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A map of all the underwater cables that connect the internet

March 29, 2015

A map of submarine cables.TeleGeography

Cables lying on the seafloor bring the internet to the world. They transmit 99 percent of international data, make transoceanic communication possible in an instant, and serve as a loose proxy for the international trade that connects advanced economies.

Their importance and proliferation inspired Telegeography to make this vintage-inspired mapof the cables that connect the internet. It depicts the 299 cables that are active, under construction, or will be funded by the end of this year.

In addition to seeing the cables, you’ll find information about “latency” at the bottom of the map (how long it takes for information to transmit) and “lit capacity” in the corners (which shows how much traffic a system can send, usually measured in terabytes). You can browse a full zoomable version here.

The cables are so widely used, as opposed to satellite transmission, because they’re so reliable and fast: with high speeds and backup routes available, they rarely fail. And that means they’ve become a key part of the global economy and the way the world connects.

Take, for example, the below map, which lets you slide between a 1912 map of trade routesand Telegeography’s map of submarine cables today. The economic interdependence has remained, but the methods and meaning have changed:

The submarine cable map shows economic connections in less-developed countries as well. Cables between South America and Africa, for example, are much more scarce than trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific routes:

Connections in the South Atlantic

Connections in the South Atlantic are scarce. (Telegeography)

Though cables to developing countries are expanding, they have a lot of work to do before they catch up. And Antarctica is left out completely (scientists down there get their internet from satellites).

The analogy between submarine cables and historic trade routes has a lot of caveats: trade routes were determined by geography as well as economic interests, and economic incentives were a lot different then than they are today. It would also be a mistake to overlook physical goods in favor of the internet (just look at those giant container ships). But both then and now, paths across the ocean require investment, trading partners on both sides, and a willingness to take risks. Sailors took the gamble in the past, and tech companies are taking it now.

Submarine cables get big investments from companies looking to explore their own modern trade routes

Submarine cables in Asia.

Submarine cables in Asia. (TeleGeography)

These cables carry information for the entire internet, including both corporate and consumer interests. That’s why Google invested $300 million in a trans-Pacific cable system consortium to move data, Facebook put money into an Asian cable system consortium, and the finance industry invests just as much to shave a few milliseconds off trade times.

Other consortia regularly lay cables to transmit the consumer internet. Each group’s control of a submarine cable is an advantage in the information exchange between countries.

Submarine cables are a 150-year-old idea with new potency

The process for laying submarine cables hasn’t changed much in 150 years — a ship traverses the ocean, slowly unspooling cable that sinks to the ocean floor. The SS Great Eastern laid the first continually successful trans-Atlantic cable in 1866, which was used to transmit telegraphs. Later cables (starting in 1956) carried telephone signals.

A submarine cable.

A map of the submarine telegraph in 1858, though the attempt only worked for three weeks. (Wikimedia Commons)

Modern cables are surprisingly thin, considering how long they are and how deep they sink. Each is usually about 3 inches across. They’re actually thicker in more shallow areas, where they’re often buried to protect against contact with fishing boats, marine beds, or other objects. At the deepest point in the Japan Trench, cables are submerged under water 8,000 meters deep — which means submarine cables can go as deep as Mount Everest is high.

The optical fibers that actually carry the information are bundled within the larger shell of the cable:

A diagram of a submarine cable.

A diagram of a submarine cable. (Wikimedia Commons)

The components include:

  1. Polyethylene
  2. Mylar tape
  3. Stranded metal (steel) wires
  4. Aluminum water barrier
  5. Polycarbonate
  6. Copper or aluminum tube
  7. Petroleum jelly (this helps protect the cables from the water)
  8. Optical fibers

These cables move the videos, trades, gifs, and articles that bring the internet around the world in a matter of milliseconds. And that’s the type of advantage any trader — digital or analog — could appreciate.


