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  • Centauri Dreams shares, from JPL, the schedule for Cassini in its last days of existence. Goodbye, dear probe.

  • Dangerous Minds shares some classic illustrations from a Persian book called Lights of Canopus.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper suggesting that gas giants can stabilize debris disks.

  • Far Outliers shares excerpts from the diary of a Japanese soldier fighting in New Guinea in the Second World War.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the real suffering that high rents impose on the poor in American cities.

  • The Map Room Blog shares some nice X-ray maps of New York City subway stations.

  • The Planetary Society Blog shares more vintage Voyager photos of the outer solar system: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune ...

  • Roads and Kingdoms tells of the marvelous cookies made on the dying Venetian island of Burano.

  • Drew Rowsome considers, at length and with personal references, the differences between "art" and "porn". NSFW.

  • Understanding Society considers the latest thinking on causal mechanisms in modern sociology.

  • Window on Eurasia wonders if non-Russian languages in Russia are attacked out of anxiety over Russian's own decline, and speculates that if integration of mostly Muslim immigrants goes poorly in Moscow, the city could get locked in sectarian conflict.

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  • Charley Ross reflects on the story of Carla Vicentini, a Brazilian apparently abducted from New Jersey a decade ago.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog reflects on the concept of anomie.

  • Far Outliers looks at the southwest Pacific campaigns of 1942, and reflects on Australian-American tensions in New Guinea in the Second World War.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reflects briefly on the disaster in Houston.

  • The Map Room Blog links to two interesting longform takes on maps in fantasy.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer considers the extent to which urban policy has contributed to Houston's issues.

  • Roads and Kingdoms tells the story of a Shabbat celebration in Zimbabwe, and of the country's Jewish community.

  • Strange Company tells the story of the mysterious disappearance of Lieutenant Paul Byron Whipkey. What was done to him?

  • Unicorn Booty reports on how the Supreme Court of India has found people have a legal right to their orientation.

  • Window on Eurasia reports on the growing number of Russian citizens with Chinese connections.

  • Arnold Zwicky talks about Tom Bianchi's vintage Fire Island photos.

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  • National Geographic reports on how, unchecked, global warming may wreck the coffee industry of Uganda.

  • Aeon notes the nervous system of the ctenophore, product of a separate evolutionary process from our own.

  • Phys.org describes a recent study suggesting Easter Island was not wrecked by ecocide. (The Rapanui were devastated by others, I would add.)

  • Even with an active magnetic field, an Earth-like atmosphere of Proxima Centauri b might be eroded away by flares. Universe Today reports on the climate model making this prediction.

  • Does bizarre Przybylski’s star, HD 101065, contain exotic superheavy elements in its atmosphere? New Scientist wonders.

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  • Vice's Noisey celebrates the life and music of Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, whose medley of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" outlived him.

  • The AP describes how Britain's pop music charts have changed to stop future bouts of Ed Sheeran-style domination.
  • Hannah Ellis-Peterson reports for The Guardian about how (and why) Sony has opened a new vinyl pressing plant in Japan.

  • Carla Gillis reported for NOW Toronto about David McPherson's forthcoming book on the famed Horseshoe Tavern.

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  • Centauri Dreams notes new studies suggesting the flares of red dwarf stars damage potentially habitable planets.

  • The Crux notes that the wild apple is going extinct.
  • D-Brief notes that recent high winds in Europe helped push energy prices there to negative territory.

  • The Frailest Thing considers Neil Postman's thoughts on the intersection of mass media and childhood.

  • Inkfish argues in favour of accidental wetlands in urban areas.
  • Language Log looks at the trope of the repeated character in some recent Chinese advertising.

  • The LRB Blog considers the costs, environmental and otherwise, to the United States' leaving the Paris climate agreement.

  • Marginal Revolution wonders what assumptions about deep history the news of Homo sapiens' longer history overturn.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that, in the area of energy costs, mid-20th century Uruguay was worse off than New Zealand.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog looks at polling on Russian opinions about the Russian Far East and its future.

  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell is skeptical about Jeremy Paxman's claims about privacy in modern journalism.

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  • At Apostrophen, 'Nathan Smith writes about the status of his various writing projects.

