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Links 12/2/2016: Russian’s Government With GNU/Linux, India’s Wants FOSS

Posted in News Roundup at 6:39 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • Facebook-squishing Indian regulator’s next move: Open source code

    Fresh from squashing Facebook’s effort to grab the enormous India market, the sub-continent’s regulator has another goal in mind: open source software.

    Speaking at the India Digital Summit this week, chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Ram Sewak Sharma, told attendees: “No service can be hostage to a particular technology.”

    He then went on to explicitly support the broader adoption of open source software, arguing that it would help the booming digital economy in India from being locked into buying from a specific company and enable a broader and more equitable internet for all.

    “Any technology that is deployed for connectivity must be interoperable and the open standards framework and the principles it entails are extremely important,” he argued.

  • India Asks Tech Companies To Use Open Source Technologies For Connectivity

    A day after taking a tough stand on Facebook’s Free Basics and banning it from India, TRAI (Telecom Regulator Authority of India) has also given a cue to the tech giants like Facebook and Google over the use of open source software. TRAI has hinted to these companies that their connectivity framework would only be accepted in India if they followed an open source approach.


    Ram Sewak Sharma, who is the current chairman of TRAI, has clearly put a stress on using open source technology over a company specific product in making the internet reach to the remote areas. In a recent summit hosted by the Internet and Mobile Association of India, he said,
    “I don’t like to comment on a specific product. But India has adopted an open source policy and open API [application program interface] policy. The whole objective is that there should not be a situation of a vendor lock-in.”

  • Events

    • Vote for Presentations – OpenStack Summit Austin 2016

      The first OpenStack Summit this year will take place in Austin (TX, US) from April 25-29, 2016. The “Call for Speakers” period ended some days ago and now the community voting for presentation started and will end 17th February, 11:59 PST (18th February 7:59 UTC / 08:59 CEST).

  • SaaS/Big Data

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

  • CMS

    • 6 reasons to blog in Markdown with Jekyll

      GitHub pages is a free offering that can host your Jekyll blog for free. It also takes care of generating static HTML files from your Markdown text files, so there’s no need to install anything on your computer. You can also use Jekyll with your own domain name (if you have one).

    • Bluehost Develops Open Source Script To Update Two Million WordPress Sites

      The cloud-based solutions provider’s custom script reduced WordPress-related technical issues by 18 percent.

    • What’s New in February ’16 in Open Source CMS

      By any measure, WordPress is the most popular content management system on the planet. But that distinction also makes it especially popular with hackers and attackers.

      Early this month Menifee, Calif.-based security company Sucuri reported a spike in WordPress infections, with a large number of sites getting injected with the same malicious scripts. Sucuri called it “a massive admedia/adverting iframe infection” characterized by the injection of encrypted code at the end of all legitimate .js files.

  • Education

    • UNICEF Seeks World-Changing Open Source Technologies

      United Nations to fund startups to develop open source tech to improve the lives of vulnerable children and civilians

    • UCLA just open-sourced a powerful new image-detection algorithm

      Image recognition has become increasingly critical in applications ranging from smartphones to driverless cars, and on Wednesday UCLA opened up to the public a new algorithm that promises big gains.

      The Phase Stretch Transform algorithm is a physics-inspired computational approach to processing images and information that can help computers “see” features of objects that aren’t visible using standard imaging techniques. It could be used to detect an LED lamp’s internal structure, for example — something that would be obscured to conventional techniques by the brightness of its light. It can also distinguish distant stars that would normally be invisible in astronomical images, UCLA said.

  • BSD

    • Lumina Desktop Getting Ready for FreeBSD 11.0

      Ken Moore, the lead developer for the BSD-based Lumina Desktop Environment, announced that another step towards the release of a full-fledged desktop environment for BSD variants (and Linux distros, for that matter) has been achieved with the release of version 0.8.8 yesterday.

      For those of you keeping score at home, the Lumina Desktop Environment — let’s just call it Lumina for short — is a lightweight, XDG-compliant, BSD-licensed desktop environment focusing on getting work done while minimizing system overhead. Specifically designed for PC-BSD and FreeBSD, it has also been ported to many other BSD variants and Linux distros. Lumina is based on the Qt graphical toolkit and the Fluxbox window manager, and uses a small number of X utilities for various tasks.


