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  • Peter Geoghegan writes at Open Democracy about the mess that Brexit has made of Ireland, two decades after the Troubles' end.

  • Anthrodendum's Alex Golub notes that a North Korean attack on Guam, among other things, would threaten the Chamorro natives of the island.

  • The Toronto Star carries an excerpt from a book by Mark Dowie looking at how the Haida, of Haida Gwaii, managed to win government recognition of their existence.

  • CBC's Sameer Chhabra explores how Canadian students at Caribbean medical schools find it very difficult to get jobs back home.

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  • Torontoist takes on Galen Weston and the $15 minimum wage and poverty in Toronto (and Loblaw's contribution to said).

  • At the Toronto Star, Shawn Micallef describes how high property values in Toronto discourage open-air parking lots.

  • Noor Javed looks, in Toronto Star, at the question of who authorized the cathedral elevated cow statue in Cathedraltown, in Markham.

  • The Star's Fatima Syed shares some old memories of Torontonians of the Centreville carousel, soon to be sold off.

  • At The Globe and Mail, Dakshana Bascaramurty takes a look at Jamaican patois, Toronto black English, and the many complex ways in which this language is received.

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  • Worrying about the relationship of Toronto and nuclear weapons seems very 1980s. What's old is new again, as noted at NOW Toronto.

  • Steve Munro points out that talk of a fare freeze on the TTC ignores the underlying economics. Who, and what, will pay for this?

  • It's nice that the Little Free Pantry is being supported, as Global News observes, but what does it say about our city that this is a thing?

  • Clifton Joseph notes the Toronto Caribbean Festival has never achieved its goals of emancipation. Cue Bakhtin ...

  • Global News notes the new Drake music video promoting his OVO Fest store at Yorkdale. I should go.

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  • Spacing hosts Cheryl Thompson's article examining Toronto's Caribbean festival as a Bakhtinian organized chaos.

  • VICE examines how social housing in Canada will be hard-hit by climate change, including rising temperatures.

  • Torontoist shares a sponsored guide to attractions in the Ontario Greenbelt.

  • Laura Howells at the Toronto Star notes that if garlic mustard has to be an invasive plant in the forests of Ontario, at least it helps that it is a tasty invader.

  • Julien Gignac reports on the mystery of who the artist building shrines at Leslie Spit actually is.

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  • The Inter Press Service observes the quest of the Maldives for a seat on the United Nations Security Council in this time of sea level rise.

  • The NYR Daily reports on a new take on the revolutionary hope and failure of early 1980s Grenada.

  • Bloomberg notes how Singapore is becoming a major destination for Indian tourists, in its own right and as a regional centre.

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  • MacLean's Joe Castaldo notes the case for Sears Canada giving executives retention bonuses even as it shorts lesser workers.

  • CBC notes another, potentially more successful, search for Avro Arrow models in the depths of Lake Ontario.

  • VICE notes the history of white supremacism in Canada, extending to the point of a failed coup by some in Dominica.

  • Spacing reports on the Indigenous Place Making Council, intended to secure a place for increasingly urban First Nations in Canada.

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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.
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Frances Robles' front page article in The New York Times noting how Muslims from Trinidad and Tobago are being recruited in large numbers for ISIS and like organizations is alarming.

Law enforcement officials in Trinidad and Tobago, a small Caribbean island nation off the coast of Venezuela, are scrambling to close a pipeline that has sent a steady stream of young Muslims to Syria, where they have taken up arms for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

American officials worry about having a breeding ground for extremists so close to the United States, fearing that Trinidadian fighters could return from the Middle East and attack American diplomatic and oil installations in Trinidad, or even take a three-and-a-half-hour flight to Miami.

President Trump spoke by telephone over the weekend with Prime Minister Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago about terrorism and other security challenges, including foreign fighters, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a White House spokeswoman, said.