  • Beyond the Beyond's Bruce Sterling links to an article examining pieces of software that have shaped modern music.

  • blogTO notes the expansion of the Drake Hotel to a new Junction site. Clearly the Drake is becoming a brand.

  • Citizen Science Salon looks at how Internet users can help fight illegal fishing in the Pacific.

  • Crooked Timber asks readers for new Doctor Who candidates.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper finding that the presence of Proxima Centauri would not have inhibited planetary formation around Alpha Centauri A and B.

  • The LRB Blog notes the growing fear among Muslims in the diaspora.

  • The Map Room Blog shares a reimagined map of the Paris metro.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy and Towleroad have very different opinions on the nomination of Neil Gorusch to the US Supreme Court.

  • Transit Toronto reports on the reopening of the TTC parking lot at Yorkdale.

  • Whatever's John Sclazi responds to the past two weeks of Trump-related chaos, and is not impressed.

  • Window on Eurasia notes that the Russian Orthodox Church carries itself as an embattled minority because it is one, and looks at the future of Russian federalism in regards to Tatarstan.

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My Feedly feed pointed me to a provoactive article by Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog written by one Matt Novak, "New Zealand Could Have Been Part of the United States". The title sounds sensationalistic, but Novak does make the good point that the young British colony of New Zealand in the mid-19th century did have very close ties with the United States.

New Zealand became a British colony in 1841, but white emigration to the island nation, which was inhabited by the native Maori people, didn’t really surge until gold was discovered in 1861. The gold rush saw New Zealand’s population explode in the 1860s from roughly 99,000 at the start of the decade to 256,000 by 1871. The gold rush brought plenty of Californians, and the colony became inundated with a relatively small but rowdy bunch of Americans who didn’t acknowledge any allegiance to the United Kingdom.

As historian Gerald Horne explains in the 2007 book The White Pacific, “When gold was discovered in Otago in 1861, it was the New Zealanders who attracted attention from California to the point where there was very temporary talk of New Zealand becoming a part of the United States. In both England and New Zealand it was widely believed that an independent New Zealand would gravitate toward the U.S. sphere.”

If the small colony of New Zealand had sought independence from Britain in the 1860s or 70s, Americans could well be calling it a territory, or even a state. After all, there were just 33 American states in 1860.

The New Zealand gold rush also happened to coincide with the beginning of the American Civil War. After the war, there was a Confederate diaspora to the South Pacific—former slave owners in the Southern United States who kept up the slave trade in places like Fiji and Australia. Former American Confederates fled to places like New Zealand, which itself had outlawed slavery, but was just a short hop away from where the trade of human beings was still tacitly accepted.

Anywhere from 60,000 to 120,000 slaves were brought to Australia to work in sugar and cotton fields there between the 1860s and 1900, despite the fact that the country officially forbade slavery. Trade skyrocketed between the United States and New Zealand in the second half of the 19th century as a result of this increased activity by Californians and Confederates in the South Pacific—traders trafficking in both the gold rush of human beings, driven by British and American demand for cheap cotton, and the literal gold rush.

These certainly were close links. For the United States to have been able to challenge British rule in New Zealand, however, would imply a United States with a much stronger navy relative to the British Empire than OTL. Too, there would be plenty of closer targets in the British Empire for the United States to aim for--Canada, to start, and the Caribbean if the United States had the appetite. Notwithstanding the significant American influence in Polynesia, a United States that was able to take over New Zealand would be a much bigger naval power than OTL.

Is there a scenario that could give us an American New Zealand? What would it involve? With minimal divergences, I could only imagine a United States that had waged a successful war against the British Empire in concert with other great powers. A Franco-American alliance, maybe? A peaceful handover is more difficult to imagine still, though perhaps if the United Kingdom thought it could not secure these islands passing it to an ally might be imaginable. Another possibility I can imagine would involve Americans actually preempting the British and the French in extending their sovereignty over the homeland of the Maori, something perhaps involving early whalers.

What would work? As importantly, what would an American New Zealand look like? I am afraid that, if the paradigm applied to the indigenous peoples of the American West was applied here, the Maori might encountered significantly worse outcomes than in our history.
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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly writes about the importance of showing up for major events.