    • Liberty Eiffel wrapper for IUP toolkit

      Since a couple of months ago I’m working in a Liberty Eiffel wrapper to the IUP toolkit. IUP is a multi-platform toolkit for building graphical user interfaces. This is still under development, but I think the current state is enough to start playing with it. Here some screen shots:

  • Openness/Sharing

    • Open Access/Content

  • Programming


  • Science

    • It’s Official: Einstein’s Most Incredible Prediction Proved Right, Gravitational Waves Discovered

      Gravitational waves are ripples created in the curvature of spacetime. These waves propagate in the space travelling outward from the source. The theory of gravitational waves was predicted first by Albert Einstein in 1916 which was a part of of his theory of general relativity. Theoretically, gravitational waves transport energy as gravitational radiations.

    • Space debris: How dangerous is it to people on Earth?

      Over the past few months, people have captured footage of space debris burning up in our atmosphere. While certainly startling, the truth is, there’s been a lot of junk up there for a long time and so far no one has been hurt here on Earth.

      Since the first satellite went into orbit — the Soviet Union’s Sputnik, launched on Oct. 4, 1957 — we have steadily increased the amount of objects encircling our small planet.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Timeline: Flint’s Water Crisis

      This is a work in progress. Not all dates and events between the end of 2015 and current date have been added as of publication. This timeline will be updated periodically, as events unfold and as key information is revealed about Flint’s ongoing water crisis. Some information is incomplete or in need of validation. Links to sources will be added over time. If you have content you believe is relevant and should be added, please share in comments.

    • ‘Cases Are Sometimes Stuck in Limbo for a Very Long Time’
    • How National Media Failed Flint

      The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, in which thousands of residents have been exposed to everything from cancer-causing chemicals to lead in their drinking water, dates back nearly two years. But the unfolding story had received scant coverage from the national media until a month ago, when Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) declared a state of emergency for Flint.

      Why did it take so long for major national outlets to focus closely on the story, even as local outlets had been doggedly covering it for well over a year?

      In interviews with Media Matters, media observers and the journalists who have been covering the story in Michigan cite a wide range of factors, including continued newsroom cutbacks, the complexities of a story that combines government mismanagement with detailed science, and competition from the presidential primary campaign, breaking news events, and click-bait like celebrity gossip.

    • Lead: America’s Real Criminal Element

      When Rudy Giuliani ran for mayor of New York City in 1993, he campaigned on a platform of bringing down crime and making the city safe again. It was a comfortable position for a former federal prosecutor with a tough-guy image, but it was more than mere posturing. Since 1960, rape rates had nearly quadrupled, murder had quintupled, and robbery had grown fourteenfold. New Yorkers felt like they lived in a city under siege.

      Throughout the campaign, Giuliani embraced a theory of crime fighting called “broken windows,” popularized a decade earlier by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in an influential article in The Atlantic. “If a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired,” they observed, “all the rest of the windows will soon be broken.” So too, tolerance of small crimes would create a vicious cycle ending with entire neighborhoods turning into war zones. But if you cracked down on small crimes, bigger crimes would drop as well.

    • ‘This “Independent” Academic Is Promoting Public Policy Issues for a Private Corporation’

      Janine Jackson interviewed Carey Gillam on the conflicts of interest of food science experts for the February 5, 2016, CounterSpin.

  • Security

    • Security advisories for Thursday
    • These Vigilante Hackers Aim To Hack 200,000 Routers To Make Them More Secure

      Remember the white hat hackers — The White Team — responsible for creating the Linux.Wifatch malware last October? The same hackers are now planning to take over Lizard Squad’s botnet of infected IoT devices in an attempt to shut down their operations.

    • Skimmers Hijack ATM Network Cables

      If you have ever walked up to an ATM to withdraw cash only to decide against it after noticing a telephone or ethernet cord snaking from behind the machine to a jack in the wall, your paranoia may not have been misplaced: ATM maker NCR is warning about skimming attacks that involve keypad overlays, hidden cameras and skimming devices plugged into the ATM network cables to intercept customer card data.

  • Defence/Police/Secrecy/Aggression

    • Airport workers seen with laptop used in Somalia in-flight jet blast

      Somali intelligence officials say two airport workers handled a laptop containing a bomb that later exploded in a passenger plane.

