One would expect these snowy owls to have migrated from Arctic Eurasia to the Netherlands. However, the blog of the wardens of Vlieland island suggests that at least some of the owls may have a different origin.
A warden spoke to a passenger, Frans van der Esch, of the trans-Atlantic ship MSC Monterey. As the ship was going east to Europe, about fifty miles from Newfoundland, on 9 December 2013, in stormy weather, nine tired snowy owls landed on the ship. They were two males and seven females. They huddled together for some protection from the ocean spray.
As the ship came near European coasts, some owls left. The passenger says that on 15 December 2013, the ship was near Zeeland province in the Netherlands. Then, the last two snowy owls left.
This photo shows a snowy owl aboard the ship. A slide show with more photos is here.
This video is called Greenwald: Canadians Should Be Worried About CSEC/CSIS Spying; More Stories Coming Soon.
By Ed Patrick and Keith Jones in Canada:
Canada’s spy agencies lied to the courts
18 January 2014
The Canadian state’s principal spy agencies—the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)—have been found by a senior federal judge to have “systematically” lied to the courts, omitting and concealing information in numerous warrant applications.
In late November a handful of reports appeared in the press referring to a secret Nov. 22 ruling by Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley. Identified in these reports as “Canada’s foremost jurist on national security,” Justice Mosley was said to have complained that CSIS and CSEC had concealed from him that they were enlisting the help of the CSEC’s “Five Eyes” partners in spying on Canadian “terrorism” suspects when they travelled abroad.
The “Five Eyes” unites CSEC, the US National Security Agency (NSA), and the eavesdropping agencies of Britain, Australia and New Zealand in a global consortium that—as has been revealed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden—illegally spies on the world’s communications.
A state-redacted version of Justice Mosley’s “Further Reasons for Order” was released late last month. The veil of government censorship notwithstanding, the public version of Mosley’s ruling makes clear that CSIS and CSEC have been concealing information from the courts for years and have done so in order to get legal sanction for operations that otherwise would not have been approved.
Mosley found that Canada’ intelligence agencies had deliberately kept the courts in “the dark” when obtaining 35 or more special “CSIS 30-08” warrants. Such warrants authorize CSEC to provide technical assistance to CSIS in intercepting the electronic communications of Canadians traveling abroad whom CSIS has designated as domestic security threats.
The spy agencies, ruled Mosley, had misrepresented “the scope and extent of the foreign collections that would flow from the Court’s issuance of a warrant” and done so in at least two ways.
CSIS and CSEC had claimed the spying would be done from Canada and they concealed CSEC’s intention to enlist its “Five Eyes” partners’ help in conducting the surveillance.
In 2007 another Federal Court judge, Justice Edmond Blanchard, had refused to grant a warrant authorizing CSIS and CSEC to spy on Canadians outside of the country and to enlist Five Eyes help as needed, saying that the courts lacked the jurisdictional authority to do so.
The following year, CSIS and CSEC renewed their attempt to get court sanction for spying on Canadians abroad, this time applying for a warrant from Justice Mosley. Canada’s spy agencies were apparently anxious to get some legal cover for their ever-expanding activities, especially as CSIS’s and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s connivance in the detention and torture of several Canadians travelling abroad, including Maher Arar, had led to a public outcry and forced Canada’s government to convene two public inquiries.
However, the 2008 warrant application was framed differently. Fearing it might again be denied, CSIS and CSEC omitted mention of enlisting the help of “second parties”—i.e. CSEC’s Five Eyes partners—and stipulated that Canadians’ electronic communications would be spied on from listening posts within Canada.
Indeed, reports Mosley in his “Further Reasons” finding, when former CSEC director James Abbott was recalled before the court last fall, he “candidly stated” that the evidence he had given five years before in applying for the first-ever 30-08 warrant had been “’crafted’ with legal counsel to exclude any reference to the role of the second parties.”
Mosley continues: “Based on the documentary record before me and Mr. Abbott’s evidence, I am satisfied that a decision was made by CSIS officials in consultation with their legal advisors to strategically omit information in applications for 30-08 warrants about their intention to seek the assistance of the foreign partners. As a result, the Court was led to believe that all of the interception activity would take place in or under the control of Canada.”
The judge concludes, “The failure to disclose that information was the result of a deliberate decision to keep the court in the dark” and this deception constituted “a breach of the duty of candour owed by” CSIS “and their legal advisers to the court.”
