6. Global Warming

Dec-20-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: Denial is still the modus operandi of Canada and the US in regards to the reality of global warming. We start with the latest numbers, then some lowlights from the conference at Doha, and some powerful speeches from countries that do see the water’s rising.

* Global Warming Is Melting Greenland And Antarctic Ice And Contributing To Sea Level Rise Slate

This is not good news. A new international study—done by 47 experts using data from multiple satellites and aircraft—shows that the Earth is losing ice at an ever-increasing rate from both poles. We’ve known for years that the Arctic has been suffering massive ice loss, with the record low broken more than once in recent years. What’s devastating about this new report is that it shows unequivocally and quantitatively that the Antarctic is also losing land ice, with the critical West Antarctica ice sheet losing on average 65 billion tons of ice every year.

* Climate Negotiations falter at Doha as CO2 Emissions Push Earth toward 1400-year Storms Juan Cole Informed Comment

Human beings are hurtling toward an average temperature increase on earth by 2100, just 88 years from now, of 9 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (5-6 degrees C.), according to a new study by the Global Carbon Project.

…Shooting past the 2 degrees C. goal to 5 degrees C. increase, which is what is likely to happen at this rate, would be catastrophic, as I have pointed out:

“About 55 million years ago, in the Eocene, volcanic activity spewed enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the air. The earth warmed by 4-5 degrees Centigrade. All surface ice melted, and every place on earth became tropical, even Antarctica. Sea levels rose a great deal and a significant amount of land was lost to the sea. It is estimated that sea levels rise some 10 to 20 meters (yards) for every 1 degree C increase in the average surface temperature, over the long term. But along with all that dramatic change came something else. The seas absorbed a lot of the new carbon dioxide, creating carbonic acid. About 50% of some sorts of sea creatures did not survive the change.”

Two scientists casually tossed off this about the Eocene warm period:

“Palynomorphs in the core seem to have been reworked which suggests erosion and redistribution of sediment by storms. The storms also seem to have lasted for long periods of time (1100 to 1400 years).”

Hmm. Storms that lasted 1400 years and marked the earth so dramatically that scientists can still see the effects!

* Bolivia’s address to UN climate talks: Defend Mother Earth against wasteful and greedy system Rabble

The planet and humanity are in serious danger of extinction. The forests are in danger, biodiversity is in danger, the rivers and the oceans are in danger, the earth is in danger. This beautiful human community inhabiting our Mother Earth is in danger due to the climate crisis.

The causes of the climate crisis are directly related to the accumulation and concentration of wealth in few countries and in small social groups, excessive and wasteful mass consumption, under the belief that having more is living better, polluting production and disposable goods to enrich wealth increasing the ecological footprint, as well as the excessive and unsustainable use of renewable and non-renewable natural resources at a high environmental cost for extractive activities for production.

A wasteful, consumerist, exclusionary, greedy civilization generating wealth in some hands and poverty everywhere, has produced pollution and climate crisis. We did not come here to negotiate climate. We did not come here to turn the climate into a business, or to protect businesses of them who want to continue aggravating the climate crisis, destroying Mother Earth. We have come with concrete solutions. 

The climate is not for sale, ladies and gentlemen.

* Bangladeshis have Sinking Feeling about Do-Nothing Doha Climate Conference Juan Cole Informed Comment

Bangladesh, among the countries most threatened by climate change, is deeply disappointed by the do-nothing COP18 climate conference that just wrapped up in Doha, Qatar. The country is very low-lying, and rising seas could displace some 30 million of its population of 150 million over the next 50 years. The country also suffers from the increasing frequency and severity of cyclones (i.e. hurricanes) and from soil becoming salty.

There are no climate change deniers in Bangladesh.



4. Political Humour

Nov-30-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: The real humour this week was that The People’s Daily in China ran the Onion’s choice of Kim Jong-Un as the Sexiest Man Alive as a real news story. The Onion responded: For more coverage on The Onion’s Sexiest Man Alive 2012, Kim Jong-Un, please visit our friends at the People’s Daily in China, a proud Communist subsidiary of The Onion, Inc. Exemplary reportage, comrades. Some other notable humour below.

