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Archive for June 4th, 2008

Mobile Phone Users Secretly Tracked for Behaviorist Study

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

By Jonathan Fildes, BBC News
June 4, 2008

The whereabouts of more than 100,000 mobile phone users have been tracked in an attempt to build a comprehensive picture of human movements.

The study concludes that humans are creatures of habit, mostly visiting the same few spots time and time again.

Most people also move less than 10km on a regular basis, according to the study published in the journal Nature.

The results could be used to help prevent outbreaks of disease or forecast traffic, the scientists said.

“It would be wonderful if every [mobile] carrier could give universities access to their data because it’s so rich,” said Dr Marta Gonzalez of Northeastern University, Boston, US, and one of the authors of the paper.

Dr William Webb, head of research and development at the UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, agreed that mobile phone data was still underexploited.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” he told BBC News.

The new work tracked 100,000 individuals selected randomly from a sample of more than six million phone users in a European country.

Each time a participant made or received a call or text message, the location of the mobile base station relaying the data was recorded.

The researchers said they were “not at liberty” to disclose where the information had been collected and said steps had been taken to guarantee the participants’ anonymity.

The results showed that most people’s movements follow a precise mathematical relationship – known as a power law.

“That was the first surprise,” he told BBC News.

The second surprise, he said, was that the patterns of people’s movements, over short and long distances, were very similar: people tend to return to the same few places over and over again.

“Why is this good news?” he asked. “If I were to build a model of how everyone moves in society and they were not similar then it would require six billion different models – each person would require a different description.”

Now, modellers had a basic rule book to follow, he said.

“This intrinsic similarity between individuals is very exciting and it has practical applications,” said Professor Barabasi.

Full Story | See Also: Criticism for ‘UK database’ plan | Mobile phone inventor dreams of human embeds

House of Commons adopts Layton’s Kyoto Plus bill

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008
Wed 4 Jun 2008

Elected chamber is first in the world to adopt 80% pollution reduction target by 2050

OTTAWA — Today, with the passage of NDP Leader Jack Layton’s private member’s bill, The Climate Change Accountability Act (Bill C-377), Canada’s House of Commons has become the first elected chamber in the world to adopt science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent, from 1990 levels, by 2050.

“This is a world first,” said Layton. “Our legislation sets tough but achievable targets that will ensure Canada does its share to avoid the dangerous two-degree increase in average global temperature that scientists warn us about.”

To ensure Canada meets long-term pollution reduction targets, short- and medium-term targets are also enshrined in the law. The bill sets an interim target of 25 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020 and requires progress reports from the government every five years.

“These are targets endorsed by world leaders, enshrined in legislation,” said Layton. “Instead of looking back and dwelling on past targets, missed because of the inaction of previous governments, the NDP is looking forward to a sustainable future where Canada’s economy is buoyed by environmental initiatives.”

“When Conservatives filibustered this bill in committee, we kept fighting relentlessly for this law,” said NDP Environment Critic Nathan Cullen (Skeena Bulkley-Valley), who led the legislative efforts and negotiations in the environment committee. “The cost of doing nothing to combat climate change would mean economic and environmental disaster for Canada. This is exactly why working families don’t trust the Conservatives.”

Dear Jack,

This is a great victory for the NDP under your leadership. Such targets are really important, and they do influence the debate overseas, particularly in places like Australia.

- Tim Flannery, author of The Weather Makers

Source | See Also: Quebec, Ontario sign historic climate pact | Every adult in Britain should be forced to carry ‘carbon ration cards’, say MPs | Dion begins selling carbon plan | Time has come to put ‘price on waste and pollution’: Dion | Is it time for toll roads? | CEOs call for ‘aggressive’ action on climate change

Monsanto Plans to Save World with its Biotech Crops

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Andrew Pollack, New York Times
June 4, 2008

Monsanto, the leader in agricultural biotechnology, pledged Wednesday to develop seeds that would double the yields of corn, soybeans and cotton by 2030 and would require 30 percent less water, land and energy to grow.

The announcement, coming as world leaders are meeting in Rome to discuss rising food prices and growing food shortages, appears to be aimed at least in part at winning acceptance of genetically modified crops by showing that they can play a major role in feeding the world.

Much of what is in the commitment are things the company was doing anyway, though it now becomes a formal goal.

