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  • Steve Munro reports on the many problems associated with implementing new express buses, in Toronto and elsewhere.

  • Global News was one of many sources reporting on the high rate of failure of the new Bombardier streetcars.

  • Ben Spurr notes the astounding failure of the City of Toronto to do basic things at Union Station, like collect rent.

  • Transit Toronto notes that GO Transit's seasonal routes to Niagara have started today and will go until 4 September.

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  • blogTO reported that York University plans on opening a satellite campus in York Region's Markham. This is a first.

  • Dangerous Minds notes a new, posthumous release from Suidide's Alan Vega.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper considering the detectability of Niven ringworlds around pulsars. (Maybe.)

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers burnout among sociology students, and suggests that engagement with issues is key to overcoming it.

  • The Great Grey Bridge's Philip Turner photoblogs his recent Rhode Island vacation.

  • Joe. My. God. reports on the arrest of a Christian activist protesting outside of the Pulse memorial in Orlando.

  • The LRB Blog shares considerable concern that the Democratic Unionists of Northern Ireland are now national powermakers.

  • Spacing Toronto shares the ambitious plan of Buenos Aires to make the city better for cyclists, pedestrians, and mass transit
  • Transit Toronto notes that starting Friday, Metrolinx will co-sponsor $C25 return tickets to Niagara from Toronto.

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  • The Atlantic's Ed Yong notes the discovery of dated Homo sapiens fossils 300k years old in Morocco. (!)

  • The Atlantic reports on Twitter-driven science that has highlighted the remarkable visual acuity of the spider.

  • The Economist notes that multilingual societies can encounter more difficulties prospering than unilingual ones.

  • Torontoist notes a Thunder Bay park devoted to the idea of First Nations reconciliation.

  • The Inter Press Service reports on how gardens grown under solar tents in Bolivia can improve nutrition in poor highland villages.

  • The Toronto Star's Christopher Hume trolls Rob Ford's supporters over the new, well-designed, Etobicoke Civic Centre.Metro Toronto calculates just how many avocado toasts would go into a mortgage in the GTA.

  • MacLean's hosts a collection of twenty photos from gritty Niagara Falls, New York.

  • The National Post shows remarkable, heartbreaking photos from the flooded Toronto Islands.

  • Edward Keenan argues that the Toronto Islands' flooding should help prompt a local discussion on climate change.

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For people like myself who look back on visits to Marineland wtih fond memories, news like this shared by the Toronto Star's Sammy Hudes is terribly depressing.

Ontario’s animal welfare agency announced six new animal cruelty and neglect charges against Marineland on Monday as part of a continuing investigation into the care of land mammals at the theme park.

The charges include one count each for permitting elk, red deer and fallow deer to be in distress. They also include one count each for failing to provide prescribed standards of care.

“Essentially, animals being in distress can relate to not being provided with adequate care: food, water, shelter, necessary veterinary care in some cases,” said Jennifer Bluhm, deputy chief of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Bluhm said the new charges stem from the same investigation that resulted in the Niagara Falls, Ont. attraction being charged with five counts of animal cruelty in late November.

Those charges were related to the treatment of peacocks, guinea hens and black bears.
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CBC Hamilton gives me one more reason to go to Niagara Falls this year.

A $4 million lighting makeover is dialling up the wow factor of Niagara Falls at night.

Officials say energy-efficient LED lighting unveiled Thursday will provide brighter and more robust colour than the halogen technology that's been used to cast the Falls in rainbow hues after dark for the past 20 years.

The Niagara Parks commission streamed the event live.

The light beams emanate from banks of spotlights on the Canadian side of the Falls, lighting up the Horseshoe and American Falls that, along with the Bridal Veil Falls, make up the bi-national tourist attraction.

The Falls were lit for the first time in 1860 with 200 lights like those used to signal for help at sea. Electricity was first used in 1879. The Illumination Tower where most of the lights are located was built in 1899.
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  • blogTO notes Niagara Falls' new light show.

  • Body Horrors reports on a 1980 epidemic of MRSA among Detroit drug users.

  • Centauri Dreams describes the final orbits of Cassini around Saturn.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper suggesting Tabby's Star is being star-mined.

  • Language Log looks at an element of Chinese slang regarding telecommunications.

  • The LRB Blog argues against blaming migrants for problems on the left.

  • The Planetary Society Blog discusses the continued Dawn mission around Ceres.

