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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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  • blogTO notes the expansion of condo development south of Yonge and Eglinton.

  • Centauri Dreams blogs about the exciting continuing approach of Dawn to Ceres.

  • The Dragon's Gaze looks at the system of HD 69830, with three Neptune-mass planets and a dense asteroid belt.

  • The Dragon's Tales links to a paper looking at French government surveillance of global communications networks.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog considers whether globalization is making the world subjectively smaller or larger.

  • Joe. My. God. notes the refusal of a Michigan doctor to treat the child of a lesbian couple.

  • Language Hat and Languages of the World react to a recent study claiming DNA evidence suggests the spread of Indo-European languages is connected to mass migrations.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at the problems of Greece with and in the Eurozone.

  • The Planetary Society Blog describes an amateur's ingenious new map of Europa.

  • The Power and the Money links to a paper suggesting that male advantage in Africa as a result of colonialism, at least judging by Uganda, was brief.

  • Spacing Toronto shows some supposed houses that are actually disguised electricity transformers.

  • Torontoist shares a list of some of this year's visitors at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

  • Window on Eurasia speculates about the influence of Admiral Kolchak's proto-fascism on modern Russia and argues that Russia does not want a Transdniestria-style enclave in Ukraine's Donbas.

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  • Centauri Dreamns comments on the way SETI is akin to casino gambling.

  • Crasstalk's commentary on a ridiculous New York Post article arguing that catcalling is a good thing should be read.

  • D-Brief notes evidence suggesting that the short height of Africa's Pygmies evolved on multiple occasions.

  • Eastern Approaches interviews Ukrainian rebels on the Russian side of the porous Russian-Ukrainian border.

  • A Fistful of Euros' Edward Hugh considers the chances of the Euro crisis reigniting over Italian and southern European debt.

  • Language Hat links to an article tracing efforts to preserve the Californian language of Wukchumni via its last speaker.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes a ridiculously terrible American journalist (morally and otherwise).

  • Marginal Revolution notes the continuing economic decline of print journalism.

  • Personal Reflection's Jim Belshaw complains about the Australian government in terms akin to ones I've heard of in Canada.

  • Torontoist quotes Toronto city councillor Josh Matlow's complaint that the fare for the proposed express train to Pearson is not very competitive with taxis.

  • Towleroad points to a recent pogrom against queer people in Uganda, killing seven.

  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell is appalled by ill-thought media-driven criticism of British public healthcare.

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I'm sharing Nicholas Keung's Toronto Star article from the 16th of this month because, although it describes a situation since resolved satisfactorily, it also reveals a certain hypocrisy on the part of the Canadian government. How is it proper to condemn the human rights situation in a particular country and then make it difficult for people directly affected by this situation to claim refugee status, especially when the government has encouraged people to claim refugee status on this ground in the past?

Canadian officials have granted visitor visas to some of the Ugandan gay activists who had been denied a chance to attend the World Pride Human Rights Conference in Toronto.

The immigration minister’s office said the visa applicants were asked to resubmit new applications with substantiated documentation.

Half of the 10 Ugandan activists received visas in the past week, and conference organizers hope the rest will get their travel documents in time for the two-day international conference, which begins next Wednesday.

[. . .]

Ottawa’s flip-flop followed a Star story about the Ugandan delegates being rejected for visas over concerns that they would stay here to seek asylum.

The rejection drew public outrage because of Uganda’s recently passed anti-gay legislation, among the harshest in the world. Canada has joined many other countries in condemning the new law.

Calling it a serious setback for human rights, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird vowed when it was passed to “continue efforts to decriminalize homosexuality and combat violence against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.”

The delegates were denied entry for a variety of reasons: lack of travel history, family ties in Canada and in Uganda, and insufficient funds for the trip (though the conference is sponsoring travel for some of them).
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Writing in The Independent of Uganda, Andrew Mwenda makes the case that the general dysfunction besetting Africa after independence was probably inevitable. Using the examples of South Korea and Uganda, two countries with similar GDP per capitas in 1960, Mwenda argues that South Korea had plenty of advantages: centuries of statehood, a long bureaucratic tradition, high levels of education and human development generally. African states, Mwenda argues, didn't have a chance to develop as rapidly as East Asian states; it may have been inevitable that African lion economies would emerge a generation or two after Asian tiger economies.

