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10.30.13

British Prime Minister David Cameron Takes His War on Press Freedom Even Further, Japan Follows Suit

Posted in Asia, Europe, FSF at 7:35 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Shinzō Abe
Shinzō Abe (Japanese Prime Minister); Photo from G8 UK Presidency

Summary: Freedom of the press is under attack not just in the West but also in Japan, potentially affecting public scrutiny of corporations as well as governments

The ‘British Snowden’, an MI5 whistleblower who is not able to return to Britain safely (essentially a fugitive now), speaks about the new Snowden Web site [1]. I had the pleasure of speaking with her and she is very widely quoted by the media right now (except in the British media). See, here in the UK there is a war on the media [1, 2, 3] amid an EU blunder which jeopardises Britain’s status in the European Union [2]. It turns out that spying on your allies on behalf of some distant superpower (the United States) is not a good thing to do.

The Japanese Prime Minister and our own Prime Minister David Cameron have quite a lot in common now [3,4], having to deal with that ‘nuisance’ which is The Guardian [5] giving the population this thing called facts. There is a new bombshell about the extremely debt-saddled Japan and the NSA [6] (possibly spying on China and neighbours for distant world powers). In Japan, a former occupier and a vicious empire which slaughtered many people in neighbouring countries, the politicians are trying to gag the press using new laws [7].

“Standing up for Snowden is standing up for the rule of law, justice, and ethics.”Where do we go from here? Well, the Free Software Foundation takes action [8]. We need to defend the disclosure of all this information. Snowden’s leaks revealed (back in August) where trillions of dollars of taxpayers’ money (or national debt to which they’re tied) are going [9] and these leaks also give a very strong challenge to US law, potentially banning some of the NSA’s current actions, which are already against the law anyway [10].

Standing up for Snowden is standing up for the rule of law, justice, and ethics. No more need people be barred from basic information about how public money is spent. Espionage is not “cool” and stabbing continental Europe in the back is not what British citizens would consider a policy that they can support. If the US uses Japan and other small countries (Korea for example) to weaken Indochina while also using the UK (and Sweden among others) to spy on Russia and the European Union, how does one justify unions? Unless we assume that all ethics and good values are derived from US culture we should rethink all these collusions among G8/NATO members.

If laws are being passed to ban freedom of the press (or seriously restrict it), then who is going to cover what Japanese companies and authorities hide from the public ahead of a cancer epidemic [11,12] or after BP barred the press from assessing the real impact of its long-lasting pollution [13]? It’s one thing to bar journalists from publishing what’s being labeled “state secrets”; using the same laws we may find people who publish corporate secrets (evidence of harm or misconduct) criminalised as well. Down the slippery slope we go.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Edward Snowden Website

    And here’s another aide mem­oire of the dis­clos­ures so far. The impact of these dis­clos­ures is global. Edward Snowden is simply the most sig­ni­fic­ant whis­tleblower in mod­ern history.

  2. US Trojan horse: NSA scandal shows Europe would be better off without Britain

    “While leading politicians of other European countries and officers of the EU itself were keen to express their concern over the latest revelations of US spying on its allies – the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz said that US secret services were ‘out of control’ – British Prime Minister David Cameron has only said that he thought that the EU statement on the matter was ‘good and sensible’ and that he agreed with it. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Cameron ‘silently acquiesced” to the statement. At a press conference, Cameron refused to comment about the recent NSA revelations.

    “The muted British reaction to what is a truly outrageous scandal, is proof, if indeed any further proof were needed, of what Britain’s main role in the EU is: to act as a Trojan horse to defend and further the interests of the government of the United States of America.”

  3. David Cameron makes veiled threat to media over NSA and GCHQ leaks

    Prime minister alludes to courts and D notices and singles out the Guardian over coverage of Edward Snowden saga

  4. Britain’s Cameron says may act against newspapers over spy leaks
  5. Three degrees of separation: breaking down the NSA’s ‘hops’ surveillance method

    You don’t need to be talking to a terror suspect to have your communications data analysed by the NSA. The agency is allowed to travel “three hops” from its targets – who could be people who talk to people who talk to people who talk to you. Facebook, where the typical user has 190 friends, shows how three degrees of separation gets you to a network bigger than the population of Colorado. How many people are three “hops” from you?