  • Savage Minds talks about the need to slow down in a time of crisis.

  • Seriously Science notes research suggesting whales jump out of the water for purposes of communication.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that, in the United States, flag burners cannot be stripped of their citizenship.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests Russians would like the West to make up on Russia's terms and looks at the embassies and delegations of Russia's component regions.

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CBC's Amara McLaughlin reports on the charges of animal cruelty brought up against Niagara Falls' Marineland. I would say it's time: Certainly the conditions facing animals there, including the cetaceans on display, have often been criticized.

The Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has charged Marineland with five counts of animal cruelty after a complaint raised concerns about some of the animals' well-being at the Niagara Falls, Ont., amusement park, which features both marine and land animals.

Marineland is facing cruelty charges regarding three kinds of animals — a peacock, guinea hens and American black bears.

The charges include permitting the animals to be in distress and failing to comply with the prescribed standards of care. In the case of 35 black bears, the zoo has been charged with failing to provide adequate and appropriate food and water.

"Reports of animal cruelty are taken very seriously," said Steve Toy, an Ontario SPCA senior inspector in a news release. "When we receive reports of cruelty that involve wildlife or exotic animals, we will utilize our experts as well as industry experts to assist us with our investigation."

OSPCA officers and a veterinarian responded to investigate when the complaint was made on Nov. 10.
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The Globe and Mail carries Madeline Smith's Canadian Press article describing the new direct air route between Toronto and Niagara.

Starting Sept. 15, charter flight company Greater Toronto Airways will run two round trips between Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport and the Niagara Regional Airport every weekday.

David Nissan, vice-president of operations for Greater Toronto Airways, says the flights will run about 15 minutes, with capacity for eight passengers.

“We hope that it will connect the communities,” he says. “We can cut down commuting times from two hours to 15 minutes.”

Nissan says the company is starting out by targeting business travellers, and flights will cost $85 one way and $149 for a round trip.

Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati says people in Niagara need more options to get to Toronto and back, and finding a way to cross the lake instead of going around it could be a good solution. He says traffic congestion on the highways is becoming “unbearable and unreasonable” for commuters.
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  • Beyond the Beyond's Bruce Sterling mourns the death of Alvin Toffler.

  • The Big Picture shares images of the Istanbul airport attack.

  • blogTO notes Toronto's recent Trans March was the largest in world history.

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly interviews memoirist Plum Johnson.

  • Centauri Dreams considers the determination of distances to dim stars and looks at the total energies likely to be used in interstellar travel and interplanetary colonization.

  • Crooked Timber notes the ordered recount in Austria's presidential elections and advocates for anti-militarism.

  • D-Brief notes the exciting discoveries of Ceres, and observes that ancient tombs may have doubled as astronomical observatories.

  • The Dragon's Gaze considers where warm Jupiters form, considers the stability of complex exoplanet systems, and notes a high-precision analysis of solar twin HIP 100963.

  • The Dragon's Tales wonders if the shape of Martian sand dunes indicate a denser Martian atmosphere a bit more than four billion years ago.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers evictions and poverty in the United States.

  • Inkfish notes that different honeybees seem to have different personalities.

  • Language Hat notes the import of Maltese in Mediterranean history.

  • Language Log talks about Sino-Japanese.

  • Lovesick Cyborg shares the doubts of polled Americans with the viability of virtual lovers.

  • The LRB Blog shares an article supporting Corbyn.

  • The Map Room Blog notes that San Francisco was literally built on buried ships.

  • Marginal Revolution notes the collapse of Greek savings and looks at Euroskepticism's history in the United Kingdom.

  • Steve Munro updates readers on Union-Pearson Express ridership.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer thinks the Netherlands Antilles offer useful models to the United Kingdom, and is confused by a claim that that bias against Mexican immigrants does not exist when the data seems to suggest it does.

  • Torontoist goes into the life of conservative Protestant newspaper publishing Black Jack Robinson.

  • Transit Toronto notes that in a decade, GO Trains will connect Hamilton to Niagara Falls.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy argues against using the Brexit vote to argue against referenda.

  • Window on Eurasia notes the Russian deployment of military forces to the Belarus border, looks at Tatarstan's concern for its autonomy, observes the changing demographics of Ukraine, and notes the Russian debate over what sort of European Union collapse they would like.

  • Arnold Zwicky remembers his father through ephemera.

