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  • Catrine Jarman notes how Easter Island's history has been badly misread. The island was sustainably run, after all.

  • Dead Things notes how DNA studies of ancient Rapa Nui suggest there was no South American immigration. No contact?

  • Will the new airport at St. Helena open up new potential for tourism for the South Atlantic island? Global News reports.

  • Iceland is enthusiastically trying to restore its ancient forests, downed by Vikings, so far with not much success. The New York Times reports.

  • Ottawa has been urged to give farm workers from Dominica, ravaged by hurricanes, extended work permits. The Toronto Star reports.

  • The island of Vieques, already hit by American military testing, has been prostrated by Maria. VICE reports.

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Bad Astronomer Phil Plait talks about the discovery that the early Moon had a notable atmosphere. http://www.syfy.com/syfywire/air-de-lune

The Big Picture, from the Boston Globe, shares terrifying pictures from the California wildfires. https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/bigpicture/2017/10/10/raging-wildfires-california/GtkTUeIILcZeqp5jlsLTMI/story.html

The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly talks about how writers need editing, and editors. https://broadsideblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/14/why-editors-matter-more-than-ever/

D-Brief notes that forming coal beds sucked so much carbon dioxide out of the air that it triggered an ice age.
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2017/10/10/coal-earth-ice/

Dangerous Minds looks at Michael's Thing, a vintage guide to gay New York dating from the 1970s. http://dangerousminds.net/comments/michaels_thing_new_york_citys_once_essential_queer_city_guide

Cody Delistraty looks at a new Paris exhibition of the works of Paul Gauguin that tries to deal with his moral sketchiness, inspiration of much his work. https://delistraty.com/2017/10/09/paul-gauguins-insurmountable-immorality/

Hornet Stories notes that same same-sex-attracted guys opt to be called not gay but androphiles. (Less baggage, they say.) https://hornetapp.com/stories/men-who-love-men-androphile/

Language Hat notes a claim that the Spanish of Christopher Columbus was marked by Catalan. http://languagehat.com/columbuss-catalan/

Language Log notes that the languages of southern China like Cantonese are actually fully-fledged languages. http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=34933

Lawyers, Guns and Money notes an argument that Chinese companies do not abide by the terms of tech transfer agreements.
http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2017/10/tech-transfer

The LRB Blog notes an old Mike Davis article noting how California, at a time of climate change, risks catastrophic wildfires. https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2017/10/10/the-editors/california-burning/

The Map Room Blog is unimpressed by the new book, A History of Canada in Ten Maps. (It needs more maps. Seriously.) https://buff.ly/2gcdLKG

The NYR Daily takes another look at the nature of consciousness.
http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/10/09/consciousness-an-object-lesson/

The Planetary Society Blog shares a scientist's story about how he stitched together the last mosaic photo of Saturn by Cassini. http://www.planetary.org/blogs/guest-blogs/2017/cassinis-last-dance-with-saturn-farewell-mosaic.html

The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that an unnegotiated secession of Catalonia from Spain would be a catastrophe for the new country. http://noelmaurer.typepad.com/aab/2017/10/la-econom%C3%ADa-de-la-secesi%C3%B3n-en-la-madre-patria.html

Roads and Kingdoms considers what is next for Kurdistan after its independence referendum. http://roadsandkingdoms.com/2017/whats-next-for-kurdistan/

Science Sushi considers the sketchy science of studying cetacean sex. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/science-sushi/2017/10/10/dolphin-penis-vagina-simulated-marine-mammal-sex/

Starts With A Bang's Ethan Siegel notes that exceptionally strong evidence that we do, in fact, exist in a real multiverse. https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/10/12/the-multiverse-is-inevitable-and-were-living-in-it/

Strange Maps looks at rates of reported corruption across Latin America, finding that Mexico fares badly. http://bigthink.com/strange-maps/half-of-all-mexicans-paid-a-bribe-in-the-previous-12-months

Window on Eurasia notes new inflows of migrants to Russia include fewer Europeans and many more Central Asians. http://windowoneurasia2.blogspot.ca/2017/10/gastarbeiters-in-russia-from-central.html
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  • DNA tests of Beothuk remains reveal that the extinct group was related to neither Mi'kmaq nor Inuit. The Globe and Mail reports.

