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  • Yahoo News shares the story of a cat that visited every national park in the United States, with photos.

  • CBC's Mike Crawley takes a look at the impact of the Ontario $15 minimum wage, finding it should have little effect on the economy at large.

  • In The Globe and Mail, Tony Keller suggests that Donald Trump's actions do a great job of promoting China as a responsible superpower.

  • CBC notes research suggesting that global warming will make the heat island effect in cities much worse.

  • It is easy, editor David Shribman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes in The Globe and Mail, to mistake Pittsburgh for Paris.

  • The Toronto Star notes Ariana Grande's surprise visit to her fans in hospital before tomorrow benefit concert.

  • The Atlantic reports on the problems of post-Communist gentrification in Moscow.

  • The Georgia Straight shares one Vancouver artist's goodbye to her adopted city, beloved but now too expensive.

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  • blogTO shares media exploring how Toronto was marketed internationally in the 1980s. This decade apparently saw less concentration on landmarks and more on cultural activities.

  • The Map Room Blog links to a National Geographic collection of the childhood maps of cartographers.

  • Marginal Revolution notes that the loosening of China's one-child policy has not resulted in much change.

  • Justin Petrone wonders if Estonians are weird.

  • Steve Munro reports on the many, many problematic things coming out of Metrolinx, including fare-by-distance and the ongoing PRESTO disasters.

  • Supernova Condensate shares a thought-provoking set of statues on global warming, Follow the Leaders.

  • Torontoist's Kieran Delamont notes the astonishing thoughtlessness of new fashion brand Homeless Toronto.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at a Belarus in a state of political ferment that might--might--be pre-revolutionary, and wonders if disbanding Russia's ethnic republics could be profoundly destabilizing.

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  • blogTO notes that the redevelopment of Toronto's Port Lands is continuing.

  • Crooked Timber argues that climate denialism exposes the socially constructed nature of property rights.

  • D-Brief notes the reburial of Kennewick Man.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes there is no sign of a second planet around Proxima Centauri.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at life in Texas.

  • The LRB Blog analyzes Milo's stumble.

  • Marginal Revolution considers the levels of disorderliness different societies, like Sweden, can tolerate.

  • The NYRB Daily reports on the poisoning of a Russian dissident.

  • The Planetary Society Blog suggests Voyager 1 picked up Enceladus' plumes.

  • Peter Rukavina writes of his mapping of someone's passage on the Camino Francés.

  • Supernova Condensate looks at the United Arab Emirates' plan to build a city on Mars in a century.

  • Torontoist reported on a protest demanding action on the overdose crisis.
  • Towleroad describes the plight of Mr. Gay Syria in Istanbul and reports on the progress of same-sex marriage in Finland.

  • Understanding Society considers the complexity of managing large technological projects.

  • Window on Eurasia links to one Russian writer arguing Putin should copy Trump and links to anotehr suggesting the Russian Orthodox Church is overreaching.

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The Toronto Star's Ellen Brait reports on the latest in the struggle to build a hotel at Toronto's Exhibition Place, between environmental concerns with the site and the financial concerns of the builders.

The construction of Exhibition Place’s Hotel X has been long, complicated, and riddled with problems. But those involved say they’re back on track.

“May is the target date. We’re making pretty good progress,” Owen Whelan, president of McKay-Cocker, the construction manager for the project, said. “I would say at this point we’re full speed ahead.”

But a number of liens still remain in place against the property. Liens are typically placed against properties as a means to keep a right of possession until a debt is paid.

Government records show five companies certified liens between Oct. 2016 and Dec. 2016 that are still in place. They range from around $89,000 up to $32-million. Multiplex Construction Canada Limited, the former construction manager of the project, took out the largest lien, at $32,573,260, on Oct. 19, 2016 and filed a second one for $17,618,739 on Nov. 28, 2016.

Jeffrey Burke, president of Lift All Crane Service Ltd., one of the companies with a lien against the property, said after Multiplex Construction Canada left the project, they left many companies “in the position where we had to put a lien on the project to ensure we were going to get paid.”
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Radio free Europe/Radio Liberty's Golnaz Esfandiari covers the reaction in Iran to the prospect of a ban on the issuing of new visas to Iranian citizens. Esfandiari is correct to note that these visa restrictions will not help the Islamic Republic's position and will in fact also hurt American soft power. That by far the most successful anti-American terrorists come from Saudi Arabia, a country not subject to the proposed ban, also deserves mention.

