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Archive for April 13th, 2010

TTC opens door to electronic payment

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Yes, have you noticed those terminals, yet, allowing you to use your credit card for small convenience purchases? How about payment via cellphone? How much debt are you accumulating at Tim Horton’s these days? Welcome to the new electronic credit society, and watch as your money slowly moves away from its vestigial traces of a tangible commodity, and towards a virtualized peonage economy where your credits exist solely on the databases of the banks and the taxman. The higher those interest rates go, the closer you get to being a credit sharecropper. And the temptation to use that plastic is only expanding.

Related: Flaherty drafting voluntary code for new credit company debit cards | Banks balk at new credit card rules | The next cellphone trick: transferring money | Bullion and Bandits: The Improbable Rise and Fall of E-Gold | Digital Money Forum Pushes For Electronic Currency | Obama signs U.S. credit card reforms into law | Credit card changes benefit families, Flaherty says | Credit companies seek to avoid regulation, create global debit system | US backing for world currency stuns markets | Coming soon to your cellphone: Your credit card via RFID chip | ‘Smart’ Credit Cards, Pilot Project set the Groundwork for Wireless Credit Wallets | New credit cards may shift unauthorized-transaction liabilities to the holder

Tess Kalinowski, The Toronto Star
April 13, 2010

The TTC has been criticized for foot-dragging when it comes to updating its old-fashioned fare system.

Now comes word that TTC officials have been looking at an open payment system that would allow commuters to tap their debit or credit cards on electronic readers to have their fare added to their bills or withdrawals.

It would work like the card systems popping up in coffee shops and gas stations where the credit card companies are capitalizing on the kind of small, convenience purchases where people typically reach in their pockets for change rather than pull out their plastic.

To get riders familiar with the concept, TTC chair Adam Giambrone is hosting an open house on Thursday, April 15 at 6:30 p.m. in Committee Room 1 at City Hall with New York open payment expert Paul Korczak, who was involved in a pilot project on that system’s transit system.

“Korczak is the former chair of the Transportation Council of the Smart Card Alliance, a current member of the Near Field Communications Academy, and is actively involved in peer reviews and public forums on transit fare payments around the world,” according to a TTC release.


Leveraged ETFs Are Under SEC Scrutiny

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Derivatives – leveraged out into the equivalent of quadrillions of dollars in the global economy – were the first domino in the credit crisis. See here, here, and here for some background. Warren Buffet has referred to derivatives as ‘financial weapons of mass destruction.’ And, indeed, it appears that this is their function. See here and here.

Related: How EU Countries Cooked Books Using Derivatives | Goldman Sachs Helped Greece Obscure Debt Through Currency Swaps | Derivatives rear their ugly head again: Leveraged ETFs outed | Quebec pension fund managers boosted derivatives holdings despite warnings | Court Grants Big Banks Immunity from Lawsuits over Derivatives Losses

John Spence, WSJ
April 13, 2010

Concerns about the risks of leveraged investments have prompted securities regulators to take a closer look at these specialized products, and the result could blunt their appeal to investors and traders.

Exchange-traded funds are part of a review of derivatives-based funds that the Securities and Exchange Commission announced in late March. Meanwhile, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has indicated it may put stricter position limits in futures markets that could affect some large commodity ETFs.

The SEC said its examination will determine whether “additional protections” are needed for funds and ETFs that invest in derivatives. The agency has also put the brakes on any new ETFs that would make significant investments in derivatives, although existing ETFs aren’t affected.


University of Toronto, Peter Munk to reveal new School of Global Affairs

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

The Trinity College program in International Relations will more than likely be a major feeder program for the Master’s level course in Global Affairs. This would appear to be your path of least resistance into this new, elite program here at the hub of Canada’s intellectual establishment should you wish to move into a career in the global councils. Peter Munk, incidentally, heads up the world’s largest gold mining corporation, Barrick Gold. It would be an omission here not to illuminate the fact that Barrick Gold puts out publications and studies on responsible mining – and that it is also opposed by many international native rights groups for its foreign and domestic operations, including the present Dominican Republic issue. Environmentalists and native rights activists routinely show up at their yearly AGMs. Will this gift burnish Mr. Munk’s reputation as a scion of the Canadian establishment? It will be interesting to gather more intelligence the man’s activities and the impact of his philanthropy on business schools, schools of international relations, and the wider Canadian culture. One hopes a primary effect might be that his excellent taste in hats catches on, driving a new fedora renaissance.

