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02.09.16

Links 9/2/2016: Linux in Robotics, Hyperledger Project

Posted in News Roundup at 8:27 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Building a culture of more pluggable open source

    If there is one word that often percolates conversations hailing the benefits of open source, it is choice. We often celebrate many of the 800+ Linux distributions, the countless desktops, applications, frameworks, and more. Choice, it would seem, is a good thing.

    Interestingly, choice is also an emotive thing.

  • IT sector: Promote open source, bring enabling provisions for Start-up India

    The IT/ITeS sector, one of the largest contributors to exports in the country, has played a vital role in shaping the overall growth story of India. In view of the challenging business environment, the sector has significant expectations from the ensuing Union Budget 2016 on the tax and policy initiatives front.

  • S.F. Officials Push for Adoption of Pioneering Open-Source Voting System [Ed: Beware Microsoft]

    San Francisco could launch a major makeover of its voting systems this year, an effort that supporters say will lead to cheaper, more transparent elections in the city.

    On Tuesday, Supervisor Scott Wiener will call for a Board of Supervisors hearing into the city’s efforts to adopt a voting system that would use off-the-shelf hardware and open-source software. Elections officials, politicians and voter-participation activists have all touted such publicly owned balloting systems as cheaper and more trustworthy than using products supplied by private vendors.

    “We want to set a trend here and around the country toward more open and transparent voting systems,” Wiener said in an interview.

  • Open Source Assignments for Non-Programming Classes

    I’ve been flirting with the idea of asking students in my Educational Game Design module to make their projects “open source”.

    I am wary of the way non-computer scientists use the term “open source”. I often hear people mistakenly refer to free software as “open source”, when its code is not at all open source. I have also heard people in open education talk about how we can learn from open source, but I always felt cautious about this because the contexts are usually different.

  • What Have We Learned From This Open Source Project?

    Start an open source project if you want to learn all you can about software design, development, planning, testing, documenting, and delivery; enjoy technical challenges, administrative challenges, compromise, and will be satisfied hoping that someone out there is benefitting from your work. Do not start an open source project if you need praise, warmth and love from your fellow human beings.

  • Web Browsers

    • Chrome

      • Mon 2016/Feb/08

        After a couple of months of work and thanks to the kind code reviews of the folks at Google, we got the feature landed in Chromium’s repository. For a while, though, it remained hidden behind a runtime flag, as the Chromium team needed to make sure that things would work well enough in all fronts before making it available to all users. Fast-forward to last week, when I found out by chance that the runtime flag has been flipped and the Simplify page printing option has been available in Chromium and Chrome for a while now, and it has even reached the stable releases. The reader mode feature in Chromium seems to remain hidden behind a runtime flag, I think, which is interesting considering that this was the original motivation behind the dom distiller.

    • Mozilla

      • Mozilla Firefox 44.0.1 Patches Graphics Startup Crashes on Linux, Adds Gecko SDK

        Mozilla released just a few hours ago the first hotfix for the latest stable and most advanced branch of the popular Firefox web browser for all supported operating systems.

        Mozilla Firefox 44.0.1 is now available for download (see download links in the last paragraph), and according to the release notes that popped up minutes ago, it adds quite a few improvements, a couple of new features, and fixes for several issues reported by users since the release of Firefox 44.0.

      • Firefox 44.0.1 Has Been Released

        As you may know, Mozilla Firefox is among the most popular internet browsers available, being very appreciated by FOSS users.

      • The Internet is a Global Public Resource

        I committed myself to the idea that the Internet is a global public resource that we all share and rely on, like water. I committed myself to stewarding and protecting this important resource. I committed myself to making the importance of the open Internet widely known.

        When we say, “Protect the Internet,” we are not talking about boosting Wi-fi so people can play “Candy Crush” on the subway. That’s just bottled water, and it will very likely exist with or without us. At Mozilla, we are talking about “the Internet” as a vast and healthy ocean.

      • Martin Thomson Appointed to the Internet Architecture Board

        Martin’s appointment recognizes a long history of major contributions to the Internet standards process: including serving as editor for HTTP/2, the newest and much improved version of HTTP, helping to design, implement, and document WebPush, which we just launched in Firefox, and playing major roles in WebRTC, TLS and Geolocation. In addition to his standards work, Martin has committed code all over Gecko, in areas ranging from the WebRTC stack to NSS. Serving on the IAB will give Martin a platform to do even greater things for the Internet and the Open Web as a whole.

  • SaaS/Big Data

    • Impetus’ Analytics Platform Extends to Work with Multiple Apache Projects

      Impetus Technologies, a big data solutions company, has announced StreamAnalytix 2.0, featuring support for Apache Spark Streaming, in addition to the current support for Apache Storm. Streaming data analytics has become a big deal, especially with the Internet of Things and other emerging technologies helping to produce torrents of streaming data that enterprises need to make sense of.

      Impetus’ platform is open source-based, and here are more details on how enterprises can leverage it along with tools like Spark.

  • Databases

  • Pseudo-/Semi-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • Funding

    • The Money In Open-Source Software

      It’s no secret that open-source technology — once the province of radicals, hippies and granola eaters — has gone mainstream. According to industry estimates, more than 180 young companies that give away their software raised roughly $3.2 billion in financing from 2011 to 2014.

      Even major enterprise-IT vendors are relying on open-source for critical business functions today. It’s a big turnaround from the days when former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer famously called the open-source Linux operating system “a cancer” (and obviously a threat to Windows).

  • Licensing

    • GNU social and #RIPTwitter

      What a weekend! Buzzfeed sent rumours soaring that Twitter was going to stop displaying tweets in order and instead have an “algorithm” optimise it. Scary, right? I have no idea if it’s true but the possibility hit a nerve. #RIPTwitter was trending globally and it encouraged a small fraction of Twitter users to wonder “what could I use instead?” That is, one heck of a lot of people.