  • Crooked Timber looks at e-publishing for academia.

  • Dead Things notes that the evolution of the human brain and human teeth were not linked.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to two papers about ocean worlds and greenhouse effects.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at the hopeful seasteaders of French Polynesia.

  • Towleroad looks at the life of a trans man in the mid-20th century.

  • Window on Eurasia shares a Catalonian linguists' argument that linguistic diversity helps minority languages.

  • Arnold Zwicky reflects on the gay cowboy scene.

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  • blogTO notes that after the Berlin attack, the Toronto Christmas Market has upped its security.

  • D-Brief looks at how roads divide ecosystems.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes that WD 1536+520 apparently has solar levels of rock-forming elements.

  • Language Log examines central European metaphors for indecipherable languages.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money is diffident on the question of whether Sanders could have won versus Trump.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at the recent depreciation of Canada's natural resources.

  • The Planetary Society Blog talks about a recent essay collection noting the strides made in planetary science over the past quarter-century.

  • Cheri Lucas Rowlands shares photos from her trip to Hawai'i.

  • Seriously Science notes Santa's risk of personal injury.

  • Torontoist looks at a University of Toronto professor's challenges to a law on gender identity.

  • Whatever's John Scalzi likes what Disney has done, and is doing, to Star Wars.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that Russians might want fascism but lack a leader and argues Western defeatism versus Russia is as ill-judged now as it was in 1979.

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In "Native Soil", Brittany Lyte at The Atlantic describes how definitions of indigenous Hawaiian which require a certain percentage of indigenous ancestry threaten future generations with losing their ability to pass on their property. This definition has to change.

Natasha Boteilho lives in Oahu’s arid Waianae Valley on a jot of land held in trust for native Hawaiians. Here on Hawaii’s most densely populated island—where the highest per-capita homeless population in the United States continues to swell and the average price of a single-family home is three-quarters of a million dollars—that’s no small thing. The turquoise waters that lap against golden beaches lie next to jammed highways. Even the wildlife is exploding: A cacophonous feral-chicken epidemic provides the background noise to islanders’ daily lives.

Boteilho’s property was originally awarded to her grandfather by virtue of a federal law enacted in 1920 to stabilize a Hawaiian race left withering and landless after a century of colonization. Boteilho’s mother took over the land lease next, and then, in 2011, the homestead was passed on to her. A stay-at-home mother of three girls, the 39-year-old Boteilho resides with her husband and children in the three-bedroom house her grandfather built at the base of an eroded shield volcano.

But this is where Boteilho’s familial succession will end. None of Boteilho’s daughters—ages 2, 5, and 10—are eligible to inherit the land their great-grandfather settled in 1951. Simply put: They don’t have enough Hawaiian blood. “If I passed away tomorrow, my children would not be able to get my house,” Boteilho said. “That scares me.”

When Congress passed the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920, the native Hawaiian race was quickly vanishing. The legislation was a reaction to the large numbers of Hawaiians who had been forced off their lands when white businessmen moved to the islands during the early 1800s. The foreigners built sprawling pineapple and sugarcane plantations and imported a new working class to tend to them. The Hawaiians, meanwhile, receded to crowded urban zones where extrinsic diseases, for which they had no immunity, hacked away at their numbers. In 1778, when white men first set foot on the Hawaiian Islands, there were an estimated 683,000 full-blooded Hawaiians living there, according to the Pew Research Center. By 1919, that population was just 22,600. The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act attempted to combat the decline by creating a 200,000-acre land trust to serve as neighborhoods, farms, and ranches for those who could prove at least 50 percent Hawaiian ancestry.

“The Hawaiian race is passing,” testified Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole before the U.S. House of Representatives in 1920. “And if conditions continue to exist as they do today, this splendid race of people, my people, will pass from the face of the Earth.” A born royal and a delegate to Congress, Kuhio was the visionary sponsor of the law that established Hawaiian homesteading. Despite his fight for a lower blood quantum, the law specifies that Hawaiians are eligible to apply for 99-year land leases at $1 per year on the condition that they prove they are at least half-blooded Hawaiians. The law further stipulates that a homestead lease can be passed on to a leaseholder’s child or grandchild—so long as that heir can prove at least 25 percent Hawaiian ancestry.
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  • Discover introduces its new blog Astrobeat.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at our operations throughout our solar system.
  • Dangerous Minds shares recordings from Prince's Sign o' The Times tour rehearsals.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a study of gas giant HD 95086b.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes evidence for pre-European trade in eastern Polynesia.

