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  • blogTO notes that the old HMV store in the Dufferin Mall is now a fidget spinner store. This has gone viral.
  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly talks about her week in Paris.

  • Centauri Dreams notes one paper examining the complex formation of the dense TRAPPIST-1 system.

  • Far Outliers reports from early 20th century Albania, about how tribal and language and ethnic identities overlap, and not.

  • Language Log notes efforts to promote Cantonese in the face of Mandarin.

  • The LRB Blog wonders if May's electoral defeat might lead to the United Kingdom changing its Brexit trajectory.

  • Marginal Revolution notes that cars have more complex computer programming these days than fighter jets.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that the counter-cyclical Brazilian fiscal cap still makes no sense.

  • Window on Eurasia argues that Russia is edging towards an acknowledgement of its involvement in the Ukrainian war.

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Bloomberg's Jasmina Kuzmanovic and Gordana Filipovic report on the renewed push in the western Balkans for European Union membership. Certainly it's not as if the western Balkans have any other future.

Former Yugoslav republics and neighboring Albania vowed to resuscitate their drive for European Union integration after the migrant crisis rocked the region and created the worst political rifts between Balkan states since the civil wars of the 1990s.

The heads of state for EU members Croatia and Slovenia and EU outsiders Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania signed a joint commitment to strengthening the stability and prosperity of the region. They also aim to strengthen ties to the U.S. and seek an expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization deeper into the Balkans.

[. . .]

The western Balkans has been stretched by the flood of hundreds of thousands of migrants escaping the violence in Syria as well as refugees from as far away as Afghanistan and Northern Africa. Slovenia and Croatia strained their EU ties after Slovenia declared its intention to build fencing along the two countries’ shared border. The dispute is being echoed across the EU as governments grapple with a crisis on a scale not seen since the 1940s.
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  • blogTO notes an old mansion at Bloor and Sherbourne is being moved to make room for the new.

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly talks about her routines and rituals.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes a catalog of nearby stellar systems.

  • Joe. My. God. observes the bizarrely rigid British ban on poppers sales.

  • Language Hat notes the remarkable flexible language used in Albanian bazaars.

  • Language Log notes a politely-worded anti-smoking sign in New York City's Central Park, partly written in Chinese, and how this differs from the standard.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that Central Americans have not benefited from globalized trade agreements, at all.

  • Marginal Revolution notes the underperformance of the white English.

  • The Planetary Society Blog's Emily Lakdawalla examines the small moons of Pluto-Charon.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer announces the introduction of an economic history category.

  • Towleroad notes an anti-trans activist who led the successful fight against an anti-discrimination law, on the grounds that trans people would harass women, himself defended men who took illicit photos of women changing.

  • Window on Eurasia notes the Russian government is trying to present sanctions as the new normal.

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At Demography Matters I have a post up noting the emergent western Balkans route for unauthorized migrants.
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  • blogTO notes that a party celebrating the end of Rob Ford's term as mayor is being planned for election night at City Hall.

  • Centauri Dreams notes the discovery of secondary targets for New Horizons after it passes Pluto.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper that looks to examine the oblateness or otherwise of some exoplanets discovered by Kepler.

  • The Dragon's Tales links to one paper examining underwater archeology and links to a series debating the question of whether or not there was a human presence 30 thousand years ago at a site in Uruguay.

  • Eastern Approaches reports on the aftermath of a failed claim by Radek Sikorski that Russia made a 2008 proposal on partitioning Ukraine.
  • Joe. My. God. notes a Costa Rican survey suggesting that up to a fifth of Costa Rican police think that harassing GLBT people is OK.

  • Language Hat notes the etymology of the Egyptian title of "khedive", apparently obscure for a reason.

  • Language Log notes a contentious issue in Chinese translation: "rule of law" or "rule by law"?

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer looks at the aftermath of a stunt at a Serbian-Albanian football game.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog considers estimates for Russian losses in Ukrainian fighing.

  • Towleroad notes that Argentina has granted asylum to a Russian GLBT claimant.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests that Ukrainian events have awakened Belarusian nationalism.

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Reuters' Matt Robinson describes how Serbia's flirtations with both the European Union and Russia is becoming increasingly untenable. Something will be giving.

On Thursday, guns, tanks and planes will be back in the city, now capital of Serbia, for a Liberation Day parade held four days early to accommodate the guest of honor -- Russian President Vladimir Putin, en route to a summit in Milan.

