Quotw This was the week when NSA PRISM whistleblower Edward Snowden decided to lead the world a merry chase, like an ostentatious Phileas Fogg, or a WikiLeaks-inspired Where's Wally, with obfuscation ever his watchword. To put it another way, he took off from Hong Kong and no one's sure where he is any more.
The man who outed government agencies' snooping on our phone and internet use took off over the weekend, apparently headed for Moscow to board a flight to Cuba. By Monday, WikiLeaks, which has experience with this sort of thing care of Julian Assange, said it was helping Snowden reach extradition-dodging-enabler Ecuador:
Mr Edward Snowden, the American whistleblower who exposed evidence of a global surveillance regime conducted by US and UK intelligence agencies, has left Hong Kong legally. He is bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks. Mr Snowden requested that WikiLeaks use its legal expertise and experience to secure his safety. Once Mr Snowden arrives in Ecuador his request will be formally processed.
WikiLawyer Baltasar Garzón said that the site wanted to preserve Snowden's rights, squawking indignantly:
What is being done to Mr Snowden and to Mr Julian Assange - for making or facilitating disclosures in the public interest - is an assault against the people.
At that stage, Snowden was supposedly in Moscow, but about to head to Cuba. However, although it looks like a seat was booked in his name on a flight to Havanna, he never actually got on board. A source at the airport in Moscow told the Interfax news agency that a flight to Cuba would have had to go through American airspace and that Uncle Sam could flag it down:
No doubt, our US colleagues have the formal right to land the plan when it enters US airspace, which is their responsibility zone.
Meanwhile, US Senate Intelligence Committee chair Diane Feinstein told reporters:
The chase is on.
The Reg's own Bob Dormon has spent some time looking at just exactly what Snowden's options are if he wants to avoid US airspace and even cornered a private jet pilot for his suggestions:
It's not unusual to have pax on board with the name on the passenger list [as supplied to the TSA] totally different from the passport in any case - celebs do it all the time.
I would have thought a slow drift through Africa would suit him or why not get on a boat?
Although readers have their own, somewhat darker, ideas about just where NSA-leaker is hiding:
Suppose he never left Hong Kong. Suppose everything since his arrival was a feint, and that he's on a junket/junk bobbing around in the Hong Kong harbor. As busy as it is there, it's entirely possible he was stuffed in a counterfeit duffel bag, absconded to a minisub or other sub, then taken out that way. Suppose this is the one occasion where Xi and Putin spoke privately, in agreement, to SHAFT (Snowden Has A Fine Tool/Snowden Has Allowed Fuc*ing Them; Snowden, Have A Fun Trip) the USA.
It is possible that to prove his rejection [sic] to the USA, snowden left a finger in Hong Kong and left a finger in the passenger terminal in one of those magic door-facing rooms. Plausibly, then, "he" (a piece of him, anyway) "is still in the airport" applies. Just, well, a piece that is definitely in "arrested development', maybe a pinky here, and a pinky there, so he can still type in the per-file passwords.
Or, maybe he had a special "extraction", also involving "loyalty root canals".
It may be that from the very beginning, his departure from the State, umm, state of Hawaii was very well coordinated, orchestrated, and set into motion, with China and Russia pulling the strings. This would be an interesting combination of Russian Rue-Let!, and Chinese Art of War.
If so, then, so far, masterfully played.
I concede that I possibly give both antagonists too much credit.
The mystery continues...
Meanwhile, Microsoft has been up on stage at its developers' conference, extolling the beauty of its beautiful devices and its gorgeous Windows 8.1. Head honcho Steve Ballmer also had a couple of words he wanted to make sure the developers had echoing in their ears, yelling:
Rapid release! Rapid release!
He went on to explain he wants shorter upgrade cycles for Windows:
Rapid release cadence is absolutely fundamental to what we're doing – and, frankly, the way we need to mobilise our ecosystem of hardware and software development partners.
And, Ballmer, tell us, whaddaya call dockable touchscreen devices with high-powered Intel processors and other hardware features?
Should we call that a PC? Should we call it a tablet? I call it all Windows, all the time.
Also, have you ever wondered how happy Windows 8 touch customers are?
Customers who have Windows 8 on touch systems are much, much happier than other Windows 8 customers and in fact they're even happier than our Windows 7 customers.
Nevertheless, Windows 8.1, where you can skip all that new formatting and go back to old beloved Start screens, garnered the kind of excitement Ballmer was looking for from the devs.
Over at Dell, eponymous Mike has taken time out to assure investors and shareholders once again that the only way they're going to get out of the sticky mess that was once a top PC firm is by going his way and taking the whole shebang private.
He's been touring the nation letting the channel know that he has every intention of keeping his hands firmly on the reins at the company - despite challenges to his plans from the likes of activist investor Carl Icahn - and has now filed a document with the SEC outlining how his bid to pull the company off the open market is the best proposition for the business.
Mickey D devoted a good bit of that document to outlining how his $13.65 per share offer does not undervalue the firm, as has been accused, but is actually pretty darn generous of him:
From the outset of the process last August, I made clear that I was ready to participate with whatever sponsor was willing to pay the highest price. I encouraged each of the private equity sponsors who showed interest in the company to submit as strong a bid as they could and to assume that I would be willing to participate at the best price they were willing to pay. Silver Lake made the only binding offer, with a fully committed financing package.
The Special Committee went through multiple rounds of price increases with Silver Lake before reaching the final price of $13.65 per share. I even agreed to take a lower valuation for my shares when the negotiations were at an impasse ($13.36 versus $13.65 to the public) as a means to allow Silver Lake to pay public shareholders a price above its reservation price.
And if, for some unknown reason, shareholders decide not to go with that most generous offer, Mike said he still hopes to keep going with the company, regardless of what other people (who shall remain nameless but you know who you are) might think:
I founded the company and I will continue, as I have for the last 29 years, to try to make Dell the best company I can. I will also oppose the kind of imprudent leveraged recapitalisation that has been suggested by certain other parties.
And finally, three members of iconic Brit rock group Pink Floyd have banded together to snark at music streaming service Pandora. Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason said letters sent by the service to musicians urging them to support Pandora and internet radio were all full of fluffy-kitten, hands-across-nations, kumbaya bullsh**:
Sounds good. Who wouldn't want to be "part of a conversation"? Who doesn't support Internet radio? What scrooge would refuse to sign such a positive, pro-music statement?
Of course, this letter doesn't say anything about an 85% artist pay cut. That would probably turn off most musicians who might consider signing on. All it says about royalties is "We are all fervent advocates for the fair treatment of artists".
The musicians said they were happy to work with Pandora to end regular radio's exemption from royalties, but they don't want cuts in royalties for digital plays:
We've heard Pandora complain it pays too much in royalties to make a profit. (Of course, we also watched Pandora raise $235 million in its IPO and double its listeners in the last two years.) But a business that exists to deliver music can't really complain that its biggest cost is music. You don't hear grocery stores complain they have to pay for the food they sell.
We're not saying that the music business is perfect or that there is no room to compromise... But tricking artists into signing a confusing petition without explaining what they are really being asked to support only poisons the well. ®