In his ruling, Justice Mosley insists he would never have authorized CSIS and CSEC to ask CSEC’s Five Eyes partners to spy on Canadians, noting that it could lead to violations of their rights by foreign states. Commenting on this part of Mosley’s decision, University of Ottawa law professor Craig Forcese, said, “Imagine a circumstance where CSIS says, ‘We’ve got concerns about these Canadians overseas and we’d like you to intercept their communications … And the [CIA] decides it’s time for a Predator drone.”
The exposure of CSEC’s and CSIS’s systematic lying before the courts comes at a time when the federal Conservative government has been rattled by revelations that CSEC—in flagrant violation of the law—has been systematically spying on the metadata of Canadians’ electronic communications and acts as a veritable arm of the NSA in its spying operations around the world
The government’s response has been to mount a campaign of disinformation and lies. Claims that CSIS and CSEC are committed to defending Canadians’ constitutional rights and bound by the law are trumpeted at every opportunity.
While this was most assuredly not his intention, Justice Mosley’s finding that CSIS and CSEC systematically lied to the courts to extend their powers is a stunning refutation of the government’s claims.
CSIS and CSEC have effectively rejected Justice Mosley’s decision. In response to it, CSEC declared its “activities respect Canadian laws and Canadian values”, while CSIS asserted, “Everything that CSIS does, alone or with trusted partners, is consistent with Canadian law and Canadian values.”
It is possible that Canada’s spy agencies will appeal Justice Mosley’s ruling. Whether they do or not, their cavalier dismissal of his ruling is tantamount to a declaration that in practice they will ignore it and continue to expand their collaboration with the NSA and CSEC’s other Five Eyes partners, including in spying on Canadians.
This video from the USA is called GEO Background – Investigation shows GEO group has history of prisoner abuse.
It says about itself:
1 Dec 2008
A former corrections officer who did not want to be identified says she was on-duty at the Willacy State Jail in 2001 when Gregorio De La Rosa, Jr. was beaten to death by fellow inmates. She says he was bloody and not very responsive after the incident. De La Rosa died just four days before his release date.
His family sued the prison owner at that time, the GEO group known then as Wackenhut. The family won a $47 million settlement.
Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News, a prison watchdog group, says that the GEO Group has a bad reputation for a reason. “They gain their contracts through lobbying and cronyism and political favoritism,” Wright said. “They make their profits once they have the contracts through short staffing their facilities and underpaying their staff.”
Wright says the GEO runs prisons full of problems. “Very high incidents of escapes, assaults, murders, sexual assaults and riots as well,” he said. However, the former corrections officer of the jail says that there’s always going to be riots and assaults in a prison setting. She says those incidents don’t make it to the news because they are kept in-house. Lawmakers are calling for a review of all GEO’s contracts in Texas, though they claim it has nothing to do with the Willacy County indictments, which accuse the Vice President of the U.S., Dick Cheney of wrong doing since he owns a stock in company connected to the GEO group.
By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:
Privateer ‘lacks humanity’ but wants probation
Friday 17th January 2014
Firm bids for sold-off service despite being slammed by prison watchdog
HM Inspectorates of Prisons uncovered an appalling litany of failing at Geo Group-run Harmondsworth immigration removal centre.
Among the most alarming documented incidents was the death of an 84-year-old immigration detainee with dementia after he was taken to hospital in handcuffs.
The Canadian national, believed to be Alois Dvorzac, spent three weeks at Harmondsworth despite doctors saying he was unfit for detention.
His death is one of a number of “shocking cases where a sense of humanity was lost,” HMIP said in its report on an unannounced visit last August.
Prison Reform Trust director Juliet Lyon asked: “Have the authorities responsible for Harmondsworth forgotten the basic principles of humanity and decency that must apply to any form of custody?”
The firm, which has been dogged by allegations of abuse, mistreatment and fraud, runs an estimated 96 facilities and provides services to the US concentration camp Guantanamo Bay.
But the Ministry of Justice announced in December that Geo Group UK and Geo Delta were among the firms which had made it through to the next round of bidding on the spoils of the government’s selloff of 70 per cent of probation services.
Probation union Napo general secretary Ian Lawrence said: “Yet again we are hearing another private contractor’s failure to meet the requirements of their contract and it is the people they are charged with looking after that are suffering.
“The very idea that these companies should be in charge of monitoring and rehabilitating offenders in the community is ludicrous and dangerous.
“The public need to start asking this government why they insist on putting costs cuts before public safety.”
Last year, an 84-year-old man with Alzheimer’s disease died in handcuffs in a British immigration centre: here.
Fears over public safety have led to a delay in privatising a large part of the probation service, shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said yesterday: here.