  • Some Newfoundland outports are seeing many young professionals move in, to make homes and businesses. CBC reports.

  • Marginal Revolution claims a group wanting to mount a seasteading effort off French Polynesia are getting close to their goals.

  • Politico.eu notes that, in the Shetlands, while fishers hope Brexit will lead to the revival of the fisheries others fear a labour shortage without EU-27 migrants.

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  • Up to a third of the island of Molokai, in Hawaii, is for sale, but the land comes with strings attached. Bloomberg reports.

  • Threats from North Korea are encouraging people in Hawaii to consider how to minimize risks of nuclear attack. The National Post reports.

  • Most Hawaiian islands, save Kauai, are apparently facing a growing shortage of doctors. U.S. News and World Report looks at the issue.

  • I strongly approve of the idea of coffee leaf tea becoming the next big thing for agriculture in Hawaii. This press release hints at encouraging potential.

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  • National Geographic reports on how, unchecked, global warming may wreck the coffee industry of Uganda.

  • Aeon notes the nervous system of the ctenophore, product of a separate evolutionary process from our own.

  • Phys.org describes a recent study suggesting Easter Island was not wrecked by ecocide. (The Rapanui were devastated by others, I would add.)

  • Even with an active magnetic field, an Earth-like atmosphere of Proxima Centauri b might be eroded away by flares. Universe Today reports on the climate model making this prediction.

  • Does bizarre Przybylski’s star, HD 101065, contain exotic superheavy elements in its atmosphere? New Scientist wonders.

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  • Vice's Noisey celebrates the life and music of Israel Kamakawiwoʻole, whose medley of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" outlived him.

  • The AP describes how Britain's pop music charts have changed to stop future bouts of Ed Sheeran-style domination.
  • Hannah Ellis-Peterson reports for The Guardian about how (and why) Sony has opened a new vinyl pressing plant in Japan.

  • Carla Gillis reported for NOW Toronto about David McPherson's forthcoming book on the famed Horseshoe Tavern.

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  • Centauri Dreams describes a new type of planet, the molten hot rubble cloud "synestia".

  • Far Outliers describes the Polish rebels exiled to Siberia in the 19th century.
  • Language Hat looks at words for porridge in Bantuphone Africa.

  • Language Log examines whistling as a precursor to human language.

  • The LRB considers the new normal of the terrorist state of emergency.

  • Marginal Revolution notes the weakness of the Indian labour market.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer tries to explain to Uruguayans how Donald Trump made his mistake on the budget.

  • Savage Minds remembers the late anthropologist of Polynesia and space colonization, Ben Finney.

  • Towleroad examines the rather depressing idea of a porn-dominated sexuality.

  • Understanding Society examines Hindu/Muslim tensions in India.

  • Window on Eurasia reports on the weakness of Belarus' opposition.

  • Arnold Zwicky talks about Arthur Laurents.

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My Feedly feed pointed me to a provoactive article by Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog written by one Matt Novak, "New Zealand Could Have Been Part of the United States". The title sounds sensationalistic, but Novak does make the good point that the young British colony of New Zealand in the mid-19th century did have very close ties with the United States.

New Zealand became a British colony in 1841, but white emigration to the island nation, which was inhabited by the native Maori people, didn’t really surge until gold was discovered in 1861. The gold rush saw New Zealand’s population explode in the 1860s from roughly 99,000 at the start of the decade to 256,000 by 1871. The gold rush brought plenty of Californians, and the colony became inundated with a relatively small but rowdy bunch of Americans who didn’t acknowledge any allegiance to the United Kingdom.

As historian Gerald Horne explains in the 2007 book The White Pacific, “When gold was discovered in Otago in 1861, it was the New Zealanders who attracted attention from California to the point where there was very temporary talk of New Zealand becoming a part of the United States. In both England and New Zealand it was widely believed that an independent New Zealand would gravitate toward the U.S. sphere.”

If the small colony of New Zealand had sought independence from Britain in the 1860s or 70s, Americans could well be calling it a territory, or even a state. After all, there were just 33 American states in 1860.

The New Zealand gold rush also happened to coincide with the beginning of the American Civil War. After the war, there was a Confederate diaspora to the South Pacific—former slave owners in the Southern United States who kept up the slave trade in places like Fiji and Australia. Former American Confederates fled to places like New Zealand, which itself had outlawed slavery, but was just a short hop away from where the trade of human beings was still tacitly accepted.