It is a gesture with huge symbolism in a Cold-War-style East-West split over Ukraine that has forced Serbia, politically indebted to Russia but seeing its economic future with the European Union, into a delicate balancing act.

The United States is uncomfortable about the idea of Putin and his military chief taking the salute at a parade of 4,500 Serbian soldiers while NATO says Russian soldiers are still making war in eastern Ukraine.

"You can have good relations with Russia and China, and with the United States. But our view of visits by Chinese and Russian officials differs; the Chinese haven't attacked anyone, but the Russians have," Michael Kirby, the U.S. ambassador to Serbia, was reported as telling the Serbian daily Vecernje Novosti in an interview last month.
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  • Centauri Dreams' Paul Gilster writes about the likely abundance of Earth-like planets in Earth-like orbits.

  • Daniel Drezner writes (1, 2) about how ad hoc coalitions of world powers are able to deal relatively decisively in some matters of global affairs.

  • At The Dragon's Tales, Will Baird notes that Titan's hydrocarbon lakes appear to have floating ice.

  • Eastern Approaches notes the toxicity that disputes over war memorials in the Balkans, noting an Albanian memorial in southern Serbia.

  • False Steps' Paul Drye notes one rocket technology that, if adequately developed, could have let the Soviet Union reach the moon.

  • At A Fistful of Euros, Alexander Harrowell notes that the United States does not want the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.

  • Marginal Revolution asks questions about the geographical, historical, and other factors that let free cities survive.

  • The Signal's Bill LeFurgy compares digital archivists' work to that of paleontologists. Nice analogy.

  • Yorkshire Ranter Alexander Harrowell notes that conservative British pundits in the United States are a much smaller and more unrepresentative minority than is often believed.

  • Window on Eurasia notes that Soviet-era apologia for the deadly assault on the Vilnius radio station in 1991 is being used in modern Russia.

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  • BAG News Notes wonders whether a photo taken in Aleppo showing a group of rebels in the second that a shell explodes among them is good journalism, or if it's exploitative.

  • Crooked Timber's Henry Farrell notes that the European Central Bank is going to have to walk a very fine line, trying to prevent Eurozone creditor nation-states like Germany from leaving the common currency even as it tries to keep things from getting too bad for the debtors.

  • Eastern Approaches notes that the ongoing problems with the European Union, particularly the meltdown of Greece, is making the long-term goal of including the western Balkans in Europe that much more problematic.
  • Daniel Drezner suggests that Romney's foreign policy preferences could help him lose the election, drawing on polls suggesting that Americans don't want a confrontational foreign policy.

  • Nicholas Baldo at Geocurrents discusses South Sudan's costly decision to shift its capital from the existing city of Juba to the purpose-built capital of Ranciel.

  • At the Global Sociology Blog, the case of South African runner Caster Semenya, currently taking hormonal treatments to bring her physiology closer to the female norm, and connects it with Kurt Vonnegut's fictional character of Harrison Bergeron, forced to be average.

  • GNXP's Razib Khan discusses the implications of recent DNA studies suggesting ancient and relatively important northeast Asian ancestry in the northern European population, and scenarios for prehistoric migrations.

  • A Language Hat post wondering why the Georgian word for "dolphin" comes directly from the Greek leads to fascinating discussion about etymologies of names of marine creatures. (Apparently "sea pig" is used to denote dolphin in any number of Old World languages.

  • Towleroad reports that the same-sex marriage ceremonies devised by American Conservative Jews might influence some heterosexual couples, on account of their gender-egalitarianism.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy's Todd Zywicki notes that Honduras is set to launch its charter cities, privately-run and largely autonomous communities that--it is supposed--will provide a fertile climate for economic growth in an unstable country. Commenters are skeptical about the idea on many grounds.

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  • Arctic Progress observes that northwestern European Russia and northern Norden are entering a resources-driven economic boom.

  • At blogTO, Derek Flack walks along the former course of Garrison Creek, a buried watercourse that incidentally has always been near my residences.

  • Burgh Diaspora observes that post-crackdown Arizona is hemorrhaging Hispanics of all citizenship statuses.

  • Crooked Timber's Henry Farrell cuts-and-pastes an essay together out of two economists who argue that the particular nature of Ireland's political economy--weak budget management driven the ideological preferences on taxation, networks between builders and government officials, ad peculiar union restructuring of the workforce--caused the meltdown.

