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  • I really liked this Kerry Gold article in the Globe and Mail showing how the young, priced out of Vancouver, simply went on to remake Port Moody.

  • In the Toronto Star, Edward Keenan describes how the West End Phoenix, a new model of newspaper, is set to develop.

  • Also in the Star, Scott Wheeler describes how Torontonian John Vyga ended up helping take the Berlin Wall down in 1989.

  • Steve Munro takes a look at what the metrics for TTC station cleanliness actually mean. We're doing better than we think.

  • Shawn Micallef wonders why so few Torontonians make a habit of swimming in Lake Ontario.

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  • Scott Wheeler writes about past eminences of Toronto, people like Conn Smythe and Raymond Massey.
  • Joanna Slater writes in The Globe and Mail about the symbolism of Confederate--and other--statuary in Richmond, former capital of the South.

  • Reuters reports on a Vietnamese businessman abducted by his country from the streets of Berlin. Germany is unhappy.

  • Jeremiah Ross argues at VICE that very high levels of tourism in New York City are displacing native-born residents.

  • Looking to protests most recently in Barcelona, Elle Hunt in The Guardian looks at ways to make mass tourism more affordable for destinations.

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  • Bloomberg's Steven Arons and Gavin Finch observe that Brexit may let Frankfurt emerge as a truly global financial centre.

  • Der Spiegel's Alexander Smoltczyk describes how north German port Hamburg is starting to inch towards a bigger global role.
  • Deutsche Welle reports on how, after the G20 meeting, far-left and anarchist groups in Berlin are facing a crackdown.

  • Global News shares Joseph Nasr's Reuters article reporting on the incomprehension of Arab refugees in Hamburg at that city's G20 rioters. Why are they doing it?

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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly photoblogs about her trip to Berlin.

  • Dead Things reports on a recent study that unraveled the evolutionary history of the domestic cat.

  • James Nicoll notes that his niece and nephew will each be performing theatre in Toronto.

  • Language Hat has an interesting link to interviews of coders as if they were translators.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at Chinese video game competitions and Chinese tours to Soviet revolutionary sites.

  • Steve Munro shares photos of the old Kitchener trolleybus.

  • Roads and Kingdoms shares the story of the Ramadan drummer of Coney Island.

  • Savage Minds shares an essay arguing that photographers should get their subjects' consent and receive renumeration.

  • Torontoist shares photos of the Trans March.

  • Towleroad
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Feargus O'Sullivan at CityLab noted a recent study observing that Berlin, unique among major European capitals, is poorer than the national average. This does highlight Berlin's particular problems, he suggests, but also notes the extent to which Germany outside of its capital is prosperous.

Germany would actually be better off without Berlin. That, at least, might be the skim-read conclusion to be drawn from a challenging new report from Cologne’s Institute of German Economy. The report, released Tuesday, notes that Germany’s per capita GDP would actually be higher if Berlin and its population were removed from national economic figures.

[. . .]

Before we look at why Germany’s figures skew differently, it’s worth looking more fully at the figures the report provides. They don’t, for instance, actually suggest any inherent relation between the size of a capital’s contribution to national GDP and the overall prosperity of a country. Of all capitals surveyed, it’s actually Athens that shows the greatest national dominance. If that city and its habitants were removed from national figures, then Greece’s GDP per capita would drop by 19.9 percent. The Paris region shows similar levels of national contribution: its absence would slash French per capita GDP by 15 percent. In the U.K., no London would mean a drop of 11.2 percent in per capita GDP. A Madrid-free Spain’s per capita GDP would drop by 6 percent, while even Rome—known for playing second fiddle to the economic powerhouse of the North Italian Plain—would cause Italy’s per capita GDP to drop 2.1 percent if it were removed from the country’s economy.

It’s only in Berlin that these figures appear to suggest Germany would actually be better off without it. Removing Berlin and its residents from German economic tallies would, according to the report, actually boost the country’s per capita GDP, albeit by a meager 0.2 percent.