Trinidad has a history of Islamist extremism — a radical Muslim group was responsible for a failed coup in 1990 that lasted six days, and in 2012 a Trinidadian man was sentenced to life in prison for his role in a plot to blow up Kennedy International Airport. Muslims make up only about 6 percent of the population, and the combatants often come from the margins of society, some of them on the run from criminal charges.

They saw few opportunities in an oil-rich nation whose economy has declined with the price of petroleum, experts say. Some were gang members who either converted or were radicalized in prison, while others have been swayed by local imams who studied in the Middle East, according to Muslim leaders and American officials.
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The Toronto Star's Curtis Rush writes about the Cayman Islands' hockey team, staffed heavily by Canadian expats.

After trading long Canadian winters for the perpetual summer of this luxurious Caribbean tax haven, Bill Messer was content to enjoy the soft sands and warm waters of island living. The only thing he really missed was hockey.

So in 2003, when he saw a television report about the nascent World Pond Hockey Championship, he began plotting a strategy to get a team from his adopted home ready to play in his native country, Canada.

The initial response to his inquiry, however, felt like a cold slap in the face.

The tournament organizer, Danny Braun, warned Messer in an email that it was frigid up in Canada and that hockey was a very fast, very rough game.

As he read the email, Messer said, he realized that he had not made it clear to Braun that he was Canadian.
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Michael Robinson of MacLean's describes how Holland College, the chief non-academic institution of higher education on Prince Edward Island, is involved with teleeducation in the Bahamas.

Despite thousands of kilometres of ocean separating Prince Edward Island and the Bahamas, the allure of a marine education and a shared nautical ancestry has built a bridge between the two island communities.

P.E.I.’s Holland College first began angling for Bahamian students in 2004 as part of a joint effort with the Bahamas Maritime Authority. The object? To train Bahamian youth so they could work on vessels like tugboats and bulk carriers anywhere in the world.

Michael O’Grady, the college’s vice-president of innovation, enterprise and strategic development, says the size and feel of Canada’s smallest province evokes a sense of familiarity with Bahamian recruits.

“We like to say we are more alike than we are different, culturally,” he says. “There is a basic understanding among islanders of the challenges and opportunities of living on a island. You appreciate the importance of your surroundings and sea-faring traditions.”
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The National Post carried Gordon Rayner's article in The Telegraph looking at Robert De Niro's controversial development plans for the Caribbean island of Barbuda.

Once it was a favourite holiday destination of Diana, Princess of Wales, where she would take the young Princes William and Harry for carefree winter breaks.

Today, passing cruise ships swing by so that passengers can take pictures of Princess Diana Beach.

But since the Princess’s death, the K Club on the Caribbean island of Barbuda has suffered a reversal of fortunes, closing 12 years ago. Now the once luxurious resort is at the centre of an extraordinary legal battle involving Hollywood legend Robert De Niro and some of the island’s tiny population.

De Niro, together with his business partner James Packer, has bought the remainder of the lease on the land from its previous owner and has been granted planning permission to revamp, re-open and extend the K Club.

However, more than 300 of the island’s 1,500 residents have signed a petition objecting to the development, which they say is excessive and illegal.
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CBC News' Kim Brunhuber tells a heartbreaking story of Haitian migrants stranded on the US-Mexican frontier.

Every day, more Haitians arrive, famished. They've been on the road for three months to get here.

"We crossed Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala to come here," says 26-year-old Joubert Alizaire.

He's among the close to 50,000 Haitians who migrated to Brazil after the 2010 earthquake devastated parts of their country. Most of them went to work on Olympic construction. When the Olympics ended, so did the work. But the U.S. offered them a lifeline of sorts, announcing that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would stop deporting Haitians who were in the country illegally.

That's what prompted many Haitians like Jean-Ludger Sainnoval to begin a tortuous cross-continental journey. He says he walked much of the way, over mountains, through rivers and jungle.

"You never forget a journey like that," Sainnoval says. "We had nothing to eat, no water, nothing to drink. We have friends that left Brazil but didn't make it here. Some because it was too hard. Some because they died."

