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  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper suggesting exoplanet transits could start a galactic communications network.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog looks at the connections between eating and identity.

  • The Frailest Thing's Michael Sacasas looks at the need for a critical study of the relationship between technology and democracy.

  • Language Hat notes how nationalism split Hindustani into separate Hindi and Urdu languages.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reflects on the grim outlook in Somalia after the terrible recent Mogadishu bombing.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen thinks Trump's decertification of the Iran deal is a bad idea.

  • The Map Room Blog links to an article imagining a counter-mapping of the Amazon by indigenous peoples.

  • Neuroskeptic considers the possibility of Parkinson's being a prion disease, somewhat like mad cow disease.

  • The NYR Daily notes that a Brexit driven by a perceived need to take back control will not meet that need, at all.

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw looks at the problem Sydney faces as it booms.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer looks at the extent to which an independent Catalonia would be ravaged economically by a non-negotiated secession.

  • Peter Watts tells the sad story of an encounter between Toronto police and a homeless man he knows.

  • Window on Eurasia notes a Sakhalin bridge, like a Crimea bridge, may not come off because of Russian weakness.

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  • Centauri Dreams shares, from JPL, the schedule for Cassini in its last days of existence. Goodbye, dear probe.

  • Dangerous Minds shares some classic illustrations from a Persian book called Lights of Canopus.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper suggesting that gas giants can stabilize debris disks.

  • Far Outliers shares excerpts from the diary of a Japanese soldier fighting in New Guinea in the Second World War.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the real suffering that high rents impose on the poor in American cities.

  • The Map Room Blog shares some nice X-ray maps of New York City subway stations.

  • The Planetary Society Blog shares more vintage Voyager photos of the outer solar system: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune ...

  • Roads and Kingdoms tells of the marvelous cookies made on the dying Venetian island of Burano.

  • Drew Rowsome considers, at length and with personal references, the differences between "art" and "porn". NSFW.

  • Understanding Society considers the latest thinking on causal mechanisms in modern sociology.

  • Window on Eurasia wonders if non-Russian languages in Russia are attacked out of anxiety over Russian's own decline, and speculates that if integration of mostly Muslim immigrants goes poorly in Moscow, the city could get locked in sectarian conflict.

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Daily Xtra's Dylan C. Robertson looks at how Iranian LGBT refugees who were told by the Canadian government to try the United States have now found themselves hanging, without any place to go.

Mitra’s sanctuary is a mouldy basement in Turkey’s conservative heartland. The microbiology student’s life in northern Iran came crashing down in the summer of 2014, when she was outed as a lesbian. A neighbour beat Mitra, and her parents disowned her. Like thousands of LGBT Iranians, she fled to Turkey.

The 27-year-old now works 14-hour shifts standing upright at a textile factory, before coming home to her transgender partner. The two women sleep on a folding sofa; they have just one plastic chair.

Canada invited both to start a new life 14 months ago, when embassy staff in Turkey started a third-country resettlement application. But our country has now closed its doors, effectively suspending an informal program known worldwide for bringing scores of queer Iranians to safety.

Over the past decade, hundreds of LGBT Iranians have come to Canada, mostly through UN resettlement. But this humanitarian pipeline has dried up as Canadian officials in Turkey focus their resources on bringing Syrians to Canada.

Instead of welcoming them here, Canada has told LGBT Iranians like Mitra to try moving to the US, which President Donald Trump recently closed to all refugees, as well as to Iranians already holding visas.

Many refugees took the advice, and are now languishing in Turkey, unsure whether to try and wait out the US administration or apply to Canada, knowing that they will be sent to the back of line.

“My life is in danger; I can’t go back. If I could, I would. But I can’t,” says Mitra, who agreed to speak with Xtra under a pseudonym. “I’m not Turkish, because I can’t work and study here. I’m nobody.”
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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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  • blogTO notes that Uniqlo will be giving away free thermal clothing tomorrow.

  • James Bow shares his column about the importance of truth.