      In a video made public on Sunday by officials, one airport worker takes the laptop and hands it to another employee.

      The employees then hand it over to a man who was killed when the laptop explosion blew a hole in the plane’s fuselage, said Abdisalam Aato, a spokesman for the Somali Prime Minister.


      Investigators believe the attack was orchestrated by Al-Shabaab, although they are not certain Borleh was a direct member of the group, according to the source. No group immediately claimed responsibility.

    • Techdirt Crowdsourcing: How Will The TSA Idiotically Respond To The Laptop Terror Bomb?

      The terrorism arms race marches on, apparently. You may have heard of the recent attack on a passenger plane taking off from Somalia. By all accounts, the attacker managed to get onto the plane with a laptop that contained a bomb, which he detonated during takeoff. The result? The bomber was sucked out of the hole he created in the plane and died, while a couple of other passengers were mildly wounded. The universe, it seems, is not without either a sense of justice or humor.

      Still, you absolutely know that this will create a typical shitstorm at the TSA. Security theater stops for nobody, after all, and this latest attempt is sure to put a focus on any computer devices passengers are bringing with them on flights. Laptops and tablets are already screened by the TSA, of course, but somehow this guy got on the plane with his bomb-filled notebook. Even though it happened outside the US (so not directly a TSA failing), it’s not difficult to expect that things are predictably and stupidly going to get more strict on the rest of us.

    • These Quakers Are Asking Tougher Questions Than Many in the Press

      For all the talk about this election revolving around national security and government spending, the AFSC group is the only one dedicated to asking candidates about President Barack Obama’s planned $1 trillion nuclear arms program, bloated military programs such as the Pentagon’s F-35, and how to diminish the influence of lobbying by military contractors. Activists trained with the group have also asked about fracking, ethanol subsidies, and other issues they say are clouded by the pervasive role of money in politics.

    • U.S. Allies Have No Interest in Anti-ISIS Coalition

      Over the course of a decade and a half of coalition warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. officials have frequently found themselves pleading and cajoling with the Europeans to contribute more, and they generally have responded with pledges to do just a little bit more. The pattern may be repeated in Brussels.

    • Israeli extremist detained for death threats against Palestinian MK

      Israeli police on Thursday detained a far-right Israeli extremist who reportedly threatened the life of Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset Ayman Odeh.

      The MK, member of the Joint List party, told Ma’an that the extremist was detained by Israeli police who carried out investigations into comments left by the Israeli on social media.

    • The researched-based responses to troublemaking MKs

      News from the Knesset in the last week raises myriad questions about democracy, and Israel Democracy Institute president Yohanan Plesner tries to provide answers.

    • Condemnation, not censorship

      Israel is not a merchant of corpses. Perhaps in the past Israel has traded the bodies of terrorists (or, worse, live enemy combatants) in exchange for the bodies of Israelis, but this policy was dangerous and wrong. The point of armed conflict is to take as take those who would hurt us out of the game. The dead, ours and theirs, are out of the game. Humanity obligates giving them to their families for a proper burial. This is true of the enemy’s dead and of our dead.

    • Syria civil war: Prospect of Saudi incursion raises fears of a conflict without end

      The first fateful steps have been taken for Saudi-led troops to enter Syria’s civil war, a move that has raised fears of powers across the region being drawn into a bloody conflict without end.

      Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Defence Minister and heir apparent to the throne, presented his country’s military plans to a summit organised by a US-led coalition on Syria at Nato headquarters in Brussels. Ashton Carter, the US Defence Secretary, reported afterwards that a “wide variety of things” had been discussed with the Saudis on the use of ground forces.

    • Anguish as North Korea Marches Into 1955

      We need Trident, they say, to deter rogue nuclear states like North Korea.

      Extraordinary, isn’t it.


      Now they throw in Russia. In all the reams of analysis of Putin’s Russia, nobody has ever been crazy enough to argue that nuclear attack on the UK (or even conventional invasion of the UK) is something Putin would wish to do. Because to claim that would look absolutely stupid. Plainly the desire of Russia to attack with nuclear weapons is at absolute zero. Anybody writing otherwise would rightly be written off as crazed.

