Tagged: Guardian

Pic of the Day – and more


Click to enlargeAP/Nati Harnik

Sunlight streams through the windows of a burned-out building in Plattsmouth, Nebraska.

US polar vortex: the best pictures: The most extreme weather in decades has swept across North America, sending the mercury plummeting and causing chaos – but also creating stunning pictures.

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Snowden raises the count of world leaders bugged by NSA to 35

The United States monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders according to classified documents leaked by fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden, Britain’s Guardian newspaper…

Phone numbers were passed on to the U.S. National Security Agency by an official in another government department, according to the documents, the Guardian said…

It added that staff in the White House, State Department and the Pentagon were urged to share the contact details of foreign politicians…

“In one recent case, a U.S. official provided NSA with 200 phone numbers to 35 world leaders,” reads an excerpt from a confidential memo dated October 2006 which was quoted by the Guardian.

The identities of the politicians in question were not revealed.

The revelations in the center-left Guardian suggested that the bugging of world leaders could be more widespread than originally thought, with the issue set to overshadow an EU summit in Brussels.

It’s worth a chuckle to see the stodgy and sanctimonious “neutral” editors at Reuters feel the need to identify the GUARDIAN as “center-left”. Poisonally, I think they point out corruption and class-based politics enough to qualify properly as just plain “left”.

Either road, there ain’t any “center-right” newspapers or politicians working at protecting our privacy and liberty regardless of the number of times they mouth those words in their populist blather.

Our government opposes request to reveal spying demands

The U.S. Justice Department has told a secret surveillance court that it opposes a request from technology companies to reveal more about the demands they receive for user information, according to court papers released on Wednesday.

Negotiations between the federal government and companies such as Google have gone on for months, and while U.S. spy agencies said they plan to be more transparent, they have opposed company requests to disclose more detailed data…

Microsoft, Yahoo!, LinkedIn and Facebook are among the companies seeking permission to publish statistics about the extent of the demands placed on them.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post, using former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden as a source, reported beginning in June the companies’ deep involvement with U.S. surveillance efforts.

The companies said some of the reporting was erroneous, so they want to reveal, for example, how many of their users are encompassed in surveillance demands and the total number of compulsory requests under specific laws.

The Justice Department said in its response: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!

The surveillance court has not yet ruled publicly on the companies’ request.

RTFA if you honestly feel you need to read the crap the DOJ released as an answer to the questions raised in this confrontation.

Frankly, I think the average 6th grader has heard sufficient phony-baloney press releases read on the evening news by TV talking heads to be capable of coming pretty close to reproducing the excuses offered by any group of American politicians.

The whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations

The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.

The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said…

In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”

Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing…”

On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”, and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government…

Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA’s surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. “What they’re doing” poses “an existential threat to democracy”, he said.

“I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,” he said. “There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.”

He purposely chose, he said, to give the documents to journalists whose judgment he trusted about what should be public and what should remain concealed.

As for his future…he views his best hope as the possibility of asylum, with Iceland – with its reputation of a champion of internet freedom – at the top of his list. He knows that may prove a wish unfulfilled.

But after the intense political controversy he has already created with just the first week’s haul of stories, “I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets.”

Lots more in the article. A worthwhile read – to aid in understanding the processes that brought Ed Snowden to these conclusions. Watch the whole video up top. He’s bright, articulate, obviously he has been thinking about the hows and why of such a decision for a long time.

I wish him well. He’s done our nation, our democratic traditions, a service.

What is love? Five theories on the greatest emotion of all

“What is love” was the most searched phrase on Google in 2012, according to the company…The Guardian has gathered writers from the fields of science, psychotherapy, literature, religion and philosophy to give their definition of the much-pondered word.

The physicist: ‘Love is chemistry’

Biologically, love is a powerful neurological condition like hunger or thirst, only more permanent. We talk about love being blind or unconditional, in the sense that we have no control over it. But then, that is not so surprising since love is basically chemistry. While lust is a temporary passionate sexual desire involving the increased release of chemicals such as testosterone and oestrogen, in true love, or attachment and bonding, the brain can release a whole set of chemicals: pheromones, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin. However, from an evolutionary perspective, love can be viewed as a survival tool – a mechanism we have evolved to promote long-term relationships, mutual defence and parental support of children and to promote feelings of safety and security.

• Jim Al-Khalili is a theoretical physicist and science writer

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Favorite new photos: Bat embryos

Bat embryos – Molossus rufus (black mastiff bat) – photographed by Dorit Hockman of Cambridge University, one of the finalists in the Nikon Small World 2012 photomicrography competition.

I haven’t visited the daily GUARDIAN Eyewitness photography section in a while. Cranked it up on my iPad and this is among the latest goodie published.