It says about itself:
27 Feb 2013
Tiktaalik looks like a cross between the primitive fish it lived amongst and the first four-legged animals, a group called “tetrapods”. Derived from “tetra-”, meaning four, and “-pod”, meaning foot, all animals that descended from these pioneer amphibians, including us, can be called tetrapods.
Tiktaalik lived about 12 million years before the first tetrapods (which are approximately 363 million years old). With the earliest appearance in the fossil record of tetrapod features in a fish, the discovery has become a key piece of evidence in the transition from life in water to life on land.
Watch more footage from the interview with Neil Shubin:
Strange Ancient Fish Had Front And Back Legs
By Charles Q. Choi, LiveScience Contributor
January 13, 2014 11:34am ET
The closest known relative of the ancestors of limbed animals such as humans likely evolved the foundation for rear legs even before the move to land, researchers say. This ancestor may have even been able to walk underwater, they added.
These findings reveal that a key step in the evolution of hind limbs happened in fish, challenging previous theories that such appendages evolved only after the move to land.
Scientists investigated fossils of a 375-million-year-old fish known as Tiktaalik roseae, discovered in 2004 in northern Canada’s Ellesmere Island. Possessing a broad flat head and sharp teeth, Tiktaalik resembled a cross between a fish and a crocodile, growing to a length of 9 feet (2.7 meters) as it hunted for prey in shallow freshwater. [See Images of Bizarre Tiktaalik Fish Fossils]
This ancient creature was undoubtedly a fish, possessing gills, scales and fins. However, it also had features seen in modern tetrapods — four-limbed creatures like amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals — such as a mobile neck and robust ribcage.
This extinct fish had large forefins and shoulders, elbows and partial wrists, enabling it to support itself on ground. This makes it the best-known example of an intermediate between finned animals and limbed animals marking the evolutionary leap from water to land for vertebrates, or creatures with backbones.
Prior analyses of other fossils dating from the water-land transition found their back appendages were small and weak compared with their front appendages. This suggested the earliest ancestors of tetrapods perhaps had a “front-wheel drive” form of locomotion that depended more on their front limbs, and that a “four-wheel drive” form of locomotion with strong hips and back limbs only developed after tetrapods evolved.
Until now, the only specimens of Tiktaalik researchers had examined were of its front portions. To find out more about the fish, researchers investigated additional blocks of rock recovered from the dig site where Tiktaalik was discovered. Although some of these blocks were first excavated in 2004, researchers did not look at them more closely until recently, mainly because the blocks did not seem to contain much bone. Moreover, it took years to carefully and properly remove the rock surrounding the fragile fossils.
Titaalik‘s hind quarters
The scientists discovered the rear portion of Tiktaalik, which contained hips as well as partial pelvic fin material. This made a direct comparison of the front and rear appendages of the animal possible. [10 Useless Limbs (and Other Vestigial Organs)]
Unexpectedly, the researchers found Tiktaalik had big, strong pelvic bones with similarities to early tetrapods.
“I was expecting to find a diminutive hind fin and pelvis,”study lead author Neil Shubin, a paleontologist at the University of Chicago,told LiveScience. “Seeing the whopping pelvis set me back a bit — I looked at it again and again, because I was quite surprised.”
The pelvic girdle of Tiktaalik was nearly identical in size to its shoulder girdle, a tetrapodlike feature that would help support strong rear appendages. It also possessed a deep ball-and-socket hip joint that connected to a highly mobile femur — analogous to a tetrapod thighbone — that could extend beneath the body.
In addition, crests on the hip bone served as points for muscles to attach to, indicating strength and advanced fin function. Furthermore, although no femur bone was found, the fossil pelvic fin material they did unearth included long fin rays, suggesting the back fin was at least as long and as complex as its front fin.
“We had long thought that expanded hind limbs and hips were features of limbed animals,” Shubin said. “Tiktaalik shows that our closest fish relatives had expanded hips and hind fins; hence, this feature may well have arisen in fish.”
The hip of Tiktaalik was still clearly fishlike. For instance, whereas early tetrapod pelvic girdles are split into three parts, the hip of Tiktaalik was undivided. Still the increased size, mobility and robustness of its pelvic girdle, hip joint and fin would have made walking underwater possible, as well as swimming.
Shubin cautioned that Tiktaalik is not the ancestor of all limbed vertebrates. It is currently the closest known relative, “but not the sole, direct ancestor,” he said. “It is more like our closest cousin.”