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly shares with us her mid-winter walk.

  • Centauri Dreams reports about cometary water.

  • Dangerous Minds shares German cinema lobby cards from the 1960s.

  • Language Hat talks about dropping apostrophes.

  • Language Log reports about lexical searches on Google.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reports on the latest from Trump.

  • The NYRB Daily shares a review of an Iranian film on gender relations.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes the ongoing gas price protests in Mexico.

  • Spacing links to some articles about affordable housing around the world.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes Germany's abolition of a law forbidding insults to foreign heads of state.

  • Window on Eurasia suggests that stable Russian population figures cover up a wholesale collapse in the numbers of ethnic Russians, and looks at the shortages of skilled workers faced by defense industries.

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The Inter Press Service's Andy Hazel describes how Kurdish-Iranian asylum seeker Behrouz Boochani, detailed by the Australian government on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island, is striving to report on the conditions of his detention.

Despite being locked up in an Australian detention centre on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, Kurdish-Iranian journalist Behrouz Boochani has continued reporting – gaining bylines and media attention around the world.

Journalism is the reason Boochani was forced to flee his home country of Iran, and – like the other 900 men detained indefinitely on Manus Island – seek refuge in Australia.

“When the Australian government exiled me to Manus Island I found out that they are basing their policy on secrecy and dishonesty,” Boochani told IPS.

“In my first days here I started to work to send out the voice of people in Manus. Why did I start? Because the Australian government’s policy of indefinite detention is against my principles and values, and against global human values.”

Boochani worked as a freelance writer in Iran and founded the magazine Werya, devoted to exploring Kurdish politics, culture and history. In February 2013 the offices of Werya were raided by the paramilitary agency the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, also known as Sepah, classified by the US government as a terrorist organisation.

Boochani was in a different city when 11 of his colleagues were arrested. The story he wrote about the raid on the website Iranian Reporters quickly went global and put him in the government’s sights and he fled.
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  • Beyond the Beyond links to an interview with Darran Anderson, a writer of cartographic fiction.

  • Centauri Dreams notes that 2028 will be a time when microlensing can b used to study the area of Alpha Centauri A.

  • The Crux engages with the question of whether or not an astronaut's corpse could seed life on another planet.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a study that gathers together signals for planetary companions orbiting nearby stars.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that the only gay bar in Portland, Maine, is set to close.

  • Language Log notes the proliferation of Chinese characters and notes that a parrot could not be called to the stand in Kuwait.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that the last time the Chicago Cubs won, Germany was an empire.

  • The Map Room Blog notes the discovery of an ancient stone map on the Danish island of Bornholm.

  • The Planetary Society Blog examines some of the New Horizons findings of Pluto.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer argues that Venezuela is now a dictatorship.

  • Towleroad notes
  • Window on Eurasia notes a Russian cleric's call for the children of ethnically mixed marriages in Tatarstan to be legally identified as Russians.

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Bloomberg's Marc Champion describes how, even after sanctions, Iran remains dependent on China in the face of Western reluctance.

Amid the snake-infested marshlands on Iran’s border with Iraq, the control room monitoring North Azadegan oil field is manned entirely by Chinese technicians. In central Tehran, hundreds of Chinese pour out at noon from the telecommunications company Huawei to its canteen. There are now so many Chinese expatriates here, some say they outnumber all other nationalities combined.

A decade of international sanctions aimed at blocking Iran’s nuclear program has left China the country’s dominant investor and trade partner. Now, with those restrictions formally lifted, a more pragmatic Iranian government has been trying to ease dependence on China, only to find itself stymied by hard-line resistance and residual U.S. sanctions.

“China has done enough investment in Iran,” said Mansour Moazami, who was deputy oil minister until taking over as chairman of the massive Industrial Development & Renovation Organization this year. “We will provide opportunities and chances for others.”