  • Gizmodo notes that a large vertical farm is being built in New Jersey.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that Kim Davis is being accused of hiding requested public documents.

  • The LRB Blog notes that the Chilcot report proves Blair's culpability.

  • Marginal Revolution notes the weakness of Deutsche Bank, looks at how the weak pound won't help Britain, and observes Italy's weakness.

  • Steve Munro considers reviving the Scarborough LRT proposal.

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw notes Australia's problems with Internet speed.

  • Supernova Condensate looks at the Juno probe's arrival at Jupiter.

  • Transit Toronto notes that high speeds have slowed down rail transit in Toronto.

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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly notes the import of journalism, even now.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at the bright spots of Ceres.

  • D-Brief looks at gravitational wave astronomy in space and notes that fish can recognize faces.

  • Dangerous Minds looks at some groovy French playing cards from the 1960s.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes the permanent deployment of more Russian forces to the Ukrainian border.

  • Joe. My. God. reports a claim by a New York state legislator that a bishop tried to bribe her to drop her support for child abuse reform legislation.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer looks at the claim that perceived anti-Hispanic policies in California helped kill the Republican Party there, and finds it interestingly wanting.

  • Savage Minds examines the decolonization of anthropology in the Pacific islands.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests that Russians are not interested in fighting over the Baltic States.

  • Arnold Zwicky remembers his lovers and the roses he loved.

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  • Bad Astronomy notes the literally cosmic homophobia of Louie Gohmert.

  • The Big Picture notes a Chinese factory set to make a fortune off of making masks of the American presidential candidates.

  • blogTO notes the raising of the Trans and Pride flags at Toronto City Hall, marking the beginning of Pride month.

  • Crooked Timber notes the racism that erased the genealogy of African-Americans.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that Britain's NHS has rejected PrEP again.

  • Language Log notes the sensitivity of the local version of the name "Pikachu" in Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong.

  • The LRB Blog reports from the scene of an active volcano in Nicaragua.

  • Marginal Revolution notes that witchcraft apparently does hurt economic progress.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer wonders why New Zealand and Uruguay, with such similar economies, saw such substantial economic divergence after 1950.

  • Peter Rukavina reports on an interesting Asian food store in Charlottetown.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog notes a Russian claim that condoms cause HIV transmission.

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Easter Island, easternmost outpost of Polynesia, has long been of at least passing interest to me. Even before Jared Diamond had presented a story of the island culture's eventual decine through environmental exploitation as a warning for our times in the mid-1990s, I had been interested in the island for its cultural achievements. There were the famous moai statues, depicted in the books I read as a child as liberally scattered across the island, but there was also the mysterious rongorongo, something that might be a script but was currently undecipherable. What mysteries did the island hide?

Aurbina's photo in the Wikimedia Commons, "Moai set in the hillside at Rano Raraku", is superb.

Diamond's narrative was simple.

Eventually Easter’s growing population was cutting the forest more rapidly than the forest was regenerating. The people used the land for gardens and the wood for fuel, canoes, and houses--and, of course, for lugging statues. As forest disappeared, the islanders ran out of timber and rope to transport and erect their statues. Life became more uncomfortable-- springs and streams dried up, and wood was no longer available for fires.

People also found it harder to fill their stomachs, as land birds, large sea snails, and many seabirds disappeared. Because timber for building seagoing canoes vanished, fish catches declined and porpoises disappeared from the table. Crop yields also declined, since deforestation allowed the soil to be eroded by rain and wind, dried by the sun, and its nutrients to be leeched from it. Intensified chicken production and cannibalism replaced only part of all those lost foods. Preserved statuettes with sunken cheeks and visible ribs suggest that people were starving.