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Roy MacGregor's latest in an installment on river valleys of note in The Globe and Mail takes a look at the Niagara River, a wonder of nature shared by two countries. (I do have to get there, and soon. It is in Toronto's hinterland, after all.)

[T]he falls have moved, a remarkable recession chartered by scientists to have shifted 11 km upstream in the past 12,000 years. Every year, more breaks away, sometimes rock chunks the size of a sixteen-wheeler.

“The shape of the falls is always changing,” says Environment Canada’s Aaron Thompson, who also serves as chair of the International Niagara Board of Control. “The rate has slowed down because so much of the flow goes to the power plants.”

And this, it turns out, is what separates the falls the tourists photograph today from the falls that First Nations knew, which so impressed the likes of Hennepin and Lincoln.

The power of Niagara was such that it created the first great industrial centre of North America. By diverting the water into tunnels leading to turbines, industrialists were able to create electricity, first of all direct-current. Once Nikola Tesla invented alternating-current – a discovery Thomas Edison campaigned against as being too dangerous – it allowed for electricity to travel distances and the great industrialization of the Niagara region spread.

Increasingly, more and more water was diverted into such tunnels. Lord Kelvin, the famous Irish inventor and engineer, said he looked forward to the day when every single drop in the river would be used to create electricity.

Fortunately, wiser heads prevailed. One early suggestion had the power companies ransacking the Niagara as much as they wished six days a week but doing nothing on Sundays so that the tourists could enjoy the falls. That idea, luckily, went nowhere. In 1950, the Niagara Diversion Treaty signed by Canada and the United States specified how much each country could draw for power – roughly half the flow that Hennepin and Lincoln had witnessed.

“They could see that one day there would be no water going over the falls,” Mr. Thompson. says
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The Financial Post's Kristine Owram describes how, for the well-off, regular air flights might make Niagara a commuter's suburb of Toronto.

The chairman of the Niagara regional council recently met with Porter Airlines CEO Bob Deluce and pitched him on the idea of making the Niagara District Airport into the airline’s “service centre and aircraft parking lot.”

Alan Caslin, chairman of the Niagara regional council, recently met with Porter CEO Bob Deluce and pitched him on the idea of making the Niagara District Airport into the airline’s “service centre and aircraft parking lot.”

“Not only that, but there’s an interesting twist here,” Caslin said in an interview. “The twist is that if you did in fact use Niagara District Airport as an overnight parking lot, the first flight in the morning could be a commuter flight to Toronto Island.”

Caslin argues that this would appeal to a lot of commuters who are tired of dealing with the clogged highways in the Greater Toronto Area.

“If you know anything about the traffic that come into Toronto from Niagara, from Hamilton and surrounding areas, you know that it would be shorter to drive from Hamilton or even Burlington down to Niagara and take an eight-minute flight (to downtown Toronto),” he said.
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  • The Big Picture shares photos of a Shanghai neighbourhood that refuses to sell out to developers.

  • James Bow rates California rail.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at the large dwarf planet 2007 OR10.

  • Dangerous Minds notes a campaign by a 9/11 conspiracy theorist to raise funds to buy an airplane and a building.

  • The Dragon's Gaze looks at the Kepler-223 system.

  • Language Hat looks at an astonishingly thorough German-led effort to publish a dictionary of Latin.

  • The NYRB Daily assesses the Iran nuclear deal.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer considers Brazil and argues that any treachery in Sykes-Picot was less in the deal and more in the assumptions behind it.

  • Transit Toronto notes the return of GO Transit's seasonal trains to Niagara.

  • Window on Eurasia notes Moscow's refusal to allow Circassians a memorial march.

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Eric Adams' Wired article examines how, exactly, the "dewatering" of the American section of Niagara Falls is going to take place.

This round of dewatering needs to happen so engineers with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation can scrap two 115-year-old bridges that have reached—well, exceeded—the end of their useful lives. The bridges cross the Niagara River above the American Falls, and were built to carry cars, trolleys, and pedestrians between the town of Niagara Falls and Goat Island, one of the prime viewing spots for both the American and Horseshoe falls.

They’ve slowly deteriorated since being built between 1900 and 1901, and in 2005, an examination revealed “that restoration of the existing concrete was no longer considered feasible,” the State said in a report detailing the proposal. That year, engineers shut off access to the aging structures and installed temporary truss bridges on top of the stone-clad spans, which carry pedestrians only. Those structures limit visibility of the rapids—the original bridges were specifically designed to be low so visitors could get close to the rushing water below—and are widely considered eyesores. They “provide an aesthetically unappealing experience for park visitors,” the State said in its report.

