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Netherlands Politics

The government of The Netherlands recently commissioned the Privacy Company to perform a data protection impact assessment regarding the government's use of Microsoft Office products, and the results of this assessment are alarming.

The SLM Rijk conducts negotiations with Microsoft for approximately 300.000 digital work stations of the national government. The Enterprise version of the Office software is deployed by different governmental organisations, such as ministries, the judiciary, the police and the taxing authority. The results of this Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) are alarming. Microsoft collects and stores personal data about the behaviour of individual employees on a large scale, without any public documentation. The DPIA report (in English) as published by the Ministry is available here.

This shouldn't surprise anyone, but it's good to see governments taking these matters seriously, and forcing technology companies to change their policies.

osnews.com | 11/17/18
A new study conducted by a university in The Netherlands has found that smoking cannabis can triple the risk of developing a mental illness such as schizophrenia, one government senator has revealed.Dr Saphire Longmore used the finding by the...
jamaica-gleaner.com | 11/10/18

Thanksgiving is just around the corner in Canada. It's a time of year when the harvest is in, the weather grows colder and families gather to give thanks for all they have.

It is in this moment of gratitude that I want to highlight one of the most valuable and unique offerings in our industry: the ways in which country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) give back. Canadians who choose to use a ccTLD, which for us is .CA, help contribute to investments in the internet community.

CIRA believes that it is important to give back to the internet, whether that be the Canadian internet community or the global internet in which we operate the .CA TLD and participate as a strong contributor. Further, as a not-for-profit organization, CIRA invests its resources into our aspirational goal of building a better online Canada. In fact, we believe so much in this goal that we've invested $6 million dollars over the last five years toward this goal, outside of the investment in our core mandate of bringing .CA to more Canadians and operating a safe, secure and trusted top-level domain.

Many of our ccTLD peers contribute to the internet ecosystem as well. While each organization's program is a little bit different, the intent is the same: to invest in a purpose greater than profit with a return on investment that benefits the communities we serve.

With the exception of a handful of generic TLDs, you won't find this from our more profit-driven peers.

It's a cycle: From community to ccTLD and back

At CIRA, we hold ourselves to high standards in stewarding .CA, which includes providing a safe, secure and stable .CA and underlying domain name system (DNS). We make every effort to provide the best service possible for our customers — .CA holders and others who subscribe to our cybersecurity services.

A portion of the revenue we make, thanks to our customers' trust in us, is funneled back into the Canadian internet community. Here's how:

  • We invest in internet exchange points (IXPs) that provide greater resiliency, data sovereignty and a higher-performing internet in our country. There are 10 IXPs across Canada and we've recently been a catalyst to an additional one in development in the Arctic community of Iqaluit, Nunavut. This will revolutionize the internet there, where right now the community is reliant on satellite connections resulting in slow and expensive internet service.
  • Through our Community Investment Program, we provide grants to organizations across Canada working on the frontlines of the internet. We've contributed $5.45 million over five years through that program. This has included 130 projects from across Canada including one underway now through an organization called Compucorps that will work with Indigenous women to increase their knowledge of website building and online branding to help them engage more in e-commerce. Or the Ragged edge community network stabilization and expansion project that focused on internet infrastructure in Northern Vancouver Island.
  • We're developing and investing in innovative products and services that secure the internet for its users, including our cybersecurity services (our D-Zone suite of products) that keep Canadian schoolchildren safe and add layers of protection to critical healthcare and municipal infrastructure.
  • We encourage Canadians to learn more about their internet by testing its speed and performance through CIRA's Internet Performance Test. There have been over 100,000 tests conducted across the country.
  • We fund, organize and participate in events and forums in Canada and globally where important topics are discussed, which influence internet policy, including an upcoming Canadian Internet Forum, a multistakeholder event being organized for early 2019.

All of that investment improves and expands the internet, gets more Canadians online, safely and securely, and makes it easier and more practical for them to participate in the digital economy. It also creates more opportunities to choose a .CA. Thus, the cycle starts again.

And it's global. We've long shared "giving back" experiences with our European peers — but examples are found around the globe. A recent visit to Brazil showed me a ccTLD highly committed to this cycle of giving back. I was impressed with all they do with their resources and encourage others to learn more from them.