    • Hillary Clinton IS The Guardian

      Hillary Clinton is American, owned by financial interests to whom she is completely in thrall, a rabid neo-conservative warmonger, completely uncritical of Israel and focused for any claim to be progressive entirely on identity politics. Which is also a precise description of today’s Guardian newspaper. The once august and intellectual title is now a shrill cheerleader for far right Blairites and wealthy American feminists.

  • Transparency Reporting

    • Branded a rapist for daring to be an NHS whistleblower: How brave surgeon sacked for exposing needless deaths was smeared as sex attacker by bosses

      A surgeon has revealed he was smeared by NHS bosses and left with his career in ruins after he spoke publicly about dangerous overcrowding at a hospital.

      Doctor Raj Mattu, who has been left with a £1.4million legal bill following the dispute, has warned against whistleblowing as he revealed the shocking practices he reported at Walsgrave hospital in Coventry still haven’t been investigated.

      In this interview, the 56-year-old describes the ‘terrible’ and ‘humiliating’ experience of being labelled a sexual pervert by bosses desperate to quash his claims as he reveals his life will never be the same.

    • California Department of Justice Agrees to Stop Skirting Open Meeting Rules

      The California Department of Justice (CADOJ) is ending its practice of holding meetings in ways that impede the public’s ability to meaningfully participate in oversight of the state’s sprawling network of police databases. The new reforms, announced in response to EFF advocacy, will allow greater opportunity for Californians to review and comment on policy changes that impact their privacy and civil liberties.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife

    • Satellites and Tide Stations, Working Together

      This is an illustration of the Jason-3, launched into orbit in January 2016. Measuring sea surface heights is a primary mission of the new satellite. The accuracy of these space-based sea surface measurements are validated by comparing them with real-time observations of water levels made by tide stations in the ocean.

  • Finance

    • Elizabeth Warren Catches Investment Advisors Fibbing

      Glass’s company and other are pouring millions of lobbying dollars into opposing the rule. President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers estimates that “conflicted” advice costs individual investors $17 billion a year in retirement savings.

    • TTIP: A locked room, no internet access, two hours, 300 pages and lots of typos

      A German MP has given an insight into the surreal restrictions imposed around the upcoming US-EU trade deal, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

      Katja Kipping has written a personal account of her visit to a special reading room at the German Ministry of Economics that was set up after Parliamentarians fought and won the right to see the text being negotiated on their behalf by bureaucrats.

      In it, she describes the extraordinary lengths that the German government has gone to in order to prevent any useful information on the trade deal being made public.

    • It Takes a Greek to Save Europa

      This past Tuesday, at the Volksbühne Theater in Berlin, Varoufakis launched a new project: the DiEM25 (Democracy in Europe Movement 2025), whose aim is to ultimately transfer power from Europa’s unaccountable, fiercely authoritarian elite and distribute it – fairly – among European citizens.

    • Are Americans Too Insouciant To Survive? — Paul Craig Roberts

      Whether you agree with Thomas Frank’s answer or not, Americans do, on a regular basis, harm themselves by voting for people who are agents of vested interests diametrically opposed to the interests of American citizens.

      How is it possible, if Democrats are informed people, that half of them prefer Hillary Clinton? Between February 2001 and May 2015 Bill and Hillary collected $153 million in speaking fees. The fees averaged $210,795 per speech.

    • Uber-Unionist Deutsche Bank Tanks

      Deutsche Bank was the central pivot of the LIBOR fixing scandal. In the great banking crash it wrote off 92 billion dollars of junk assets that Folkerts-Landau had failed to notice was a liability. Today its share price has fallen even below the 2008 levels it reached after that write-off, and the German Finance Minister has just announced his full confidence in the bank and that there is nothing to worry about. Deutsche Bank shares have fallen 40% in a month.

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

    • Missing the Days When Candidates Pretended We Had No Big Problems

      If that’s your idea of the kind of problems you face, then resigning yourself to the “limits of the situation” makes sense. If, on the other hand, you’re in the large majority that’s gotten the short end of the stick on income inequality, if you have one of the working-class jobs that’s been subject to being shipped overseas, if your health insurance is unaffordable or nonexistent, if you’re part of a community that’s subject to being shot by police or driven to an early grave by despair—then maybe a little “epic social disruption” doesn’t sound so unappealing.

