, program leaders and Q employees.” But it is also unclear to whom senior managers talked.

In a survey by CBC-TV’s the fifth estate, almost all known staffers on Ghomeshi’s radio show Q said they were not contacted by CBC management as part of any investigation.

The documentary also explores what happened when CBC managers were first shown images of Ghomeshi’s alleged violence against a woman.

[. . .]

Chris Boyce, the head of CBC Radio and a central figure in the story, said “in hindsight” it is a “good question” whether CBC should have gone to the police at that time.

Written by Randy McDonald

November 29, 2014 at 12:21 am

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