Monsanto said it had developed its new commitment after consulting farmers, political leaders, academics and advocacy groups as to what needed to be done to increase food production to cope with a rising population and the demand for biofuels without converting more forests into farmland.

“In short, the world needs to produce more while conserving more,” the company’s chief executive, Hugh Grant, said in a statement.

How much genetic engineering, which involves adding bacterial or other foreign genes to the DNA of plants, could contribute to improving output is a matter of debate.

A recent review of agricultural technology, sponsored by the United Nations and the World Bank, saw a very limited role. But in Rome on Tuesday, United States Secretary of Agriculture Edward T. Schafer said biotechnology would be essential if the world was to increase food supply by 2030 to meet rising demand.

Genetically modified soybeans, corn and cotton, genetically engineered to provide herbicide tolerance, insect resistance or both, are widely grown in the United States and several other countries. But they are largely shunned in Europe and some other areas because of concerns about potential environmental and health effects.

Full Story | See Also: Billions needed annually to raise food production: UN chief | Fishermen clash with police at EU | Food crisis grips Afghanistan | High-level UN task force to tackle global food crisis | Farmers to kill off 150,000 pigs | Codex Alimentarius – An Emerging Threat

Billions needed annually to raise food production: UN chief

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

CBC News
Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Between $15 billion and $20 billion will be needed each year to increase food production to tackle the growing global food crisis, the head of the UN said Wednesday.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, speaking at an international food summit in Rome, said much of that cash would come from nations working to avert the crisis.

He also called for policy guidelines on biofuel production, which has come under fire during the summit for diverting dwindling food crops towards energy production.

Hosted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the three-day summit in the Italian capital is aimed at finding ways to curb skyrocketing food prices, which have risen an average of 40 per cent worldwide since mid-2007 and 83 per cent in the past three years.

Participants at the summit are being encouraged to establish a long-term plan for dealing with the crisis, which threatens to leave millions more malnourished around the world. An estimated 850 million people globally suffer from hunger, according to the FAO, most of them in developing countries.

On Tuesday, Ban said world food production must increase by 50 per cent by 2030 if it hopes to meet rising demand. He also called on countries to reduce export restrictions and import tariffs

A combination of high oil prices, urbanization, the production of biofuels, flawed trade policies and other factors such as climate change have sent food prices soaring around the world, leading to riots and protests in places like Haiti and Egypt in recent months. As well, there have been major shortfalls among organizations that feed the hungry.

Full Story
| See Also: Fishermen clash with police at EU | Food crisis grips Afghanistan | High-level UN task force to tackle global food crisis | Farmers to kill off 150,000 pigs | Codex Alimentarius – An Emerging Threat

Fishermen clash with police at EU

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

BBC News
Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Police have clashed with hundreds of fisherman protesting against the high cost of fuel outside the headquarters of the European Union in Brussels.

Several windows in EU buildings were broken and at least one car was overturned during the demonstration.

Riot police responded by firing water cannon and launching baton charges.

The fishermen have said they will go out of business unless the EU allows national governments to give them more financial aid and subsidise their fuel.

French fishermen have been on strike for several weeks over the price of diesel, which has risen by 240% in the past five years.

In recent days they have been joined by members of fleets from the UK, Spain, Portugal and Italy, who have blockaded ports across Europe, and truck drivers.


With foghorns, flags and flares, hundreds of mainly French and Italian fishermen stopped traffic on the main road in the European district of the Belgian capital.

After several hours of stand-off, the protest turned violent. A car was overturned, bins were set on fire and windows were smashed by flares.

Riot police lined up behind a barbed-wire barricade in front of the European Commission responded by attempting to disperse the crowd with water cannons and baton charges.

Earlier, a delegation of fishermen met senior EU officials briefly outside the Commission’s headquarters to explain their grievances and demand emergency aid from both the EU and their countries’ governments.

However, the EU officials stressed that any fuel subsidies would be illegal under European law and unsustainable in the long term.

Full Story | See Also: Ireland Only Country to Hold Referendum on Contentious EU Constitution | EU Looking for Presidential Candidates | European Parliament Members Revolt Over Treaty of Lisbon

Ireland Only Country to Hold Referendum on Contentious EU Constitution

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

BBC News
Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Irish voters are preparing to decide the fate of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty in a referendum on 12 June.

