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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly photoblogs about her trip to Berlin.

  • Dead Things reports on a recent study that unraveled the evolutionary history of the domestic cat.

  • James Nicoll notes that his niece and nephew will each be performing theatre in Toronto.

  • Language Hat has an interesting link to interviews of coders as if they were translators.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at Chinese video game competitions and Chinese tours to Soviet revolutionary sites.

  • Steve Munro shares photos of the old Kitchener trolleybus.

  • Roads and Kingdoms shares the story of the Ramadan drummer of Coney Island.

  • Savage Minds shares an essay arguing that photographers should get their subjects' consent and receive renumeration.

  • Torontoist shares photos of the Trans March.

  • Towleroad
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  • Daily Xtra's Arshy Mann and Evan Balgord report on how the Jewish Defense League plans on marching in Toronto Pride. Grand.

  • Spacing's Shazlin Rahman reports on the Jane's Walk she organized around sites of significance to Muslims around Bloor and Dufferin.

  • The Toronto Star's Nicholas Keung and Raju Mudhar reported earlier this month on the happy reunification of a Syrian couple with their cat.

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  • Crooked Timber links the near-criminal destruction of Grenfell Tower with Thatcherism's deregulations and catastrophes.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes that TRAPPIST-1e is slated to be among the first observational targets of the James Webb Space Telescope.

  • Far Outliers shares Edith Durham's account of an exciting St. John's Day in Albania in 1908.

  • Language Hat looks at a passage from Turgenev.

  • What, the LRB wonders, will Emmanuel Macron do with his crushing victory after the parliamentary elections, too?

  • Marginal Revolution wonders to what extent is Germany's support for Nord Stream consistent with Germany's concerns over NATO and Russia.

  • Ed Jackson's Spacing Toronto article about the need to preserve queer public history in Toronto is a must-read.
  • Torontoist's Alex Yerman notes the new activity of the Jewish left against a conservative establishment.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests that modern Russia is repeating the Soviet Union's overmilitarization mistakes, only this time with fewer resources.

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In this weekend's Historicist feature, David Wencer describes for Torontoist an early protest in Toronto against Nazi anti-Semitism and fascism.

On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 11, 1933, people began gathering in the park at Wellington and Bathurst Streets. Most of the men and women in attendance were labourers, and many were there to represent Toronto’s predominantly Jewish garment industry unions. Some were there to represent various left-wing Toronto political organizations, which were ideologically opposed to Adolf Hitler’s fascist policies and treatment of German workers. Others were motivated to protest by local newspaper reports of pogroms in Hitler’s Germany. Carrying signs and banners reflecting a variety of interests and causes, the crowd paraded up Spadina to Dundas, then east to University Avenue, and finally up University to Queen’s Park, where thousands of others joined. The protest brought together Torontonians of many affiliations, united in their determined opposition to “Hitlerism” and the events unfolding in Germany.

In the early months of 1933, the Toronto press reported regularly on the developments which were taking place in Germany following Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. These articles ran not just in the Yiddish-language Der Yiddisher Zhurnal and in radical leftist newspapers, such as Young Worker, but also in the four mainstream Toronto dailies. They described the increasingly restrictive conditions in Germany, and included reports of concentration camps and attacks on Jews in the streets. In their book Riot at Christie Pits, Cyril H. Levitt and William Shaffir write that Toronto’s newspapers “carried horrifying front-page reports of the atrocities against Jews during the first months of Hitler’s rule…In fact, because of the censorship of the media by the Hitler regime, Torontonians probably knew more about what was occurring to Jews in Germany during those fateful months than did most Berliners.”


A Jewish market on Kensington Avenue, January 14, 1932. City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1266, Item 26172.
A Jewish market on Kensington Avenue, January 14, 1932. City of Toronto Archives, fonds 1266, item 26172.

April of 1933 saw the formation of a new Toronto group, the League for the Defence of Jewish Rights (not to be confused with today’s Jewish Defence League), whose leaders included Rabbi Samuel Sachs and Shmuel Meir Shapiro, editor of Der Yiddisher Zhurnal. The League soon emerged as Toronto’s leading Jewish protest group, and co-organized a massive meeting at Massey Hall on April 2. This meeting, which drew the support of numerous non-Jewish politicians and organizations, included the development of a strategy for countering local antisemitic sentiment, and the organization of a local boycott of German goods. The League was also instrumental in the formation of a new incarnation of a national-level Jewish organization, the Canadian Jewish Congress.

