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[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • At Acts of Minor Treason, Andrew Barton is very unhappy with the misuse of the Hugo Award.
  • Anthropology.net notes that DNA has been retrieved from an ancient and mostly fossilized Neanderthal fossil.
  • Centauri Dreams examines the early history of the Milky Way Galaxy.
  • Crooked Timber looks at the controversies over religious liberty.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze considers how extraterrestrial life can be detected through disequilibria in exoplanet atmosphere and notes the recent Alpha Centauri B study.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that by 2018 a laser will be deployed on a drone.
  • Geocurrents shares slides from a recent lecture on Yemen.
  • Language Hat examines the Yiddish word “khnyok”.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money considers the Republican race.
  • Marginal Revolution notes the unpopularity of political jobs among young Americans.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes SpaceX’s problem with retrieving the first stages of its rockets.
  • Torontoist looks at beekeeping in Toronto.
  • Towleroad notes a Kickstarter fundraiser for Emil Cohen’s photos of queer life in Providence.
  • Transit Toronto notes the expansion of free WiFi throughout the subway system.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that divorce papers can be served via Facebook if it is the most practical alternative.
  • Window on Eurasia fears a summertime Russian attack on Ukraine, notes Russian fears of rebellion at home, and looks at Russian Internet censorship.
  • The World’s Gideon Rachman wonders if the Greek demand for Second World War reparations will bring the Eurozone crisis to a head.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell notes the essential lack of difference on government spending between Labour and the Tories and looks at flawed computer databases.

[DM] “On cat islands and the wider potential of rewilding”

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I have a post up at Demography Matters where I suggest that the cat island can point us towards the future rewilding of the depopulating rural world.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 5, 2015 at 3:59 am

[LINK] “Greece-Russia Overtures Seen as Sideshow by Merkel, Hollande”

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Arne Delfs, Patrick Donahue and Mark Deen, writing for Bloomberg, suggests that Greece’s public flirtations with Russia are being taken as a sign of lack of seriousness by its Eurozone partners.

Germany and France view Greece’s overtures toward Russia as a sideshow and won’t be drawn into a debate on the matter, three government officials said.

That strategy stems from Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande’s belief that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ talks with President Vladimir Putin are not likely to yield significant aid — especially given Russia’s own economic woes — and are more political theater than any real geopolitical shift, said the officials, who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations.

Merkel has signaled repeatedly she wants Greece to remain in the euro, partly to avoid a perception of European weakness as Russia challenges the continent’s post-Cold War order. While she and Hollande are closely watching what develops, they’re publicly shrugging off Tsipras’s trip to Moscow next week, while talks with European partners on Greece’s bailout stall.

“We were also in Moscow and we’re still members of the European Union and stand unified,” Merkel said during a joint press conference with Hollande in Berlin Tuesday. The two visited Putin at the Kremlin in February to hold discussions over the conflict in Ukraine.

Hollande’s government views Tsipras’ actions as a restlessness stemming from the stalemate with Greece’s creditors over releasing more money from a 240 billion-euro ($258 billion) bailout fund, one of the people said. Still, it’s troublesome that Tsipras’s government seems to lack a consistent strategic plan, the person said.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 2, 2015 at 7:53 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • The Big Picture looks at the uses of oil barrels around the world.
  • blogTO wonders if the Annex is ready for a condo boom.
  • Centauri Dreams features a guest post from Andrew Lepage noting how odd spectra on Mars were misidentified as proof of life.
  • Crooked Timber notes a student occupation of the University of Amsterdam’s headquarters.
  • Discover‘s The Crux makes a poor argument that space probe visits to Pluto and Ceres will lead to the redefinition of these worlds as planets.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze looks at an odd pulsating hot subdwarf B star with a brown dwarf.
  • The Dragon’s Tales suggests chemical mechanisms for life on Titan, and explains the differences in water plumes between Europa and Enceladus.
  • A Fistful of Euros notes political conflict in Germany.
  • Discover‘s Inkfist notes that birds from harsher climates are smarters.
  • Joe. My. God. shares Madonna’s critique of ageism.
  • Languages of the World examines the genesis of the English language.
  • Marginal Revolution notes Japanese funerals for robots, suggests Facebook usage makes people less happy, and notes family formation in Europe.
  • John Moyer examines punctuation.
  • Steve Munro maps out routes for a Scarborough subway.
  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at science on Pluto.
  • pollotenchegg maps the distribution of ethnically mixed households in Ukraine.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks at how Panama successfully made use of price controls, and why.
  • Progressive Download’s John Farrell wonders what is the rush for three-parent IVF therapy.
  • Transit Toronto explains how old TTC tickets can be exchanged.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the importance of Belarus for the Baltic States, notes the newly-debatable borders of the former Soviet Union, suggests Tatarstan is unhappy with Russian federalism, and looks at the small grounds for Russian-Ukrainian hostilities.

[LINK] The Economist on the assimilated German-Americans

The Economist‘s article “The silent minority” explores how German-Americans, despite their numbers and former influence, are very highly assimilated, and how they became this way.