Anywhere from 60,000 to 120,000 slaves were brought to Australia to work in sugar and cotton fields there between the 1860s and 1900, despite the fact that the country officially forbade slavery. Trade skyrocketed between the United States and New Zealand in the second half of the 19th century as a result of this increased activity by Californians and Confederates in the South Pacific—traders trafficking in both the gold rush of human beings, driven by British and American demand for cheap cotton, and the literal gold rush.


These certainly were close links. For the United States to have been able to challenge British rule in New Zealand, however, would imply a United States with a much stronger navy relative to the British Empire than OTL. Too, there would be plenty of closer targets in the British Empire for the United States to aim for--Canada, to start, and the Caribbean if the United States had the appetite. Notwithstanding the significant American influence in Polynesia, a United States that was able to take over New Zealand would be a much bigger naval power than OTL.

Is there a scenario that could give us an American New Zealand? What would it involve? With minimal divergences, I could only imagine a United States that had waged a successful war against the British Empire in concert with other great powers. A Franco-American alliance, maybe? A peaceful handover is more difficult to imagine still, though perhaps if the United Kingdom thought it could not secure these islands passing it to an ally might be imaginable. Another possibility I can imagine would involve Americans actually preempting the British and the French in extending their sovereignty over the homeland of the Maori, something perhaps involving early whalers.

What would work? As importantly, what would an American New Zealand look like? I am afraid that, if the paradigm applied to the indigenous peoples of the American West was applied here, the Maori might encountered significantly worse outcomes than in our history.
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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly writes about the importance of showing up for major events.

  • Crooked Timber looks at e-publishing for academia.

  • Dead Things notes that the evolution of the human brain and human teeth were not linked.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to two papers about ocean worlds and greenhouse effects.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at the hopeful seasteaders of French Polynesia.

  • Towleroad looks at the life of a trans man in the mid-20th century.

  • Window on Eurasia shares a Catalonian linguists' argument that linguistic diversity helps minority languages.

  • Arnold Zwicky reflects on the gay cowboy scene.

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  • blogTO notes that after the Berlin attack, the Toronto Christmas Market has upped its security.

  • D-Brief looks at how roads divide ecosystems.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes that WD 1536+520 apparently has solar levels of rock-forming elements.

  • Language Log examines central European metaphors for indecipherable languages.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money is diffident on the question of whether Sanders could have won versus Trump.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at the recent depreciation of Canada's natural resources.

  • The Planetary Society Blog talks about a recent essay collection noting the strides made in planetary science over the past quarter-century.

  • Cheri Lucas Rowlands shares photos from her trip to Hawai'i.

  • Seriously Science notes Santa's risk of personal injury.

  • Torontoist looks at a University of Toronto professor's challenges to a law on gender identity.

  • Whatever's John Scalzi likes what Disney has done, and is doing, to Star Wars.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that Russians might want fascism but lack a leader and argues Western defeatism versus Russia is as ill-judged now as it was in 1979.

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In "Native Soil", Brittany Lyte at The Atlantic describes how definitions of indigenous Hawaiian which require a certain percentage of indigenous ancestry threaten future generations with losing their ability to pass on their property. This definition has to change.

Natasha Boteilho lives in Oahu’s arid Waianae Valley on a jot of land held in trust for native Hawaiians. Here on Hawaii’s most densely populated island—where the highest per-capita homeless population in the United States continues to swell and the average price of a single-family home is three-quarters of a million dollars—that’s no small thing. The turquoise waters that lap against golden beaches lie next to jammed highways. Even the wildlife is exploding: A cacophonous feral-chicken epidemic provides the background noise to islanders’ daily lives.

Boteilho’s property was originally awarded to her grandfather by virtue of a federal law enacted in 1920 to stabilize a Hawaiian race left withering and landless after a century of colonization. Boteilho’s mother took over the land lease next, and then, in 2011, the homestead was passed on to her. A stay-at-home mother of three girls, the 39-year-old Boteilho resides with her husband and children in the three-bedroom house her grandfather built at the base of an eroded shield volcano.