      Next minute, thousands of new users are pouring into GNU social—a social network whose existing users only numbered in the thousands to begin with. It’s free software’s decentralised answer to Twitter and to date it has a fairly niche following. Not any more. The admin of the largest server, quitter.se, reported 1200 new signups in two days.

    • License Compatibility and Relicensing

      Only the GNU licenses give authors a choice about whether to permit upgrades to future license versions. When I wrote the first version of the GNU GPL, in 1989, I considered including a license upgrade option as is found now in CC licenses, but I thought it more correct to give that choice to each author. Thus, the author could release a program either under “GPL 1 only” or “GPL 1 or later.”

  • Openness/Sharing

    • Open Access/Content

      • Students, librarians urge professors to use open-source textbooks

        A student advocacy group, along with one of the University of Washington’s top librarians, is urging faculty members to take a good look at using more free online textbooks.

        And two bills in the state Legislature would promote and facilitate the use of such open-source textbooks and course materials.

      • Student Group Releases New Report on Textbook Prices

        Earlier today, U.S. PIRG released a new report investigating the real impact of high textbook prices on today’s students. The report, titled “Covering the Cost,” is based on a survey of nearly 5,000 students from 132 institutions.

        Over the last decade, the price of college textbooks has soared. Since 2006, the cost of a college textbook increased by 73% – over four times the rate of inflation. Today, individual textbooks often cost over $200, sometimes as high as $400.

  • Programming

    • GHC performance is rather stable

      Johannes Bechberger, while working on his Bachelor’s thesis supervised by my colleague Andreas Zwinkau, has developed a performance benchmark runner and results visualizer called “temci”, and used GHC as a guinea pig. You can read his elaborate analysis on his blog.

    • Ready for a nostalgia kick? Usborne has put its old computer books on the web for free

      UK publishing house Usborne is giving out its iconic 1980s programming books as free downloads.

      The books, which are available for free as PDF files, include Usborne’s introductions to programming series, adventure games, computer games listings and first computer series. The series was particularly popular in the UK, where they helped school a generation of developers and IT professionals.

    • LLVM Patches Confirm Google Has Its Own In-House Processor

      Patches published by Google developers today for LLVM/Clang confirm that the company has at least one in-house processor of its own.

      Jacques Pienaar, a software engineer at Google since 2014, posted patches today seeking to mainline a “Lanai” back-end inside LLVM. He explained they want to contribute their Lanai processor to the LLVM code-base as they continue developing this back-end with a focus on compiling C99 code. He mentions Lanai is a simple in-order 32-bit processor with 32 x 32-bit registers, two registers with fixed values, four used for program state tracking, and two reserved for explicit usage by user, and no floating point support.

Leftovers

  • Judge Blocks Release Of Anti-Abortion Videos As The Arbiter Of Journalism

    In other words, whatever your opinion on abortion might be, these people suck. Editing videos to make it seem like something that isn’t happening is happening isn’t virtuous. It’s called lying, and it’s a no-no.

  • Apple Bye Bye

    I was clumsy, and I spilled some beer on the keyboard of my Mac Air laptop, bought July 9, 2014. I immediately started drying my precious computer, overturning it, and my greedy Mac didn’t gulp all that much beer, but….

    I knew that liquid spills can easily kill a laptop. However, this beer fatality was a first time for me. I realized that only luck has saved me in dozens of my plane trips and train trips, where a few seconds of air bumps or rail vibration might tip a plastic cup and immediately drown a precious machine, the ally and partner in my everyday life.

    The Mac Air immediately went dark. In bitter days to follow I struggled to get it back on its feet from its alcoholic overdose. But the battery had shorted out and the motherboard was fouled beyond repair. The screen misbehaved like delirium tremens. Beer is not so fatal to laptops as sugary Coca-Cola, but even pure water can drown delicate microelectronics.

    I managed to retrieve my precious files from the faltering hard disk and I migrated promptly to a new Mac Air, the same model, but running the latest version of the OSX operating system. The machinery was the same, but in the meantime Apple had “upgraded,” or rather transformed, its software.

  • Tim Cook just tweeted the worst iPhone camera advert ever

    APPLE SUPREMO Tim Cook has brought shame on his company, its hardware and its status as a camera option by tweeting one of his own photos.

    The problem is with the photo and the photographer, but there is no schadenfreude in that. Cook took his photo during a leisurely night out. He didn’t take it for one of those ‘taken on the iPhone’ promotional efforts or to show off.

  • How WIRED Is Going to Handle Ad Blocking

    Over the past several years, there’s been a significant increase in the number of people using ad-blocking software in their web browser. We have certainly seen a growth in those numbers here at WIRED, where we do all we can to write vital stories for an audience that’s passionate about the ongoing adventure of our rapidly changing world.

    On an average day, more than 20 percent of the traffic to WIRED.com comes from a reader who is blocking our ads. We know that you come to our site primarily to read our content, but it’s important to be clear that advertising is how we keep WIRED going: paying the writers, editors, designers, engineers, and all the other staff that works so hard to create the stories you read and watch here.

  • Wired Is Launching an Ad-Free Website to Appease Ad Blockers

    More than 1 in 5 people who visit Wired Magazine’s website use ad-blocking software. Starting in the next few weeks, the magazine will give those readers a choice: stop blocking ads, pay to look at a version of the site that is unsullied by advertisements, or go away. It’s the kind of move that was widely predicted last fall after Apple allowed ad-blocking in the new version of its mobile software, but most publishers have shied away from it so far.

  • Microsoft defends new Windows Server licensing

    After Texas law firm Scott & Scott issued its analysis of the changes to Windows Server licensing, Microsoft responded by addressing each of Scott & Scott’s points in an email. The issues described by Scott & Scott, Microsoft contends, would be limited to a very small customer segment, and even then wouldn’t be as significant an issue as claimed.