Flashback: Harper’s Washington itinerary includes Obama photo-op, private meeting with CFR | Hillary Clinton: ‘CFR Tells Government What It Should Be Doing’ | John Manley to ‘bridge divide’ between business and government as new CCCE chief | Flaherty appoints business leaders to economic advisory council | CFR-Brookings to Dominate Obama Strategy | John Manley, committed globalist, to chair Munk Centre’s School of International Studies | Obama, like McCain, surrounds himself with elite CFR, Brookings powerbrokers | History: How the US Government Was Overthrown In Three Easy Steps | New Canadian think-tank to study foreign relations, modelled after CFR

Michael Valpy, The Globe and Mail
April 13, 2010

With $35-million gift from mining magnate Peter Munk, school hopes to become hub of Canada’s conversation with the world

It’s Janice Stein’s dream and Peter Munk’s money: the vision of a global plaza reconfiguring Toronto’s downtown Bloor Street West and becoming the hub of Canada’s conversation with the world.

On Tuesday, the University of Toronto will announce its new School of Global Affairs. The school is the product of the largest single philanthropic gift in the university’s history — $35-million from gold-mining magnate Mr. Munk and his wife, Melanie — plus $25-million from the Ontario government.

Prof. Stein, who heads the parent Munk Centre for International Studies established by a multimillion-dollar gift from Mr. Munk a decade ago, said the new school “fulfills a dream for me. It says we can be among the best. We don’t move out into the world and engage. We lack a culture willing to take a risk. We have to stretch our necks.”

The school will be quartered in a century-old stone Georgian-style building at the corner of Devonshire Place and Bloor, the former headquarters of the Meteorological Service of Canada. The building’s one-time observation tower will be girdled with a flashing pixel board, announcing the world’s major news stories to the street and sidewalk bordering the university’s stadium, the Royal Conservatory of Music and the Royal Ontario Museum.

The high-profile visibility of the school — which will take in its first 40 students this summer and is now conducting an international search for a director — makes it as interesting as the scholarly work that will be expected of it.


Oil sands deal gives China crucial voting bloc in bitumen export issue

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Ah. Good thing JP Morgan moved into the oilsands last week then. There’s going to be opportunities when it comes to offshore refinement – and offshoring Alberta’s GDP.

Flashback: J.P. Morgan rolls into Calgary | Obama sets sights on Arctic oil and gas exploration | Review panel green-lights Mackenzie pipeline | Canada an ‘energy superpower’ in Arctic, Foreign Minister says | New policy emphasizes U.S. interests in Northwest Passage | Canada’s made in America energy policy | UN Given Power to Mediate in Arctic Disputes

Shawn McCarthy and Gordon Pitts, The Globe and Mail
April 13, 2010

Sinopec’s $4.6-billion plan to purchase stake in Syncrude gives Chinese state-controlled company a say in whether to export raw bitumen for processing

Sinopec’s $4.6-billion deal to acquire a minority stake in the Syncrude oil-sands plant would give the Chinese state-controlled company a veto over the crucial decision of whether the company should upgrade more oil in Alberta or export raw bitumen for processing.

There has been a long-running concern in Canada regarding the export of raw resources for processing, and that it is the strategy that China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., known as Sinopec, is expected to pursue.

The company is Asia’s biggest refiner and has been expanding its capacity to handle heavy oil, the kind that is produced at Syncrude before it is upgraded into synthetic crude oil.

Sinopec has agreed to purchase ConocoPhillips Co.’s 9-per-cent interest in the Syncrude facility, which is owned by seven companies, including project operator Imperial Oil Ltd., with 25 per cent, and Canadian Oil Sands Trust, with 36.7 per cent. The Chinese multinational is also a 50-per-cent partner in the proposed oil-sands project known as Northern Lights.

The Syncrude partners each have a representative on the company’s management committee and have vetoes over “business-changing” decisions that would entail major investments.


