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[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • Centauri Dreams looks at evidence that Ceres’ Occator Crater, an apparent cryovolcano, may have been recently active.
  • Crooked Timber’s John Quiggin wonders what would have happened had Kerensky accepted the German Reichstag’s proposal in 1917.
  • Dangerous Minds looks at some fun that employees at a bookstore in France got up to with book covers.
  • Cody Delistraty describes F. Scott Fitzgerald’s utter failure to fit into Hollywood.
  • A Fistful of Euros hosts Alex Harrowell’s blog post taking a look at recent history from a perspective of rising populism.
  • io9 reports on a proposal from the Chinese city of Lanzhou to set up a water pipeline connecting it to Siberia’s Lake Baikal.
  • Imageo notes a recent expedition by Norwegian scientists aiming at examining the winter ice.
  • Strange Maps links to an amazing graphic mapping the lexical distances between Europe’s languages.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that Russia is on the verge of a new era of population decline, and shares a perhaps alarming perspective on the growth of Muslim populations in Russia.

[URBAN NOTE] “Troubled Trump Tower in Toronto likely will go to owner of $301-million construction loan”

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The Financial Post carries Alastair Sharp’s Reuters report noting that debt-laden Trump Tower here in Toronto has not received any bids, and that the bank that is its main debt holder is likely to take the building.

The court-run sale of a downtown Toronto high-rise bearing the name of U.S. President Donald Trump received no initial bids and ownership will likely fall to its main debt holder, a letter from the receiver showed.

The court process only indirectly involves Trump, whose sprawling business empire licenses its brand and manages the Toronto property on behalf of the developer, Talon International Inc. But the Trump International Hotel & Tower’s new owner will need to navigate an unresolved dispute over whether they can get out of that arrangement.

No qualified bids apart from a stalking horse offer of $298 million were received for the luxury hotel and condo property by an initial deadline, the receiver, FTI Consulting, said in a letter dated Feb. 21 and seen by Reuters on Monday.

“As a result, the Receiver has determined that the Stalking Horse Bidder is the Successful Bidder,” the letter said.

With no rival bidders emerging, the hotel’s ownership will likely fall to JCF Capital ULC, which on Sept. 29 bought the $301 million owed on the tower’s construction loan, before quickly moving to initiate the sale process.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 7, 2017 at 4:00 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • D-Brief shares rare video of beaked whales on the move.
  • Dangerous Minds notes that someone has actually begun selling unauthorized action figures of Trump Administration figures like Bannon and Spencer.
  • Language Log looks at a linguistic feature of Emma Watson’s quote, her ending it with a preposition.
  • Marginal Revolution’s Tyler Cowen considers, originally for Bloomberg View, if Trump could be seen as a placebo for what ails America.
  • The New APPS Blog takes a Marxist angle on the issue of big data, from the perspective of (among other things) primitive accumulation.
  • The Search reports on the phenomenon of the Women’s History Month Wikipedia edit-a-thon, aiming to literally increase the representation of notable women on Wikipedia.
  • Towleroad notes the six men who will be stars of a new Fire Island reality television show.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy finds some merit in Ben Carson’s description of American slaves as immigrants. (Some.)
  • Window on Eurasia argues that Belarusians are beginning to mobilize against their government and suggests they are already making headway.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

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  • Centauri Dreams reports on asteroid P/2016 G1, a world that, after splitting, is now showing signs of a cometary tail.
  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers outrage as a sociological phenomenon. What, exactly, does it do? What does it change?
  • Joe. My. God. reports on a new push for same-sex marriage in Germany, coming from the SPD.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money examines the Alabama government’s disinterest in commemorating the Selma march for freedom.
  • Marginal Revolution looks at Oxford University’s attempt to recruit white British male students.
  • At the NYRB Daily, Masha Gessen warns against falling too readily into the trap of identifying conspiracies in dealing with Trump.
  • pollotenchegg maps the distribution of Muslims in Crimea according to the 1897 Russian census.
  • Savage Minds takes a brief look at ayahuasca, a ritual beverage of Andean indigenous peoples, and looks at how its legality in the United States remains complicated.
  • Elf Sternberg considers the problems of straight men with sex, and argues they might be especially trapped by a culture that makes it difficult for straight men to consider sex as anything but a birthright and an obligation.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy considers how the complexities of eminent domain might complicate the US-Mexican border wall.
  • Window on Eurasia reports on protests in Russia and argues Belarus is on the verge of something.