In 1933, Toronto’s Jewish population numbered around 46,000, and was heavily concentrated downtown, near the city’s many clothing factories. In her 1992 book Sweatshop Strife: Class, Ethnicity, and Gender in the Jewish Labour Movement of Toronto 1900–1939, Ruth A. Frager writes that, by 1931, approximately one-third of Toronto’s gainfully employed Jewish population worked in the needle trades, and that “Jews constituted roughly 46 per cent of the people employed in this sector in this city.”
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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly describes a week in her life as a freelance writer.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes how the Indus Valley Civilization did, and did not, adapt to climate change.

  • Language Log reshares Benjamin Franklin's writings against German immigration.

  • The NYRB Daily follows one family's quest for justice after the shooting by police of one Ramarley Graham.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog looks at the Pale of Settlement.

  • Torontoist looks at Ontario's food and nutrition strategy.

  • Transit Toronto reports on how PRESTO officials will be making appearances across the TTC in coming weeks to introduce users to the new system.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at how ethnic minorities form a growing share of Russian emigration, looks at the manipulation of statistics by the Russian state, and suggests Putin's actions have killed off the concept of a triune nation of East Slavs.

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Via Towleroad, I came across Alina Simone's delightful feature describing how Céline Dion helped save Montréal's famed deli Schwartz's.

[H]ow did the French-Canadian pop diva become the custodian of Montreal’s premier Jewish culinary institution? That’s the question I’ve come to ask Frank Silva, Schwartz’s general manager, who was brought into the business by his father back in 1982.

Schwartz’s was founded in 1928 by Reuben Schwartz, a Jewish Romanian immigrant who started off as a delivery guy for other local delis. Silva says one day Schwartz realized “what he was delivering was inferior to what he knew from back home. So he figured he could do something better.”

Unfortunately, the Depression was just getting under way. Schwartz had to do whatever he could to stay in business, which meant making his Jewish deli a lot less Jewish.

“He started saying, forget about being kosher, we've got to start to make some money,” Silva says. He adds that they’re no longer certified kosher, but they keep it “kosher style.”

Schwartz was the first and last owner to work behind the counter at the deli. After his death, ownership passed to a partner, and then on to another one and another one, until four years ago when late restaurateur Paul Nakis heard Schwartz’s was for sale. That’s when Celine Dion came into the picture.
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The Toronto Star's Aparita Bhandari reports on how a kosher Chinese restaurant in suburban Thornhill does roaring business with a Jewish clientele on Christmas Day.

At first glance, the menu of Golden Chopsticks restaurant doesn’t seem all that remarkable. The long list of items is the same as many Chinese takeout eateries across the city: egg rolls and sweet and sour chicken balls for appetizers, combo specials featuring General Tao chicken and Hunan beef with steamed rice. It’s the big sign on its window proclaiming “We Are Glatt Kosher” that’s unusual.

It’s a Chinese restaurant for Jews who follow a strict kosher diet and its busiest day of the year is Christmas.

Located in a Thornhill strip mall at the corner of Bathurst St. and Steeles Ave., Golden Chopsticks was the first kosher Chinese restaurant in the city when it opened almost 20 years ago.

Rony Gafny, an observant Jew who had never tried Chinese food, wanted to cater to the predominantly Jewish community in the surrounding neighbourhood when he opened the restaurant.

Jewish people eating Chinese food for Christmas is now part of a North American tradition, says Daniel Koren, a former online editor of Canadian Jewish News, and current media co-ordinator for B’nai Brith Canada. He included Golden Chopsticks in his “For Jewish Christmas: The 10 Best Chinese Restaurants in Toronto” roundup for Canadian Jewish News last year.

“Everybody, who’s Jewish, knows the place because it is the only kosher Chinese place. Or it used to be the only one,” he says. Although Toronto doesn’t have much of a kosher foodie scene compared to say New York or Tel Aviv, there’s a definite interest in kosher food in the city — and that’s brought competition.
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The Globe and Mail's Ingrid Peritz touches upon the tensions between Hasidim and non-Hasidim in the Montréal borough of Outremont regarding the management of public space. There are legitimate concerns on both sides, whether the concern of Hasidim that they are being squeezed out or the concern of non-Hasidim that their public space is being taken over. (The Montréal gym whose windows were frosted so as to obscure outsiders' views of exercising women, at the request of Hasidim, is located here.)

A referendum vote in favour of banning new houses of worship on one of Montreal’s most upscale streets has inflamed tensions with the district’s community of Hasidic Jews, fuelling a divisive debate over religious minorities and the sharing of public space.

