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  • Centauri Dreams looks at two brown dwarf pairs, nearby Luhman 16 and eclipsing binary WD1202-024.

  • D-Brief notes a study suggesting panspermia would be easy in the compact TRAPPIST-1 system.

  • Far Outliers notes the shouted and remarkably long-range vocal telegraph of early 20th century Albania.

  • Language Hat links to a fascinating blog post noting the survival of African Latin in late medieval Tunisia.

  • The LRB Blog notes the observations of an Englishman in Northern Ireland that, after the DUP's rise, locals are glad other Britons are paying attention.

  • Marginal Revolution notes a study suggesting that refugees in the US end up paying more in taxes than they receive in benefits.

  • Spacing reviews a fascinating-sounding new book on the politics and architecture of new libraries.

  • Understanding Society examines the mechanisms through which organizations can learn.

  • Window on Eurasia talks about the progressive detachment of the east of the North Caucasus, at least, from wider Russia.

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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 Independent notes a denial that Scotland's Conservatives will split from the national party. I wonder, thought, if Scotland's political spectrum is going to shift, like Québec's, from a left-right split to a separatist-unionist one?
  • Owen Jones argues in The Guardian that the rampant prejudices of the DUP, including its homophobia, make it an unsuitable coalition partner.

  • Andray Domise argues in MacLean's that a perceived need to fit in means that immigrants can be too ready to dismiss local racisms.

  • Fast Company lets us know that the minimum wage increases in Seattle have not led to higher retail prices.

  • CBC notes the death of Sam Panopoulous, the Canadian man who invented Hawaiian pizza.

  • Adam West, the first man to play Batman on the screen, has died. We all, not just the fandom, are the poorer for his passing.

  • Are the robots not poised to take over our world? What does their absence demonstrate about our underachieving economy? The Atlantic wonders.

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  • 'Apostrophen's 'Nathan Smith talks about when it is appropriate to judge a book by its blurb.

  • Beyond the Beyond examines the remarkable scandal in South Korea involving with the cult and its control over the country's president.

  • blogTO notes unreasonably warm weather in Toronto this November.

  • Dangerous Minds shares a corporate sales video from the early 1990s for Prince's studio.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes the effect of Proxima Centauri on planetary formation around Alpha Centauri A and B.

  • The Extremo Files notes unorthodox ways of finding life.

  • Language Log talks about the language around Scotland and Northern Ireland and their relationship as complicated by Brexit.

  • Marginal Revolution links to a paper suggesting inheritances reduce inequality.

  • Savage Minds talks about an anarchist archaeology.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy considers a controversy at the Library of Congress.

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Henry McDonald in The Guardian looks at how Brexit is encouraging pro-Union people in Northern Ireland to reconsider their territory's identity, perhaps even allegiances.

When Britain voted for Brexit, a strange thing happened in North Down, an affluent, unionist-dominated area of Northern Ireland with a strong sense of British identity.

As the results came in it became clear North Down had other affinities: European. The area voted in favour of staying in the EU, as the majority of people in Northern Ireland did.

The outcome of June’s referendum triggered a summer of speculation. Had attitudes changed? If unionists saw EU membership as important, might they reconsider their ancient hostility to reunification with Ireland?

Some asked if there should be a “border poll”, a referendum on whether Northern Ireland should stay in the UK or join the Irish Republic. Others feared a push by Scotland towards independence could fatally undermine unionist confidence in the unity of the UK.

But passions quickly cooled. Politicians, among them Bertie Ahern, the former Irish prime minister, said the time wasn’t right for a reunification vote.

In unionist strongholds voters stress that pro-remain is not the same as a pro-reunification. Even diehard loyalists say they are opposed to any “hard border” with the Irish Republic post-Brexit.
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  • Bloomberg notes concerns over Northern Ireland's frontiers, looks at how Japanese retailers are hoping to take advantage of Vietnam's young consumers, examines the desperation of Venezuelans shopping in Colombia, looks at Sri Lankan interest in Chinese investment, suggests oil prices need to stay below 40 dollars US a barrel for Russia to reform, observes that Chinese companies are increasingly reluctant to invest, and suggests Frankfurt will gain after Brexit.

  • Bloomberg View gives advice for the post-Brexit British economy, looks at how Chinese patterns in migration are harming young Chinese, suggests Hillary should follow Russian-Americans in not making much of Putin's interference, and looks at the Israeli culture wars.

  • CBC considers the decolonization of placenames in the Northwest Territories, notes Canada's deployment to Latvia was prompted by French domestic security concerns, and looks at an ad promoting the Albertan oil sands that went badly wrong in trying to be anti-homophobic.