But this is where Boteilho’s familial succession will end. None of Boteilho’s daughters—ages 2, 5, and 10—are eligible to inherit the land their great-grandfather settled in 1951. Simply put: They don’t have enough Hawaiian blood. “If I passed away tomorrow, my children would not be able to get my house,” Boteilho said. “That scares me.”

When Congress passed the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920, the native Hawaiian race was quickly vanishing. The legislation was a reaction to the large numbers of Hawaiians who had been forced off their lands when white businessmen moved to the islands during the early 1800s. The foreigners built sprawling pineapple and sugarcane plantations and imported a new working class to tend to them. The Hawaiians, meanwhile, receded to crowded urban zones where extrinsic diseases, for which they had no immunity, hacked away at their numbers. In 1778, when white men first set foot on the Hawaiian Islands, there were an estimated 683,000 full-blooded Hawaiians living there, according to the Pew Research Center. By 1919, that population was just 22,600. The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act attempted to combat the decline by creating a 200,000-acre land trust to serve as neighborhoods, farms, and ranches for those who could prove at least 50 percent Hawaiian ancestry.

“The Hawaiian race is passing,” testified Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana’ole before the U.S. House of Representatives in 1920. “And if conditions continue to exist as they do today, this splendid race of people, my people, will pass from the face of the Earth.” A born royal and a delegate to Congress, Kuhio was the visionary sponsor of the law that established Hawaiian homesteading. Despite his fight for a lower blood quantum, the law specifies that Hawaiians are eligible to apply for 99-year land leases at $1 per year on the condition that they prove they are at least half-blooded Hawaiians. The law further stipulates that a homestead lease can be passed on to a leaseholder’s child or grandchild—so long as that heir can prove at least 25 percent Hawaiian ancestry.
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  • Discover introduces its new blog Astrobeat.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at our operations throughout our solar system.
  • Dangerous Minds shares recordings from Prince's Sign o' The Times tour rehearsals.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a study of gas giant HD 95086b.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes evidence for pre-European trade in eastern Polynesia.

  • Gizmodo notes that a large vertical farm is being built in New Jersey.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that Kim Davis is being accused of hiding requested public documents.

  • The LRB Blog notes that the Chilcot report proves Blair's culpability.

  • Marginal Revolution notes the weakness of Deutsche Bank, looks at how the weak pound won't help Britain, and observes Italy's weakness.

  • Steve Munro considers reviving the Scarborough LRT proposal.

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw notes Australia's problems with Internet speed.

  • Supernova Condensate looks at the Juno probe's arrival at Jupiter.

  • Transit Toronto notes that high speeds have slowed down rail transit in Toronto.

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  • Bad Astronomy notes the literally cosmic homophobia of Louie Gohmert.

  • The Big Picture notes a Chinese factory set to make a fortune off of making masks of the American presidential candidates.

  • blogTO notes the raising of the Trans and Pride flags at Toronto City Hall, marking the beginning of Pride month.

  • Crooked Timber notes the racism that erased the genealogy of African-Americans.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that Britain's NHS has rejected PrEP again.

  • Language Log notes the sensitivity of the local version of the name "Pikachu" in Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong.

  • The LRB Blog reports from the scene of an active volcano in Nicaragua.

  • Marginal Revolution notes that witchcraft apparently does hurt economic progress.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer wonders why New Zealand and Uruguay, with such similar economies, saw such substantial economic divergence after 1950.

  • Peter Rukavina reports on an interesting Asian food store in Charlottetown.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog notes a Russian claim that condoms cause HIV transmission.

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Easter Island, easternmost outpost of Polynesia, has long been of at least passing interest to me. Even before Jared Diamond had presented a story of the island culture's eventual decine through environmental exploitation as a warning for our times in the mid-1990s, I had been interested in the island for its cultural achievements. There were the famous moai statues, depicted in the books I read as a child as liberally scattered across the island, but there was also the mysterious rongorongo, something that might be a script but was currently undecipherable. What mysteries did the island hide?



Aurbina's photo in the Wikimedia Commons, "Moai set in the hillside at Rano Raraku", is superb.

Diamond's narrative was simple.

Eventually Easter’s growing population was cutting the forest more rapidly than the forest was regenerating. The people used the land for gardens and the wood for fuel, canoes, and houses--and, of course, for lugging statues. As forest disappeared, the islanders ran out of timber and rope to transport and erect their statues. Life became more uncomfortable-- springs and streams dried up, and wood was no longer available for fires.