The reasons for this are as distinctive as Berlin’s standalone negative performance. Certainly, a rather sluggish economy doesn’t help. Without its capital status, Berlin might be just another rustbelt city, an ex-industrial metropolis whose swing towards an economy based on the service, technology, tourism and creative sectors has (as so often is the case) failed to fully compensate for the decline of the city’s industrial base. It’s not for nothing that Berlin had until recently a reputation as a cheap place to live. Prices long remained low because jobs were often scarce and wages relatively meager. As of this July, Berlin’s unemployment rate of 9.5 percent was the second highest (after Bremen) of any German federal state. If there is a loser hidden behind Berlin’s relatively poor performance, it’s unemployed, underpaid Berliners who are struggling despite living cheek-by-jowl with the government of Europe’s most powerful country.

Berlin’s unusual performance is still arguably as much an example of the strength of Germany’s regions at the weaknesses of the city itself. While in other countries, capitals suck in all the wealth, talent and investment, Germany remains a mosaic of prosperous cities scattered throughout its territory. Its largest metropolitan area (as opposed to its largest city) is not Berlin but the huge Rhine-Ruhr region, an industrial conurbation that’s home to over 11 million residents. Munich and Hamburg are both major economic and cultural centers with higher median wealth than the capital, while the heart of continental Europe’s finance industry is in Frankfurt. The Federal Constitutional Court is in the modest city of Karlsruhe, while the city with the highest per capita GDP is actually Wolfsburg, home to Volkswagen.
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Adam Satariano and Stefan Nicola wrote for Bloomberg BusinessWeek about Berlin's emergence as a startup hub. This is not mentioned in the article, but I wonder how Brexit will help or hinder this.

The Factory would feel pretty much like any big Silicon Valley headquarters, if you couldn’t see the death strip. In the 19th century, this 130,000-square-foot Berlin warehouse held a brewery. In the 20th, it was an air raid shelter, then rested in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. East German watchtower guards gunned down people trying to scramble across the border. (Hence the term “death strip.”) Today the retrofitted space is home to dozens of tech companies, including Uber and Twitter, and is the headquarters of the music streaming service SoundCloud.

Inside, the Factory is packed with all the perks of a Silicon Valley campus: nap rooms, scooters, 3D printing stations. Headphone-wearing millennials hunch over MacBooks or mill around a lounge where guitars hang from the wall near books with titles such as The Lean Startup and The Startup Game. Conference rooms are named for the regulars at Andy Warhol’s Factory. There are 700 people here; in addition to the full-time employees, a lot of individual tech workers pay €50 ($55) a month for access to a common work area.

“It’s a social club for startups,” says Factory co-founder Lukas Kampfmann, 30, wearing a T-shirt bearing the names Steve (as in Jobs), Elon (Musk), Bill (Gates), and Mark (Zuckerberg), printed in the font Helvetica like the familiar Beatles shirt. On the roof of the warehouse, with a clear view of the former death strip, Kampfmann says his community’s emulation of Silicon Valley isn’t an accident. “We admire American movies, culture, fashion, music,” he says, and this is the logical next step.

Across Berlin, young tech workers from throughout Europe are flooding into cafes and rehabbed Soviet-era buildings, drawn to the German capital by the promise of foosball-casual work environments, cheap rent, and an uninhibited party culture. It’s a package deal that can be tough to match elsewhere in Europe. A decade ago there were a few dozen tech startups in Berlin. Now there are 2,500, and the Investitionsbank Berlin, the government’s regional economic development agency, says there are 70 percent more digital jobs there than there were in 2008.

Although a handful of old-school conglomerates such as Siemens and SAP remain Germany’s most visible technology companies, they’re no longer the country’s main draw for aspiring hardware or software developers, says Martin Hellwagner, a 27-year-old coder who moved to Berlin from Austria in early 2014. “I really wanted to work for a startup,” says Hellwagner, who spends 60 hours a week working on Uberchord, a guitar-lessons app. “You have more responsibilities. It’s not just a 9-to-5. You actually change something, and your opinion matters.”
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  • The Atlantic notes Thailand's "fake children", life-sized dolls that are charms.

