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Daily Archives: December 15, 2013

US ‘may never know extent of Edward Snowden NSA leaks’ – report | World news | theguardian.com

US ‘may never know extent of Edward Snowden NSA leaks’ – report | World news | theguardian.com.

NSA sign

A senior administration official said: ‘I know that seems crazy, but everything with this is crazy.’ Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP

Government officials have concluded that they may never know the full extent of information leaked by the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, according to a report published on Saturday by the New York Times.

Senior government officials told the newspaper that investigators are unsure of the scope of information Snowden collected, partially because the Hawaii data facility he worked at, as a contractor, did not have employee monitoring software with which other NSA facilities were equipped. Such software is meant to detect unusual behavior among the agency’s approximately 35,000 employees.

“They’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of man hours trying to reconstruct everything he has gotten, and they still don’t know all of what he took,” the Times quoted a senior administration official as saying. “I know that seems crazy, but everything with this is crazy.”

Officials provided some details on how Snowden was able to avoid detection, including that he was able to hack firewalls intended to prevent employees from accessing some parts of the agency’s system. They also said they believe Snowden acted alone. According to the officials, Snowden would have known the Hawaii facility did not have the employee-monitoring software installed.

On Friday, an advisory committee tasked with assessing the agency’s operation submitted a report to the president. According to the White House, the contents of the report will not be made public until next month. President Barack Obama will then announce which recommendations he will act on.

Snowden, who was granted a year-long amnesty by Russia, has said that he gave all the documents, of which he kept no copies, to a group of journalists who then shared them with news organizations including the Guardian. However, the leader of the presidential advisory committee, Rick Ledgett, believes Snowden has access to documents that have not yet been disclosed. Ledgett said he would consider granting Snowden amnesty if he could provide those documents.

“So, my personal view is, yes, it’s worth having a conversation about,”Ledgett told CBS in an interview scheduled to air on Sunday, on 60 Minutes. “I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured, and my bar for those assurances would be very high. It would be more than just an assertion on his part.”

 

Abraham Lake In Winter Is Gorgeous.. And Explosive (PHOTOS)

Abraham Lake In Winter Is Gorgeous.. And Explosive (PHOTOS).

Photographs of Abraham Lake frozen in the middle of winter rival, in beauty and awe, those of any other Alberta mountain lake.

It may be man-made but it flaunts the same myrtle green in the water and the same mountain peaks around the lake that other natural, liquid wonders that dot the Canadian Rockies landscape provide.

abraham lake

But Abraham Lake has something the others do not.

Frozen in the ice are other-worldly features, features that are so awe-inspiring and unique that they draw photographers from the world over.

In the bluish tinge of the winter’s ice, photographs capture puffy pedestals of gas, cotton-like bubbles frozen in time and milky stains that colour the frozen surface.

Take a look.

CPThe features and colour showcased in all their glories in the ice are truly a sight to behold, but they are also to be respected, as they are nothing less than explosive.

What lurks beneath the surface of this bewitching lake is methane gas.

Methane is an effective fuel, burning – and exploding – with ease.

Thus, the haunting scenes captured by the photographer’s lens, frame perfectly the duality of the beauty of the lake, explains photographer Fikret Onal.

“The bubbles are methane gas, which is released when plants and animals decompose in the lake,” explains Onal.

“The plants on the lake bed release methane gas and methane gets frozen once coming close enough to much colder lake surface and they keep stacking up below once the weather gets colder and colder during [the] winter season.”

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, according to University of Alaska Fairbanks Professor Katey Walter Anthony.

Story continues below video

When Abraham Lake is frozen, much older methane from deep beneath the Earth’s crust and ancient oceans remains trapped at the bottom of the lake as a white rock substance known as methane hydrate. As the lake starts to warm up, the methane escapes and comes to the surface. Combined with the methane from decomposition, this creates the amazing-looking frozen columns seen in these photographs.

The effect is compounded by the fact Abraham is not a natural lake but is the result of the damming of the North Saskatchewan River in northern Alberta in 1972. The result is extra organic material, such as trees, grasses and plants that would normally not be found on a lake bed, decomposing and creating even more methane gas.

As climate change takes its toll in northern lakes and seas, scientists fear that methane that has been frozen by permafrost will slowly start to leak into the atmosphere, pumping out as much as 10 times the amount of methane that is currently in the atmosphere will come out of frozen lakes such as Abraham.

But the methane also provides an opportunity for those who can harness it’s power and redirect it towards industrial consumption.