  • Ballmer: Hardware, mobile strategy essential for Microsoft’s future

    Microsoft’s hardware—Surface, HoloLens, and Xbox—is “absolutely essential” to its future, according to former CEO Steve Ballmer in a new interview with Business Insider. That’s because of the interrelationship between devices and the cloud: so many devices are supported by and dependent on cloud software, Ballmer feels that the company needs to participate both on the cloud side and on the device side.

  • Two killed & 150 injured in head-on train crash in Bavaria as medics rush to save trapped

    A fleet of emergency helicopters has been scrambled to take injured passengers to hospitals after the crash at Bad Aibling, an hour from Munich.

    Police say at least four people have died and around 150 have been injured – 15 critical and 40 seriously – in the smash in southern Germany.

    It is feared that of the four dead, one is a train driver. The other train driver is missing, with local fire services hunting for him.

  • Twidiots rage on Twitter about new algorithmic timeline

    Twidiots around the world are very angry right now. Twitter has decided to follow in the footsteps of Fakebook and introduce an algorithmic timeline. When the news of this hit Twitter, there was a twidiot storm the likes of which has seldom been seen on the service. They went on a rage-filled tweet rampage, vowing that Twitter was dead to them, they would never tweet again (the world should be so lucky), and other hysterical dramatics.

  • Worst tech mergers and acquisitions: Novell and Unix, Borland and Ashton-Tate

    In 1991, if you were running a personal computer network in your business or enterprise, there was a good chance it was running on Novell’s NetWare, which was the predominant server-based network operating system at the time.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital

      If ever one wondered about the efficacy of a state government agency imposing officials on local governments, Flint has answered that question forever.

      In April, 2014, the state-appointed emergency manager, in order to save money, ordered that the city’s water source be changed from Lake Huron to the notoriously polluted Flint River.

    • Sanders Blasts Michigan Officials for Denying Undocumented People Clean Water

      Senator Bernie Sanders blasted the state of Michigan after reports circulated that undocumented immigrants living in Flint, Michigan have been denied clean drinking water. “This is a humanitarian crisis,” the presidential candidate declared.

      The comments came after the Detroit Free Press reported earlier this week that Flint’s roughly 1,000 undocumented immigrants have faced significant barriers accessing the bottled water now being distributed throughout the city. According to both immigrants and advocates, some people have been turned away because they lacked proper identification, while many others do not even bother because they don’t speak English and fear being deported.

    • The world’s forests will collapse if we don’t learn to say ‘no’

      An alarming new study has shown that the world’s forests are not only disappearing rapidly, but that areas of “core forest” — remote interior areas critical for disturbance-sensitive wildlife and ecological processes — are vanishing even faster.

    • UPOV Works To Improve Breeders’ Applications, Civil Society Calls For Alternative System

      The Geneva-based International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) provides intellectual property rights protection for plant breeders. In 2016, the organisation is planning to work on systems to facilitate breeders’ applications for new varieties. Meanwhile, civil society is calling for ways to protect plant varieties other than through UPOV, which they see as hindering farmers’ rights.

    • Plant Treaty In 2016: Sustainability Solutions, Farmers’ Rights, Global Information System

      Civil society has been concerned with the interrelations between the ITPGRFA, UPOV and WIPO, in particular on the implementation of farmers’ rights, which they say are undermined by the last version of the UPOV Convention (1991) (IPW, WIPO, 2 April 2015).

  • Security

  • Defence/Police/Secrecy/Aggression

    • Iraq Goes Medieval: Will Build Wall Around Baghdad to Stop ISIS

      In medieval times, cities were walled. At night the gates were locked, the towers guarded, and thieves and brigands were kept outside. At least in theory, because walls could be scaled, or blown up, or tunnels dug, or guards bribed.

      And so in what may turn out to be the ultimate 21st century Renaissance Faire, the Iraqi government, no doubt with the support of, if not the checkbook of, the United States, is building a wall around the city of Baghdad in hopes that that will stop ISIS where nothing else has.

    • Opposing the Plutocracy Means Opposing the Warfare State

      Bernie Sanders wants to stay on message. So his presidential campaign has focused on economic issues. The American economy is rigged, Sanders says, in the interests of the wealthy and well connected. Banks and Wall Street brokerage houses get what they want at the expense of everyone else. The government should step in on the side of ordinary people.

      It’s hard not to resonate with Sanders’s message that the rules of the game are designed to benefit those best positioned to shape them. When power is concentrated in the hands of a few people, when there’s one ultimate rule-making authority, politicians and their cronies can engage in self-dealing with relative impunity. Eliminating the privileges that prop up the crony class would likely prove more efficient and just than Sanders’s proposals to increase the power of the state – which tends persistently to favor the well-connected. But you can find his prescription unappealing while appreciating his diagnosis.

    • In the 2016 Campaign, US Foreign Policy Establishment Not Faring Well Either

      This underlying reluctance of large swaths of the American electorate of both parties to continue such long-standing US meddling in faraway conflicts – which it intuitively, if vaguely, realizes is the major cause of blowback terrorism – is reflected by the better-than-expected standing of antiestablishment candidates, such as Donald Trump and Ted Cruz on the Republican side and Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side. Although Trump and Cruz have made some over-the-top comments about bombing ISIS into smithereens, in general they are less hawkish than the mainstream candidates, with their traditional Republican jingoistic foreign policy: Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Jeb Bush. Moreover, the pall of George W. Bush’s disastrous Iraq War still hangs over the 2016 election to such an extent that so far, the candidacy of Bush #3 – who the at the beginning of the campaign in 2015 the media was trying to anoint as the Republican frontrunner – has done abysmally.

