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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly re-introduces herself to her readers.

  • Bruce Dorminey shares one man's theory about how extraterrestrials could use exoplanet sightings to build up a galactic communications network.

  • Far Outliers shares some unusual Japanese words, starting with "amepotu" for American potato.

  • Language Hat takes
  • Did the spokeswoman of the NRA threaten to "fisk" the New York Times or threaten something else? Language Log reports.

  • Drew Rowsome notes that, compared to San Francisco, Toronto does not have much of a public kink scene.

  • Starts With A Bang's Ethan Siegel examines the quantum reasons behind the explosion produced by sodium metal and water.

  • Understanding Society takes rightful issue with The Guardian's shoddy coverage of Dearborn, Michigan, and that city's Muslims and/or Arabs.

  • Unicorn Booty notes that Canada is, at last, starting to take in queer refugees from Chechnya.

  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell notes the embarrassing support for Jean-Luc Mélenchon for Venezuela. Was opposing the US all he wanted?

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MacLean's carries this Canadian Press article reporting on one official response from the southwestern Ontario city of Sarnia, across the border from Michigan, to an event that saw more than a thousand Americans swept across to Canada.

The mayor of an Ontario border city that was unwittingly visited by 1,500 wayward Americans over the weekend said he’d like them to come back someday — but this time with money, clothes and passports.

“I think we can use this to boost tourism from our neighbours,” said Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley. “Come for a visit, we’ll take care of you and this time you can stay longer.”

Bradley said it cost his municipality more than $8,000 to deal with the wave of unexpected visitors who were on inflatable rafts and boats — attending the annual Port Huron Float Down — when they drifted off course Sunday due to high winds and strong currents.

But Bradley is not asking for that money back, although a fundraising campaign — started by an American — had raised more than US$2,300 by Wednesday afternoon.

“I think it’s a wonderful gesture,” Bradley said. “The City of Sarnia can survive — our budget is over $130 million a year and we can absorb these costs — but the gesture that they appreciate what happened is important and welcomed.”
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  • Bloomberg talks about Poland's problems with economic growth, notes that McMansions are poor investments, considers what to do about the Olympics post-Rio, looks at new Japanese tax incentives for working women, looks at a French war museum that put its stock up for sale, examines the power of the New Zealand dairy, looks at the Yasukuni controversies, and notes Huawei's progress in China.

  • Bloomberg View is hopeful for Brazil, argues demographics are dooming Abenomics, suggests ways for the US to pit Russia versus Iran, looks at Chinese fisheries and the survival of the ocean, notes that high American population growth makes the post-2008 economic recovery relatively less notable, looks at Emperor Akihito's opposition to Japanese remilitarization, and argues that Europe's soft response to terrorism is not a weakness.

  • CBC notes that Russian doping whistleblowers fear for their lives, looks at how New Brunswick farmers are adapting to climate change, and looks at how Neanderthals' lack of facility with tools may have doomed them.

  • The Globe and Mail argues Ontario should imitate Michigan instead of Québec, notes the new Anne of Green Gables series on Netflix, and predicts good things for Tim Horton's in the Philippines.

  • The Guardian notes that Canada's impending deal with the European Union is not any model for the United Kingdom.

  • The Inter Press Service looks at child executions in Iran.

  • MacLean's notes that Great Lakes mayors have joined to challenge a diversion of water from their shared basin.

  • National Geographic looks at the elephant ivory trade, considers the abstract intelligence of birds, considers the Mayan calendar's complexities, and looks at how the young generation treats Pluto's dwarf planet status.

  • The National Post notes that VIA Rail is interested in offering a low-cost bus route along the Highway of Tears in northern British Columbia.

  • Open Democracy notes that the last Russian prisoner in Guantanamo does not want to go home, and wonders why the West ignores the Rwandan dictatorship.

  • TVO considers how rural communities can attract immigrants.