  • The Inter Press Service considers the future of Turkey and looks at domestic slavery in Oman.

  • MacLean's looks at China's nail house owners, resisting development.

  • The National Post reports from the Colombia-Venezuela border.

  • Open Democracy considers the nature of work culture in the austerity-era United Kingdom, looks at traditions of migration and slavery in northern Ghana, examines European bigotry against eastern Europeans, and examines the plight of sub-Saharan migrants stuck in Morocco.

  • Universe Today notes two nearby potentially habitable rocky worlds, reports that the Moon's Mare Imbrium may have been result of a hit by a dwarf planet, and reports on Ceres' lack of large craters.

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  • Kieran Healy notes the role of social media in undermining the Turkish coup.

  • Joe. My. God. notes US Army Secretary Eric Fanning's ride as Grand Marshal in the San Diego pride parade.

  • The LRB Blog notes the aftermath of the Orange Order's fires in Northern Ireland.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at what might be a veto in Scotland and Northern Ireland on Brexit, and notes the continuing economic fallout.

  • The NYRB Daily looks at how ISIS thrives on chaos.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer reflects on the Turkish coup and notes Trump's odd Russophilia.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy considers if it is ever justifiable to overthrow a democratic government.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at instability in the Donbas, suggests Turkey is distracting people from Russia, looks at low levels of Russophone assimilation in Estonia, considers ideological struggles in Belarus, and looks at immigration restrictionism in Russia versus Central Asia.

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  • Bloomberg notes that Brexit could give Scotland a chance to take some of London's finance industry, looks at the Canadian-born governor of the Bank of England, looks at a quiet crisis in the Russian economy re: investment, and notes the awkwardness of the British diaspora in the European Union.

  • Bloomberg View notes the United Kingdom's upcoming challenges with India.

  • The CBC notes that Iceland has gotten a Canadian-born first lady and looks at the new Panama Canal expansion.

  • Daily Xtra quotes the Canadian prime minister as arguing Canada must make amends for past wrongs to LGBT people.

  • MacLean's looks at the indecisive results of the latest Spanish election.

  • The National Post notes that Scotland is already preparing for a second vote.

  • Open Democracy looks at the strange new dynamics in Northern Ireland, where Unionists are applying for Irish passports.

  • Universe Today examines experiments in agriculture using simulated Martian soil, and looks at a star set to rotate around the Milky Way Galaxy's central black hole at 2.5% of the speed of light.

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Open Democracy's Polly Lavin writes about how Brexit will hit the divided island of Ireland.

With the advent of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 new opportunities opened up for cross border cooperation and trade. At the time border checkpoints and military lookouts were positioned across the North and border counties of the island. These days, the checkpoints and military towers are long gone. If you drive from Northern Ireland into Southern Ireland, blink and you will miss the fact that you have crossed an ‘invisible’ international border. You would be in good company though, a total of 14 million trips are made across the border every day between Dundalk in Ireland and Newry in Northern Ireland for business and shopping and more. The two economies of the island are inextricably linked and commerce is strong with Tourism equating to 2.1m visitors (1.7m North to South/400k South to North) and Cross Border trade in manufacturing accounting for €3.1 billion in 2014 (€1.75bn North to South and €1.3bn South to North). Agri-food sectors are also vitally important to both jurisdictions and trade in food and drink moves both ways.

In terms of jobs almost 15,000 people commute to work on a daily cross border basis consisting of 8,300 North to South and 6,500 South to North. The 2011 Census highlighted that ‘Proportionally twice as many (0.4 per cent) Northern Ireland residents commuted to Ireland to work or study as commuted from Ireland to Northern Ireland (0.2 per cent)’. A total of 3,064 students are studying in both jurisdictions from either side of the border which breaks down into 719 North to South and 2,345 South to North. The north of Ireland is reliant on the Southern Irish economy and cross border trade is up 7% since 2013 an economy that was in recovery since 2010.

Infrastructure initiatives have also benefitted both sides of the island and facilitated cooperation such as the development of the Dublin-to-Belfast transport corridor, the fibre optic communications networks “Project Kelvin” and investment by both governments into City of Derry Airport which sees 38% of its passengers being from the Republic of Ireland. The Single Electricity Market (SEM) is also under development and will lead to lower costs which at present are some of the highest in Europe. The Good Friday Agreement also saw the creation of 7 new North / South Bodies amongst them InterTrade Ireland and Tourism Ireland. Economic benefits have also come by cross border programmes including Interreg, Peace, European Fisheries Fund etc. and a total of nearly £2.5billion came into Northern Ireland during the last EU funding round (2007 – 2013).