* Widening Petraeus Scandal Reveals Human Race Has Been Having Sex For 200,000 Years The Onion

Following the recent revelation that former CIA director David Petraeus conducted a protracted extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell, sources confirmed today that the far-reaching scandal has widened to reveal that mankind, otherwise known as the species Homo sapiens, has been engaging in sexual intercourse for the past 200,000 years.

“While the situation appeared at first to be limited to this one sexual relationship between Gen. Petraeus and Ms. Broadwell, we see now that it is far more extensive than we had initially believed,” said an FBI official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the ongoing investigation. “Indeed, evidence shows Gen. Petraeus is, in fact, just one of literally billions of human beings who we now believe have on numerous occasions engaged in sexual intercourse over the last several hundred millennia. No matter how far back we go, we just continue to find more and more corroborating proof of people having sex,” the official added. “There’s simply no end in sight.”

* White Supremacist Rally “Clowned” By Counter Protest WCNC,Charlotte

Members of the National Socialist Movement joined the Ku Klux Klan for an anti-immigration rally at Old City Hall on West Trade Street, but the counter-protesters outnumbered them at least five to one. Instead of shouting, the protesters used squeaky toys, whistles, and noisemakers to drown out the amplified speeches.  Many dressed as clowns.  

When the speakers talked about “White Power,” the protesters sprinkled white flour.  Another held a sign reading “Wife Power.” They said they wanted to make a point that racism is ridiculous. “The message from us is, you look silly,” said Lacey Williams, the youth coordinator for Charlotte’s Latin American Coalition. “We’re dressed like clowns and you’re the ones that look funny.”

* WikiLeaks’ Brilliant MasterCard Commercial Parody  YouTube



5. Surviving in the Surveillance Society

Sep-07-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: As even casual readers know, I love technology. But as Ani Defranco observed, “Any tool is a weapon if you hold it right.” And a lot of our brave new tools are weapons for others to watch us. Here are some insights into the problem, and a specific suggestion for a solution.

* Your Cellphone Is A Tracking Device That Lets You Make Calls  Cory Doctorow Boing Boing

Cell phones are tracking devices that make phone calls. It’s sad, but it’s true. Which means software solutions don’t always matter. You can have a secure set of tools on your phone, but it doesn’t change the fact that your phone tracks everywhere you go. And the police can potentially push updates onto your phone that backdoor it and allow it to be turned into a microphone remotely, and do other stuff like that. The police can identify everybody at a protest by bringing in a device called an IMSI catcher. It’s a fake cell phone tower that can be built for 1500 bucks. And once nearby, everybody’s cell phones will automatically jump onto the tower, and if the phone’s unique identifier is exposed, all the police have to do is go to the phone company and ask for their information.

* Minority Report and the Surveillance State

Seemingly taking its cue from science fiction, technology has moved so fast in the short time since Minority Report premiered that what once seemed futuristic no longer occupies the realm of science fiction. …Spielberg’s unnerving vision of the future is fast becoming our reality, examples abound

FICTION: In Minority Report, police use holographic data screens, city-wide surveillance cameras, dimensional maps and database feeds to monitor the movements of its citizens.

REALITY: Microsoft, in a partnership with New York City, has developed a crime-fighting system that “will allow police to quickly collate and visualize vast amounts of data from cameras, licence plate readers, 911 calls, police databases and other sources. It will then display the information in real time, both visually and chronologically, allowing investigators to centralize information about crimes as they happen or are reported.”

FICTION: No matter where people go in the world of Minority Report, one’s biometric data precedes them, allowing corporations to tap into their government profile and target them for advertising based on their highly individual characteristics….