German-Americans are America’s largest single ethnic group (if you divide Hispanics into Mexican-Americans, Cuban-Americans, etc). In 2013, according to the Census bureau, 46m Americans claimed German ancestry: more than the number who traced their roots to Ireland (33m) or England (25m). In whole swathes of the northern United States, German-Americans outnumber any other group (see map). Some 41% of the people in Wisconsin are of Teutonic stock.

Yet despite their numbers, they are barely visible. Everyone knows that Michael Dukakis is Greek-American, the Kennedy clan hail from Ireland and Mario Cuomo was an Italian-American. Fewer notice that John Boehner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Rand Paul, a senator from Kentucky with presidential ambitions, are of German origin.

Companies founded by German-Americans tend to play down their roots, too: think of Pfizer, Boeing, Steinway, Levi Strauss or Heinz. Buried somewhere on their websites may be a brief note that “Steinway & Sons was founded in 1853 by German immigrant Henry Engelhard Steinway in a Manhattan loft on Varick Street”. But firms that play up their Germanic history—as Kohler does, in a short film shown at the Waelderhaus—are rare.

German immigrants have flavoured American culture like cinnamon in an Apfelkuchen. They imported Christmas trees and Easter bunnies and gave America a taste for pretzels, hot dogs, bratwursts and sauerkraut. They built big Lutheran churches wherever they went. Germans in Wisconsin launched America’s first kindergarten and set up Turnvereine, or gymnastics clubs, in Milwaukee, Cincinnati and other cities.

After a failed revolution in Germany in 1848, disillusioned revolutionaries decamped to America and spread progressive ideas. “Germanism, socialism and beer makes Milwaukee different,” says John Gurda, a historian. Milwaukee is the only big American city that had Socialist mayors for several decades, of whom two, Emil Seidel and Frank Zeidler, were of German stock. As in so many other countries where Germans have settled, they have dominated the brewing trade. Beer barons such as Jacob Best, Joseph Schlitz, Frederick Pabst and Frederick Miller made Milwaukee the kind of city that more or less had to call its baseball team the Brewers.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 12, 2015 at 11:22 pm

[LINK] “Germany Deserved Debt Relief, Greece Doesn’t”

Bloomberg View’s Leonid Bershidsky makes a controversial case.

It might still be argued that if Germany deserved a second chance after all it did to Europe, then surely Greece should also be granted one.

There’s a technical answer to that. As [Yale’s Timothy Guinnane] wrote, “The people of some countries today are working to repay international debts incurred by earlier governments that they did not elect or want. Often the debt was used either to provide luxurious lifestyles for a corrupt few, or to pay for the repression of the mass of the population. Yet under the rules of the international financial system, the people of the country are still responsible for the debt or risk loss of access to international credit markets.”

[. . .]

The West German governments that benefited from the debt relief were resolutely anti-Communist and anti-Marxist. CDU, now the party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, ran West Germany for the first two decades of its existence. It was less economically liberal than it is now, and it built a sizable welfare state over the years, but it was still a center-right, capitalist force that believed that only private initiative could lead to more or less universal prosperity.

The far-left political forces were outside the London process in 1953; they were in the GDR. Now, far-left Syriza wants to be on the inside, with its plans to nationalize banks and utilities and its costly promises to voters. It will use the debt relief to provide free electricity to households, subsidize rents, restore Christmas bonuses to pensioners, raise minimum salaries — that is, to return to the practices that led to the accumulation of Greece’s debt. It is an extreme case of moral hazard, which the post-war German governments conscientiously avoided.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 11, 2015 at 10:53 pm

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait does explain the question of whether or not the Moon is a planet.
  • blogTO notes that the old Kodak lands on Eglinton will be repurposed for mass transit and observes that Stollery’s at Yonge and Bloor is already being demolished.
  • Crooked Timber notes, looking back in American history, that people who have accused others of playing the “race card” are actually overlooking serious grievances.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes Kepler’s detection of more than twenty thousand exoplanet signals and notes a new method for estimating the mass and age of stars with transiting planets.
  • Geocurrents notes that the site is being suspended, hopefully temporarily.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that Minneapolis’ Roman Catholic archdiocese has declared bankruptcy, putting compensation to victims of clerical sexual abuse in jeopardy.
  • Marginal Revolution argues that a majority of American public school students are not in poverty, at least not if we go by the barometer of free lunches.
  • The Numerati’s Stephen Baker argues in favour of the virtues of unregulated hate speech.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes that the Nicaragua canal is already seeing a course adjustment.
  • Registan notes that Putin’s Russia is loved by proponents of the men’s rights movement.
  • Towleroad profiles out star Alan Cumming.
  • Transit Toronto notes that consultations for the Scaroborough subway extension are imminent.
  • Window on Eurasia notes China’s interest in supplying nuclear fuel to central and eastern Europe and observes the disintegration of the old German churches of Kaliningrad.
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