Friday, 24 October 2014

DIrty Politics in New Zealand

Meanwhile the PM is refusing to ask questions in parliament about Dirty Politics and his relationship with Cameron Slater; all the while he is oveseeing the development of the Police State

Police take Hager to court over sources
Dirty Politics author Nicky Hager has been taken to court by police in an attempt to access the source material used in his book

Nicky Hager. Photo /  Mark Mitchell

Nicky Hager. Photo / Mark Mitchell

24 October, 2014

Earlier this month police conducted a 10-hour search of Hager's house, during which he said computers and papers were seized in what appeared to be an attempt to discover the identity of the person who provided information used in the book.

The book was an election bombshell based on hacked email and social media material belonging to WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater.

Yesterday at the High Court at Auckland, police asked Justice Geoffrey Venning to let them review the documents taken in the raid, after Hager claimed legal privilege to protect his sources under the Evidence Act.

Hager's lawyer, Felix Geiringer told Radio New Zealand that his client would also be challenging the legality of the search warrant police used to raid Hager's home.

It was being challenged on three fronts, RNZ reported, the legality of the decision by police to apply for the search warrant, the granting of the warrant by a judge and the execution of the warrant by police.

Mr Geiringer told RNZ that police were looking for information that would lead them to the identity of the hacker dubbed Rawshark.

"Rawshark is a confidential source of Mr Hager.

Mr Hager's given him an assurance of confidentiality and the law says that when a journalist does that, that information that identifies that person is privileged," Mr Geiringer said.

"The first issue is that it appears that the very thing that the police are looking for is protected by journalistic privilege.

"In order to try and find the information about this Rawshark, what the police want to do is look through all of Mr Hager's material and in particular, they want to examine anything in Mr Hager's possession that indicates information about a potential confidential source.

"In fact, what the police want to do is they want to examine all of Mr Hager's sources for all of his research."

Doing so would override the privilege awarded to all of Hager's sources, which would have an enormous impact on his ability to act as an investigative journalist, Mr Geiringer said.

"I would suggest that it has an enormous impact on the ability of every journalist in New Zealand to do their work."

A campaign to help with Hager's legal fees has raised more than $57,000.

A high-powered legal team has formed around Dirty Politics author Nicky Hager to challenge the validity of the police search warrant which was used in the hunt for the hacker Rawshark.

The team, led by Julian Miles QC, will file papers in the High Court next week seeking a judicial review of the search warrant which saw police seize computers and files from Hager's Wellington home.

Media lawyer Steven Price and barrister Felix Geiringer make up the rest of the team which was boosted by public funding of about $80,000 raised in New Zealand and internationally.

From earlier

Nicky Hager challenges police raid
Author and journalist Nicky Hager claims the police raid on his house earlier this month was illegal and is gearing up for a court battle.


23 October, 2014

Hager's book Dirty Politics was based on emails and Facebook posts allegedly hacked from WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater's computer. Dirty Politics drew links between Prime Minister John Key's office, National politicians and Slater.

Slater laid a complaint with police after more details were leaked online by a hacker calling himself Rawshark.

Police spent 10 hours searching Hager's house on October 2, and removed computers and related items under a search warrant as part of the "ongoing investigation into alleged hacking of Mr Slater's emails".

Hager's lawyer, Felix Geiringer, said his client was immediately concerned with the legality of the police search and since then had "strengthened in his view" that the raid was unlawful.

Hager expected to file his case with the High Court as early as tomorrow, Geiringer said.

It would run alongside his fight to keep the information seized in the police search a secret. The court had custody of the physical and electronic documents seized by police at the start of the month, Geiringer said.

Hager said he would not reveal his sources and would fight to maintain this.

On his website Hager said his investigative journalism meant he had an "unnegotiable obligation" to protect his sources and the confidences of other people who approached him.

"I will not cooperate in any way with the police in trying to discover this or other sources."

The police said Hager did not have a valid claim of privilege and it wanted to review the documents it seized, Greiringer said.

Hager and Crown lawyers had a video conference with Justice Geoffrey Venning today to determine how to proceed with the pending legal battles.