It remains uncertain how the hind appendages of the earliest limbed vertebrates were used. “Were they used to walk, swim or both?” Shubin asked.
The scientists detailed their findings online today (Jan. 13) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This video from the USA is called How to Bring Passenger Pigeons All the Way Back: Ben Novak at TEDxDeExtinction. It says about itself:
1 April 2013
Ben J. Novak is a young scientist pioneering the emerging field of “de-extinction”. The science of studying extinct species and applying their ecology and genomics to building future ecosystems is widely interdisciplinary, and demands a broad knowledge base. Ben studied ecology and evolution at Montana State University, specializing in paleontology, ecology, and genetics.
He trained in Ancient DNA lab techniques under Dr. Hendrik Poinar, at the McMaster Ancient DNA Centre. His personal study of the history of the passenger pigeon and pigeon biology brings the spectrum together to work with and coordinate multiple teams to bring the passenger pigeon back to life in a project now named “The Great Comeback”, a Revive and Restore initiative under the Long Now Foundation. He has joined Dr. Beth Shapiro in sequencing the genome of the passenger pigeon at University of California at Santa Cruz, and is working on developing the future designs for making de-extinction possible to diverse species beyond the passenger pigeon.
From daily The Guardian in Britain:
2014: the year of the passenger pigeon
In 2014, spare a thought for Martha the last passenger pigeon, who passed away 100 years ago.
In the middle of the 19th century, the passenger pigeon was by far the most common bird in the United States, if not the world. It was a species that flocked in mind-boggling numbers, seemingly endless clouds of densely packed birds darkening the skies for hours, sometimes days.
One of the most striking accounts of this phenomenon was recorded by Major W. Ross King, who witnessed “an extraordinary flock of birds” in the vicinity of Niagara in 1860.
“I was perfectly amazed to behold the air filled and the sun obscured by millions of pigeons, not hovering about but darting onwards in a straight line with arrowy flight, in a vast mass a mile or more in breadth, and stretching before and behind as far as the eye could reach,” he wrote in The Sportsman and Naturalist in Canada.
The flock took 14 hours to pass overhead and, based on a flying speed of 60 mph, King estimated that “the column…could not have been less than three hundred miles in length”. Using these parameters, several people have had a go at calculating the size of this flock, as naturalist Joel Greenberg explains in his newly published book A Feathered River Across the Sky. One authority figured it must have contained just shy of four billion individuals. Even if this is an overestimate and the birds were only travelling at half the speed King suggested, this colony would still have been over one-billion strong, says Greenberg.
It is testimony to humankind’s great powers of destruction that within 50 years of this event, only a single captive pair remained, named after the US’ first president and lady George and Martha Washington. George perished in July 1910 at Cincinnati Zoo. Martha survived for four more years, sufficient time for her to garner celebrity as the sole-surviving member of her species. So when she eventually died on 1 September 1914 “at 1 P.M. of old age”, she was frozen in [a] huge block of ice and sent by train to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.
It fell to two men – William Palmer and Robert Shufeldt – to prepare the body for taxidermy. Shufeldt described the procedure in a short paper published in the The Auk. This makes for remarkable reading, an incongruous blend of anatomical and domestic detail. They set to work, for instance, in Shufeldt’s home “(3356–18th Street, Washington D.C.)” and “(on the third floor, back room)”. Shufeldt marveled at “the great size of the pectoralis major muscle”, consigned the brain and eyes to alcohol and Palmer removed Martha’s skin. “Immediately after this we partook of a ‘late lunch’ in the dining-room below.” It almost comes as a surprise that Shufeldt did not think to share the menu.
Once stuffed, Martha’s skin went on display in the bird hall at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (NMNH). During the course of the 20th century, the taxidermy left Washington D.C. on two occasions: in 1966, she attended a conservation conference at San Diego Zoo to mark the institution’s 50th anniversary; and in 1974, she travelled to Cincinnati Zoo for the dedication of a new building in her name. On both occasions, she flew once more (this time by aeroplane), travelling first class and escorted by a dedicated flight attendant.
The plight of “last individuals” – think Lonesome George – is always going to move people, especially when the hand of humankind has been so heavily involved in the extinction. So it seems likely that 2014 will be the year of the passenger pigeon as people mark the centenary of Martha’s death.
In addition to Greenberg’s excellent book, which devotes a chapter to Martha and boasts a terrific appendix of passenger pigeon-related miscellany, we can also look forward to A Message to Martha by Mark Avery, former conservation director at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Martha herself will be the star turn in a special exhibition at NMNH. Once There Were Billions: Vanished Birds of North America will run from 27 June 2014 to 14 June 2015 and tell the story of the passenger pigeon and other extinct birds, including the great auk, the Carolina parakeet and heath hen.