People also found it harder to fill their stomachs, as land birds, large sea snails, and many seabirds disappeared. Because timber for building seagoing canoes vanished, fish catches declined and porpoises disappeared from the table. Crop yields also declined, since deforestation allowed the soil to be eroded by rain and wind, dried by the sun, and its nutrients to be leeched from it. Intensified chicken production and cannibalism replaced only part of all those lost foods. Preserved statuettes with sunken cheeks and visible ribs suggest that people were starving.

With the disappearance of food surpluses, Easter Island could no longer feed the chiefs, bureaucrats, and priests who had kept a complex society running. Surviving islanders described to early European visitors how local chaos replaced centralized government and a warrior class took over from the hereditary chiefs. The stone points of spears and daggers, made by the warriors during their heyday in the 1600s and 1700s, still litter the ground of Easter today. By around 1700, the population began to crash toward between one-quarter and one-tenth of its former number. People took to living in caves for protection against their enemies. Around 1770 rival clans started to topple each other’s statues, breaking the heads off. By 1864 the last statue had been thrown down and desecrated.


The problem with this story, I began learning a few years ago, is that it isn't true. The bulk of ecological damage to the island was, two archaeologists argued, a consequence of the accidental importation of the Polynesian rat, compromising native ecosystems. The Rapa Nui of the island ended up coping quite well, as described in 2013 at NPR.

For one thing, they could eat rats. As J.B. MacKinnon reports in his new book, The Once and Future World, archeologists examined ancient garbage heaps on Easter Island looking for discarded bones and found "that 60 percent of the bones came from introduced rats."

So they'd found a meat substitute.

What's more, though the island hadn't much water and its soil wasn't rich, the islanders took stones, broke them into bits, and scattered them onto open fields creating an uneven surface. When wind blew in off the sea, the bumpy rocks produced more turbulent airflow, "releasing mineral nutrients in the rock," J.B. MacKinnon says, which gave the soil just enough of a nutrient boost to support basic vegetables. One tenth of the island had these scattered rock "gardens," and they produced enough food, "to sustain a population density similar to places like Oklahoma, Colorado, Sweden and New Zealand today."

According to MacKinnon, scientists say that Easter Island skeletons from that time show "less malnutrition than people in Europe." When a Dutch explorer, Jacob Roggevin, happened by in 1722, he wrote that islanders didn't ask for food. They wanted European hats instead. And, of course, starving folks typically don't have the time or energy to carve and shove 70-ton statues around their island.

[. . .]

Because, say the Hawaiian anthropologists, clans and families on Easter Island didn't fall apart. It's true, the island became desolate, emptier. The ecosystem was severely compromised. And yet, say the anthropologists, Easter Islanders didn't disappear. They adjusted. They had no lumber to build canoes to go deep-sea fishing. They had fewer birds to hunt. They didn't have coconuts. But they kept going on rat meat and small helpings of vegetables. They made do.


Discover's Collide-a-scape took a look in 2014 at the shift in the consensus away from a long history of decline. Estimates of ancient population sizes have been found to be overlarge, for instance. The Rapa Nui seem to have been good custodians of their island. The newest studies seem to confirm this.

What ended a civilization that built so many impressive stone statues and even managed to develop what might have been a writing system? The statues were no longer being built when the Chileans came, nor was knowledge of rongorongo passed on. What happened to the Rapa Nui? Not ecocide, as Diamond's scenario implies, but genocide.



The above Wikimedia Commons picture shows Side b of Rongorongo Text R, one of the few rongorongo texts to survive. I saw them myself in a 2001-2002 exhibition at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art, Splendid Isolation: The Art of Easter Island. The catalogue, happily, is available in PDF format here. Texts R and S were there on loan from the Smithsonian, along with a few dozen artifacts of pre-contact Rapa Nui society. This society did not survive, it turns out, because it was actively destroyed as a consequence of genocidal acts. Wikipedia's dry summary leaves my head spinning at the scale of the catastrophe.

