Monday Reads: Another Slow Summer News DayPosted: June 2, 2014 Filed under: Foreign Affairs, morning reads | Tags: body language, Brian Williams, David Ignatious, deception, Edward Snowden, Fareed Zakaria, Glenn Greenwald, Greensnow cult, Jeff Darcy, King Juan Carlos, Mount Rainier, mountain climbing, risk-taking behavior, Spain 39 Comments
It’s another slow news day so far. Google’s top story is that the king of Spain Juan Carlos abdicating in favor of his son. Silly me, I didn’t even know Spain was a monarchy.
From USA Today, Game of thrones: Spain’s king Juan Carlos abdicates.
Carlos, who turned 76 in January, said that he was handing power to Felipe, 46, in order to “open a new era of hope combining his acquired experience and the drive of a new generation.”
Some Spaniards said they had been waiting for it.
“This is part of an expected chronology (of events),” said Alberto Garzon, a lawmaker in the Spanish parliament and author of the book The Third Republic — about a future Spain without a monarchy.
Carlos has enjoyed high popularity for decades but in the past few years his approval ratings fell sharply after a series of personal blunders. He took an expensive African safari during the height of the euro crisis. His daughter, Princess Cristina, has been indicted for embezzlement and her husband stands accused of tax evasion and money laundering.
BBC News summarizes the reasons in a video: Why is King Juan Carlos of Spain abdicating? In 45 secs.
This is a sad story, but perhaps not too surprising: Six Climbers Presumed Dead After Long Fall On Mount Rainier. From Northwest Public Radio:
Two experienced guides and four clients are presumed dead after what the National Park Service estimates was a 3,300 foot fall. The climbers were on their way down the mountain after an unsuccessful summit attempt via the difficult Liberty Ridge route on the northwestern side of Rainier.
An aerial and ground search happened Saturday after the group failed to return to their trailhead on schedule. From a helicopter, searchers spotted climbing gear at the base of a rock and ice fall and detected personal avalanche beacons. But the spotters saw no signs of life. A statement from Mount Rainier National Park says no attempt to recover bodies will be made until later in the season because of ongoing danger at the scene at the head of Carbon Glacier.
Interestingly, the guides involved worked for Alapine Ascents, the same Seattle company as some of the Sherpas who died on Mount Everest last month.
I’m not a risk-taker, and I will never understand why people want to get involved in such dangerous sports. But there are people who love to live on the edge and would rather die young doing something they love than live safely into old age.
It is a little-known fact that quite a few people actually die in National Parks every year. Oddly, I don’t like risky activities, but I do like to read books about them; and there are whole books about the different ways people have died in National and State Parks.
According to National Geographic, the dangerous ridge the climbers were using has been involved in numerous accidents in the past.
It’s called Liberty Ridge: a steep ramp of rock, snow and ice splitting a northern face of the 14,410-foot mountain in Washington State. Its stunning views and technical difficulty—hard but not too hard, experts say—have earned it a place in the book Fifty Classic Climbs of North America.
But its remoteness, steepness and exposure to the elements have also made Liberty Ridge the scene of epic rescues and more than its share of deaths….
“When you hear Liberty Ridge, it is a serious route… it’s not a casual route,” said Mike Gauthier, a climbing ranger at Mount Rainier National Park from 1990 to 2008 who was repeatedly called to the spot to rescue stranded climbers and search for missing people….
In his time on the mountain, Gauthier was repeatedly called to Liberty Ridge to rescue stranded climbers or search for missing people who didn’t survive. Often, the scene was on the ridge’s upper reaches, where the mountain is unremittingly steep, leaving few sheltered places to pitch a tent or to hide from avalanches or falling rocks.
“It’s just not an ideal location to hang out because you’re threatened there. You’re just exposed,” said Gauthier, who wrote the main guidebook for the mountain, Mount Rainier: A Climbing Guide.
Gauthier didn’t want to speculate about the group of missing climbers but said a camp at 2,800 feet would have been in a section where climbers have often run into trouble.
At the LA Times, Maria L. LaGanga writes about the psychology of people who are drawn to mountain climbing: For some climbers, Mt. Rainier’s often deadly allure is irresistible.
“There is a draw, but I can’t explain it,” said Len Throop, owner of Eatonville Outdoor, who has climbed Rainier many times but never crested the summit. “From the first time I ever saw it, I felt a connection.
Even if you can’t see it, you know it’s there. And it’s dangerous. This week is one example, and it’s not even the worst.”
The worst accident came in June 1981, when 11 climbers died under giant chunks of ice….
Rainier has the largest system of glaciers in the United States outside of Alaska. The challenging terrain requires skill, stamina and equipment. Climbers must wear crampons, spiked implements that give their boots traction, and wield ice axes that help them arrest their slide down the mountain if they slip. They are often tied to their climbing mates for safety.
“It’s like being on a stair stepper at a steep angle for 10 hours, and that’s for just a normal route,” Grigg said. Liberty Ridge, the route the ill-fated climbers took last week, “is one of the most difficult on the mountain.”
Read the rest if you’re as interested in human behavior as I am. Apparently the climbing has to be done in the middle of the night with headlamps; so I guess the climbers don’t even see the view while they’re working their way up the mountain.
Last night I watched most of Brian Williams’ interview with Edward Snowden. I still have to watch the final two segments, because I ran out of patience for being lectured to by a narcissistic 30-year-old. I’ll watch the rest today.
I’m not an expert at detecting deception, but I did notice that Snowden didn’t look a Williams during most of his responses to questions. He tended to look down and to the left as he spoke.