Thanks for making a choice to give back

In Canada, as we gather around the dinner table for our Thanksgiving dinners, I want to give thanks to CIRA's customers for making it possible for our organization to give back. Consumers have more choices than ever when it comes to domain names. They can choose to go with .com or .net, or one of nearly a thousand new domain extensions. But what sets CIRA apart, alongside some of our ccTLD peers, is the determination to give back to the internet ecosystem in our countries. To invest what we earn into a higher purpose.

Thank you to those consumers who chose a ccTLD over others — because of you we're getting closer to a stronger, higher performing and more secure internet every day.

* * *

There are several ccTLDs that give back to the internet community. Here are a few examples.

Sweden: The Internet Foundation in Sweden, IIS invests funds to improve the stability of internet infrastructure in Sweden and to promote internet-focused research, training and education. For example, IIS invested 1 million SEK (about $145,000 CAD) roughly one year ago into Foo Café, a meeting place for developers, which sponsors meetups and events to help developers grow their competence and share knowledge.

Brazil: The Brazilian Internet Steering Committee — a multi-sectoral configuration of 21 members from civil society, the government, the business sector and the academic community — guide the healthy growth of the network in Brazil. One of their initiatives is the Web Technologies Study Center (Ceweb.br), created to help the Brazilian public participate in the global development of the web and public policymaking.

The Netherlands: SIDN not only operates .nl, it also provides funding support to ideas and projects that aim to make the internet stronger or that use the internet in innovative ways. For example, SIDN funded AI for GOOD, a project that aims to use artificial intelligence to improve the world. This online platform presents AI programming challenges to students, start-ups, hackers and developers to solve.

United Kingdom: Nominet funded a granting program for 10 years under the name Nominet Trust. In 2017, that fund began independent operation as the Social Tech Trust and Nominet is now focusing funding on connection, inclusivity and security. For example, they are working with Scouts UK to develop a cybersecurity curriculum and with the Prince's Trust on a digital platform to mentor troubled youth online.

Written by Byron Holland, President and CEO of CIRA

www.circleid.com | 10/4/18
Two Armenian children whose bid for asylum in the Netherlands has been rejected have gone into hiding on the day the Dutch government was expected to deport them, a spokesman said Saturday, in the latest twist in a case that has riveted this nation.
www.foxnews.com | 9/8/18
[Guardian] The Head of Netherlands representation in Lagos, Michel Deelen, has said his country would be willing to partner the Lagos State government in improving the state transportation system as well as manage the traffic challenges.
allafrica.com | 6/27/18

Queen Maxima of the Netherlands is speaking out for the first time about her sister’s suicide.

The queen, 47, returned to her royal duties on Tuesday after she took time off following her sister Inés Zorreguieta’s June 6 death. She made a tearful statement to reporters during a visit to the UMC Groningen Proton Therapy Center, as reported by Hola! 

“Today is my first day back at work after a difficult time,” she said. “And actually, I’m happy that I could pay this visit to the Proton Therapy Center in Groningen, because this place means so much to people with cancer.”

“People who are sick, yet who hope for a cure,” she added. “My dear, gifted little sister Inés was sick too. She could find no joy, and she could not be cured.”

Maxima continued, “Our only comfort is that she has now at last found peace. And I would like to say how very grateful we are for the countless letters, messages and tokens of sympathy that we have received. They have really helped us. I’d also like to say thank you for the respect that everyone has shown my family in this very dark period. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Zorreguieta, 33, was found in her apartment in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on June 6. A spokesman of the Dutch government told the Argentinian newspaper, La Nacion, “It is presumed that it was a suicide.”

The youngest sister of Maxima, a native Argentinian, worked for the country’s Ministry of Social Development.

RELATED: Queen Maxima of the Netherlands’ Sister, 33, Found Dead in Her Home of Apparent Suicide

In a statement to Dutch newspaper, De Volkskrant, the Dutch government said that Queen Máxima was “shocked and devastated” by the news of her sister’s death. According to reports, Zorreguieta suffered from depression and mental health issues.

Maxima canceled all of her royal engagements and attended her sister’s funeral in Buenos Aires alongside her husband King Willem-Alexander and their three children Princesses Amalia, 14, Alexia, 12, and Ariane, 11, according to Hello! 

Zorreguieta was Ariane’s godmother.