Could post independence governments in Africa have performed better? Perhaps, but at a price; they should have aimed at preserving their limited capacity; using it only sparingly. Instead, most governments in Africa moved fast to elaborate public functions. Botswana avoided this mistake perhaps because it had had an almost absentee colonial state. This could have reduced the demands for rapid africanisation. But acting like Botswana would have been a purely technical response to what was actually a burning political problem.

The nationalist struggle for independence emerged to challenge legally sanctioned exclusion of Africans from state power outside of traditional institutions in colonial Africa. That was its fuel. Upon independence, the first demand therefore was rapid africanisation. Although technically disastrous, it was politically popular. The second demand was derived from the first. Africans wanted to take public services to the wider population. Few governments would have survived by resisting this demand.

Political pressure for africanisation undermined the meritocratic systems of external recruitment and internal promotion that allowed the civil service to uphold its high standards. Rapid elaboration of functions without existing capacity made a bad situation worse. What was politically right was technically disastrous. And in our ethnically heterogeneous polities, promoting social inclusion – even on the face of things – was more politically desirable than sustaining technical competence. The problem is that it eroded competence and allowed cronyism and corruption to flourish. Politics is costly and Africa had to pay that price.

Many African elites focus on technical failures in Africa and ignore the political compromises that brought that failure. In other words, the price of political compromise was technical failure. It is possible that if such compromises had not been struck, many states in Africa would have collapsed under the weight of civil war. It is remarkable that African leaders who inherited fictions of states left behind by colonial rule were successful at creating a common national consciousness. This has sustained the sovereignty and territorial integrity of these nations. Today, few states in Africa have fallen apart like Somalia. In others, the state may not be omnipresent yet, but the concept of nationhood has gained a lot of ground.
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  • Daniel Drezner has to point out that the comparisons some Israelis like Netanyahu are making between Idi Amin's Uganda and modern Iran, with the implication that a successful strike against Iran's nuclear facilities will discredit Iran the way the Israeli commande attack at Entebbe did Amin is just, well, argh.

  • Eastern Approaches is decidedly unimpressed with Romania's education system, and not only because it prompts many talented young people to leave their country to pursue their dreams.

  • Far Outliers' Joel quotes from Christopher Clark's Iron Kingdom to describe how post-German unification Prussia's Kulturkampf against Roman Catholics--at least partly a campaign against potential separatists--ended up backfiring and consolidated German Catholics behind their faith.

  • Geocurrents' Asya Pereltsvaig documents how the words sounding like, alternatively, "tea" and "chai" have diffused around the world into different languages following patterns of culture, history, and geography.

  • Language Hat is intrigued by a New York Times story describing how a Spanish felt hat factory is kept afloat by orders from the couple hundred thousand Satmar Hasidim.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money's Erik Loomis commemorated on the 4th the creation in 1942 by the United States of the bracero guest workers program with Mexico, criticized for its poor treatment of the guest workers but in so doing preparing the ground for later Chicano rights movements.

  • New APPS Blog's John Protevi starts with Plato's suggestion in the Republic that suitably capable women could belong to the class of protectors in his ideal polity to consider the complexely-gendered presentation of women athletes and the significant variations in performance within gender.

  • Registan's guest blogger Navruz Nekbakhtshoev reports from Tajikistan's recently conflict-hit Badakhshan region, noting that the recent conflict wasn't an ethnic conflict mobilizing different groups on ethnoreligious lines but rather something more limited.

  • Towleroad reports on Gaymercon, a proposed con for gay geeks that could conceivably take off.

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  • 80 Beats lets us know that, as Iceland warms, Iceland's volcanoes may well become much more active.

  • Amitai Etzioni doesn't like the United States' increasingly hard line on Israel's unconstructive role in the Middle East. I disagree.

  • Will Baird at The Dragon's Tales lets us know that a recent study of the planet Gliese 436b reveals that, surprisingly, the planet's atmosphere doesn't contain any methane.