Ireland is the only EU member state to have a public vote on the treaty and both sides have stepped up their campaigning, with many voters still undecided.

Here, Irish voters reveal how they will cast their ballots and what the main issues are for them.



Sandra Fitzpatrick

I am voting No in the referendum.Not one person I have heard, or read, has given me a clearer view of what the central issues of this referendum are and what we are supposed to be voting for.

I feel under those circumstances, it would be extremely foolish to vote Yes.

We would be stuck with something we could never change, and to judge by the wording, anything at all could be implemented into the treaty after we have voted for it.



Conor Newman

I will vote Yes. The naysayers have constantly been predicting negative implications from all of the EU treaties, and have been consistently proven to be wrong.Ireland’s economic wealth and success in recent years has been down to our membership of the EU.

If maintaining our country’s economy and global strength is not reason enough to vote Yes, then here’s another: Jean-Marie Le Pen wants us to vote No – if that does not ring alarm bells, there’s something wrong with you.

The big shout from the No campaign is that we will lose our commissioner.

I don’t know if it is a deliberate oversight, or if they are just ignorant of the role of our commissioner, but losing him is irrelevant, as currently he cannot show any preference to Ireland anyway.

He is appointed by us, but does not work for us, he works for Europe.



Terry O'Floinn

I will be voting Yes. The EU has been good to Ireland and we certainly would not have enjoyed the past decade of development without assistance from EU states and access to large trading partners such as Britain.The EU is far from perfect and needs much reform.

The Lisbon Treaty is another small step in reforming EU institutions and streamlining decision-making processes.

I do have concerns as a citizen of a small country that, for example, we will lose some of the benefits, such as a permanent commissioner.

But on the upside, the introduction of the citizen’s initiative gives citizens of EU countries a bit of a voice to introduce topics for debate in the EU parliament – not perfect but a step in the right direction.



Tony Rodgers

I will be voting No. I personally don’t support a constitution for the EU at all.I only supported the EU as an economic union, and despise the idea of it becoming involved in our social policy.

That aside, even if I did support the EU having a constitution, it wouldn’t include Ireland not having a commissioner for five out of every 15 years, as proposed.

I do not like this emerging integrated federal state.



Peter Buchanan

I will be voting Yes, only because I believe, having lived in Poland, that the EU has a chance to unite Europe.I do feel, however, that it is wrong that Ireland is the only country in Europe that has an opportunity to vote.

The will of all the people is not being heard and that does not bode well for the future.




Elaine Norton

The Lisbon Treaty remains a complete mystery as far as most Irish voters are concerned.I was recently asked by a work colleague what a Yes vote would entail.

I was unable to give an answer. There have been and will be many more publicised heated debates amongst our politicians on whether to vote Yes or No, but no one has outlined what exactly the Lisbon Treaty is or what it would change.

As a result I intend to vote No until the government decides to explain in full detail what it is we are expected to say Yes to.

If in doubt vote No. There is too much uncertainty as to what a Yes vote will bring.



Fintan Hastings

I will be voting Yes for the treaty.Having actually read the text of the document myself I have found that many of the points raised by opponents of Lisbon are either untrue or a distortion of the facts.

It is for this reason I feel that Irish voters must read the treaty and make an informed decision for themselves.

There has been an unfortunate tendency throughout the referendum campaign for the No side to prey on issues which they know will elicit strong feelings among the Irish electorate, such as taxation, the loss of sovereignty and in particular the compromising of our traditional military neutrality.

They have thus far, however, failed to provide any substantive evidence of how the Lisbon Treaty would in any way affect any of these matters.



John Jefferies

The EU calls itself a democratic institution but the fact that only one of the 27 member states is holding a referendum on a major institutional change such as the Lisbon Treaty proves it is not.The only reason Ireland is having a referendum is because a citizen, Raymond Crotty, took a constitutional challenge in our courts 22 years ago which said that any change to the constitution required a referendum.

The EU must stop telling the people what to do and start listening, and stop handing down major institutional changes which affect the sovereignty of individual member states, and expecting us to merely rubber stamp them.

I will be voting No to the Lisbon Treaty and I believe we have a good chance of defeating it and forcing all governments of the EU back to the negotiating table.

Let’s hope next time they listen to the people of Europe.