Last summer, Maxima traveled with her husband and their daughters to attend the funeral of her father, who died in August at the age 89 following a battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

people.com | 6/20/18
The German government has recalled thousands of eggs contaminated with the chemical fipronil. The news comes less than a year after the insecticide found its way into millions of eggs in the Netherlands.
www.dw.com | 6/12/18
[Shabait] Asmara -The leaders of Cote d'Ivoire, the Netherlands, Greece and Sri Lanka sent messages of congratulations to the people and Government of Eritrea in connection with the 27th Independence Day anniversary.
allafrica.com | 5/29/18

Webstresser.org, considered the world’s biggest marketplace to hire DDoS services, has been taken down according to an announcement issued today by the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement (Europol). Webstresser.org had reached over 136 000 registered users and responsible for 4 million attacks by April 2018. Targets included banks, government institutions, police forces, as well as the gaming industry.

From Europol: "The administrators of the DDoS marketplace webstresser.org were arrested on 24 April 2018 as a result of Operation Power Off, a complex investigation led by the Dutch Police and the UK’s National Crime Agency with the support of Europol and a dozen law enforcement agencies from around the world. The administrators were located in the United Kingdom, Croatia, Canada and Serbia. Further measures were taken against the top users of this marketplace in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Croatia, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Hong Kong. The illegal service was shut down and its infrastructure seized in the Netherlands, the US and Germany."

www.circleid.com | 4/26/18
By Hans Vogel Last month, along with more than a dozen other NATO/EU member states, the Netherlands expelled some Russian diplomats. The justification for this serious step were the unsubstantiated accusations by the British government to the effect that the Russian government had tried to kill a former Russian double agent residing in England. In the meantime, the British narrative has become all but unraveled. By now, a month after the accusations were first made, the inconsistencies, inaccuracies and logical fallacies of Mrs. Theresa May and her underlings, duly divulged by British state-controlled media, are becoming apparent. Many are beginning to wonder how the government of nation with a long and proud history of sophisticated diplomacy could have been so stupid as to launch the Skripal fake news narrative.
Netherlands’ government moves to scrap a law adopted just three years ago that allows frequent plebiscites.
www.wsj.com | 4/6/18

After the Brexit vote, I wrote that there could be an impact on EU registrants based in the UK.

Over the past year, the UK government has been engaged in negotiations with the EU to navigate the application of Article 50 and the UK's exit from the European Union. While there has been a lot of focus on issues like the customs union and the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, the eventual departure of the UK from the EU will have a tangible impact on the European digital economy.

In the case of the .eu ccTLD, the situation was unclear. Under the current policies, an individual or organisation needs to have an address in the EU and a couple of neighbouring countries to qualify for registration:

(i) an undertaking having its registered office, central administration or principal place of business within the European Union, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, or

(ii) an organisation established within the European Union, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein without prejudice to the application of national law, or

(iii) a natural person resident within the European Union, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein.

While the UK leaving the EU could be seen as having a clear impact on future registrations of .eu domain names, one would have expected the European Commission not to want to disrupt existing domain names and their registrants. When other domain spaces have updated their policies, they've usually offered some form of "grandfathering" for existing registrations to minimise the negative impact.

However, it appears that the European Commission isn't going to take that approach. In an announcement earlier this week they've made it very clear that they have no intention of allowing existing registrants to keep their EU domain names if they are in the UK.

The document does give a very slight glimmer of hope, but it's only a tiny one. It is hypothetically possible for the UK and EU to reach some form of agreement that would allow for the continued use of .eu domains by UK registrants, but it's looking highly unlikely. Here's the full text of the notice they issued.

As you can see it's highly legalistic and makes lots of references to various bits of legislation and treaties, but the bottom line is summed up in this:

As of the withdrawal date, undertakings and organisations that are established in the United Kingdom but not in the EU and natural persons who reside in the United Kingdom will no longer be eligible to register .eu domain names or, if they are .eu registrants, to renew .eu domain names registered before the withdrawal date.

But what about businesses and individuals in Northern Ireland? Under the Irish constitution they're considered in many realms to be entitled to the same rights and entitlements as Irish citizens and residents:

ARTICLE 2

It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland, which includes its islands and seas, to be part of the Irish Nation. That is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of Ireland. Furthermore, the Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.

ARTICLE 3

1 It is the firm will of the Irish Nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities and traditions, recognising that a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island. Until then, the laws enacted by the Parliament established by this Constitution shall have the like area and extent of application as the laws enacted by the Parliament that existed immediately before the coming into operation of this Constitution.

2 Institutions with executive powers and functions that are shared between those jurisdictions may be established by their respective responsible authorities for stated purposes and may exercise powers and functions in respect of all or any part of the island.

Does this mean that businesses and individuals north of the border will lose their .eu domain names, or is there a chance of some form of derogation for them?