  • Bloomberg View considers the costs to the United Kingdom of Brexit and the costs and benefits of said to the European Union.

  • Discover looks at the increasingly appreciated place of South Africa in hominid origins.

  • The Inter Press Service examines the closure of Bedouin settlements in Israel.

  • MacLean's celebrates the Yukon Gold potato's 50th anniversary.

  • National Geographic looks at the growing number of problems faced by the baboons of Cape Town.

  • The New Yorker considers what might be in the suppressed 28 pages of the 9/11 report.

  • Phys.org maps Neanderthal and Denisovan ancestry worldwide.

  • Reuters notes the discovery of the first monkey fossils in North America.

  • Slate hosts an article complaining about the normalization of Berlin since reunification.

  • The Washington Post mourns the bleaching of nearly all of Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

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  • blogTO notes the increasing unaffordability of real estate in Toronto.

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly is quite right about the restorative power of a walk.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes China's plans to launch its space station into orbit.

  • The LRB Blog features an essay from a German Jewish cemetery in Berlin, reflecting on past and present migrations and refugees.

  • Geocurrents notes the very sharp worldwide drop in fertility rates between 1950 and 2015.

  • The NYRB Daily considers controversies over museums in Berlin.

  • Peter Rukavina notes the very odd weather projected Thursday for Charlottetown.

  • Torontoist examines how Ontario's proposal for free tuition for student from low-income families would work.

  • Window on Eurasia notes Russian interest in triggering Latgalian separatism to try to control Latvia.

  • Arnold Zwicky considers the idea of the "greater West Coast."

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At CityLab, Feargus O'Sullivan writes about Berlin's imposition of rent controls to protect poor tenants.

Beginning January 1, many Berlin housing project residents can expect a cut in their rent. The cost of public housing in the city is just too high, the Berlin Senate ruled today, and from now on the rent tenants pay will be directly linked to how much they earn.

In a city with high numbers of public housing residents, the effect of the new rule could be striking. Of Berlin’s current 3.5 million residents, about 250,000 people live in housing projects, spread across some 125,000 apartments. The city also has 280,000 apartments owned by four state property companies that will likewise be subject to the new rules.

From now on, low-income tenants in these homes will have a guarantee that rent rises will not price them out. The number of these protected apartments will also go up. Today’s ruling binds the Berlin Senate to build 30,000 new public housing units within the next 10 years, while the proportion of affordable housing owned by the state property companies will also be pushed up.

The new law, thoroughly explained in the Berliner Zeitung newspaper yesterday, will work as follows. People on low incomes living in social- or state-owned housing will pay no more than a third of their gross income in rent. For tenants in a few buildings with especially high energy costs, that ceiling will be dropped to 25 percent of gross income.


More there.
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Defne Kadıoğlu Polat writes for Open Democracy about how immigrants in Berlin are being priced out by gentrification.

Berlin has some of the fastest rising rents in Europe and a rapidly changing consumption infrastructure. Despite continuing regulations, such as a new rent cap law enforced in June this year and prohibition of luxury restorations in the relevant quarters, gentrification is taking its toll on the local population. Particularly low-income immigrants are adversely affected.

Generally speaking, in countries with strong welfare traditions such as Germany, the negative effects of gentrification are not easily detected. Often immediate displacement can be avoided through strict rent control. This year, in fact, Berlin was the first city in Germany to issue a rent cap law that forbids landlords from charging more than ten percent over the average local rent for new tenants. However, Berlin-based reporter Michael Scaturro in The Guardian has already noted that the law remains ambiguous, giving landlords the opportunity to make use of legal loopholes.

From my own field work in Berlin’s up-and-coming Reuterkiez neighborhood, located in the historical working-class and immigrant-heavy Neukölln borough, I can tell that landlords are eager to push low-income residents out of apartments and rent out to middle class newcomers and students who pay more due to flat sharing. Particularly immigrants are disadvantaged when it comes to defending themselves since they frequently lack language skills and know-how of the German legal system.