The tension illustrates a more nuanced situation in post-sanctions Iran than is often presented. Many in the U.S., including Donald Trump, portray Iran as the big winner from last year’s nuclear sanctions deal as European companies rush into one of the world’s last big, untapped emerging markets. Yet in Tehran, the government is attacked for failing to deliver and pandering to a still hostile West.

Western investors have been slow to arrive, forcing Iran back into the arms of the Chinese. That’s especially true in the energy sector, where pressure to increase production is intense. Elsewhere, Western clearing banks still refuse to do business with Iran for fear of falling foul of non-nuclear U.S. sanctions that remain in effect, meaning Western companies can’t raise project finance.
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blogTO's Derek Flack reports on how Toronto's skyline resembles Tehran's.

The most recognizable feature of Toronto's skyline isn't a matter of debate. The CN Tower is both our most famous building and a navigational beacon that even longtime residents rely on to get their bearings on occasion. Take away this soaring landmark, and the city no longer looks like Toronto at all.

That's why it's so strange to look at images of certain Tehran's skyline. If you squint your eyes, it can seem startlingly like Toronto thanks to the cranes that seem to continually cover the sky and the presence of the Milad Tower, a slightly shorter communications beacon that shares a number of traits with our local version.

Kuala Lumpur also has a structure that resembles the CN Tower, but it shares the skyline with the brighter Petronas Twin Towers, which diminishes the centrality of the the KL Tower. Other major observation/communications towers in cities like Seattle don't really resemble the CN Tower in the first place.

Tehran's tower is just over 100 metres shorter than our central landmark, but the resemblance is heightened by the disc on its top section, which is located around the same area where the Skypod is on the CN Tower. As a distant silhouette, the two structures are eerily similar (even if that can't be said when they're examined up close).


There is more, including the inevitable photos, at blogTO.
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  • blogTO reports that streetcar tracks are involved in a third of Toronto's bike crashes.

  • Centauri Dreams notes that Jupiter's Great Red Spot is a source of heat.

  • The Crux notes the non-medicinal uses of tobacco.

  • Dangerous Minds looks at the voyeuristic photography of 20th century Czechoslovakian photographer Miroslav Tich.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes that Chinese and Iranian forces have joined Russia in exercises at Kaliningrad.

  • Torontoist looks at the risks of a land expropriation for a Scarborough subway extension.

  • Towleroad notes that Bernie or Bust could particularly hurt immigrants.

  • Window on Eurasia notes anti-Central Asian migrant sentiment in the Russian Far East.

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Laurent Bastien's article in The Globe and Mail makes for compelling reading indeed. What scandal!

Five years ago, Sam Mizrahi, one of Toronto’s most ambitious real estate developers, found himself in a basement in the city’s Bridle Path neighbourhood. It was there, he says, he began to fear for his safety.

In a span of just a few hours, one of the main financial backers of two of his luxury condominium projects, Mahmoud Khavari, had become one of Iran’s most wanted men, having left his position as the chairman of the country’s largest bank and fled to Canada amid a corruption scandal.

With Iran demanding Mr. Khavari’s immediate return, Mr. Mizrahi feared being caught in the crossfire of a potentially violent international dispute as they debated the future of their business partnership inside the former banker’s Toronto home.

The agreement worked out in that basement in the hours that followed the frantic flight to Canada has become the subject of a multimillion-dollar lawsuit before the Ontario Superior Court, and led to a feud between Mr. Mizrahi and the Khavari family of near-Shakespearian proportion, involving alleged death threats, international intrigue and some of the city’s hottest real estate.

The Khavaris, who dispute the threats of violence, are seeking at least $35-million in damages from their former business partner, arguing that they were denied a stake in two Yorkville properties in which they invested money, along with three others that include the massive, 80-storey One Bloor tower, the crown jewel of Mr. Mizrahi’s condominium empire.
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I blogged in September 2014 about how a suburban Toronto house, allegedly owned by the Iranian state, was among the Canadian properties. being claimed by victims of Iran-sponsored terrorism under Canadian law. Jacques Gallant just noted in the Toronto Star that it has been claimed.