The United States is a leading destination for students from all over the world, with international student enrollment at public and private U.S. institutions totaling more than 1 million young people in 2015-16, according to the Institute of International Education, with roughly one-third of them coming from China and Iranians well outside the top 10 places of origin.

Hengameh, a mother of two in Tehran, told RFE/RL via Telegram she was offended by the U.S. decision. "I don't have plans to travel to America, but I know many who have relatives there. This will make things harder for them," she said, adding that obtaining a U.S. visa is already difficult for Iranians.

[. . .]

"The adoption of this [executive order] and similar laws will hurt only the Iranian people, and it won't have any impact on the travels of government [officials] to America," a comment on Radio Farda's Facebook page said.

"It's clear that [Trump] doesn't have a proper understanding of terrorists. Most of them are from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and other countries," another comment said.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who used passenger jets to carry out coordinated terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, were from Saudi Arabia. Osama bin Laden, the leader of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network blamed for the attack, was a Saudi citizen.
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Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen offers excellent advice for travellers on how to explore new cities. These strategies are not unlike ones I've applied in the past, for whatever it's worth. Save the big adventures for later, when you have a sense of the city and can appreciate what you are seeing all the better.

The first thing I do is make sure blog is ready for the day to come (though that is usually pre-arranged if I am traveling).

The second thing I do is decide whether the country is worth wasting a meal on breakfast. I might just skip it. If not, the next thing I will do is get breakfast. I evaluate breakfast options by walking and by sight, not by using the internet, as I find that old-fashioned method better training for all that life brings us.

Then I try to walk through at least two neighborhoods, to get a general sense of the city. More importantly, I can then later take some time over lunch without feeling I haven’t seen anything yet. These neighborhoods should be connected to the main drag in some way but not the main drag itself. The main drag is often boring, though essential, and it is more likely to get a fuller treatment on day two, with only a quick peek on day one.
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The Toronto Star's Betsy Powell describes the many problems faced by Wasaga Beach, a resort community on Georgian Bay popular with Toronto vacationers that has been faced with falling tourist numbers in recent years. (I should mention, for the record, that I have never been here.)

A bundled-up couple walking a dog and a lone snowmobiler had the world’s longest freshwater beach to themselves on a recent morning as a frigid wind swept across Georgian Bay.

“Nothing down here will open. Who’s going to come and park here when it’s cold?” Deputy Mayor Nina Bifolchi says, driving past a stretch of closed-for-three-seasons fast-food eateries and bars facing the beach.

She was on the losing side when council voted to buy the properties for $13.8 million in 2015, using money borrowed from a bank and the province.

That’s no small sum for the town of 18,000 that will collect $20.3 million in property taxes this year and spend $48 million in operating and capital costs.

But waterfront purchase proponents, led by Mayor Brian Smith, argue Wasaga Beach needed a “bold” step after a steady decline in tourists — the town’s economic lifeblood — of roughly 100,000 a year between 2002 and 2012, compounded by a massive fire in 2007 that destroyed a bustling street mall in the beach’s east end. The mall was never rebuilt and has since been replaced by a beer garden and kiosks.
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Via the Map Room Blog I came across an article in The New York Times offering advice to people with problems in territories unknown to them. . Speaking as someone who generally does not have troubles with orienting himself, these and the other pieces of advice offered make sense to me: Having an idea as to where are you going, both beforehand in initial planning and at the time when you're doing whatever you're doing, helps a lot.

Create a mental map

Review a map of your proposed route before heading out, and perhaps even trace it with your finger, Dr. Brendan Kelley, a neurologist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said in an email. It will help provide context for the route. Once you arrive, review the map and the route you traveled to reinforce the memory of how you got there.

By reviewing a map before your travel, you can take note of “handrails” — landmarks such as bodies of water, stores and streets — that will visually guide you, Ben G. Oliver, the director of outdoor education at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., said in an interview.

Be mindful of place

Stop and enjoy the scenery. Set your phone to vibrate every 15 minutes to remind you to note where you are, Richard S. Citrin, an organizational psychologist from Pittsburgh, said in an email.

Take notes and comment about what you see. That will help orient you and strengthen connections in your brain about where you are and have been.