Moreover landlords and housing administrations often intentionally fall short of fulfilling their responsibilities in order to get old-established immigrant tenants to leave voluntarily. Given Neukölln’s historic roots as a working-class location, apartments are relatively basic. One major problem is moist, which can only be avoided through proper renovation. In one instance, Fatima[i], a woman with Arabic roots and broken German, told me her housing administration blamed her for the moist and refused to take care of it. In this and similar cases it seems that low-income and often welfare-dependent immigrants are more easily intimidated because they are not aware of their legal privileges. Murat Yıldırım, a lawyer active in the neighborhood, notes that many of his immigrant clients get themselves into legal difficulties by signing contracts they do not fully understand. After they have signed, it is often too late.

Meanwhile, many immigrant residents in Reuterkiez are willing to do whatever it takes to stay put in their neighbourhood. Spatial proximity is crucial for low-income inhabitants with limited social capital, but it is even more crucial for residents with a migratory background, female migrants in particular, who have often arrived after their husbands, do not work outside their homes and are less mobile. Accordingly, having everything nearby - such as doctors who speak their mother tongue, ethnic food shops or homework-assistance for their children - becomes a vital issue.

In my experience, immigrants in Neukölln’s Reuterkiez neighborhood are therefore willing to reduce their quality of life in order to stay in or close to their familiar environment. So, a female immigrant from Turkey, Emine, told me she had moved into a one-and-a-half room apartment with her husband and three children offered to her by her landlord after the pipes burst in her old apartment. Since she did not know when the damage would be fixed she signed up for a new - way too small - apartment in the same building, fearing she would have to leave the neighborhood if she did not take what she was offered. Emine’s landlord then proceeded to sell the building, and the new owner fixed the damage and rented the space out to students.

But it does not always have to be a landlord on the make who leaves tenants in distress. A typical scenario for Reuterkiez is that a family with new offspring wants to move into a bigger place but is simply unable to find a new apartment in the same area for a rent they can afford. So they stay in the same apartment despite its becoming too small for their growing family.

The German welfare agencies are not helping to alleviate the situation either: several long-term immigrant residents told me that the local unemployment agency advises them to move to Marzahn-Hellersdorf in East Berlin where rents are still low. Marzahn-Hellersdorf, however, is infamous for neo-Nazi activity. Understandably, most families would rather live in a badly-maintained and overcrowded apartment than move to that area. And even without the threat of racism, many immigrants are unhappy about changing their neighbourhood. Emine sums up the problem for her and other immigrants in her quarter:
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The Toronto Star shared Kirsten Grieshaber's Associated Press report

Mohammed Ali Zonoobi bends his head as the priest pours holy water over his black hair. “Will you break away from Satan and his evil deeds?” pastor Gottfried Martens asks the Iranian refugee. “Will you break away from Islam?”

“Yes,” Zonoobi fervently replies. Spreading his hands in blessing, Martens then baptizes the man “in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.”

Mohammed is now Martin — no longer Muslim, but Christian.

Zonoobi, a carpenter from the Iranian city of Shiraz, arrived in Germany with his wife and two children five months ago. He is one of hundreds of mostly Iranian and Afghan asylum seekers who have converted to Christianity at the evangelical Trinity Church in a leafy Berlin neighbourhood.

Like Zonoobi, most say true belief prompted their embrace of Christianity. But there’s no overlooking the fact that the decision will also greatly boost their chances of winning asylum by allowing them to claim they would face persecution if sent home.
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The Guardian's Johanna Kamradt reports about a new trend in intra-European migration.

The building that houses Agora, tucked away in a small side-street in residential Neukölln, in an old lock-making factory, is easy to ignore.

Outside a handful of people in their late twenties and early thirties are milling about, smoking, working on their MacBook Airs, chatting. On the short walk from the front gate to the front door snippets of three different conversations in English can be heard. Inside is a sea of laptops on desks, with workers fuelled by cortados, flat whites and a daily changing menu, written in English; a woman with a strong German accent orders a coffee in English, because the woman behind the counter doesn’t speak German.