How can registrars and their clients lodge their concerns with the EU about this move?

Is EURid in a position to do anything?

At the moment there are more questions than answers, but what is sure is that the options are not looking anyway positive.

According to the most recent EURid quarterly report registrants in the UK account a significant chunk of the .eu registration base and weigh in as the 4th largest country for .eu registrations behind Germany, Netherlands and France:

Wiping out this number of registrations will have a negative impact on the .eu ccTLD as a whole, as well as a negative impact on many European based businesses serving the registrants of the 300 thousand plus names.

Is this unavoidable?

For now, as I mentioned above, there are more questions than answers.

Disclosure: my company is a .eu accredited registrar and I previously served two terms on the .EU Registrar Advisory Board.

Written by Michele Neylon, MD of Blacknight Solutions

www.circleid.com | 3/29/18
[Shabait] Asmara -Eritrean nationals residing in the Netherlands held a peaceful demonstration on 13 March to express the unjust manner in which the Eritrean national have been treated by the Dutch government in recent years in their social and community activities.
allafrica.com | 3/16/18
[The Herald] India and Netherlands are looking at expanding cooperation with Zimbabwe in agriculture, health and offering scholarships in many academic areas. This came out last week when Netherlands Ambassador to Zimbabwe Barbara van Hellemond and Indian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Rungsung Masakui separately paid courtesy calls on Minister of State for Government Scholarships in the Office of the President and Cabinet Dr Christopher Mushohwe.
allafrica.com | 3/5/18

There is no doubt that big data is going to be one of the most important tools that will assist human society in the future. Our increasingly complex society has been able to move forward, and it will continue to do so, based on rational, scientific facts and figures within the context of the needs of humanity.

As an example, neuroscience is giving us more insight into ourselves, and we are learning that many of the elements that we have always thought of as being uniquely human are based on neurological/biological processes that can be put into algorithms. The more we know, the more interesting the question is — what makes us human? And, given the progress being made in artificial intelligence (AI), this is an important question.

Society lost touch with its people

We largely still trust that our governments are guiding us through these ever-changing developments, and it must be said that the democratic processes that have ruled us since WWII are very beneficial to mankind. Disputes generally are settled with the assistance of our democratic institutions, using common sense, scientific facts, statistical information and so on.

One could argue that the underlying data and information used in these processes are used for the common good.

However, over the last 30 years, a large proportion of the population has not seen the positive results from their political systems that they had hoped for, and they are now rebelling against politicians who are increasingly using facts and figures for their own political purposes.

Selective use of that information is creating a dangerous breakdown of trust right through our democratic system. And President Trump is going one step further — he is actively undermining several of the institutions that underpin American democracy.

But it is not just government. The Volkswagen car manufacturer scandal in Germany showed a gross misuse of data for the sole purpose of making profit at the expense of the environment. Then there are the blatant intrusions into personal data by intelligence services, social media, etc.

Another very dangerous situation is occurring in China with the introduction of the Citizen Score. This form of mass surveillance and mass manipulation is one of the worst Big Brother-like scenarios that one can imagine.

Despite this misuse of big data, it will have to be reason, facts and statistics that will guide us through the many social, environmental and economic challenges that society is facing. But it is crucial that this takes place within the structures of our democratic principles as well as within our emotional and other 'soft' values.

So far big data has mainly been used for commercial purposes, for sometimes questionable intelligence activities, and for downright criminal activities (hacking, stealing, political interference and so on).

There is an urgent need for big data to be used for the common good. A rapid rebalancing is needed that will see big data being used for the benefit of our society. We shouldn't be put off by its misuse and bury our heads in the sand, hoping it will go away — or, as the new conservative forces in politics would have us believe, that the answer lies in returning to the way things were in 'the good old days'.

Big data for the common good

We should face the big data challenges head-on. Universities in Germany and the Netherlands launched the Data for Humanity Initiative, encouraging people and organisations to use the following principles:

  • Do no harm
  • Use data to help create peaceful coexistence
  • Use data to help vulnerable people and people in need
  • Use data to preserve and improve the natural environment
  • Use data to help create a fair world without discrimination

New regulations and legislation might be needed to ensure that big data is used for the common good, and that it takes privacy and human rights issues equally seriously. At present most of the big data is in the hands of corporations who have shown little interest in the common good; and most of their big data activities are clouded in secrecy and used to gain competitive advantage. Just recently I also mentioned the work of Yuval Nora Harari, who warns of big data dictatorship if we don't get this right.