  • Universe Today suggests sending our digital selves to the stars, looks at how cirrus clouds kept early Mars warm and wet, and notes the discovery of an early-forming direct-collapse black hole.

  • Variance Explained looks at how Donald Trump's tweets clearly show two authors at work.

  • The Washignton Post considers what happens when a gay bar becomes a bar with more general appeal.

  • Wired notes that the World Wide Web still is far from achieving its founders' dreams, looks at how news apps are dying off, and reports on the Univision purchase of Gawker.

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Donald Trump's statements about globalization being the downfall of Detroit were criticized on my RSS feed. Wired's Issie Lapowsky took him on in her "Trump's Right: Detroit Is Hurting, But He's Wrong About Why".

As Trump sees it, Detroit’s main issue is trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was signed during Bill Clinton’s presidency, and which Trump says sent precious automotive industry jobs overseas. “Detroit is still waiting for Hillary Clinton’s apology,” Trump said Monday, before sneaking in a dig. “I expect Detroit will get that apology right around the same time Hillary Clinton turns over the 33,000 emails she deleted.”

But experts say blaming trade is at worst wrong, and at best a vast oversimplification of the case. Blame the unions. Blame Detroit’s dependence on a single industry. Heck, blame the robots. But, they say, don’t blame trade, or at least, do so at the risk of jeopardizing even more industries across the country.

[. . .]

The first and most glaring issue with Trump’s argument is his insistence that all of Detroit’s automotive jobs now exist somewhere overseas. Some do. But many don’t. In fact, many of them have just moved to southern states. And that’s not a new phenomenon, either.

Since the 1950s, American automakers have been relocating factories outside of Detroit to states like Kentucky and Mississippi where union presence isn’t as strong. Foreign car manufacturers have been going into those states, too. What that means is that while Detroit may be suffering from job loss, other cities like Jackson, Mississippi and Nashville, Tennessee are exploding with high-tech auto industry jobs.

[. . .]

Experts say you can also argue that Detroit’s leaders were delinquent in not diversifying the city’s economy sooner, and that the big three auto makers were remiss in not responding quickly enough to foreign competition. “Detroit as a city was killed in part by itself,” Macomber says, noting that Detroit invested too much time preserving a single industry and not enough creating new ones. “The big three declined because of productivity efficiencies coupled with complacency about poor quality and variety of product.”


BLoomberg View's Paula Dwyer wrote "Trump's Fairy Tale About the Fall of Detroit".

The city collapsed mostly because it overpromised what it could deliver to public employees and others, then borrowed too much to try to make good on those deals. All of that, plus a combination of a rapidly declining tax base -- the city has lost 1 million residents since the 1950s -- overreliance on a single industry, a failing education system and municipal corruption meant it couldn't pay off its debts.

Trump promised that Detroit would come roaring back under his plans to lower corporate income taxes. His revival plans also include cuts in regulation, especially environmental rules, and a rewrite of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

So let's break it down, starting with Obama's role. Rather than blame, the president gets credit from most analysts for rescuing General Motors and Chrysler. True, it was painful and costly for investors and taxpayers. He forced the companies to restructure, via quickie bankruptcies, in exchange for federal money. The companies closed plants, laid off workers, cut ties with dealers and shed obligations for retiree health care, transferring the costs (and a big chunk of stock and cash) to a union-dominated trust fund. Stockholders were wiped out, and creditors were forced to take cents on the dollar.

Today, however, the companies are profitable and competitive, even if record-high sales are slowing down a bit and the industry is still over-reliant on SUVs. As my Bloomberg View colleague, Matt Winkler, has written, the Big Three -- GM, Chrysler and Ford -- are selling more cars and trucks and are more profitable now than in 1994, when their market shares were twice today's size.
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Kartikay Mehrotra's Bloomberg article notes a potential downside to Pokémon Go: the end of secluded neighbourhoods.

Wahby Park in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, used to be a quiet spot for a dozen or so residents to go for a stroll around sunset. Then came hundreds of smartphone-wielding, garden-stomping Pokemon players.