In a vote that coincides with heightened sensitivity across the continent about the treatment of minorities, residents in the borough of Outremont voted 56 per cent in favour on Sunday of upholding a zoning ban on new temples on Bernard Avenue, one of the well-to-do district’s main commercial arteries.

While the bylaw does not identify a specific religion, it coincides with the rapid expansion of the local Hasidic community, a largely insular, ultra-orthodox group that has grown to about 25 per cent of the population.

Some in the Hasidic community see the vote as push-back against its members. With zoning bans in place on residential streets and other commercial areas in Outremont, Bernard was the last place in the developed part of the borough available to open a synagogue.

[. . .]

The referendum vote is the latest iteration of long-standing strains between the Hasidic Jewish community and the majority in Outremont, home to some of the leading political and cultural figures of Quebec (the borough recently made waves when it renamed Vimy Park after the late premier Jacques Parizeau, a long-time resident). Below the surface, the debate is over the notion of belonging and the stresses of co-habitation in the central Montreal borough of 25,000, where black-garbed Hasidic men are a visible presence. The Hasidic community, bound by deep religious tenets, mostly avoids mixing with those outside its faith.
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The Atlantic's Jonathan Freedland outlines the strong Jewish interests in the music of Leonard Cohen.

Robert Zimmerman became Bob Dylan, Allen Konigsberg became Woody Allen, but Leonard Cohen stayed Leonard Cohen. Coming of age at a time when showbusiness demanded Jews not make their background too obvious, Cohen was happy to be named less like a folk icon than a senior partner in an accountancy firm. It seems an obvious point, but it nods to a larger one that was either overlooked or underplayed in the extensive obituaries that followed Cohen's death last week. Put simply, Cohen was an intensely Jewish artist—along with Philip Roth, perhaps the most deeply Jewish artist of the last century.

Of course, there’s been no shortage of writers or performers with a Jewish sensibility. Allen's earliest films were steeped in Brooklyn shrugs and Manhattan angst, with plenty of Jewish neurotic shtick. Dylan's “Neighbourhood Bully,” telling of a besieged, encircled state of Israel, might be the most AIPAC-friendly song in the rock canon. But the Jewishness of Cohen's work is on an entirely different level.

Sure, he could adopt the requisite shrug of self-deprecation. “I'm the little Jew who wrote the bible,” he sang in “The Future.” And he was finely attuned to the epic forces of 20th-century Jewish history. “Dance Me to the End of Love” was prompted by the knowledge that a string quartet played at the Nazi death camps: “Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin,” Cohen sings. In 1973, he volunteered to fight for Israel during the Yom Kippur war, saying, “I am committed to the survival of the Jewish people.” Told he was more use wielding his voice than a gun, he entertained IDF troops in back-to-back performances. During a 2009 concert in Ramat Gan, he blessed his audiences with the ancient benediction of the Cohanim—the priesthood from which his name is derived.

But none of this is what sets Leonard Cohen apart as a singularly Jewish artist. Rather it's his deep and serious engagement with not only Jewish culture and history, but with Judaism itself.

His new and last album, You Want It Darker, for example, begins with the choir of the Shaar Hashomayim synagogue he grew up in. The chazan, or cantor, of that synagogue sings on the title track, incanting the single word Hineni, a word of tremendous significance for religious Jews. Here I am. It is the answer Abraham, the first Jew, gave when God called out to him, asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac. (The same episode is recalled by Dylan on Highway 61 Revisited.) It’s the reply Moses gives when God speaks to him through the burning bush. It stands as a declaration of submission to divine authority (submission being a frequent Cohen motif). In the song, Cohen follows Hineni with the unambiguous statement, “I'm ready, my Lord”, as if offering himself up for death.
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blogTO's Amy Grief describes how Kensington Market's Jewish past remains today.

When Danny Zimmerman, who used to run Zimmerman's Discounts with his father, walks down Augusta, in the heart of Kensington Market, it's as if he's amongst friends. He waves hello to passersby as we make our way down the street from 4 Life Natural Foods (in the old Zimmerman's Discounts space) to grab a coffee at the Via Mercanti Food Shop.

"This is the new King of Kensington, right here," says a man, referring to Danny, as he grabs an espresso to go. Danny started working in the market back in 1973 when he was 13 years old. His father moved to the area after surviving the Holocaust.

But even before that, the neighbourhood was a Jewish enclave. In the early 1900s, Jews started moving west out of The Ward into the area now known as Kensington Market.

