Monthly Archives: July 2014

Russia steps into North Korea/China split

Discord between China and North Korea has provided fertile ground for Moscow, itself increasingly isolated over Ukraine, writes International Affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe in a new column, Jilted Putin courts Kim Jong-un for comfort. Excerpt:

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Kim Jong-un visits a North Korean school in June. Photo by Prachatai, Flickr, Creative Commons

The ripples set in motion by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s ever more blatant involvement in fighting in eastern Ukraine have reached the other side of the world, and are lapping on the shores of the hermit kingdom of North Korea.

As the European Union and the United States impose increasingly onerous sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his court, and a long term chill in relations with the West appears likely, Moscow can’t be too choosy about the new friends it makes.

In this frigid climate, even the unpredictable, spoiled brat North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the Justin Beiber of dictators, can seem warm and charming.

And as the smiling men with gleaming teeth from Moscow have come to call, it so happens that Kim also is feeling desperately unloved.

China has been Pyongyang’s indispensable patron since the Korean War in the early 1950s, propping up North Korea’s hopelessly dysfunctional economy and providing diplomatic cover at the United Nations for its ideological sibling. But North Korea’s insistence, against all reason, on pursuing a nuclear weapons development program, and Beijing’s growing preference for pragmatic foreign relations over ideological ones are coming close to severing the old ties … continue reading  Jilted Putin courts Kim Jong-un for comfort (subscription*).

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Jilted Putin courts Kim Jong-un for comfort

JONATHAN MANTHORPE  
July 30, 2014

The ripples set in motion by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s ever more blatant involvement in fighting in eastern Ukraine have reached the other side of the world, and are lapping on the shores of the hermit kingdom of North Korea.

As the European Union and the United States impose increasingly onerous sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his court, and a long term chill in relations with the West appears likely, Moscow can’t be too choosy about the new friends it makes.

Kim Jong-un, North Korea

Kim Jong-un visits Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in North Korea, in June, 2014. Photo by Prachatai, Flickr, Creative Commons

In this frigid climate, even the unpredictable, spoiled brat North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the Justin Beiber of dictators, can seem warm and charming.

And as the smiling men with gleaming teeth from Moscow have come to call, it so happens that Kim also is feeling desperately unloved.

China has been Pyongyang’s indispensable patron since the Korean War in the early 1950s, propping up North Korea’s hopelessly dysfunctional economy and providing diplomatic cover at the United Nations for its ideological sibling. But North Korea’s insistence, against all reason, on pursuing a nuclear weapons development program, and Beijing’s growing preference for pragmatic foreign relations over ideological ones are coming close to severing the old ties.

The coming to power of Kim, 31, on the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, in December 2011, is the last straw for China. Now, Beijing is hardly in a position to turn up its nose at monarchic Marxism. After all, China’s Communist Party leadership has morphed into a classic Chinese dynasty; a conglomerate of grossly wealthy aristocratic families. New figures from a study done by Peking University show that one per cent of China’s population controls over a third of the country’s wealth. That one per cent is the party leadership and its “princeling” offspring.

But when others mirror our own faults they always seem especially vile.

The relationship between Pyongyang and Beijing went through many stresses and strains during the 17-year rule of Kim Jong-il. But he was always careful not to let the ties reach breaking point.

For whatever reason – ignorance, inexperience, hubris, take your pick – Kim Jong-un has wilfully undermined the relationship with Beijing. China’s misgivings about the young Kim gathered early as the new leader asserted his power by purging the old guard, especially in the military, inherited from his father.

The decisive moment for Beijing came last December when Kim struck out at his uncle, Jang Song-thaek. Jang had close relations with the leadership in Beijing and was a strong advocate of North Korea following China’s example of abandoning Marxism in favour of authoritarian capitalism.

Jang had been delegated by Kim Jong-il to mentor his son and guide the new leader through the learning years of his rule. But Kim Jong-un has shown an easy facility with the violence and brutality North Korean leaders seem to think they need to display to establish their right to rule. Kim became suspicious that his uncle was building his own power network that could quickly become a threat to the new leader. In December last year, Jang was arrested in the middle of a large ruling party political meeting, tried before a military court and then executed.