In early 2013, Japan became the first country to successfully extract natural frozen gas from deposits of icy methane hydrate buried in the ocean floor. According to experts, the amount of carbon stored in these types of gas deposits across the globe is staggering, and the idea of tapping into this newfound energy reserve could mean big things for countries with scant energy resources. –Environmentalgraffiti.com

 

EU suspends work on Ukraine trade agreement – Europe – Al Jazeera English

EU suspends work on Ukraine trade agreement – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

[Al Jazeera]
The European Union has said it will suspend efforts to work with Ukraine on a trade and cooperation agreement, as 200,000 government opposition protesters gather for a rally, marking the start of a fourth consecutive week of unrest.The EU said on Sunday that Kiev’s government has “no grounds in reality”.

Stefan Fuele, EU enlargement chief, said on Twitter that he told Ukraine’s first deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov that the EU would further discuss a trade agreement if Ukraine’s government showed a commitment to sign it.

But Fuele said he has not heard back, so negotions are on hold.

Meawhile, tensions are expected to mount as authorities have organised a demonstration to counter the opposition’s scheduled rally.

They too vowed to hold a “non-stop protest” and said they would bus thousands of Yanukovich supporters from the provinces to a park near the opposition camp.

International support

Protesters have remained in Independence Square in the capital Kiev since Yanukovich turned down the EU trade deal in favour of fostering closer ties with Russia.

Both US and European politicians have shown their support for the opposition’s cause.

Republican Senator John McCain flew to Kiev on Saturday for meetings with Vitali Klitschko, head of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform party (UDAR), nationalist leader Oleg Tyagnybok and Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the head of Yulia Tymoshenko’s party.

He praised the protests as “an incredible show of patriotism”.

President Yanukovich is under pressure to choose to align Ukraine with the West or with a Russian-led Customs Union.

He will travel to Moscow next week to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

 

China Slams Abe’s “Malicious Slander”; Warns Japan Is “Doomed To Failure” | Zero Hedge

China Slams Abe’s “Malicious Slander”; Warns Japan Is “Doomed To Failure” | Zero Hedge.

Overnight rhetoric in Asia became increasingly heated when China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed “strong dissastisfaction” at the slanderous actions of Abe’s Japanese government over the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) and the “theft and embezzlement” of the Diaoyu Islands. “Japan’s attempt is doomed to failure,” China warned ominously and as we highlight below, a reflection on the possible rational reasons for China and Japan to go to war over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands highlights the seriousness of the ongoing brinksmanship in the East China Sea. If a war is fought over these long-contested islands, it will have an eminently rational explanation underlying all the historical mistrust and nationalism on the surface. War in the East China Sea is possible, despite the economic costs.

The ‘triangle’ of doom in the East China Sea…

Via Google Translate,

Q: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held in Japan recently – especially during the ASEAN summit, accusing China to unilaterally change the status of the East China Sea, East China Sea, said China’s air defense identification zone designation is improper for the high seas against the freedom of overflight, asked China to revoke the measure. What is your comment?

A: We have made some Japanese leaders use international slanderous remarks China expresses strong dissatisfaction.

Diaoyu Islands are China’s inherent territory. Japan over the Diaoyu Islands theft and embezzlement have always been illegal and invalid. Since last year, the Japanese deliberately provoked the Diaoyu Islands dispute, unilaterally change the status quo of the Diaoyu Islands issue is none other than the Japanese themselves. In this regard, the Chinese law to take the necessary measures to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial fully justified, blameless.

East China’s air defense identification zone designation is intended to protect national defense aviation security measures, consistent with international law and international practice, do not affect the countries of aircraft overflight freedoms enjoyed under international law. Deliberate on this issue in Japan to China to launch an attack, an attempt to tamper with the concept, the implementation of double standards, mislead international public opinion, Japan’s attempt is doomed to failure.

“Rationalist Explanations For War” In The East China Sea

Submitted by Ankit Panda of The Diplomat,

Events in the East China Sea since 2009 have thrust to the forefront the following frightening question: will China and Japan imminently go to war? Conventional answers in the affirmative point to the deep level of historical mistrust and a certain level of “unfinished business” in East Asian international politics, stemming from the heyday of Showa Japan’s imperialism across Asia. Those on the negative often point to the astronomical economic costs that would follow from a war that pinned the world’s first and third largest economies against its second in a fight over a few measly islands, undersea hydrocarbon reserves be damned.

I can’t pretend to arbitrate between these two camps but I find that far too many observers sympathize with the second camp based on rational impulse. Of course China and Japan wouldn’t fight a war! That’d ruin their economies! I sympathize with the Clausewtizean notion of war being a continuation of politics “by other means,” and the problems caused by information asymmetries (effectively handicapping rational decision-making), but the situation over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands can result in war even if the top leaders in Tokyo and Beijing are eminently rational.

Political scientist James D. Fearon’s path-breaking article “Rationalist Explanations for War” provides a still-relevant schema that’s wonderfully applicable to the contemporary situation between China and Japan in the East China Sea. Fearon’s paper was initially relevant because it challenged the overly simplistic rationalist’s dogma: if war is so costly, then there has to be some sort of diplomatic solution that is preferable to all parties involved — barring information asymmetries and communication deficits, such an agreement should and will be signed.

