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There's a new cold war starting in the Arctic

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Canada announces military installations to bolster claim to Arctic waters 
The Associated Press
Friday, August 10, 2007

Canada's prime minister announced plans Friday for an army training center and a deepwater port on the third day of an Arctic trip meant to assert sovereignty over a region with potentially vast energy resources. But Denmark was staking its own claim with a scientific expedition.

The race to secure subsurface rights to the Arctic seabed heated up when Russia sent two small submarines to plant a tiny national flag under the North Pole last week. The United States and Norway also have competing claims in the vast Arctic region, where a U.S. study suggests as much as 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas could be hidden.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's three-day trip to the Canadian Arctic had been planned for months. But it has taken on added significance since the Russian flag-planting, which Canada and the U.S. promptly dismissed as legally meaningless.

Harper, speaking from the territory of Nunavut, said the new military installations would help back up Canada's claim to the waters and natural resources of the Northwest Passage, which runs below the North Pole from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the Arctic archipelago.

The U.S. and other countries say the passage is neutral territory.

"Canada's new government understands that the first principle of Arctic sovereignty is: Use it or lose it," Harper said from a storage shed protecting him from howling winds on a barren, rock-strewn highland in Resolute Bay, where the temperature was 35 degrees (2 degrees Celsius).

"Today's announcements tell the world that Canada has a real, growing, long-term presence in the Arctic," he added, flanked by rifle-toting members of the Canadian Rangers, an Inuit volunteer force.

Resolute Bay, about 370 miles (595 kilometers) south of the North Pole, will be home to a new army training center for cold-weather fighting that will house up to 100 military personnel. The new deep-sea port will be built for navy and civilian purposes on the north end of Baffin Island.

Global warming has raised the stakes in the scramble for sovereignty in the Arctic because shrinking polar ice could someday open up resource development and new shipping lanes.

Denmark said scientists would embark Sunday on a monthlong expedition seeking evidence that the Lomonosov Ridge, a 1,240-mile (1,995-kilometer) underwater mountain range, is attached to the Danish territory of Greenland, making it a geological extension of the Arctic island.

That might allow the Nordic nation to stake a claim under a U.N. treaty that could stretch all the way the North Pole. Canada and Russia also claim the ridge.

"The preliminary investigations done so far are very promising," Helge Sander, Denmark's minister of science, technology and innovation told Denmark's TV2 on Thursday. "There are things suggesting that Denmark could be given the North Pole."

The Danes plan to set off from Norway's remote Arctic islands of Svalbard aboard the Swedish icebreaker Oden, which will be assisted by a powerful Russian nuclear icebreaker to plow through ice as thick as 16 feet (5 meters) in the area north of Greenland.

"No one has ever sailed in that area. Ships have sailed on the edges of the ice but no one has been in there," the expedition leader, Christian Marcussen, said in Copenhagen. "The challenge for us will be the ice."

The team includes 40 scientists, 10 of them Danish, and the crews of the icebreakers, which will use sophisticated equipment, including sonar, to map the seabed under the ice.

Moscow claims the Lomonosov ridge is an extension of the Eurasian continent, and therefore part of Russia's continental shelf under international law. Russian researchers plan to use last week's dive to help map the ridge.

Canada and Denmark also both claim Hans Island, a half-square-mile rock at the entrance to the Northwest Passage. The island is wedged between Canada's Ellesmere Island and Danish-ruled Greenland, and has been a subject of bitter exchanges between the two NATO allies.

In 1984, Denmark's minister for Greenland affairs, Tom Hoeyem, caused a stir when he flew in on a chartered helicopter, raised a Danish flag on the island, buried a bottle of brandy at the base of the flagpole and left a note saying: "Welcome to the Danish island."

Last month, Harper announced that six to eight new navy patrol ships would be built to guard the Northwest Passage sea route in the Arctic.

As global warming melts the passage which is navigable only during a slim window in the summer the waters are exposing unexplored resources, and becoming an attractive shipping route. Commercial ships can shave off some 2,480 miles (3,990 kilometers) from Europe to Asia compared with the current routes through the Panama Canal.

Also on Friday, scientists said the Seattle-based icebreaker Healy was expected to reach Barrow, Alaska, on Aug. 17 and head about 500 miles (800 kilometers) north with a team of about 20 scientists, including a U.S. State Department geographer, to map an area known as the Chukchi Cap.

Russian media has speculated that Healy's mission signals that the U.S. is actively joining the competition for resources in the Arctic, but the trip's scientists said there is no political component to the expedition. The site of the expedition is not near any Russian claims.

"We're basically just doing science," said Larry Mayer, director of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire, on Friday. "There's no flag-dropping on this trip."

The purpose of the mapping work is to determine the extent of the continental shelf north of Alaska, Mayer said.

"In that area, the (U.S.) would have rights over the resources of the sea floor and subsurface that would include drilling for oil and gas," he said.