The act of researching Martha’s story has raised several questions that I have not been able to answer to my satisfaction. If you can help solve any of these outstanding animal-related mysteries, please leave a comment or send me a message on Twitter @WayOfThePanda.
- There is a lot of uncertainty over the year of Martha’s birth. Her original owner (before she reached Cincinnati Zoo) did not keep good records and the zookeeper responsible for her was rarely consistent in his reporting, says Greenberg. It is often said she was 29 when she died, but I guess we’ll never know for sure.
- In Shufeldt’s report of Martha’s autopsy he made a very mysterious observation. On returning from his “late lunch”, he noticed “a slit-like opening” half a centimetre long on the right side of Martha’s skinned abdomen. He enlarged it. “Much to my surprise,” he wrote on page 31, “I found a quantity of blood (not clotted) in the abdominal cavity, and the right lobe of the liver and the intestine almost entirely broken up,” wait for it, “as though it had been done with some instrument.” As if this weren’t puzzling enough, he went on to note that the intestine “was missing altogether, while the right lobe of the liver was in scattered fragments.” At the risk of encouraging conspiracy theorists, any idea what could have caused this damage?
This video says about itself:
24 Oct 2011
http://www.ted.com We feel instinctively that societies with huge income gaps are somehow going wrong. Richard Wilkinson charts the hard data on economic inequality, and shows what gets worse when rich and poor are too far apart: real effects on health, lifespan, even such basic values as trust.
By Carl Bronski in Canada:
Canada’s top CEOs paid 171 times more than the average worker
9 January 2014
By the early afternoon of the first working day in the New Year, Canada’s top one hundred executives had already pocketed more compensation than most workers will earn in the entire year. So demonstrates a just-released study by Hugh Mackenzie of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that uses corporate reports from 2013 to document the money paid Canada’s top executives in 2012 and reveal thereby the continuing growth of social inequality.
Mackenzie’s study shows that by adding up total compensation of the top 100 CEOs in the country–base salary, cash bonuses, grants of company shares, stock options, perquisites and pension allotments–one arrives at an average of $7.96 million per annum. Mackenzie admits to slightly under-estimating the average. Many of the top companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange take advantage of a reporting codicil exempting them from revealing a portion of the perks offered to their executive teams.
By contrast, the average annual earnings of a full-time worker in Canada amount to a meager $46,634. For the almost 900,000 full-time workers in Canada making only the minimum wage ($20,989) the gap is even starker. The top 100 executives will surpass those annual earnings before their morning cup of latte.
Despite a certain amount of cynical hand-wringing—at least in its early stages—by mainstream politicians and the media establishment in the wake of the 2011 Occupy Movement, the income gap between the rich and poor has continued to grow unabated. In 2012, CEOs made 171 times more than the average Canadian worker. The available information for 2013 indicates last year will have seen the gap grow still larger.
In 1998, that is just 16 years ago, Canada’s top CEOs made “only” 105 times more than the average worker. While the incomes of the average worker have risen 6 percent since 1998, those of the top 100 CEOs have increased by a whopping 73 percent.
The top earner for 2012 was Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) chief E. Hunter Harrison who received total compensation of $49.5 million. Harrison spearheaded an all-out assault on the contracts of CP train operators in the spring of 2012 and was rewarded accordingly. At that time, CP railway workers had rejected company contract concessions that sought to drastically reduce pensions and further enshrine speed-up work rules that they insisted would further compromise safety.
But shortly after the strike began, Lisa Raitt, Transport Minister in the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, tabled back-to-work legislation that the leadership of the Teamsters union immediately bowed before. With the strike defeated, CP proceeded to lay off 3,000 of its 19,500 personnel. CEO Harrison recently stated that the layoffs might ultimately rise to 6,000, or 30 percent of the workforce. CP workers now have longer hours at more irregular times, and their pensions have been cut. Harrison has combined trains to save on crews, closed down railroad yards, and avoided significant investment towards upgrading CP’s tracks. It was this same dangerous concoction implemented by another railway company, Montreal Maine and Atlantic that resulted in the horrific rail disaster at Lac Megantic, Quebec this past summer that incinerated 47 people.