I’ll be voting Yes because this is a hard-fought compromise treaty and it is the best on offer.

There’s significant support for a No vote here, and it’s spread across different groups.

Few yet understand the treaty and there’s a danger now that No will become the default option for Irish voters.

With the Nice Treaty referenda, many stayed at home the first time around but came out the second time.

The difference then was the turnout of the Yes voters, who were a lot less motivated than the No voters.

So turnout will be crucial this time. What I don’t like at all is that many, not all, No posters don’t have any name on them.

It could well be foreign groups or some Irish fringe groups trying to scaremonger.



Declan Brennan

I am not anti-Europe, but I will vote No to the Lisbon Treaty.The EU has been good for Ireland, but this does not mean we should vote Yes out of obligation or some sort of feeling of gratitude.

A Yes vote will lead to the EU having the same legal standing as a state and we in Ireland will be under its umbrella.

It will also require Ireland to invest in its defence forces and contribute Irish taxpayers’ money to a fund to get an EU army or rapid reaction force or whatever they’re calling it these days up and running.

I will be voting No because it is a great deal for Europe, but an awful deal for Ireland. A No vote will send the EU back to the drawing board to work on a deal that will suit all member states.

Full Story | See Also: EU Looking for Presidential Candidates | European Parliament Members Revolt Over Treaty of Lisbon

Ontario to issue Biometric ID Cards in Lieu of Standard Photo ID for Non-Drivers

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Maria Babbage, Canadian Press
Jun 04, 2008

High-tech licences for drivers, photo cards for others envisioned

Ontario plans to offer enhanced photo identification cards to non-drivers as an alternative to a passport when they travel to the United States, says Transportation Minister Jim Bradley.

Several provinces, including Ontario, have been pushing for enhanced drivers’ licences to allow Canadians to cross by land or sea into the U.S.

But Ontario will also develop a high-tech photo ID card for the four million residents who don’t have a valid driver’s licence, under legislation introduced yesterday.

“If passed, this legislation will make cross-border travel more accessible, saving our economy millions and reducing congestion at the borders,” Bradley said.

Under the proposed Photo Card Act, the province would offer both regular and “enhanced” licences for drivers and photo IDs for those who can’t or don’t drive.

The province is working closely with the Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to develop the program, Bradley said.

Other provinces also support the idea of an enhanced driver’s licence to relieve backups at the border as the U.S. steps up security in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Passports are still required when flying to the U.S.

British Columbia is the first province to try out enhanced licences through a pilot project involving Washington state and the federal government.

Full Story | See Also: B.C.-Washington State “enhanced driver’s licences” are “very invasive,” says Ontario privacy official | Ontario Privacy Czar Worried about High-Tech Licences | North American ID card in the works through SPP | Electronic Passports Raise Privacy Issues | Heibert says U.S. giving Canada time to implement enhanced driver’s licence

Government buffing Prentice’s Wikipedia entry

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Peter Nowak, CBC News
Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Entries originating from Industry Canada praise minister for ‘confidence’

Minister of Industry Jim Prentice may be a future contender for leadership of the Conservative Party, according to his Wikipedia entry.Minister of Industry Jim Prentice may be a future contender for leadership of the Conservative Party, according to his Wikipedia entry.

The government has been editing Minister of Industry Jim Prentice’s Wikipedia entry, removing mentions of the recent copyright-reform controversy and hailing the minister as personifying “experience, confidence and competence, ability and capability.”

The edits, discovered by University of Ottawa internet law professor Michael Geist – a vocal opponent of Prentice’s pending copyright legislation – have been anonymously made over the past week with several attempts to remove criticisms of a bill the minister is expected to table before Parliament breaks for its summer session some time over the next few weeks.

Among the information removed by Industry Canada employees were some paragraphs including speculation, such as:

“Prentice has been responsible for developing new Canadian Intellectual Property laws akin to the DMCA in the United States, partly due to pressure from US-based advocacy groups. While he had promised to ‘put consumers first,’ the draft legislation seems to cater strictly to industrial groups and Prentice has now suggested consumer interests may not be heard for years. Indeed, Prentice has refused to talk to a group of protesters who went to his office to express their concern.”

Full Story | See Also: New Attempt to Align Canada’s Copyright Act with USA Coming Soon | Canadian DMCA To Be Introduced Tomorrow Morning?