    • The Might of the American Empire Was on Full Display at Super Bowl 50: A Bizarre War Spectacle Extraordinaire

      From the fighter jets soaring overhead to the armed troops patrolling Levi Stadium, Super Bowl 50 was a highly militarized event, its 70,000 spectators and millions of television viewers subject to a showcase of war propaganda and heavy security crackdown.

      To much fanfare, the Armed Forces Chorus, comprised of 50 men and women from the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force, kicked off the massive sports event by singing “America the Beautiful” from the field. CBS’ broadcast of the song cut away to footage of uniformed troops standing at attention, with text on the screen reading, “United States Forces Afghanistan.” The clip was a nod to a brutal war and occupation, now stretching into its 15th year, as top generals press for an even slower withdrawal.

      Following the national anthem, the U.S. Navy flew its signature Blue Angels Delta formation over the cheering stadium, located in Santa Clara, Calif. The Navy is open about the propaganda purposes of such flights, stating in a press release they are intended to demonstrate “pride” in the military. In a country that dropped 23,144 bombs on Muslim-majority countries in 2015 alone, the war planes are not just symbolic.

    • Israel frets about “Iran as Neighbor” if Aleppo falls & al-Assad Regime Wins

      An Arabic site that aggregates Facebook and other social media postings reports that Israeli officials are filled with anxiety and consternation about the possibility that the regime of Bashar al-Assad will conquer Aleppo with Russian and Iranian help, and will go on to reconstitute itself. It would be, in the view of Israeli hardliners, an Iranian puppet and would give Lebanon’s Hizbullah a free hand in the region. Yuval Steinitz, a cabinet member with a portfolio for strategic affairs, warned that the victories of the Syrian Arab Army in the Aleppo area constitute a long-term threat to Israel.

    • Erdogan Threatened Europe with Refugees, now Demanding US abandon Syrian Kurds

      Reuters reports that Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan allegedly bullied European leaders and threatened to drown Europe in refugees if his terms were not met. He wanted 6 Bn Euros to keep the 2.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey happy enough in that country to discourage them from moving to Europe.

    • Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton Fight for Feminist Crown

      One would be the first woman to get the Democratic presidential nomination and, if successful, go on to become the first female president of the United States. The other is an old, white man. Yet the question of who’s more of a feminist, Hillary Clinton or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, has provoked surprisingly impassioned debate and a volatile divide on the left.

      Since the Sanders campaign started, female fans have had to fend off accusations that their support is anti-feminist. Last week, women’s rights icon Gloria Steinem even suggested that young women only support Sanders to attract boys, and former secretary of state Madeleine Albright opined to Democratic voters that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” Meanwhile, Bill Clinton accused “Bernie Bros”—a term that seems to have become a derogatory catchall for Sanders supporters of any gender—of “vicious” and “profane” sexism. Since then, an array of feminists for Bernie have come out swinging, challenging the idea that XX-chromosomes a feminist candidate makes.

    • Dear Hillary, Madeleine and Gloria: Full Feminism Demands We Say No to America’s Deadly Imperial Wars

      Two powerful backers of Hillary Clinton attracted headlines—and outrage—this weekend when they uttered sweeping statements under the banner of “feminism,” calling on young women to back the former Secretary of State’s presidential bid.

      Madeleine Albright, the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of Sate, introduced Clinton in New Hampshire on Saturday by declaring, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”

    • GOP Candidates Compete Over Who Will Commit Most War Crimes Once Elected

      At a rally in New Hampshire on Monday night, Donald Trump was criticizing Ted Cruz for having insufficiently endorsed torture – Cruz had said two nights earlier that he would bring back waterboarding, but not “in any sort of widespread use” – when someone in the audience yelled out that Cruz was a “pussy”. Trump, in faux outrage, reprimanded the supporter, repeating the allegation for the assembled crowd: “She said he’s a pussy. That’s terrible. Terrible.”

    • The US Military Bombs in the Twenty-First Century

      Maybe Washington should bluntly declare not victory, but defeat, and bring the U.S. military home.

  • Transparency Reporting

    • Could a President Hillary Clinton Be Impeached Over Her Emails?

      If Hillary Clinton is elected president, could her slow-bleeding email scandal lead to her impeachment?

      The question has been percolating in right-wing circles since last October, when Republican Congressman Mo Brooks of Alabama broached the subject in an interview with conservative talk-radio host Matt Murphy. If Clinton makes it to the White House, Brooks declared in no uncertain terms, “the day she’s sworn in is the day that she’s subject to impeachment because she has committed high crimes and misdemeanors” arising from her use of a private email server to discuss matters of national security during her tenure as secretary of state.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife

    • Sanctuary Ocean Count

      Every year in January, February, and March, volunteers count whales from the shores of O‘ahu, Kaua‘i, and the Big Island for the annual Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count.

    • Iowa Will Soon Decide Whether To Allow An Oil Company To Seize Residents’ Land

      The thought of a massive pipeline moving crude oil some 60 inches underneath his farmland troubles Richard Lamb. It isn’t just the risk of an accident or the burden of clashing with the powerful oil industry. It’s the helplessness of facing Iowa’s eminent domain.

    • No, Poor Countries Aren’t The Only Ones That Will Suffer From Climate Change

      A well-meaning but ultimately flawed new study tries to argue that climate change is even more unfair than we thought. It has long been understood that climate change is uniquely inequitable and immoral since most of the world’s poorest countries will suffer greatly from its impacts, even though they have contributed little or nothing to the problem because they are historically low emitters of carbon pollution.

      A study released Friday by The University of Queensland and the Wildlife Conservation Society goes even further, however, arguing that the world’s big carbon polluters won’t suffer greatly from climate change.

  • Finance

    • David Cameron’s MUM joins the fight against Tory cuts in campaign to save children’s centres

      They say mother knows best – and in David Cameron’s case it certainly seems to be true.

