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  • The New York Times' Michael Wilson tells the sad story of how a woman murdered in Harlem was only identified 47 years later.

  • In NOW Toronto, Gelek Badheytsang writes about the complexities surrounding the visit of the 17th Karmapa to Tibetan-heavy Parkdale.

  • Novak Jankovic writes in MacLean's that there are real declines in the Toronto real estate market, but not enough to set a trend.

  • The Toronto Star's Jackie Hong reports that protecting Bluffer's Park from the waves of Lake Ontario could also wreck an east-end surfing haunt.

  • The National Post reports on how the Ontario NDP claims, probably correctly, that the Wynne Liberals are stealing their ideas. Good for them, I say.

  • Universe Today's Matt Williams notes a study reporting that life on Mars' surface is a much greater risk factor for cancer than previously thought.

  • Seth Miller argues that efficient electric cars will push Big Oil through the trauma of Big Coal in the 2020s.

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  • Centauri Dreams looks at the SPECULOOS red dwarf observation program.

  • The Crux examines VX nerve agent, the chemical apparently used to assassinate the half-brother of North Korea's ruler.

  • Dangerous Minds shares photos of the inhabitants of the Tokyo night, like gangsters and prostitutes and drag queens.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money examines Donald Trump's tepid and belated denunciation of anti-Semitism.

  • Language Log looks at the story of the Wenzhounese, a Chinese group notable for its diaspora in Italy.

  • The LRB Blog looks at the by-elections in the British ridings of Stoke and Copeland and notes the problems of labour.

  • The Map Room Blog shares a post-Brexit map of the European Union with an independent Scotland.

  • Marginal Revolution reports that a border tax would be a poor idea for the United States and Mexico.

  • The NYRB Daily looks at the art of the medieval Tibetan kingdom of Guge.

  • Otto Pohl notes the 73rd anniversary of Stalin's deportation of the Chechens and the Ingush.

  • Supernova Condensate points out that Venus is actually the most Earth-like planet we know of. Why do we not explore it more?

  • Towleroad notes Depeche Mode's denunciation of the alt-right and Richard Spencer.

  • Whatever's John Scalzi considers the question of feeling empathy for horrible people.

  • Window on Eurasia notes the thousands of Russian citizens involved with ISIS and examines the militarization of Kaliningrad.

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The Toronto Star's Ben Spurr notes upset among Toronto's Tibetan-Canadian community at the ads from the China National Tourist Office encouraging visitors to come to "Tibet, China". I myself did see one of these ads, and was not impressed at the heavy-handedness.

Tibet, China


Members of Toronto’s Tibetan community are demanding an apology from the TTC after the agency refused to remove subway ads that critics say are racist propaganda sanctioned by the Chinese government.

“These ads basically portray Tibetans as backwards, as undeveloped and dirty,” said Sonam Chokey, national director of Students for a Free Tibet Canada. “Basically they are trying to legitimize the colonization of Tibet.”

The TTC says the agency had no choice but to run the ads because they’re not in contravention of any law or of the transit agency’s advertising policies.

The posters, which have been on the transit system since Nov. 28, depict two images of Tibet. One is colourless, and shows a clutch of ragged tents and faceless figures in a barren valley, while the other is in colour and shows a modern city in the same mountain setting. The accompanying caption is “Old Culture, New Tibet.”

The posters direct readers to the internet address for the China National Tourist Office.
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At Transitions Online, Martin Ehl writes about how central European disinterest in the Dalai Lama maps onto an increasingly pragmatic pursuit of Chinese investment.

In this way, the October visit of the Dalai Lama – who was the main star of the 20th edition of the Forum 2000 conference, founded by late President Vaclav Havel – was also a test of Havel’s legacy in the former Czechoslovakia. That humanitarian approach is today confined to almost hidden corners of the local political scene, only revived from time to time by small groups, usually consisting of NGO activists, and lately by Kiska. In mainstream politics, it gets almost completely forgotten.