    • Sanders a Bourgeois Deviationist, Washington Post Declares

      Of course, that was last month, before Sanders nearly tied Hillary Clinton in Iowa and beat her by 22 percentage points in New Hampshire—which clearly has Milbank worried that maybe Democrats are insane enough to nominate a socialist, after all. So now Sanders’ problem isn’t that he’s too radical; it’s that he’s not radical enough.

    • An open letter to older women voting for Hillary, from a younger woman voting for Bernie

      Everything you’re telling us now goes against everything you’ve taught us before, everything you seemed to stand for when you were young. Asking women to vote for Hillary based on her gender rather than policy is sexist. Telling women they’ll to go to hell if they don’t vote for Hillary is evil. Telling women that they are only voting for Bernie to impress guys tells us you no longer respect women.

      We know the fight is uphill, but understand that this rhetoric makes you part of that uphill battle we are now fighting, part of the uphill battle that you fought, too. We understand the allure of a woman president after everything you’ve been through in your lifetime. But understand that based on the principles you’ve taught us, we know having a female presidency is less important than gaining true gender equality. Understand that we’re not willing to give up the values you’ve instilled in us for a trophy, even at your request.

    • Pro-Trump Alex Jones Threatens Violence Against Supporters Of “Inhuman, Parasitical Maggot,” “Hitler” Bernie Sanders

      Conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones, who is being courted by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, is smearing Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) as “a dangerous, evil,” man comparable to Hitler and Lenin, and falsely claiming he wants to put people in “forced relocation” camps. Jones has also launched unhinged attacks against “stupid” and “self-propelled trash” Sanders supporters, suggesting they need to have their “jaws broken” and their “moron heads” slapped.

    • IRS Gives Up, Grants Karl Rove’s Dark Money Group “Social Welfare” Certification

      In the face of the Republican-led Congress’ hostility to the IRS clarifying the rules for nonprofit political activity, the tax agency has apparently given up.

      The IRS has granted nonprofit status to Karl Rove’s dark money political operation, Crossroads GPS, which for the past five years has pushed the legal envelope in order to influence elections but keep its donors secret.

      Formed in the wake of Citizens United, Crossroads GPS has been one of the biggest secretly-funded political players, raising and spending $330 million on election-related ads attacking Democratic candidates or praising Republicans, but without doing anything that might be described as advancing “social welfare.” Although the majority opinion in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision endorsed disclosure of donors, in the five years following the decision, spending by secretly-funded 501(c)(4) nonprofits has exploded.

    • Biased Pluralism and the Defense of “Reality” in the Democratic Primary

      Last week, I pointed to a problem with Jonathan Chait’s defense of Hillary Clinton’s “pluralistic” approach to governance, noting that in an era of weak labor organization, such an approach leaves out the views of the great majority of working people, precisely the kinds of people Bernie Sanders is attracting.

      I didn’t think of it at the time, but since got reminded of an important paper by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, released in 2014. It used a dataset matching polling data to policy outcomes to test four theories for how our political system works: Majoritarian Democracy (meaning policies adopted reflect what most people want), Dominance by Economic Elites (meaning the rich get what they want), Majoritarian Pluralism (meaning interest groups, including those that represent the non-wealthy, get what they want), and Biased Pluralism (meaning interest groups that represent the views of the economic elite get what they want).

  • Censorship

    • Censorship rules at Croydon Council

      On Monday 25th January 2016, a decision was taken by Croydon Council to limit democratic scrutiny, to restrict the views of the people and to limit the voices of elected representatives. Did you notice?

    • Judge Changes Mind, Says James Woods Can Likely Unmask Guy Who Made Fun Of Him On Twitter

      As the lawsuit noted, Abe List had also mocked Woods in the past, such as calling him a “clown-boy.” Of course “clown-boy” is not something than a statement of fact and thus can’t be defamation. The real issue is whether or not saying “cocaine addict James Woods” is a statement of fact that is defamatory. Of course, considering that Woods is a public figure, this seemed like a really high bar to cross. With a public figure, the statements need to be made “with actual malice” or a “reckless disregard for the truth.” In other words, it needs to be a case where Abe List knew those things weren’t true, but said them anyway. That seems unlikely here. Oh yeah, and also, hyperbolic statements that are obviously hyperbole are not considered defamation, and this one seemed to qualify.