Close to 5,000 Haitians managed to make it all the way to Tijuana, at the Mexico-U.S. border. But then in September the U.S. reversed the policy and said it would resume "removing" Haitian nationals, claiming that conditions in Haiti had improved. Those who feared persecution back home could apply for asylum.
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  • At Apostrophen, 'Nathan Smith talks about how he made a tradition out of Christmas tree ornamentation over the past twenty years.

  • blogTO notes that Toronto's waterfront has major E Coli issues.

  • Crooked Timber notes the potential for the recent by-election in London, fought on Brexit and lost by the Tories, to mean something.

  • The Dragon's Gaze reports on a search for radio flares from brown dwarfs.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes that China has been installing ecologies on its artificial South China Sea islands.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers what it means to be an ally.

  • The LRB Blog looks at the complex peace negotiations in Colombia.

  • The Map Room Blog shares a map of American infrastructure.

  • Marginal Revolution notes a one-terabyte drive passed from person to person that serves as a sort of Internet in Cuba.

  • Towleroad notes a film project by one Leo Herrera that aims to imagine what prominent AIDS victims would have done and been like had their not been killed by the epidemic.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes the complexities surrounding Brexit.

  • Arnold Zwicky has had enough with linguistic prescriptivism.

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At the Alternate History forums, I ask the question of what Cuba would have become absent the Castro takeover. (Richer, but substantially more unstable and unequal, is my first suggestion.)
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Over at Demography Matters I make a brief post about Cuba's demographic prospects in light of its dubious economic hopes. There are going to be more emigrants, and Cuba's generally negative demographic situation will not help things.
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Late in December of 2015, I wrote an answer in Quora to a question wondering if Cuba proves that Communism worked. Could it stand as an example for the Third World? It could not, I argued, mainly because Cuba before Castro was an advanced society with high levels of human and economic development, and because Cuba after Castro simply coasted.

PBS' synopsis notes the fatal flaw in Cuba's prosperity, which was distributed very unevenly and helped to create a pre-revolutionary situation.

Cuba's capital, Havana, was a glittering and dynamic city. In the early part of the century the country's economy, fueled by the sale of sugar to the United States, had grown dynamically. Cuba ranked fifth in the hemisphere in per capita income, third in life expectancy, second in per capita ownership of automobiles and telephones, first in the number of television sets per inhabitant. The literacy rate, 76%, was the fourth highest in Latin America. Cuba ranked 11th in the world in the number of doctors per capita. Many private clinics and hospitals provided services for the poor. Cuba's income distribution compared favorably with that of other Latin American societies. A thriving middle class held the promise of prosperity and social mobility.

There were, however, profound inequalities in Cuban society -- between city and countryside and between whites and blacks. In the countryside, some Cubans lived in abysmal poverty. Sugar production was seasonal, and the macheteros -- sugarcane cutters who only worked four months out of the year -- were an army of unemployed, perpetually in debt and living on the margins of survival. Many poor peasants were seriously malnourished and hungry. Neither health care nor education reached those rural Cubans at the bottom of society. Illiteracy was widespread, and those lucky enough to attend school seldom made it past the first or second grades. Clusters of graveyards dotted the main highway along the foothills of the Sierra Maestra, marking the spots where people died waiting for transportation to the nearest hospitals and clinics in Santiago de Cuba.


This 1966 New York Review of Books exchange of letters on the Cuban revolution makes Cuba's relative advancement clear: "[I]n 1953, not a particularly good year for the Cuban economy, Cuba’s per-capita income of $325 was higher than that of Italy ($307), Austria ($290), Spain ($242), Portugal ($220), Turkey ($221), Mexico ($200), Yugoslavia ($200), and Japan ($197)".