Pakistan air strike ‘kills 71 civilians’

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

That is a lot of civilians. At this rate, they may as well just firebomb villages. There’s compensation for the Peshawari aboriginal ethnic cleansing being offered, though – $220 US for your family – so everything is just fine. And that’s exactly what’s happening here. This mountain tribe, you know, they believe some crazy stuff, they’re independent nomads, they’re an irritant in a long standing border dispute with Afghanistan – so why not just wipe them out, herd the villagers into concentration refugee camps? At least we’re cashing in on the munitions industry. ZZZZzzzzz. There’s a map of the bombing campaign here, if you’re interested.

Flashback: WikiLeaks releases video of alleged U.S. helicopter attack on Reuters reporters | 1 in 3 Killed by U.S. Drone Attacks In Pakistan Are Civilians | Afghan ministers voice anger as civilians killed in Nato air strike | Five civilians killed in Nato rocket attack in Afghanistan | Suspected US drone ‘kills 12′ in Pakistan | U.S. prods Pakistan to expand offensive | Pakistan anti-Taliban offensive in South Waziristan ‘over’ | U.S. Military Joins CIA’s Drone War in Pakistan | US Air Force confirms new ‘Beast of Kandahar’ drone | German army chief resigns over Afghanistan air strike | Clinton confronted by Pakistanis over attacks by aerial drones | UN: Drone attacks may violate international law | US drone ’shot down over Somalia’ | Refugee flood reveals human cost of South Waziristan’s invisible war | ‘Taliban’ resist Pakistan onslaught | Pakistani troops assault ‘Taliban’ stronghold | Militants attack Pakistani cities | Pakistan launches air strikes before offensive | NATO pledges probe of deadly Afghan air strike; civilians killed | Pakistan remains silent as U.S. air attack kills 80 | Afghan Airstrike Video Goes Down the Memory Hole | Homing chips are CIA’s latest weapon against ‘al-Qaida’ targets hiding in Pakistan’s tribal belt | CIA: Our Drones are Killing Terrorists. Promise | US air strikes kill dozens of Afghan civilians | NATO denies air strike killed Afghan civilians | Don’t-ask-don’t-tell Policy: Pakistan and U.S. Have Tacit Deal On Airstrikes | Death toll climbs after U.S. air strike in Pakistan

Saeed Shah, Thew Guardian
April 13, 2010

Military refuses to confirm deaths as local government pays out compensation to victims’ families

At least 71 civilians were killed by a misdirected air strike in Pakistan‘s tribal zone against suspected extremists, locals claimed today, as thousands of people flee a western-backed military offensive against Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in the area.

The air strike hit a house on Saturday in a remote part of the Khyber area of the tribal belt, the lawless region that borders Afghanistan. This week, the United Nations warned that more than 200,000 new refugees had been created by Pakistan’s latest anti-Taliban offensive, this time mostly from Orakzai, which borders Khyber to the south.

The Pakistani military refused to confirm the deaths but the local government administration paid out 10m rupees (£75,000) compensation, residents said. Military sources said they had targeted bunkers being constructed by extremists in the Tirah valley and it was unclear how a house could have been hit.

The episode is a significant setback to the campaign to win the support of civilians for the offensive. The house hit belonged to a tribal elder belonging to the Kukikhel, a clan loyal to the Pakistani state, and whose three sons serve in the Pakistani military.