Dani Berg manages Agora’s “food platform” (which includes pop-ups and “performance series”), as well as the cafe. She moved to Berlin just over a year ago, after spending a decade in London.

“The first time I visited Berlin was eight years ago. People told us not to come to the district I now work and live in, Neukölln, as it was considered to be dangerous, and it wasn’t even in the guidebooks or anything. Now it’s filled with tourists and expats.”

Her decision to leave London was mainly a financial one. “I was working seven days a week and paying £800 for a shared flat in Lewisham. We kept moving further and further into south-east London, until I felt I needed to leave entirely. I’m part of a big exodus; I know many people who have moved from east London to south-east London and then to Berlin. The New Cross to Neukölln Express.”

[. . .]

Berliners are noticing how rapidly the city is growing and changing, and how much rents are increasing (despite a recent price cap). Berlin is now the third most visited city in Europe, having surpassed Rome, with only London and Paris ahead of it; many of these visitors are deciding to stay for good. With 45,000 new inhabitants in 2014, Berlin’s population is now more than 3.5 million, marking the 10th year in a row that the city has grown by a similar amount. In 2013 an estimated 10,000 Brits were living in Berlin – this number increased by 35% within a year, rising to just under 13,500 as of November 2014.
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  • blogTO notes that John Tory supports the decriminalization of marijuana.

  • The Dragon's Gaze considers if there might be a hot Jupiter orbiting a pulsating star.

  • The Dragon's Tales wonders if multicellularity in cyanobacteria three billion years ago helped drive the Great Oxidation Event.

  • Far Outliers notes the 1878 introduction of football to Burma.

  • A Fistful of Euros notes that Europe is muddling through in the Mediterranean versus migrants and observes that even the optimistic scenarios for economic growth in Greece are dire.

  • The Frailest Thing considers the idea of a technological history of modernity.

  • Language Log notes an example of multiscript graffiti in Berlin.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes how the Confederate cause won the Civil War despite losing the battles.

  • Marginal Revolution argues that default will do nothing to make the underlying issues of Greece business-wise better.

  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at the intriguing geology of Ceres.

  • Peter Rukavina shows the Raspberry Pi computer he built into a Red Rocket tea tin.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog links to a paper studying Russian patriarchy and misogyny in public health.

  • Spacing Toronto looks at the genesis of the Bloor Viaduct's Luminous Veil.

  • Towleroad examines the Texan pastor who threatened to set himself on fire over same-sex marriage.

  • Une heure de peine celebrates its eighth birthday.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy reacts to the Michael Oren controversy over American ties with Israel.

  • Window on Eurasia warns that Putin's system in Chechnya is not viable, predicts a worsening of the Russian HIV/AIDS epidemic, and notes that Jewish emigration from Russia has taken off again.

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Bloomberg's Dalia Fahmy looks at how Berlin is coming to specaliaze in tourism, for the sake of the city's economy.

Berlin is spending billions of euros to renovate old museums, build new ones and snatch celebrity talent in a bid to upgrade the city’s cultural lineup and satisfy visitors flooding the German capital.

“Berlin lives from tourism, and tourists come here largely for culture,” said Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, which manages most of the city’s museums. “Today, London is more dynamic but Berlin has more potential.”

Projects under way include a complete renovation of one of the city’s three opera houses and a new museum of modern art. The former royal palace is being rebuilt and will house exhibits run by Neil MacGregor, the current British Museum director and media host lured away by the city this year.

There’s a lot at stake because in the absence of major industries -- Berlin lost Deutsche Bank AG and Siemens AG after World War II -- tourism is one of the city’s biggest businesses. The German capital attracted 12 million visitors in 2014 who spent 10 billion euros ($11.3 billion), contributing a full 8 percent of economic activity, according to Berlin government data. The city says those coming for the museums, performances of the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Simon Rattle and other cultural activities spend more than any group.

