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​Oil industry, US government woefully unprepared for spill in Arctic – study

RT -

Climate change is thawing sea ice in the Arctic, opening up new opportunities for energy development. Approximately 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and about 15 percent of its untapped oil lie in the Arctic. But the majority, 84 percent, of the estimated 90 billion barrels of oil and 47.3 trillion cubic meters of gas remain offshore.

Waiting for eager energy developers are some of the world’s most extreme weather conditions “and environmental settings, limited operations and communications infrastructure, a vast geographic area, and vulnerable species, ecosystems, and cultures,” the National Research Council wrote.

The five countries with territorial claims in the Arctic – Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States – have stated intentions to develop these reserves, if they haven’t begun already.

Yet the National Research Council’s new study – funded by US federal agencies and the leading trade group for the oil industry, the American Petroleum Institute – found that energy companies currently lack Arctic oil spill response plans, as it is their responsibility to address such an event. That said, public entities often take the lead in spill response actions, yet the US government does not have infrastructure capabilities in place despite its rush to establish dominance in the region.

“The lack of infrastructure and oil spill response equipment in the U.S. Arctic is a significant liability in the event of a large oil spill,” the report states. “Building U.S. capabilities to support oil spill response will require significant investment in physical infrastructure and human capabilities, from communications and personnel to transportation systems and traffic monitoring.”

The “significant investment” on infrastructure could come from public-private partnerships, the report suggests, though the politics of offering industry further subsidies may be problematic.

Adequate research into what awaits industry in the extreme cold of Arctic waters is also lacking, the report said. There is little understanding of how the low temperatures would affect both spilled oil and commonly-used techniques to reverse the effects of a spill, such as the spread of chemical dispersants. The report goes as far as suggesting that the only way to know is to conduct a controlled oil spill.

“Laboratory experiments, field research, and practical experience gained from responding to past oil spills have built a strong body of knowledge on the properties of spilled oil and response techniques. However, much of this work has been done for temperate regions,” the report reads.

“There is…a need to validate current and emerging oil spill response technologies in Arctic environmental conditions on operational scales. Carefully planned and controlled field releases of oil in the U.S. Arctic would improve the understanding of oil behavior [the Arctic] and allow for the evaluation of new response strategies specific to the region.”

Three oil and gas companies – ConocoPhillips, Norwegian multinational Statoil, and Shell Oil – have received approval to explore the US Arctic territory.

Shell has spent $6 billion so far in ultimately unsuccessful Arctic drilling operations, Mint Press News reported. It was an incident in 2012, involving a Shell oil-drilling rig, that has provided the starkest indication of what lies ahead for companies in the region.

In a rush to avoid an upcoming tax liability about to go into effect, Shell decided to drag its top rig, the Kulluk, around 1,700 miles through frigid Arctic waters despite warnings from the tow ship’s captain.

The Kulluk, reportedly carrying 150,000 gallons of fuel, eventually broke free from the towing ship floating off into an ecologically-sensitive area. The rig and its crew had to be rescued by the US Coast Guard, which recently released a report on the incident that slams Shell for “inadequate assessment and management of risks.”

“Vessels and the operations they conduct are growing more complex, and the risks that accompany these operations increase, whether in Alaskan waters or not,” wrote Joseph A. Servidio, a Coast Guard rear admiral, in the report. “The failure to adequately understand, respect, and not complacently assume past practice will address new risks, is critical both in practice and in company culture.”

According to the United Nations' sea convention, any country has sovereign rights to resources within 200 nautical miles of its territorial waterways.

The five countries with territorial claims have long preached cooperation in the region, going as far as setting up an Arctic Council that the nations take turns leading. In 2015, the US will assume the leadership role as a warming planet has opened up new opportunities. These commercial interests worry advocates of ecologically-intelligent approaches to the Arctic.

“The Arctic Council should be a forum focused on protecting the Arctic environment, yet we see it more and more talking about protecting economic interests in the region,” John Deans, an Arctic campaigner with Greenpeace USA, told Mint Press.

Deans said that for his organization, which has environmental interests in mind, the lack of scientific information about Arctic drilling consequences is a red flag, yet governments and industry are highly unlikely to slow their pace.

“In our view, if you don’t know enough about a place – in this case, what either an oil spill or a response would look like – then you really shouldn’t be up there to drill in the first place,” he said.

This Day in Blogging History: Catching terrorists isn't "connecting the dots"; Food and sugar-cube equivalents; Senator Franken?