With the disappearance of food surpluses, Easter Island could no longer feed the chiefs, bureaucrats, and priests who had kept a complex society running. Surviving islanders described to early European visitors how local chaos replaced centralized government and a warrior class took over from the hereditary chiefs. The stone points of spears and daggers, made by the warriors during their heyday in the 1600s and 1700s, still litter the ground of Easter today. By around 1700, the population began to crash toward between one-quarter and one-tenth of its former number. People took to living in caves for protection against their enemies. Around 1770 rival clans started to topple each other’s statues, breaking the heads off. By 1864 the last statue had been thrown down and desecrated.

The problem with this story, I began learning a few years ago, is that it isn't true. The bulk of ecological damage to the island was, two archaeologists argued, a consequence of the accidental importation of the Polynesian rat, compromising native ecosystems. The Rapa Nui of the island ended up coping quite well, as described in 2013 at NPR.

For one thing, they could eat rats. As J.B. MacKinnon reports in his new book, The Once and Future World, archeologists examined ancient garbage heaps on Easter Island looking for discarded bones and found "that 60 percent of the bones came from introduced rats."

So they'd found a meat substitute.

What's more, though the island hadn't much water and its soil wasn't rich, the islanders took stones, broke them into bits, and scattered them onto open fields creating an uneven surface. When wind blew in off the sea, the bumpy rocks produced more turbulent airflow, "releasing mineral nutrients in the rock," J.B. MacKinnon says, which gave the soil just enough of a nutrient boost to support basic vegetables. One tenth of the island had these scattered rock "gardens," and they produced enough food, "to sustain a population density similar to places like Oklahoma, Colorado, Sweden and New Zealand today."

According to MacKinnon, scientists say that Easter Island skeletons from that time show "less malnutrition than people in Europe." When a Dutch explorer, Jacob Roggevin, happened by in 1722, he wrote that islanders didn't ask for food. They wanted European hats instead. And, of course, starving folks typically don't have the time or energy to carve and shove 70-ton statues around their island.

[. . .]

Because, say the Hawaiian anthropologists, clans and families on Easter Island didn't fall apart. It's true, the island became desolate, emptier. The ecosystem was severely compromised. And yet, say the anthropologists, Easter Islanders didn't disappear. They adjusted. They had no lumber to build canoes to go deep-sea fishing. They had fewer birds to hunt. They didn't have coconuts. But they kept going on rat meat and small helpings of vegetables. They made do.

Discover's Collide-a-scape took a look in 2014 at the shift in the consensus away from a long history of decline. Estimates of ancient population sizes have been found to be overlarge, for instance. The Rapa Nui seem to have been good custodians of their island. The newest studies seem to confirm this.

What ended a civilization that built so many impressive stone statues and even managed to develop what might have been a writing system? The statues were no longer being built when the Chileans came, nor was knowledge of rongorongo passed on. What happened to the Rapa Nui? Not ecocide, as Diamond's scenario implies, but genocide.

The above Wikimedia Commons picture shows Side b of Rongorongo Text R, one of the few rongorongo texts to survive. I saw them myself in a 2001-2002 exhibition at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art, Splendid Isolation: The Art of Easter Island. The catalogue, happily, is available in PDF format here. Texts R and S were there on loan from the Smithsonian, along with a few dozen artifacts of pre-contact Rapa Nui society. This society did not survive, it turns out, because it was actively destroyed as a consequence of genocidal acts. Wikipedia's dry summary leaves my head spinning at the scale of the catastrophe.

In December 1862, Peruvian slave raiders struck Easter Island. Violent abductions continued for several months, eventually capturing or killing around 1500 men and women, about half of the island's population. International protests erupted, escalated by Bishop Florentin-Étienne Jaussen of Tahiti. The slaves were finally freed in autumn, 1863, but by then most of them had already died of tuberculosis, smallpox and dysentery. Finally, a dozen islanders managed to return from the horrors of Peru, but brought with them smallpox and started an epidemic, which reduced the island's population to the point where some of the dead were not even buried.