    • Don’t Trash Your Old Flash Drives, Send Them to North Korea
    • Your Outdated Flash Drive Could Help Fight North Korea’s Censorship
    • The mute button called self-censorship

      In his book The New Censorship: Inside the Global Battle for Media Freedom (2014), Joel Simon, the executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), writes, “Deluged with data, we are blind to the larger reality. Around the world new systems of control are taking hold. They are stifling the global conversation and impeding the development of policies and solutions based on an informed understanding of the local realities. Repression and violence against journalists is at record levels, and press freedom is in decline.”

    • Apple Rejects Game Based On Bible Story Due To Content Including Violence Against Children

      Apple has a long and annoying history of trying to keep the content within its app store as pure as the driven snow. To do this, Apple employs an arbitrary and downright stupid sense of morality. That’s how you end up with Apple banning a VR representation of the Ferguson shooting, for instance, despite the fact that it was non-graphic. Or that time the company killed off a Civil War simulation because the game contained historically accurate representations of the Confederate flag. Or when it removed an image-searching app from the store because, hey, somebody somewhere might use it to see naughty-bits.

    • Battling State Censorship In The Westport Independent

      Of course, as with any game, there are rules in place. Although the censorship bill has yet to be passed, the state will look disapprovingly upon stories which cite their apparent corruption and impropriety. In response, they’ll send strongly-worded letters to your paper, encouraging you to desist unless you’re prepared to face to the consequences.

    • Google Expands Right-to-Be-Forgotten Removals Under Europe Rules

      Google will take more steps to comply with Europe’s right-to-be-forgotten rule by removing links from all of its search websites across the globe, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

      Google, part of Alphabet Inc., is taking the steps to better embrace a landmark ruling in 2014 by the European Union’s top court, which granted the region’s citizens the right to ask Web-search engines to remove personal information about themselves. Implementation can be tricky, because of the different versions of search sites operating in different countries, leading to questions about how far Google must go to make sure that it doesn’t fun afoul of the right-to-be forgotten rule.

  • Privacy

    • The French data protection authority publicly issues formal notice to FACEBOOK to comply with the French Data Protection Act within three months

      The Chair of the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) issued formal notice to FACEBOOK to fairly collect data concerning the browsing activity of Internet users who do not have a FACEBOOK account. FACEBOOK must also provide account holders with the means to object to the compiling of their data for advertising purposes.

    • Open Letter to Věra Jourová: From Safe Harbor to Privacy Shield, Words in the Wind

      We will remain wary of the negotiation’s outcome. This landmark ruling of the ECJ repealing the Safe Harbor must not result in discarding our civil liberties. A watered-down agreement would most likely be repealed again by the Court and would have serious consequences for the confidence of both Europeans and European and American companies involved with the “Privacy Shield”. Europe’s credibility in the world is at stake, in an era of globalization driven by digital transformation.

    • Data Retention: Will the French Council of State Defy the ECJ?

      As the French Council of State is set to render a first decision on this burning issue this Friday1, Privacy International (PI) and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) have submitted a third party intervention aiming to support the legal challenges brought by FDN, the FDN Federation and La Quadrature du Net. The goal: repeal the provisions enforcing the generalised retention of metadata in France and allow the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to play its role of guardian of fundamental rights.

    • NYPD Used Cell Phone Spying Tools Over 1,000 Times Since 2008: NYCLU

      The New York Police Department (NYPD) has used the covert cell phone spying devices known as Stingrays more than 1,000 times since 2008, including for the investigation of low-level crimes and typically without a warrant, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) revealed on Thursday.

    • NSA’s spy-on-Americans plan goes before judge, again

      U.S. District Judge Richard Leon has scheduled a status hearing for several of the ongoing cases naming the NSA – or the CIA – for allegedly violating the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

      “As Judge Leon observed, these cases are at the ‘pinnacle of national importance,’” said Larry Klayman of Freedomwatch, who is a plaintiff in one case as well as a lawyer.

      “Mass surveillance of the citizenry cannot be permitted when it is likely based on reasons that go far beyond catching terrorists. Indeed, as Judge Leon found on two occasions in issuing his prior preliminary injunctions, Obama and his agents at the spy agencies have not been able to cite one instance when the unconstitutional mass surveillance caught even one terrorist.”