  • Geocurrents writes about the internal divisions in Kyrgyzstan, between a relatively Russified north and a biethnic Kyrgyz-Uzbek south. It also examines the tensions between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

  • GNXP's Razib Khan writes about how pigs, unlike people, can trace their ancestry to multiple source populations.

  • Dave Brockington at Lawyers, Guns and Money is skeptical about the idea of a Liberal Democratic government in the United Kingdom, but thinks that the party's growing strength may well translate into vastly increased power.

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw writes about how Australia's Green Party and Country Party have consciously chosen to limit their national influence by concentrating their efforts in relatively secure areas.

  • After a long absence, Strange Maps reappears to discuss the "State of Jefferson," an American state that would have taken land from the Oregon-California frontier, but was ultimately pushed aside by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

  • Towleroad reports that a vociferously anti-gay Ugandan parliamentarian may not get a visa to the United Kingdom if he doesn't withdraw his capital-punishment bill.

  • Understanding Society's Daniel Little examines, after Max Weber, the uses of ideal types for studying a world that isn't ideal, since it allows for easy analysis and study.

  • A commentator at Window on Eurasia is unduly surprised that the number of self-identified Orthodox Christians in Russia is considerably larger than the number of practising Orthodox Christians, noting that some regions of the former Soviet Union--western Ukraine is named--have a much more active religious culture than others.

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  • 80 Beats' Andrew Moseman lets us know that not only can some fish see in the ultraviolet, but that they can use markings visible only in the ultraviolet to distinguish between individuals.

  • Cartophilia blogs about the possible fusion of Cincinnati and Dayton in Ohio through suburbanization.

  • Centauri Dreams wonders whether, based on the evidence from Earth's primates and birds and cetaceans and cephalopods, whether intelligence is common in the galaxy but tool-users are rare.

  • Over at City of Brass, Aziz Poonawalla reports on the discovery of a possible temple complex dating to the last Ice Age and wondering about its implications for the relationship of humans to religion.

  • Daniel Drezner points out that Thomas Sowell's thoughts on intellectuals' overreaching are problematic, especially insofar as his thinking on Iran is concerned.

  • Edward Lucas points out that, between Poland's emerging political and economic weight, it has a chance to be a major influence in Europe.

  • The Global Sociology blog argues that high levels of inequality can readily co-exist alongside low levels of social mobility.

  • Joe. My. God. writes about a recent Dutch study suggesting that young people newly diagnosed with HIV can expect near-normal lifespans, also commenting that lifespans doesn't correlate to quality of living.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money's Sek lets us know Warren Ellis' (correct) observation that the new American embassy in London is "A FORTRESS WITH A FUCKING MOAT".

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen suspects that the United States might be settling into a period of extended high unemployment, with only those people who absolutely need to be and deserve to be hired (as seen by the company) being hired, a theme taken up by his co-blogger Alex Tabarrok who doesn't like government pressure on employers to boost benefits and wages for existing employees.

  • Mark Simpson writes about how the 1980s modelling career of Massachusetts Republican congressman Scott Brown couldn't have happened now: he doesn't nearly have enough muscular development to be anything but an also-ran. How standards--and how male awareness of the need to be desirable and what to do towards that end--have changed.

  • Peter Rukavina posts pictures of Charlottetown harbour in 1984 and now. The extent to which the harbourfront has been deindustrialized of oil drums and whatnot and made into an attractive area of promenades and shops and hotels and parks, et cetera, is noteworthy.

  • Savage Minds' Rex wonders whether "Christendom" might be a useful word to refer to early modern Europe and its overseas empires.

  • The Search's Douglas Todd writes about how "Cascadia"--briefly, the Pacific Northwest and Alaska plus British Columbia--is one of the most secularized regions in North America, without many historic churches in the downtown, even.
  • Slap Upside the Head lets us know that one Ugandan anti-gay MP wouldn't mind killing his queer children.

  • At Torontoist, Historicist Kevin Plummer writes about the mysterious 1919 disappearance of Toronto theater impresario Ambrose Small.

  • Towleroad reports that Anglican bishops in the United Kingdom's House of Lords support reforming that country's civil partnership legislation in order to allow religious denominations the right to authorize civil partnerships as well as marriages in their own facilities.
  • Window on Eurasia reports that protesters in the Russian Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad are protesting their lot, comparing their living standards and whatnot not with "metropolitan" Russia but with adjacent Poland and Lithuania. The blog also announces that some Russian political exiles have set up a union in Kyiv, suggesting that they think Ukrainian democracy is quite durable, and analyses ethnic competition in Dagestan.