Little wonder, as I noted in my review of Andrew Robinson's Lost Languages, that the few survivors of Easter Island by the end of the 1860s had abandoned much of their traditional culture. For all its brilliance, all its accomplishments and knowledge, it had clearly failed to save the Rapa Nui from catastrophe. That conscious rejection made far more sense to me than Diamond's narrative of decline.

Savage Minds noted in 2005 that researchrs were challenging the integrity of Diamond's historical research. Sitting here in 2016, knowing what I know about how the depopulation of any number of colonized populations by disease and the extension of foreign rule and how this depopulation has been used to justify the very colonization, I wonder about the potential misuses of Diamond's apparent misinterpretation of the island's historical trajectory. Is his model of an imagined Easter Island as a metaphor for the Earth and its risks even usable?
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The National Post carries Ben Guarino's Washington Post article. It looks bad.

As the ocean rose, they had to flee.

“The sea has started to come inland, it forced us to move up to the hilltop and rebuild our village there away from the sea,” said Sirilo Sutaroti, 94, a leader of the Paurata tribe, to a group of Australian environmental scientists. The scene of this rising sea is an archipelago of upthrust volcanoes and coral atolls, which dots the Pacific to the northeast of Australia: the Solomon Islands. There, a swollen sea is claiming the shoreline — and even, researchers say, entire masses of land.

In a recent paper in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the scientists link the destructive sea level rise to anthropogenic — that is, human-caused — climate change. The study is the first time anyone has concretely analyzed the loss of Solomon Island shoreline in the context of global warming, they say.

Such work comes at a time when coastal villages — where a few hundred people like Sutaroti might live, whose familial roots could stretch back a century — have scattered, re-forming in smaller clusters where there is suitable higher ground. On the island of Nuatambu, the sea has claimed 11 houses. “Another 12 remain,” wrote Simon Albert, one of the study authors and a civil engineer at the University of Queensland, Australia, in an email to The Washington Post.

“The families that have left have moved to the nearby large island of Choiseul.” What was once a single community has fractured into five smaller hamlets.

Taro Island, a populated atoll in northwest Solomon Islands, may become the first capital city on the planet that people desert due to climate change, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. When Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, visited the Solomon Islands and nearby Kiribati, he witnessed an entire population of a Taro Island town preparing to move. (His hotel room, he said in the same 2014 speech, came equipped with life preservers.)
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  • blogTO profiles a couple who live on a houseboat near the foot of the Scarborough Bluffs.

  • Centauri Dreams hosts an argument making the case for eventual human emigration in interstellar directions.

  • Dangerous Minds celebates Brian Eno.

  • The Dragon's Gaze shares a paper considering what "habitability" means.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes a study suggesting Neanderthals were omnivores.

  • Joe. My. God. shares a collaboration between Jean-Michel Jarre and Peaches.

  • The NYR Daily considers the ethics of drone killings.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer (here) and Crooked Timber (here) appear to have opposite perspectives on the threat posed by Trump to liberal democracy.

  • Discover's Seriously Science notes the recent study suggesting that at least one bird species' calls have syntax.

  • The Search explores CUNY-TV's efforts to create durable archives.

  • Strange Maps notes that Tokelau is an Internet superpower, based in terms of the number of sites it hosts.

  • Transit Toronto maps the proposed route for the Downtown Relief Line, which would stretch from City Hall over to Pape.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy considers the context in which it could, or could not, be a crime for a speaker to encourage an audience to attack hecklers.

  • Arnold Zwicky looks at the social import of clothes.

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  • Dangerous Minds shares one video club of David Bowie in London in 1967, and another of the controversies around the Cocteau Twins in 1985 Ohio.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes a study of the winds of hot Jupiter HD 189733b.

  • The Dragon's Tales looks at the evolution of Titan's atmosphere from an early date.

  • Joe. My. God. and Towleroad each note the failure of PrEP to protect a Toronto man against infection.

  • Language Hat links to a study looking at the spread of Austronesian languages.

  • Marginal Revolution writes on the economics, and the culture, of used book sales.

  • The NYRB Daily notes the problems with staging Wagner.

  • Savage Minds shares a list of new ethnographic texts.

  • Torontoist examines how Ontario's cap and trade and other green initiatives could impact Toronto.