      The Prime Minister’s mum Mary has signed a petition aimed at stopping Tory cuts.

      Jill Huish, who runs the campaign that Mary backed, said: “It shows how deep austerity is cutting our most vulnerable when even David Cameron ’s mum has had enough.”

    • Record Number of Investor-State Arbitrations Filed in 2015

      Geneva, 2 February 2016 – UNCTAD has updated its recently launched Investment Dispute Settlement Navigator. The ISDS Navigator is now up to date as of 1 January 2016.

      The update reveals that the number of investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS) cases filed in 2015 reached a record high of 70. Spain was by far the most frequent respondent in 2015, with 15 claims brought against it. The Russian Federation is second on this list with 7 cases.

    • PayPal blocks VPN, SmartDNS provider’s payments over copyright concerns

      PayPal has stopped accepting payments for Canadian outfit UnoTelly—a provider of VPN and SmartDNS services—because these might be used to facilitate copyright infringement.

      UnoTelly said in an update on its website that Paypal had “severed payment processing agreement unilaterally and without prior warning.” It added: “Paypal indicated that UnoTelly is not allowed to provide services that enable open and unrestricted Internet access.”

      Ars sought comment from PayPal on this story, however, it had not immediately got back to us at time of publication. We’ll update this story, if the online payments giant does get in touch.

      UnoTelly told its customers that it had no control over PayPal’s decision, and apologised for the inconvenience.

    • Privatization Is the Atlanticist Strategy to Attack Russia — Paul Craig Roberts and Michael Hudson

      Two years ago, Russian officials discussed plans to privatize a group of national enterprises headed by the oil producer Rosneft, the VTB Bank, Aeroflot, and Russian Railways. The stated objective was to streamline management of these companies, and also to induce oligarchs to begin bringing their two decades of capital flight back to invest in the Russia economy. Foreign participation was sought in cases where Western technology transfer and management techniques would be likely to help the economy.

      However, the Russian economic outlook deteriorated as the United States pushed Western governments to impose economic sanctions against Russia and oil prices declined. This has made the Russian economy less attractive to foreign investors. So sale of these companies will bring much lower prices today than would have been likely in 2014

    • Top German Judges Tear To Shreds EU’s Proposed TAFTA/TTIP Investment Court System

      As Techdirt has repeatedly pointed out, one of the most problematic aspects of the TAFTA/TTIP deal being negotiated between the US and the EU is the inclusion of a corporate sovereignty chapter — officially known as “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS). Techdirt isn’t the only one worried about it: no less a person than the EU’s Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, said last year that she “shares” the concerns here. Her response was to draw up the new “ICS” — “Investor Court System — as an alternative. US interest in ICS is conspicuous by its absence, but Malmström keeps plugging away at the idea, evidently hoping to defuse European opposition to TTIP by getting rid of old-style corporate sovereignty.

    • Australia’s Arrogant, Irresponsible Trade Minister Rejects Calls For Cost-Benefit Analysis Of TPP

      Mike has just written about the way the US public is being short-changed over the promised “debate” that would follow the completion of the TPP negotiations. That broken promise is just part of the general dishonesty surrounding the whole deal. For example, the public was told that it was not possible for it to make its views known during the negotiations, because they had to be secret — even though many other trade deals aren’t — but that once everything was agreed there would be ample time for a truly democratic debate. Of course, at that point nothing could be changed, so the debate was little more than a token gesture, but now it seems the US public won’t even get that.

    • Austerity Ireland: Europe open your eyes

      Some rights reserved.On a wet and windy winter evening in December 2015, a crowd of 1,000 people gathers around a doorstep in Dublin’s city centre, a stone’s throw from the Irish parliament. A representative of the Irish traveling community, a group of under 65,000 people that has long been fighting unsuccessfully for official recognition as an ethnic minority, enters the stage. The woman reluctantly explains that she is not a good public speaker. The crowd nonetheless breaks into cheer when she emphatically declares: “Europe has to see now what’s going on, they really do have to see what’s going on.”

      [...]

      Nominal income exceeds that of 2014 by €20billion and public debt is predicted to sink below the 100% GDP mark. The American Chambers of Commerce announced in December 2015 that US multinationals are expected to create an additional 14,000 jobs in Ireland over the next two years. Those relying on government statistics and mainstream media reports might ask “What’s not to like?”

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

    • Ordinary Americans Fought Big Money and Won in 2015

      Americans believe in democracy—and they’re ready to reclaim it from the wealthy special interests that have grown ever-more dominant since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision.

      The overwhelming majority of Americans agree that money has too much influence over elections, and that the system for financing political campaigns needs a radical overhaul.

      Over 90 percent of Iowa caucus voters—in both parties—recently told pollsters they are unsatisfied or “mad as hell” about the role of money in politics.

    • Top Hillary Clinton Advisers and Fundraisers Lobbied Against Obamacare

      Hillary Clinton is campaigning as a guardian of President Barack Obama’s progressive policy accomplishments. In recent weeks, she has called the Affordable Care Act “one of the greatest accomplishments of President Obama, of the Democratic Party, and of our country,” and promised that she is “going to defend Dodd-Frank” and “defend President Obama for taking on Wall Street.”

      Meanwhile, however, Clinton’s campaign has been relying on a team of strategists and fundraisers, many of whom spent much of the last seven years as consultants or lobbyists for business interests working to obstruct Obama’s agenda in those two areas.

    • Why Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein Called Bernie Sanders “Dangerous”

      Lloyd Blankfein, longtime CEO of Goldman Sachs, didn’t like what Bernie Sanders said about him in early January, and he fired back on CNBC’s “Squawkbox” last week, saying Sanders’ critique “has the potential to be a dangerous moment.”