Police had been given three weeks to file evidence in support of their position, he said.

Hager's legal battle had also received financial support from the public. So far he had received almost $57,000 through the online fundraising page GiveaLittle.

The Freedom of the Press Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in the US, had also thrown its support behind him raising $18,000.

The organisation said it was dedicated to helping support and defend public-interest journalism focused on exposing mismanagement, corruption and law-breaking in government.

Guy McPherson NZ Tour

Guy, Kevin and retinue have arrived in Wellington after having travelled down the North Island via Rotorua and the hot pools of Lake Taupo.

We are now getting ready for a presentation in Lower Hutt, near Wellington and an afternoon’s seminar at the Tapu te Ranga Marae tomorrow afternoon


Here are some notes from Kevin Hester

All going well on tour. Guy McPherson did another radio interview this time for Kapity Coast Radio and this evening we present at the Dowse Art Museum.
We had a great trip down to Wellington and stopped in Rotorua for Shaun Pettigrew to do some filming for a doco on the tour 

BTW, it was Shaun's birthday. Presently we are at Mick McCrohon's house having what feels like a well earned glass of wine while we wait for Karen Jones and her activist daughters to arrive before we head to the Dowse. Please share the event link's and our Giveallittle donation link to try and mitigate my costs, every little bit helps raise the alarm.

Below are the links for the upcoming events.

The Dowse, Lower Hutt

Tapu Te Ranga Mara, Island Bay, Wellington 

Palmerston North 



Please make a donation to help recover some of the costs HERE

Positive feedbacks

Recently discovered microbe is key player in climate change.

Recently discovered microbe is key player in climate change
Study site, Stordalen Mire in Abisko National Park in Sweden, just north of the Arctic Circle. Credit: Scott Saleska
22 October, 2014

As permafrost soils thaw under the influence of global warming, communities of soil microbes act as potent amplifiers of global climate change, an international study has shown.

Tiny soil microbes are among the world's biggest potential amplifiers of human-caused climate change, but whether microbial communities are mere slaves to their environment or influential actors in their own right is an open question. Now, research by an international team of scientists from the U.S., Sweden and Australia, led by University of Arizona scientists, shows that a single species of microbe, discovered only very recently, is an unexpected key player in climate change.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, should help scientists improve their simulations of future climate by replacing assumptions about the different greenhouse gases emitted from thawing permafrost with new understanding of how different communities of microbes control the release of these gases.

Earlier this year, the international team discovered that a single species of microbe, previously undescribed by science, was prominent in permafrost soils in northern Sweden that have begun to thaw under the effect of globally rising temperatures. Researchers suspected that it played a significant role in global warming by liberating vast amounts of carbon stored in permafrost soil close to the Arctic Circle in the form of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere. But the actual role of this microbe—assigned the preliminary name Methanoflorens stordalenmirensis, which roughly translates to "methane-bloomer from the Stordalen Mire"—was unknown.

The new research nails down the role of the new microbe, finding that the sheer abundance of Methanoflorens, as compared to other microbial species in thawing permafrost, should help to predict their collective impact on future climate change.

"If you think of the African savanna as an analogy, you could say that both lions and elephants produce carbon dioxide, but they eat different things," said senior author Scott Saleska, an associate professor in the UA's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and director of the UA's new Ecosystem Genomics Institute. "In Methanoflorens, we discovered the microbial equivalent of an elephant, an organism that plays an enormously important role in what happens to the whole ecosystem."

Significantly, the study revealed that because of these microbial activities, all wetlands are not the same when it comes to methane release.

"The models assume a certain ratio between different forms, or isotopes, of the carbon in the methane molecules, and the actual recorded ratio turns out to be different," said lead author Carmody McCalley, a scientist at the Earth Systems Research Center at the University of New Hampshire who conducted the study while she was a postdoctoral researcher at UA. "This has been a major shortcoming of current climate models. Because they assume the wrong isotope ratio coming out of the wetlands, the models overestimate carbon released by biological processes and underestimate carbon released by human activities such as fossil-fuel burning."

