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Espionage & Good Faith in Treaty Negotiations: East Timor v Australia

Posted on April 14th, 2014 at 23:50 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

In April last year, East Timor instituted arbitral proceedings against Australia at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (‘PCA’) in relation to a dispute arising under the 2006 Treaty on Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea (‘CMATS Treaty’). Timor Leste (as East Timor is formally known) alleges that the CMATS Treaty is invalid because Australia engaged in espionage in the course of negotiating the Treaty. As noted by Matthew Happold in an earlier EJIL:talk! post, Timor Leste has also initiated proceedings against Australia the International Court of Justice in respect of the seizure of documents by Australian authorities from the offices of the Australian lawyer who is acting for Timor Leste in the PCA arbitration. Indeed, the ICJ is holding hearings, this week, on Timor Leste’s request for provisional measures that will require Australia to give up to the custody of the Court all documents and data seized by Australia pending disposal of the ICJ case and to give assurances that ‘it will not intercept or cause or request the interception of communications between Timor-Leste and its legal advisers’.

The details of the arbitration before the PCA have not been made public, so it is difficult to form any clear assessment of the precise international law issues that arise.  However, from public statements and media reports, it seems that Timor Leste is alleging that the CMATS is invalid because “Australia did not conduct the CMATS negotiations in 2004 in good faith by engaging in espionage”.  According to the lawyer for Timor Leste, during the negotiations for the CMATS Treaty, Australian intelligence services inserted listening devices into the wall of Timor-Leste’s negotiating room under the guise of an Australian aid program concerning renovation and construction of cabinet offices. The lawyer for Timor-Leste has likened the behaviour of the Australian intelligence services to insider trading. The PCA case is particularly interesting as it might be the first case in which a state seeks invalidity of a treaty on the ground that the other treaty party acted fraudulently in the negotiation of the treaty. The case raises the question whether states not only have an obligation to negotiate treaties in good faith but whether breach of the obligation to negotiate in good faith amounts to a ground for invalidity of a treaty.

So, any country looking for an out in any treaty with the USA, the NSA behavior is an easy way…


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Pull-it Surprise

Posted on April 14th, 2014 at 23:37 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

The Washington Post won two Pulitzer Prizes on Monday, including the prestigious public-service medal for a series of stories that exposed the National Security Agency’s massive global surveillance programs.

A team of 28 Post journalists, led by reporter Barton Gellman, shared the public-service award with the British-based Guardian newspaper, which also reported extensively about the NSA’s secret programs. Both Gellman and Glenn Greenwald, then the Guardian’s lead reporter on the NSA pieces, based their articles on classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who has fled to exile in Russia, lending a controversial edge to this year’s awards.


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How Mathematicians Used A Pump-Action Shotgun to Estimate Pi

Posted on April 14th, 2014 at 22:30 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

Imagine the following scenario. The end of civilisation has occurred, zombies have taken over the Earth and all access to modern technology has ended. The few survivors suddenly need to know the value of π and, being a mathematician, they turn to you. What do you do?

If ever you find yourself in this situation, you’ll be glad of the work of Vincent Dumoulin and Félix Thouin at the Université de Montréal in Canada. These guys have worked out how to calculate an approximate value of π using the distribution of pellets from a Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun, which they assume would be widely available in the event of a zombie apocalypse.


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Comments:

  1. “And he made a molten sea, ten cubits from the one rim to the other it was round all about, and…a line of thirty cubits did compass it round about….And it was an hand breadth thick….”

    — First Kings, chapter 7, verses 23 and 26

  2. Give these guys an Ignobel!

Amaz

Posted on April 14th, 2014 at 21:57 by John Sinteur in category: News

ollJK4m


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A-bomb museum is open a mere 12 hours each year

Posted on April 14th, 2014 at 21:55 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

It’s a rather unusual museum.

All it has on display is a few pebbles of glass, a chunk of concrete about the size of a milking stool and a dilapidated, abandoned ranch house.