Second on the income list is Thomson Reuters chief James C. Smith who pulled in almost $19 million. The company is owned by David Thomson, the 3rd Baron of Fleet Street, and assorted family members who have perennially found themselves at the top of Canada’s “rich list”—which measures total wealth and not simply annual income. Thomson’s net worth grew by 30 percent over the past year to $26 billion making him not only the richest person in Canada but the 24th richest person in the world. The jump in net worth was partly due to increases in stock prices following Thomson and Smiths’ initiative to lay off 3,000 employees.
Not surprisingly, the CEOs of all of Canada’s major banks make the list for top incomes. The profit levels and share prices in the banking sector have sky-rocketed since the banks received $114 billion in liquidity support from the government of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the United States Federal Reserve between 2008 and 2010 in the wake of the global financial meltdown. The bailout was the equivalent of seven per cent of the Canadian economy in 2009 and, at that time, was worth $3,400 for every man, woman and child in the country.
Over the past year, the Big Five Canadian banks recorded $29.4 billion in profits and boasted an average 20 percent return on equity despite continued slow growth in the national economy and persistently high unemployment rates.
Executive compensation is not necessarily tied to corporate performance. Thorsten Heins, for instance, the CEO of Blackberry-maker Research in Motion prior to his resignation, received over $10 million in income despite overseeing the continued decline of the company’s fortunes and the collapse of his “rescue plan”.
Galen Weston Jr. also made Mackenzie’s CEO list. Weston, the head of the Loblaw’s grocery chain, took home $4.5 million in compensation. The company was rocked last year after it was discovered it had contracted some of its Joe Fresh clothing line to the Rana Square Bangladesh sweatshop that collapsed killing more than 1,100 workers. Although Weston Jr. ranked only 86th on the incomes list, the Weston family, headed by Galen Sr. held down the number two spot in total wealth in Canada adding $2.1 billion over the past 12 months to reach $10.4 billion.
Mackenzie’s study examines the growing earnings gap in Canada. The chasm between the rich and the working class is still larger if the millions of Canadians who are surviving on unemployment benefits and social assistance are brought into the equation.
With the connivance of all the mainstream political parties—the Conservatives, Liberals, Parti Quebecois, and New Democrats—federal and provincial governments have drastically curtailed the state’s role in redistributing income through income support programs and progressive taxation. Income support programs that primarily benefit the less well-off have been slashed, while governments have massively cut personal-income, capital-gains, and corporate taxes and reduced the differential between the rates at which low and high incomes are taxed. At the same time, the high rate of unemployment and threat of corporate relocation to low-wage jurisdictions is used to extort wage and benefit concessions and otherwise drive down the social position of those still holding down a job.
The appalling income inequality documented in Mackenzie’s study is further reflected in Canadian Business magazine’s analysis of total net wealth in Canada in 2013 in their 100 annual “Wealthiest People” list.
The magazine breathlessly announces that, “collectively, the individuals on [Canada’s] Rich List 100 are worth $230 billion, more than the total gross domestic product of many countries in the world, including New Zealand, Ireland and Portugal. And this year has been their best year ever. Their combined net worth surged by more than 15 percent, the biggest increase since 2000”. Fully 78 of the top 100 are already billionaires. It is estimated that soon $1 billion will be the qualifying cut-off for all members of the Top 100 “club”.
Social inequality today has, in global terms, reached levels unprecedented in human history.
The world’s 100 richest people added $524 billion to their combined wealth of $3.7 trillion in 2013, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Bill Gates regained the top position from Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim, due to a 40 percent increase in the Microsoft stock price, which boosted Gates’ net worth from $62 billion to $78.5 billion. If the top 100 billionaires were a separate state, their combined wealth would outstrip the gross domestic product of all but eight countries in the world. They would rank behind Italy, but ahead of India and Russia.
Every year, trillions are squandered on the yachts, mansions and country clubs of the rich and the micro-economy they create around themselves. Vast resources are devoted to financial speculation, funneled into Wall Street, Bay Street and the countless other gambling casinos of the stock trading world. Putting this wealth to rational use would go a considerable way toward eradicating unemployment, poverty and preventable disease.
Ending the anarchy and exploitation at the heart of the capitalist system, which find a particularly noxious expression in the concentration of obscene levels of wealth at the very top, would enable mankind to mobilize and develop the productive forces, including science and technology, to vastly raise the material and cultural level of human society and eliminate inequality.
And yet the universal cry in official politics is that “there is no money” to fund social programs or pay decent wages so that workers, including the poorest and most vulnerable, must “tighten their belts.”
Such is the character of all historically bankrupt ruling classes. The issue is not just their personal wealth, but, more fundamentally, their stranglehold over the productive forces of society. The giant corporations and financial institutions must be taken out of private hands and run democratically in order to rebuild the society the super-rich have ravaged.