  6. NSA asked Japan to tap regionwide fiber-optic cables in 2011

    The U.S. National Security Agency sought the Japanese government’s cooperation in 2011 over wiretapping fiber-optic cables carrying phone and Internet data across the Asia-Pacific region, but the request was rejected, sources said Saturday.

  7. Japan secrecy act stirs fears about press freedom, right to know

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is planning a state secrets act that critics say could curtail public access to information on a wide range of issues, including tensions with China and the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

  8. FSF joins thousands in DC to tell NSA: “Stop Watching Us!”

    On Saturday, October 26, 2013, the FSF joined more than three thousand privacy advocates in Washington, DC to call for an end to mass surveillance conducted by the NSA.

  9. Snowden Reveals First Ever Public Disclosure Of Secret Black Budget Programs
  10. Legislation Unveiled to Bar NSA’s Bulk Phone Metadata Collection

    The legislation has support from Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate, and from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and National Rifle Association. But the USA FREEDOM Act’s passage into law remains uncertain.

  11. Fukushima horse breeder braves high radiation levels to care for animals

    Despite the departure of all his neighbours and the unexplained deaths of some of his stock, Tokue Hosokawa refuses to budge

  12. A Quake Revives Japan’s Nuclear Nightmare
  13. BP’s ‘widespread human health crisis’

    Toxicologists ‘predicted with certainty’ that Gulf of Mexico residents and clean-up workers would become severely ill.

Apple is the Kingdom of Censorship, Deletes and Silences Even Its Own Fans

Posted in Apple at 6:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Tim Cook
Photo from Valery Marchive (LeMagIT)

Summary: The Tim Cook-led company continues to the tradition of Steve Jobs, who openly promoted censorship as portrayed it as a positive thing

The Internet needs free speech and net neutrality, which usually guarantee that one can practice freedom online (anonymity is a bonus). Censorship giant Apple (in particular app censorship [1, 2] that Richard Stallman recently alluded to) is showing its true spot again.

Apple’s well-hyped products are clearly broken [1], as many people report the same issues. How does Apple deal with it? It deletes these reports [2]. How convenient. Make the evidence vanish, eh? That’s a typical Apple response. Well, the person who is popular enough to make it go viral is Larry Lessig, who also considers quitting/eliminating his dependence on Apple [3]. Well played, Apple!

“Apple is probably far worse in that regard than Microsoft and Google.”Internet policy is being written here in Europe (with some public feedback [4] and lobbying from European public interest groups [5]) and perhaps it is time to punish large companies that so shamelessly engage in censorship. Apple is probably far worse in that regard than Microsoft and Google (yes, Google censors also but hardly as much). Apple believes it can get away with it all, but its arrogance is going to alienate its biggest fans. To make matters worse, Apple keeps customers with real issues in the dark; this forms fertile ground for class action lawsuits.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Wow, or from the When-Apple-Became-the-Borg Department

    I upgraded my iPhone (“what, you have an iPhone” — ok, you win, sin #1) to iOS 7.0.3. It killed wifi. I went to the Apple discussion site to see what the community had to say about it. Seems there are lots of people who had the same problem. I followed the recommended fixes — including reinstalling the system software and “restoring” from a back (which, in Apple-land, doesn’t really mean restoring, but means giving you the beginning of a restoration, which, with a couple more hours of tinkering, get you back to where you were) — but nothing worked. Wifi came back for an hour. It’s gone again.

  2. the slaughter continues — Apple’s latest deleted comment:
  3. Keynote, we hardly knew you

    I’ve been experimenting with Prezi, and so we’ll see if that’s an alternative. But I wonder whether there are any serious Free Software developers keen to do a rev of either Open or Libre Office’s slide app? I don’t have the cycles for an extensive commitment to this. But I’d be really keen to participate in a project to think about key improvements to make either really competitive.