  • Towleroad and Joe. My. God. note the Australian government's belated apology for the repression of gay demonstrators in Sydney in 1978, during the first Mardi Gras.

  • Window on Eurasia writes about the reasons for the support of diasporic Russian Jews for Putin's Russia and notes the Russian government's hostility towards open regionalism on its borders.

  • Arnold Zwicky shares and dissects a Japanese-style poem of his.

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  • Anthropology notes the latest archeological findings suggesting that Easter Island was not destroyed by war.

  • Beyond the Beyond's Bruce Sterling notes that Wired will now no longer be allowing people with ad blockers to access the site.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes the likely existence of a substantial gas giant in the disk of TW Hydrae and describes a Neptune-type world found through microlensing.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper suggesting, on the basis of the geology of Mars, that the early atmosphere was dominated by carbon dioxide with little oxygen.

  • Joe. My. God. links to the audio track of the new Pet Shop Boys single, "The Pop Kids".

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes opposition to the TPP in Indonesia.

  • Language Log notes a poster from the Second World War era United States propagandizing against the use of German, Italian, and Japanese.

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw contrasts Australia's response to the Syrian refugee crisis with Canada's.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that Mexico's PEMEX may be in bad shape.

  • Spacing Toronto shares John Lorinc's skeptical essay about transit in Toronto. Grand schemes are great, but what about implementation?

  • Strange Maps maps Brexit, in various dimensions.

  • Torontoist suggests this city can learn from Detroit when it comes to repurposing vacant lots.

  • Window on Eurasia notes the growth of separate Muslim and Christian neighbourhoods in many cities.

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Al Jazeera America's Jon Letman writes about how the social accepted transgenderism of Hawai'i's Polynesian past does, or does not, fit well into contemporary American Hawai'i.

Growing up in the largely Hawaiian community of Waianae on the west side of Oahu, Kalani Young enjoyed a diverse upbringing that included attending Catholic, Mormon and evangelical churches and a Buddhist temple, in addition to prayers and rituals rooted in Hawaiian spirituality.

However Young also recalled being an effeminate young boy who was bullied by male family members who, she said, wanted to “beat the girl out of her.”

The 33-year-old identifies as mahu — a gender role in traditional Hawaiian society that refers to people who exhibit both feminine and masculine traits.

“You’re someone in the middle. That’s all it means,” said Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a hula and Hawaiian studies teacher on Oahu, about the mahu term, which she prefers to transgender for its inclusivity.

Known as a multicultural melting pot, Hawaii is often portrayed as among the most liberal states in the country based on its support for progressive positions on issues like climate change, gun control and same-sex marriage. Hawaii became the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2013 and the state constitution, enacted in 1959, protects equal rights for all sexes.

However LGBT communities undoubtedly still face discrimination in the Aloha State, a fact some advocates attribute to the imposition of Western values on the Hawaiian people that began in the 18th century.
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Wired's Margaret Rhodes writes approvingly of the current front-runner to replace New Zealand's national flag.

The new flag uses a silver fern frond as its primary motif, instead of the Union Jack, and keeps the four stars that decorate the bottom right corner of the current design. The official alternative flag has quite a campaign behind it: Lockwood has a robust website about the design, complete with information on voting and donating. As for the silver fern, it’s a known icon in New Zealand with roots that trace back to the Māori, the country’s indigenous Polynesian populaton. Māori legend has it that the silver fern once helped hunters and warriors find their way home, by reflecting the moonlight and creating a path through the forest.

On his site, [designer Kyke] Lockwood writes, “the fern is an element of indigenous flora representing the growth of our nation. The multiple points of the fern leaf represent Aotearoa’s,”—the indigenous name for the island country—“peaceful multicultural society, a single fern spreading upwards represents that we are all one people growing onward into the future.” That last bit is some saccharine symbolism, for sure, but that’s hardly uncommon with flag design.

That said, it’s also a smart design. According to experts in vexillology, the study of flag design, a good flag is one you can both recognize immediately and draw from memory. The frond, as a piece of graphic design, makes both possible. It’s almost like a Matisse cut-out in this way: it has a child-like simplicity, but character that won’t be found on another nation’s flag.


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September 2017

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