Now a couple in the lakeside neighborhood is suing Niantic Inc. and Nintendo Co. for allegedly turning the park into a nuisance and a safety threat.

“We don’t feel safe sitting on our porch,” Scott Dodich and Jayme Gotts-Dodich said in their lawsuit.

They said they have been threatened by Pokemon Go players who hide in the bushes at dusk and return to the chase after police close the park and leave. The couple are seeking monetary damages and a ban on Pokemon in the park, according to their complaint filed Wednesday in San Francisco federal court.

After the game was launched in early July, “plaintiffs’ once quiet street degenerated into a nightmare," according to the complaint. The couple alleges that visitors to the park fail to respect the rules of the private neighborhood, parking in front of driveways, trespassing on well-manicured gardens and peering into windows.
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  • ABC reports on the Sudanese-Australian basketball players who are transforming the game in Australia.

  • Bloomberg reports on the potentially transformative scope of China's New Silk Road project.

  • Bloomberg View likes the new Star Trek movie's shift beyond speciesism.

  • CBC reports on the strength of pro-Trump support among non-voting Amish in Pennsylvania, and looks at a VIA Rail proposal to set up a commuter run in Halifax.

  • Gizmodo reports on Florida's disastrous coastal algal infestations.

  • The Globe and Mail notes a proposal for Ontario-Michigan cooperation and recounts the story of the construction of the Rideau Canal.

  • The Guardian reports on Catalonia's swift progress towards a declaration of independence.

  • MacLean's describes Manitoba's falling crime rate.

  • Open Democracy wonders about Italy's Five Star Movement and looks at the newest African-American hashtag movements.

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Dave LeBlanc's special in The Globe and Mail looks at the state of urban agriculture in Detroit. Can it truly be a lasting phenomenon?

It’s a patch of land that contained 12 houses in its heyday.

Five years ago, it contained nothing.

Today, after four years of urban farming, the southwest corner of Custer and Brush Streets in Detroit’s North End neighbourhood has become a literal cornucopia. In the past two years, it’s pumped out 400,000 pounds of produce that has fed 2,000 households within two square miles. It has provided valuable volunteer experience for 8,000 local residents who have collectively put in 80,000 hours, which have been valued at $1.8-million (U.S.).

Tyson Gersh, 26, a University of Michigan student and co-founder of the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) in 2011, estimates that about $2-million has also arrived in the form of new investment as abandoned houses are purchased nearby, which are then renovated and filled with tenants. And all of these new eyes, whether on the faces of volunteer farmers or new residents, create a safer place to live.

Yet, offers Mr. Gersh, “I believe that the current [city] administration sees urban agriculture as nothing more than a transitional land use; I don’t think they see it as having any long-term relevance to the city that we think they should have.”
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NOW Toronto's Kevin Ritchie reports about the Toronto hip-hop musicians' initiative to help out Flint, part of a wider effort.

Hip-hop artists in 46 cities are staging simultaneous concerts this weekend to help supply residents of Flint, Michigan, with clean water.

The Toronto edition of Hip-Hop 4 Flint includes Raz Fresco, Junia-T, Dynesti Williams, Mathematik, Shing Shing Regime, Gene One, Moon Crickets, Babylon Warchild, Farrah and BriskInTheHouse, among others.

Flint, where 40 per cent of the city’s 100,000 residents live in poverty, is in the midst of a public health crisis after its drinking water was contaminated with lead. In 2014, emergency management officials switched the water supply from Lake Huron to the corrosive Flint River as a cost-cutting measure. It’s estimated that between 6,000 and 12,000 children have been exposed.

Saturday’s fundraiser aims to raise awareness and speed up residents’ access to clean water.
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The Globe and Mail's Adam Radwanski notes how Muslims in the Michigan city of Dearborn are responding to the success of Donald Trump in their city's Republican primaries.