Boing Boing -

One year ago today
Why "connecting the dots" is the wrong way to think about stopping terrorism: As Bruce points out, it's only in hindsight that there's a neat trail of dots to connect, a narrative we can make sense of. Before the fact, it's a hairy, swirling hotchpotch of mostly irrelevancies, and it's only the "narrative fallacy" that makes it seem like a neat story in retrospect.

Five years ago today
Photos of food and their sugar-cube equivalent: Photos of different kinds of food (both processed and natural) showing how much sugar is in the the food by displaying a stack of 4 gram sugar cubes next to the item.

Ten years ago today
Senator Franken? Al Franken is thinking about running for the Senate.

Unmasking the Tails Linux Distro

LXer -

There is even an option in Tails to enable the desktop to look like a Windows XP desktop to help avoid suspicion from people who might be walking by a Tails user. In this slide show, eWEEK examines key features of the Tails 1.0 release.

Pentagon spy agency could soon welcome first female chief

RT -

If Legere is nominated and confirmed, she would become the first female head of the DIA, and thus would “become one of the most powerful women in both the intelligence community and the US military,” Foreign Policy reported. “It would also leave her poised to one day ascend to an even more prestigious post.”

Foreign Policy believes the prestigious post would make her a “natural candidate” to eventually become the head of the National Security Agency, saying her resume is “practically a carbon copy of the agency's previous chief, Gen. Keith Alexander – and there's precedent for a DIA director finishing up his military career with a final turn at the NSA.”

But first Legere needs to be confirmed by Congress – and that’s not a sure bet. Even without an official nomination, there is opposition to her candidacy.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), a former Marine, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper voicing “significant concerns” about Legere's potential selection.

“It is my belief that Lt. Gen. Legere...holds principal responsibility for failing to deliver urgent capabilities to the warfighter and overseeing initiatives that have repeatedly failed to meet budget and schedule requirements,” Hunter wrote, referring to the Army's Distributed Common Ground System program, which would provide Army-developed cloud capability to troops. He is also opposing the selection of Maj. Gen Stephen Fogarty, commanding general of US Army Intelligence, for the same position, the Blaze reported.

“In order to prevent even more costly failures in the future, the Administration must hold leaders accountable. When it comes to the safety of our men and women in uniform, we must never reward failure with promotion,” Hunter continued. “Accordingly, I believe Lt. Gen. Legere and Maj. Gen. Fogarty should not be considered for higher levels of responsibility.”

Legere’s career began as a member of the Army ROTC program at the University of New Hampshire. After she graduated in 1982, she became a platoon leader with a military intelligence battalion, according to Foreign Policy. She served in intelligence posts in Germany and South Korea, as well as multiple tours at the Pentagon. She also served as a senior intelligence leader in Iraq in 2008.

"She's a visionary leader, not only great at being an intelligence officer but also focused on how to efficiently manager manpower and resources," Terry Roberts, a former deputy director of naval intelligence who served in South Korea with Legere, told Foreign Policy.

The position will open in the fall. Both the current DIA director, Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, and deputy director David Shedd announced Wednesday in a joint statement that they would step down from their respective positions.

Could Google's Test of Hiding Complete URLs In Chrome Become a Standard?

Slashdot -

MojoKid (1002251) writes "The address bar in a Web browser has been a standard feature for as long as Web browsers have been around — and that's not going to be changing. What could be, though, is exactly what sort of information is displayed in them. In December, Google began rolling-out a limited test of a feature in Chrome called "Origin Chip", a UI element situated to the left of the address bar. What this "chip" does is show the name of the website you're currently on, while also showing the base URL. To the right, the actual address bar shows nothing, except a prompt to "Search Google or type URL". With this implementation, a descriptive URL would not be seen in the URL bar. Instead, only the root domain would be seen, but to the left of the actual address bar. This effectively means that no matter which page you're on in a given website, all you'll ever see when looking at the address bar is the base URL in the origin chip. What helps here is that the URL is never going to be completely hidden. You'll still be able to hit Ctrl + L to select it, and hopefully be able to click on the origin chip in order to reveal the entire URL. Google could never get rid of the URL entirely, because it's required in order to link someone to a direct location, obviously."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Russia's warnings of inter-ethnic violence in Ukraine come to fruition

RT -

The Moscow State University instructor spoke to RT about the violent scene in Odessa, where anti-government protesters were forced into the Trade Unions House by Right Sector militias who were bussed in from western Ukraine. The ultra-nationalists then set fire to the building, leading to a horrific death for dozens.