Thousands condemn secrecy of New Zealand round of internet copyright talks

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Flashback: ACTA Draft: No Internet for Copyright Scofflaws | Entire Text of ACTA Treaty Leaks to Online Rights Website | Revealed: ACTA to cover seven categories of intellectual property | New ACTA Leaks Complete Picture of Oppressive Global Copyright Treaty | EU Parliament votes down ACTA global copyright resolution by overwhelming margin | ACTA Internet Chapter Leaks: Renegotiates WIPO, Sets 3 Strikes as Model | ACTA Is Called An ‘Executive Agreement’ To Implement Restrictive Copyright With Less Hassle Than A Treaty | ACTA One Step Closer To Being Done; Concerns About Transparency Ignored | UK MPs frozen out of super-secret ACTA copyright talks | Reading Between The Still Secret Lines Of The ACTA Negotiations | Beyond ACTA: Proposed EU — Canada Trade Agreement Intellectual Property Chapter Leaks | New Leaks of Secret ACTA Copyright Law Reveal Oppressive ‘Global DMCA’ | MPAA Says Critics of Secret Copyright Treaty Hate Hollywood | ACTA Threatens Made-in-Canada Copyright Policy | More ACTA Details Leak: It’s An Entertainment Industry Wishlist | Six Days Left: Canadian Net Users Caught As Copyright Consultation Nears Conclusion | MP Charlie Angus on copyright: industry lobby pulling for ‘dead business model’ | Ottawa denies altering public’s ECopyright Consultation submissions | Security guards stop MPs, students from distributing fair use flyers at Toronto copyright townhall | Can The Public Be Heard On Copyright Issues? | Copyright Consultation Launches: Time For Canadians To Speak Out | Third stab at copyright law ‘reform’ to kick off with consultations | Time to slay Canadian file-sharing myths | Canadian copyright lobbyists leaned on “independent” researchers to change report on file-sharing | Think tank plagiarizes, pulls report on Canadian piracy | Obama Administration Claims Copyright Treaty Involves State Secrets | Latest Round of Closed-Door ACTA Copyright Negotiations Wrap Up | Digital rights groups sue for access to secret ACTA treaty | Critics waging a cyber offensive to fight copyright changes | Canadian Industry Minister lies about Canadian DMCA on national radio, then hangs up | The Canadian DMCA: Check the Fine Print | Government ready to drop copyright bomb | Transparency needed on ACTA | Revamped copyright law targets electronic devices | New Attempt to Align Canada’s Copyright Act with USA Coming Soon | Canadian DMCA To Be Introduced Tomorrow Morning?

Michael Dickison,
April 13, 2010

One new signature about every 37 seconds has been flowing into an online petition condemning global talks being held behind closed doors in Wellington to draw up ways of policing copyright violations on the internet.

Delegations from 37 countries – including the United States, Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Korea, Mexico and Switzerland – have converged this week to negotiate an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement to regulate copyright breaches.

Protesters have put together a “Wellington Declaration” at the weekend and began collecting signatures. It had more than 6000 signatures at 11am today. In thirty minutes, between 10.31am and 11.01am, it got 48 signatures, including from Germany, France and Canada, and many from New Zealand.

The talks have been widely criticised for its lack of transparency, with leaked documents offering one of the few glimpses into what is being discussed.


Access to information risks being ‘obliterated’: report

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Flashback: Cabinet ministers’ offices regularly interfere in access to information requests, says Tory staffer | Conservatives accused of hiding information | Ottawa won’t budge on secrecy laws | McGuinty won’t deny political interference with Freedom of Information requests | Information commissioner quits, Ottawa chided for lacking ‘guts’ | Canadian Parliament Threatens People For Posting Video Of Proceedings Online | Government secrecy ‘grim,’ watchdog says | Watchdog alarmed by Harper’s information clampdown | Listeria files withheld due to ’systemic’ problems with access to information | Public access vs. government secrecy the issue in Supreme Court of Canada case | Radical change needed in privacy protection, Ont. watchdog says | Files tagged as `sensitive’ cause unfair delays, watchdog says | Tentacles of Secrecy Grip Tightly | Parliament losing power, author says | Over 100 complaints about access to govt. info on Afghan mission: report | Information lockdown: How Harper Controls the Spin | Tories kill access to information database | Harper to create government-run media centre: report

Bill Curry, The Globe and Mail
April 13, 2010

PM’s chief of staff insists he believes in importance of timely disclosure

Four years after the Harper government came to office pledging sweeping improvements to Canada’s access laws, a new report warns that the right of Canadians to obtain federal documents is at risk of being “totally obliterated.”

The damning conclusion comes from interim access-to-information commissioner Suzanne Legault, who is waiting for the government to announce whether she — or someone else — will be appointed to a seven-year term.

Ms. Legault urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to follow the lead of U.S. President Barack Obama in embracing “open government” as the inevitable way of the future.

“Do we have, right now, a government that is instilling a culture of transparency?” she asked. “I haven’t seen evidence of that yet.”

