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  • Torontoist takes on Galen Weston and the $15 minimum wage and poverty in Toronto (and Loblaw's contribution to said).

  • At the Toronto Star, Shawn Micallef describes how high property values in Toronto discourage open-air parking lots.

  • Noor Javed looks, in Toronto Star, at the question of who authorized the cathedral elevated cow statue in Cathedraltown, in Markham.

  • The Star's Fatima Syed shares some old memories of Torontonians of the Centreville carousel, soon to be sold off.

  • At The Globe and Mail, Dakshana Bascaramurty takes a look at Jamaican patois, Toronto black English, and the many complex ways in which this language is received.

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  • In the Toronto Star, Emma Teitel wonders how long Church and Wellesley will last as a hub as the queer community develops and migrates away.

  • Trevor Corkum, also in the Toronto Star, explores the important role of the Glad Day Bookshop in modern Toronto's gay and literary scenes.
  • Brian Bradley tells the story of Craig Russell, an early drag queen who became a star and started a still-living cultural tradition of drag performances in Toronto.

  • In NOW Toronto, Vaughn Grey tells the story of how he successfully escaped Jamaica to claim refugee status in Toronto.

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Smithsonian.com's Ross Kenneth Urken writes about the vestiges of a golden age of Jewish piracy, and also community, on Jamaica.

I was in Kingston’s spooky Hunts Bay Cemetery, located in a shantytown near the Red Stripe brewery, tramping through high grass with a dozen fellow travelers. We passed a herd of cattle that was being pecked by white egrets before finding what we were looking for: seven tombstones engraved with Hebrew benedictions and skull and crossbones insignia.

Centuries ago, the coffins buried here were ferried across Cagway Bay from Port Royal, once known as “the wickedest city in the world” and an inspiration for the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise and amusement park ride. This was once the domain of the little-known Jewish pirates who once sailed the waters of Jamaica. Their history captures a somewhat different side of the island than its recently adopted tourism slogan: “Jamaica—Get All Right.”

Jews have been a recognized part of Jamaican cultural life since 1655, when Britain took power from Spain and welcomed Jewish immigration, though some date their presence here to Columbus’s second voyage to the Americas. Many were successful gold traders and sugar merchants. Some, like Moses Cohen Henriques, a crony of Captain Henry Morgan who once plundered the modern day equivalent of almost $1 billion from a Spanish galleon, were marauding buccaneers. Though today’s Jamaican Jewish population is fewer than 200, there are at least 21 Jewish burial grounds across the island.

Since 2007, Caribbean Volunteer Expeditions (CVE), a nonprofit focused on cultural preservation throughout the Caribbean, has been leading groups like mine in an effort to document this largly forgotten history by transcribing epitaphs and compiling an inventory of grave sites. With trips spearheaded by Rachel Frankel, a New York-based architect, it hopes to promote conservation of Jewish cemeteries and raise public awareness of them. In the 18th century, the French Enlightenment writer Guillaume-Thomas Raynal advocated that Jews adopt Jamaica as a homeland in the Caribbean, since it had already become a locus of Semitic commerce. With Kingston just a four-hour flight from New York, the island could still become a vital part of Jewish life, if this part of its history were better known.
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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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The Inter Press Service's Zadie Neufville notes one tool used by Jamaica to help its citizens and economy adapt to climate change.

On a very dry November 2013, Jamaica’s Meteorological Service made its first official drought forecast when the newly developed Climate Predictability Tool (CPT) was used to predict a high probability of below average rainfall in the coming three months.

By February, the agency had officially declared a drought in the eastern and central parishes of the island based on the forecasts. July’s predictions indicated that drought conditions would continue until at least September.

Said to be the island’s worst in 30 years, the 2014 drought saw Jamaica’s eastern parishes averaging rainfall of between 2 and 12 per cent, well below normal levels. Agricultural data for the period shows that production fell by more than 30 per cent over 2013 and estimates are that losses due to crop failures and wild fires amounted to one billion dollars.