  4. Internet Governance: I want your views!
  5. Internet Needs an Uncompromising “Marco Civil” in Brazil!

    Major organizations from all around the world, defending free speech and freedoms online, signed this open letter initiated by La Quadrature du Net. It encourages for a swift adoption, in Brazil, of an uncompromising “Marco Civil de Internet” that would truly guarantee freedoms online. The vote is scheduled on Tuesday. (Your organization can still sign the letter, after its publication, by sending an email to signature (AT) laquadrature.net)

Retribution Against Activists

Posted in Action at 6:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: An example of how authority in the US deals with people whom it wants to silence

IT IS no secret that political dissent is seen as some kind of terrorism now (often referred to as “domestic”), but there are no formal laws against such activities. After all, democracy is designed to facilitate and encourage political dissent; to crush political dissent would be an overt act of crushing democracy.

All sorts of methods — ranging from intimidation to punishment (e.g. forbidding access to one’s own children, deporting, suspension from a job) — are being used to weaken (if not to further radicalise) people who commit the act of political dissent. By political dissent we refer not to choosing one political party over another (especially when both parties promote more or less the same policies which favour the rich and the powerful). By political dissent we refer to what the rich and the powerful perceive as unruly conduct — something which jeopardises one type of authority (usually theirs).

“By political dissent we refer to what the rich and the powerful perceive as unruly conduct — something which jeopardises one type of authority (usually theirs).”It has been interesting to read the story of Rasmieh Odeh [1]. She is apparently being silenced, intimidated, and potentially jailed for something which was dug in from about a decade ago (AP tries to label her “terrorist” and a lot of the corporate press does the same). Why the sudden fishing? Well, putting aside work for women’s rights in the Arab world (which according to [2-4] from the news is a truly important cause) she was also promoting the Palestinian cause, which Facebook likes to censor (the US as a whole is exceptionally sensitive to this subject). Of course, the US has other enemies whose political dissent got them a file (dossier) in the CIA, as revealed earlier this year. That would be another supporter of the Palestinian cause, Noam Chomsky, who ‘dares’ to criticise other US policies, even this week [5].

The civil discourse and the remnant of democracy which we have left very much defends on our ability to defend political dissent. If we let our dogma win and we start labeling opposing views as “trolls” or “terrorists” (trying to get them in trouble), then we lose democracy as well as civility. We let brutes take charge of what’s a “permissible” point of view. Odeh is not being punished for what she was already punished for; she faces a sort of exile, using bureaucracy as a tool.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Political Case Brought Against Palestinian Organizer in Chicago for Immigration Fraud

    A Palestinian woman and well-respected organizer in Chicago has been charged with lying to immigration authorities about her background when she applied for citizenship in the United States. If convicted, she faces the possibility of being imprisoned for up to ten years and being deported.

    Rasmieh Odeh, who is sixty-six years-old, was arrested by Department of Homeland Security agents during the morning of October 22. She was brought before US Magistrate Judge Mason. Mason released her on $15,000 cash bond. She was ordered to appear in federal court by November 1 in Detroit, where she first lived.

    [...]

    “We have been aware that the US Attorney in Chicago has not dropped the case against the 23 antiwar activists,” Iosbaker told Firedoglake. “This has been confirmed, reconfirmed and reconfirmed for us throughout the three years since we were subpoenaed and refused to appear before the grand jury.”

    “Here is a woman, a longtime activist in the Palestinian community, who has been living in the United States for twenty years. She’s been a model citizen contributing and serving her community. And, suddenly, ten years after she received citizenship, they scrutinize her,” Iosbaker stated. “They never would have looked at her at all had it not been for their investigation of the 23 antiwar activists, including Hatem Abudayyeh, who is her co-worker.”

    [...]

