“Top secret documents retrieved by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden show that Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government allowed the largest American spy agency to conduct widespread surveillance in Canada during the 2010 G8 and G20 summits.
The documents are being reported exclusively by CBC News.
The briefing notes, stamped “Top Secret,” show the U.S. turned its Ottawa embassy into a security command post during a six-day spying operation by the National Security Agency while U.S. President Barack Obama and 25 other foreign heads of government were on Canadian soil in June of 2010.
The covert U.S. operation was no secret to Canadian authorities.
An NSA briefing note describes the American agency’s operational plans at the Toronto summit meeting and notes they were “closely co-ordinated with the Canadian partner.”
The NSA and its Canadian “partner,” the Communications Security Establishment Canada, gather foreign intelligence for their respective governments by covertly intercepting phone calls and hacking into computer systems around the world.
The secret documents do not reveal the precise targets of so much espionage by the NSA — and possibly its Canadian partner — during the Toronto summit.
But both the U.S. and Canadian intelligence agencies have been implicated with their British counterpart in hacking the phone calls and emails of foreign politicians and diplomatsattending the G20 summit in London in 2009 — a scant few months before the Toronto gathering of the same world leaders.
Notably, the secret NSA briefing document describes part of the U.S. eavesdropping agency’s mandate at the Toronto summit as “providing support to policymakers.”
Documents previously released by Snowden, a former NSA contractor who has sought and received asylum in Russia, suggested that support at other international gatherings included spying on the foreign delegations to get an unfair advantage in any negotiations or policy debates at the summit.
It was those documents that first exposed the spying on world leaders at the London summit.
More recently, Snowden’s trove of classified information revealed Canada’s eavesdropping agency had hacked into phones and computers in the Brazilian government’s department of mines, a story that touched off a political firestorm both in that country and in Ottawa.
The documents have rocked political capitals around the world. NSA spies on everyone from leaders of U.S. allies to millions of Americans. Personal information has been scooped up by the agency’s penetration of major internet and phone companies….”
“Shimizu, a Japanese architectural and engineering firm, has a solution for the climate crisis: Simply build a band of solar panels 400 kilometers (249 miles) wide (pdf) running all the way around the Moon’s 11,000-kilometer (6,835 mile) equator and beam the carbon-free energy back to Earth in the form of microwaves, which are converted into electricity at ground stations.
That means mining construction materials on the Moon and setting up factories to make the solar panels. “Robots will perform various tasks on the lunar surface, including ground leveling and excavation of hard bottom strata,” according to Shimizu, which is known for a series of far-fetched “dream projects” including pyramid cities and a space hotel. The company proposes to start building the Luna Ring in 2035. “Machines and equipment from the Earth will be assembled in space and landed on the lunar surface for installation,” says the proposal.
If that sounds like a sci-fi fantasy—and fantastically expensive—it’s not completely crazy. California regulators, for instance, in 2009 approved a contract that utility Pacific Gas & Electric signed to buy 200 megawatts of electricity from an orbiting solar power plant to be built by a Los Angeles area startup called Solaren. The space-based photovoltaic farm would consist of a kilometer-wide inflatable Mylar mirror that would concentrate the sun’s rays on a smaller mirror, which would in turn focus the sunlight on to high-efficiency solar panels. These would generate electricity, which would be converted into radio frequency waves, transmitted to a giant ground station near Fresno, California, and then converted back into electricity.
Unlike terrestrial solar power plants, orbiting solar panels can generate energy around the clock. The part-time nature of earthbound solar power means it can’t currently supply the minimum or “baseload” demand without backup from fossil-fuel plants. However, the cost of lifting the solar panels into orbit would be far higher than for building a photovoltaic power plant on earth.
Not much has been heard from Solaren since then, but last year Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, said in a speech that the project was still under development. “Although this sounds like science fiction, I am hopeful that recent advances in thinner, lighter-weight solar modules will make this technology feasible,” Peevey said. “I believe it is worth taking a chance on this technology because as a baseload resource, space-based solar may help to displace coal-fired capacity that would otherwise meet those needs.”
But even if the energy that eventually comes from a solar power plant on the the Moon justifies the costs of building one—not to mention the fossil fuel you have to burn to get the machinery up there—Shimizu’s greatest hurdle may be staking a claim on all that lunar real estate, points out Wired. “Outer space law is notoriously difficult to apply in practice and may scupper the plans long before anything gets built.””
"…Across the generations, I see that people can’t get enough of each other, if and only if they can have each other at a distance, in amounts they can control. I call it the Goldilocks effect: not too close, not too far, just right. But what might feel just right for that middle-aged executive can be a problem for an adolescent who needs to develop face-to-face relationships. An 18-year-old boy who uses texting for almost everything says to me wistfully, "Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.”
When I ask people ”What’s wrong with having a conversation?” People say, “I’ll tell you what’s wrong with having a conversation. It takes place in real time and you can’t control what you’re going to say.” So that’s the bottom line. Texting, email, posting, all of these things let us present the self as we want to be. We get to edit, and that means we get to delete, and that means we get to retouch, the face, the voice, the flesh, the body — not too little, not too much, just right...”
“Being a Canadian is so embarrassing these days. We seem to be doing everything possible to convince the rest of the world that we are a bunch of morons.
I’m not talking about Rob Ford’s antics at Toronto city hall. I’m talking about the behaviour of our new minister of the environment, Leona Aglukkaq, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Warsaw this week.