Beijing’s expression of displeasure was immediate. Data from China’s customs authorities show that it exported no crude oil to North Korea in the first five months of this year, the longest period Beijing has used this sanction. Beijing has also stepped up its enforcement of international embargoes against North Korea, imposed to try to halt Pyongyang’s development of nuclear warheads and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

At the same time, Beijing has been rapidly building commercial and diplomatic relations with democratic South Korea, which has become one of China’s main trading partners in Asia. Much to Pyongyang’s chagrin, China’s new President and Communist Party leader Xi Jinping visited Seoul before he did North Korea. Beijing’s disdain for the young Kim was compounded by the leaking to media of what purported to be an internal Beijing report on the imminent collapse of the Pyongyang regime and how China intended to respond. There was nothing extraordinary in this alleged report, but the whole point was that it was leaked to the media. That sort of thing doesn’t usually happen in China unless the Beijing powers want it to.

Kim has responded with his own increasingly public anti-Beijing propaganda. When, last week, the United Nations Security Council criticized Pyongyang for testing short-range missiles, Kim’s media accused Beijing of “lacking backbone” by supporting the motion.

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Vladimir Putin (handout)

There was another public display of the breech on Sunday when North Korea celebrated “Day of Victory in the Fatherland Liberation War,” the 61st anniversary of the armistice ending the Korean War in 1953. China usually plays a major role in these celebrations. After all, former Chinese leader Mao Zedong dispatched 700,000 Chinese “volunteer” soldiers to support North Korea. They prevented a United Nations victory in the war and forced the continuing division of the peninsular. Over 180,000 Chinese died fighting, including Mao’s son.

In this year’s celebration, however, there was no Chinese presence and no mention of China’s contribution to North Korea’s defence.

This discord has provided fertile ground for Moscow. Even before the upheaval in Ukraine provoked Putin’s disguised intervention, Moscow had decided there are benefits to replacing Beijing as North Korea’s protector. After a flurry of visits by Moscow ministers in March and April, Pyongyang offered a raft of unprecedented privileges for Russian business people. These included simplified visa applications, transactions in Russian rubles rather than United States dollars, and unrestricted access to the Internet.

Pyongyang’s media has continued the charm offensive by presenting Putin’s policies in a favourable light, and unconditionally supporting his annexation of Crimea. Moscow has responded by announcing it wants to increase trade with North Korea tenfold by 2020.

But no doubt Putin knows enough of North Korea to be cautious. The whole history of the Kim dynasty, whose founding father Kim Il-sung was, ironically, put in place by the old Soviet Union at the end of the Second World War, is not a desire for productive partnerships. It is the quest for handouts from dupes to keep the Kim family in the lavish lifestyle to which it has become accustomed.

Copyright © Jonathan Manthorpe 2014

Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com 

Further reading: 
Dark North Korea, F&O blog post with photograph of North and South Korea from the International Space Station.
BRICS Bank a Game Changer, by Ali Burak GüvenJuly 22, 2014
North Korea’s Kim renews his quest for a nuclear life-saver, by Jonathan Manthorpe, May 2014
Crumbling of the BRICs,  by Jonathan Manthorpe, April 2014
 Leave Ukraine to the Russians, by Jonathan Manthorpe, March 2014
Putin more in tune with the times than Obama, by Jonathan Manthorpe, March 2014

 

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America’s Race-relations Agony

The cemetery of the Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church is allegedly the final resting place of famed blues musician Robert Johnson. Hannah-Joneses’ great grandparents are buried there. Photo by Edmund D. Fountain, special to ProPublica. © 2014

The cemetery of the Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church is allegedly the final resting place of famed blues musician Robert Johnson. Hannah-Joneses’ great grandparents are buried there. Photo by Edmund D. Fountain, special to ProPublica. © 2014

Six decades ago this year, the United States Supreme Court outlawed “separate but equal” schools. Fifty years ago this summer, hundreds of black and white volunteers converged on Mississippi in an effort to — as they put it — make Mississippi a part of America. And still, even with the country led by a president with dark skin, whose father hails from Africa and whose mother is of caucasian ancestry, the United States is torn by racial tension.

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones of ProPublica has spent much of this year documenting the the civil rights movement on these historic anniversaries. Facts and Opinions highlights two pieces from her series on America’s Freedom Summer which, she wrote, “spanned 10 bloody weeks, helped transform the South and aided in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that helped ensure black Southerners their constitutional right to vote.”