One of the first critical areas will be healthcare. New medical innovations will make it possible for people to obtain information about potential illnesses they might contract, and personalised big data solutions will be on offer to mitigate this and create better health and lifestyle outcomes.

Personal benefits in the healthcare sector could be enormous, and as a result, people may be less concerned about their personal data. But the reality is that the availability of this information could be used in a positive and a negative way. The latter could lead to discrimination by insurance companies and governments. Also, different cultures might look for different outcomes — what leeway will there be for them?

With predictive analytics and complex algorithms, allowance must be made for error, and there needs to be a system of fairness in place to guide this.

What this all means is that a key principle should be for the ownership of all personal data to rest with the individual person, and that they can decide to share that information, or not, on a permission-based footing.

We have been recommending the above approach for the last two decades (but, I must say, without much success).

I can see situations where an opt-out rather than an opt-in system could be a more effective or efficient option, but that would necessitate a restoration of trust in the political system that guides such decisions.

Rather than relying on the organisations that are currently leading the development of big data (Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc), we should encourage the national statistical institutions to start looking at big data that can help guide us through the myriad issues we are facing.

It is, of course, vital that these national institutions be based on democratic principles, and that they are not used for party political reasons. At present, the Trump government is looking at how they can use census data for the benefit of their own party politics. If this happens, we are one step closer to a very dangerous decline in our democracy.

Bureaus of Statistics were a result of the Enlightenment

Interestingly, many of our democratic institutions started their life in the 19th century as a consequence of the Enlightenment, when there was a new drive towards rational politics, scientific, social and economic developments. This needed to be underpinned by a framework of national measurements. The first National Bureau of Statistics was established in Paris in 1800. Over the last 200 years these institutions, which are now established in every country, have looked after uniformity in data collection, data integration, and data analytics, supported by a large group of independent and trusted data experts involved in interpreting the data that guided policy decisions for the benefit of all.

The effects of the Enlightenment have been enormous; and they are still being delivered. There are now more democratic countries than ever before; overall global poverty keeps decreasing; literacy keeps increasing; wars and the number of people killed in wars continue to decline; and average lifestyle around the globe keeps improving. We need to ensure that this upwards trend continues.

The philosopher Immanuel Kant, key person in what we might want to call the modern Enlightenment, described (in 1784) Enlightenment as follows:

'Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one's understanding without guidance from another.'

We most certainly have that ability to think for ourselves, and it is our responsibility as human beings to do so at a time when fake news, lies and other forces are trying to undermine our democratic values and principles. If we don't stand up to these undermining forces they will cause extensive damage.

Decentralisation of facts and figures

A key problem now is that since many people no longer believe they are receiving positive social and economic outcomes they have ceased to trust the underlying data and are reverting to emotions, vague memories of a much better past, and imaginary futures.

While the statistical information that governments collected and used was certainly correct at macro-levels (levels of poverty, migration, GDP, unemployment, etc.), people live in micro-environments, and there the 'facts and figures' were quite different. And not just between national and local situations — importantly, there are great differences in facts and figures within towns, suburbs, rural regions and so on.

Differences within communities are significantly more complex than they were when these institutions were first established, and data collection began.

National governments unwilling to accept this level of criticism from their people will continue to lose trust. People don't live in some artificial place as the national average — they live in real communities with real problems and issues which are not necessarily reflected in national facts and figures.

It has become clear that for our society to move forward, its governance needs to be more decentralised and that all of us need to participate in that process. And technology can assist us here.

Big data in connected cities

This also fits in with the understanding that cities need much better data to run their communities. There are great opportunities to win political trust back at these local levels. A key issue here is that this spatial decentralisation needs to be supported by functional decentralisation, so that cities, regions, and provinces have the autonomy enabling them to successfully address the local issues of education, healthcare, environment, jobs, economy, mobility, etc. Furthermore, a decentralisation of political systems and institutions is needed to assist these developments.

This does not mean that big data is not needed at a national level as well. It is equally essential there; but they, too, will need to decentralise. The National Bureaus of Statistics should be the nations' leaders in big data for the common good, and they should not be used for party politics if they want to retain the position of trust that they currently still enjoy. But they will need to work far more closely with cities to better reflect the facts and figures of local communities.