Jamaica’s agricultural sector accounts for roughly seven per cent of the island’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs about 20 per cent of its workforce.

The Met Service’s, Glenroy Brown told IPS, “The CPT was the main tool used by our Minister (of Water, Land, Environment & Climate Change) Robert Pickersgill throughout 2015 to advise the nation on the status of drought across the island .”
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Reporting from Jamaica, the Inter Press Service's Zadie Neufville notes the increased flooding caused by climate change and sea level rise in the Caribbean.

Residents of Rocky Point, a sleepy fishing village on Jamaica’s south coast, woke up one July morning this year to flooded streets and yards. The sea had washed some 200 metres inland, flooding drains and leaving knee-deep water on the streets and inside people’s home, a result of high tides and windy conditions.

“I’ve been here for 43 years and I have never seen it like this,” Sydney Thomas told the Jamaica Observer newspaper.

Over at the Hellshire Fishing Beach, a community several miles outside the capital city Kingston, fishermen watched as their beach disappeared over a matter of weeks. The sea now lapped at the sides of buildings. Boats that once sat on the sand were bobbing in the surf along the edge of what remained of the white sand beach.

An the far end of the Hunts Bay basin, the inner-city community of Seaview Gardens sat at the edge of the mangrove swamp. For decades, residents there lived with overflowing sewage systems, the result of a backflow that is caused when seawater enters outflow pipes, flooding the network and pushing waste water back into homes and into the streets.

Flooding in coastal communities around Jamaica is nothing new but in recent years, what used to be unusual has become a frequent occurrence.
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  • Claus Vistesen of Alpha Sources notes that though the stock market might be peaking, we don't know when.

  • blogTO warns that Toronto might consider a bid for the 2024 Olympics.

  • James Bow thinks about Ex Machina.

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly looks forward to her impending visit to Maine.

  • Centauri Dreams features an essay by Michael A.G. Michaud looking at modern SETI.

  • Crooked Timber finds that even the style of the New York intellectuals of the mid-20th century is lacking.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes that a search for superjovians around two nearby brown dwarfs has failed.

  • The Dragon's Tales considers the flowing nitrogen ice of Pluto.

  • Geocurrents compares Chile's Aysén region to the Pacific Northwest.

  • Joe. My. God. shares the new Janet Jackson single, "No Sleeep".

  • Language Log looks at misleading similarities between Chinese and Japanese words as written.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money argues that the low-wage southern economy dates back to slavery.

  • Marginal Revolution is critical of rent control in Stockholm and observes the negative long-term consequences of serfdom in the former Russian Empire.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes how Jamaica is tearing down illegal electrical connections.

  • Savage Minds considers death in the era of Facebook.

  • Towleroad looks at how the Taipei city government is petitioning the Taiwanese high court to institute same-sex marriage.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy argues restrictive zoning hurts the poor.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at how Tatarstan bargains with Moscow, looks at Crimean deprivation and quiet resistance, considers Kazakh immigration to Kazakhstan, and argues Russian nationalist radicals might undermine Russia itself.

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  • Alpha Sources' Claus Vistesen argues that as a result of various factors including shrinking populations, economic bubbles are going to be quite likely.

  • blogTO argues that Toronto's strip clubs are in trouble.

  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly wonders who is going to pay for journalism in the future.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at ringed Centaur objects.

  • Crooked Timber's Daniel Davies describes his family's recent experience in New Zealand. Want to find out how the Maori are like the Welsh?

  • D-Brief notes the return of wood bison to the United States.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper suggesting Alpha Centauri Bb is a superdense world.

  • The Dragon's Tales note Indonesia's upset with Chinese claims to the South China Sea.

  • Far Outliers reports on how NGOs feed corruption in Cambodia.

  • Language Hat links to a gazetteer of placenames in Jamaica.

  • Language Log's Victor Mair looks at some Sino-English constructions.

  • Marginal Revolution points to its collection of Singapore-related posts.

