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  • North Korea's nuclear threats seem not to have deterred tourists from Guam. Might they make the island's tourism? Travel and Leisure reports.

  • As National Geographic observes, Yap--an island state of the Federated States of Micronesia--is increasingly caught between China and the US.

  • Can Norfolk Island, as proposed, actually break from Australia and join New Zealand? Does New Zealand want it? The Guardian describes this movement.

  • The Guardian notes that calls for recognition, even belated justice, by descendants of Melanesian slaves in Queensland are growing louder.

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  • Peter Geoghegan writes at Open Democracy about the mess that Brexit has made of Ireland, two decades after the Troubles' end.

  • Anthrodendum's Alex Golub notes that a North Korean attack on Guam, among other things, would threaten the Chamorro natives of the island.

  • The Toronto Star carries an excerpt from a book by Mark Dowie looking at how the Haida, of Haida Gwaii, managed to win government recognition of their existence.

  • CBC's Sameer Chhabra explores how Canadian students at Caribbean medical schools find it very difficult to get jobs back home.

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  • blogTO shares ten interesting facts about Scarborough.

  • The Dragon's Gaze looks at orbits where two or more objects can share a path.

  • The Dragon's Tales reports on Lockheed's allegedly promising plan for near-term fusion reactors.

  • Eastern Approaches notes concerns about media bias in Slovakian print media.

  • Geocurrents notes how recent events show that Ukraine does not cleave neatly into pro- and anti-Russian halves.

  • Joe. My. God. observes that the Micronesian state of Palau has decriminalized homosexuality.

  • Language Hat looks at the history of how fonts get their names.

  • Marginal Revolution notes the arguably stagnant and over-regulated labour market of France.

  • James Nicoll has announced his ongoing effort, to commemorate the Cuban missile crisis, to review books on nuclear war.

  • The Planetary Society Blog's Emily Lakdawalla notes that astronomers have found a second small Kuiper belt object for the New Horizons probe to survey.

  • Spacing Toronto blogs about the demographic and economic challenges of millennials in Canadian cities.

  • Towleroad looks at problems with gay intimacy visibility on American television.

  • Window on Eurasia considers tensions over migration in post-Soviet Russia.

  • The World notes the devastating impact on living standards of the Greek recession.

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John S. DelRosario Jr.'s column in the Saipan Tribune is an interesting artifact from a society about to experience the death of its traditional language.

Saipan is the largest island of the United States' self-governing Micronesian commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Chamorro is a language of the Austronesian family distantly related to--among the better-known Austronesian languages--Filipino, Bahasa Indonesia, and Malagasy.

The Northern Marianas Island, along with adjacent Guam, has been under colonial rule for centuries--Spanish, Japanese, American. In the most recent century, any number of factors centering around the disruption of traditional societies by globalization has led to a full-fledged shift away from Chamorro towards English. In this article, DelRosario talks about his decision to stop writing a newspaper column in Chamorro.

Like dry leaf bouncing erratically in the open waters, someday it would soak and sink to the bottom of the sea, never to be seen again. Sadly, this is how I see the demise of our native tongue. Up ahead, our children would see the loss of something intrinsically valuable as it recedes with the tide of neglect, so mutilated by the demands of modernity.

[. . .]

Understandably, folks have related how hard it is to read in their lingo. Indeed, it is humiliating! But many of us are victims of an educational system that teaches English as we move from grammar to high school. We developed literacy in English while we devolve into illiteracy in our own native tongue. It’s nobody’s fault. But look at the long-term effects of illiteracy in our own language. It’s our last hope to perpetuating our peoplehood, isn’t it?

I learned my Chamorro in the first and second grades. Learning the written aspect of it never waned in spite of the instructional discontinuation. I have struggled during the initial years of penning my thoughts to ensure some appreciable measure of being conversant on issues, written with clarity. It became a lot easier with constant writing exercises through the years. It felt good, though I still refuse to use the orthography from Guam. It isn’t representative of the Chamorro taught then nor is it anywhere near what the learned folks have shared and conveyed to us before moving on.

The decision to bury my written column in the vernacular is founded in the assessment that hardly anybody reads Chamorro these days. Specifically, I quiz if I’ve done justice in the use of the written Chamorro or did I exact the complete opposite-discouraged more than encouraged its use. It seems an issue often treated with the adage, "After all is said and done, a lot more is said than done." And unless there’s strong and wide support of encouragement to continue, it ends on the last week of April.