The leading smart cities understand the need for these news structures. Councils of Mayors are becoming a new political force. Cities already have vast amounts of data that can be used to improve their local situations. However, to maximise the use of big data for the common good of their citizens a breakdown of the many (data) silos within their bureaucracies will be necessary. Little ivory towers where security, safety, and privacy issues are used to stop the data from being used in a broader and more open context.

An early lesson learned by smart city pioneers was that it is not about open slather data; it is about open data in a controlled environment.

Actively involving the local citizens in the various 'smart city' projects is critical and can generate further data relevant to their local situation. There are already some good examples in some of the leading smart cities.

Emotional and sentimental data

An emerging development is the taking of 'emotional' or 'sentimental' data analytics into account. We see this happening already in the commercial sphere (Facebook produced some interesting data reflecting emotional trends but was vilified for it, and as a result this form of data in now shrouded in secrecy — a very bad outcome indeed).

Another example is Cambridge Analytica — on whose board sits Steven Bannon. They developed psychological profiles for the Trump campaign and, again, great secrecy here also. Despite its potential little is happening so far in the public sphere in relation to the common good. Again, cities and communities could be a much better starting point for exploration of these softer data options, rather than the nation as a whole.

Big data is a far too important a development to be left just in the hands of commercial or 'secret' organisations. Cities that already have a holistic strategy in place could take a leadership role here. Within such a plan they will already have a data strategy in place and over time other cities and communities can learn from them and follow in their footsteps. Like trusted national statistical organisations, at a city level also we need professional statisticians and big data analysts who are able to make unambiguous and objective observations about their local economy and local community.

Written by Paul Budde, Managing Director of Paul Budde Communication

www.circleid.com | 2/28/18

The participating U.S. Airmen and hackers at the conclusion of h1-212 in New York City on Dec 9, 2017

HackerOne has announced the results of the second Hack the Air Force bug bounty challenge which invited trusted hackers from all over the world to participate in its second bug bounty challenge in less than a year. The 20-day bug bounty challenge was the most inclusive government program to-date, with 26 countries invited to participate. From the report: "Hack the Air Force 2.0 is part of the Department of Defense's (DoD) Hack the Pentagon crowd-sourced security initiative. Twenty-seven trusted hackers successfully participated in the Hack the Air Force bug bounty challenge — reporting 106 valid vulnerabilities and earning $103,883. Hackers from the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, and Latvia participated in the challenge. The Air Force awarded hackers the highest single bounty award of any Federal program to-date, $12,500."

www.circleid.com | 2/16/18
Pro-European mainstream parties may have triumphed in the Netherlands in last year’s elections. Yet as the European Union embarks on what is likely to be another momentous year, Dutch politics shouldn’t be taken for granted.
www.wsj.com | 1/28/18
Pro-European mainstream parties may have triumphed in the Netherlands in last year’s elections. Yet as the European Union embarks on what is likely to be another momentous year, Dutch politics shouldn’t be taken for granted.
www.wsj.com | 1/28/18

James (Jon) Castle - 7 December 1950 to 12 January 2018

Over four decades Captain Jon Castle navigated Greenpeace ships by the twin stars of ‘right and wrong’, defending the environment and promoting peace. Greenpeace chronicler, Rex Weyler, recounts a few of the stories that made up an extraordinary life.

Captain Jon Castle onboard the MV Sirius, 1 May 1996

James (Jon) Castle first opened his eyes virtually at sea. He was born 7 December 1950 in Cobo Bay on the Channel Island of Guernsey, UK. He grew up in a house known locally as Casa del Mare, the closest house on the island to the sea, the second son of Robert Breedlove Castle and Mary Constance Castle. 

Young Jon Castle loved the sea and boats. He worked on De Ile de Serk, a cargo boat that supplied nearby Sark island, and he studied at the University of Southampton to become an officer in the Merchant Navy. 

Jon became a beloved skipper of Greenpeace ships. He sailed on many campaigns and famously skippered two ships during Greenpeace’s action against Shell’s North Sea oil platform, Brent Spar. During his activist career, Jon spelt his name as "Castel" to avoid unwanted attention on his family.

Right and wrong

Jon had two personal obsessions: he loved books and world knowledge and was extremely well-read.  He also loved sacred sites and spent personal holidays walking to stone circles, standing stones, and holy wells.  

As a young man, Jon became acquainted with the Quaker tradition, drawn by their dedication to peace, civil rights, and direct social action. In 1977, when Greenpeace purchased their first ship - the Aberdeen trawler renamed, the Rainbow Warrior - Jon signed on as first mate, working with skipper Peter Bouquet and activists Susi Newborn, Denise Bell and Pete Wilkinson.