Try not to get stressed, because that makes it more likely you will become disoriented and confused. “When our automatic responses take over, we usually wind up lost emotionally and sometimes physically,” he said.
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The Guardian of Charlottetown reports on the rapid growth of traffic at Charlottetown Airport, surely a good sign for the airport as for the larger tourism-dependent economy.

The number of passengers who went through the Charlottetown Airport in 2016 increased by 12 per cent over the previous year.

The airport authority says the 354,234 people through the terminals last year set a new passenger traffic record, which was previously set in 2014 with 317,827 passengers.

Charlottetown Airport Authority CEO Doug Newson said it’s the first time the airport’s passenger numbers surpassed 350,000.

[. . .]

Newson said increased services to Toronto by Air Canada Rouge and WestJet in 2016 contributed to the record numbers. Air Canada also extended its popular summer flight from Ottawa to operate for six months last year.
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CBC Prince Edward Island was among the news sources to note that Prince Edward Island was listed first in CNN's list of the top places to go this year.

With Canada celebrating its 150th birthday in 2017, there's no finer excuse to head to the birthplace of the nation, Prince Edward Island.

Travelers are falling in love with the island's rocky red shores and picturesque fishing villages all over again thanks to several new TV and movie productions of the Lucy Maud Montgomery classic, "Anne of Green Gables."

The best way to explore the island's capital, Charlottetown, is on foot.

Many of the highlights are in the historic downtown core including the Charlottetown Province House -- the famed government building where the Charlottetown Conference took place in 1864. It was here that a small group of elected officials gathered to discuss the possibility of joining the region's independent provinces to create a singular nation.

Three years later, Canada's Constitution Act was passed by British Parliament and a new country was born.
Upscale restaurants have multiplied on the island in the last 10 years, taking advantage of the excellent local produce.

But there's nothing quite like an old fashioned lobster supper -- a massive gathering traditionally held in a cavernous community hall that ends with a table full of empty shells and butter-coated fingers.


Note that it did not rank #1, but instead was just the first entry. This is a distinction, I think, some people have passed over.
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Any recommendations for someone visiting Montréal next weekend? #toronto #montreal #montréal #travel #tourism


Somewhat embarrassingly, the last time I was in Montréal was in the summer of 2003. What can I say but that, sometimes, it's ridiculously easy to get caught in traps, to be bound up in tight patterns and not have the imagination to look outside these at the wider world. At least I'm doing it now.

Friends, readers, others: What would you recommend to someone going to Montréal? What attraction stands out particularly for you? Are there tricks I might be well-advised to learn in advance? What are your favourite memories of Canada's second city?

Please, discuss.
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The National Post carried Gordon Rayner's article in The Telegraph looking at Robert De Niro's controversial development plans for the Caribbean island of Barbuda.

Once it was a favourite holiday destination of Diana, Princess of Wales, where she would take the young Princes William and Harry for carefree winter breaks.

Today, passing cruise ships swing by so that passengers can take pictures of Princess Diana Beach.

But since the Princess’s death, the K Club on the Caribbean island of Barbuda has suffered a reversal of fortunes, closing 12 years ago. Now the once luxurious resort is at the centre of an extraordinary legal battle involving Hollywood legend Robert De Niro and some of the island’s tiny population.

De Niro, together with his business partner James Packer, has bought the remainder of the lease on the land from its previous owner and has been granted planning permission to revamp, re-open and extend the K Club.

However, more than 300 of the island’s 1,500 residents have signed a petition objecting to the development, which they say is excessive and illegal.
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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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In The New York Times, Dan Bilefsky describes why so many Chinese tourists are paying attention to the otherwise unremarkable British village of Kidlington.

One explanation holds that guides started using Kidlington as a drop-off point for tourists who declined to pay $68 for a Chinese language tour of the palace. Credit Elizabeth Dalziel for The New York Times

Sun Jianfeng, a 48-year-old tour guide with Beijing Hua Yuan International Travel, said guides were routinely depositing in Kidlington tourists who did not want to pay an extra $68 for an optional Chinese language tour of nearby Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill’s majestic ancestral home.

He added that some wily tourists had figured out that buying tickets at the palace would cost only about $25, and were secretly sneaking there on foot, irking other tourists, who had already paid full price. As a result, he said, those who opted out of the Blenheim tour were being dropped in Kidlington, which is not within walking distance.