Michael B. Kelley of Business Insider asked a body language expert to review the video of Snowden and Williams.
Before Edward Snowden’s interview with NBC’s Brian Williams, body-language expert Dr. Nick Morgan considered Snowden a young guy who got a hold of a bunch of classified documents and was just telling his story about exposing intrusive American surveillance. “I came away [from the NBC interview] with a very different impression,” Morgan, a top U.S. communication theorist and best-selling author, told Business Insider. ”
As a body-language expert, I’d say this is a disingenuous performance, which surprised me.”
Morgan suggested that Snowden gave a studied performance, deliberately “subordinating himself” to Willams–as a way of sucking up and avoiding tough questions? Morgan also thought that Snowden had altered the pitch of his voice to make it lower than is natural for him.
A particularly telling moment came when Brian Williams asked Snowden, “What is your relationship with the host government?” Morgan, who didn’t previously know that Snowden’s Moscow lawyer is a Putin loyalist linked to the FSB, was struck by Snowden’s lack of eye contact and the slowing of his voice as he denied having any relationship with the Kremlin. “He was obviously lying,” Morgan said.
Frankly, anyone who believes that Snowden has no relationship with the Russian government (his lawyer works for the FSB!) is either incredibly ignorant or in deep denial.
RalphB called my attention to this interview with David Ignatious by Fareed Zakaria yesterday. Ignatious has a close relationship with the intelligence community, so I believe his assessment is worth looking at.
You mentioned there the damage to American values of the war on terror. How can America recover, and how hard is that going to be when Washington appears so divided? ….
Surveillance is an example. Because of the unexpected intervention of Edward Snowden, we are now in a period of experimentation with an alternative approach to surveillance.
I’m not someone who thinks Snowden is a hero. He promised to keep secrets, and he – despite his claim that he attempted to warn the NSA legally as a whistleblower – it’s clear that he took many of the nation’s most precious secrets with him and began distributing them to undermine what he thought were unconstitutional programs.
In our country, Congress and the courts have that responsibility for deciding what’s legal – not individual citizens. So it’s hard for me to see Snowden as a hero.
We don’t know the damage that comes from Snowden’s revelations. We may never really know that. But we do know one positive consequence, which is a searching national debate. As a result, we are now likely to experiment with a much less intrusive system of surveillance for our country.
Rather than the NSA holding our metadata for 5 years, the data will be held by communications companies for a year or two, and released by them only if there’s a court order.
Congress seems united in wanting this new approach, and we’ll see whether it works. Sometime in the future it will be urgent and essential to know who a terrorist in a safe haven in Syria was calling when in the U.S. Will we be able to know? Will the system we have put in place be sufficient to ensure the country’s security? I sure hope so. I’m sure it’s being designed with that in mind.
It would be terrible if we learn the results of the upheaval through another terrorist attack in a major U.S. city. After what we went through in Boston last year–and the aftermath continues–I certainly hope not.
Clearly, Snowden’s goal in giving an interview to Williams, who is not known for asking tough questions, was to improve his image in the U.S. and around the world. Predictably, he is now trying again to press his case for asylum in Latin America. From The Moscow Times:
“If Brazil offers me asylum, then I’ll gladly accept it. I would like to live in Brazil,” Agence France-Presse quoted Snowden as saying in an interview with Brazilian television channel Globo….
In a lengthy open letter published in the Brazilian press in December, he praised the Brazilian government for its stance against spying practices and volunteered to help the country in its investigation of NSA spying tactics if he were granted asylum.
I don’t think Ed should get his hopes up. I’d be shocked if Russia lets him go–to the U.S. or any other country.
I’ll end with this column and cartoon from Cleveland.com’s Jeff Darcy: Snowden follows Kerry’s advice.
Snowden likely did the interview to soften U.S. public opinion about him, but I doubt the answers he gave will alter the public’s view of him as either a traitor or whistle blowing hero. It’s possible to believe both that the NSA went to [sic] far and crossed the line and that Snowden was wrong in how he leaked that information.
In the interview Snowden claimed he was trained as a spy, given a false job title and false name. Brian Williams failed to ask the obvious follow up question: What was the fake name, James Bond, Austin Powers, Maxwell Smart or Benedict Arnold? The government’s answer is that Snowden was just an IT specialist contractor for the NSA. The truth is probably somewhere in between. What is certain, is that he should have never been hired and given security clearance.
When Snowden said that he was only in Russia because his passport was yanked, and he had planned to fly to Cuba, then on to Latin America, he failed to mention the Latin American countries on his destination list aren’t exactly known for their commitment to democratic freedoms and constitutional protections.
Snowden also gave weak answers to questions about national security damage caused by his leaks and why he didn’t share his concerns with Congress or other channels that would not have opened him up to treason charges….
Instead of talking to Brain Williams in Russia in 2014, Snowden should have been talking years earlier, to appropriate members of Congress about his concerns, or gone on “60 mins” or “Dateline” in disguise and blown his whistle.
Snowden defenders argue that if he were to come back to the U.S. he would never be seen again or at the very least, would never be able to have his case heard at a fair trial. I doubt that. Snowden has become too high profile and Kerry has now put the country on record in a very public way,that Snowden would be assured his day in court.
I totally agree. The Greensnow cult members who claim Snowden would disappear into a torture chamber if he came back here are full of it. In this country, public opinion–if it is loud and persistant enough–has an effect. The U.S. is not yet a “surveillance state”–even Snowden admitted that in the interview–and it’s not a dictatorship either, despite the Greensnow cult’s “chicken-little” attitude.
So . . . what are you reading and blogging about today? Please post your links in the comment thread.