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  • At Acts of Minor Treason, Andrew's very skeptical about the good sense of ideas to save money on the TTC by cutting service: positive feedback loops in negative directions are always nasty. (Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] mindstalk for correcting my terminology.)

  • Bad Astronomy's Phil Plait shows pictures of the footsteps of the Apollo 12 astronauts taken by a recent Moon probe.

  • Centauri Dreams reports that, in the recent tradition of astronomers finding smaller and more distant objects, a small chunk of ice a bit less than one kilometre across was found seven billion kilometres away from Earth by the Hubble.

  • The Global Sociology blog tackles the nurture-versus-nature debate on gender differences and argues strongly on nurture's side.

  • Joe. My. God lets us know that a North Carolina politician mocked the sexual orientation of another politician's dead gay son, and that Rwanda is also considering strongly homophobic legislation on the Ugandan model.

  • Language Log's Geoff Nunberg discusses the question of how linguists should respond to conflicts of interest, with the discussions expanding upon what a conflict of interest for linguists actually is.

  • Murdering Mouth wonders how, or if, you can break through to someone operating under a completely different paradigm.

  • Inspired by Douglas Muir's posts from the Congo at Halfway Down the Danube, Noel Maurer uses Mexican history to demonstrate that banks and breweries can survive extreme levels of violence.

  • Slap Upside the Head reports on anti-gay freakouts, among gamers unhappy with a same-sex encounter in a video game, and with homophobes who don't like a Nova Scotia MPs inclusion of a picture of him with his husband on his Christmas mailing.

  • the F OR V M discusses the question of whether or not the failing of US companies to bid on Iraqi oil means that they expect significantly greater instability in that country in a year's time.

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Buju Banton, a Jamaican reggae star perhaps best known outside reggae fandom for homophobia, whether the murderous sentiments expressed in songs like "Boom Bye Bye" ("World is in trouble/Anytime Buju Banton come/Batty bwoy get up an run/At gunshot me head back") or for his joining in a mob assault on gay men in Jamaica, has been arrested on cocaine charges in Florida. Good for him.

A few years ago, I stated forthrightly that so long as murderous homophobia is popular in Jamaica and supported to one degree or another by the Jamaican government, the country can go rot. Why would I want to visit a place where that sort of behaviour is acceptable? Who would? If things improve, fine, but I've no interest in waiting. Uganda's anti-gay bill, passed by factions with a worrying amount of support by American evangelicals and so far lacking much of the opposition one might have hoped churches to voice against that sort of murderous persecution, makes me think the same way about that country.

Except. Joe. My. God. made a couple of posts (1, 2) about Banton's arrest, and while the number of Buju Banton supporters appearing to defend their star was annoying (no, he is not the next Martin Luther King) the number of commenters who were responding to those commenters using language little short of racist was shocking. To what extent, I wonder, does support for equal rights for any minority and disgust at a country that intentionally falls short correspond with bigotry of one kind or another?
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  • Acts of Minor Treason's Andrew Barton speculates on the constellations seen by someone living on a world orbiting the young but broadly Sol-like star of Iota Horologii.

  • blogTO's David Marciniak doesn't think that the city of Toronto's decision to pay an additional $C 417 million for new streetcars after the federal government bailed out is a good one, especially since it takes money away from other, arguably more useful, projects.

  • Broadsides' Antonia Zerbisias <ahref="http://thestar.blogs.com/broadsides/2009/07/impotence.html">blogs about how a generally impotent Hamas makes itself feel powerful by bullying women who don't accept subordination.

  • Aslak at Demography Matters points out that, contrary to social conservatives' beliefs, it's actually the most liberal societies which evidence the highest birth rates, and that it's the societies with more traditional gender roles that see impressive fertility declines.

  • Far Outliers blogs about the 11th century trade boom in northeast Asia.