Ward and Devereux's 2010 study "The Road not taken: Pre-Revolutionary Cuban Living Standards in Comparative Perspective" (PDF format) makes more detailed claims: "On the eve of the revolution, incomes were 50 to 60 percent of European levels. They were among the highest in Latin America at about 30 percent of the United States. In relative terms, Cuba was richer earlier on. Income per capita during the 1920s was in striking distance of Western Europe and the Southern United States. After the revolution, Cuba slipped down the world income distribution. Current levels of income per capita appear below their pre-revolutionary peaks." Notwithstanding criticism of these figures--Ward and Devereux do seem to account for price levels, contrary to Louis Proyect's claims--they seem valid. Cuba on the eve of the revolution was a high-income Latin American society, fully bearing comparison with the Southern Cone and Venezuela, even much of Europe.

What does this mean about the success of Cuba under socialism? Probably the most noteworthy element of Cuba's post-revolutionary history is that of economic stagnation and relative decline. Cuba has fallen behind spectacularly, not just behind its western European peers but behind Latin America as well. Latin America's high-income countries have had a chequered growth history, but even these, Cuba's peers, have done better: Wages and living standards in Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile are substantially higher. Even in the context of the Caribbean, Cuba's geographic peers, Cuba's performance has been patchy, with the Dominican Republic making lasting gains.



What happened? One counterfactual analysis suggests that Cuba's economy began underperforming badly in 1959, the moment of the revolution. Ward and Devereux suggest, ironically enough, that it is only by the late 1950s that the Cuban economy had completed its long, slow recovery from the devastating impact of US sugar tariffs imposed in the early 1930s. (Cuba, they suggest, may have seen little net economic growth since the 1920s!) Of all the economies in the world to be transformed into autarkic socialist states, Cuba's highly-export dependent economy may have been among the least suited.

There may well have been gains to general Cuban living standards from the redistribution of wealth and resources. These gains were limited: The positive effects of the revolution, including increased investment in human development, may have been swamped by the negative effects including the collapse of Cuba's previous trade networks and the costs of converting an economy to Communism. Cuba may simply have coasted on its pre-revolutionary achievements, expanding access to pre-existing institutions.

In the end, Cuba has been left as vulnerable as any other post-Communist countries by the failure of its political model, perhaps even more exposed and vulnerable than before the introduction of Communism. Castro and his communism did not improve Cuba's position relative to the outside world. In this, Cuba bears comparison not so much with the countries of the Third World as it does with the countries of central Europe, similarly semiperipheral countries with similar problems of inequality which did not see much benefit in the long run from Communism.
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Open Democracy's Yörük Bahçeli writes about how the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba is moving towards marriage equality at a relative snail's pace.

Author's update: the parliamentary debate and ultimate vote has been postponed to September 8th as the Aruban government considers including regulations addressing same-sex relationships in the country’s civil code.

Tomorrow, the Aruban parliament is expected to vote on a civil law amendment granting civil partnerships to same-sex couples. It was proposed by Desiree Sousa Croes, an openly-gay parliamentarian.

Legalizing civil partnerships will grant registered same-sex couples equal rights as married couples.

Although the Netherlands led the way in legalizing same-sex marriage in 2001, LGBT citizens living in its autonomous territories are still unable to marry. The Dutch Kingdom consists of the Netherlands proper and the Caribbean islands of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten, as well as Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba, known as the BES islands.

The BES islands were incorporated into the Dutch mainland in 2010 and same-sex couples have been able to marry ever since.

However, in Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten, which remain autonomous territories in the Kingdom with their own laws, gay couples cannot marry or enter civil partnerships.
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Daily Xtra's Arshy Mann notes the happy news that a GLBT refugee claimant from the Caribbean has secured refugee status.

It took Rolston Ryan, who now lives in Toronto, six legal proceedings, include two trips to the Federal Court, to finally be acknowledged as a refugee.

“He suffered harassment, discrimination and violence in St Kitts amounting to persecution,” wrote Michele Pettinella, the member of the Immigration and Refugee Board who decided his case. “He did not receive adequate protection from the state when he reported a violent attack.”