Bill Browder’s nasty glimpse into the black heart of Putin’s Russia

March 28, 2015

Bill Browder’s book has been on the New York Times best-seller list for six weeks, as readers devour his insights into Vladimir Putin’s Russia. (Simon and Schuster)

House of Commons passes unanimous motion to punish those responsible for Sergei Magnitsky’s death

By Terry Milewski, CBC News Posted: Mar 26, 2015 2:57 PM ET Last Updated: Mar 26, 2015 8:09 PM ET

At first, nobody listened. Who was Bill Browder, anyway? He wasn’t the darling of the New York Times best-seller list when he started his campaign. What standing did he have to say that Vladimir Putin, a proud member of the G8 club, was little more than a vicious gangster?

Back then, six years ago, when Kremlin goons beat his lawyer to death in a prison hospital, Browder was just a talented investor – born in the U.S. but now a British citizen – trying to make his fortune in the rock-and-roll stock markets of post-Soviet Russia.

Browder was tolerated for a while. The Russians let him make some money, and even let him pester the oligarchs with demands for transparency. Then, they kicked him out of the country.

‘[Putin’s] on thin ice in the sense that anything could happen that might set the Russian people off.’- Bill Browder, author of Red Notice

But they didn’t stop there. Once rid of Browder, Kremlin officials stole his companies and used them to engineer a massive tax fraud on the Russian state – walking off with $230 million. Then, when Browder’s idealistic young lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, blew the whistle, Magnitsky was imprisoned, brutalized, denied medical care and finally murdered by goons with rubber truncheons.

Now, by telling the whole, horrifying tale, Browder has opened a window on the black heart of Putin’s Russia – and, this time, everyone’s listening. His book, Red Notice, has been a best-seller for six straight weeks.

Putin ‘a very scared man’

“I’ve been screaming bloody murder since Sergei Magnitsky was killed in 2009,” Browder says, “and most people thought this was an isolated problem. Who knew what the real story was? Bill Browder has some problem with Putin – so what?”

Read more…

Canada steps toward new Russia sanctions

March 28, 2015

As Canada steps up support for Ukraine in its battle with pro-Russian separatists, it is also moving closer to new sanctions on Russia that would include visa bans and asset freezes against those believed to have a hand in the killing of Russian whistleblowerSergei Magnitsky.

They would follow a unanimous House of Commons vote on a motion tabled last week by Liberal international justice advocate Irwin Cotler that would hit at “any foreign nationals who were responsible for the detention, torture or death of Sergei Magnitsky, or who have been involved in covering up the crimes he exposed.”

In Toronto on Friday, Magnitsky’s former employer Bill Browder, who has campaigned for sanctions since the lawyer died in a Russian jail in 2009 after uncovering evidence of a $230-million tax fraud, said he was “delighted” at the outcome and hopeful that the motion would soon become law.

“It’s a significant step forward,” Browder said. “The retaliation against Canada would probably be less costly than for any other country. It’s an energy-producing country, so it’s not dependent on Russia. It’s distant geographically. And there’s a sizeable part of the country that supports the measure and has roots in that part of the world.”

Cotler said he had assurances from Foreign Minister Rob Nicholson that the government would pass a law before the fall federal election. The U.S. Congress passed similar sanctions in 2012, sparking the rage of President Vladimir Putin, and a longdiplomatic war.

Read more…

Grounded? Russia’s answer to US next-gen fighter hits the skids.

March 28, 2015

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin walks after inspecting a new Russian fighter jet after its test flight in Zhukovksy, outside Moscow, in June 2010. The development of the new jet, Sukhoi T-50, has been cut back by the Kremlin amid cost overruns and rumored technical issues. Alexei Druzhinin/RIA-Novosti/Pool/AP/File

The Kremlin is cutting its initial production of the Sukhoi T-50 fighter by 75 percent amid cost overruns and rumored technical concerns – the same kind of issues that have plagued US development of the F-35.