“Cultural tourism is an important economic factor for our city,” said Tim Renner, Berlin’s cultural affairs secretary. “That’s why we’re exerting a big effort to make the cultural offerings even more attractive for international visitors.”
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  • National Geographic considers the largely positive change in reunified Berlin in the past 25 years.

  • Bloomberg notes Angela Merkel's statement that the end of mass migration from the former East Germany to the West shows how East Germany has caught up.

  • The New Yorker makes the case that, while falling short of complete convergence, East Germany's post-1989 economic history is one of rapid growth and success generally.

  • MacLean's describes controversies surrounding popular culture in pre-fall East Germany.

  • The Guardian notes the many ways in which elements of East German culture, like daycares and working mothers and careful planning for sports teams, have become incorporated into overall German norms.

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Close Up 1


I bought this in 1989: a box, a declaration of origin, a potted history, a certificate from Hyman Products, Incorporated, and two chunks of the Berlin Wall next to their sachet.
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Bloomberg View's Leonid Bershidsky celebrates outgoing--and out--Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit, who in his tenure has helped boost Berlin and its reputation internationally.

To the world at large, Wowereit is known for his 2003 description of Berlin as "poor but sexy," a rare example of a mayor coining an unofficial motto that was both truthful and appealing (more recently, Wowereit has been downplaying the "poor" bit as tourists and new residents have driven up prices and rents). In Germany, he will also be remembered as the politician who outed himself during his first run for mayor in 2001 by declaring, "I'm gay, and it's good that way." It takes more than that, however, to be re-elected twice in a city as complicated as Berlin, and for a Social Democrat to run it in coalition first with the former East German communists of the extreme Left Party and then, for the last three years, with Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democrats.

Thirteen years in office is too long for any politician, and Wowereit's party is now behind the Christian Democrats in the polls, a reversal of their positions during the 2011 election, when Wowereit triumphed for the last time. This, however, is Wowereit's city, one he has shaped. The German capital had just been moved to Berlin from Bonn when he was first elected, and the city was not just poor -- it was still painfully split between the post-communist east, with its ugly concrete blocks, pitted pavements and grim-faced residents, and the bourgeois west with its pretty tree-lined streets, art squats and addiction to Cold War-era subsidies. It wasn't so much a city then as an uneasy collection of wildly divergent neighborhoods without a common culture or purpose. People didn't particularly want to live here: Berlin's population had gone down slightly between 1990 and 2000.

By the end of Wowereit's tenure, the seams between east and west are still there, but it's definitely one city. Moreover, it is Germany's one shot at a metropolis: culturally sophisticated, cosmopolitan, English-speaking, proudly multiethnic and tolerant, perennially partying. The population has increased to 3.52 million at the end of last year from 3.38 million in 2000. Many new Berliners are foreigners, but then, the year after Social Democratic politician Thilo Sarrazin published the best-selling anti-immigration book, "Germany Does Away With Itself," Wowereit answered with a pro-diversity book of his own.

Anybody coming to the German capital after a long absence will be struck by the increased number of people cycling to work. Although it has an 11 percent unemployment rate more typical of France than Germany, Berlin feels safer and more welcoming than most big European cities. Wowereit, who has never been one for modesty, should get his share of points for that good-time feeling.
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  • The Burgh Diaspora notes the two-way migration between Vancouver and Hong Kong.

  • Centauri Dreams goes into detail about various data-mining exercises charged with detecting signs of extraterrestrial civilization from already-extant astronomical data.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes a recent study conclusion that Homo floresiensis--the hobbits of eastern Indonesia--likely had larger brains than previously thought, suggesting that they may share a common ancestry with us.

  • Geocurrents considers more map-based, Internet-based nationalist propaganda, this strain depicting a Greater Pakistan at the expense of India.

  • Joe. My. God. observes that the Vietnamese deputy health minister called for same-sex marriage.