New York’s considering three options for their permanent replacements: a precast concrete arched design that closely resembles the current bridges, steel girder bridges that are simpler and more linear, and tied arch bridges with vertical cables supporting the surface from above. The concrete arched design is considered the favorite, though the final selection won’t happen for some time. Whatever the plan, it can’t be done with roughly 30,000 cubic feet of water flowing by every second.


Also TBD is how long the American Falls will be “off.” The State’s considering two options. It may demolish the current bridges and build the foundations for the new ones during a five-month dewatering, then complete the upper structures over the next year, after water flow has been restored, in an attempt to minimize disruption to the park. Or, it could dewater the falls for nine months, and build the bridges in their entirety in that time. Whatever it decides, nothing’s happening tomorrow. “It’ll be three years at the soonest before work begins, but more likely five, six, or seven,” says parks spokesperson Angela Berti.

Shutting off the flow of water is actually a relatively simple operation—and at $3 million, a modest element of the anticipated $27 million project. Engineers will build a cofferdam between the upstream tip of Goat Island and the US mainland, a distance of just 350 feet. A cofferdam is, as the name suggests, a type of dam, used to enclose part of a body of water (once it’s in place, the water inside is pumped out, leaving it dry inside). The State hasn’t revealed details of how long it will take to build the thing, but the 1969 cofferdam spanned about 600 feet and was made up of 28,000 tons of rock and earth, placed in the river by bulldozers and dump trucks.

Made of boulders, gravel, and other landfill, the 21st century temporary enclosure will slow water headed for the American Falls to a trickle, directing the full river’s flow over Horseshoe.

Engineers are planning to ensure the dewatering wouldn’t affect water levels above Horseshoe, or adversely affect wildlife on the American Falls side, since there are relatively modest lengths of coastline there, and the massive waterfall isn’t home to any significant aquatic populations. Nevertheless, state scientists will monitor environmental impacts, both in terms of wildlife and the potential erosion of the nearby shorelines receiving the extra water.

When the falls dry up, the effect will be the equivalent of looking under your sofa for the first time in decades. When crews shut down the falls in 1969, they found two bodies and millions of coins, most of which were removed. (As were the human remains, of course.) But in the last 50 years, tourism at Niagara has grown wildly. The possibilities are endless—more coins, yes, but also lost cell phones, cameras, baby strollers, errant drones, and whatever else could be thrown or dropped by careless, thoughtless, or mischievous visitors. There is, of course, the possibility of human remains being discovered again—though there are no individuals known to have jumped or fallen in who haven’t been recovered.
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The Buffalo News' Nancy Fischer notes that the American side of the Niagara Falls may end up temporarily diverted, to allow for construction and repair work. I hope I will be able to see it.

New York State plans to shut off the thundering waters of Niagara Falls – again. At least, the American side of the falls. This “once in a lifetime” event actually may take place twice in some folks’ lifetimes. The New York State parks system wants to turn off the falls on the American side sometime in the next two to three years to replace two 115-year-old stone arch bridges that allow pedestrians, park vehicles and utilities access to Goat Island.

The proposal to “dewater” the falls will be presented at a public hearing Wednesday at the Niagara Falls Conference Center. Two of three plans propose a temporary shutdown of the American Falls.

The American Falls was slowed to a trickle in 1969 to study the effects of erosion and buildup of rock at the base of the falls. When that happened, people came from all over the world to see the falls turned off, said Michelle Kratts, who served as Niagara Falls city historian until this past December.

“It’s the nature of curiosity. You want to see what’s underneath, to see its skeleton,” Kratts said.
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Niagara falls 2_0091


Kiona Smith-Strickland's D-Brief post looking at research into the meaning of the bubbles blown by belugas appeals to me. I like belugas a lot--the above is a photo I took at Marineland of one in 2007. That perhaps this same animal, this canaries of the sea, was a subject in the research project in question is just fantastic.

Whales and dolphins have a wide repertoire of ways to communicate with each other, from complex vocalizations to body language and even blowing bubbles.

And after watching 44 captive belugas for the past eight years at Marineland of Canada, in Ontario, animal behavior researchers Elizabeth George and Michael Noonan say they’ve begun to decode belugas’ bubble language. They believe beluga whales blow bubbles that correspond to specific states of mind. Their observations raise some new questions about beluga whales’ social lives.