  • The Planetary Society Blog considers Cassini's footage of Saturn's F ring.

  • The Power and the Money hosts Will Baird's argument that the Ukrainian east will soon see an explosion of violence.

  • Spacing Toronto and Torontoist look at the architectural competition for the Toronto Islands ferry terminal.

  • Torontoist reports on Martin Luther King's 1962 visit to Toronto.

  • Towleroad notes a raging syphillis epidemic among gay men in New York City's Chelsea neighbourhood.

  • Window on Eurasia notes changes in the Islam of Tatarstan, notes Russia's transition towards totalitarianism, observes Russian claims of Finnish meddling in Karelia, and looks at polls suggesting Ukrainians fear Russia but do not trust the European Union.

  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell describes what seems to have been a shambolic attempt to co-opt the English Defense League somehow. (I don't understand it. All I can figure out is that.

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Inter Press Service's Zadie Neufville had an interesting article about a controversial effort to try to save Jamaica's tourist-famous Negril beach from erosion.

Work is set to begin in March, but some in the tourist town continue to resist the planned construction of two breakwaters, which experts say is one of a series of actions aimed at protecting the beach and slowing persistent erosion. Those opposing the plan say the structures will do more damage than good.

The construction of the two breakwaters 1.2 kilometres offshore follows on previous work to strengthen the natural ecosystem protection of the coastal communities by replanting sea grass beds and mangroves in several vulnerable communities, including Negril.

“Building breakwaters is not what stakeholders here want. These hard structures cause more erosion than they prevent,” Couples Resort’s Mary Veira told IPS.

There is fear, Veira explained, that the structures will hinder the natural regeneration of the beach that currently occurs after each extreme weather event.

Government targeted the ‘Seven Mile’ stretch of Negril’s coast as its climate change adaptation project after several studies indicated that more than 55 metres of beach had been eroded in the last 40 plus years. The tourist Mecca is said to account for 25 per cent of the earnings of an industry that is responsible for about half of Jamaica’s GDP.
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Via Towleroad, I learned of the Pink Press article describing a former notorious homophobe who really is trying to make up for past sins.

A former member of the notoriously homophobic Westboro Baptist Church is reaching out to Jamaica’s oppressed gay community.

Grace Phelps – the daughter of church spokeswoman Shirley Phelps – is one of the many members of the Phelps family who have left the church and expressed pro-gay beliefs.

Ms Phelps travelled earlier this year to Jamaica to reach out to the many gay people who have been ostracised by society in made homeless.

The trip was organised by Planting Peace – a grass-roots equality group who run ‘Equality House’ directly across the street from the homophobic church in Topeka.

She said: “I spent twenty years learning why God hates gays, preaching that they’re ‘beasts’ and ‘depraved,’ and protesting anyone who dared to speak up for them.

“When I heard about the young people living in Jamaican sewers because their parents kicked them out for being gay, my heart hurt for them.
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  • Antipope Charlie Stross describes why he's shifting from science fiction to fantasy: the latter better fits the black-box technological zeitgeist.

  • blogTO recommends thinks to do in Kensington Market and Chinatown.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at some proposals for interstellar drives.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes Indonesia's participation in a South Korean fighter plane project.

  • Joe. My. God. notes a Jamaican newspaper poll that has found 91% want to keep laws against gay sex on the books.

  • Language Hat notes the conflict between traditional and vernacular registers of the Japanese language in the 19th century.

  • Languages of the World's Asya Pereltvsaig notes the depopulation of the Russian Far Eastern region of Magadan after 1989.

  • pollotenchegg maps out the divisions of Luhansk and Donetsk between government and separatist regimes.

  • Steve Munro writes about how the TTC should keep statistics about travel more readily available.

  • Towleroad notes Morrissey's statement that he is being treated for cancer.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy lists more reasons to strike down same-sex marriage bans based on the recent Supreme Court ruling in the US.

  • Why I Love Toronto recommends a charming-sounding late-night antique crawl down on Queen Street West.