Lastly, the episode illustrates in broader strokes the emerging relationship between Central Europe and China. For the last couple of years, China has crafted its policy toward Europe, and the weak and often Eurosceptic Central European governments have seemed an ideal gateway for Chinese money and political influence. China could thereby reach the wider European Union, which, due to the refugee crisis and Brexit, looks weaker than ever in the last 20 years.

The job, however, isn’t easy for Chinese diplomats in Prague, Bratislava, or Warsaw (the Dalai Lama also briefly visited Wroclaw, without meeting any government official there). They have to exert maximum effort, show off their supposed powers to influence investment, and gain leverage over local politicians. But the real work in leaning on the locals is done by the businessmen who have cultivated business and political ties in China as relations have warmed. That’s not so tough when the United States, a traditional ally, seems so far off, the EU looks to be in disarray, and Russia plays old, familiar Soviet power games.
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  • Beyond the Beyond notes that electronic newspapers just don't work.

  • blogTO notes that the Eaton Centre's HMV is closing.

  • Crooked Timber notes that it will be shifting to moderated commenting.

  • D-Brief notes a new sharp image of Eta Carinae.

  • Dead Things notes that some monkeys are apparently making stone tools.

  • Joe. My. God. shares Le Tigre's new pro-Clinton song, "I'm With Her".

  • The LRB Blog is critical of Britain's hostility towards refugee children.

  • The Map Room Blog links to a new historical atlas of Tibet.

  • The NYRB Daily examines Assange's reasons for using Wikileaks to help Trump.

  • The Planetary Society Blog notes that New Horizons target 2007 OR10 has a moon.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes the reasons for Ecuador's clamping down on Assange.

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  • Bloomberg notes a report of Egypt's discovery of the wreckage of the crashed EgyptAir jet, reports on the visit of a IMF team to Mozambique, and looks at Vietnam's success in capturing Southeast Asian trade with the European Union.

  • Bloomberg View notes that Donald Trump's candidacy can mean bad things for the Republican Party.

  • CBC looks at how a top export from Tibet is a parasitic fungus, and looks at controversy over a CSIS evaluation of diaspora communities and terrorism.

  • MacLean's looks at the wife of the Orlando shooting.

  • The National Post notes the retraction of an ASEAN statement about maritime borders with China.

  • Open Democracy carries an ill-judged radical Brexiteer's statement. All I can say is that socialism in one country is not likely, certainly not with the Tories in charge.

  • The Toronto Star notes the fears of tax authorities that Conrad Black might abscond without paying his taxes.

  • Universe Today notes the discovery, in a Swedish quarry, of a type of meteorite no longer present in the solar system.

  • Wired reports on the second LIGO discovery and notes the import of The Onion in times of trouble.

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Writing at Torontoist, Rignam Wangkhang celebrates the successful unionization of some Tibetan-Canadian workers at the Ontario Food Terminals, on its own terms and as a sign of hope for workers more generally.

Working at produce wholesaler Fresh Taste, situated away from the public eye on the Gardiner Expressway, Thupten Nyendak faced racism, discrimination, and unequal pay. Routinely told by management to “go back to his country” and that he “was stupid,” Nyendak, the eventual union steward, had had enough. He could no longer accept that his co-workers, some of whom had worked 19 years at the Ontario Food Terminal, were stuck making $14.50 an hour, while other unionized workers at the Terminal were being paid $20.

In November 2015, the first Toronto Tibetan union was born.

Months of seeking fair treatment and wages at the bargaining table eventually amounted to nothing. The only option was to strike. The initial number of strikers quickly ballooned into an entire community standing in solidarity. Almost every labour union in the area, concerned community members, politicians, and a large swath of Tibetans all supported the movement.

After 11 days of relentless, resolute picketing, an agreeable contract was reached. It was a huge victory: the first ever collective action by Tibetan immigrant workers in Toronto was successful.

Fourteen produce pickers of Fresh Taste ratified their first union contract earlier this month. Through this movement, other newcomer and marginalized workers have come to believe that they too have the power to seek fair wages and dignity.
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The Ontario Food Terminal, Toronto's main produce distribution centre, was the subject of two articles coming up on my Feedly RSS feed recently.

The first, Torontoist's "How the Ontario Food Terminal Works", written by Conrad Smyth with photos by Robert Ewart, takes a look at the bargaining that goes on here as buyers contend with sellers.