In December 1862, Peruvian slave raiders struck Easter Island. Violent abductions continued for several months, eventually capturing or killing around 1500 men and women, about half of the island's population. International protests erupted, escalated by Bishop Florentin-Étienne Jaussen of Tahiti. The slaves were finally freed in autumn, 1863, but by then most of them had already died of tuberculosis, smallpox and dysentery. Finally, a dozen islanders managed to return from the horrors of Peru, but brought with them smallpox and started an epidemic, which reduced the island's population to the point where some of the dead were not even buried.


Little wonder, as I noted in my review of Andrew Robinson's Lost Languages, that the few survivors of Easter Island by the end of the 1860s had abandoned much of their traditional culture. For all its brilliance, all its accomplishments and knowledge, it had clearly failed to save the Rapa Nui from catastrophe. That conscious rejection made far more sense to me than Diamond's narrative of decline.

Savage Minds noted in 2005 that researchrs were challenging the integrity of Diamond's historical research. Sitting here in 2016, knowing what I know about how the depopulation of any number of colonized populations by disease and the extension of foreign rule and how this depopulation has been used to justify the very colonization, I wonder about the potential misuses of Diamond's apparent misinterpretation of the island's historical trajectory. Is his model of an imagined Easter Island as a metaphor for the Earth and its risks even usable?
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  • blogTO profiles a couple who live on a houseboat near the foot of the Scarborough Bluffs.

  • Centauri Dreams hosts an argument making the case for eventual human emigration in interstellar directions.

  • Dangerous Minds celebates Brian Eno.

  • The Dragon's Gaze shares a paper considering what "habitability" means.

  • The Dragon's Tales notes a study suggesting Neanderthals were omnivores.

  • Joe. My. God. shares a collaboration between Jean-Michel Jarre and Peaches.

  • The NYR Daily considers the ethics of drone killings.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer (here) and Crooked Timber (here) appear to have opposite perspectives on the threat posed by Trump to liberal democracy.

  • Discover's Seriously Science notes the recent study suggesting that at least one bird species' calls have syntax.

  • The Search explores CUNY-TV's efforts to create durable archives.

  • Strange Maps notes that Tokelau is an Internet superpower, based in terms of the number of sites it hosts.

  • Transit Toronto maps the proposed route for the Downtown Relief Line, which would stretch from City Hall over to Pape.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy considers the context in which it could, or could not, be a crime for a speaker to encourage an audience to attack hecklers.

  • Arnold Zwicky looks at the social import of clothes.

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  • Anthropology notes the latest archeological findings suggesting that Easter Island was not destroyed by war.

  • Beyond the Beyond's Bruce Sterling notes that Wired will now no longer be allowing people with ad blockers to access the site.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes the likely existence of a substantial gas giant in the disk of TW Hydrae and describes a Neptune-type world found through microlensing.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper suggesting, on the basis of the geology of Mars, that the early atmosphere was dominated by carbon dioxide with little oxygen.

  • Joe. My. God. links to the audio track of the new Pet Shop Boys single, "The Pop Kids".

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes opposition to the TPP in Indonesia.

  • Language Log notes a poster from the Second World War era United States propagandizing against the use of German, Italian, and Japanese.

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw contrasts Australia's response to the Syrian refugee crisis with Canada's.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that Mexico's PEMEX may be in bad shape.

  • Spacing Toronto shares John Lorinc's skeptical essay about transit in Toronto. Grand schemes are great, but what about implementation?

  • Strange Maps maps Brexit, in various dimensions.

  • Torontoist suggests this city can learn from Detroit when it comes to repurposing vacant lots.

  • Window on Eurasia notes the growth of separate Muslim and Christian neighbourhoods in many cities.

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Al Jazeera America's Jon Letman writes about how the social accepted transgenderism of Hawai'i's Polynesian past does, or does not, fit well into contemporary American Hawai'i.

Growing up in the largely Hawaiian community of Waianae on the west side of Oahu, Kalani Young enjoyed a diverse upbringing that included attending Catholic, Mormon and evangelical churches and a Buddhist temple, in addition to prayers and rituals rooted in Hawaiian spirituality.

However Young also recalled being an effeminate young boy who was bullied by male family members who, she said, wanted to “beat the girl out of her.”

The 33-year-old identifies as mahu — a gender role in traditional Hawaiian society that refers to people who exhibit both feminine and masculine traits.