Soil microbes can make methane two different ways: either from acetate, an organic molecule that comes from plants, or from carbon dioxide and hydrogen.

"Both processes produce energy for the microbe, and the microbe breathes out methane like we breathe out carbon dioxide," McCalley said. "But we find that in thawing permafrost, most methane initially doesn't come from acetate as previously assumed, but the other pathway. This ratio then shifts towards previous estimates as the frozen soils are turned into wetlands and acetate becomes the preferred carbon source."

One of the big questions facing climate scientists, according to Saleska, is how much of the carbon stored in soils is released into the atmosphere by microbial activity.

"As the 'global freezer' of permafrost is failing under the influence of warming, we need to better understand how soil microbes release carbon on a larger, ecosystem-wide level and what is going to happen with it," he said.

Said UA co-author Virginia Rich: "For years, there's been a debate about whether microbial ecology 'matters' to what an ecosystem collectively does—in this case, releasing greenhouse gases of different forms—or whether microbes are just slaves to the system's physics and chemistry. This work shows that microbial ecology matters to a great degree, and that we need to pay more attention to the types of microbes living in those thawing ecosystems."

Added McCalley: "By taking microbial ecology into account, we can accurately set up climate models to identify how much methane comes from thawing permafrost versus other sources such as fossil-fuel burning."

 Explore further: Methane-producing microbe blooms in permafrost thaw

More information: 'Methane dynamics regulated by microbial community response to permafrost thaw' Nature , 23 October 2014. DOI: 10.1038/nature13798

The Arctic Methane Monster’s Nasty Little Helpers: Study Finds Ancient, Methane Producing, Archaea Gorge on Tundra Melt.

12 March, 2014

How dangerous and vicious the monster ends up being to a world set to rapidly warm by humans depends largely on three factors. First — how fast methane is released from warming stores in the sea bed. Second — how swiftly and to what degree the tundra carbon store is released as methane. Third — how large the stores of carbon and methane ultimately are.

(Thawing permafrost and organic carbon in Yedoma region of Russia. Image source: NASA.)
On the issue of the first and third questions, scientists are divided between those like Peter Wadhams, Natalia Shakhova and Igor Simeletov who believe that large methane pulses from a rapidly warming Arctic Ocean are now possible and warrant serious consideration and those like Gavin Schmidt and David Archer — both top scientists in their own right — who believe the model assessments showing a much slower release are at least some cause for comfort. Further complicating the issue is that estimates of sea-bed methane stores range widely with the East Siberian Arctic Shelf region alone asserted to contain anywhere between 250 and 1500 gigatons of methane (See Arctic Carbon Stores Assessment Here).

With such wide-ranging estimations and observations, it’s no wonder that a major scientific controversy has erupted over the issue of sea bed methane release. This back and forth comes in the foreground of observed large (but not catastrophic) sea-bed emissions and what appears to be a growing Arctic methane release. A controversy that, in itself, does little inspire confidence in a positive outcome.

But on the second point, an issue that some are now calling the compost bomb, most scientists are in agreement that the massive carbon store locked in the swiftly thawing tundra is a matter of serious and immediate concern.

Tundra Thaw by Human GHG Now Practically Inevitable

At issue here is the initial power of the human heat forcing and what consequences that forcing is likely to unlock. Consequences that are directly tied to the amount of greenhouse gasses we emit. A total forcing that is now likely equivalent to around 425 CO2e when taking into account the effect of human aerosols and an even more ominous 480 CO2e when and if those aerosols fall out (IPCC and MIT).

The first number, 425 CO2e, were it to remain stable over years, decades and centuries, is enough push global temperatures above the 1.5 C warming threshold that would thaw the northern hemisphere tundra. And within this tundra is locked a store of about 1,500 gigatons of carbon. A massive store that is set to eventually, thaw, decompose and release its carbon as either CO2 or methane over the long period of warmth that is to come.