[LINK] “Guyana’s New Oil Fields Both Blessing and Curse”

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Desmond Brown writes for the Inter Press Service about the complications of Guyana’s newly-discovered offshore oil, both economic and environmental. What will happen to Guyana’s low-carbon economic strategy if it drills?

The recent discovery of large volumes of oil offshore of Guyana could prove to be a major headache for the country, as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and other Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) members press for keeping global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels as provided for in the historic Paris Climate Agreement.

Exxon Mobil recently announced the successful drilling of a deep-water exploration well that may soon confirm that the seafloor beneath Guyana’s coastal waters contains one of the richest oil and natural gas discoveries in decades.

Experts now estimate that one of its offshore fields alone, known as Liza, could contain 1.4 billion barrels of oil and mixed natural gas.

But in the face of a changing climate fueled by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, Dr. Al Binger, interim executive director of the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREE), said Guyana should not get too excited about the discovery.

“Guyana finds themselves inside AOSIS, the group that is fighting to keep temperatures under 1.5 degrees C, and now they are going to want to sell carbon which is going to get burned. I think they are going to have a lot of head-scratching to figure out ‘is this a blessing or is this a curse?’” Binger told IPS.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 5, 2017 at 9:45 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Future Generations Will Foot the Bill for City Council’s Incompetence Today”

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Torontoist features John Parker’s criticism of city council for not properly budgeting expenses in the coming fiscal year.

“What’s a million?” a comment famously attributed to Canadian wartime minister C.D. Howe, is one of those lines so rich in its obvious contempt for the sensibilities of the average taxpayer that it is almost a shame that there is no record that he actually said it.

But we now know that the spirit of that remark lives on in today’s Toronto City Hall. Over the years, $1 million has increased to $2 million. And we now know that this is the premium Toronto City Council submitted for future taxpayers to pay, just so that they could bring down the curtain on a 15-hour day of kicking the same tired old issues around the floor of council on 2017 budget decision day, to the point where someone, in effect, said, “It’s late, we’re all tired, and we want to go home.”

It’s not as if the 2017 budget process hadn’t already gone through a long and detailed series of analytical steps and decision points long before midnight on February 15. There is a budget committee that meets regularly throughout the year. City staff had released their preliminary 2017 numbers before the end of 2016. Community information sessions had been held. Special budget committee meetings had taken place. Recommendations and proposals had been submitted, discussed, and voted on at the Executive Committee. The bulk of about $10.5 billion dollars of tax that supported operating spending in the original proposal had emerged from the process pretty much unscathed. Proposed spending lined up neatly with projected revenues, in accordance with the law that imposes at least that degree of fiscal discipline on every municipal government in the province of Ontario.

As the midnight hour approached, there was just one problem. After taking into account all the recommendations from staff in all departments, and after all the town halls, and after all the committee meetings, and deputations, and proposals, and votes, Toronto City Council decided that the budget they were about to adopt just didn’t provide for the City’s roads to be clean enough. Two million dollars in street sweeping, to be exact, had to be added to the plan. So it was added.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 5, 2017 at 8:15 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Yorkville’s old school malls are about to disappear”

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blogTO’s Derek Flack looks at old malls in Yorkville, like Cumberland Terrace and the Village Arcade, that are set to come down as redevelopment beckons. Plenty of nice photos are included.

Yorkville is in the midst of a paradigm shift, the scale of which hasn’t been witnessed since it transformed from a hippie hub in the 1960s to a high end shopping destination in the decade that followed.

The Yorkville that’s slipping away today can be traced back to the 1970s. While historic elements dating much further back can been seen in the converted Victorian houses that still house retail on Cumberland St., many of the neighbourhood’s larger buildings date back to this decade.

Of these, the most significant is surely Cumberland Terrace, a multi-level mall that runs adjacent to the street from which it takes its name. Opened in 1974, when you pay a visit these days, it’s like stepping into a time machine.

Picture the Galleria Mall, but nicer. There are payphones and brown tile everywhere, an eclectic mix of vendors you’d never find in a newer mall, and wayfinding signage that dates back to the first days of operation here.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 5, 2017 at 8:00 pm