On Thursday, Muslim leaders in this Detroit suburb were saying that members of their community still felt safer here than they would in just about any other place in their country.

Then, late that night, while staff at the Dearborn-based Arab-American News were finishing up the latest edition of their newspaper, two men tried to break through their office’s bullet-proof door with a hammer.

As it turns out, the attempted break-in may have been nothing more than a failed robbery. But the wave of fear that it caused on Friday morning nevertheless seemed a fitting cap to an unsettling week in one of the unofficial Muslim capitals in the United States.

The source of considerable angst and reflection was this past Tuesday’s Michigan presidential primary. In one of the most Muslim-heavy states in the country, Republican front-runner Donald Trump – a candidate so overtly playing to Islamophobia that he pronounced during a CNN interview this week that “Islam hates us” – cruised to victory with about 37 per cent of the Republican vote. And in Dearborn itself, where nearly half the city’s roughly 100,000 residents are Arab-American and many country- or state-wide Muslim or Arabic organizations are based, Mr. Trump’s percentage was a couple of points higher than that.

Unsurprisingly, most of his votes came from the half of Dearborn that’s not really a Muslim capital at all. While the vast majority of residents on the east side of town are of Arabic descent – with roots primarily in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and the Palestinian territories – the west side is primarily white. Of the 3,153 Dearbornians who voted for Mr. Trump, only about 500 live on the east side. (Christian Arabs, a small population here, may account for a few of those.)

But until recently, Dearborn seemed to be a success story of Muslims integrating into a city with a history of segregation, and a state that has seen more than its share of racial strife. Many have opened businesses on the west side, some have even moved there, and they are increasingly engaged civically, including on the city’s council. The town has attracted its share of attention from cranks: Right-wing bloggers have long propagated various bogus conspiracy theories, including that the city is under Sharia law, and the likes of Koran-burning Florida pastor Terry Jones occasionally show up seeing attention. But even following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, there wasn’t the degree of backlash for which many of its immigrant families braced themselves.
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  • Centauri Dreams looks at debris disks, and potential planetary formation, around red giant stars.

  • Crooked Timber notes the Bitcoin frenzy.

  • The Dragon's Gaze looks at studies of the atmospheres of hot Jupiters.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money cannot understand skepticism about the harmful nature of the waters of the Michigan city of Flint.

  • The LRB Blog notes that The Gruffalo is a product of Anglo-German collaboration. Is it a product of the European Union?

  • The Planetary Society Blog notes that the joint ESA/Roscosmos Exo-Mars probe is set to launch.

  • The Signal notes a new project to digitize the corpus of Persian-language literature dating back a millennium.

  • Understanding Society looks at social facts and their non-linear origins.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy reports on a paper by on of their authors written in defense of Israel's borders.

  • The Financial Times' The World notes the exceptional fragility of Italian banks.

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    Jeff Green's Bloomberg BusinessWeek article looks at how immigration from the Middle East, particularly from Syria and Iraq, has played a major role in the revitalization of Michigan generally and Detroit in particular.

    Renan Sadak, who has a degree in computer science from his native Iraq, could land only an $11-an-hour job managing a liquor store when he arrived in Detroit seven years ago as a refugee. “I got married, and I wanted to make more money,” Sadak says, but the city was in the throes of recession.

    Last year the resurgent auto industry began to change the prospects for work. Sadak was hired in June to drive a truck shuttling auto parts for Midwest Freight Systems in Warren, Mich., at double his original pay at the liquor shop. “Now I’m making a decent wage,” he says. “I’m covering all the bills.”

    At a time when Europe and many parts of the U.S. are divided about integrating refugees from the Middle East, Michigan is providing opportunities for immigrants from the war-torn region. The state and the city of Detroit have the U.S.’s highest concentration of residents with roots in that part of the world. The Detroit area’s Arabic community goes back a century.

