Guardian and Washington Post win Pulitzer prize for NSA revelations by Edward Snowden

The Guardian and the Washington Post have been awarded the highest accolade in US journalism, winning the Pulitzer prize for public service for their groundbreaking articles on the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities based on the leaks of Edward Snowden.

The award, announced in New York on Monday, comes 10 months after the Guardian published the first report based on the leaks from Snowden, revealing the agency’s bulk collection of US citizens’ phone records.

In the series of articles that ensued, teams of journalists at the Guardian and the Washington Post published the most substantial disclosures of US government secrets since the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam war in 1971.

The Pulitzer committee praised the Guardian for its “revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, helping through aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy”.

Snowden, in a statement, said: “Today’s decision is a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government. We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognises was work of vital public importance.”

He said that his actions in leaking the documents that formed the basis of the reporting “would have been meaningless without the dedication, passion, and skill of these newspapers”.

At the Guardian, the reporting was led by Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and film-maker Laura Poitras, and at the Washington Post by Barton Gellman, who also co-operated with Poitras. All four journalists were honoured with a George Polk journalism award last week for their work on the NSA story…

The Pulitzers have been bestowed since 1917, at the bequest of the legendary newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer who established the honour in his will as a means of encouraging publicly-spirited journalism. The awards have shifted and grown over the years to reflect the modern publishing landscape and today stands at 22 categories, including 14 journalism awards and seven gongs for books, drama and music. All the awards are administered by Columbia University.

Bravo! Stick that in your eye Mr. Constitutional Scholar Obama! Freedom of the Press still exists in a small brightly-illuminated corner of what has become entertainment media. The mass of what passes for journalism nowadays extends from pallid to putrid, an imitation of the life once generated by courageous writers and editors.

I’ve read the Guardian since early days based in Manchester – even then a focus on the world of principle and journalistic freedom that has been unrelenting. The best witness for that being the voices of death and destruction that try day in and day out to shout down this voice of reason and progress.

Global trade to gain speed in 2014 and 2015

containers offloading in Qingdao, Shandong province
Trucks carry containers unloaded from ship in Qingdao, China’s Shandong province

The growth of global commerce will pick up speed this year and next, says the World Trade Organization…Trade will grow by a “modest” 4.7% this year and by 5.3% in 2015, says the WTO.

Next year’s figure, if correct, would be in line with the average growth rate in world trade over the last 20 years…These forecasts are consistent with other figures that show the world economy is gradually recovering from the financial crisis…

The overall impact is that global trade is above its pre-crisis level, but well below where it would have been, had it grown in line with the earlier pre-crisis trend…In fact, that gap is still getting wider and by next year will, on the new forecasts, be 19%.

So the analysis by the WTO does suggest progress…But if world trade and its growth before 2008 was in some sense normal, we are still not back there…

“In addition to creating a permanent shift downward in the level of trade,” said the WTO in a press release…”The global recession of 2008-09 may have reduced its average growth rate as well.”

The agency’s director general, Roberto Azevedo, said that just waiting for an automatic increase in trade was not enough…He called for new trade liberalisation agreements, in particular the negotiations known as the Doha Round…”Concluding the Doha Round would provide a strong foundation for trade in the future, and a powerful stimulus in today’s slow growth environment.”

The new WTO figures confirm that China is now the biggest goods trader in the world…Adding together exports and imports, China leads the United States, which is itself still the biggest trader in commercial services…However, the picture is different if the European Union is treated as a single unit, counting the trade of EU member states with outside nations and excluding commerce within the Union.

On that basis, the EU is the world’s biggest trader.

A significant portion of the whole equation is foreign direct investment, one of those economically rich processes that typically provides jobs and trade at both ends of such agreements. As long as Congressional Republicans control regulations governing FDI, the United States doesn’t stand a chance of improving trade.

Tea Party Confederates and the rest of the Republican Party have done everything they can to sabotage foreign direct investment from China in the United States. Between their Cold War mentality and fear-based ideology leftover from the Bush-Cheney years, FDI from China last year was less than 1% of the total.

Logic makes it clear to the Chinese their investment plans are better served within the European Union and in bilateral agreements with developing nations. That is where they are going to send their money. Americans who want jobs had better start asking questions of the isolationist patriots in Congress who believe their only mandate is to protect the likes of General Electric and the Koch Brothers.

Pulling drinking water out of thin air

In some parts of Ethiopia, finding potable water is a six-hour journey.

People in the region spend 40 billion hours a year trying to find and collect water, says a group called the Water Project. And even when they find it, the water is often not safe, collected from ponds or lakes teeming with infectious bacteria, contaminated with animal waste or other harmful substances…

The invention from Arturo Vittori, an industrial designer, and his colleague Andreas Vogler doesn’t involve complicated gadgetry or feats of engineering, but instead relies on basic elements like shape and material and the ways in which they work together.

At first glance, the 30-foot-tall, vase-shaped towers…have the look and feel of a showy art installation. But every detail, from carefully-placed curves to unique materials, has a functional purpose.

The rigid outer housing of each tower is comprised of lightweight and elastic juncus stalks, woven in a pattern that offers stability in the face of strong wind gusts while still allowing air to flow through. A mesh net made of nylon or polypropylene, which calls to mind a large Chinese lantern, hangs inside, collecting droplets of dew that form along the surface. As cold air condenses, the droplets roll down into a container at the bottom of the tower. The water in the container then passes through a tube that functions as a faucet, carrying the water to those waiting on the ground…

So how would Warka Water’s low-tech design hold up in remote sub-Saharan villages? Internal field tests have shown that one Warka Water tower can supply more than 25 gallons of water throughout the course of a day, Vittori claims. He says because the most important factor in collecting condensation is the difference in temperature between nightfall and daybreak, the towers are proving successful even in the desert, where temperatures, in that time, can differ as much as 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

The structures, made from biodegradable materials, are easy to clean and can be erected without mechanical tools in less than a week. Plus, he says, “once locals have the necessary know-how, they will be able to teach other villages and communities to build the Warka.”

It costs about $500 to set up a tower.

Not certain if Vittori’s project is set for donations, yet – but, I’d recommend checking in with the Water Project. Folks at Tekzilla and HD Nation have worked with them in the past.