This museum is open to the public only 12 hours a year – 6 in spring; 6 in autumn. Admission is free, if you’re willing to drive out into New Mexico’s vast, barren and beautiful Jornada del Muerta Desert.

It’s called Trinity Site. It made a lasting impact on our entire world. It’s where the first Atomic Bomb was detonated.

The pebbles of glass on display used to be sand pebbles, but were baked into glass when sucked up into the massive fire ball that lit up this dark desert at 5:29 a.m. on July 16, 1945.

Visitors are permitted at this earth-shattering site between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on the first Saturday in April and the first Saturday in October. There’s no guide, no speeches, no ceremony, but some photos hang on the steel mesh fence topped with barbed wire circling ground zero.

A military security guard will issue you an information pamphlet after checking your photo identification 27 kilometres from the site.


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FBI Abruptly Walks Out On Senate Briefing After Being Asked How ‘Insider Threat’ Program Avoids Whistleblowers

Posted on April 14th, 2014 at 21:48 by John Sinteur in category: Do you feel safer yet?

[Quote]:

Meanwhile, the FBI fiercely resists any efforts at Congressional oversight, especially on whistleblower matters. For example, four months ago I sent a letter to the FBI requesting its training materials on the Insider Threat Program. This program was announced by the Obama Administration in October 2011. It was intended to train federal employees to watch out for insider threats among their colleagues. Public news reports indicated that this program might not do enough to distinguish between true insider threats and legitimate whistleblowers. I relayed these concerns in my letter. I also asked for copies of the training materials. I said I wanted to examine whether they adequately distinguished between insider threats and whistleblowers.

In response, an FBI legislative affairs official told my staff that a briefing might be the best way to answer my questions. It was scheduled for last week. Staff for both Chairman Leahy and I attended, and the FBI brought the head of their Insider Threat Program. Yet the FBI didn’t bring the Insider Threat training materials as we had requested. However, the head of the Insider Threat Program told the staff that there was no need to worry about whistleblower communications. He said whistleblowers had to register in order to be protected, and the Insider Threat Program would know to just avoid those people.

Now I have never heard of whistleblowers being required to “register” in order to be protected. The idea of such a requirement should be pretty alarming to all Americans. Sometimes confidentiality is the best protection a whistleblower has. Unfortunately, neither my staff nor Chairman Leahy’s staff was able to learn more, because only about ten minutes into the briefing, the FBI abruptly walked out. FBI officials simply refused to discuss any whistleblower implications in its Insider Threat Program and left the room. These are clearly not the actions of an agency that is genuinely open to whistleblowers or whistleblower protection.


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Comments:

  1. Why, you’d almost think that the FBI didn’t -want- there to be any whistleblowers…

    When it’s a crime to tell the world that your government is commiting a crime, it’s a bad sign.

Abdullah Abdullah takes early lead in Afghan Afghan presidential election

Posted on April 14th, 2014 at 18:01 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

In the first partial results from Afghanistan’s Afghanistan’s presidential election, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah has emerged as the early leader, but he is far from crossing the 50 percent vote threshold needed to win outright, according to the country’s election commission.


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Statue Of A Homeless Jesus Startles A Wealthy Community

Posted on April 14th, 2014 at 16:52 by John Sinteur in category: News

[Quote]:

A new religious statue in the town of Davidson, N.C., is unlike anything you might see in church.

The statue depicts Jesus as a vagrant sleeping on a park bench. St. Alban’s Episcopal Church installed the homeless Jesus statue on its property in the middle of an upscale neighborhood filled with well-kept townhomes.

Jesus is huddled under a blanket with his face and hands obscured; only the crucifixion wounds on his uncovered feet give him away.

The reaction was immediate. Some loved it; some didn’t.

“One woman from the neighborhood actually called police the first time she drove by,” says David Boraks, editor of DavidsonNews.net. “She thought it was an actual homeless person.”

That’s right. Somebody called the cops on Jesus.