Ghosts of Greenwood is the tale of Hannah Jones’s own family. It begins:

In 1947, my father, along with his mother and older brother, boarded a northbound train in the American city of Greenwood, Miss. They carried with them nothing but a suitcase stuffed with clothes, a bag of cold chicken, and my grandmother’s determination that her children, my father was just 2 years old, would not be doomed to a life of picking cotton in the feudal society that was the Mississippi Delta … read more.

Brutal Loss, Enduring Conviction is an interview with the widow of a civil rights worker who paid the ultimate price for his convictions:

On June 21, 1964, at the launch of Freedom Summer, three civil rights workers went missing in Neshoba County, Mississippi. Forty-four days later, United States federal agents searching an earthen dam confirmed what many had already suspected: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner had been murdered, and in time the Klan would be found responsible. While her husband and his fellow civil rights workers became martyrs, Rita Schwerner, then 22, became a widow … read more.

In the spring Hannah-Jones went to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to investigate the resegregation of Southern schools; you can find our blog post, with videos, about her work here: Racial resegregation in the American south.

 

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? If you’d like to support our journalism, for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1.) 

 

 

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Libya’s potential new dictator, with CIA links

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BENGHAZI, Libya. Photo by Dennixo, Creative Commons via Wikipedia

Libya, already rife with  political, tribal and religious divisions, is threatened by yet another coup, warns International Affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe. Excerpt of today’s column:

A renegade Libyan general, reputedly with links to Washington’s Central Intelligence Agency, is well on his way to filling the political vacuum left by the ouster and killing of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

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Khalifa Haftar

Since late May, Khalifa Haftar has formed a loose alliance of elements of the national military and tribal militias with the aim, he says, of destroying militant Islamist groups that had taken control of much of the country.

In a series of running battles with the Islamists, Haftar says his forces have taken control of almost all of Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city and hub of the country’s eastern region. His allies also continue to hold the international airport in Tripoli after days of attacks by Islamists linked to Egypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Haftar’s rapid emergence as a potential new dictator comes as a fresh House of Representatives is due to meet in Benghazi on August 4. This is the latest attempt, in a so-far failed series of efforts, to produce a functioning administration after the uprising against Qaddafi and his killing in October, 2011 read more (subscription*).

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Libya finds its new Qaddafi

Jonathan Manthorpe’s columnist page is here.

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? If you’d like to support our journalism, for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1.) 

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Libya finds its new Qaddafi

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BENGHAZI, Libya. Photo by Dennixo, Creative Commons via Wikipedia

JONATHAN MANTHORPE 
July 25, 2014
 

A renegade Libyan general, reputedly with links to Washington’s Central Intelligence Agency, is well on his way to filling the political vacuum left by the ouster and killing of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

Since late May, Khalifa Haftar has formed a loose alliance of elements of the national military and tribal militias with the aim, he says, of destroying militant Islamist groups that had taken control of much of the country.

360px-General_Haftar

General Khalifa Haftar. Photo by Magharebia on Flickr, Creative Commons

In a series of running battles with the Islamists, Haftar says his forces have taken control of almost all of Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city and hub of the country’s eastern region. His allies also continue to hold the international airport in Tripoli after days of attacks by Islamists linked to Egypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Haftar’s rapid emergence as a potential new dictator comes as a fresh House of Representatives is due to meet in Benghazi on August 4. This is the latest attempt, in a so-far failed series of efforts, to produce a functioning administration after the uprising against Qaddafi and his killing in October, 2011. However, there is little confidence this new parliament will be able to quickly appoint a prime minister and government that can demobilize the clan and tribal militias, restore security, and effectively run the country.

Although the United Nations has a political support mission of 160 people assigned to Libya – they are temporarily in neighbouring Tunisia because of the fighting in Tripoli and Benghazi – the Security Council has been unable to agree on their mandate. But there appears to be no appetite to turn the support mission into a peacekeeping force that could impose security.

In this climate, Haftar could become the new Qaddafi, if his forces can defeat the Islamists. That may not be so easy. The Islamists appear to be gathering reinforcements in preparation for a showdown with Haftar. There have been reports in recent days that the main militant groups, the Libya Shield militias affiliated to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and the al-Qaida-linked Ansar al-Sharia, are recalling their jihadist fighters who were sent to join the uprisings in Syria and Iraq.