The OFT runs two distinct operations: a farmers’ market, where exclusively local growers hock their produce, and a warehouse market offering imported fruits and vegetables from around the world. Only legally registered businesses can buy and must pay a nominal fee for use of the facility. Sellers are charged rent by the OFT, with famers’ market access wide open and available by the day, and warehouse market tenants locked into long-term leases currently holding a robust zero per cent vacancy rate.

Prices at the OFT are informally set to a daily price list made available by the U.S. Department of Agriculture; they fluctuate based on customer demand and vendor supply, with factors as seemingly innocuous as a Loblaws’ flyer promotion depleting inventory levels and pushing up the going wholesale rate. Each vendor issues a single weekly invoice for all purchasing activity, with payment due to the OFT. Once received, the money is doled out accordingly, allowing sales floor deals to be struck in quick succession without concern for the cumbersome exchange of physical cash.

[Bondi Produce]does the bulk of its business with grocery stores and restaurants—the former favouring a sharp cost and commanding a lower per-case purchasing price in exchange for a much higher sales volume, and the latter emphasizing quality and paying a higher per-case price due to the comparatively small size of their orders. Exact numbers are kept close to the chest, though gross margins tends to blend out at about 15 per cent, depending on what is being bought and sold—a $17 purchase is resold for $20, generating $3 of gross profit, and putting the volume necessary to run a financially sustainable business into mind-boggling focus.


The second, NOW Toronto's "Tibetan immigrants fight for fair wages and dignity at the Ontario Food Terminal", written by Gelek Badheytsang, takes a look at an ongoing labour dispute. Apparently many of the workers at the Ontario Food Terminal are of Tibetan background, residents of the heavily Tibetan neighbourhood of Parkdale just east of the Terminal on the Queensway. Apparently working conditions--something touched on obliquely by Smyth's article--are not the best.

Stop and consider the salad in your sandwich, the berry in your smoothie or the saag in your paneer. If you didn’t grow that piece of leafy green yourself, or buy it directly from a farmer at your local farmer’s market, chances are it would’ve been handled by a line of workers employed at the Ontario Food Terminal.

Until recently, Thupten Nyendak could’ve been one of them. He worked full-time for Fresh Taste Produce, one of the distribution companies (called “warehouse tenants”) at the Ontario Food Terminal. Since April 21, Nyendak and 13 of his colleagues have been on strike, protesting low wages, lack of job benefits and workplace harassment. They have been bargaining for a first contract since November.

[. . .]

Before they joined the Teamsters back in October, Nyendak says Fresh Taste workers who complained about being shortchanged on hours worked or requested a pay raise would be told by management "to walk. There are many other Tibetans like you outside, they’d tell us," says Nyendak.

Because he was one of the more vocal employees, Nyendak says he tolerated less of this kind of treatment, letting management know whenever they crossed the line. His confident personality is one of the reasons his colleagues appointed him union steward.

Then there is Zaheed Shamshadeen. Originally from Guyana, he is one of the three non-Tibetans among striking workers at Fresh Taste. He has been an employee at Fresh Taste for 18 years, starting at $12 an hour. He has been earning $14.50 an hour for the last eight years.

“They treat me like shit,” says Shamshadeen, who is reluctant to speak at first. Nyendak encourages him. “Zaheed, tell them how they bully you.”

“They call me names,” Shamshadeen says. He looks downcast.
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  • Bad Astronomy reports on the discovery of a repeating fast radio burst.

  • blogTO lists the five most exciting neighbourhoods in Toronto, my Dupont Street rating there.

  • Centauri Dreams studies the ecology of space colony agriculture.

  • Crooked Timber notes the contrast between progress on climate change internationally and bizarre rhetoric in the United States.

  • Discover's Inkfish reports on a study suggesting scenic environments do keep people healthy.

  • Language Log notes difficulties with accessing Tibetan-medium education in China.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the authoritarian mindset.

  • Marginal Revolution wonders why labour mobility in India is so low.

  • Steve Munro looks at the TTC's policy on fares.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes yet another issue with the Nicaragua Canal.