    Like Iosbaker, he sees a connection between the investigation against him and 22 other activists. Assistant US Attorney Barry Jonas, who has been in charge of the investigation into the activists, was present in the courtroom when Odeh came before the judge.

    “She’s a prominent Palestinian organizer and activist,” Abudayyeh declared. “She’s being targeted because she’s a Palestinian. She’s being targeted because she’s an Arab. She’s being targeted because of who she is and what she represents,” which is years of organizing and activism on behalf of social justice and the rights of Palestinians.

  2. Saudi women’s driving kicks off without arrests

    Saudi activists said more than 60 women claimed to have answered their call on Saturday to get behind the wheel in a rare show of defiance against a ban on female driving in the ultraconservative kingdom.

  3. Saudi Government Versus Women
  4. Some Saudi women defy driving ban in day of protest

    A handful of Saudi women have taken to the streets in their cars on a day of collective protest against the ban on female drivers.

  5. Noam Chomsky: How the U.S.-Mexico Border Is Cruel by Design

    “The US-Mexican border, like most borders, was established by violence — and its architecture is the architecture of violence.”

Online Anonymity is Extremely Important

Posted in FUD at 6:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Pasquino

Summary: The important digital right which some refer to as online anonymity is being demonised and dismissed as Utopian

Online anonymity seems to have come under attack by sites that attribute it to “trolls” or vandals. In addition, all sorts of pro-surveillance circles would like us to think that when someone pursues online anonymity, then he or she is up to no good. The EFF has just published a good article [1] which gives examples of when online anonymity is absolutely crucial, not just desirable. Here is the list of hypothetical scenarios:

  • the people who run some of the funniest parody Twitter accounts, such as @FeministHulk (SMASH THE PATRIARCHY!) or @BPGlobalPr during the Deepwater Horizon aftermath. San Francisco would not be better off if we knew who was behind @KarltheFog, the most charming personification of a major city’s climate phenomenon.
  • the young LGBTQ youth seeking advice online about coming out to their parents.
  • the marijuana grower who needs to ask questions on an online message board about lamps and fertilizer or complying with state law, without publicly admitting to committing a federal offense.
  • the medical patient seeking advice from other patients in coping with a chronic disease, whether it’s alopecia, irritable bowel syndrome, cancer or a sexually transmitted infection.
  • the online dater, who wants to meet new people but only reveal her identities after she’s determined that potential dates are not creeps.
  • the business that wants no-pulled-punches feedback from its customers.
  • the World of Warcraft player, or any other MMOG gamer, who only wants to engage with other players in character.
  • artists. Anonymity is integral to the work of The Yes Men, Banksy and Keizer.
  • the low-income neighborhood resident who wants to comment on an article about gang violence in her community, without incurring retribution in the form of spray paint and broken windows.
  • the boyfriend who doesn’t want his girlfriend to know he’s posing questions on a forum about how to pick out a wedding ring and propose. On the other end: Anonymity is important to anyone seeking advice about divorce attorneys online.
  • the youth from an orthodox religion who secretly posts reviews on hip hop albums or R-rated movies.
  • the young, pregnant woman who is seeking out advice on reproductive health services.
  • the person seeking mental health support from an online community. There’s a reason that support groups so often end their names with “Anonymous.”
  • the job seeker, in pursuit of cover letter and resume advice in a business blogger’s comments, who doesn’t want his current employer to know he is looking for work.
  • many people’s sexual lives, whether they’re discussing online erotica or arranging kink meet-ups.
  • Political Gabfest listeners. Each week, the hosts encourage listeners to post comments. Of the 262 largely positive customer reviews on iTunes, only a handful see value in using their real names.