"By the end of the First World World War," writes Stephen Speisman in The Jews of Toronto: A History to 1937, "an outdoor market had begun to develop on the western streets - Kensington, Augusta, Baldwin, Nassau - and a shtetl atmosphere... had been created."

While Kensington Market may not resemble a shtetl (a small Jewish village) anymore, the area still maintains vestiges of Jewish life through various restaurants, synagogues and community groups.
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  • At Antipope, Charlie Stross imagines what might become possible with cheap heavy spacelift.

  • blogTO notes the vandalization of the iconic Toronto sign during Nuit Blanche.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper considering the detectability of interstellar comets.

  • Language Log looks at Chinese language transcriptions for Obama, Hillary, and Trump.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at impending hard Brexit and notes how the economy of Thailand is dominated by Bangkok.

  • The NYRB Daily writes at length about its apparent discovery of the identity of Elena Ferrante.

  • Savage Minds shares a Bolivian perspective on Donald Trump.

  • Strange Maps shares a list of ten potential Jewish homelands outside of Palestine.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at quiet Chechen dissidence and warns about the consequences of Putin's repressions.

  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell worries about the people soon to be in charge of the United Kingdom's Brexit negotiations.

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In July 2013, I posted about an interesting sign, apparently in Yiddish, in Toronto's Baldwin Village

Yiddish and Yinglish in the window of John's Italian Caffe, 29 Baldwin Street


I was walking with a friend late last month around Baldwin Street when I saw, in the window of John's Italian Caffe at 27-29 Baldwin Street, this Hebrew script. I didn't recognize what it was. I naturally uploaded the picture to Facebook and asked my friends.

Erin found a February 2013 post by Walking Woman that identified the language as a mixture of Yiddish and Yinglish, Anglicized Yiddish; David translated this as "Puter, kez, krim, eygs, frish jeden tag", i.e. Butter, Cheese, Cream, Eggs, fresh every day." (The "eygs" and "frish" are the Yinglish words.) The window's lettering thus dates back a century to a time when this building was in the middle of Toronto's first Jewish neighbourhood, kept by the current occupants of this building.


blogTO reported that the sign has since been removed to a museum.

[L]uckily, the Ontario Jewish Archives worked with a glass company to save the entire pane, which is currently in storage. The organization is now looking to restore it.

"One option we are exploring is creating a monument/public art sculpture in the Kensington Market neighbourhood that celebrates the language and rich culture of Yiddish," Dara Solomon, the Director of the Ontario Jewish Archives, tells me via email.

But before that happens, you'll be able to get a glimpse of Yinglish on College Street. That's because the Mandel's sign has been recreated at Fentster (which means window in Yiddish), a new storefront window gallery at 402 College St., at Makom (a grassroots Jewish organization) space.

This installation, titled Mandel's Dreamery, aims to harken back to a time when College Street - and Kensington Market - was the bustling centre of Jewish life in Toronto. But unlike the original Mandel's sign, this newfangled version, set in front of an archival photograph of Trachter's Milk Store, says, "butter, cheese, cream, eggs. Only memories."

"This installation is an echo of a memory" says curator Evelyn Tauben, who's putting on the exhibition along with the Ontario Jewish Archives and the Ashkenaz Festival. "You can't get kosher food in this neighbourhood fresh every day. That's a different era."


The Toronto Star's Sarah-Joyce Battersby wrote at length about the meaning of the sign for Toronto's Jewish history.

From the shop’s opening in 1915 until last summer, the sign remained as the neighbourhood changed, lovingly preserved by the Italian restaurant that took over Mandel’s in the ’70s. When a bubble tea shop moved in a year ago, the window was quietly removed, purchased by the Mandel family and donated to the Ontario Jewish Archives.

[. . .]

Called Mandel’s Dreamery, it’s one of the exhibits at the small gallery in the window of Makom, a recently-opened Jewish community space, at 402 College St.

The grassroots organization moved into the building in March when artist Rochelle Rubinstein, who had mounted exhibits in the window for several years, left for a studio on nearby Augusta Ave.

[. . .]

Nestled between a Domino’s Pizza and the former College Street Diner, the hand-painted storefront sign is accompanied by a photograph of Trachter’s Milk Store, a similar shop to Mandel’s, snapped in 1925 at 71 Kensington Ave.

But where Mandel’s promised “fresh every day,” the re-creation reads “Only memories.”

“It’s like a dream,” said Tauben, “The idea that it was this bustling hub with a lot of energy … that Yiddish was spoken in the streets, that Yiddish was on the storefronts.”