"Of those that survived – either by escaping the building or jumping out of the windows – some of them were then made to crawl on their hands and knees, despite suffering from burns, through a gauntlet, a corridor of shame by these ultra-nationalists, who were then beating them," Sleboda said, adding that there is video footage of the beatings.

Sleboda also said the violence was foreseeable, most of all by Russia, as soon as the conflict began in February.

RT: The events we're seeing here are a serious escalation, aren't they?

Mark Sleboda: Yes, this is the greatest number of fatalities that we have seen in this crisis since the riots on February 20-21.

RT: Briefly take us through what happened today and the offense that led up to all these deaths.

MS: There has been a condition of dueling political militias in Odessa for several months now but there hadn't been any fatalities as of yet. We know that several hundred ultra-nationalists were bussed into Odessa. We have this from the local police chief and from the Right Sector themselves. They attacked an anti-putsch protest camp in the center of the city.

The self-defense forces of the protest camps certainly fought back. They were using makeshift weapons, chains, bats, reportedly some small-arms fire, Molotov cocktails, and stones. We know that regular people on both sides were participating. We saw pensioners throwing pavement stones and hitting people with clubs, which is an absolute Balkan, former Yugoslavia level of neighbor-on-neighbor violence.

At one point, when a firetruck came on the scene, the pro-putsch mob took control of the fire brigade truck, beat the driver, and then tried to use the truck to ram the self-defense lines of the anti-putsch protesters and crush them. Then the anti-putsch protesters eventually retreated from the onslaught inside the Trade Unions building. The pro-putsch protesters, the ultra-nationalists, they set the building on fire. At least 30-some people died from smoke inhalation or burning. Others jumped out of the windows. Eight people died jumping out of the windows.

Of those that survived – either by escaping the building or jumping out of the windows – some of them were then made to crawl on their hands and knees, despite suffering from burns, through a gauntlet, a corridor of shame by these ultra-nationalists, who were then beating them. We have video of this.

RT: We have an eyewitness account, someone who was at the building when it was attacked. We'll listen to what he says.

Witness Valery Kaurov, self-proclaimed head of the Republic of Odessa: One policeman died after being injured by Right Sector radicals who came today to Odessa. There were over a thousand of them. They wanted to hold a rally here for United Ukraine and march toward our tent camp. We knew beforehand of this provocation, so some of our brigades met them as they were making their way to us. That's when these radicals began throwing Molotov cocktails, rocks, and started to fight with our guys, but our teams were able to fend them off and stop them. Seeing all their attempts were fruitless; they opened gunfire. That's how one of our guys and a policeman were killed. These radicals were trying to get to our Orthodox outpost, where many people come to pray for the Berkut soldiers who lost their lives on Maidan. We're ready to fight to the end.

RT: Russian officials have warned that Ukraine is on the brink of civil war. Is this what you see?

MS: Yes, Russia has been warning about this, not just for the last few weeks, but for months now, when there was an attempt to try to force Ukraine to make a political decision on east-west with, first, the association agreement. Then when the regime took power through the mob protests on February 21-22. Russia has been warning that level of inter-ethnic violence was inevitable, and this is the result we've seen.

RT: How much control does the Kiev government have over the Right Sector, if any at all?

MS: Various times in the crisis, they have shown that they have no control over the Right Sector. There was a truce that was broken around February 19 or 20 by the Right Sector. The February 21 agreement was broken by February 22 by the Right Sector. And we have seen repeated riots in Kiev as other Right Sector and ultra-nationalists marched on the Rada, trying to force further and further right policies on this regime.

RT: Do you expect to see further violence in eastern and southern Ukraine?

MS: We've already gotten reports of further encroachments in Kramatorsk and Slavyansk, and Dmitry Yarosh, the leader of the Right Sector, has just announced that he will personally go to Slavyansk to oversee the final stages of the operation, as he put it.

A Cool Project for Microsoft: Adopt Linux

LXer -

"Do you know Linux? WE ARE HIRING!" That's what billboards from HostGator have been saying for the past several years. That company is not alone. Demand for Linux talent is high and getting higher.

The business/markets case for limits to copyright

Boing Boing -

You'll remember Derek Khanna as the Republican House staffer who got fired for writing a paper that used careful objective research to argue for scaling back copyright. Now, Khanna is a fellow at R Street, where he's expanded on his early work with a paper called Guarding Against Abuse: Restoring Constitutional Copyright [PDF], which tackles the question of copyright terms from a market-economics approach, citing everyone from Hayek to Posner to the American Conservative Union.