  • Towleroad notes Hillary Clinton's apology for praising the record of the Reagans on HIV/AIDS.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes an American custody order preventing a mother from talking about religion or her sexual orientation to her children.

  • Arnold Zwicky notes some prominent children's graphic novels.

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CBC reports on some suggestions that ancient Martian basins might have housed lakes perhaps as hospitable as ones on the Tibetan Highlands right now.

Deep water basins formed on Mars more than three billion years ago may have once been habitable, according to a new research paper which its authors say lends credibility to the theory that there was once life on the Red Planet.

Scientists from the Planetary Science Institute in Tuscon, Ariz., have been studying a region of Mars close to a massive volcanic plateau, and theorize it may have once been a habitable environment.

Groundwater circulation beneath the surface of this site may have helped to create some of the planet's deepest basins, wrote scientists J. Alexis Palmero Rodriguez, Cathy Weitz and Thomas Plaz in a paper published in the journal Planetary Space and Science.

The researchers suggest the basins may have been alternately covered with lava and water over the course of hundreds of millions of years, creating the right balance of temperature ranges, water pressure and nutrients necessary to sustain life.

Shallow lakes may have formed in these lava-covered basins within the last few tens of millions of years, they say.

"The temperature ranges, presence of liquid water, and nutrient availability, which characterize known habitable environments on Earth, have higher chances of forming on Mars in areas of long-lived water and volcanic processes," Rodriguez said in a news release.
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Nick Kozak's Toronto Star article profiles a Tibetan refugee who has now found a home in Toronto.

Somewhere, the Dalai Lama is smiling.

He couldn’t help but be pleased by Tsering Yangzom, a Tibetan refugee who has made Canada and Toronto her home since 2011.

Yangzom, the first Tibetan graduate of the Munk School of Global Affairs, is interested in pursuing a career in refugee and human rights law, perhaps even one day helping to free Tibet.

With a master’s degree in East Asian and Asia Pacific Studies from Munk now completed, law school is next on her list. She’s looking at universities in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.

The 31-year-old is truly a student of the world. She has studied in five countries and speaks English, Tibetan, Hindi and Nepali, and a bit of Norwegian.

But until she came to Canada she was stateless, and all she had for identification was a travel document from India. She knows too well the plight of refugees and has great empathy for the Syrians who are coming to Canada and taking their first steps toward settling in a new homeland. She also feels compassion for those stuck in war-torn Syria and for those who have fled but remain in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

“I can connect on a human level with the problem they’re going through. I can feel it.”
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Aparita Bhandari's article in The Globe and Mail noting the ongoing elections for the Tibet government-in-exile being held in Toronto, home to one of the largest Tibetan communities outside of Asia, was enlightening.

A young, upstart candidate for prime minister was rousing the support of a new generation of voters. A day before Canadians made their final decisions that eventually saw Justin Trudeau become this country’s leader, another election, in which a new candidate was challenging the old guard, enthralled a thousand-plus voters in Toronto’s Tibetan community. They cast their ballots for representatives of a parliamentary body much closer to their hearts: that of a new Tibetan government in exile.

The distance from Toronto to Lhasa may be 11,800 kilometres, or a 33-hour flight, but Tibet is a constant state of mind for its diaspora. More than 80,000 Tibetans across the world participated in a preliminary round of voting to choose candidates for the positions of sikyong (prime minister) and chitue (members of parliament) that make up the 44-person parliament in exile. The final list of candidates will be announced on Dec. 2, with the ultimate election taking place next March to decide the new leadership based out of Dharamsala, India. It is only the second such election since the Dalai Lama stepped down as head of what’s known as the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA).

Toronto is home to the largest Tibetan community in Canada, and second largest in North America after New York. At the Tibetan Canadian Cultural Centre in Etobicoke, the lineup grew quickly after the doors to the main hall opened, past the colourful prayer flags and giant dharma wheels. A group of older women in dark chuba robes and striped pangden aprons offered Tibetan sweet tea to people waiting patiently to fill out the two forms.