In 1978, Wilkinson and Castle learned of the British government dumping radioactive waste at sea in the deep ocean trench off the coast of Spain in the Sea of Biscay. In July, the Rainbow Warrior followed the British ship, Gem, south from the English coast, carrying a load of toxic, radioactive waste barrels. The now-famous confrontation during which the Gem crew dropped barrels onto a Greenpeace inflatable boat, ultimately changed maritime law and initiated a ban on toxic dumping at sea.

After being arrested by Spanish authorities, Castle and Bouquet staged a dramatic escape from La Coru?a harbour at night, without running lights, and returned the Greenpeace ship to action. Crew member Simone Hollander recalls, as the ship entered Dublin harbour in 1978, Jon cheerfully insisting that the entire crew help clean the ship's bilges before going ashore, an action that not only built camaraderie among the crew, but showed a mariner's respect for the ship itself. In 1979, they brought the ship to Amsterdam and participated in the first Greenpeace International meeting.

In 1980 Castle and the Rainbow Warrior crew confronted Norwegian and Spanish whaling ships, were again arrested by Spanish authorities, and brought into custody in the El Ferrol naval base.

The Rainbow Warrior remained in custody for five months, as the Spanish government demanded 10 million pesetas to compensate the whaling company. On the night of November 8, 1980, the Rainbow Warrior, with Castle at the helm, quietly escaped the naval base, through the North Atlantic, and into port in Jersey.

In 1995, Castle skippered the MV Greenpeace during the campaign against French nuclear testing in the Pacific and led a flotilla into New Zealand to replace the original Rainbow Warrior that French agents bombed in Auckland in 1985.

Over the years, Castle became legendary for his maritime skills, courage, compassion, commitment, and for his incorruptible integrity. "Environmentalism: That does not mean a lot to me," he once said, "I am here because of what is right and wrong. Those words are good enough for me."

Brent Spar   Action at Brent Spar Oil Rig in the North Sea, 16 June 1995

One of the most successful Greenpeace campaigns of all time began in the summer of 1995 when Shell Oil announced a plan to dump a floating oil storage tank, containing toxic petroleum residue, into the North Atlantic. Castle signed on as skipper of the Greenpeace vessel Moby Dick, out of Lerwick, Scotland. A month later, on 30 April 1995, Castle and other activists occupied the Brent Spar and called for a boycott of Shell service stations.

When Shell security and British police sprayed the protesters with water cannons, images flooded across world media, demonstrations broke out across Europe, and on May 15, at the G7 summit, German chancellor Helmut Kohl publicly protested to British Prime Minister John Major. In June, 11 nations, at the Oslo and Paris Commission meetings, called for a moratorium on sea disposal of offshore installations.

After three weeks, British police managed to evict Castle and the other occupiers and held them briefly in an Aberdeen jail. When Shell and the British government defied public sentiment and began towing the Spar to the disposal site, consumers boycotted Shell stations across Europe. Once released, Castle took charge of the chartered Greenpeace vessel Altair and continued to pursue the Brent Spar towards the dumping ground. Castle called on the master of another Greenpeace ship, fitted with a helideck, to alter course and rendezvous with him. Using a helicopter, protesters re-occupied the Spar and cut the wires to the detonators of scuppering charges.

One of the occupiers, young recruit Eric Heijselaar, recalls: "One of the first people I met as I climbed on board was a red-haired giant of a man grinning broadly at us. My first thought was that he was a deckhand, or maybe the bosun. So I asked if he knew whether a cabin had been assigned to me yet. He gave me a lovely warm smile, and reassured me that, yes, a cabin had been arranged. At dinner I found out that he was Jon Castle, not a deckhand, not the bosun, but the captain. And what a captain!"

Again, British naval police evicted the occupiers, but Castle and the crew kept up pursuit. Then the Spar suddenly altered course, heading towards Norway. Shell had given up. The company announced that Brent Spar would be cleaned out and used as a foundation for a new ferry terminal. Three years later, in 1998, the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) passed a ban on dumping oil installations into the North Sea.

"There was no question among the crew who had made this possible, who had caused this to happen," Heijselaar recalls. "It was Jon Castle. His quiet enthusiasm and the trust he put into people made this crew one of the best I ever saw. He always knew exactly what he wanted out of a campaign, how to gain momentum, and he always found the right words to explain his philosophies. He was that rare combination, both a mechanic and a mystic. And above all he was a very loving, kind human being."