The tiny house on Sheppard Ave. W. may be vacant and run-down, but the story behind it is replete with terrorism, international intrigue and diplomatic headaches.

An Ontario court found that the building — as well as another empty property in Ottawa and two bank accounts — is owned by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

And last week, a Toronto judge dismissed the country’s arguments of state immunity from seizure of property and ordered that the assets be turned over to American victims of Iran-sponsored terrorism who have won cases against Iran in U.S. courts.

The complex case and subsequent ruling comes as the federal government is looking to re-establish diplomatic relations with Tehran that were cut off by the Conservative government in 2012.

It also highlights the little-known fact that federal legislation allows for victims of state-sponsored terrorism from other countries, and their families, to ask Canadian courts to seize Iranian assets here if they can prove their case.
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  • Astronomy Now notes a white dwarf star that is consuming what looks to be limestone debris from one of its planets. Is this a sign of marine life?

  • Bloomberg notes Rolls-Royce's opposition to Brexit, notes how international sanctions are hurting Hezbollah, looks at China's massive spending on infrastructure, notes how Donald Trump has barred the Washington Post from covering his campaign, reports that Sydney and Melbourne have applied extra fees for foreig home-buyers, and notes how a China-funded push to expand sugar production in Ethiopia has hit snags.

  • Bloomberg View looks at the extent to which Germany does not dominate the European Union.

  • CBC notes how anti-gay bigotry is connected to the Orlando shooting, and reports on Peter Mackay's regrets that Canada did not buy new fighter jets.

  • The Inter Press Service notes that the world's nuclear arsenal has become smaller but is undergoing modernization.

  • MacLean's considers barriers to interprovincial trade in Canada and reports on the outrage of a juror on the Stanford sex assault case at the light sentence imposed by the judge.

  • National Geographic looks at the mangrove swamp of Iran's Qeshm Island.

  • Open Democracy takes issue with the idea that the intervention in Libya was a success, notes reasons for Scotland's relative liking of the European Union, and looks at the Iranian events of June 1981.

  • Universe Today notes that mammals were flourishing even before the dinosaurs departed.

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  • Bloomberg observes Iran's boycott of the hajj and Iranian hopes for relatively strong economic growth this year, looks at the impact of Middle Eastern economic decline on Thai hospitals, and notes the absence of IKEA from Ukraine.

  • CBC notes retesting has revealed eight Russian athletes who used banned substances at the London Olympics.

  • Foreign Policy looks at the human-caused Sidoarjo mud volcano in Indonesia.

  • MacLean's notes a push in Montréal for a memorial to Irish immigrants killed by typhus.

  • The National Post notes that Sun Life will stop treating pot users as smokers and start treating them as users of medicine.

  • Open Democracy is critical of Iran's open-ended military objectives in Syria, given their human toll.

  • Spiegel investigates Russia's support of the Euroskeptic AfD party.

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  • Bloomberg notes Saudi Arabia's efforts to cut Iran off from trade with its neighoburs, looks at how population growth in London will outpace--and be different from--population change in the rest of the United Kingdom, and reports on the plight of child labourers in Indonesia's tobacco fields.

  • Bloomberg View argues Uber is no match for mass transit in the European Union and suggests that any negative consequences of immigration for native workers are overblown.

  • CBS News and BBC talk about the use of old technology like floppy disks in key software programs, the BBC being kinder than CBS.

  • Gizmodo describes the current heat wave in the Arctic, something literally off the charts.

  • IPS News notes the politics o mapping Kashmir, notes the chaos in Venezuela, and looks at water shortages in Burma.

  • Kotaku notes how the Ghibli museum in Japan is getting a catbus.

  • MacLean's looks at the political potential of Kevin O'Leary.

  • The National Post notes the serious concerns over the Rio Olympics.

  • Open Democracy looks at the Moscow consensus for autocracy in the former Soviet Union and proposes a new security policy for Ukraine.