      But there’s more to that story than it appears. It’s not simply that Sanders uses Blankfein as a symbol of the “greed of Wall Street” — it’s that Sanders does so while highlighting the evocative contrast between the 2008 bailout of Wall Street and Blankfein’s public advocacy for cuts to entitlements.

    • Taxpayers Give Big Pensions to Ex-Presidents, Precisely So They Don’t Have to Sell Out

      “We came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt,” Hillary Clinton complained in an interview in 2014, justifying her spree of paid speeches on Wall Street and elsewhere.

      Those speeches have now turned into a major political controversy, with the campaign refusing to agree to release the transcripts of what was said.

      Despite Clinton’s protestations, however, the reality is that this country does not allow its former presidents to live “dead broke.” Running the country has great retirement benefits. Ex-presidents are given pensions of nearly $200,000 annually as well as funding for office space and custodial staff.

    • NRA’s Ted Nugent: Jewish Supporters Of Gun Safety Laws Are “Nazis In Disguise”
    • Key Members of Hillary Clinton Team Lobbied Against Bills She Now Touts as National Accomplishments

      As she campaigns for the presidency, Hillary Clinton is heralding the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank Act, yet she has infused her staff with former lobbyists and consultants who did all they could to block the two reforms.

    • Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade

      In the ‘80s and ‘90s, she served on the board of Wal-Mart — a company notorious for its horrendous treatment of workers and union-crushing efforts — and, while the corporation waged a war against its labor force, Clinton said nothing, did nothing, and fought nothing.

      In 1990, she made the statement: “I’m always proud of Wal-Mart and what we do, and the way that we do it better than anybody else.”

      This is a company that has used foreign labor (including child workers), stolen its worker’s wages by forcing them to work while off-the-clock, and discriminated against elderly and disabled employees.

    • The Failed Record of the Establishment: Why Talk Is Cheap in 2016

      Clinton, meanwhile, has zigzagged sharply to the Left to try to tap into the energy of Sanders.

    • I’m a Woman and I Will Vote for the Best Feminist for President: Bernie Sanders

      I won’t vote against Hillary Clinton because she’s female, but I don’t intend to vote for her because I am. We need more fundamental changes in this country

  • Censorship

    • Protesting does not equate to censorship

      Campus is rife with controversy over an event hosted by the Young Americans for Liberty set for Jan. 9. The event titled, “How the Progressive Left is Destroying American Education,” will feature the very loud personality Milo Yiannopoulus. For those who are not familiar with Yiannopolous, otherwise known and self-labeled as “The Most Fabulous Supervillain on the Internet,” he allegedly stands to reclaim free speech from social justice activists. Yiannopolous has garnered strong opposition as his planned tours across campuses stand to continue. Opposition stems from Yiannopolous’s incendiary, often sexist, racist and homophobic comments and tweets. One such example is Yiannopolous’s tweet stating, “Feminists want to do away with gender pronouns in that they’re all so disgustingly fat no one can tell what sex they are anyway.” Posters around campus advertising the event write, “Feminism is cancer” and “Prepare to get triggered.” Despite the frustration and anger over Yiannopolous, I think we must all remember that his comments, and the ideology that it stands for, is simply not worth engaging with.

    • Historical censorship can’t change the past

      Censorship is a dirty word in a country where the liberty to say and print what we want is the very lifeblood of not just our government and legal system, but our lives.

      On Jan. 14, the Houston Independent School District board voted to rename four schools bearing the names of known Confederate figures. One of those schools bore a name familiar to University of Georgia students: Henry W. Grady — the very man after whom our college of journalism is named.

    • The campus court of Versailles

      Debates on abortion are cancelled because having two people without uteruses discuss the issue is apparently harmful to students’ ‘mental safety’. Trashy pop songs like ‘Blurred Lines’ have been banned for similar reasons. And, more recently, there was an attempt to bar Germaine Greer from speaking at Cardiff University. Groupthink and censorship are the order of the day.

    • Campus censorship is a dangerous trend that has to stop

      Censorship is having a devastating impact upon freedom of speech on university campuses and is a threat to the freedoms and liberty of us all.

    • How censorship works in Vladimir Putin’s Russia

      Russia can be a murderously difficult place to do independent journalism; the killing of reporter and activist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006 ought to have made that manifestly clear. But journalism isn’t the only kind of speech that’s under threat in Russia. A new report from PEN America makes it clear how a confluence of laws ostensibly aimed at combating terrorism and religious hatred and protecting children have created an environment in which it’s increasingly hard to publish fiction, broadcast independent television or put on theatrical and musical productions that don’t toe an ever-shifting party line.

  • Privacy

  • Civil Rights

    • Proposed Utah law would make doxing a six-month jail crime

      A bill proposed in the Utah State House of Representatives on Monday would update and amend passages in the state’s criminal code regarding “offenses committed by means of electronic or computer functions.” However, in attempting to address the issue of “doxing”—meaning, publishing personally identifying information on the Internet as a way to harass or attack someone—the bill’s language may consequently target free online speech.

      Utah HB 255, titled “Cybercrime Amendments,” counts State Representative David E. Lifferth as its lead sponsor, and it includes amendments that would penalize denial-of-service attacks and false emergency reports at specific locations (i.e. swatting). Utah state criminal code already punishes certain kinds of electronic communications “with intent to annoy, alarm, intimidate, offend, abuse, threaten, harass, frighten, or disrupt the electronic communications of another,” and HB 255 would append that specific passage to count the act of “distributing personal identifying information” as actionable, should that be done with any of the aforementioned intent.

    • Dangerous Speech: Would the Founders Be Considered Domestic Extremists Today?

      Not only has free speech become a four-letter word—profane, obscene, uncouth, not to be uttered in so-called public places—but in more and more cases, the government deems free speech to be downright dangerous and in some instances illegal.