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  • BlogTO highlights a new photography exhibition at Ryerson University that I really should see.

  • Centauri Dreams takes a look at the idea of subsurface biospheres on exoplanets.

  • Crooked Timber's Belle Waring shares pictures from the ongoing protests in Ukraine and starts a debate.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes a new model of the evolutions of the Sun and the Earth's atmosphere that suggests Earth will face a runaway greenhouse in 1.5 billion years, rather later than previously expected.

  • Far Outliers highlights the ongoing Berber awakening in north Africa.

  • Language Log tackles the Jamaican-sounding remarks of Rob Ford and finds them credible.

  • The Map Room's Jonathan Crowe links to a wonderful New Yorker article on maps in literature.

  • Marginal Revolution notes a new paper arguing that coal power was essential for urban growth.

  • Supernova Condensate quotes Karl Popper about inductive reasoning.

  • Torontoist notes the plans for a new proposed park to be built at Ontario Place.

  • Towleroad remarks on the recent suicide of an Azerbaijani gay rights activist and notes the doubling of a bounty offered by Hong Kong billionaire to any man who would marry his lesbian--and coupled--daughter.

  • Window on Eurasia notes the new reading list for Kremlin officials.

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From the Toronto Sun::

Mayor Rob Ford admits he was drinking alcohol Monday night just two months after he swore he had a "come to Jesus" moment and given up booze.

Ford's confession came after a new video surfaced online that showed him slurring his words, swearing and complaining about Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair at Steak Queen restaurant in Etobicoke. Just two months earlier, Ford publicly stated he had sworn off drinking after he admitted to smoking crack cocaine while in a "drunken stupor." The mayor's sobriety pledge came after police confirmed they had obtained the video showing Ford smoking crack cocaine.

The mayor arrived at City Hall around 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday and left just after 4:30 p.m. - admitting he was drinking the night before as he left his office.

"Yes, I was," Ford said at City Hall when asked if he was drinking on Monday night. "A little bit, yeah."

"I was with some friends. What I do in my personal life and my personal friends, that's up to me. It has nothing to do with you guys. It's on my own time."

Ford said no repeatedly when he was asked if he did any drugs on Monday night or drove to the restaurant.

"I was there, I met some friends … that's how I speak with some of my friends," he said. "I don't think it was discriminative at all."

He ignored questions about his promise to quit drinking or when he started drinking again.

"That's it," Ford said as he got on the elevator to go to the City Hall parking garage.

From the CBC:

Throughout much of the minute-long video, titled "New Video of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford Drunk, Swearing in Jamaican Patois," Ford attempts to use Jamaican slang, using the word "bumbaclot" — profanity in patois — at least four times.

The mayor admitted he was drinking alcohol. "A little bit, yeah," he told reporters. He had pledged numerous times he does not drink anymore, after revelations in 2013 of his crack use while in office.

When asked if his Jamaican accent was offensive, he said no. "I met some friends. If I speak that way, that's how I speak with some of my friends and no, i don't think it's discriminative at all," he said. "It's my own time."

Ford would not say who drove him to the Steak Queen.

"They're chasing me around five months. They're counter surveillance me. He's hiding here. He's hiding here. F--k off," said Ford in the video, apparently talking about the police surveillance on him and his friend and driver Alexander (Sandro) Lisi in the summer of 2013.

Toward the end of the clip a bystander says, "This guy deserves to be better than Stephen Harper." Ford replies, "I am a straight-up guy. Who goes to TCH, Jane town, and Jane and Finch?"

The video ends with Ford getting takeout food, saying "I'm a straight-up guy," while staff compare him to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

More later.
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  • In one of his first posts since moving back to Toronto, Acts of Minor Treason's Andrew Barton describes coming across the immediate aftermath of a terrible accident (or "accident") at Union station and wondering about the lack of empathy expressed by commuters.

  • Bag News Notes features a post from South Side Chicago resident and photographer Jon Lowenstein, who caught the immediate aftermath of a shooting in his neighbourhood.