The timing of the report proved fortuitous for the opposition, who just one hour after its release Tuesday had a rare opportunity to grill the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, Guy Giorno, about access-to-information issues and reports of political interference. Photographers and camera operators briefly outnumbered MPs at the House of Commons committee on access to information, privacy and ethics, gathering pictures of a powerful man who is often talked about in Ottawa but rarely seen.


Nuclear summit urges anti-terror treaty

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

There you go – nuclear terrorists are now the ‘greatest threat facing all nations’. As threatening as those scheming to obtain uranium in the fake yellowcake story, used as the pretext to invade Iraq? How about the wholesale acceptance of a shipment of aluminum tubes as evidence of a nuclear program? It’s all come out in the press that British and American officials simply lied through their teeth, but there they are – Obama and Blair, both trying to sell the new evil empire through their domestic media. Those of you who were paying attention during the Weapons of Mass Destruction hysteria in the run-up to the Iraq war may be experiencing an uncomfortable sense of deja-vu. Simply close your eyes, lean forward, duck and cover, and you’ll feel much better within a decade when the next great enemy is conjured forth.

Flashback: Enriched uranium going back to U.S.: PM | Iran unveils new uranium centrifuges | Barack Obama to limit use of US nuclear weapons | Russia claims breakthrough in historic nuclear reduction agreement with US | Israeli preparations for war with Iran troubling | Russia to push ahead on Iran missile deal | US media omission: Iran calls for global nuclear disarmament | Obama threatens actions against Iran over nuclear program | UN sanctions urged over Iran’s uranium plans | Western powers voice scepticism over Iran uranium offer | U.S. deploys land and sea-based missile shield in the Gulf to deter attack from Iran | UK: Tony Blair attempts to shift focus to Iran as ‘global threat’ at Iraq war inquiry | Chomsky says Israel, ‘US military base’ | Russia has no evidence of Iran nuclear bomb-Putin | IAEA members question Iran nuclear intel authenticity | US military could strike Iran, but at what cost? | Another War in the Works | Iran to allow nuclear site inspection | Iran plays into Obama’s hands with disclosure of nuclear facility | UN approves nuclear ‘disarmament’ resolution | Obama scales back missile defence shield in Europe | Israel ‘will attack Iran this year’ if West does not cripple Tehran with sanctions | Brookings Publication mentions possibility of ‘Horrific Provocation’ to Trigger Iran Invasion | Blast at Iranian mosque raises tensions in run-up to presidential election | Netanyahu: We may be forced to attack Iran | Proposed Missile Shield seen as Provocation by Russia | Neo-cons still preparing for Iran attack | Russia threatens to ’strike’ Poland in wake of U.S. missile plan | Cheney Considered False Flag Operation to Justify War with Iran | US scales up covert destabilization efforts in Iran, continues funding ‘al-Qaeda’ | Israelis ‘rehearse Iran attack’ | Israeli official says attack on Iran ‘unavoidable’ | Bush ‘plans Iran air strike by August’ | U.S. Navy starts exercises in Gulf waters | U.S. National Intelligence Estimate: Iran stopped nuclear weapons work in 2003 | Cheney Orders Media To Sell Attack On Iran | U.S. sending third aircraft carrier to the Middle East | US aircraft carriers in Persian Gulf | Investigative Reporter Seymour Hersh: US Indirectly Funding Al-Qaeda Linked Sunni Groups in Move to Counter Iran | How the USA Gave North Korea The Bomb | Former CIA Officer — US Plans Nuclear Attack On Iran

The Associated Press
April 13, 2010

Leaders endorse Obama’s call for securing nuclear materials within four years, but unclear how they’ll reach that goal

World leaders concluding a 47-nation nuclear security conference on Tuesday endorsed President Barack Obama’s call for securing all of the globe’s vulnerable nuclear materials within four years – but offered few specifics for achieving that goal.

Aiming for quick action, the United States declared that the Obama administration had submitted to Congress legislation to bring U.S. laws into line with two treaties: one to crack down on potential nuclear terrorism and one on the physical protection of nuclear materials.

Obama had called the summit to focus world attention on keeping such dangerous materials out of terrorist hands, a peril he termed the greatest threat facing all nations.