Area of contiguous permafrost
(Northern Hemisphere Permafrost Zones. Image source: NASA.)
The immense size of this carbon store represents an extreme risk both for extending the period of human warming and for, potentially, generating a feedback in which natural warming adds to, rather than simply extends, human warming. By comparison, human fossil fuel emissions have already resulted in about 540 gigatons of carbon being released into the atmosphere. The tundra store alone represents nearly three times this amount. But the concern is not just the massive size of the tundra store now set to thaw, or the rate at which the tundra will, eventually, release its carbon to the atmosphere. The concern is also how much of the tundra store carbon is released as either methane or CO2.

Methane Provides a Strong Amplifying Feedback

Since methane’s radiative absorption is about 35 times that of CO2 by volume in the IPCC climate assessments (and its short term global warming potential is as much as 72 to 105 times that of a comparable amount of CO2) and since methane release sets off other feedbacks by turning into CO2 after it is oxidized and by increasing atmospheric water vapor, a strong greenhouse agent in its own right, a significant portion of tundra carbon being liberated as methane could result in a rather powerful heat amplification. In the worst case, such an amplification could set off conditions similar to those during which other mini-greenhouse gas runaways occurred — such as the Permian, Triassic and PETM events.

Which is why the release of a new paper should be cause for serious concern.

Ancient Archaea — The Arctic Methane Monster’s Nasty Little Helpers

This week, a paper published in Nature Communications described findings based on a study of thawing Swedish permafrost. The study investigated how microbes responded to thawing tundra in various mires throughout warming sections of Sweden. What they discovered was the increased prevalence of an ancient methane producing micro-organism.

Billions of years ago, methane producing cyanobacteria or archaea were prevalent in the world’s oceans. The methane they produced helped keep the Earth warm at a time when solar output was much less than it is today. Later, as oxygen producing plants emerged, the archaea, to which oxygen was a poison, retreated into the anoxic corners of the more modern world. Today, they live in the dark, in the mud, or in the depths of oceans. There, they continue to eek out an existence by turning hydrogen and carbon dioxide into methane.
A kind of archaea, the newly discovered organism, named methanoflorens stordalenmirensis, was found to be exploding through sections of rapidly melting Swedish tundra. In fact, it is so at home in regions of melting permafrost that it blooms in the same way algae blooms in the ocean. As a result, it comes to dominate the microbial environment, representing 90% of the methanogens and crowding out many of the other microbes.

Distribution of Methanogen
(Methanogen shows global distribution. Each dot indicates a location wheremethanoflorens stordalenmirensis was discovered. Image source: Nature.)
That these massive archaea blooms can effectively convert large portions of the newly liberated tundra carbon store into methane was not at all lost on researchers:

Methanoflorens stordalenmirensis seems to be a indicator species for melting permafrost. It is rarely found where there is permafrost, but where the peat is warmer and the permafrost is melting we can see that it just grows and grows. It is possible that we can use it to measure the health of mires and their permafrost. The recently documented global distribution also shows, on a much larger scale, that this microbe spreads to new permafrost areas in time with them thawing out. This is not good news for a stable climate“, said study author Rhiannon Mondav.

So what we have here is a billions year old microbe that thrives in wet regions called mires where permafrost is melting, rapidly converts tundra carbon to methane, readily spreads to new zones where permafrost melt occurs, and explodes into algae like blooms to dominate these environment.

One could not ask for a set of more diabolic little helpers for the already very disturbing Arctic Methane Monster…

Implications Going Forward: Arctic Methane Emission Not Currently Catastrophic, But Likely to Continue to Grow
Recent research shows that the current methane emission from all natural sources north of 53 degrees north latitude is on the order of 81 trillion grams (TG) each year. A portion of this, about 17 TG, comes from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. Other inputs are from sea bed sources, thawing tundra and existing wetlands in the region. Meanwhile, the global emission, including both human and natural sources is in the range of about 600 TG each year. Overall, this emission is enough to overwhelm current sinks by about 40 TG each year, which results in continuing increases of atmospheric methane.

Atmospheric Methane Mauna Loa
(Atmospheric methane levels since 1969, Mauna Loa, show levels rising by about 200 ppb over the 45 year period. Image source: NOAA ESRL.)