  • Centauri Dreams' Paul Gilster describes the dreams of American rocket pioneer robert Goddard of interstellar migrations.

  • At Crooked Timber, Eric Rauchway documents that Keynes' concern about the consequences of war indemnities on the economies of Germany and central Europe long predated any sexual affair with Germans.

  • Daniel Drezner notes how off-base Marc Lynch's statement that the ongoing war in Syria undermines a pleasant narrative of the Arab Spring is, since there was plenty of suffering beforehand.

  • Extraordinary Observations' Rob Pitingolo doesn't like it when cyclists are in too much of a hurry pay attention to red lights, other vehicle drivers too.

  • At Lawyers, Guns and Money, B. Spencer argues that guns in the United States are much more a fetishistic icon of belonging than anything else like resisting government oppression.

  • Mark Simpson reposts his 2001 review of Niall Ferguson's book The Cash Nexus.

  • Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen notes that Jamaica has seen sustained austerity for decades and also flat economic growth. Connection? And what of Europe?

  • Torontoist notes that plans for a proposed shopping centre in Kensington Market along Bathurst Street have been released. Controversy will ensue.

  • Window on Eurasia notes statistics suggesting that only 3% of Russians attended the Russian Orthodox Church's Easter services.

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Torontoist's Kevin Plummer writes, on the occasion of the Olympics, about sprinter Ben Johnson, the man who briefly became a national hero in 1988 with his gold medal-winning performance at the Seoul Olympics only to lose everything when it turned out that he'd been taking steroids.

I was only eight when all this happened, but I can remember being saddened by the news that he'd been cheated.

At the sound of the pistol, eyes glowing with intensity, Ben Johnson exploded out of the starting blocks in a frenetic blur of massive arms and powerful legs. By 50 metres, his lead was insurmountable. “I have never seen anyone run the way Ben Johnson ran that day,” sportswriter Charles P. Pierce recalled in Esquire (February 1999). “He was molten. He covered the distance in 9.79 seconds, and he had time at the end to look back at [his rival Carl] Lewis, whom he had beaten.” Although he obliterated his own world record time, Johnson later claimed that, had he not raised his arm in victory in the last few strides of the 100 metre sprint, he could’ve finished in 9.72 seconds.

The 100-metre sprint was the dramatic climax of the 1988 Summer Olympics. It was seen live, on the bright afternoon of September 24, by 100,000 at the stadium in Seoul, South Korea. Millions more watched on television around the world—including five million in Canada, though it aired at 11:30 at night Eastern Time—as Johnson jogged around the stadium waving the maple leaf.

With the gold medal fresh around his neck, Johnson proclaimed to gathered journalists that his world record would “last 50 years, maybe 100.” There was only one thing more important than the record, he said: “A gold medal—that’s something no one can take away from you.”

With four of the eight finalists breaking the 10-second mark—including Lewis, Linford Christie, and Calvin Smith—journalists dubbed the event “The Race of the Century.” But, as Johnson tested positive for anabolic steroids in the hours to come, it devolved into what another journalist called “the greatest scandal in the history of the Games” and, perhaps, the most tainted race in history. Six finalists, it would later emerge, tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs over the course of their track careers, calling into question their lifetime achievements. But in late September 1988, it was Johnson who was found out, stripped of his medal in disgrace, and permanently seared into the Canadian consciousness.

[. . .]

Johnson’s 9.79 second dash touched off exuberant celebration in Canada and Jamaica. Immediately after the race, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney telephoned with congratulations: “You were just marvelous. We’re all very proud of you.” In Toronto, Metro Chairman Dennis Flynn mused about hosting another huge parade; and kids across the city sprinted through playgrounds, imitating their role model’s racing style.

But in the middle of the night after Johnson’s historic run, Canadian Olympic officials learned that Johnson had tested positive for stanozolol, a banned steroid. The officials’ appeal, which focused on flaws in the testing procedures (including unauthorized individuals milling around the secure area where medalists provided their urine samples), was rejected. The International Olympic Committee’s review of Johnson’s endocrine profile—a test no other athlete was subjected to at Seoul—showed that natural testosterone levels were 15 times lower than normal. It was evidence of long-term steroid use.