This video from Canada says about itself:
A Snowy Owl Success Story
In late November 2011, an emaciated snowy owl was rescued by Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society. He was far from his Arctic home, probably driven south by a lack of food in the north. After less than a month he was fit enough to be released, to return home when he’s ready.
On 28 December, a male snowy owl had been seen in the north of Texel island, not so far from Vlieland. Was this the same owl? However, the Texel observer describes the bird as not yet an adult; the Vlieland observer as adult.
- Northern hawk-owl’s Christmas dinner, video (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Northern hawk-owl still in Zwolle (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Northern hawk-owl survives stormy day (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Northern hawk-owl at football ground (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Rare northern hawk-owl in Zwolle, videos (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Dutch rare owls still present (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Rare great grey owl in the Netherlands (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Snowy owls, as far as Bermuda (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Northern hawk-owl attracts English birders to Zwolle (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
- Northern hawk-owl, still in Zwolle, videos (dearkitty1.wordpress.com)
This video, Comet and the Northern Lights, is from Tromsø in Norway.
This video is from Oregon in the USA.
This video is from Michigan in the USA.
This video is from Alberta in Canada.
This video says about itself:
12 Nov 2013
Flying on a Virgin Atlantic flight from London to New York when the aurora forecast was high, I balanced my camera on a rucksack and left it snapping away out the window … what an amazing spectacle was to be seen! You can see some of the still pictures that formed this time-lapse here.
- WATCH: Northern lights viewed from airplane (globalnews.ca)
- The 10 Most Popular Timelapse Videos on Vimeo (2013) (alexandrosmaragos.com)
- Video: Northern lights over Alberta (globalnews.ca)
This video is called USA A SURVEILLANCE STATE: Snowden Publishes GOOGLE COOKIES Are Used To SPY on YOU.
By Robert Stevens in the USA:
New documents expose more NSA programs
14 December 2013
The cookies are known as “GooglePrefIDs”. They are files containing a numeric code placed on computers to help the search firm remember users. Many firms use Google’s technologies to place adverts, meaning internet users may have PrefIDs on their computer even if they have never visited the search firm’s own services such as Gmail or Google+.
Cookies typically do not reveal information such as a user’s name and e-mail address, but are able to identify a particular browser. On this basis, explains the Post, “the NSA is able to single out an individual’s communications among the sea of Internet data in order to send out software that can hack that person’s computer.”
The newspaper said it was not clear how the NSA obtained internet users’ cookies or if Google “cooperates in these programs, but other documents reviewed by the Post indicate that cookie information is among the data NSA can obtain with a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act order. If the NSA gets the data that way, the companies know and are legally compelled to assist.”
The documents refer to the NSA’s Special Source Operations (SSO), previously described by Snowden as the “crown jewel” of the NSA. It manages surveillance programs that involve collaboration with corporate communication providers.
The Post notes that one of the slides “indicates that SSO was sharing information containing ‘logins, cookies, and GooglePREFID’ with another NSA division called Tailored Access Operations, which engages in offensive hacking operations. SSO also shares the information with the British intelligence agency GCHQ.”
New documents also reveal that the NSA is using commercially gathered information to help it locate mobile devices globally. Many apps running on iPhones and Android devices, as well as the Apple and Google operating systems, track the location of each device. A program named HAPPYFOOT allows “the NSA to map Internet addresses to physical locations more precisely than is possible with traditional Internet geolocation services,” one of the slides reveals.
Other documents disclosed by Snowden and published by the Guardian earlier this week reveal that the NSA and GCHQ have the ability to infiltrate tens of millions of people, via the massive online communities, who play online games such as World of Warcraft and Second Life. The Guardian notes, “In May 2007, the then-chief operating officer of Second Life gave a ‘brown-bag lunch’ address at the NSA explaining how his game gave the government ‘the opportunity to understand the motivation, context and consequent behaviours of non-Americans through observation, without leaving US soil’.”
Britain’s GCHQ had made a “vigorous effort” to exploit games, including “exploitation modules” against Xbox Live and World of Warcraft, said one document. Another memo noted that among World of Warcraft ’s active subscribers were “telecom engineers, embassy drivers, scientists, the military and other intelligence agencies.”
The new documents were released even as the European Union agreed to allow Snowden to give evidence by video link to its committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs (LIBE). Snowden had indicated in July that he would be prepared to give evidence to the EU.