  • Eastern Approaches comments on the politics of naming Balkan airports.

  • Landscape+Urbanism celebrates the rise of the urban turkey, which can apparently thrive in urban and suburban areas.

  • Language Log comments on some unusual free speech cases in the United Kingdom and Ireland, arguing that common sense rather than the sorts of overreaction that leads to judicial prosecution would be preferable.

  • Personal Reflection's Jim Belshaw suggests that one reason New Zealand living standards are comparable to the Australian despite significantly lower FDP per capita comes from a truncated income pyramid (fewer wealthy people, since a smaller and more distant market provided fewer high-paying jobs). He's skeptical that GDP per capita can converge given current paradigms.

  • At The Search, Douglas Todd blogs about self-righteous activists from the left and right--he mentions Greens, here--whose self-righteousness masks personal concerns.

  • Torontoist reposted photos of female strippers (and others) who used the roof of strip club Zanzibar for smoke breaks. Controversy ensued.

  • At The Zeds, Michael Steeleworthy shows some of the video tutorials that he and his fellow librarians have developed for new users of the Dalhousie University library system.

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  • Amused Cynicism lets us know that instruction information on interrogation techniques given to newcomers at Guantanamo seems to have been lifted from a 1957 Air Force Study outlining the torture techniques used by China during the Civil War to extract confessions, even false one.

  • Over at Centauri Dreams, fans of Einsteinian physics can rest easy that the laws of relativity still hold, thanks to two close-orbiting pulsars.

  • Daniel Drezner blogs about the news that Munich-based printing firm Giesecke & Devrient, known for (among other things) printing the bills used by Zimbabwe, has stopped. Not that it will do much good, of course.

  • Douglas Muir at A Fistful of Euros explores the question of which countries aren't likely to recognize Kosovar independence and breaks them down into different categories.

  • Gideon Rachmann suggests that the 2008 American elections might look a lot like the 1976 one, and offers advice to Obama on how not to be the 21st century's first Jimmy Carter.

  • Douglas Muir (again!) at Halfway Down the Danube writes about a friendly encounter that he had in the 1990s with a Japanese-Brazilian woman on Saipan, and her take on Japanese life.

  • Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution wonders how Zimbabwe's trillion-percent inflation rate can possibly benefit the Zimbabwean government in any rational way. The answer, apart from noting that that foreign currency entering the country is confiscated, is that it isn't especially rational.

  • Pure Product of America wonders about the fate of satire in a post-Bush world.

  • Matthew Hague at Spacing Toronto has an extensive writeup of Pride in Toronto, including pictures.

  • Noel Maurer at The Power and the Money links to Delong's defense of American independence, suggesting that Britain's democratization in the 19th century wasn't inevitable, and that without the example provided by anotehr Anglophone country it might have been fatally delayed. "It is one thing to be a Dominion in close alliance with and owing some degree of allegiance to a rapidly-democratizing Britain. It is another thing to be a colony of a superpower ruled by a corrupt coterie of landlords."

  • Wis(s)e Words lets us know that Christipoher Hitchens has tried out waterboarding, and, yes, he thinks that it is torture. Good for him.

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Over at A Fistful of Euros, Douglas Muir asks what, exactly, it means that the designers of Grand Theft Auto IV chose as their protagonist Niko Bellic, a Serb (a Bosnian Serb, to be precise).

[I]s this a simple-minded decision, reflecting a vulgar stereotype of Serbs as violent thugs with a taste for organized crime, ignorant peasants who are thrown into culture shock in the modern world? Or is it an inspired choice, allowing the writers to make the protagonist character more complex and morally ambiguous, and position him as a "fish out of water" observer of the madness that’s modern American street life?

Note that Niko Bellic is not inherently evil. Nor unsympathetic. In fact, you can play him as a hero, albeit a rather noir one. (Yes, you can also go around killing people at random, but that’s your problem, not Niko’s.) And he’s presented as likable, and even--in the first few episodes--somewhat innocent.

On the other hand, providing the protagonist of Grand Theft Auto is not exactly a point of national pride. Niko is now the planet’s most famous Serb, and he’s a small-time crook with issues.

Some of the speculation in the comments area suggests that the Balkans might play a useful role for game designers and others of that like, as the collapse and subsequent criminalization of much of the region produced a criminal class that is--most conveniently--white.
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