Addressing the conference, Obama framed the problem as a “cruel irony of history” – nuclear dangers on the rise, even after the end of the Cold War and decades of fear stoked by a U.S.-Soviet arms race. A terrorist group in possession of plutonium no bigger than an apple could detonate a device capable of inflicting hundreds of thousands of casualties, he said.

“Terrorist networks such as al-Qaida have tried to acquire the material for a nuclear weapon, and if they ever succeeded, they would surely use it,” he told the opening session, which convened under tight security at the Washington Convention Center. “Were they to do so, it would be a catastrophe for the world, causing extraordinary loss of life and striking a major blow to global peace and stability.”


Toronto 18 trial hears of ‘jihadi flavour’ paintball

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

So Fahim Ahmad was the ringleader. Odd, last time we heard, it was Zakaria Amara. This journal wonders if the jurors will hear of the fact that Mubin Shaikh – the government mole – helped organize and pay for the camp. Perhaps he was the ringleader? Like one of the other known moles in the case, he was paid handsomely to do so. Now it’s been spun as though the police witness had no hand in things. It seems rather deceptive to leave this out of the following article, and the Canadian Press knows better, too. But it seems as though the issue of entrapment has been swept off the table entire.

Flashback: ‘Toronto 18′ man planned widespread terror attacks, jury hears | Bomb plotter blames police in Toronto 18 case | ‘Toronto 18′ accused involved in bomb plot through RCMP agent, defence says | Toronto 18 member pleads no contest in preparation for entrapment defence | The Toronto 18 Publication Ban: Silence affects the core of justice | Toronto 18 ‘mastermind’ gets life sentence | Walkom: Mole crucial to terror trial | Toronto 18 ringleader says he’s sorry | ‘Toronto 18′ suspect wanted to profit from bombings: witness | ‘Toronto 18′leader pleads guilty | Crown appeals Toronto bomb plotter’s sentence | The making of a homegrown terrorist | Links to ‘Al-Qaeda’, Pakistani training camps linger after ‘Toronto 18′ member imprisoned | ‘Toronto 18′ member handed 14-year sentence | 2-year term sought in Toronto ‘terror plot’ | Toronto 18 ‘terror’ accused signs confession, media retreads tales of planned chaos | Toronto 18 member pleads in bomb plot | RCMP mole in Toronto 18 case says he felt ‘bad’ in terror sting | Toronto 18 Terror case: RCMP agent Shaikh was instigator who broke law: defence | American Intelligence Contractors Leak Canadian Toronto 18 ‘Terror Training’ Video to Web | Third Mole Surfacing in Toronto Terror Trial? | RCMP informant says accused in militant plot was naive | Paid CSIS Informant Says Public Not Upset Enough about Toronto ‘Terror’ Plot | Latest Toronto 18 ‘Terror’ Wiretaps Confirm Youths Goaded by Reservist, Paid Police Informant | Toronto ‘Terrorists’ Agree on Decapitation Plot, Fail to Open Tuna Tin | Many Question if Toronto “Terrorists” Were Led by Informants as Case Weakens | Crown presents evidence in Toronto terror suspect trial | Terror case begins to emit ripe aroma | Canada’s anti-terror law unconstitutional, defence says | Toronto’s Terrorism Case: For the Families, Fear and Bewilderment | CSIS informant admits cocaine, marijuana use during investigation | Terror trial proceedings troubling | Alleged Toronto terror plot included two police agents | Toronto Terrorist Ringleader Has Military Connections | Canadian ‘Terror Plot’ Begins To Unravel | Police arrest terrorist suspects in Toronto

The Canadian Press
April 13, 2010

A trial in Brampton, Ont., was told Tuesday that participants in a militant training camp played paintball “with a jihadi flavour” as a substitute for combat.

The court heard that an alleged terror cell videotaped its military-style activities in the hopes jihadi leaders overseas would help the group advance its plot.

Three people are on trial, charged with various terrorism offences as part of the so-called Toronto 18 group.

The Crown alleges the men were led by accused Fahim Ahmad, and plotted to attack Parliament, electrical grids and nuclear stations.

The first witness, a police informant named Mubin Shaikh, testified that Ahmad led a terrorist training camp in December 2005 in Washago, Ont., which the other two accused – Asad Ansari and Steven Chand – attended.