Ryan, who was stabbed and beaten in St Kitts because of his sexual orientation, escaped to Canada in 2013 after he was threatened with a gun.

Unlike some LGBT asylum seekers, Ryan’s sexual orientation was never in doubt. Instead, immigration officials argued that there wasn’t any evidence that St Kitts and Nevis was unable to protects its queer citizens.

This is despite the fact that gay sex remains illegal in the island federation and can be punished by up to 10 years in prison.
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Smithsonian.com's Ross Kenneth Urken writes about the vestiges of a golden age of Jewish piracy, and also community, on Jamaica.

I was in Kingston’s spooky Hunts Bay Cemetery, located in a shantytown near the Red Stripe brewery, tramping through high grass with a dozen fellow travelers. We passed a herd of cattle that was being pecked by white egrets before finding what we were looking for: seven tombstones engraved with Hebrew benedictions and skull and crossbones insignia.

Centuries ago, the coffins buried here were ferried across Cagway Bay from Port Royal, once known as “the wickedest city in the world” and an inspiration for the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise and amusement park ride. This was once the domain of the little-known Jewish pirates who once sailed the waters of Jamaica. Their history captures a somewhat different side of the island than its recently adopted tourism slogan: “Jamaica—Get All Right.”

Jews have been a recognized part of Jamaican cultural life since 1655, when Britain took power from Spain and welcomed Jewish immigration, though some date their presence here to Columbus’s second voyage to the Americas. Many were successful gold traders and sugar merchants. Some, like Moses Cohen Henriques, a crony of Captain Henry Morgan who once plundered the modern day equivalent of almost $1 billion from a Spanish galleon, were marauding buccaneers. Though today’s Jamaican Jewish population is fewer than 200, there are at least 21 Jewish burial grounds across the island.

Since 2007, Caribbean Volunteer Expeditions (CVE), a nonprofit focused on cultural preservation throughout the Caribbean, has been leading groups like mine in an effort to document this largly forgotten history by transcribing epitaphs and compiling an inventory of grave sites. With trips spearheaded by Rachel Frankel, a New York-based architect, it hopes to promote conservation of Jewish cemeteries and raise public awareness of them. In the 18th century, the French Enlightenment writer Guillaume-Thomas Raynal advocated that Jews adopt Jamaica as a homeland in the Caribbean, since it had already become a locus of Semitic commerce. With Kingston just a four-hour flight from New York, the island could still become a vital part of Jewish life, if this part of its history were better known.
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Bloomberg's Brian Chappatta reports on the impending financial apocalypse in the US Virgin Islands, one that seems likely to impact Puerto Rico's efforts to find a viable solution to its issues.

Congress’s plan to throw a lifeline to Puerto Rico is making waves in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The measure that passed a House committee last week would allow for a federal control board to oversee the finances -- and potentially restructure the debt -- of any U.S. territory, even though Puerto Rico is the only one now asking for help. Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp and Rep. Stacey Plaskett have blasted the bill, warning that it may tarnish its standing with investors. That concern is already starting to materialize: Returns on its securities are trailing the $3.7 trillion municipal market for the first time since 2011.

The Caribbean island, Puerto Rico’s closest American neighbor, has a sliver of the population -- about 104,300 -- and a fraction of the debt, with $2.4 billion across all issuers. But divvied up, that’s $23,000 of obligations per person, even more than Puerto Rico’s $20,000. The two Caribbean territories with a shared culture also have similar fiscal strains: declining populations, underfunded pensions, histories of borrowing to cover budget shortfalls and unemployment rates that are twice as high as the U.S. mainland’s.

“It’s the same template: Over a period of years, you keep issuing debt to cover your operating deficits, your economy isn’t growing, your population isn’t growing, but your liabilities keep growing,” said David Ashley, an associate portfolio manager at Thornburg Investment Management, which holds $11.5 billion in municipal bonds. “Just by virtue of math, your per-capita debt just continues to rise, probably to an unsustainable level at a certain point.”

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