      The U.S. government has become particularly intolerant of speech that challenges the government’s power, reveals the government’s corruption, exposes the government’s lies, and encourages the citizenry to push back against the government’s many injustices.

      Indeed, there is a long and growing list of the kinds of speech that the government considers dangerous enough to red flag and subject to censorship, surveillance, investigation and prosecution: hate speech, bullying speech, intolerant speech, conspiratorial speech, treasonous speech, threatening speech, incendiary speech, inflammatory speech, radical speech, anti-government speech, right-wing speech, extremist speech, etc.

    • Law and policy round-up: three points about Cameron’s prisons speech

      First, prisons are expensive even if “law and order” rhetoric is cheap. Wise politicians realise this and know that the current approach to prisons policy is financially unsustainable, regardless of what lines voters and tabloids clap along with. The current policy also makes no real sense from a crime prevention perspective and is best seen as one devised by a mischievous demon.

    • The Power of Pictures

      This is the power of imagery. It often captures what words can’t. It angers, it frustrates, it provokes. And it is the reason that the American Civil Liberties Union has been fighting in court for more than 10 years for the release of photographs documenting the maltreatment of prisoners in U.S. military custody in the so-called “war on terror.”

    • Documents Show Chicago Cops Routinely Disabling Recording Equipment

      When the dashcam footage of the shooting of Laquan McDonald was finally released by the city of Chicago, it was notably missing the audio. In fact, no surviving footage of the shooting contains any audio. It’s 2016 and the Chicago PD is still producing silent films.

    • What role were you born to play in social change?

      In California, Moyer went to graduate school to study social movement theory and indulge his love of analytical thinking. He became best known for identifying eight stages of successful social movements, which he named the Movement Action Plan, or MAP. I found activists using MAP as far away as Taiwan, where they had already read it in translation before I got there.

    • Officials Outraged After ‘Shocking’ Report on NYPD Kicking People Out of Homes

      A wide swath of public officials are calling for change in response to a Daily News and ProPublica investigation about the NYPD’s use of an obscure type of lawsuit to boot hundreds of people from homes. The cases are happening almost exclusively in minority neighborhoods.

      Several city council members said they were considering amendments and other reforms to safeguard abuses.

      Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson said the statistics included in the story are “shocking.”

    • There are 72 DHS Employees on Terrorist Watch List

      Either the terror watch list is complete bull, or the Department of Homeland Security has a big problem. Come to think about it, maybe you can read it both ways.

    • France: Abuses Under State of Emergency

      France has carried out abusive and discriminatory raids and house arrests against Muslims under its sweeping new state of emergency law. The measures have created economic hardship, stigmatized those targeted, and have traumatized children.

      In January 2016, Human Rights Watch interviewed 18 people who said they had been subjected to abusive searches or placed under house arrest, as well as human rights activists and lawyers working in affected areas. Those targeted said the police burst into homes, restaurants, or mosques; broke people’s belongings; terrified children; and placed restrictions on people’s movements so severe that they lost income or suffered physically.

    • Part 2: Seth Freed Wessler on Uncovering the Deaths of Dozens at Privatized Immigrant-Only Jails

      A shocking new investigation about private prisons has revealed dozens of men have died in disturbing circumstances inside these facilities in recent years. We continue our conversation with journalist Seth Freed Wessler, who spent more than two years fighting in and out of court to obtain more than 9,000 pages of medical records that private prison contractors had submitted to the Bureau of Prisons.

    • Donald Trump called Ted Cruz a “pussy” — and the media won’t repeat it

      Trump was criticizing the Texas senator’s unwillingness to support widespread uses of torture when a woman in the audience called Cruz, Trump’s chief rival for more conservative voters, a “pussy.”

      Then, amazingly, Donald Trump repeated it so the entire crowd could hear.

      “She said — I never expect to hear that from you again!,” he told the crowd, in mock disapproval. “She said: ‘He’s a pussy.’ That’s terrible.”

  • Internet/Net Neutrality

    • Adopt open source for connectivity: TRAI

      In a visit to India in December 2015, Google CEO Sundar Pichai had said the company had ‘tonnes of data’ from its tests in Sri Lanka and Indonesia to demonstrate that Project Loon created no such interference and would be sharing it with the government.

    • Adopt open source technology for unbiased internet connectivity: Regulator tells telcos
    • Net Neutrality Again Puts F.C.C. General Counsel at Center Stage

      Every day for one month last fall, Jonathan Sallet, the general counsel at the Federal Communications Commission, sneaked into a small, windowless office at the agency, its location undisclosed except to senior staff.

      From 6 a.m. until early evening, with Bach streaming in the background, he worked mostly alone, marking up stacks of law books and standing in front of a lectern. His job: Defend in court the F.C.C.’s most contentious policy — rules to classify broadband Internet providers as utilities, widely called net neutrality.

      “I did nothing for one month but prepare,” Mr. Sallet said in an interview. “I talked a lot to the wall.”

      His arguments, though — like nearly all of his actions for the agency — have had far-reaching reverberations.

    • The Tragedy of Ethiopia’s Internet

      Nafkot Nega thinks journalists are terrorists. When I visited him and his mother, Serkalem Fassil, at their tiny apartment in the outskirts of Washington, DC, in early January, 9-year-old Nafkot intermittently murmured and jabbed his hands, pretending to be a superhero fighting criminals.

      Perhaps some of those criminals were journalists like his father, Eskinder Nega, who was convicted of violating Ethiopia’s anti-terror law in July 2012. Eskinder is currently serving an 18-year prison sentence.

      “Journalism is a crime or a terrorist act in his mind because what has been portrayed about [his dad],” Serkalem explained to me through a translator. “Not only his dad, but if you mention any journalist he will scream and say ‘I don’t like journalists!’”