Less than 70 hours after being awarded the gold, Johnson handed the medal back. “I’m innocent and I welcome the opportunity of proving it,” an emotional Johnson said as he was hustled out of Seoul. “I’m proud to be a Canadian and I would never do anything to hurt the people who support me.”
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Comment is free featured a remarkable essay by one André Wright, "It's time for Jamaica to say goodbye to the Queen". Writing after that country's recent general election saw the victory of Portia Simpson Miller, an avowed republican, Wright wrote approvingly of what he expects to be Jamaica's shift from the current arrangement, where--just as in Canada--the Queen is head of state and is represented by her governor-general, to one where Jamaica's head of state is Jamaican. Jamaicans, Wright writes, don't identify with the British monarchy that just doesn't visibly benefit Jamaicans. The existing Commonwealth ties constraining Jamaicans' freedom of action.

(I suspect that my readers would find two of the below grounds for complaint unreasonable.)

Many Jamaicans consider it offensive and outdated to have retained a governor general as a figurehead of "our" Queen. What are the benefits? After all, there is no automatic right to British citizenship by virtue of having the Queen. Hell, some Jamaicans sweat it out on the sidewalk outside the British high commission before being allowed to undergo screening for a visitor's visa.

And there are other sentiments that embitter the brew. Calls to replace London's judicial committee of the privy council with the Caribbean court of justice, as Jamaica's final appellate jurisdiction, have triggered debate. Many Jamaicans believe the privy council has sought to obstruct capital punishment. A culturally less tone-deaf CCJ, the argument goes, would allow regional governments to hang some hoodlums.

[. . .]

Folks are also angry at David Cameron's threat to withdraw aid from Commonwealth countries such as Jamaica that criminalise "buggery". The overwhelming rebuke from letter writers and talk-show callers was: "Bugger off, Britain! Keep your money."

Simpson Miller finally has the mandate she missed out on in the 2007 general election. Now, she's seeking to define her legacy. And Britain will just have to deal with the sore reality of a Jamaican boot to Regina's royal rump.

Commenters noted the apparent tone of support for capital punishment and the country's terrible record on gay issues, some mischief-making ones noting how the Guardian's left-wing commenters must have been confused. What is to be said when someone wants to gain full independence from a colonizer to finally able to do terrible things without restraint? To confuse things terminally, Wright himself noted that Jamaican republicanism co-existed with a strong streak of Anglophilia, even nostalgia for (doubtless idealized) British rule over Jamaica.

[H]ere's the contradictory bit. In an opinion poll commissioned by the Gleaner newspaper, 60% of Jamaicans said they believed the country would have been better off had it remained a colony of Britain. Only 17% said the country would be worse off.

This is not only the nostalgia of senior citizens who grew up pre-independence; even younger generations view neighbouring British dependencies such as the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands as having a higher quality of life. Why? They don't notch 1,000 murders annually. They don't have sprawling slums. And per capita GDP in Bermuda, the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands dwarfs Jamaica's.

We love Britain: its fish'n'chips; the adorable accent; the BBC; the pounds sterling in immigrant remittances; The stiff upper lip. the ability to impose law, order, propriety. We just don't want the royal brand.

As I
noted in 2009 at Demography Matters, Jamaica is one of that select group of countries with a population projected to decline as a consequence of emigration, in Jamaica's case to the United Kingdom that is motherland of the Commonwealth, to fellow Commonwealth member-state Canada, and to that could-have-been-Commonwealth United States. Metaphorically trying to distance Jamaica from the Commonwealth via changes in the technicalities of government aren't likely to succeed in the face of that kind of intensification of lived Jamaican experience.

The hell of it is, it might not mean much in the long run. Simpson Miller came out on national television against normative homophobia in Jamaica, calling for a revision to that contry's sodomy laws and announcing that her cabinet wouldn't arbitrarily exclude gays.

