QuotW This was the week when the Snowden saga took a few major plot twists, with one president's plane grounded while another president claimed the whole PRISM-snooping thing was for the best.
Poor Bolivian president Evo Morales had his plane pulled out of the sky after expressing some sympathy for NSA-leaker Edward Snowden's asylum plight. According to the Bolivians, their equivalent of Air Force One was refused permission to enter French, Spanish and Portugese airspace and was eventually grounded in Austria, where officials boarded to search for any smuggled whistleblowers.
Alvaro Garcia Linera, Bolivia's vice president, said at a press conference:
We want to tell the people of the world that President Evo Morales has been hijacked by imperialism and is held in Europe.
At the same time, Ecuador said it was planning a diplomatic protest after the country's foreign minister Ricardo Patino said he found a hidden mike in the London embassy where Wikileaking Julian Assange has been holed up for the last year. The secret-spaffing site said:
Sieging/bugging of Ecuador's London embassy and the blockading of Morales jet shows that imperial arrogance is the gift that keeps on giving.
Europe will perhaps be less inclined to help Uncle Sam out after revelations that some of the snooping was carried out against American allies in the EU. Vice-president of the European Commission Neelie Kroes said:
Of course it is a shock and it's not acceptable at all. It's not acceptable because it is a friendly relationship... The member states should sit together and make up [our] minds how we are dealing with this. Of course, talking between friends, it should be clear first that it will never, ever happen again ...
While Steffen Seibert, spokesman for Chancellor Merkel, said:
If it is confirmed that diplomatic representations of the European Union and individual European countries have been spied upon, we will clearly say that bugging friends is unacceptable. We are no longer in the Cold War.
And EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding added:
Partners do not spy on each other. We cannot negotiate over a big trans-Atlantic market if there is the slightest doubt that our partners are carrying out spying activities on the offices of our negotiators. The American authorities should eliminate any such doubt swiftly.
Meanwhile, Former US president George W Bush has said that he was the one who ordered the PRISM spying project and it was just designed to protect America, a goal Snowden had now compromised. He said:
I put that program in place to protect the country. One of the certainties was that civil liberties were guaranteed.
I know he [Snowden] damaged the country - the Obama administration will deal with it. I think he damaged the security of the country.
Ultimately, history will judge the decisions I made. I won't be around because it's going to take awhile for the objective historians to show up. And so I'm pretty comfortable with it. I did what I did. I know the spirit in which I did it.
In Blighty, plans have been revealed by Google for a giant hulking mass of steel and glass to enclose its Oompa-Loompas in London. The £650m, 330m-long monstrosity will be the first purpose-built Choc Factory HQ if it gets Camden Council approval and will be plonked into the city by 2016.
Simon Allford, director at architectural firm AHMM explained the reasoning behind the humungous oblongoid:
This building is underpinned by cutting edge design intelligence and technologies to provide a sophisticated twenty first century working environment for Google's staff.
The architectural approach, which has taken inspiration from King’s Cross and St Pancras International railway stations, complements the local area’s strong industrial heritage and will be a building London can be proud of.
And of course there'll be bean bags inside, as a source said:
It's Google. What else do you expect?
Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom has had a dig at New Zealand's prime minister, accusing the chap of knowing full well Dotcom was about to be raided because he ordered surveillance on him.
Dotcom was speaking to parliament on proposed revisions to the laws that govern its Government Communications Security Bureau, including expansion of its remit to allow it to spy on New Zealand citizens. The Mega mogul has complained bitterly, and been upheld by NZ courts, to the effect that the government spied on him even though he was a Kiwi resident. He said:
I have the misfortune of experiencing what happens when surveillance powers are abused and unlawful destruction of property, reputation and freedom. It is an injustice that I continue to fight every day.
And then he got into a war of words with the PM reminiscent of a Judd Apatow movie over who knew what:
Kim Dotcom: “Oh, he knew about me before the raid. I know about that.”
John Key: “I didn't know.”
Dotcom: “You know, I know.”
Key: “I know you don't know. I know you don't know, but that's fine.”
Dotcom: “Why are you turning red, Prime Minister?”
Key: “I'm not. Why are you sweating?”
Dotcom: “It's hot. I have a scarf.”
And finally, the International Astronomical Union has gone ahead and messed with William Shatner and his legions of Twitter followers by naming Pluto's fourth and fifth moons Kerberos and Styx, despite the fact that the name Vulcan won a SETI-run naming vote.
They didn't name the moon Vulcan. I'm sad.
He wasn't assuaged by the reasoning that the name Vulcan was already taken by a planet once thought to orbit closer to the Sun than Mercury, which turned out not to exist:
So they name a moon Kerebus because there's already a Cerebus asteroid but a mythological planet knocks out Vulcan?
Star Trek fans have had it rough. First JJ blows up Vulcan and now SETI finds a loophole to deny it from coming back!
Who'd ever thought I'd be betrayed by geeks and nerds? ;-)
And he definitely wasn't thrilled with the offered consolation prize of having NASA's New Horizons spacecraft find a nice crater to name after a Star Trek character:
Did you hear the consolation? They may name a crater after Kirk. A pockmark on a planetoid is a fitting tribute? (Rolling my eyes)
Not sure messing with Shatner is ever a good idea ... ®