“White is for sikyong, green is for chitue,” volunteer clerk Kalsang Dholker explained to a voter after checking his green book, an official document issued by the CTA, and crossing his name off the list. It’s been nearly two years since Ms. Dholker, 39, arrived in Canada as a refugee, leaving her husband and children in India as it’s difficult for Tibetans living there to obtain family visas.

“We don’t have recognition as a nation. It’s important to feel Tibetan,” she said with a grim smile. “For us, this day to vote, it’s very important.”
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  • blogTO notes that a TTC driver has been caught on video ... doing pushups.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at the discovery of distant dwarf planet V774104.

  • The Dragon's Gaze reports that white dwarf SDSS1228+1040 is surrounded by a ring of shattered planets.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes widespread German espionage on allies, undermining somewhat German official protests.

  • Far Outliers notes how the desire of Afghan Communists in the late 1970s for radical reform undermined their cause fatally.

  • Geocurrents looks at the various heterodox Christian movements around the world, like Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses.

  • Language Hat notes how people repairing a church in Russia found centuries' worth of bird nests, often made of written documents.

  • Language Log looks at a photo caption translated from Tibetan to English via Singlish.

  • Marginal Revolution writes about the Chinese economic slowdown.

  • The Planetary Science Blog reports from Ceres.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog shares a map of China, comparing life expectancy in different jurisdictions to different countries.

  • Torontoist reports on a pediatric clinic that opened up in a Toronto public school.

  • Towleroad notes the governor of Utah has argued a judge who removed a child from gay foster parents should follow the law.

  • Window on Eurasia notes the relative disinterest of ethnic Russians in the Baltic States in Russia, and looks at the Ukrainian recognition of the Crimean Tatar genocide.

  • The Financial Times' The World links to a paper noting, in Africa, the close relationship between city lights and economic growth.

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  • blogTO shares photos of Yonge and Dundas in the grimy 1970s.

  • The Big Picture shares photos from a Tibetan Buddhist assembly.

  • Crooked Timber shares a photo of Bristol's floating bridge.

  • The Dragon's Gaze reports on an estimate of the number of extraterrestrial technological civilizations.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes an atlas of drought in Europe.

  • Geocurrents examines the fallacy of environmental determinism.

  • Joe. My. God. notes how open travel between the European Union and Ukraine has been endangered by the failure to protect gay employment.

  • Language Hat links to an essay by a feminist talking about what it is like to live in a language environment, that of Hebrew, where everything is gendered.

  • Language Log engages with fax usage in Japan and notes rare characters in Taiwan.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the plight of the dying steel town, all the worse because it was evitable.

  • Marginal Revolution has a bizarre defense of Ben Carson.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog and Window on Eurasia report on a rectification of the Russian-Chinese frontier.

  • Window on Eurasia is critical of village values in Russia, and notes the return of ISIS fighters to Azerbaijan.

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  • blogTO notes that graffiti artists around the world, including in Toronto, are promoting Justin Bieber's new album.

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly likes pilot Mark Vanhoenacker's book about flight.

  • Centauri Dreams notes one possibility for a Europa sample mission.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes simulations which suggest spiral arms in circumstellar disks point towards new planets.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes the critical endangerment of mangrove forests, looks at the irregularly shaped core of Enceladus, and wonders about Russia's military shipyards.

  • Geocurrents maps the exceptionally complicated religious mixture of northeastern South Asia.

  • Language Hat notes the complex use of language by Julien Green and his writing.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at China's one-child policy.

  • Supernova Condensate shares most photos of Pluto.

  • Why I Love Toronto shares a list of haunted places in Toronto.

  • Window on Eurasia worries about the West stopping its support of Ukraine, and notes the ISIS war against Russia.

  • The Financial Times' The World blog notes the importance of turmoil in Moldova.

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Savage Minds' Carole McGranahan writes, with examples from her own work on Tibet, about how good anthropology is often also about effective story-telling.

Anthropologists are storytellers. We tell stories: other’s stories, our own stories, stories about other’s stories. But when I think about anthropology and storytelling, I think also of something else, of anthropology as theoretical storytelling.