When people say that anonymity is not important, well… be sure to rebut. It can be just as important as anti-censorship. The New Scientist, which is usually a source of good articles, wrote about privacy online [2] and then bashed online anonymity [3]. Don’t let them promote defeatism when it comes to such causes. If we lose anonymity (if it becomes an impossibility), then forces of oppression and injustice will find it easier to advance.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Online Anonymity Is Not Only for Trolls and Political Dissidents

    During last week’s episode of Slate’s Political Gabfest, a weekly podcast I normally adore, senior editor Emily Bazelon mocked the concept of online anonymity. Our society would be better off if everyone was forced to put their name to their words, she said, generalizing that online anonymous users are poisoning civil discourse with their largely vile and defamatory comments. She deemed only one class of user legitimately deserving of anonymity: “people who directly fear violence.”

    In this view of the Internet, everyone else’s anonymity is worth sacrificing to silence the trolls.

    It’s easy to understand why some in the press have this perspective. If you work in online media, the bulk of your interactions involve news stories, which seem to draw the ugliest forms of discourse. If you’re a public figure, you’re faced with haters on Twitter who are obsessed with enumerating all the ways you suck. They’re even worse in the comments on YouTube. A website, such as Slate, certainly has the right to determine the culture of its online community, and I don’t have a position whether such sites, across the spectrum, should or should not allow anonymous comments, or even allow comments at all. I do, however, dispute this narrow vision of the Internet.

  2. Firefox plug-in reveals who is tracking your surfing
  3. Has the time come to abandon online anonymity?

    Many of these supporters are just jumping on a bandwagon, or have been misled about the nature of a purported dispute. Exactly why we are so quick to rush to judgement online, and to dehumanise the subject of our ire, is worth looking into further. But regardless of the reasons, the resulting mob greatly amplifies the effect on the target.

Copyright Monopoly Against Society: Latest Examples

Posted in Intellectual Monopoly at 5:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Laurence 'Loz' Kaye

Laurence “Loz” Kaye; Photo by Andy Halsall

Summary: Roundup of interesting news about the actions of the copyright cartel, or the conglomerates that write copyright law through bribed politicians

THE “Copyright Monopoly” (as some people continue to call it [1]) is showing its strong political influence and sheer power. It always seems like this monopoly now has power over the penal system, not just the legal system [2,3] (punishment where no guilt is established), and it even sets up its own honeypots [4] (which themselves can be violating the same laws which the monopoly advances). But it’s not quite working out for the monopoly [5] as people who share just find alternative ways to share. Heck, they don’t even need the Internet for sharing; they can use storage devices, so the war on sharing sure is futile. It is rather amazing that politicians still pursue the impossible [6], whereas political groups like the Pirate Party point out the obvious facts [7]. Decades of spin won’t change the facts.

“In many ways, the copyright Monopoly has helped promote or at least ‘rationalise’ surveillance (while curbing anonymity), so there is plenty of stuff at sake.”It is truly disheartening that politics can’t be driven by facts; instead, it’s all about dogma. The propagandistic nature of the copyright monopoly (and its infiltration into schools and kindergartens) makes many people out there blind to the fact that the war on sharing is a waste of time; it’s like fighting Free software. Companies that existed for many years just need to find a way to co-exist with digital abundance in the age of high-capacity storage and fast/dense connectivity. In many ways, the copyright Monopoly has helped promote or at least ‘rationalise’ surveillance (while curbing anonymity), so there is plenty of stuff at sake. It’s not just about copyright. We’ll deal with some of it in the next post.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Reflections On The Long Fight Against The Copyright Monopoly – And What You Can Do

    It can be disheartening to see how long it takes to change the world for the better, but it’s imperative to keep grinding – even if just through a choice of words.

  2. Torrent Site Admin Who Turned Pigsty into Datacenter Jailed for a Year

    The former administrator of a 65,000 member private BitTorrent tracker who earned money from site donations without declaring it as income has been sentenced. The 35-year-old, a farmer who alleged spent some of the money on converting a pigsty into a datacenter, said that he believed his site was legal and only his users were committing offenses. The Court of Appeal disagreed and sentenced him to a year in jail along with hefty fines.