Mr. Sun said Kidlington was also a convenient stop on the way to Bicester Village, a must-go discount luxury retail destination for Chinese shoppers. The Chinese are big spenders, and European countries compete hard for their business.

Mr. Sun stressed that the Kidlington phenomenon was also an outgrowth of modern China and globalization. Many tourists are a part of China’s rapidly growing middle class, many of whom live in anonymous concrete tower blocks in huge cities, he said. They are enchanted by the village’s tranquillity and intrigued by daily life in the English countryside.

“The environment in the countryside in China isn’t so great,” he said, noting that it could be run-down and gritty compared with England’s typically bucolic atmosphere. “In Kidlington, the environment is great. You see farm fields and ranches here. Also, many newly built houses here have brick or brick-and-wood structures, which you no longer see very often in urban China.”
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A brief CBC News article highlights the new funding Victoria-by-the-Sea will be getting from the federal government to promote its tourism potential. As anyone who has seen my photos from this south shore Island community can testify, Victoria-by-the-Sea certainly deserves whatever prominence it can gain.

Victoria-by-the-Sea will receive almost $650,000 from the federal government to help it capitalize on its tourism potential.

The money, provided by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, will go toward upgrading the 90-metre-long seawall, creating a pedestrian pathway to connect the waterfront with green-space and business areas, developing recreational greenspace with visitor parking, and upgrading the historic Victoria schoolhouse to serve as regional rental space and source of revenue.

The community will contribute $480,000 toward the project, with $20,000 coming from the South Shore Tourism Development Fund.

P.E.I. MP Wayne Easter said the money will enhance the tourism experience in Victoria.

"This picturesque community is certainly a treasure along our rural landscape," he said. "The community and business owners are proud of what they have to offer and they want to share it."
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  • blogTO notes that retail space on Bloor Street in Yorkville is not only the priciest in Canada, but among the priciest in the world.

  • Centauri Dreams notes how fast radio bursts, a natural phenomenon, can be used to understand the universe.

  • Dangerous Minds looks at a Kate Bush music performance on Dutch television in 1978.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to an analysis of the asteroids disintegrating in orbit of WD 1145+017.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes evidence from meteorites that Mars has been dry and inhospitable for eons.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog looks at the way we construct time.

  • Language Log highlights a 1943 phrasebook for English, Spanish, Tagalog, and Hokkien.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the resistance of the Tohono O'odham, a border people of Arizona and Sonora, to a wall.

  • The LRB Blog looks at a curious painting claiming to depict the cause of England's greatness.

  • Marginal Revolution notes the sheer scale of mass tourism in Iceland.

  • Strange Maps shares an interesting map depicting support for Clinton and Trump, showing one as a continental landmass and the other as an archipelago.

  • Towleroad praises the musical Falsettos
  • for its LGBT content (among other things).
  • Window on Eurasia looks at controversy over ethnonyms in Russian, and argues Putinism is a bigger threat to the West than Communism.

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This BNN.ca article makes me wonder. Nova Scotians, is this island-buying a noticeable trend?

There’s a growing interest in the private island market – and you don’t have to be among the ultra-rich to own one, according to a real estate broker specializing in the sale of islands around the world.

“The trend nowadays is people who are buying islands aren’t just looking for a vacation home, they’re looking to monetize it as well,” Chris Krolow, founder and CEO of Private Islands Inc., told BNN in an interview. He said investors are increasingly interested in buying an island, building it up and renting out a portion.

Krolow, who also hosts a real estate reality show called “Island Hunters,” is based in Toronto and has been selling private-island real estate since 1999. He sells anywhere between 30 and 35 islands a year.

But you don’t need to be as wealthy as Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison who bought a Hawaiian island for US$300-million, or magician David Copperfield who dropped an estimated $50-million to buy an island in the Bahamas.

You can buy an island for as low as $50,000 in Nova Scotia, according to Krolow, who said Canada’s east coast is home to the world’s cheapest islands.

“Chances are you might have some issues building on it if it’s too small,” he warned. “Of course getting there is a bit of an issue. Most of the people buying in Nova Scotia aren’t locals. They’re coming from Europe or they’re coming from the U.S., so that kind of drives the price down because there’s not a lot of demand there.”
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  • blogTO recommends some Toronto-related Vine clips.