The Canadian Jewish News also has more, noting that the sign and its wider exhibit will remain up until the 30th of October.
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  • blogTO notes that Yonge and Dundas will soon be hosting a Zimbabwean meat pie restaurant.

  • Beyond the Beyond links to a report regretful of past optimisim about geopolitics.

  • Centauri Dreams considers extraterrestrial life and red dwarfs.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at rent in Puerto Rico's public housing system.

  • pollotenchegg maps economic change in Ukraine.

  • Savage Minds calls for a decolonization of anthropology.

  • Towleroad notes that the roommates of a gay Syrian refugee murdered in Istanbul are also receiving threats.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy wonders what liberals will think of American Jews' religious freedom when the majority of practising Jews are Orthodox.

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  • Bloomberg notes that Brexit might drive British migration to Australia, suggests Russia's recession might be coming to an end, looks at carbon emissions from dead trees, and reports on Guiliani's liking for Blackberry.

  • Bloomberg View notes Israel's tightening restrictions on conversions and looks at how Putin has become a US election issue.

  • CBC notes the construction in Turkey for a cemetery for participants in the recent coup.

  • Gizmodo reports on flickering AR Scorpii, an unusual binary.

  • The Inter Press Service reports on urban land tenure for migrants and describes Malawi's recent translocation of elephants.

  • MacLean's describes the Chinese labourers of the First World War.

  • The National Post notes the marginalization of conservative white men in the Democratic Party.

  • Open Democracy looks at politics for the United Kingdom's Remain minority, looks at Scotland's European options, and suggests Hillary needs to learn from the lessons of Britain's Remain campaign to win.

  • The Toronto Star notes the plans of Tim Horton's to expand to Southeast Asia, starting with the Philippines.

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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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  • blogTO notes the spotting of a High Park capybara.

  • Centauri Dreams reflects on the Pluto landscape.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper looking at percolation theory in connection to the Fermi paradox.

  • Joe. My. God. notes the homophobic and useless reactions of one anti-gay group to HIV.
  • Language Hat links to an essay linking language with emotion.

  • The NYRB Daily points to a 13th century anti-Semitic caricature.

  • Towleroad examines George Michael as a gay icon.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy talks from a libertarian perspective about the negative consequences of a Trump administration for freedom.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests Ukraine should exit the Minsk process as harmful to its interests.

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  • Bloomberg notes that Alberta's oil camps are set to revive quickly and looks at Uruguay's venture onto global caviar markets.

  • Bloomberg View argues that the US military buildup in Europe is unnecessary and talks about reducing urban inequality.

  • CBC notes controversy over forcing women to wear high-heeled shoes and considers the import and scale of Russia's doping scandal.

  • The Globe and Mail interviews prolific author James Patterson.

  • MacLean's notes how the Parti Québécois' cycles of self-destruction hurt Québec's politics.

  • The National Post reports of a FBI raid of an Orthodox school in New York's Kiryas Joel.

  • Wired argues California's drought is likely permanent and notes the impending mass introduction of electronic paper.

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  • Bloomberg notes that Azerbaijan's oil wealth lets it outspend Armenia on military good, looks at a hydropower project in Congo intended to eventually protect mountain gorillas, and notes that spending on solar and wind energy is outpacing fossil fuel spending.

  • CBC notes the alarming possibility that smart devices could be bricked by their manufacturers.

  • The Dragon's Tales linked to a Eurekalert press release examining how population levels in the pre-Columbian Southwest were intimately tied to climate.

  • Fortune reports about the many failures of the F-35 project.

  • The National Post notes that a gay atheist Malaysian student in Winnipeg has received asylum and looks at the discontent of Jewish groups with an inclusion committee at York University.

  • Vox suggests
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  • blogTO notes the increasing unaffordability of real estate in Toronto.

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly is quite right about the restorative power of a walk.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes China's plans to launch its space station into orbit.

  • The LRB Blog features an essay from a German Jewish cemetery in Berlin, reflecting on past and present migrations and refugees.

  • Geocurrents notes the very sharp worldwide drop in fertility rates between 1950 and 2015.

  • The NYRB Daily considers controversies over museums in Berlin.

  • Peter Rukavina notes the very odd weather projected Thursday for Charlottetown.

  • Torontoist examines how Ontario's proposal for free tuition for student from low-income families would work.

  • Window on Eurasia notes Russian interest in triggering Latgalian separatism to try to control Latvia.

  • Arnold Zwicky considers the idea of the "greater West Coast."

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