    As the auto industry recovers, companies in Michigan ranging from small operations such as Midwest Freight to bigger ones like Denso, a Japanese auto parts maker, are tapping immigrant workers to fill a labor shortage. Newcomers from the Arabic-speaking world are benefiting, as are refugees from Myanmar (formerly Burma). “Three years ago, maybe 20 to 30 percent of the refugees could get work in the auto industry,” says Jasmine Ward, a manufacturing recruiter at Allegiance Staffing in Fraser, Mich. The automakers and their suppliers just weren’t hiring. Now, she says, “if they want to work, they can pretty much find a job. They work really hard, and that’s what companies are looking for.”

    The auto industry is hiring long-established residents, too. African Americans last year made up about 15 percent of the U.S. auto workforce, from a low of 11 percent in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Black unemployment in Michigan fell to 11.6 percent in 2015, down from 23.9 percent in 2010, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. White unemployment in 2015 was 4.5 percent, vs. 10.6 percent in 2010.

    Last year, Michigan accepted 1,162 Iraqi refugees and 246 Syrians, according to U.S. Department of State data. That’s more than any other state except Texas and California, which each accepted about 200 more refugees than Michigan. They’ll integrate them into populations at least twice the size of Michigan’s. The state has drawn a total of 13,800 people from those two countries, mostly from Iraq, in the past five years.
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    Wired's Nick Stockton describes the scale of the devastation in the Michigan city of Flint, left to repair a poisonous infrastructure.

    It is possible to trace every drop of toxic water spewed from Flint, Michigan back to two terrible decisions. The second was switching the city’s supply from treated Lake Huron water to the corrosive broth in the Flint River. Left untreated, that water unleashed the disaster stored in the walls of the city’s first bad decision: its lead pipes.

    In the past few weeks, the nation’s attention has increasingly focused on Flint’s public health disaster. At least 15 percent of the city’s homes have water with lead levels exceeding the safe limit established by the federal government. Several of those homes had water with lead levels 900 times above the safe limit. Poor political decisions caused the crisis, but it wouldn’t have happened at all if the lead pipes weren’t there to begin with. The current solution is a stopgap—spiking the water supply with an anticorrosive chemical. But if the powers that be want to eliminate the risk completely, they will ultimately have to replace all the lead plumbing. A September estimate, only recently released by Michigan governor Rick Snyder, puts the cost of replacing all the lead pipes in Flint at $60 million. And the project will take 15 years.

    The basic challenge: dig up several thousand miles of poisonous pipe buried as deep as dead bodies.

    Oh, for Pete’s sake. People can only take bottled water baths for so long. “I don’t understand, are they only going to fix four pipes a day?” says Harold Harrington, business manager of Flint’s plumber’s union, the United Association Local 370. He says with the right kind of investment, the city—or state, or whoever ends up taking responsibility—could move a lot faster.

    Most of the corroded pipes in Flint—20,000 to 25,000 in total—are what is known as service lines. These are one inch in diameter, and connect homes to the larger, main pipes running under the middles of streets. (The mains are cast iron.) Because Flint is in Michigan, and Michigan is a very cold place, the service lines have to be buried about three and a half feet deep, below the frost line. “But most of the main pipes are between five to seven feet deep, so the service lines are at a similar depth,” says Martin Kaufman, a geographer at the University of Michigan-Flint. So that’s the basic challenge: dig up several hundred miles of poisonous pipe buried as deep as dead bodies.
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    Mark Brush's Michigan Radio article about the latest stage in the scandal of the lead-contaminated water of the Michigan city of Flint, the apparent cover-up of the contamination in EPA reports, is infuriating.

    The Environmental Protection Agency says it’s conducting a full review of what happened in Flint.

    For more than a year, state officials assured city residents their water was safe. Those assurances turned out to be wrong.

    And it wasn’t until some residents got outside experts involved -- who not only found elevated lead levels in the drinking water, but that blood lead levels were also rising in Flint kids – that the state admitted there was a problem.

    One of the more troubling charges made against the state is that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality knowingly dropped lead test samples to avoid exceeding a federal drinking water standard.