The move by the EU to question Snowden reveals the extent of concern in European ruling circles as to the massive extent of the unrestrained spying organised by the NSA, GCHQ and their other “Five Eyes” partners, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Their concern is not that their own populations are under constant and growing surveillance, but that Snowden has also confirmed that the NSA and GCHQ systematically spy on the governments of their main imperialist rivals in Europe and internationally.
According to Spiegel Online, “Representatives from different groups in the European Parliament have already compiled more than 20 questions for Snowden. These range from ‘How are you?’ and ‘Can we help you?’ to a detailed exploration of whether and how European intelligence agencies also collect private data.”
The questioning is to go ahead despite moves to block it by conservatives in the European People’s Party (EPP), the association of Europe’s Christian-Democratic and conservative parties.
Timothy Kirkhope, a Member of the European Parliament for the UK’s Conservative Party, which is not part of the EPP, also attempted to prevent Snowden from appearing by sending a letter to all members of the LIBE committee. He said the proposed evidence session was “a provocative act that would enable [Snowden] to further endanger security around Europe and beyond.”
A further indication of the disquiet in ruling circles is the open letter to the Obama government and the US Congress from some of the world’s main technology firms—Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Twitter and AOL. The letter states, “The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favour of the state and away from the rights of the individual—rights that are enshrined in our constitution.” It adds, “This undermines the freedoms we all cherish. It’s time for change.”
A major factor in the concerns of Google, Microsoft, et al. is the impact of the revelations on their profitability and even their continued existence. Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, said, “People won’t use technology they don’t trust. Governments have put this trust at risk, and governments need to help restore it.”
Even as the EU is putting on a show of opposition to the mass spying of the NSA and GCHQ, its component governments continue to build up their own vast surveillance operations against their populations. On Wednesday the French parliament passed legislation, Article 13 of a new military programming law, allowing its intelligence and anti-terrorist agencies, as well as a number of government ministries, full powers to directly monitor internet users who use computer, tablets or smartphones, in real time without any prior authorisation. The defence, interior, economy, tax and finance ministries will all be able to snoop on all “electronic and digital communications.”
For their part the US and the British Conservative/Liberal Democrat governments have both refused to back down.
The head of the NSA, General Keith Alexander, testifying at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, defended its activities to the hilt. Claiming that global threats against the US are growing, in Iraq and Syria in particular, he declared, “There is no other way that we know of to connect the dots… Taking these programs off the table is absolutely not the thing to do.”
In Britain, the government continues to demand Snowden’s persecution, while also seeking the prosecution of the Guardian.
Those responsible for the UK’s spying network are being protected from being held to any account. On Wednesday it was reported that the request by Parliament’s Home Affairs committee to question Andrew Parker, the head of the MI5 domestic spying organisation, next week was rejected by Home Secretary Teresa May. The committee had requested he appear to justify his false claim that the Guardian has put national security at risk by publishing in redacted form a small percentage of the Snowden documents.
Prime Minister David Cameron also rejected a request that Kim Darroch, the national security adviser, give evidence to the committee’s inquiry into counterterrorism. Cameron wrote that “it was not a good idea” for Darroch to appear, as Darroch’s role was to provide him and the National Security Council with private advice, and an appearance would “set a difficult precedent.”
A hand-picked panel is due to submit recommendations to the White House this weekend, part of efforts to ensure the continuation of mass spying programs revealed by Edward Snowden: here.
A leaked top-secret US National Security Agency (NSA) memo has provided evidence, straight from the horse’s mouth, of the extent to which the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) functions as an intimate partner, even arm, of the NSA: here.
WASHINGTON — American intelligence and law enforcement investigators have concluded that they may never know the entirety of what the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden extracted from classified government computers before leaving the United States, according to senior government officials: here.
A former FBI agent missing in Iran since 2007 has been identified as a covert CIA spy, exposing as lies US claims that he went to the country on private business: here.
- Report: NSA uses Google cookies to pinpoint users for surveillance, hacking (EndtheLie.com)
- Spy agencies ‘track Google cookies’ (bbc.co.uk)
- NSA Using Google Non-Advertising Cookie to Spy (threatpost.com)
- NSA uses Google cookies to pinpoint targets for hacking (The Switch) http://t.co/r9rWWixIZL http://t.co/AXj6jvp2jz (washingtonpost.com)
- NSA uses Google Web browser cookies for targeted hacks, leaked documents reveal (digitaltrends.com)
- NSA uses Google’s online ‘cookies’ to find targets (mercurynews.com)
- Leaked slides show NSA tracking individuals using Google ad cookies (electronista.com)