By Fred Weir, Correspondent MARCH 27, 2015

Russia‘s ambitious T-50 fighter plane project was meant to develop a rival to two futuristic US jetfighters, the F-22 Raptor and the planned F-35 Lightning-II.

But now, the T-50 appears to be rivaling the F-35 another way: in development troubles. The Kremlin is slamming the brakes on its “fifth generation” fighter program and cutting its initial rollout to a quarter of those originally planned.

The decision seems a setback for Vladimir Putin’s sweeping $800 billion rearmament program, a vital component of the wider effort to restore Russia to its Soviet-era status as a major global superpower. However, the sharp slowdown in plans to procure the sophisticated new jet may represent an outbreak of wisdom on the part of Russian military chiefs, who will remember how the USSR was driven into bankruptcy by engaging in an all-out arms race with the US.

Recommended: Sochi, Soviets, and tsars: How much do you know about Russia?

Financial constraints are the key reason cited for cutting the military order from 52 to 12 of the planes over the next few years, according to the Moscow daily Kommersant.

“Given the new economic conditions, the original plans may have to be adjusted,” the paper quotes Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov as saying. The project to build a cutting-edge fighter plane, which is partly financed by India, will not be canceled, but held in abeyance while the Russian Air Force makes the most of its existing “fourth generation” MiG and Sukhoi combat aircraft, he added.

Read more…

Latvia says Russia’s military rhetoric is ‘alarming’

March 28, 2015


(Reuters) – A war of words between Russia and the West could degenerate into something worse, with “devastating” consequences, Latvia’s foreign minister said on Friday.

Latvia and its neighbors Estonia and Lithuania were all part of the Soviet Union until 1991 and are now members of the European Union. They are wary about Russia and have watched with alarm as ties have frayed over the Ukraine crisis.

The West says it has evidence that Moscow is supporting pro-Russian rebels with troops and weapons in eastern Ukraine, where more than 6,000 people have been killed since last April.

Moscow’s repeated denials have not lessened tensions, with increased Russian military activity and exercises, including in the Baltic, only adding to Western concerns.

“I do hope that we all understand that any provocations, any deterioration of the situation, may lead to consequences that would be devastating to everyone, including, of course, toRussia,” Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics told Reuters.

He said a peace plan thrashed out in Minsk last month appeared to be holding, but warned that a “worst case scenario”, the full resumption of hostilities, could not be ruled out.

“But in that case, we should understand that … there will be grave economic consequences for those who instigate that,” he said, referring to European Union sanctions already imposed on Russia.

“I hope that the Russian leadership in Moscow fully understands that, and is not going to get into irresponsible adventures.”

Read more…

Shock and Draw: Here’s the graphic cartoon U.S. airdropped on ISIS

March 27, 2015
tags: ,

By Michael Cavna March 26 at 4:45 PM
IN THE Martin Scorsese-directed “Life Lessons,” within the larger film “New York Stories,” a grizzled abstract painter played by Nick Nolte is cleaned-up and charismatic in tux and tales – yes, tales, because a man with an ego the size of his Manhattan loft has to lubricate his big exhibition opening not only with Smirnoff’s Gold, but also silver tongue. And fortunately for Nolte’s “action” artist, Lionel Dobie, he has literal war stories to tell these bejeweled patrons — shaggy anecdotes about how his X-rated doodles were once dropped beyond enemy lines, as renderings intended to deflate the fighting hearts and minds and cartoon-helpless eyes of the humble foot soldier.

Airdropped wartime propaganda dates back decades – including leaflets being emptied from a French balloon over 19th-century Prussian troops. And cartoons notably filled the strafed skies during World War II, when anti-Nazi leaflets with Hebrew-text drawings represented one type of psychological airstrike. So deploying caricatures and cartoon iconography easily interpreted even by illiterate troops is certainly nothing new.

Yet still, it can be bracing to see a newly deployed cartoon that puts the “graphic” in graphic arts.