As more and more of the tundra melts and as seabed methane continues to warm it is likely that total Arctic methane emissions will continue to rise, perhaps eventually rivaling or, in the worst case, exceeding the size of the human methane emission (350 TG). But, to do so, current Arctic and boreal emissions would have to more than quadruple — either through a slow increase (high likelihood) or through more catastrophic large pulse events (lower likelihood, but still enough for serious concern). By contrast, recent warm years have shown increases in the rate of methane flux/emission of around 5% with the average flux increase being around 2%.

It is worth noting that NOAA and a number of other agencies do track methane emissions in the Arctic but that a comprehensive tool set for accurately tracking the total emission does not appear to be currently available. Instead, various studies are conducted in an effort to capture total emissions levels. Monitoring does, however, track total atmospheric values.


Canada's own Patriot Act

Canada, like New Zealand has always been a peaceful country, especially in comparison with its southern neighbour.

The country is in shock and it is in this context that the right-wing government will use the opportunity to bring in its own Patriot Act and eviscerate human rights in the name of "fighting terror"

Right wing governments have always thrived on fear in the populace and Stephen Harper is no exception.

Paul Beckwith has some reflections of his own on this.

The Canadian Patriot Act Arrives: Ottawa To Give Security Agencies More "Detention And Surveillance" Powers

23 October, 2014

Stop us when the flashbacks to September 11, and its Patriot Act aftermath, become too close for comfort.

As Reuters reported moments ago, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Thursday the government will expedite plans to give more powers of detention and surveillance to security agencies in the wake of an attack on Parliament.

"They need to be much strengthened, and I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that work which is already under way will be expedited," he told the House of Commons, one day after a gunman launched an attack on Parliament and was shot dead.

On the other hand, instead of giving the government even more authoritarian power to do with civilian liberties as it sees fit and appropriate, perhaps the government's agencies could have simply done their work better under the existing laws and regulations, especially after the Sky News report that the Ottawa shooter, Canadian born Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was already on a terror watch list.

The gunman who killed a soldier in Ottawa and stormed Canada's parliament had been put on a terror watch list, it has emerged.
The attacker, identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau by Canadian media, was considered "high risk" and had seen his passport confiscated to stop him travelling abroad to join Islamic State terrorists in Iraq or Syria.
But the 32-year-old was able to strike at the heart of his home country's capital, shooting dead Corporal Nathan Cirillo before he was himself gunned down by Sergeant-At-Arms Kevin Vickers as he launched his assault on parliament.
US sources said the killer was a convert to Islam from Quebec who grew up in Laval and Montreal and was called Michael Joseph Hall before he changed his name.

But while most have stretched to make a link between Zehaf-Bibeau and Muslim in general (or ISIS in particular), a very distubring direction where this may be headed is revealed in the following:

Family friend Dave Bathurst told the CBC Zehaf-Bibeau did not appear to have extremist views, but had at times shown a disturbing side. 
He said: "We were having a conversation in a kitchen, and I don't know how he worded it - he said the devil is after him." 
Mr Bathurst said his friend frequently talked about the presence of Shaytan in the world - an Arabic term for devils and demons, adding: "I think he must have been mentally ill."

So while one can understand the stereotyping of fear under the guise of race, ethnicity or religion, what happens when the brand spanking new pre-crime unit of "Oceania" targets not just those who are externally different but pose a risk threat because they could be, according to the government, "mentally ill." Good luck proving to a jury of peers after the fact of one's arrest (by the Ministry of Peace of course) that one is, in fact, perfectly normal.

Ottawa gunman ‘privately-educated’ son of Canada immigration chief, acted alone

Flowers, momentos and well wishes are placed at the Canadian War Memorial in downtown Ottawa October 23, 2014 (Reuters / Blair Gable)

23 October,2014

Following the Canadian shooting attack which threw Ottawa into lockdown, a 32-year-old, Quebec-born male was identified as the sole perpetrator – and his mother was found to work at Canada’s Immigration and Refugee board.
The gunman responsible for the attack on the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa acted alone, authorities confirmed on Thursday, adding that that there is no link to an attack in Quebec earlier in the week.