Moruroa

After the Brent Spar campaign, Castle returned to the South Pacific on the Rainbow Warrior II, to obstruct a proposed French nuclear test in the Moruroa atoll. Expecting the French to occupy their ship, Castle and engineer, Luis Manuel Pinto da Costa, rigged the steering mechanism to be controlled from the crow's-nest. When French commandos boarded the ship, Castle stationed himself in the crow's-nest, cut away the access ladder and greased the mast so that the raiders would have difficulty arresting him.

Eventually, the commandos cut a hole into the engine-room and severed cables controlling the engine, radio, and steering mechanism, making Castle's remote control system worthless. They towed the Rainbow Warrior II to the island of Hao, as three other protest vessels arrived. 

Three thousand demonstrators gathered in the French port of Papeete, demanding that France abandon the tests. Oscar Temaru - leader of Tavini Huiraatira, an anti-nuclear, pro-independence party - who had been aboard the Rainbow Warrior II when it was raided, welcomed anti-testing supporters from Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Canada, Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the Philippines, and American Samoa. Eventually, France ended their tests, and atmospheric nuclear testing in the world's oceans stopped once and for all.

“Moral courage”

Through these extraordinary missions, Jon Castle advocated "self-reflection" not only for individual activists, but for the organisation that he loved. Activists, Castle maintained, required "moral courage." He cautioned, "Don't seek approval. Someone has to be way out in front... illuminating territory in advance of the main body of thought."

He opposed "corporatism" in activist organisation and urged Greenpeace to avoid becoming "over-centralised or compartmentalised."  He felt that activist decisions should emerge from the actions themselves, not in an office. We can't fight industrialism with "money, numbers, and high-tech alone," he once wrote in a personal manifesto. Organisations have to avoid traps of "self-perpetuation" and focus on the job "upsetting powerful forces, taking on multinationals and the military-industrial complex."

He recalled that Greenpeace had become popular "because a gut message came through to the thirsty hearts of poor suffering people ... feeling the destruction around them."  Activists, Castle felt, required "freedom of expression, spontaneity [and] an integrated lifestyle."  An activist organisation should foster a "feeling of community" and exhibit "moral courage." Castle felt that social change activists had to "question the materialistic, consumerist lifestyle that drives energy overuse, the increasingly inequitable world economic tyranny that creates poverty and drives environmental degradation," and must maintain "honour, courage and the creative edge."

Well loved hero

Susi Newborn, who was there to welcome Jon aboard the Rainbow Warrior way back in 1977, and who gave the ship its name, wrote about her friend with whom she felt "welded at the heart: He was a Buddhist and a vegetarian and had an earring in his ear. He liked poetry and classical music and could be very dark, but also very funny. Once, I cut his hair as he downed a bottle or two of rum reciting The Second Coming by Yeats."

Newborn recalls Castle insisting that women steer the ships in and out of port because, "they got it right, were naturals." She recalls a night at sea, Castle "lashed to the wheel facing one of the biggest storms of last century head on. I was flung about my cabin like a rag doll until I passed out. We never talked about the storm, as if too scared to summon up the behemoth we had encountered. A small handwritten note pinned somewhere in the mess, the sole acknowledgment of a skipper to his six-person crew: ‘Thank You.’” Others remember Castle as the Greenpeace captain that could regularly be found in the galley doing kitchen duty.

In 2008, with the small yacht Musichana, Castle and Pete Bouquet staged a two-man invasion of Diego Garcia island to protest the American bomber base there and the UK's refusal to allow evicted Chagos Islanders to return to their homes. They anchored in the lagoon and radioed the British Indian Ocean Territories officials on the island to tell them they and the US Air Force were acting in breach of international law and United Nations resolutions. When arrested, Castle politely lectured his captors on their immoral and illegal conduct.

In one of his final actions, as he battled with his failing health, Castle helped friends in Scotland operate a soup kitchen, quietly prepping food and washing up behind the scenes.  

Upon hearing of his passing, Greenpeace ships around the world - the Arctic Sunrise, the Esperanza, and the Rainbow Warrior - flew their flags at half mast.

Jon is fondly remembered by his brother David, ex-wife Caroline, their son, Morgan Castle, born in 1982, and their daughter, Eowyn Castle, born in 1984. Morgan has a daughter of eight months Flora, and and Eowyn has a daughter, Rose, who is 2.   

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