    [. . .]

    State officials maintain they followed the testing rules for lead under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

    But others say that’s just not true.

    Marc Edwards is an expert on water treatment at Virginia Tech University. He said the first and most important step did not occur in Flint.

    The city is supposed to test homes known to either be serviced by lead service lines, or that have lead pipes or pipes with lead solder in them.

    Large water systems are supposed to test the "worst-case-scenario" homes to see if they have a problem.

    That’s the point of the federally-mandated Lead and Copper Rule. Large water systems are supposed to test the “worst-case-scenario” homes to see if they have a problem.

    “They did not do that, and that is the primary reason that they missed the worst of the lead problem,” says Edwards.

    Edwards lays the blame squarely on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality – not the city of Flint.
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    The Toronto Star carries a Canadian Press article suggesting that the weakening dollar means a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor will cost substantially more than initially estimated.

    The federal Liberal government will need to find $3.5 billion more to pay for a new bridge at the bustling border crossing between Canada and the United States.

    Documents show Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been warned that the cost of building the new Windsor-Detroit bridge has likely gone up by at least $2 billion, thanks to the declining value of the Canadian dollar.

    Government officials told Trudeau the project would also need an extra $1.5 billion in a contingency fund to bear the shock of any interest-rate increases should the loonie decline further against its American counterpart.

    The government’s long-term fiscal framework has the price of the bridge, to be named after hockey legend Gordie Howe, pegged at $4.8 billion.

    The details are laid out in a secret briefing note to Trudeau obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.
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    • blogTO notes that the Union-Pearson Express is offering big discounts to attract riders, and observes that free WiFi in the TTC has been extended to Sherbourne and Castle Frank stations.

    • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper suggesting hot Jupiters can form in situ.

    • The Dragon's Tales notes Japan wants Australia to buy its naval vessels.

    • The Everyday Sociology Blog looks back at eight years of output, and suggests it shows the broad scope of sociology.

    • Far Outliers notes the rate of mental illness among Soviet Afghanistan veterans.

    • Geocurrents looks at the very late settlement of Kiribati's Line Islands.

    • Joe. My. God. notes that Cyprus has approved civil unions.

    • Lawyers, Guns and Money shares on the shallow roots of the Non-Aligned Movement in the Third World.

    • Marginal Revolution notes that highly-educated people keep dropping out of the army.

    • Steve Munro notes the relationship between development charges and transit planning in Toronto.

    • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer suggests unlikely ways for a Republican to take Democratic-leaning Michigan.

    • Savage Minds shares an ethnographic perspective on the history of Pilgrims in New England.

    • Transit Toronto notes that CP will be sending in trains filled with food to promote food banks.

    • Window on Eurasia warns about the vulnerability of Belarus to integration with Russia.

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    Al Jazeera America's Steve Friess reports on conflict between Middle Eastern Christians and Muslims in the Detroit area on the location of a mosque in a Christian neighbourhood, a conflict rooted in past conflicts.

    The nation’s largest concentration of Iraqi Christians, many driven from their homeland by persecution at the hands of Muslim groups, is mounting an intensive campaign to block a proposed mosque in Sterling Heights, Michigan — sometimes by deploying public anti-Islam invective unusual in its bluntness even in this post-9/11 era.

    The 20,500-square-foot mosque, to be built on four acres by the American Islamic Community Center (AICC), is to stand 60 feet tall along a major thoroughfare in a middle-class neighborhood if the Sterling Heights Planning Commission approves the plan at its meeting this Thursday. Opponents have dubbed it a “mega-mosque,” while Muslim leaders say it is of average size for houses of worship, including some nearby churches.

    American leaders of the Chaldeans, an ancient Christian sect also known historically as ethnic Assyrians and originating from Iraq, have insisted in recent days that their opposition is based on concerns about traffic and property values, not religious enmity.