Haftar, 71, was a commander in Qaddafi’s army and in 1986 led Libyan forces in the latest of a series of invasions of neighbouring Chad. He was captured by the Chadians in 1987 and defected to the opposition National Salvation Front of Libya. Haftar established himself in the United States in the early 1990s, and settled in Langley, Virginia, site of the headquarters of the CIA. This coincidence has led to allegations that Haftar has and continues to collaborate with the American spy agency.

Haftar returned to Libya in 2011 to join the uprising against Qaddafi and tried to make himself a central figure in the transition after the killing of the dictator. Despite coming from the powerful Ferjan tribe, Haftar had little success in pursuing his political ambitions until this year. In February he issued a video statement to the media, in which he appeared in a general’s uniform and called for the civilian administration to be replaced by a military council to “save the country.”

After the then Prime Minister Ali Zidan called for his arrest, Haftar fled to Benghazi, where he began gathering supporters from among disillusioned military officers and units, the police, and tribal militias. In a recent interview with Egyptian media, Hafta claimed to have 70,000 fighters in what he calls the Libyan National Army. That is undoubtedly an exaggeration. The British-based Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Monitor reckons Haftar has about 35,000 troops either directly under his command, or in allied militias.

A major strength of this force is that Hafta is reported to have 12 warplanes from the former Libyan air force. These are said to be four MiG 21 and four MiG 23 fighter jets, and four Mi25 ground attack helicopters.

This air superiority was decisive when Hafta launched his attack on Islamist militia bases in Benghazi on May 16. His main target was the al-Qaida-linked Ansar al-Sharia. This has added to speculation that Hafta has ties to the CIA. Ansar al-Sharia is accused by Washington of launching the September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in which the ambassador and three other Americans were killed. Early this year, Washington declared Ansar al-Sharia to be a terrorist organization.

Whether Hafta is the CIA’s man is still unclear. But he certainly is viewed favourably by the Egyptian and Tunisian governments.

While there are many people who see a coup by Hafta and his followers as the best chance of bringing stability and security to Libya, it would not be a long-term solution. It would merely be a step backwards to the Qaddafi era, as has happened in Egypt with the military again taking control after elections produced a Muslim Brotherhood government.

A Hafta coup would do nothing to resolve the political, tribal and religious divisions that have become deeply embedded in Libyan life. But it is the most likely prospect for Libya’s immediate future.

Copyright © Jonathan Manthorpe 2014

Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com 

Further reading: 
Soccer bribery is the least of Qatar’s sins, by Jonathan Manthorpe, June 2014
China conscripts Blackwater chief for its march into Africa,  by Jonathan Manthorpe, Jan. 2014
Arab Spring still waiting to blossom, by Jonathan Manthorpe, Jan. 2014

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Man Booker Longlist goes Global

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The reading room of the British Museum in London. Photo by David Iliff, Creative Commons via Wikipedia

Organizers of  the Man Booker Prize released their first long list in a competition open to the wide world — or at least to titles written originally in English, and published in the United Kingdom.

Read the column Judging the Man Booker Prize by literature professor and 2012 judge Dinah Birch, in F&O’s Ex Libris section.

The list includes four independent publishers and one publisher, Unbound, that is crowd-funded. Four Americans made the list for a prize previously restricted to the United Kingdom, Commonwealth countries, the Republic of Ireland, and Zimbabwe. The titles were winn owed to 13 from 154 original entries. They are:

  • Joshua Ferris (American) — To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Viking)
  • Richard Flanagan (Australian) — The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Chatto & Windus)
  • Karen Joy Fowler (American) — We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves (Serpent’s Tail)
  • Siri Hustvedt (American) — The Blazing World (Sceptre)
  • Howard Jacobson (British) — J (Jonathan Cape)
  • Paul Kingsnorth (British) — The Wake (Unbound)
  • David Mitchell (British) — The Bone Clocks (Sceptre)
  • Neel Mukherjee (British) — The Lives of Others (Chatto & Windus)
  • David Nicholls (British) — Us (Hodder & Stoughton)
  • Joseph O’Neill (Irish/American) — The Dog (Fourth Estate)
  • Richard Powers (American) — Orfeo  (Atlantic Books)
  • Ali Smith (British) — How to be Both (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Niall Williams (Irish) — History of the Rain (Bloomsbury)

Organizers said the shortlist will released September 9 at Man Group, the British investment firm that sponsors the prize, with the winner announced at a black tie event on October 14. For those who find value in competitions that judge literature  — I am dubious, though I see the need to spotlight books deemed worthy in the annual flood of words —  The Man Booker is, arguably, the world’s most prestigious literary prize after the Nobel.