It is this sad assessment plus 40 years of walking up to the loneliest mound on earth that hastened ending this journey this year. I will prepare an obituary for it. It seems a useless journey I liken to the narrowing of the arteries. Eventually, it loses its use and function. But I think I’ve conquered my dream of writing in my vernacular. Thank God it came with the love of writing and tons of inspiration. To write successfully is to write. Proficiency comes with the routine and critical review or reasoning. Nothing else! That I will end my written Chamorro will not change, in any form or fashion, my being Chamorro.

The implications of this for identity in this part of Micronesia, especially given the heavy influences of colonial powers on what's now identified as "traditional" culture, is examined at length.

Go, read.
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Go Palau! (Thanks to inter Press Service's Stephen Leahy for the story.)

One of Japan's closest allies declared over the weekend that all of its oceans - more than 600,000 square kilometres - would be a sanctuary for whales, dolphins, dugongs, sharks and other species.

"There will be no hunting or harassment of marine mammals and other species in our waters," said the Honourable Harry Fritz, minister of the environment, natural resources and tourism of the Republic of Palau.

"We urge other nations to join our efforts to protect whales, dolphins and other marine animals," Fritz said at a press conference during Oceans Day at the meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan.

Japan has long sought to overturn the global ban on commercial whaling and has actively solicited and received Palau's support for many years. Japan is its second largest source of development aid after the United States. Japanese tourists frequent the islands since many people speak some Japanese.

[. . . ]

"Japan remains our very good friend, and we would like to work in harmony to achieve what we both want," said Fritz.

One of the world's smallest nations, with 22,000 people, Palau is an island in the Pacific Ocean, some 800 kms east of the Philippines and 3,200 kms south of Tokyo. Japan occupied Palau after World War I and Japanese immigration was encouraged until World War II when the U.S. occupied the region.

A year ago at the United Nations General Assembly, Palau's President Johnson Toribiong announced that the waters in its economic zone, about the size of France, would be a shark sanctuary. Scientists have said about half of the world's oceanic sharks are at risk of extinction, mainly due to the practice of catching them for their fins.

Palau is also home to at least 11 whale species, including a breeding population of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) that can dive more than three kms deep in search of prey. As many as 30 other whale and dolphin species may also use the rich waters around Palau, Fritz said.

"This sanctuary will promote sustainable whale-watching tourism, already a growing multi-million-dollar global industry, as an economic opportunity for the people of Palau," he said.
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Rachel Morris' Wired Science article describes a very interesting approach to fighting climate change: get the vulnerable countries to sue the better-off ones.

The Prunerov power station is the Czech Republic’s biggest polluter: Its 300-foot-high cooling towers push plumes of white smoke high above the flat, featureless fields of northern Bohemia. Prunerov reliably wins a place on lists of Europe’s dirtiest power plants, emitting 11.1 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. So when CEZ Group, the state-controlled utility, proposed an overhaul to extend the facility’s life for another quarter of a century, protests flared — including one from a place about as far from the sooty industrial region as you can get, a place of tropical temperatures and turquoise seas with not a smokestack in sight. This January, the Federated States of Micronesia, some 8,000 miles away in the Pacific Ocean, lodged a legal challenge to the Prunerov plant on the grounds that its chronic pollution threatens the island nation’s existence.

Is that, well — legal, you might ask? In international law, there’s an established principle called transboundary harm, which means that if a Canadian factory belches toxic chemicals into a river, fouling a reservoir in Vermont, sooner or later the people at the Canadian factory will be hearing from some American lawyers. For the first time, Micronesia applied this tenet to climate change — arguing that its survival is jeopardized by any large power plant that doesn’t curb its carbon footprint. “They’re using a very creative approach to the international legal process,” says Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development.

A groundbreaking transnational legal action might sound like a tall order for a country of 107,000 people whose most high-profile endeavor to date has been hosting the 16th season of Survivor.

Yet Micronesia has incentives to get innovative. NASA satellite maps show that the nation inhabits the spot where sea levels are rising most rapidly. For the past three years, abnormally high tides have assailed the islands, souring the soil and salting the aquifer, making it impossible to grow taro, one of the country’s few staple foods. Last year, the government declared a national emergency and spent more than 7 percent of its budget of $42 million to ferry bags of rice and drinking water to its low-lying islands. Professor Charles Fletcher, a geologist from the University of Hawaii who has conducted research in Micronesia, said, “This is the first situation I’m aware of where sea-level rise has led to threats to food and water security.”

[. . .]

Environmental lawyers point to several possibilities for international claims. Countries affected by oceanic changes could seek redress using the Convention on the Law of the Sea, although it can’t be used against the United States — which hasn’t ratified the treaty. A nation could go after a polluter in the International Court of Justice on the grounds that its citizens’ human rights would be violated if their country were wiped off the map — but, again, the United States is not a signatory, and the ICJ is somewhat toothless.