What is anthropology as theoretical storytelling? Several things. A discipline engaged in explaining, understanding, and interpreting cultural worlds as well as in developing theoretical paradigms large and small for making and making sense of cultural worlds. This is not something new to anthropology. Looking across generations of anthropological scholarship, theoretical storytelling appears repeatedly. From Zora Neale Hurston’s tales and lies to Muchona the Hornet to the Balinese cockfight to Rashīd and Mabrūka and Fayga in Lila Abu-Lughod’s Veiled Sentiments and on and on. Stories stay with us. People stay with us. Esperanza. Adamu Jenitongo. Uma Adang. Gloria. Miss Tiny. Charles and Morley and Nick Thompson. Angela Sidney. Valck. Mr. Otis. Bernadette and Eugenia. Tashi Dhondup. And so many more. Anthropology as theoretical storytelling may be a method of narration by both ethnographer and subject, a means of organizing writing, a way of arguing certain ethnographic points, and an ethnographically-grounded way of approaching theory. This is not then a singular approach or description, but a term that captures a range of anthropological sensibilities and strategies.

As with many before me, in the field I found myself to be a recipient of stories. Yet not all was narrative. Some moments in the field were more staccato or fragmented, confusing or obscure; some were just talk about this or that, about the minutiae of everyday life or about nothing at all (and those are deeply cultural moments indeed). But many days included storytelling, official and not, and almost always told over shared food and drink. Some of these I asked to hear in the context of my research, and others people told me for other reasons known and unknown. Turning these stories into a written ethnography or a spoken one in the classroom involves analytical and narrative labor. This process is about both ideas and story.


More there.
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  • blogTO looks at atypically-named TTC subway stations, the ones named not after streets.

  • Centauri Dreams examines the protoplanetary disk of AU Microscopii.

  • The Dragon's Tales looks at China's nuclear submarine issues.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog examines the intersections between game theory and water shortages.

  • Far Outliers notes the travails of Buddhism in Buryatia and the decline of Russia's Old Believers.

  • Geocurrents looks at rural-urban--potentially ethnic--divides in Catalonia.

  • Savage Minds examines controversies over tantra in contemporary Tibetan Buddhism.

  • Torontoist notes that the TCHC is only now investing in energy-saving repairs.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests contemporary Syria could have been Ukraine had Yanukovich been stronger, notes Belarusian opposition to a Russian military base, and notes discontent among Russia's largely Sunni Muslims with the alliance with Iran and Syria.

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This Toronto Star article by Manisha Krishnam makes for grim reading, especially since the neighbourhood of Parkdale is one of the few downtown (or near-downtown) neighbourhoods still affordable for low-income people. The effect on Toronto's Tibetan-Canadian community is also noteworthy.

Property manager Akelius Canada applied to increase the rent at 188 Jameson Ave. by 4.1 per cent in 2014; this year it doubled down, seeking a 4.6 per cent hike. At least 50 residents of the midrise apartment building, including many Tibetan refugees, say they can’t afford to pay that much and are planning to protest outside Akelius’ Toronto head office Monday.

“The amount they want to increase, it’s just too much,” says Namgyal Lhamo, 39, a personal support worker who lives in a one-bedroom apartment with her three-year-old daughter and her cousin.

In a statement to the Star, Akelius spokesman Ben Scott said the increases are meant to subsidize costs Akelius incurred from municipal taxes and utilities, increased security measures and extensive renovations. The provincially recommended guidelines for rent increases were 0.8 per cent and 1.6 per cent for 2014 and 2015, respectively.

[. . .]

Lhamo, a Tibetan refugee, moved to Canada from a small village in India in 2010. As a single mom, she said she works long hours at Baycrest hospital, followed by chores when she gets home, often at around midnight. Making ends meet is difficult enough without the rent hike, she said, adding she can’t afford to move elsewhere.

Akelius, a Swedish company, acquired 188 Jameson Ave. and a handful of other Parkdale properties between December 2012 and November 2013. Last summer, residents from four Parkdale buildings filed an application to the Landlord and Tenant Board claiming Akelius’ decision to remove on site superintendents has resulted in neglect. That issue will also be discussed at an April 28 hearing.

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