“You’re someone in the middle. That’s all it means,” said Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a hula and Hawaiian studies teacher on Oahu, about the mahu term, which she prefers to transgender for its inclusivity.

Known as a multicultural melting pot, Hawaii is often portrayed as among the most liberal states in the country based on its support for progressive positions on issues like climate change, gun control and same-sex marriage. Hawaii became the 15th state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2013 and the state constitution, enacted in 1959, protects equal rights for all sexes.

However LGBT communities undoubtedly still face discrimination in the Aloha State, a fact some advocates attribute to the imposition of Western values on the Hawaiian people that began in the 18th century.
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Wired's Margaret Rhodes writes approvingly of the current front-runner to replace New Zealand's national flag.

The new flag uses a silver fern frond as its primary motif, instead of the Union Jack, and keeps the four stars that decorate the bottom right corner of the current design. The official alternative flag has quite a campaign behind it: Lockwood has a robust website about the design, complete with information on voting and donating. As for the silver fern, it’s a known icon in New Zealand with roots that trace back to the Māori, the country’s indigenous Polynesian populaton. Māori legend has it that the silver fern once helped hunters and warriors find their way home, by reflecting the moonlight and creating a path through the forest.

On his site, [designer Kyke] Lockwood writes, “the fern is an element of indigenous flora representing the growth of our nation. The multiple points of the fern leaf represent Aotearoa’s,”—the indigenous name for the island country—“peaceful multicultural society, a single fern spreading upwards represents that we are all one people growing onward into the future.” That last bit is some saccharine symbolism, for sure, but that’s hardly uncommon with flag design.

That said, it’s also a smart design. According to experts in vexillology, the study of flag design, a good flag is one you can both recognize immediately and draw from memory. The frond, as a piece of graphic design, makes both possible. It’s almost like a Matisse cut-out in this way: it has a child-like simplicity, but character that won’t be found on another nation’s flag.
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  • blogTO considers the question of what Toronto's shortest street is.

  • Centauri Dreams shares spectacular Pluto imagery.

  • The Dragon's Tales reports on the latest from Syria.

  • Language Log reports "You ain't no Muslim, bruv!", a phrase gone viral.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money connects the Second World War to colonialism in Hawai'i and the Philippines.

  • The Planetary Society Blog reports on the first Voyager images of Jupiter's Great Red Spot and on the successful insertion into Venus orbit of Japan's Akatsuki probe.

  • Towleroad reports on the death of trans Warhol icon Holly Woodlawn.

  • Transit Toronto notes the further spread of the WiFi network in the Toronto subway.

  • Window on Eurasia notes Russia's refusal to help Circassians in Syria, looks at ethnic Russian volunteers for ISIS, and examines the implications of Saakashvili's loss of Georgian citizenship.

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Al Jazeera reports on the controversy surrounding elections in Hawaii regarding a controversial election for an indigenous government. As I understand it, the lack of indigenous Hawaiian self-governance has much to do with the particular mechanics of Hawaii's annexation, the old Polynesian monarchy having been taken over wholesale as it was absorbed into the United States.

A federal court hearing is set over a lawsuit by people who want to put a stop to an election process that's under way for Native Hawaiians.

The lawsuit, filed in August, says it's unconstitutional for the state to be involved in a race-based election. The state argues in court documents that while it had a role in compiling a roll of Native Hawaiians eligible to participate, it's not involved in next month's vote to elect delegates for a convention to determine self-governance for Native Hawaiians.

Tuesday's hearing focused on the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. Plaintiffs want the judge to limit voter registration activities or stop the election altogether.

U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright, who heard arguments Tuesday, said he'll rule from the bench with an explanation for his decision on Friday, adding he will issue a detailed written order later.

The plaintiffs include two non-Hawaiians who aren't eligible for the roll, two Native Hawaiians who say their names appear on the roll without their consent and two Native Hawaiians who don't agree with a declaration to "affirm the un-relinquished sovereignty of the Native Hawaiian people, and my intent to participate in the process of self-determination." The suit was brought on the plaintiffs' behalf by Judicial Watch, which describes itself as "a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation."

Native Hawaiians are the last remaining indigenous group in the U.S. that has not been allowed to establish its own government. Former U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka spent about a dozen years trying to get a bill passed that would give Native Hawaiians the same rights already extended to many Native Americans and Alaska Natives.


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