Of course, this doesn’t correspond to reality where we know that many incredibly costly wars have been fought (from the first World War to the Iran-Iraq War). So, if wars are costly — as one over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands is likely to be — why do they still occur? Well, the answer isn’t Japanese imperialism or because states just sometimes irrationally dislike each other (as the affirmative camp would argue). It’s more subtle.

Fearon’s “bargaining model” assumes a few dictums about state knowledge, behavior and expectations ex ante. I’ll cast the remainder of the model in terms of Japan and China since they’re our subjects of interest (and to avoid floating off into academic abstractions).

First, China and Japan both know that there is an actual probability distribution of the likely outcomes of the war. They don’t know what the actual distribution is, but they can estimate what is likely in terms of the costs and outcomes of going to war. For example, Japan can predict that it would suffer relatively low naval losses and would strengthen its administrative control of the islands; China could predict the same outcome, or it could interpret things in its favor. In essence, they acknowledge that war is predictable in its unpredictability.

Second, China and Japan want to limit risk or are neutral to risk, but definitely do not crave risk. War is fundamentally risky so this is tantamount to an acknowledgement that war is costlier than maintaining peace or negotiating an ex ante diplomatic solution.

The third assumption is a little dressed up in academic jargon: there can be no “issue indivisibility.” In plain English, this essentially means that whatever the states are fighting over (usually territory, but it could be a pot of gold) can be divided between them in an infinite number of ways on a line going from zero to one. Imagine that zero is Japan’s ideal preference (total Japanese control of the Senkakus and acknowledgement as such by China) and one is China’s ideal preference (total Chinese control of Diaoyu and acknowledgement by Japan). Fearon’s assumption requires that there exist points like 0.23 and 0.83 (and so forth) which set up some sort sharing between the warring parties. Even solutions, such as one proposed by Zheng Wang here at The Diplomat to establish a “peace zone,” could sit on this line.

If the third assumption sounds the shakiest to you that’s probably because it is. “Issue indivisibility” is a nasty problem and a subject of quite some research. It usually is at the heart of wars that seek to decide which state should control a territory such as a Holy City (the intractability of the Arab-Israeli conflict is said to be plagued by indivisible issues).

So, is the dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu fundamentally indivisible? Probably in the sense of splitting sovereignty over the islands, but probably not in the sense of some ex ante bargain similar to what Zheng proposed. Even if the set of solutions isn’t infinitely divisible, whatever finite solutions exist might not fall within whatever range of solutions either Japan or China is willing to tolerate — leading to war.

Fearon actually doesn’t buy the indivisibility-leading-to-war theory himself. He reasons that generally almost every issue is complex enough to be divisible to a degree acceptable by each party (undermining the infinite divisibility requirement), and that states can link issues and offer payments to offset any asymmetrical outcome. In the Senkaku/Diaoyu case, this would mean a solution could hinge upon Japan making a broader apology for its aggression against China in the 20th century or China taking a harsher stance on North Korea (both unlikely).

Relevant to the Air Defense Identification Zone is Fearon’s description of war arising between rational states due to incentives to misrepresent capabilities. China and Japan’s leaders know more about their country’s actual willingness to go to war than anyone else, and it benefits to signal strong resolve on the issue to extract more concessions in any potential deal. Japan announcing its willingness to shoot down Chinese drones earlier this year and its most recent defense plans are example of this, and China’s ADIZ is probably the archetype of such a signal. Instead of extracting a good deal, what such declarations can do is force rational hands to war over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.

Fearon’s final explanation — regarding commitment problems leading to war — is slightly ancillary to the core discussion about the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands given Japan’s constitutional restraints on the use of force (rendering preemptive, preventative, and offensive wars largely irrelevant in the Japanese case). Regardless, the point remains that even if the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands might seem like a terribly silly thing for the world’s second and third largest economies to go to war over, war can still be likely.

As I observe events in the East China Sea, I mostly recall Fearon’s warnings on certain types of signals leading to brinksmanship (the divisibility issue is far murkier). Both Japan and China don’t seem to be relenting on these sorts of deleterious signals. Additionally, given that Chinese and Japanese diplomats haven’t had high-level contact in fourteen months, even the more primitive rationalist’s explanation, that war occurs because a lack of communication leads to rational miscalculations, becomes plausible.

A reflection on the possible rational reasons for China and Japan to go to war over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands highlights the seriousness of the ongoing brinksmanship in the East China Sea. If a war is fought over these long-contested islands, it will have an eminently rational explanation underlying all the historical mistrust and nationalism on the surface. War in the East China Sea is possible, despite the economic costs.

 

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