  • At Lawyers, Guns and Money, Erik Loomis unpacks the background behind the weak zoning regulations in the United States, as evidenced by the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas in the middle of a residential area.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen shares a picture taken by Chris Hadfield of Berlin at night. Even now, the two halves of the city look different from space, having different sorts of streetlights.

  • Registan's Joshua Foust is concerned about a crackdown on civil society ongoing in Russia.

  • Torontoist reports on the latest controversies over land use in Kensington Market and that neighbourhood's identity.

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  • blogTO's Rick McGinnis writes about a changing Little Italy that, despite what many commenters are saying, really does look rather bad.

  • Centauri Dreams blogs about the wonders and perils of nuclear fusion-using starships.

  • Co-blogger Claus Vistesen at Demography Matters blogs about the declining mobility of the famously mobile American population.

  • Daniel Drezner has some interesting speculation about the dynamics behind the Russian-Iranian relationship.

  • A Fistful of Euros' Edward Hugh observes that the French economy seems to be doing very well indeed, with stable and sustainable domestic consumption and the possibility of financial outlays being under control in the long run.

  • The Invisible College's Tobias Thienel examines the mechanics behind Honduras' lawsuit against Brazil in the International Court on Justice based on the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa's hosting of ousted president Manuel Zelaya.

  • Mark MacKinnon blogs about how the Berlin Twitter Wall, put in place by the city of Berlin to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, was taken over by Chinese internet users protesting firewalls in their country.

  • Slap Upside the Head reports that anti-queer sentiments are fast becoming minority opinions in the Canadian populace and notes that the Canadian military has allowed non-heterosexuals in its ranks for 17 years without problems.

  • Steve Munro links to a report examining the idea of extending the Yonge subway line north into the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill.

  • Strange Maps reproduces an interesting map of an empire based on pan-Turkish and pan-Islamic ideals at the same time.

  • Over at Torontoist, Quin Parker highlights the intruiging prelmiinary design plans for the Steeles West subway, the first TTC station to be built at least partly outside of Toronto.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy's Eugene Volokh examines the interesting question of whether or not a same-sex married couple in Iowa benefits or not from the spousal right not to testify in a federal lawsuit.

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Talk about creating a Province of Toronto has surged then and again, usually prompted by complaints that the Ontario provincial government is neglecting Torontonian interests, in infrastructure and government service investment, say, in favour of thsoe of a wider province. Others have proposed that Montréal be separated from Québec in the event of Québec secession. Talk of the city-region, a region centered upon a city characterized by a sort of economic and demographic unity, as the defining entity of the 21st century has been current for a while. Kenichi Ohmae's The End of the Nation State imagines the deconstruction of nation-states into much smaller subnational units, each having their own policies in order to maximize growth. Jane Jacobs, famed Toronto urbanist, went so far as to suggest that each unit could have its own currency, the better to exploit its particular niche.

Andrew Sancton's The Limits of Boundaries: Why city-regions cannot be self-governing shoots these ideas down simply be pointing out that the boundaries of these regions are far too narrow. He examines other city-regions and finds them lacking: the failure of the 1996 referendum on uniting Berlin with the Land of Brandenburg that surrounds it has forced the two Länder to establish unwieldy common planning boards, while the huge fuss over language rights for Francophones in the Flemish districts around Brussels and the question of these territories' ultimate fate has risked shattering the Belgian state. Sancton approves of the Community of Madrid, but notes that the Community's frontiers were specifically designed to include Madrid and its hinterland during the post-Franco democratic transition. Sancton also raises the very important point that the frontiers of city-regions move outwards as technology advances and transport becomes easier. At one point, Hamilton was an entity separate from Toronto; soon, London may be included. Ironically, enfranchising city-regions as levels of government would stifle the dynamism that makes them so productive. The traditional levels of government, he concludes, are large enough and stable enough to accomodate cities' needs through their economies of scale, perhaps with a bit of tinkering necessary but nothing that can't be maanged..

(And yes, I know that The Limits of Boundaries is a book of obvious relevance to--say--talk of the partition of California into several units. Guess why I picked it?)

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