There are lots of critiques of copyright term and scope from the left, but this is not a left-right issue. Khanna is a rigorous thinker, a clear writer, and someone who shows that whether you're coming at the question from a business/markets perspective or one of free speech and social benefit, limits on copyright make objective sense.

Khanna recommends new copyright policy based on a House Republican Study Committee proposal in 2012. Under this proposal, there would be a free 12-year copyright term for all new works. Following that, there could be an elective 12-year renewal, at a cost of 1 percent of all U.S. revenue from the first 12 years. There would then be two elective 6-year renewals, at a cost of 3 percent and 5 percent of revenue, respectively. There is one final elective 10-year renewal period at a cost of 10 percent of all overall revenue, minus fees paid for the previous renewals. This proposal would terminate all copyright protection after 46 years.

Conversely, the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty is examining terms that would commit the United States to the current regime of life of the author plus 70 years, with some even proposing to extend the term to match Mexico’s term of life of the author plus 100 years. Signing such a treaty would make it nearly impossible for Congress to ever consider implementing reforms that are more consistent with the founders’ intent.

“The public domain of the future cannot be protected with constraints on prospective copyright duration – otherwise it will not exist,” said Khanna.

R Street paper calls for shortened copyright terms and examination of international treaties (Thanks, Derek!)

In Long-Fought Victory for Anonymous Email Users Chevron Agrees to Withdraw Google and Yahoo! Subpoenas

EFF's Deeplinks -

EFF has been working with EarthRights International to quash subpoenas issued to Yahoo!, Google, and Microsoft for the email and personal information of dozens of Ecuadorian environmental activists, attorneys, and journalists in a case that is rooted in a decades-long battle over environmental damage caused by oil drilling in Ecuador. The case should have ended with a $19 billion judgment against Chevron in 2011. But the oil giant refused to pay up, and instead filed suit against the plaintiffs' lawyer, claiming that the Ecuadorian judgment was the result of a massive conspiracy and fraud against it. As part of that case, Chevron sent the three subpoenas here, asking the webmail providers for the identities of nearly one hundred non-parties, including our clients. Most troubling about Chevron's requests was the demand for nine years’ worth of the providers' IP logs, data that would provide a broad window into the movements as well as personal and political associations of our clients. The oil company's request has serious implications for the future of political speech and environmental advocacy, especially when the targets are people who haven’t been accused of wrongdoing, as is the case here.

Earlier this month Chevron agreed to withdraw the subpoenas to Yahoo! and Google and has agreed to protect and keep confidential any account information Chevron has already received related to the case. EFF is delighted to have worked with EarthRights International in protecting the First Amendment rights of these activists, lawyers, and journalists involved in the case.

The following is an update from EarthRights International (ERI), a nongovernmental, nonprofit organization that combines the power of law and the power of people in defense of human rights and the environment:

By Earth Rights International

After more than a year and a half of litigation, Chevron has withdrawn subpoenas issued to Google and Yahoo! and agreed to end its efforts to obtain private usage and identity information associated with email accounts belonging to activists, attorneys, journalists and others who have spoken out against the company. 

In September 2012, Chevron issued sweeping subpoenas to Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft in connection with its RICO lawsuit in New York against the Ecuadorian villagers and their lawyers who won a $9 billion judgment against the company in Ecuador for massive pollution in the Amazon.  The subpoenas sought identity information and nearly a decade of IP login and usage information about the holders of more than 100 email accounts.

ERI, along with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), represented the owners of 37 email accounts, arguing that the subpoenas infringed their First Amendment rights to speak anonymously and associate freely and appeared to be an effort to intimidate Chevron’s critics and chill future speech about the company. None of the individuals represented by ERI and EFF were defendants in the underlying RICO lawsuit.

Magistrate Judge Cousins in the Northern District of California ultimately quashed the Google and Yahoo! subpoenas for all but seven of our clients’ email accounts. ERI and EFF appealed the decision on behalf of the remaining seven accounts. Recognizing the First Amendment interests at stake, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Yahoo! and Google not to turn over any information to Chevron about six of the seven remaining accounts until it had time to decide the appeal, but allowed Chevron to obtain limited information about the one remaining account.