Shortlisted authors receive £2,500 and a specially-bound edition of their book, said the organization in a press release. The winner receives £50,000 “and can expect overnight fame and international recognition, not to mention a significant increase in book sales.”

The Man Booker press release quoted 2013 winner Eleanor Catton on the benefits: “I’ve been given opportunities to travel and to see my book read by such an astonishingly wide readership all over the world.”
— Deborah Jones
 
*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? If you’d like to support our journalism, for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1.) 
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Jon Stewart Learns What Happens When You Criticize Israel

Article 19, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

That is all.

— Deborah Jones

 

 

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? If you’d like to support our journalism, for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1.) 

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Online Tracking That’s Virtually Impossible to Block

 

by Julia Angwin, ProPublica

Fingerprint_Whorl

Computers create digital “fingerprints” as unique as the whorls on each human finger. Photo NIST via Wikimedia, Public Domain

A new, extremely persistent type of online tracking is shadowing visitors to thousands of top websites, from WhiteHouse.gov to YouPorn.com.

First documented in a forthcoming paper by researchers at Princeton University and KU Leuven University in Belgium, this type of tracking, called canvas fingerprinting, works by instructing the visitor’s Web browser to draw a hidden image. Because each computer draws the image slightly differently, the images can be used to assign each user’s device a number that uniquely identifies it.

Like other tracking tools, canvas fingerprints are used to build profiles of users based on the websites they visit 2014 profiles that shape which ads, news articles, or other types of content are displayed to them.

But fingerprints are unusually hard to block: They can’t be prevented by using standard Web browser privacy settings or using anti-tracking tools such as AdBlock Plus.

The researchers found canvas fingerprinting computer code, primarily written by a company called AddThis, on 5 percent of the top 100,000 websites. Most of the code was on websites that use AddThis’ social media sharing tools. Other fingerprinters include the German digital marketer Ligatus and the Canadian dating site Plentyoffish. (A list of all the websites on which researchers found the code is here).

Rich Harris, chief executive of AddThis, said that the company began testing canvas fingerprinting earlier this year as a possible way to replace “cookies,” the traditional way that users are tracked, via text files installed on their computers.

“We’re looking for a cookie alternative,” Harris said in an interview.

Harris said the company considered the privacy implications of canvas fingerprinting before launching the test, but decided “this is well within the rules and regulations and laws and policies that we have.”

He added that the company has only used the data collected from canvas fingerprints for internal research and development. The company won’t use the data for ad targeting or personalization if users install the AddThis opt-out cookie on their computers, he said.

Arvind Narayanan, the computer science professor who led the Princeton research team, countered that forcing users to take AddThis at its word about how their data will be used, is “not the best privacy assurance.”

Device fingerprints rely on the fact that every computer is slightly different: Each contains different fonts, different software, different clock settings and other distinctive features. Computers automatically broadcast some of their attributes when they connect to another computer over the Internet.

Tracking companies have long sought to use those differences to uniquely identify devices for online advertising purposes, particularly as Web users are increasingly using ad-blocking software and deleting cookies.

In May 2012, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, noticed that a Web programming feature called “canvas” could allow for a new type of fingerprint — by pulling in different attributes than a typical device fingerprint.

In June, the Tor Project added a feature to its privacy-protecting Web browser to notify users when a website attempts to use the canvas feature and sends a blank canvas image. But other Web browsers did not add notifications for canvas fingerprinting.

A year later, Russian programmer Valentin Vasilyev noticed the study and added a canvas feature to freely available fingerprint code that he had posted on the Internet. The code was immediately popular.

But Vasilyev said that the company he was working for at the time decided against using the fingerprint technology. “We collected several million fingerprints but we decided against using them because accuracy was 90 percent,” he said, “and many of our customers were on mobile and the fingerprinting doesn’t work well on mobile.”

Vasilyev added that he wasn’t worried about the privacy concerns of fingerprinting. “The fingerprint itself is a number which in no way is related to a personality,” he said.

AddThis improved upon Vasilyev’s code by adding new tests and using the canvas to draw a pangram “Cwm fjordbank glyphs vext quiz” 2014 a sentence that uses every letter of the alphabet at least once. This allows the company to capture slight variations in how each letter is displayed.