Challenges exist for both jurisdictions which could be affected by the UK voting to leave the EU. They are both two very different economies and are competing against one another for business/foreign direct investment (FDI) but have shown strong commercial cooperation when they are exporting. Outside of the Belfast/Dublin corridor connectivity is poor across the island and there are significant policy anomalies in some key areas e.g. VAT on tourism is 20% in Northern Ireland v.s. 9% in the Republic of Ireland. There is also exchange rate volatility.
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  • Bloomberg notes concern in Northern Ireland's border towns over Brexit, reports that Morgan may shift its offices from London to Dublin or Frankfurt, and looks at the hostile reaction Donald Trump is likely to receive in Scotland.

  • Bloomberg View looks at the vexed issues of American funding for Israel's defense industry.

  • The CBC notes the discovery of a transmissible cancer affecting shellfish.

  • MacLean's takes a sanguine view of millennials in Canada who stay with their parents.

  • The National Post interviews a Muslim woman attacked in London, Ontario, and notes odd institutional issues raised against the Pride parade in Steinbach.

  • The New Republic looks at the impact the collapse of Barnes & Noble would have on American publishing and literature.

  • Open Democracy fears the effect of Brexit on central and eastern Europe.

  • Transitions Online notes the lack of reciprocation for Bulgarian Russophilia.

  • Wired notes that the Brexit referendum is a major inflection point in the European Union's history.

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  • Centauri Dreams reports on the Planetary Society's solar sail.

  • Joe. My. God. links to Miley Cyrus' coming out story.

  • Language Log criticizes the numbers given for Chinese language speakers.

  • The Power and the Money looks at the fragmentation of the Mexican political scene.

  • Savage Minds considers the academic boycott of Israel.

  • Towleroad notes a sad case of homophobia in Northern Ireland.

  • Window on Eurasia notes that the two Ukrainian Orthodox churches not under the control of Russia are moving towards union.

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  • Gerry Canavan produces his own compendium of interesting links.

  • Centauri Dreams speculates about the colours indicative of extraterrestrial life, and ecologies.

  • Crooked Timber takes a look at Northern Ireland and the legacies of past violence.

  • The Dragon's Tales reports on a hominid fossil that may indicate a much greater diversity in our ancestral gene pool than we thought.

  • A Fistful of Euros' Edward Hugh wonders when the European Central Bank will start to taper interest rates.

  • The Frailest Thing warns that the promises of tech giants to free people from the shackles of the past should be seen critically.

  • On St. Patrick's Day, Joe. My. God. and Michael in Norfolk both note the extent to which attitudes towards GLBT people in Ireland have changed.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money wonders about the good sense of going off of anti-depressants.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen proclaims Scarborough to be one of the world's best food cities.

  • Savage Minds makes the case for anthropologists to aid the post-cyclone people of Vanuatu.

  • Spacing interviews the NDP's Thomas Mulcair on urban issues.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy's David Bernstein is unhappy at the consequences for Israel of Netanyahu's reelection, while Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at income disparities in Israel.

  • Window on Eurasia argues that high inequality and low social mobility in Russia will doom the country, notes the potential for water-driven conflict in Central Asia, and notes Russian interest in acquiring more slots of Muslim pilgrims after Crimea's annexation.

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  • blogTO notes that the Union-Pearson Express train line is going to be quite expensive, perhaps unworkably so.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at the imminent flyby by Pluto of the New Horizons probe.

  • Will Baird of The Dragon's Tales reacts with upset to the confirmation that the CIA engaged in torture.

  • Geocurrents' Martin Lewis looks at the controversies surrounding performances of an Indonesian popular music genre, dangdut, which features sexualized female performers.

  • Marginal Revolution talks about which economies around the world are the most undervalued. (Sri Lanka comes up.)

  • The Planetary Society Blog's Emily Lakdawalla talks about China's plans for space, including a Mars mission.

  • Spacing Toronto talks about the day in 1950 when the sun above Toronto turned blue.

  • Bruce Sterling shares a Washington Post article noting how forests have regrown across Europe in the past century.

  • Torontoist notes that the city of Toronto has sought to secure heritage status for El Mocambo.

  • Towleroad observes that the Irish Catholic Church has severed its links to a Northern Irish adoption agency for being GLBT-inclusive.

  • Window on Eurasia notes a Russian expert who says that Ukrainian decentralization will be impossible at present and suggests that a new Munich arrangement over Ukraine is unlikely owing to Western distrust.