It is not a claim, he said, but a process of registering boundary information with the United Nations' Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

"While a significant technological achievement, the planting of the Russian flag on the seabed of the North Pole has no legal effect and did not prompt the participation of the State Department expert in the Healy cruise," said State Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson.

Associated Press Writer Doug Mellgren contributed to this report from Oslo, Norway. Associated Press Writer Doug Esser contributed from Seattle.


Pearl Jam and AT&T clash over censorship

The rock band Pearl Jam is upset after lyrics critical of President Bush were censored out of a live webcast of Lollapalooza last weekend by AT&T. The telecom company has apologized and said that the editing of the lyrics was a mistake that should not have happened. (ABCNEWS)

Pearl Jam's Anti-Bush Lyrics Jammed by AT&T
Rock Band Upset After 15 Seconds of Lyrics Cut From Webcast; AT&T Apologizes

Aug. 10, 2007 —

Eddie Vedder, lead singer of the rock band Pearl Jam, is using his powerful pipes to call out corporate censorship after an AT&T webcast of the band's Lollapalooza performance that edited out Vedder's anti-George Bush musings.

The improvised lyrics in question were sung to the tune of Pink Floyd's "The Wall": "George Bush leave this world alone. George Bush find yourself another home."

The telecom giant has been contrite after last weekend's live webcast, calling the censorship an unacceptable mistake and saying its policies strictly forbid editing political messages out of webcasts.

But the politically charged band and activists are saying that the 15 seconds of silence is a resounding signal of a much larger issue: the power of Internet service providers to regulate what users can access when they surf the net.

"AT&T's actions strikes at the heart of the public's concerns over the power that corporations have when it comes to determining what the public sees and hears through communications media," the band said in a statement on their Web site.

Following a rendition of Pearl Jam's song "Daughter" during the show at Chicago's Grant Park, Vedder transitioned into the Pink Floyd classic, singing the Bush lyrics to an enthusiastic crowd that shouted "No more war!" and held up homemade anti-war signs.

The first time Vedder sang "George Bush leave this world alone," the lyrics were transmitted to users on AT&T's Blue Room Web site. The second two anti-Bush verses were cut.

AT&T employs the firm Davie-Brown Entertainment (DBE) to edit their webcasts for profanity that is not a part of a song's lyrics, and also for nudity, company spokesman Michael Coe said. Political messages and curse words that are part of a song are not edited, he said.

DBE insisted that the censoring of the Pearl Jam lyrics was an honest mistake, not part of some broader political agenda to protect the president, and that they are undertaking a review of the incident.

"I don't think it was politically motivated," said DBE president Tom Meyer. "My guess is [the webcast editor] felt that it was something controversial and they had to make a snap decision, and they made the wrong one."

But Nicole Vandenberg, a spokeswoman for Pearl Jam, said that even if it was a genuine mistake, these excuses miss the point.

"This issue with the censorship of this rock webcast is just one small example of how easily this sort of 'mistake' can happen, and when you start thinking about what other 'mistakes' could happen, it makes this seemingly small incident one worth thinking about carefully," Vandenberg said.

The blogosphere was up in arms this week as well, rushing to Pearl Jam's defense and criticizing AT&T for overzealously monitoring the net.

The Hot Potato Mash blog noted the irony of the situation, that the censored lyrics were set to the tune of the famous Pink Floyd song that includes the line "We don't need no thought control," before writing: "This little 'mistake' was the last straw for me regarding AT&T. I will begin the process of transferring my cell phone number to another carrier today."

Pearl Jam has posted the entire unedited version of their "The Wall" performance on its Web site. AT&T said it is currently negotiating with Pearl Jam for the rights to post the unedited version as well.

But Vandenberg indicated the band might not release the video, saying that only when AT&T addresses Pearl Jam's concerns about censorship and the webcast editing process will the band consider releasing it.

The incident has sparked debate over whether so-called net neutrality regulations are necessary to rein in the power of Internet providers. Net neutrality legislation would strip ISPs of their ability to limit content users' access to certain Web sites, particularly those of their competitors.

Because the webcast in question was on a private AT&T Web site, it would be regulated by net neutrality laws even if they were adopted by Congress.

But Tim Carr, a neutrality advocate at the Save the Internet coalition, said AT&T's censorship is an excellent example of what could go wrong when ISPs control what their users see and hear.

"The censorship of Pearl Jam gives us a clear view of what the problem is: When you allow large Internet providers to also become gatekeepers to content there's too often a temptation to limit what people get to see," Carr said.

But AT&T's spokesman Coe called net neutrality laws "a solution without a problem." He added, "We have said repeatedly over and over that we will not block customers' access to legal content. We've said that in front of Congress. We've stated it as conditions of our merger with Bell South."

And at least one person said Pearl Jam and other activists are blowing this issue out of proportion to push their own personal agenda for net neutrality.

"To say that they're censoring is ridiculous? It's propaganda and it seems to be working," Derek Hunter, the executive director of the Media Freedom Project, said.

"Fifteen seconds of a concert sounds like a mistake to me."

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