AddThis said it rolled out the feature to a small portion of the 13 million websites on which its technology appears, but is considering ending its test soon. “It’s not uniquely identifying enough,” Harris said.

AddThis did not notify the websites on which the code was placed because “we conduct R&D projects in live environments to get the best results from testing,” according to a spokeswoman.

She added that the company does not use any of the data it collects — whether from canvas fingerprints or traditional cookie-based tracking — from government websites including WhiteHouse.gov for ad targeting or personalization.

The company offered no such assurances about data it routinely collects from visitors to other sites, such as YouPorn.com. YouPorn.com did not respond to inquiries from ProPublica about whether it was aware of AddThis’ test of canvas fingerprinting on its website.

Read our recent coverage about how online tracking is getting creepier, how Facebook has been tracking you, and what tools to use to protect yourself.

Creative Commons

Update: A YouPorn.com spokesperson said that the website was “completely unaware that AddThis contained a tracking software that had the potential to jeopardize the privacy of our users.” After this article was published on ProPublica’s site, YouPorn removed AddThis technology from its website. 

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? If you’d like to support our journalism, for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1.) 


Posted in Current Affairs

Environmental Assessments Include Climate

By Chris Wood,  Natural Security columnist

West Elk Mountains, Colorado, Photo by Ken Lund, Flickr, Creative Commons

West Elk Mountains, Colorado. Photo: Ken Lund via Flickr, Creative Commons

How wide to cast the net when examining the environmental damage a proposed industrial development might do, is a contested issue. In Canada, panels weighing the impacts of proposed oil pipelines from Alberta to the Pacific Coast have repeatedly refused to consider the damage that may occur from climate change as a result of the transported oil being burned. A similar tension has bedeviled hearings into proposals to expand coal exports through Vancouver. 

In January, separate suits by environmental groups and First Nations challenged, in Canada’s Federal Court, a license issued to Enbridge Inc. to build its proposed Northern Gateway bitumen pipeline. They argued that the project’s environmental impact assessment was flawed in not considering its downstream climate impact. (The cases are still pending.)

The Canadian argument received some moral support from across the border. In June, a United States federal judge in Colorado invalidated a U.S. federal license for a coal mine on similar ground: because its proponents and the permitting agency (the Bureau of Land Management) had failed to adequately consider the mine’s climate impacts — including the impact of burning the coal it produced.

U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson found that while the mine’s proponents had been able to calculate its anticipated economic benefits “down to the job and the nearest $100,000,” they had failed to address the potential economic costs associated with the climate impacts of methane released during production, and of other greenhouse gas released when the mine’s product was consumed. 

Ignoring “the social cost of coal,’’ Jackson said, the Bureau and Arch Coal, developers of the West Elk Mine, had produced, “half of a cost-benefit analysis.”

Copyright Chris Wood 2014

Further reading:
A Canary for Coal Mines, by Brian Calvert in High Country News: http://www.hcn.org/articles/new-coal-and-climate-policy

 

*Facts and Opinions is a boutique for slow journalism, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O performs journalism for citizens, sustained entirely by readers: we do not carry advertising or solicit donations from foundations or causes.  Why? If you’d like to support our journalism, for $2.95 (the price of a cheap brew) you can subscribe to F&O for a month. If that breaks your budget, a one-day pass is $1.) 

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Summertime … and the fans are jumping

F&O Folk Fest Henry Wagons - Gavin Kennedy

VANCOUVER, Canada — Henry Wagons performs with his Australian band Wagons — self described as “neo-rockabilly” and “a Lynyrd Skynrd tribute show in an Alice Springs bar.” Photo by Gavin Kennedy © 2014

The weather can be capricious, but entertainment expands and lightens up in the long summer days of the Northern Hemisphere, with a music or theatre festival most weekends.

The most unusual is perhaps the arctic Great Northern Arts Festival each July in Inuvik, Northwest Territories, with pop musicians performing alongside Inuit fashion shows and throat-singers. One of the largest occurs annually in central Europe – this year rain failed to deter some 145,000 Europeans from Hungary’s annual electronic music festival, Balaton Sound, in mid-July. In August Edinburgh’s annual Festival Fringe will draw creators from around the world. And in America’s Pacific Northwest this weekend, tens of thousands sat on the ground under overcast skies to hear traditional and eclectic tunes at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, on the shore of the city’s English Bay.

 

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