Snowden’s Moment of Truth

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Get ready!

LEcho_Snowden

That’s “Edward Snowden ready to leave for Iceland?”, from Belgium’s leading French-language business newspaper, L’Echo. And then the first paragraph:

A private jet paid by contributions collected by Wikileaks stands ready to take Edward Snowden to Iceland. However, the authorities of that country have not given the green light for the arrival on their territory of the ex-CIA agent [note: this is an incorrect characterization], responsible for unprecedented US intelligence leaks. As he waits, Snowden still is in hiding in Hong Kong.

“The plane can take off tomorrow,” is the further claim of one Olafur Sigurvinsson quoted here, an executive with an Icelandic company responsible for collecting funds for Wikileaks. As to the important question of “From where?”, the answer is apparently “already from China” (i.e. it does not have to fly there first from Iceland, or anywhere else), since it has been rented from a Chinese company.

Please note again: “a Chinese company.” For the key question here concerns the 10,000+ km journey that would take Snowden to Iceland: whichever way they take, there would be plenty of opportunities for interception by the US Air Force, should President Obama so order. And that fact of a Chinese plane adds a delicious dash of potential Sino-American confrontation to the mix; you might not recall, but those two countries already had a serious air-interception incident between them (that time the Chinese forcing down a US military spy-plane) more than ten years ago.

So, will Obama give that order? You’d have to expect so, meaning that Snowden will swiftly be diverted to the usual regime of pre-trial torture at a US military prison somewhere, à la Bradley Manning. Thankfully for him – for Obama, that is – his grand speech before that hand-picked audience at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate will already be in the past. The German public seemed remarkably content to ignore the latest NSA spying revelations during his visit there, but they could not ignore a slap-in-your-face gesture like that. Nor will the world at large, when it happens, sometime soon now.

By the way, there is also some uncertainty as to whether Iceland might not just reward Snowden for his long flight – even if they allow his arrivel – by promptly turning him over to American authorities themselves. As this L’Echo piece points out, in 2010 the Icelandic Parliament (a.k.a. the Althing) did adopt a resolution declaring the country a refuge for defenders of freedom of expression and transparency. Then again, in the words of Interior Minister Hanna Kristjansdottir (i.e. the official who would be directly in charge of the matter), “[That] resolution has nothing to do with the laws that apply to asylum-seekers.” Oh – well OK, then.

UPDATE: Nevermind. Snowden turns out to be too clever for that, at least when it comes to the means he intends to take to get to Iceland, if that is even where he is heading.

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Europe’s Piecemeal Volcano Reaction

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

It’s no surprise that the issue dominating European news over the last week has been the fallout – in the literal sense – of the Icelandic volcano eruption that has paralyzed most of Europe as an air-flight originator and destination. What has been the surprise is the substantial and expensive impact such an unexpected natural phenomenon had on the very fabric of the economy and other aspects of European life.

Naturally, now that previously-shut airports throughout the continent are gradually starting to resume operations, the sentiment of “Never again!” is taking hold as eyes are cast about in the search of people to blame. In such situations, the temptation becomes overwhelming to avoid having to point fingers by simply blaming a machine, in this case the computer simulation that supposedly was the sole basis for shutting down flight operations once the volcano-ash started to spread. Various aircraft that the European airlines sent up to test actual conditions – including one reportedly dispatched by British Airways with CEO Willie Walsh, a trained pilot himself, aboard – encountered no problems or damage, so that has to constitute conclusive evidence that the flight-bans were panicked overreactions. (more…)

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Heading for the Exits

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

Back to the subject of Iceland, which holds the doubtful distinction of occupying the current financial crisis’ leading-edge of economic suffering. As the FT recently reported, that country’s monetary authorities have now had to raise interest rates for the Icelandic krona to a record 18% as one condition for receiving what is still a “proposed” $2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. The future will seemingly bring a 10% contraction of the economy there, with simultaneous 8% unemployment and 20%-plus inflation.

I’m afraid I do not possess the skills in Icelandic to start investigating that country’s on-line press to look deeper into this mess that way. But there’s at least some interesting coverage from the Czech Republic’s leading general-interest quality daily, Mladá fronta dnes, in the form of an article Alarmed by the crisis, a third of Icelanders consider moving out of the country. (more…)

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Putin for Obama

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

The US presidential election is coming up soon, less than two weeks away. That means, among other things, that it’s endorsement season now, and lately those have taken somewhat of an international flavor. You might have already heard about al-Qaeda’s “endorsement” of McCain – perhaps I’ll have the opportunity to write more about that soon. As such, that nod of terroristic approval goes counter to pretty much the whole rest of the world, which prefers Obama as next US president by about a four-to-one margin. (But you’d sort of expect that Osama bin Laden and his henchmen would be inclined to go against the grain, now, wouldn’t you?) More conventional is Russia’s choice, or at least Russia’s seeming choice, as reported by Per Dalgård in the Danish opinion weekly Information (McCain asks Russia for help). (more…)

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