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  • The Dragon's Gaze examines the very complicated history of the formation of the trinary system of Fomalhaut.

  • The Dragon's Tales links to a report on the study claiming to find chemical evidence of the impact that created the Moon out of moon rocks.

  • Robert Farley at Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that no plausible American intervention could have prevented the fall of Mosul to ISIS.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen notes the predictions of economists that Brazil will win the World Cup.

  • Out of Ambit's Diane Duane shares a photo of people scavenging from a hundred thousand books dumped out of a bankrupt bookstore in Ireland.

  • Livejournaler pollotenchegg maps fertility rates in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

  • The Transit Toronto blog notes the arrest of a half-dozen TTC workers on charges of embezzling from their organization.

  • Towleroad notes opposite-sex married but bisexual Anna Paquin's Twitter posting for pride.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy's David Bernstein takes issue with the idea that Jewish Republicans are rare. (Representation is, as a consequence of their distribution.)

  • Window on Eurasia links to an analyst's concern that the Donbas area of eastern Ukraine, currently seeing fighting, might end up becoming alienated from the rest of Ukraine on the model of Northern Ireland.

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Al Jazeera's Peter Geoghegan describes the somewhat unlikely spread of Irish Gaelic among Protestants in Northern Ireland. Apparently building on ancestral traditions of Scots Gaelic and close cultural connections between Ireland and Scotland, apparently knowledge of Irish Gaelic is starting to pick up.

Seomra ranga - "classroom", in Ireland's indigenous language - reads a cardboard sign tacked onto a door. A little further down the hall, a leabharlann is filled with books. It is a very Irish scene, but in a very unlikely place: East Belfast Mission on Newtownards Road.

Across the street, a mural commemorates the Protestant paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force. Union Jack flags fly from lampposts in the shadow of the shipyards that built the Titanic.

In Northern Ireland, the Irish Gaelic language has traditionally been a largely Catholic pursuit. The overwhelming majority of the 5,000 children in Irish-language education hail from nationalist areas.

But this might be about to change. The Turas Centre in the East Belfast Mission - turas means "journey" in Irish Gaelic - hosts 10 Irish-language classes a week. About 90 percent of those filing in and out of the seomra ranga and reading textbooks in the leabherlann are Protestant.

"The Irish language is part of our culture. It belongs to everyone," said Linda Ervine, an Irish language development officer at the East Belfast Mission.

Ervine is the closest East Belfast comes to royalty: loyalist leader David Ervine was her brother-in-law; her husband, Brian, is like his late brother David, a former leader of the Progressive Unionist Party.

Linda Ervine's soft voice and gentle manner bely a formidable passion for the Irish language - and for why Northern Ireland's Protestant community should take it up.

"There is every reason why Protestants should be learning Irish," she said. "Ninety-five percent of our place names come from Gaelic… We are using words in our language every day that come from the Gaelic language. We are steeped in it."

On a nearby wall hangs a map of Britain and Ireland turned on its side, showing the ancient Gaelic-speaking kingdom of Dalriada, which spread across the north coast of Ireland and the western isles of Scotland in the late sixth and early seventh centuries.
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David Rickard's Open Democracy essay "Scottish independence would open the way for constitutional reform" makes the case that Scottish independence would, well, open the way for constitutional reform in a rump United Kingdom of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

If, then, Scotland departs from the Union, there is no more Great Britain, and all pretensions of British nationhood fall away. But the / a United Kingdom could remain, albeit perhaps renamed the ‘United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland’. So Tim Luckhurst was wrong when he suggested in a discussion on Radio Four’s ‘Today’ programme today that all UK citizens should have a say on Scottish independence in a referendum because Scottish independence would mean the end of the UK, which Luckhurst regards as his ‘nation’. He is not wrong in suggesting the need for a UK-wide referendum but is wrong in asserting that the UK would be broken up by Scottish independence: it’s Britain that would be finished, but the UK could continue in a new form.

And it’s the need to re-define the UK, and re-design its constitution and structures of governance, that should be seized upon by constitutional reformers as a great opportunity presented by the prospect and process of Scottish secession. Indeed, this could be the occasion for a radical re-design of the constitution that reformers have been longing for. For starters, Parliament would have to be completely overhauled. Just as the idea of a unitary ‘Britain’ is designed to suppress the thought that the UK is really England plus its ‘Celtic’ appendages, so the stubborn holding on to the idea that the UK parliament remains integrally British even when so many of its powers and actions relate to England only is designed to suppress the idea that Parliament is really an English parliament: that it has always been so and should honestly re-style itself as such if it is to be a truly democratic forum for England on a par with the parliament and assemblies for the UK’s other nations.