  • Centauri Dreams notes a SETI study of Boyajian's Star.

  • Crooked Timber criticizes one author's take in the politics of science fiction.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper examining the auroras of hot Jupiters.

  • The Dragon's Tales links to a paper finding that atmospheric methane did not warm the early Earth.

  • Joe. My. God. reports on how a Scottish hotel owner's homophobic statements led to his inn's delisting.

  • Language Log links to a linguist trying to preserve dying languages.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money takes issue with Nate Silver's polling and prediction methods.

  • The LRB Blog notes the background behind Wallonia's near-veto of Canada-EU free trade.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at how economic issues do not correlate with support for Trump.

  • The Planetary Society Weblog shares photos of the Schiaparelli crash site.

  • pollotenchegg notes the degree to which economic activity in Ukraine is centralized in Kyiv.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes a poll suggesting conservative views are unwelcome at Yale.

  • Both Window on Eurasia and the Russian Demographics Blog note a projection that Chinese will soon become the second-largest nationality in Russia.

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Simon Worrell's National Geographic interview with author Salvatore Settis, author of a book arguing that much of the current touristification of Venice both threatens its future as a living city and augurs ill for other metropolis, is thought provoking.

Most of us who have seen Venice have gone there as tourists. According to you, we are part of a “plague” that is destroying the city. Should we stay away?

The fact that many tourists are willing to go to Venice is in itself a good thing. I am against any system whereby the number of entry tickets to the city is limited. The minute you would have to pay to enter the city if you are not a citizen, Venice would already have been turned into a theme park. That is precisely what I don’t want to happen.

But Venice cannot be a city that lives only from tourism. The reason Venice had its glory is because the city and Venetians were able to develop over centuries a number of productive activities. Why can’t we promote the same thing in Venice today? Approximately 2.6 citizens abandon the city every day. Venice now has 54,000 inhabitants, which represents a loss of 120,000 people in the last 50 years.

Meanwhile, the cost of living in Venice is increasing every day. Young people cannot afford to buy or rent an apartment in Venice, so they are moving to neighboring places. In Switzerland, where I taught for some years, federal law mandates that in every city, even the smallest village, you cannot have more than 20 percent of [houses owned as] second homes. The reason why the Swiss government decided to do this is precisely not to encourage this loss of local identity. If the citizens abandon Venice and it becomes only a tourist location, it will lose its soul.

You describe several ways in which cities can die. Give us a brief summary and explain how Venice is threatened by what you call “self-oblivion.”

First, when an enemy destroys them, like Carthage, or when foreign invaders colonize violently, as happened with the conquistadores in Mexico or Peru. But the most dreadful danger for a city now is loss of memory. By loss of memory, I mean not forgetting that we exist, but who we are.

Long before Venice, an example is Athens, the most glorious city in classical Greece. It completely lost its memory and even its name. In the Middle Ages nobody knew where Athens was because the name of the city got totally lost. It was called Setines, or Satine, which was a barbarized form of the name. In Athens, there was no culture or memory of the city’s past glories. Sometimes visitors from Byzantium would travel to Athens and ask, “Where is the place where Socrates used to teach? Where is the place where Aristotle used to teach?” Nobody could answer them.
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  • Bad Astronomy notes a new census of galaxies finding that there are two trillion in the universe.

  • blogTO reports on a new twin condo tower proposed for downtown Toronto.

  • The Dragon's Tales reports on findings suggesting Earth barely escaped a third snowball period.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that no one wants to stay in Trump's new Washington D.C. hotel.

  • Language Hat notes the effort to revive the language of the Miami.

  • Language Log notes pervasive censorship in China.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money dissects the idea of "locker room talk".

  • Marginal Revolution looks at Thailand.

  • The NYRB Daily considers the Bob Dylan Nobel prize.

  • The Planetary Society Blog's Jason Davis interviews the makers of the revamped Antares cargo robot.

  • Towleroad features a guest essay by Hillary Clinton's honorary gay nephew.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy's Orin Kerr looks at the future directions of computer crime law in the United States.

  • Whatever's John Scalzi notes that the GOP doomed itself.

  • Window on Eurasia considers the problem of melting permafrost in the Russian North.

  • Arnold Zwicky engages with an article on gay/straight friendships.

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