In the Northern District of New York, however, Judge Kaplan—the same judge who presided over the RICO trial in the Southern District of New York, sitting by designation—refused to quash the subpoena issued to Microsoft.  ERI and EFF appealed the decision, but Judge Kaplan ordered Microsoft to turn over the Hotmail account information immediately, including four accounts owned by clients of ERI and EFF, before the Second Circuit could weigh in on whether the information should have been protected from discovery.

With oral argument approaching in both appeals, Chevron agreed earlier this month to withdraw the Google and Yahoo! subpoenas and drop its pursuit of information about email accounts owned by clients of ERI and EFF. While Chevron’s lawyers had already obtained account information for five of our clients’ accounts, Chevron agreed that all the information it has obtained so far will be remain confidential and not made public or used in unrelated cases. Chevron did not and will not obtain any information about the owners of the other 32 email accounts represented by ERI and EFF. 

The settlement and Chevron’s withdrawal of the subpoenas is a victory for the individuals who have fought for more than a year and half to defend their First Amendment rights and protect their private information against Chevron’s abusive discovery requests. We are proud to have been able to assist in that fight and to have ultimately succeeded in protecting the rights of more than 30 activists, lawyers, journalists and other brave individuals who stand up to corporate power and speak out against injustice around the world.


Related Issues: PrivacyRelated Cases: Chevron v. Donziger
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Dark Wallet Alpha Released

Bitcoin Magazine -

This article originally appeared on http://newsbtc.com/2014/05/01/dark-wallet/

May Day, May Day, it’s about to get dark.

Dark Wallet (Alpha), the bitcoin wallet software that uses the power of encryption and technology of CoinJoin, has been released.

The legality of coin mixing services is still unclear, and the fact that some coin mixing services go by names like ‘The Bitcoin Laundry’ and ‘BitLaundry’ does not bode well in the regulatory spotlight. Although, one can argue the right to financial privacy because bitcoin is only pseudo-anonymous.

I took my questions to computer security expert, Kristov Atlas, author of Anonymous Bitcoin, to see what he thought.

“You’ve got to admire Cody and Amir for their candor concerning their goals for financial privacy.” – Kristov Atlas

How do you feel about Dark Wallet?

“Dark Wallet looks like an excellent tool for improving Bitcoin privacy. It should make privacy much more accessible to the common Bitcoin user. Bitcoin isn’t very private for the average user because of the ways they are using it and the software they’re using. One of the reasons I wrote a book about how to achieve Bitcoin privacy was because the tools that you need are all over the place, and deciding between competing options is beyond the savvy of the average Bitcoin enthusiast. Dark Wallet should help to consolidate many of those tools into one, easy-to-use software package.”

People will view this as a way to more easily launder bitcoins to facilitate trade in online black markets, funding of radical groups or other nefarious activities, what would you say to this argument?

“It will be a long while still before bitcoin is used for more criminal activity than the legacy banking system, so for now that’s a red herring. Also, I think many liberty proponents have made a strong argument that the worst human crimes are being done openly by people in power. Compared to those moral crimes, bitcoin and dark wallet actually can *never* be used for criminal activities on the same scale because of the inherent limitations programmed into Bitcoin.”

This is really what crypto-anarchy comes down to, can the government regulate this?

“As long as the code is open source and anyone can run it, I think they will have a very difficult time attempting to regulate it. Ever since the crypto wars of the late 20th century, cryptographers have maintained their legal right to release code as a freedom of speech. If they attempt to block or identify traffic from Dark Wallet, they will likely only drive the developers to make it darker. It’s a cat and mouse game, and the mice have been winning for the last decade.

Satoshi also has proved that, regardless of our legal freedoms, it’s still possible to unleash technology pseudonymously and without asking for permission from anyone else.”

So do you think Dark Wallet is good for Bitcoin?

“Dark Wallet will still be a little rough around the edges when it first launches — Amir has talked publicly about how they still have plans to improve Dark Wallet by increasing the number of people you can simultaneously mix your coins with, integrating access to privacy networks like Tor… but this is helping Bitcoin catch up. Lately altcoins like Darkcoin have been the leaders in improving crypto-currency privacy, and Dark Wallet potentially stands to put Bitcoin back in the lead.”

Dark Wallet Alpha is available for download at darkwallet.is/download.

[textmarker color="C24000"]Source[/textmarker] Wired [textmarker color="C24000"]Image[/textmarker] Andy Greenberg / Wired

The post Dark Wallet Alpha Released appeared first on Bitcoin Magazine.


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