We have no information linking the two attacks this week,” said Bob Paulson, commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, saying that the shooter Michael Zehaf-Bibeau may also have held a Libyan passport.

Police also said that checks by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) found no evidence of national security related offenses, although the Canadian-born Zehaf-Bibeau had a record of drugs violations and , violence related activity, Paulson said. Authorities said Zehaf-Bibeau wanted to go to Syria.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau had converted to Islam prior to the attacks in Ottawa and had previously had his passport revoked and been arrested several times. He was privately educated and the son of the deputy chairperson of Canada’s immigration division, Susan Bibeau, reported CTV News.

Despite his education he had been regarded as somewhat disturbed by one of his friends from his youth and in later years had several drug and robbery arrests and one weapons charge – he was also classed as a high-risk traveler despite his mother’s position.

One friend, friend Dave Bathurst, told Canada’s Globe and Mail that he had exhibited some signs of possibly suffering mental illness: “We were having a conversation in a kitchen, and I don’t know how he worded it: He said the devil is after him,” he said.
His parents had reportedly gone long periods of time without seeing their son.

On Wednesday, his mother, Susan Bibeau told AP that she was crying for the victims of her son’s attack, 24-year-old soldier Nathan Cirillo, rather than for her son.

Can you ever explain something like this?” she said through tears, during a telephone call. “We are sorry.”

She added that she did not know what to say to the people who were injured.

No words can express the sadness we are feeling at this time. We are so sad that a man lost his life. He has lost everything and he leaves behind a family that must feel nothing but pain and sorrow,” the parents said in their official statement read.

I don't understand and part of me wants to hate him at this time. You write that our son was vulnerable, we don't know, we (he) was lost and did not fit in. I his mother spoke with him last week over lunch, I had not seen him for over five years before that.”

Bibeau was killed by Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers shortly after his attack on Parliament Hill and a shooting at the National War Memorial.

The shootings which shook Canada on Wednesday morning put the capital on lockdown as well as all military bases nationwide. Three people were hospitalized in the storm of bullets he unleashed on Parliament Hill before he was shot dead.

Some fair enough comments

Yesterday's shooter in Ottawa was living in a homeless shelter a few blocks east of Parliament Hill for possibly 2-4 weeks prior to the incident. He was apparently bragging about being anti-Canadian, being on a terrorist list and was a recent convert to Islam. He was described as "very bizarre".

What kind of terrorist brags about being a terrorist a few days before carrying out a terrorist attack on Parliament Hill? Seems more and more like this tragic event wasn't a terrorist attack, it was just the work of a mentally ill homeless Canadian citizen with a long criminal history. No need to start stripping away more of our rights, giving more power to the police and increasing the bombing abroad. CSIS and the RCMP need to start answering some questions about what they had in their file on this man also.

Some sage words from Paul Beckwith

Misplaced fear. Terrorism vs climate change - Paul Beckwith

The very word "terrorism" arouses fear and anxiety in most people. The incidents in the last few days in Montreal and at Ottawa's War Memorial and Parliament Hill will no doubt shock many Canadian's and dominate the mainstream media for many days. Not so for me.

I claim that this fear is misdirected. Even irrational. I have no fear or worry of this. The risk from so called "terrorism" to an individual in the public is exceedingly low. Obesity caused mortality from heart disease or stroke or a car accident far exceeds that risk from "terrorism". Fear your next burger, or walking across the street if you feel the need to fear something. There is a lot of global turmoil going down at present. Pick your poison: Russian aggression, the Middle East, ISIL or ISI or ISIS, Al Qaida or something else. These concerns come and go, wax and wane. They are misguided.

What is worth the worry is abrupt climate change. Increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events causing cascading feedbacks and turmoil and acting as a threat multiplier. And crippling the global food supply, for example. What is worth the worry is methane bubbling up from the Arctic. That will change the world. Perhaps too fast for civilization to endure. Dwarfing all other issues.