    Yet a parade of speakers at a four-hour Sterling Heights City Council meeting on Aug. 13 offered vicious accusations that the group behind the mosque planned to use it to plot terrorist attacks and store weaponry, and attacked women who wear headscarves as scary to children. More of that sort of ire is being spewed on popular Chaldean group pages on Facebook and in signage and comments to local reporters at recent street-side protests near the proposed mosque site.

    “This mosque is going to bring people like this. I do not want to be near people like this,” one resident, Saad Antoun, said at the City Council meeting as he held up a photo of women in burkas. “This is not humanity. … It is not right to live with people like this. This is not acceptable at all because these people are scaring the public. And they don’t care. … Can we prohibit this kind of public thing? We see them at the mall every day. We see them at shopping. Can we prohibit this? Can we make law against this? It’s scary and disgusting.”
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    I've been sitting on Banen Al-Sheemary's Open Democracy essay from March, talking about conflict and prejudice in the very diverse Arab community in the Michigan city of Dearborn, for some time. Conflicts between different groups, like the Lebanese who have accumulated the most social capital and various refugee groups which fare poorly, are sad but also sadly predictable.

    There is a complete and intentional disregard for the power dynamics at play between Arab communities. The dominant narrative on Iraqi refugees makes no mention of the unequal power structure framing this unbalanced conversation. We fall into the same culture and religion blaming that we see on major news outlets.

    The process of acculturation for Iraqis and building a home in Southeast Michigan is ongoing. This is difficult enough if you are deemed a problem by the majority of white America; it is made even more difficult when members of your own community accuse you of tainting the image of middle-class respectability that the Lebanese have worked so hard to cultivate, and undermining their progress in assimilating into the larger white American community.

    Lebanese immigration starkly contrasts to that of other Arab groups, particularly Iraqis that have populated and rewritten the history of Michigan. Irai refugees didn’t come here for economic stability or to find a home of their own free will. They were violently uprooted and forced from their homes. They lived within refugee camps for years, have suffered extreme psychological trauma, and were left to try and piece their lives back together. Many of these refugees actually came from economically stable homes and positions of status in Iraq.

    This article was written six months ago, but my experiences lead back to my first day in Michigan. It is with hesitation, and some tactful warnings from my friends and academic colleagues, that I share this piece. This is a humble attempt to express views and experiences forged from a system that we as a community have partially created and perpetuated.

    It is a conversation that must happen because of the incoming Syrian refugees into Southeast Michigan and the problem of politicized sectarianism and nationalism that they will be facing, due to the polarizing conversation regarding the uprising in Syria. One can foresee the parallels between the experiences of incoming Iraqi and Syrian refugees, due to this selfsame hierarchy.
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    An interesting discussion on Facebook was started when someone shared a New York Times op-ed, "Let Syrians Settle Detroit" by David D. Laitin and Marc Jahrmay. The idea is provocative, but--I think--sound.

    Detroit, a once great city, has become an urban vacuum. Its population has fallen to around 700,000 from nearly 1.9 million in 1950. The city is estimated to have more than 70,000 abandoned buildings and 90,000 vacant lots. Meanwhile, desperate Syrians, victims of an unfathomable civil war, are fleeing to neighboring countries, with some 1.8 million in Turkey and 600,000 in Jordan.

    [. . .]

    Syrian refugees would be an ideal community to realize this goal [of repopulation], as Arab-Americans are already a vibrant and successful presence in the Detroit metropolitan area. A 2003 survey by the University of Michigan of 1,016 members of this community (58 percent of whom were Christian, and 42 percent Muslim) found that 19 percent were entrepreneurs and that the median household income was $50,000 to $75,000 per year.

    What confidence can we have that traumatized war refugees can be transformed into budding American entrepreneurs? We cannot know for sure. But recent evidence of recaptured children from the clutches of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda and victims of violent crime across five continents reveals that they become more active citizens than similar compatriots who have not suffered from these traumatic events. In the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, Syrians, despite psychological scars and limited resources, have set up 3,500 shops, stores and other businesses.