A number of lawyers told me that the most promising avenue might be the common-law doctrine used in the Kivalina case. Any nation could sue a U.S. company in U.S. court for a “nuisance” caused by climate change — Tuvalu v. ExxonMobil, if you will. And a couple of island nations that were once American protectorates, like Micronesia and Palau, have legal compacts with the United States that give them more powerful tools: They could potentially sue a company or even a government agency, using domestic statutes such as the Clean Air Act.

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The Micronesian Pacific island state of Nauru is a country with a horrible economic history. Once one of the richest countries in the world thanks to the phosphates mined from the guano that covered the circular island's interior, these funds were exhausted thanks to bad investments, leaving an impoverished country with an interior that's an effective wasteland and inhabited by terribly poor and unhealthy people. For a time, Nauru dealt in dodgy financial services, money laundering and the like, and more recently gained fame as a country that hosted Australian asylum seekers in detention camps. The island's future is grim, and will certainly depend hugely on support from its Australian patron, especially for funds.

Russia's also involved now. Nauru just recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in exchange for money.

Kiren Keke, Nauru's minister of foreign affairs, trade, and finance, visited the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, today, where he said that his country is ready to begin discussions on recognizing the region as an independent country.

On December 13 Keke was in Moscow, where he held talks with Kremlin authorities on Russia's allocation of $50 million for "urgent socioeconomic projects in Nauru," according to RFE/RL's Russian Service.

In mid-November, Russia actively participated in an international conference for donors to Nauru, which has some 14,000 inhabitants and is thought to be the smallest republic in the world.

Breakaway leaders in Abkhazia and South Ossetia announced their territories' independence from Georgia soon after the five-day military conflict between Georgian and Russian forces.

The pro-Moscow governments of Nicaragua and Venezuela recognized the rebel regions' independence this year.

Andrei Zagorsky, a professor at the Moscow State Institute of International Affairs, told RFE/RL that the practice of "buying the loyalty of other countries" is not new.

He said that if Russia's goal is to increase the number of countries that recognize South Ossetian and Abkhaz independence, then Moscow's strategy is justified.

Australia needn't worry that Nauru's falling into a Russian sphere of influence, though, since Nauru has also recognized Kosovo's independence, making it the only sovereign state in the world to recognize all three countries--Kosovo, South Ossetia, Abkhazia--at once.

"We have established relations with the world's biggest nation (Russia), and now with the smallest," Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba told Reuters.

But Georgia said Russia had "bought recognition." "It doesn't change anything in international politics," said Minister for Reintegration Temur Iakobashvili. "If someone is happy that Abkhazia is now recognized by the country no one knew about yesterday, let him be happy."

Russia's Kommersant newspaper cited a source on Monday as saying Nauru had asked Russia for $50 million for projects on the island, which once made its money from exporting phosphates mined from fossilized bird droppings.

Asked if Nauru had been paid to recognize Abkhazia, Shamba replied: "You don't establish diplomatic relations like that ... although of course the entire international practice is sheer bargaining to a certain extent."

Lawyers, Guns and Money's Robert Farley suggested in a recent post ("Does Criticism of Nauru's Foreign Policy Constitute Slut Shaming?") that these multiple recognitions of controversial new states have given Nauru "Golden Breakaway Status."
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I've a post up at Demography Matters taking a look at Kiribati's plan to help its citizens escape rising sea levels by making them all professionals, with a brief consideration of the vulnerability of these and other islands to complete depopulation.
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Joel at Far Outliers has an extended excerpt describing the history of the English language in the Bonin Islands, a Micronesian archipelago first settled by Anglophones before falling under Japanese sovereignty.
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  • Nicholas at 1948 wonders just how oppressed Tibetans are by China. His conclusion? They're no more oppressed than the Chinese, and possibly less so in some areas like the one-child policy (three if you're Tibetan).

  • Will at The Dragon's Tales has a long survey of some recent articles on China, touching on foreign policy, military doctrine, demographic prospects, and China's dependence on external trade and foreign consumers.

  • Edward Lucas reports, among other things, that ethnic Romanians in Ukraine's Bukovina region are applying for Romanian passports on the model of their Moldovan co-ethnics.

  • Joel at Far Outliers has a couple of posts (1, 2) on the relatively new phenomenon of Micronesian emigration that promises to create relatively quite large diasporas.

  • Joe.My.God addresses the subject of Merv Griffin, outed by the media only after his death, and comes to the conclusion that for all of Griffin's gay-friendliness his failure to come out on his own means that "as a gay man, as a human being, he was a failure."

  • Strange Maps records how Germany almost got a different frontier with Poland. If not for Stalin's desire to annex L'viv to Soviet Ukraine, Germany might have kept Lower Silesia after 1945.

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