    • Facebook’s free Internet app banned by India’s new net neutrality rule

      Facebook’s attempt to provide free access to a selection of websites in developing countries was dealt a blow today when India’s telecom regulator banned arrangements that charge different amounts for access to different parts of the Internet. The move effectively prevents “zero-rating” schemes in which certain Web services count against data caps while others do not.

    • India deals blow to Facebook in people-powered ‘net neutrality’ row
    • India Shuts Down Zuckerberg’s ‘Free Basics’
    • Zuckerberg Says Banning Free Basics Won’t Keep Internet.org Away From India
    • TRAI rules in favour of Net neutrality
    • India Blocks Facebook’s Free Basics, Other Zero-Rated Mobile Services Over Net Neutrality
    • Take your digital media abroad

      At the moment, if you travel abroad you often can’t access digital media that you’ve paid for at home. The European Commission is proposing draft legislation that would let people who have paid for digital media in their country of residence watch that media while they’re temporarily in another EU country.

    • Does Cyberspace Exist? Is It Free? Reflections, 20 years Later, on A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace

      Twenty years ago tonight, I was at a staff party for the closing of the World Economic Forum, lured there by a coven of the contemporary geishas that staffed the Forum in those days, composed largely of doctoral students in Foreign Affairs at the University of Geneva. But I had also agreed to write something about that moment for a book called 24 Hours in Cyberspace. This was a slightly silly proposition, given that it was largely a book of photographs, and a photograph has yet to be taken of anything in Cyberspace.

    • Comcast Using Minority Astroturf Groups To Argue Cable Set Top Box Competition Hurts Diversity

      For years one of the greasier lobbying and PR tactics by the telecom industry has been the use of minority groups to parrot awful policy positions. Historically, such groups are happy to take financing from a company like Comcast, in exchange repeating whatever memos are thrust in their general direction, even if the policy being supported may dramatically hurt their constituents. The tactic of co-opting these groups helps build the illusion of broad support for awful policy, and was well documented during AT&T’s attempted takeover of T-Mobile, and Comcast’s attempted takeover of Time Warner Cable.

    • T-Mobile urges FCC to “tread lightly” on video throttling and zero-rating

      A T-Mobile USA executive yesterday urged the Federal Communications Commission not to take any action against the carrier’s “Binge On” program, which throttles nearly all video content and exempts certain video services from data caps.

    • States Wake Up, Realize AT&T Lobbyists Have Been Writing Awful Protectionist State Broadband Laws

      For more than fifteen years now companies like Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner Cable and CenturyLink have quite literally paid state legislatures to write protectionist broadband laws. These laws, passed in around 20 states, protect the incumbent duopoly from the faintest specter of broadband competition — by preventing towns and cities from either building their own broadband networks, or from striking public/private partnerships to improve lagging broadband networks. They’re the worst sort of protectionism, written by ISPs and pushed by ALEC and ISP lobbyists to do one thing: protect industry revenues.

      Despite the fact the laws strip away citizen rights to decide local infrastructure matters for themselves (because really, who better to decide your town’s needs than AT&T or Comcast executives), ISPs for more than a decade managed to forge division by framing this as a partisan issue. But then something changed: companies like Google Fiber and Tucows began highlighting how public/private partnerships are actually a great way to fill in the broadband gaps left by an apathetic, uncompetitive broadband duopoly.

    • The Battle for the Web: Five Years After Egypt’s #Jan25 Uprising

      Behind the Western-supported government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s lies a troubling trend threatening free speech in Egypt. CPJ’s latest figures list Egypt as the second highest jailer of journalists, second only to China. Eighty-two percent of all journalists in prison in Egypt used the Internet as a medium, according to the organization’s 2015 prison census. A recent report [PDF] from the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression found 366 violations of freedom of the press in the latter six months of 2015, 36 of which related to “news networks or websites.”

  • DRM

    • Dismantling The Repair Monopoly Created By The DMCA’s Anti-Circumvention Rules

      One of the biggest victories of the copyright maximalists was the successful adoption of the 1996 WIPO Copyright Treaty, implemented by the DMCA in the US, and the Copyright Directive in the EU. Its key innovation was to criminalize the circumvention of copyright protection mechanisms. That strengthens copyright enormously by introducing yet another level of legal lockdown, and thus yet another powerful weapon for copyright holders to wield against their customers. But as Techdirt has reported, the anti-circumvention laws are now being used to prevent people from exploring or modifying physical objects that they own.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Trademarks

      • Performer Lady Gaga (And Mom) Defend Internet Domain

        A cease-and-desist letter was sent on 1 December, to which the respondent replied that the website was for sale, that two offers had already been received (for $7000 and $4000) but that she would prefer to sell it to the Lady Gaga foundation itself.

    • Copyrights

      • ‘Historic result’: Happy Birthday public domain deal agreed

        Music publisher Warner/Chappell has agreed that “Happy Birthday to You” can enter the public domain and will pay out $14 million in damages, in what has been described as a “historical result” by the film makers that brought the case.

        Good Morning to You Productions submitted its settlement deal to the US District Court for the Central District of California on Monday, February 8. The deal will need to be signed off by Judge George King in a hearing scheduled for March 14.

        The case stemmed from a class action lawsuit filed against Warner/Chappell in 2013 that said it was not the owner of the copyright to the lyrics in the popular song and had unfairly collected royalties.

      • Warner To Pay $14 Million In ‘Happy Birthday’ Settlement; Plaintiffs Ask For Declaration That Song Is In Public Domain

        This is indeed a large payoff, one that indicates Warner/Chappell is not willing to test the merits of its case in front of a jury. The merits of the case, of course, are pretty much some random assertions with little documentation to back them up, but assertions that have, nonetheless, allowed Warner to obtain an estimated $50 million in licensing fees over the years. The $14 million Warner will pay is roughly in line with what it expected to make during the remaining years of the copyright term.

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