  • The Toronto Star and MacLean's report from the sentencing of James Forcillo for the murder of Sammy Yatim.

  • Wired wonders if scientists can engineer coral resistant to climate change.

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  • The Big Picture shares photos of a Shanghai neighbourhood that refuses to sell out to developers.

  • James Bow rates California rail.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at the large dwarf planet 2007 OR10.

  • Dangerous Minds notes a campaign by a 9/11 conspiracy theorist to raise funds to buy an airplane and a building.

  • The Dragon's Gaze looks at the Kepler-223 system.

  • Language Hat looks at an astonishingly thorough German-led effort to publish a dictionary of Latin.

  • The NYRB Daily assesses the Iran nuclear deal.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer considers Brazil and argues that any treachery in Sykes-Picot was less in the deal and more in the assumptions behind it.

  • Transit Toronto notes the return of GO Transit's seasonal trains to Niagara.

  • Window on Eurasia notes Moscow's refusal to allow Circassians a memorial march.

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  • Africa is a Country looks at how Ethiopians interpret the 1966 visit of Haile Selassie to Jamaica.

  • The Building Blog depicts how a California town is literally being visibly distorted by seismic forces.

  • Bloomberg considers the import of Beyoncé's debut of Lemonade on Tidal.

  • Bloomberg View notes how the China-Venezuela money-for-oil pact is failing and looks at the risks of being a Russian media mogul.

  • The Globe and Mail looks at the very high cost of internet in Nunavut.

  • MacLean's looks at the Iran-Iraq War and examines Beyoncé's Lemonade.

  • Universe Today notes how spaceflight apparently acts to accelerate aging.

  • Wired notes how much of Venezuela's electricity shortage is the consequence of booming consumption in the good years.

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  • blogTO notes that a strip of stores just north of Yonge and Eglinton will be demolished for, naturally, condos.

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly shares her thoughts about the theatre.

  • Joe. My. God. shares new music from Tegan and Sara.

  • Marginal Revolution reports on an open letter sent out by economists to Iran talking about how the country can prosper.

  • The NYR Daily hosts an essay by George Soros proposing how the European Union can handle refugees.

  • Savage Minds considers the awkward position of anthropology, as an ignored subaltern of a discipline.

  • Window on Eurasia notes controversy over a Joseph Conrad statue in the Russian city of Vologda and notes Russian-Iranian discussion about a canal connecting the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf.

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  • Centauri Dreams imagines how a mission to Planet Nine might work.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes a literal gap in our mapping of nearby brown dwarfs.

  • The Dragon's Tales analyzes the makeup of Saturn's moon Tethys.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog offers advice on resume writing for sociology majors.

  • Joe. My. God. notes Bruce Springsteen's cancellation of a North Carolina concert in solidarity with queer people there.

  • The Map Room Blog maps exposure to lead across the United States.

  • Marginal Revolution wonders why American mobility is declining.

  • Window on Eurasia notes Moscow's approach to conflict resolution involves setting up frozen conflicts, and looks at the new Iran-Russia rail corridor running through Azerbaijan.

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  • blogTO notes the spread of condos along the western waterfront of Toronto.

  • Centauri Dreams considers the idea of planetary cloaks.

  • Crooked Timber considers strategic voting in the American context.

  • Dangerous Minds notes, with photos, two nuns in California who grow medical marijuana.

  • The Dragon's Tales note evidence of invasive species introduced to the Caribbean by native peoples.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money considers protests in Air France over wearing headscarves.

  • The LRB Blog considers anti-Arab sentiment in France and in the southern city of Béziers.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at the economic costs of a flu pandemic.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer is profoundly skeptical of Trump's plan to force Mexico to pay for a border wall.

  • Savage Minds considers the complexities of ethnography in tense, even violent, situations.

  • Towleroad notes a transgender teen who was run down in California for no reason apart from gender identity.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at the restive Talysh of the Iran-Azerbaijan border.

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