  3. Pirate Bay Founder’s Extradition Looms After Supreme Court Rejection

    The hacking sentence of Gottfrid Svartholm has now been finalized after the Swedish Supreme Court refused to take on the case. This means that the Pirate Bay founder can be extradited to Denmark where he will face trial for similar offenses. Meanwhile, movie studio Yellow Bird has moved to have Gottfrid declared bankrupt, hoping to recoup some of the money he owes in damages for his role in operating the The Pirate Bay.

  4. Filesharing site revealed to be anti-piracy ‘honeypot’

    Operator of UploaderTalk boasts of ‘biggest swerve ever’ as he sells user data to anti-piracy company

  5. Not even two weeks after shutdown, BitTorrent search site isoHunt is back

    Less than two weeks ago, IsoHunt, the notorious search engine site for BitTorrent files, agreed to shut down and pay $110 million in a settlement with the Motion Pictures of America Association. The site even shut down a day early as a way to avoid being part of an online archive.

    But now, the next generation of the site (available at isohunt.to and isohunt.ee) is already back. Whois information on both domains turns up no contact information. However, online records show that the new site is hosted in Australia.

  6. Will The Canada-EU Trade Agreement Harm Our Freedoms Online?

    After more than four years of secret negotiations, the text of the Canada-Europe trade agreement, CETA, reached agreement in principle during a meeting between José Barroso, the President of the European Commission, and Stefen Harper, the Canadian Prime Minister. While waiting for evidence to ensure that CETA does not contain measures endangering our freedoms online, citizens and MEPs should be ready to reject this trade agreement.

  7. Loz Kaye Rounds off #PPUK13 Conference: “If We don’t Speak Out, Who Will?”

    Loz pointed out that the venue was an appropriate one for the conference saying: “Museums and libraries are the original Pirates. Freeing up knowledge. Freeing up culture. Because it allows everyone to take part not just an elite.”

Richard Stallman on Banks and Foreclosures

Posted in TechBytes Video at 5:14 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

TechBytes with Stallman

Direct download as Ogg (00:05:20, 17.8 MB)

Summary: Dr. Richard Stallman, the Free Software Foundation’s founder, turns his attention to the mortgage crisis and poverty


Made entirely using Free/libre software, heavily compressed for performance on the Web at quality’s expense

Return to GNU/Linux Advocacy

Posted in Site News at 4:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Vista 8 good riddance

Summary: Why we are becoming more of a GNU/Linux news and advocacy Web site

Let’s face it. This site has changed. It has changed for a reason. Vista 8 is proving to be self-destructive and Microsoft Windows is an empire in collapse. I therefore find myself drifting back towards GNU/Linux advocacy which mostly omits the competition (Apple, Microsoft, etc.) and also goes further by assuming Free software is now commonplace and that therefore we can promote justice (e.g. using Free software to facilitate whistleblowers; see recent posts about this).

De-emphasising Microsoft does not mean that it’s any less malicious and corrupt than before (based on [1], which was published by Christine Hall, the PR and whitewashing continues); it just means that it may not be worth the same level of attention as before. The same goes for Bill Gates and his patent trolls/sharks. What we basically need to do is re-align the site’s coverage based on current priorities.

Bytes Media is buying Tux Machines, which means that a lot of GNU/Linux advocacy will return to being my primary focus (less negative, more positive). GNU/Linux advocacy is where I really come from and also what I do in social nerworks. I won’t stop protesting against software patents and exposing Microsoft’s dirty tricks, but these aspects of the site might get drowned in a sea of posts about the merits of software freedom, privacy, and various other tech rights. The front page of this site has already been changed to reflect this. We’ll soon publish our 17,000th blog post, which may coincide with us starting to run Tux Machines.

Related/contextual items from the news:

1. All Things Open: Microsoft Explains Open Source

As expected, there really wasn’t much new here. Basically, it’s the same ol’ same ol’ from the Redmond boys. Microsoft wants you to know they’ve changed and that they now embrace open source. The small audience, the smallest of any presentation I’ve been at so far at All Things Open, was treated to a long list of open source projects to which Microsoft contributes.

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