Thus: the republican whose republicanism is popular--according to one person--because a republic and full independence would better enable the persecution of non-heterosexuals is the person whose promised policies would actually alleviate the plight of non-heterosexuals far more than anything done by the constitutional-monarchical non-republic that is supposed to be the agency capable of making things better (except that the constitutional-monarchical non-republic introduced those anti-buggery laws and anti-gay norms in the first place, oops).

Does your head hurt yet? And do you now have a sense of what the Commonwealth actually does, as opposed to being implicitly promised to do?
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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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Over at Demography Matters I've a post up referring to a recent projection of population in Jamaica that expects the population to decline by 2050.
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The Globe and Mail's Wency Leung takes a look at what may well become a significant new destination for Jamaican immmigrants.

Mr. Reid, 38, is among the first of hundreds of Jamaican students to attend Kelowna's Okanagan College, recruited to help fill a shortage of skilled workers in the Okanagan and the rest of the province.

Under an experimental, "interprovincial refresher" program, the college expects to train and find job placements for between 300 and 400 Jamaican students this school year in high-demand trades such as culinary arts, automotive collision repair and carpentry.

The sudden influx of students from Jamaica is bringing cultural diversity to the campus and local work force, which has never before had a significant Caribbean population.

"It's definitely changing the cultural landscape," Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton said. "Certainly as you go around the community, we see many more people of Caribbean origin than we ever did before."

About 16 months ago, the college, which has a full-time student population of more than 7,000, didn't have one Jamaican student, he said.

But since it began recruiting students from Jamaica, a country where skilled labour is high but jobs are scarce, the Jamaican population on campus has started to swell.

The unusual relationship between Okanagan College and Jamaica was initiated by Michael Patterson, a Jamaican-born marketing professor at the college.

Seeing an opportunity to fill the needs of both local employers and tradespeople in his native country, Prof. Patterson believed the college could help bridge that gap.

"It's a win-win," he said, adding that the college is selecting only highly skilled students who will adjust well to life in Canada. "When you take people in with no skill, people who are desperate ... that is where you get problems, and we're looking for a particular type of people coming in."

In June, the college began training the first group of 37 Jamaican students under the program, including Mr. Reid. Two weeks ago, it started training a second group of 40.

Students in the program are screened by the Jamaican government and the college before they can enroll, ensuring that they have at least six years of experience in the field they intend to study. They then attend 16 weeks of instruction at Okanagan College, broken up by 16 weeks of paid work in the field.

At the end of the training, students take a test to earn their Red Seal certification, which qualifies them as journeymen in Canada. They then have the option of applying to become permanent Canadian residents through a provincial program that accelerates immigration for qualified skilled workers.

The Jamaican-Canadian population is at present overwhelmingly concentrated in the large cities of central Canada. The formation of a Jamaican-Canadian population in Canada's western provinces--of any Caribbean immigrant community, for that matter--is unprecedented to the best of my knowledge. Notice, also, the concentration on skilled immigrants as opposed to a more representative cross-section of the Jamaican population.
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  • The decision of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to use German in her upcoming address to the Israeli Knesset has angered many Israelis who don't want the language of the Nazis used in their natinal parliament.

  • A letter-writer to the Jamaica Gleaner is critical of the idea of identifying Jamaican Patois as a language separate from English on the grounds that Jamaican speech is defined by its intimate relationship to the English language.

  • Variety reports that the Ukrainian government is excluding the import of films with Russian dubbing and Ukrainian subtitles, perhaps partly as an effort to promote the use of Ukrainian in movies and create a Ukrainian dubbing industry. This creates obvious conflicts for the half of the Ukrainian population that uses Russian as its main language.

  • AFP reports that English is by far the most popular foreign language selected by students in Estonia, far outpacing Russian and German never mind the distant fourth of French. Many Estonians are worried that without more knowledge of other foreign languages, Estonia could be marginalized in Europe.


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