Ford may be getting all the headlines, but what Aglukkaq is doing is far more damaging to Canada’s international reputation in the long run. Her offence is not so much that she is working to sabotage any effective agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions. This is just standard Canadian policy, and while it may make us look like bad people, it doesn’t make us look stupid. After all, everyone knows that our economic interests lie in digging up and selling as much oil as possible before the clock runs out and the remaining carbon becomes “unburnable.”
No, what Aglukkaq did that makes us all look stupid is that she chose to defend Canada’s position using the same preposterous talking points that the Prime Minister’s Office has approved for use domestically. In defending her hostility to carbon taxes, she said that “we know a carbon tax would increase the price of everything in Canada.” This is the same old talking point that we’ve been hearing from the Conservative government since 2008.
The problem with saying this sort of thing at a high-profile international conference is that it’s bullshit, in the technical sense of the term. In other words, it’s a claim that is not only not true, but that doesn’t even pretend to be true. Like the phrase “your call is important to us,” you only have to stop and think about it for a moment to realize that it couldn’t be true.
For starters, if you were to increase the price of everything in Canada, that would be equivalent to increasing the price of nothing. Prices are just the exchange ratio of goods, and so are unaffected by their absolute level. The phrase is literally nonsensical.
On the other hand, if you were to increase the price of everything except money, then that would be called inflation. One could conceivably oppose carbon taxes on the grounds that they would be inflationary, except that central bank policy in Canada right now is intended to be inflationary (that’s why interest rates are low). So increasing the prices of all goods and services would be good for the economy.
But of course, increasing the price of carbon emissions would not increase the price of all goods and services. It would increase the price of exactly one thing, namely, carbon emissions. Whether or not that would result in other prices being increased throughout the economy is a decision that would be made entirely by the free market.
That is precisely why carbon taxes were initially proposed by free market economists, and are favoured by the responsible right everywhere. They are the environmental equivalent of a surgical strike. They hit precisely the intended target, with none of the collateral damage associated with old-fashioned environmental regulation.
Most importantly, carbon taxes leave it entirely up to market forces to determine whether the increased price of carbon emissions is going to raise the price of other goods. If entrepreneurs and consumers are able to substitute away from carbon-intensive power sources (such as coal), toward carbon-neutral power sources (such as hydroelectric or nuclear), there is no reason that prices have to rise.
The important point, however, is that these decisions are all made by the market, not by the government. The only question that the government needs to answer is what the correct price for carbon should be. The current answer in Canada, federally, is zero. Because of this, people who oppose carbon taxes (or cap-and-trade systems, which according to the current government are the same thing) need to explain why zero is the correct price.
Standard economic theory tells us that price should reflect social cost. If your consumption imposes a cost on some other person, then you should have to pay.
Seen in this light, the only way that the correct price for carbon could be zero would be if the social cost of carbon emissions was also zero. And the only way that the social cost of carbon emissions could be zero would be if these emissions made no contribution to harmful climate change. So for people who are willing to think through the consequences of their views, there is practically no daylight between rejection of carbon taxes and the denial of anthropogenic climate change.
But of course, the reason Aglukkaq is making these claims is not that she is incapable of thinking through the consequences. It is because the Conservative government has made the rather cynical calculation that a sufficient percentage of the Canadian population is not really interested in thinking through the consequences, and so there is simply no need to develop rational policies in this area. They have chosen message discipline over message coherence.
I understand the domestic political considerations that led them to this conclusion. My only hope would be that, at least when they travel abroad, Canadian ministers might try a bit harder to avoid insulting the intelligence of the international community. Could we not have some different talking points at least? Especially when we are addressing the victims of our economically self-serving policies, it seems to me that we could at least have the decency to come up with a set of more convincing lies.”
“CamGirls is an ongoing investigative project that looks at the female image, with themes that question beauty, the way in which women are perceived, ideas of censorship, appropriation and representation and how the internet and technology have had an effect on this. Starting with the instruction “copy this pose” the project is an interactive piece that allows submissions of selfies along with new thoughts and interpretations on the term “Cam Girl””
“In December 2012, a pink-haired complex systems researcher named Brad Werner made his way through the throng of 24,000 earth and space scientists at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held annually in San Francisco. This year’s conference had some big-name participants, from Ed Stone of Nasa’s Voyager project, explaining a new milestone on the path to interstellar space, to the film-maker James Cameron, discussing his adventures in deep-sea submersibles.
But it was Werner’s own session that was attracting much of the buzz. It was titled “Is Earth F**ked?” (full title: “Is Earth F**ked? Dynamical Futility of Global Environmental Management and Possibilities for Sustainability via Direct Action Activism”).
Standing at the front of the conference room, the geophysicist from the University of California, San Diego walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”
There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”.
Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage. But then again, Werner wasn’t exactly calling for those things. He was merely observing that mass uprisings of people – along the lines of the abolition movement, the civil rights movement or Occupy Wall Street – represent the likeliest source of “friction” to slow down an economic machine that is careening out of control. We know that past social movements have “had tremendous influence on … how the dominant culture evolved”, he pointed out. So it stands to reason that, “if we’re thinking about the future of the earth, and the future of our coupling to the environment, we have to include resistance as part of that dynamics”. And that, Werner argued, is not a matter of opinion, but “really a geophysics problem”…”