    • DC Federal Court To Hold Hearing On Status Of Three NSA Mass Surveillance Cases

      The Honorable Richard J. Leon will hold a hearing to discuss the status of three on-going cases against the NSA and the CIA from violating the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution through its various “programs” which have been spying on virtually all American citizens.

    • A How-to for Tech Firms: Doing the Right Thing on Privacy & Free Speech

      Good practices aren’t just the right thing to do, they’re good for the bottom line.

      Last year, the privacy and free speech mistakes of tech companies led to tons of embarrassing and costly stories. Often, these missteps would have been avoidable with good planning and processes in place, but many companies lack the resources to navigate this increasingly thorny terrain.

    • White House Executive Order on Privacy Falls Short

      This morning, the White House announced an Executive Order establishing a federal interagency privacy council composed of senior privacy officials from two dozen federal agencies. While seeming to offer some promise, however, the council has a limited mandate, and ultimately represents an overdue nod to privacy principles the administration has repeatedly abused in practice.

      If the Obama administration wants to support privacy, it can start by finally offering straight answers to Congress on surveillance and intelligence practices that offend privacy. Instead, Congress has legislated surveillance policy in the dark while enduring a long series of executive misrepresentations.

      Last week, mere days after an independent panel (notably including current U.S. intelligence officials) refuted recent FBI claims about encryption tools, Congress began examining surveillance powers set to expire next year in a closed hearing, enabling a familiar pattern of executive obfuscation and congressional confusion.

      As we wrote over two years ago, “It’s time for Congress to reassert its oversight role and begin a full-scale investigation into the [government's] surveillance and analytic activities….Congress cannot rely solely on mandating more reports from [intelligence agencies] as a solution.”

    • The NSA’s Credibility Takes Another Hit

      To be honest, I’m surprised the crypto community—especially overseas—is willing to cooperate with the NSA at all, given what we now know. They are plainly pretty obsessed with sneaking backdoors into both crypto standards and network devices. If the Snowden leaks didn’t destroy their credibility on this subject forever, I’m not sure what would.

    • Marsh recruits ex-GCHQ director for cyber role [Ed: Time for profit in the private sector]
    • Marsh brings in ex-GCHQ chief as cyber consultant
    • Marsh Appoints Lobban as Senior Adviser on Cyber Risk
    • Former spymaster to help fight City cyber crime
    • ‘Think harder’ about new GCHQ powers MPs and Peers tell Home Office [Ed: How the GCHQ's mouthpiece ('press') responded to outrage over GCHQ wishlist approved,]

      MPs and Peers are concerned that proposals to force communications companies to keep records on individuals internet activity for up to a year to allow GCHQ to catch terrorists and criminals are not properly thought through.

  • Civil Rights

    • A Fashion (and Civil Liberties) Faux Pas: Don’t Profile Passengers Based Solely on Their Religious Headwear

      Waris Ahluwalia, a Sikh-American fashion designer and actor, was refused boarding in Mexico because of his turban.

      As we all know from the famous “Project Runway” tagline, “In fashion, one day you’re in, and the next day you’re out.” But no one told Mexico City airport officials that acclaimed fashion designer and actor Waris Ahluwalia, a Sikh-American who wears a turban and beard, is still very much in and that news of the airport’s profiling of him would spark outrage worldwide.

      On his way home to New York City for Fashion Week, Ahluwalia’s boarding pass was marked for additional screening before he even went through the initial security protocol. During the secondary screening, airline officials demanded that Ahluwalia remove his turban. A Sikh’s turban is a sacred head covering that shows devotion to God, and, like many Sikhs, Ahluwalia never removes it in public, so he refused the demand. That’s when Aeromexico officials told him that he would be banned from boarding the flight.

    • Why I Have Hope For American Muslim Equality

      Blaming the bad acts of a few on any religious or racial community is the essence of bigotry. Sadly, it’s not new in our country. At various times in U.S. history, Catholics, Jews, African-Americans, and Japanese-Americans — to name just a few — have all been scapegoated as national security threats, and suffered as a result. I’m glad that the president reminded Americans of that past and talked about the history and diversity of American Muslims, starting from those brought here as slaves in colonial times, to the generations who helped build this nation, to all who are part of our rich, pluralistic society today.