If the UK were to become the ‘United Kingdom of England, Wales and N. Ireland’ – if Scotland departs and the need for a unitary ‘Britain’ and its parliament fades away – there would be a golden opportunity to craft a new federal UK. Civic English nationalists such as myself would rather the new UK was a federation of nations, including perhaps an autonomous Cornwall; while many liberal reformers would rather see a regional model of governance applied to England. But we could at least have the argument along with many other arguments, such as how to evolve the Lords into a federal parliament (dealing with reserved UK matters)-cum-revising chamber for the national / regional parliaments; a written constitution; the monarchy and the Church; proportional representation; a new Bill of Rights; a referendum on the new state’s membership of the EU; etc.


This may be possible. One major problem with this plan is that England would be overwhelmingly dominant in this new state, with something in the area of 95% of the British population and a still greater share of the British economy. With little likelihood of devolution taking off in England--earlier referenda are more than indicative of a pan-English identity--the risks of Wales and Northern Ireland being almost satellitized would seem very significant to me.

Am I off on this?
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This article by Anna Szulc, originally published in Poland's Przekrój and translated for Press Europ, took me by surprise. By quite a lot of surprise.

For the occasion, Frank Higgins, who is in his fifties, has donned the Royal Irish Regiment’s green uniform, complete with beret and pompom. He places the first chrysanthemum on the tomb of the First World War Polish Legionaires. "Piłsudski, do you remember who Piłsudski was?" [Marshal Józef Piłsudski, founder the independent Polish state in the aftermath of the First World War] Everyone answers in the affirmative, as though the question was about the Queen of England. Several of the younger members of the group are sporting conspicuous tattoos — among them Stuart, an electrician who was moved to tears by the tombs the Polish aviators on a visit to the Rakowicki Cemetery in Cracow.

Then there is Mark, who works for an aerospace company and is also a member of the Red Hand Commando, a Belfast paramilitary group which officially disarmed a year ago. In the course of a visit to Wawel Castle, an excursion to the Wieliczka salt mines and chats with Polish students in the pubs in Cracow, Mark has been thinking about how to help the 30,000 Polish immigrants in Northern Ireland to avoid the threat of serious trouble. It would not take much for the situation to spin out of control, especially since most of the Poles have chosen to live in the staunchly Protestant neighbourhoods of East Belfast, where, as Aleksandra Łojek-Magdziarz, of the Polish Association of Belfast explains, "the rents are lower than they are in the Catholic areas."

In the spring of 2009, after a football match between Northern Ireland and Poland, hooligans who had traveled to the game from Poland, and also from Wales and Scotland, went on the rampage in downtown Belfast. By way of reprisal, groups of Protestant paramilitaries destroyed 150 Polish homes. "Most of the victims were innocent Polish families," confirms Maciej Bator, director of the Polish Association of Northern Ireland. However, he also acknowledges that the Polish should accept some share of the blame for the conflict with the Protestant community. Most of the time, the trouble is caused by parties where the drinking gets out of hand.

[. . .]

When the Troubles — at least on paper — came to an end in Northern Ireland, he began to wonder about the possibility of sending Belfast paramilitaries to visit Auschwitz: as he explains, "so they could see the consequences of racism in its purest form for themselves."

The project began to take shape when Polish migrants started to arrive in Ulster. "I immediately realised that they could potentially fall victim to racism in Northern Ireland," explains Frank. And he was not wrong. Says Darius from Poland, a former supermarket employee who now works as a security guard, "I was to blame for all the troubles of the world, and especially for the fact that Polish Catholics were taking jobs and homes from Ulster Protestants. I even heard people say that we were responsible for the economic downturn in Northern Ireland."

So it was for people like Mark (who believed that people in Poland were dying of hunger) and Darius (who until a few years ago had never thought that there might be any difference between his Belfast neighbours and the people in Dublin) that Frank Higgins created the Thin Edge of the Wedge programme. Before long, he had obtained support from the European Union, which provided funding, as well as the Polish Association of Northern Ireland, the academics of Jagiellonian University in Cracow, the Cracow Dialogue Club, and a group of Polish MPs.
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I've just come from an annoying Livejournal debate with someone who thinks, in relation to Northern Ireland, that reality should be forced to match up with his theory of the way things should be. The remarkable consistency of revanchist nationalisms is impressive, no?

Anyway, this has prompted me to put a poll up on the subject of Northern Ireland's future.

[Poll #690955]

Try to remember that "will" is not the same thing as "should."

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