Ten days ago, the United States dropped a visually head-turning (and -churning) leaflet cartoon over Raqqa, the power center Read more…

Dangerously Underpowered NSA Begging Legislators For Permission To Go To Cyberwar

March 27, 2015

from the poor,-neglected-NSA dept

Cyber-this and cyber-that. That’s all the government wants to talk about. The NSA, which has always yearned for a larger slice of the cybersecurity pie, is pushing legislators to grant it permission to go all-out on the offensive to protect foreign-owned movie studios the USofA from hackers.

NSA director Mike Rogers testified in front of a Senate committee this week, lamenting that the poor ol’ NSA just doesn’t have the “cyber-offensive” capabilities (read: the ability to hack people) it needs to adequately defend the US. How cyber-attacking countries will help cyber-defense is anybody’s guess, but the idea that the NSA is somehow hamstrung is absurd.

Yes, we (or rather, our representatives) are expected to believe the NSA is just barely getting by when it comes to cyber-capabilities. Somehow, backdoors in phone SIM cards, backdoors innetworking hardware, backdoors in hard drives, compromised encryption standards, collection points on internet backbones, the cooperation of national security agencies around the world,stealth deployment of malicious spyware, the phone records of pretty much every American, access to major tech company data centers, an arsenal of purchased software and hardware exploits, various odds and ends yet to be disclosed and the full support of the last two administrations just isn’t enough. Now, it wants the blessing of lawmakers to do even more than it already does. Which is quite a bit, actually.

The NSA runs sophisticated hacking operations all over the world. A Washington Post report showed that the NSA carried out 231 “offensive” operations in 2011 – and that number has surely grown since then. That report also revealed that the NSA runs a $652m project that has infected tens of thousands of computers with malware.

That was four years ago — a lifetime when it comes to an agency with the capabilities the NSA possesses. Anyone who believes the current numbers are lower is probably lobbying increased power. And they don’t believe it. They’d just act like they do.

Unfortunately, legislators may be in a receptive mood. CISA – CISPA rebranded — is back on the table. The recent Sony hack, which caused millions of dollars of embarrassment, has gotten more than a few of them fired up about the oft-deployed term “cybersecurity.” Most of those backing this legislation don’t seem to have the slightest idea (or just don’t care) how much collateral damage it will cause or the extent to which they’re looking to expand government power.

The NSA knows, and it wants this bill to sail through unburdened by anything more than its requests for permission to fire.

The bill will do little to stop cyberattacks, but it will do a lot to give the NSA even more power to collect Americans’ communications from tech companies without any legal process whatsoever. The bill’s text was finally released a couple days ago, and, as EFF points out, tucked in the bill were the powers to do the exact type of “offensive” attacks for which Rogers is pining.

In the meantime, Section 215 languishes slightly, as Trevor Timm points out. But that’s the least of the NSA’s worries. It has tech companies openly opposing its “collect everything” approach. Apple and Google are both being villainized by security and law enforcement agencies for theirencryption-by-default plans. More and more broad requests for user data are being challenged, and (eventually) some of the administration’s minor surveillance tweaks will be implemented.

Section 215 may die. (Or it may keep on living even in death, thanks to some ambiguous language in the PATRIOT Act.) But I would imagine the bulk phone metadata is no longer a priority for the NSA. It has too many other programs that harvest more and face fewer challenges. The NSA wants to be a major cyberwar player, which is something that will only increase its questionable tactics and domestic surveillance efforts. If it gets its way via CISA, it will be able to make broader and deeper demands for information from tech companies. Under the guise of “information sharing,” the NSA will collect more and share less. And what it does share will be buried under redactions, gag orders and chants of “national security.” Its partnerships with tech companies will bear a greater resemblance to parasitic relationships than anything approaching equitable, especially when these companies will have this “sharing” foisted upon them by dangerously terrible legislation.

But until it reaches that point, the NSA will keep claiming it’s under-equipped to handle the modern world. And it will continue to make the very dubious claim that the best defense is an unrestrained offense.


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