 REALITY: Google is presently working on context-based advertising that will use environmental sensors in your cell phone, laptop, etc., to deliver “targeted ads tailored to fit with what you’re seeing and hearing in the real world.” However, long before Google set their sights on context advertising, facial and iris recognition machines were being employed, ostensibly to detect criminals, streamline security checkpoints processes, and facilitate everyday activities. For example, in preparing to introduce such technology in the United States, the American biometrics firm Global Rainmakers Inc. (GRI) turned the city of Leon, Mexico into a virtual police state by installing iris scanners, which can scan the irises of 30-50 people per minute, throughout the city.

* Why You Should Start Using a VPN Lifehacker

You may know what a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is; you probably don’t use one. You really should be using a VPN, and even if you don’t think so now, at some point in the future you may consider it as important as your internet connection.

When we took at look at your five favourite VPN service providers, we noticed a few things. First, being the “best” is big business for VPN providers, and they’ll fight dirty to be one of them. Second, there are so many VPN providers that it’s difficult to choose a really good one. VPNs are not all created equally, and in this post, we’re going to look at what a VPN is, why you want one, and how to pick the best one for you. Let’s get started.



4. LIBOR, and the Banks

Jul-13-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: The bird’s eye is glazed. I kept trying to find pieces about LIBOR, as everyone kept saying how important it is. But as I started to read, I’d get lost faster than a Higgs’ boson. But finally a few clearer pieces emerged. And the Avaaz petition at the end is very clear.

* INFOGRAPHIC: The LIBOR Scandal Explained

The LIBOR scandal is being called the “Wall Street scandal of all scandals” and the “rotten heart of finance,” but the massive fraud can be hard to fathom for anyone who doesn’t follow the markets.

The London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) is a benchmark interest rate used broadly all over the world and affects trillions of dollars of loans – mortgage loans, small-business loans, personal loans – worldwide. 

This nifty infographic from AccountingDegree.net gives non-finance folk an idea of the scope of the scandal

* The LIBOR Scandal – The Rotten Heart of Finance The Economist

What may still seem to many to be a parochial affair involving Barclays, a 300-year-old British bank, rigging an obscure number, is beginning to assume global significance. The number that the traders were toying with determines the prices that people and corporations around the world pay for loans or receive for their savings. It is used as a benchmark to set payments on about $800 trillion-worth of financial instruments, ranging from complex interest-rate derivatives to simple mortgages. The number determines the global flow of billions of dollars each year. Yet it turns out to have been flawed.

Over the past week damning evidence has emerged, in documents detailing a settlement between Barclays and regulators in America and Britain, that employees at the bank and at several other unnamed banks tried to rig the number time and again over a period of at least five years. And worse is likely to emerge. Investigations by regulators in several countries, including Canada, America, Japan, the EU, Switzerland and Britain, are looking into allegations that LIBOR and similar rates were rigged by large numbers of banks. Corporations and lawyers, too, are examining whether they can sue Barclays or other banks for harm they have suffered. That could cost the banking industry tens of billions of dollars. “This is the banking industry’s tobacco moment,” says the chief executive of a multinational bank, referring to the lawsuits and settlements that cost America’s tobacco industry more than $200 billion in 1998. “It’s that big,” he says.

* Bankers behind bars Petition Avaaz

Big banks have been caught in a massive scam to rig global interest rates, ripping off millions of people on their mortgages, student loans and more! We’d go to jail for this, but Barclays bank has only been fined, and just a fraction of their profits! Outrage is mounting — this is our chance to finally turn the tide of the banks’ reign over our democracies. 

The EU finance regulator, Michel Barnier is standing up to the powerful bank lobby and championing reform that would put bankers behind bars for fraud like this. If the EU goes first, accountability could quickly spread across the globe. But the banks are lobbying hard against it, and we need a massive surge of people power to drive these reforms through. 

If we can get 1 million people to stand with Barnier in the next 3 days, it will give him momentum to face down the banking lobby and push governments to bring reform. Click below to sign, and our growing numbers will be represented by adding mock bankers to a jail right in front of the EU Parliament.



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