I’d give him some water, but he’d probably only turn it into wine.


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Heartbleed

Posted on April 14th, 2014 at 16:30 by John Sinteur in category: Software

[Quote]:

A novice asked of master Bawan: “Say something about the Heartbleed Bug.”

Said Bawan: “Chiuyin, the Governor’s treasurer, is blind as an earthworm. A thief may give him a coin of tin, claim that it is silver and receive change. When the treasury is empty, which man is the villain? Speak right and I will spare you all blows for one week. Speak wrong and my staff will fly!”

The novice thought: if I say the thief, Bawan will surely strike me, for it is the treasurer who doles out the coins. But if I say the treasurer he will also strike me, for it is the thief who takes advantage of the situation.

When the pause grew too long, Bawan raised his staff high. Suddenly enlightened, the novice cried out: “The Governor! For who else made this blind man his treasurer?”

Bawan lowered his staff. “And who is the Governor?”

Said the novice: “All who might have cried out ‘this man is blind!’ but failed to notice, or even to examine him.”

Bawan nodded. “This is the first lesson. Too easily we praise Open Source, saying smugly to each other, ‘under ten thousand eyeballs, every bug is laid bare’. Yet when the ten thousand avert their gaze, they are no more useful than the blind man. And now that I have spared you all blows for one week, stand at ease and tell me: what is the second lesson?”

Said the novice: “Surely, I have no idea.”

Bawan promptly struck the novice’s skull with his staff. The boy fell to the floor, unconscious.

As he stepped over the prone body, Bawan remarked: “Code as if everyone is the thief.”


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  1. I like this a lot.

Three Expensive Milliseconds

Posted on April 14th, 2014 at 16:28 by John Sinteur in category: Robber Barons

[Quote]:

Four years ago Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, abruptly canceled America’s biggest and arguably most important infrastructure project, a desperately needed new rail tunnel under the Hudson River. Count me among those who blame his presidential ambitions, and believe that he was trying to curry favor with the government- and public-transit-hating Republican base.

Even as one tunnel was being canceled, however, another was nearing completion, as Spread Networks finished boring its way through the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania. Spread’s tunnel was not, however, intended to carry passengers, or even freight; it was for a fiber-optic cable that would shave three milliseconds — three-thousandths of a second — off communication time between the futures markets of Chicago and the stock markets of New York. And the fact that this tunnel was built while the rail tunnel wasn’t tells you a lot about what’s wrong with America today.

Who cares about three milliseconds? The answer is, high-frequency traders, who make money by buying or selling stock a tiny fraction of a second faster than other players. Not surprisingly, Michael Lewis starts his best-selling new book “Flash Boys,” a polemic against high-frequency trading, with the story of the Spread Networks tunnel. But the real moral of the tunnel tale is independent of Mr. Lewis’s polemic.

Think about it. You may or may not buy Mr. Lewis’s depiction of the high-frequency types as villains and those trying to thwart them as heroes. (If you ask me, there are no good guys in this story.) But either way, spending hundreds of millions of dollars to save three milliseconds looks like a huge waste. And that’s part of a much broader picture, in which society is devoting an ever-growing share of its resources to financial wheeling and dealing, while getting little or nothing in return.


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Angry over 22-cent tax on soda, man pulls out submachine gun in store

Posted on April 14th, 2014 at 16:21 by John Sinteur in category: batshitinsane

[Quote]:

Nahshon Shelton didn’t want to pay the 22-cent tax on his $1.79 two-liter of Pepsi on Saturday afternoon, Chicago Police said.

So he allegedly pulled a blue-steel Intratec .22-caliber submachine gun out of his Gucci satchel inside the convenience store in the 4000 block of West Madison Street where they tried to make him pay it — and he threatened to kill everyone there, a prosecutor said.

This “is my neighborhood, I’m tax exempt!” he would later allegedly tell the cops. “Man, you know what, I’ll keep it real. I had to put them in their place.”


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