    Refugees resettled from a single war zone have helped revitalize several American communities, notably Hmong in previously neglected neighborhoods in Minneapolis, Bosnians in Utica, N.Y., and Somalis in Lewiston, Me.

    Resettling Syrians in Detroit would require commitment and cooperation across different branches and levels of our government, but it is eminently feasible. President Obama and Congress would have to agree to lift this year’s refugee ceiling by 50,000. The State Department, which handles overseas processing of refugees, would need to open offices at the camps in Jordan and Turkey, determine eligibility and administer a lottery for resettlement. Homeland Security, which controls the borders, would have to carry out accelerated security checks, as has been done in the past for Vietnamese and for Iranian religious minorities. Health and Human Services would need an expansion in the $1.5 billion it budgets for refugee resettlement.


    Someone in the comments linked to a Detroit Free Press article noting that rents are starting to rise substantially in that city.

    Rental rates in downtown Detroit-area buildings have risen so high, some young professionals who breathed new life into the city core just a few years ago are now being priced out of the market and forced to move — a type of middle-class gentrification that has some developers eager to build new residential projects.

    Development experts say demand far exceeds existing rental units in choice areas, such as Midtown, Corktown and the Detroit riverfront, where influxes of mostly young, well-paid professionals drove rental rates to new heights in new, existing and soon-to-open apartment buildings.

    In many cases, landlords are asking $200 to $400 more a month for apartment leases than they were just a year or two ago because of the high demand and almost nonexistent new supply.

    The phenomenon cannot be captured by the traditional definition of “gentrification,” when low-income households are displaced by the yuppie class. Rather, renters already in the middle class and enjoying professional careers now are being displaced by those even farther up the income scale who can afford the higher rents.

    “Our office routinely turns down probably two people a day, letting them know we just can’t help them find something to rent,” said Ryan Cooley, owner of O’Connor Real Estate and Development in Corktown. “There’s just a lot of 20-year-olds wanting to live in the city.”
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    • blogTO's Robin Sharp reports on the latest fears that the Annex, arguably the signature neighbourhood of Jane Jacobs' urbanism philosophy, is on the verge of changing hugely.

    • James Bow thanks the opposition parties in the Canadian parliament for passing a resolution forcing the Conservative government to release documentation relevant to the torture of Canadian detainees.

    • Daniel Drezner lets us know that North Korea's revaluation of its currency is producing measurable levels of popular unrest and fears this may help hardliners be all the more in control and remain aggressive internationally.

    • English Eclectic's Paul Halsall thanks American conservative preacher Rick Warren for condemning Uganda's anti-gay law.

    • At Gideon Rachman's blog, the Financial Times' Victor Mallet documents the latest tiresomeness of the Anglo-Spanish confrontations re: Gibraltar.

    • Global Sociology notes that poor countries are great places to dump toxic waste.

    • Douglas Muir at Halfway Down the Danube explores the machinations behind Congo's bizarre seafront and Angola's enclave of Cabinda.

    • Marginal Revolution points out that, contrary to libertarian fantasies, the Confederate States of America was actually quite a strong state.

    • Normblog's Norman Geras points out that using Saudi Arabia's low level of religious tolerance as a standard anywhere in the world is a Bad Thing.

    • Noel Maurer follows up on Douglas Muir's post on Congo's weird maritime border by examining how that border created the oil-rich Angolan enclave of Cabinda, and documents Venezuela's now-finished oil-driven economic boom.

    • Strange Maps documents another case of long-standing cultural differences driving politics, here dialectal differences mapping onto support for conservative and liberal parties in Denmark.

    • At Understanding Society, Daniel Little examines how recent community surveys in southeastern Michigan document the recession's severe effects, and examines Arthur Koestler's fictional take on Bukharin.

    • At the Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh reveals that even states which explicitly don't recognize same-sex marriage recognize the parenting rights of same-sex couples, split or otherwise, as per long-standing practice.

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