  • Douglas Muir at A Fistful of Euros examines the implications for Kosovo if the International Court of Justice rules against the legality of its creation.
  • At his Halfway Down the Danube, Douglas also takes a look at Ugandans fears of trouble in 2011.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen examines how Alan Turing's hidden sexuality and possible autism influenced the design of the Turing Test for artificial intelligence.

  • Slap Upside the Head makes the point that a celibate gay man who was employed by an Ontario Catholic church as an altar server really should be surprised that he was fired. What could he have expected?

  • Strange Maps has a somewhat gruesome map showing where people jump off of the Golden Gate Bridge, and also shows a remarkable map of the world as seen from late Tokugawa Japan.

  • The Dragon's Tales blogs about plans for NASA-ESA cooperation on future Mars missions.
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  • blogTo's Rick McGinnis describes the near-complete state of ruin that Kodak's Toronto facilities have fallen into.

  • The Bloor-Lansdowne blog announces that the Gladstone Library will reopen on the 23rd of this month.

  • Broadsides' Antonia Zerbisias covers the Conservatives' opposition to funding Toronto's gay pride.

  • Over at Demography Matters, co-blogger Aslak is pessimistic about Greenland's future as an independent state, not least because of low skill levels and a lack of anything that could serve as an economic base for a new country.

  • Daniel Drezner considers the question of whether or not blogging has become professionalized, with static blogging networks. His conclusion? There are always exceptions.
  • Far Outliers notes the nasty elements of Sri Lanka's defeat of the Tamil Tigers and explores Japan's puppet states in Second World War-era China.
  • Douglas Muir at A Fistful of Euros covers Uganda, a country that could well become relevant to Europe in some time.

  • Joe. My. God lets us know that Poland's Lech Walesa is horrified that Madonna is visiting Poland.

  • [livejournal.com profile] pauldrye at Passing Strangeness explores the first major terrorist attack on 20th century New York City, the 1920 bombing of Wall Street.

  • Spacing Toronto's Jake Schabas takes on the problems with Richard Florida's writing on the creative classes' role in the success of cities, like the question of whether correlation or causation is at work.

  • The Undercover Economist's Tim Harford writes about the intimate relationship between complexity and economic success.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests that non-Russian immigrants in Moscow aren't assimilating to the extent that they once did and are retaining their ethnic identities.

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  • Amused Cynicism reports that the modern Egyptian government wants to extend copyright protection to ancient Egyptian cultural artifacts, some of them five thousand years old and more. Practicality comes to mind as a major objection to this new policy.

  • 'Aqoul has an open comments thread on Benazir Bhutto's assassination, and another on the way in which the American occupation authority has finally decided to patronize local tribal sheikhs.

  • Boing Boing reports on the recent brawl between Armenian and Greek Orthodox priests during clean-up at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

  • Bonoboland's Edward Hugh reports that wage and price inflation in Russia is growing, hinting at some potential for breakdown ahead.

  • Charlie Stross blogs his Christmas wishes.

  • Crooked Timber has an open comments thread on the death of Benazir Bhutto.

  • False Positive's Christmas cookies look delicious.
  • Joel at Far Outliers links to an interesting post about the Abayudaya, Uganda's indigenous Jews.

  • Ian at Hunting Monsters suggests that some Israelis, at least, might be moving towards some sort of pragmatic accomodation with Hamas-run Gaza.

  • Joe. My. God links to recent reports that, in 1992, Ron Paul wrote a rather racist essay in which he claimed that 95% of Africa--Americans in Washington D.C. were criminals. (Paul says that a ghostwriter wrote it..)

  • Over at Language Log, Mark Liberman has an interesting essay about the bad side-effects of Pakistan's post-independence policy of privileging the Urdu language over all others.

  • I'm not sure whether this thread debating the claim that the spread of English and inter-jurisdiction tax competition is creating a single European Union labour market is entirely crazy.

  • Peteris Cedrins' Marginalia writes, in the wake of Latvia's accession to the Schengen zone and the signing of a border territory ratifying Russian annexations of once-Latvian territories, about his frontier-crossing experiences in that Baltic state.

  • The Pagan Prattle reports that radical British parliamentarian George Galloway has outed himself as a creationist.

  • Finally, Strange Maps hosts a map of the Kiribati island of Kiritimati, also known in English as Christmas island,
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