Belugas, George and Noonan say, blow bubbles in four distinct flavors: blowhole drips, blowhole bursts, blowhole streams and mouth rings. A shimmering bubble ring or a handful of little bubbles slowly released from the whale’s blowhole, for example, usually indicates a playful attitude, while large, sudden bursts of bubbles seem to be a warning or a defensive reaction to something startling.

It’s impossible to say for certain what is going through a whale’s mind, of course, but researchers can draw some conclusions about what a behavior means based on when it happens. Researchers are careful not to anthropomorphize, or assign human emotions to animal behavior.

And the findings come with another important caveat: George and Noonan were observing belugas in captivity, not in their natural habitat. Animals in artificial environments may behave very differently than they would in the wild, so researchers have to take observations like these with a proverbial grain of salt.

The trouble is that it’s difficult to study belugas in the wild, so nearly all research on beluga bubble-blowing so far has been conducted in captivity. George and Noonan’s findings match other researchers’ observations of captive whales. They presented their findings at the annual conference of the Animal Behavior Society in July, and a more detailed paper is currently under review for publication in the journal Aquatic Mammals.
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I only visited New York State’s Niagara Falls once, in 2006 for a few hours. I liked the parkland quite a lot, and wish that I could find my photo of Tesla’s monument, but the rest of the city struck me as even more unidimensional economically than its Canadian counterpart. James Bow’s reaction isn’t much different.

A friend of mine, James Dibenedetto, told me about how depressed the American city is, but you don’t really appreciate it until you drive through. There is a significant industrial feel, here, and all of the power lines, not to mention the humungous power station might still provide a lot of jobs, but downtown Niagara Falls feels like it’s being crushed under its economic burdens.

I’d earlier described Niagara Falls, Ontario, as being a town with a split personality. It has two distinct downtowns: one for the tourists which, while well populated, is somewhat kitchy, and the one for the residents, which is somewhat rundown. But even the run down downtown had a leg up on the downtown of Niagara Falls, New York. I saw buildings boarded up, and a town that basically rolled up the sidewalks after 5 p.m. on a Friday. Hardly anybody was walking the streets, despite the various attempts that had been made to foster a street life.

And, to my mind, the state of Niagara Falls is even more tragic given that the city appears to have more history behind it. I saw some beautiful small-scale commercial buildings dating from the twenties and the thirties. I saw brick facades that addressed the street corners at a very human scale. If Niagara Falls, New York, could ever turn things around, it would have an inventory of excellent building stock to create a vibrant, striking downtown — something which its cousin across the border does not really have.

But crossing the river across the Rainbow Bridge told the story. The American side was basically dark, while the Canadian side was lit up like a Christmas tree. I realize that the Canadian side has the advantage of having a better view of the falls, but could that alone be responsible for how much they’ve been able to capitalize on it all? Can that alone be responsible for the American side’s depression?


Commenters blame Toronto’s rise and the city’s legacy of industrial decline for this contrast.
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The Niagara Falls.
Originally uploaded by rfmcdpei


The above picture of Niagara Falls is the best picture I managed to take of the falls during my stay there last weekend, standing on the steps of Casino Niagara. Horseshoe Falls is visible on the right, and the American Falls with the smaller Bridal Veil Falls are in the left of the picture.

More than eighty photos survived the weekend and Jerry's culls, and are now available at my Flickr account. Half of the photos weren't taken in Niagara Falls at all, but instead were taken at the African Lion Safari park outside of Hamilton. The giraffes and antelopes and baboons seemed to fit well into their spacious fenced enclosures in rural southern Ontario, and the fenced-away lions seemed quite comfortable too.



Niagara Falls, Ontario isn't much to look at, with an economy that is fairly depressed outside of the tourist sector, which is concentrated in the Clifton Hill area downstream of the Falls in all of its rather remarkable tacky glory.





A great vast tourist industry has sprung up in Niagara Falls, to take advantage of the captive audience of people visiting the falls. Outside of a rather enormous number of wax museums, the biggest non-Falls attraction is
Marineland, a water park in the southeast of the city of Niagara Falls above the falls that has acquired something of an iconic character among Ontarians of a certain age.





The various rides and whatnot were fun, and it was a nice bright hot summer day, but I was particularly taken by the belugas. Aren't they cute?



Me, Jerry, and the orcas of Marineland. )

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