    • To Annoy or Not To Annoy: That Was The Question

      But amidst the intense focus on Reno v. ACLU, a less noticed provision of the CDA criminalized any “indecent” computer communication intended to “annoy” another person. It wasn’t surprising that it attracted little attention. The clause was hidden among a string of words—“lewd, lascivious, filthy, indecent and obscene” communications intended to “threaten, abuse, annoy or harass” another person.

    • The Stories Behind the Government’s Newly Released Army Abuse Photos

      The photos we did get mostly show close-ups of body parts — arms, legs, and heads, many with injuries. There are also wider shots of prisoners, most of them bound or blindfolded. The government didn’t provide any information about the human beings depicted or the contexts in which they were photographed.

      But with a little digging, we were able to learn about the stories behind them. Sixty of the 198 photos have legible Army criminal investigation file numbers printed on them. We used those numbers to search our Torture Database, which contains some 6,000 reports, investigations, emails, and other documents the government has been forced to release to us in the course of our 11-year-old FOIA suit.

      We found 14 separate cases of alleged or proven detainee abuse relating to 42 of the photos. Here’s what we learned.

    • The Danish refugee bill and what happens when you treat everyone the same

      The seizure of asylum seekers’ assets in Denmark confirms that the state sees refugees as economic burdens by default, but this new bill makes them dependent by design.

    • WI Supreme Court Again Tries Thwarting SCOTUS Review of Its Conflicts of Interest

      Last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s majority took another step to insulate itself from review by the U.S. Supreme Court, the latest twist in the long-running “John Doe” legal saga that has brought national attention to dysfunction on the state’s highest court.

      “It is hard to imagine how a state Supreme Court could throw more roadblocks in front of an attempt to file [an appeal] with the U.S. Supreme Court than this court has,” said former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske, who is now a professor at Marquette Law School.

    • How Police Use a Dangerous Anti-Terrorism Tactic to End Pursuits

      If Calhoun had been alone in the car, he might have received little or no prison time, as he had with all his previous arrests for minor crimes. He was driving with a suspended license — and some counterfeit currency was later found in the wreckage — but his most serious offense was running from the police. That Tuesday, however, he had two friends as passengers, 20-year-old Relpheal Morton and 19-year-old Marion Shore. In court, Trooper Saddler described seeing Morton at the scene. “He was still in the back seat,” Saddler said. “He was kind of just looking around … I will never forget it. He just kept looking around.”

      Morton, whom I was not able to interview for this article, must have been stunned to be alive and relatively unharmed. The crash was so violent that the car’s roof was ripped completely off. The car looked flattened, like a tank had ridden over it. In one of the police dashcam videos that shows the crash, pieces of the car fly dozens of feet in the air toward the camera. According to a report by the Georgia State Patrol’s Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team, “The damage to the Toyota Corolla was too extensive to describe all the damage.” It seems almost impossible that two people survived.

      Marion Shore was not so lucky. She was sitting in the passenger seat, wearing her seatbelt, but the force of the crash was so strong that she was partially ejected from the car while it was flipping and rolling. Shore, the mother of a 3-year-old boy, was trapped halfway inside the car, in an in-between place where death was certain. The car rolled over her several times. The chief medical examiner for the state of Georgia examined Shore’s body and said in court that, as the car was rolling, the forces propelling it “literally bent her body almost in half.”

    • 10 Secret CIA Prisons You Do Not Want To Visit

      The US Central Intelligence Agency has, according to multiple investigative reports from both mainstream media outlets and human rights organizations, operated numerous “black sites” across the world. These locations, according to the reports, are secret prisons used to house “ghost prisoners.” Those sent to these places are held captive without being charged with any crime and are not allowed any form of legal defense.

      Ghost prisoners are subject to what the CIA calls “enhanced interrogation tactics”; most others call it torture. The CIA and their operatives’ methods allegedly include waterboarding, sleep deprivation, humiliation, physical beatings, electric shocks, and worse.

    • U.S. Passports of Sex Offenders to Be Marked

      In addition to the new law being the first time in U.S. history that a special class of Americans would be marked on their passports, a chilling event of its own, the law ignores the reality that the sex offender registry is another government “list,” such as no fly, that is relatively easy to get on and very hard to leave.

    • Assange’s UN Victory and Redemption of the West

      Last week, the United Nations Working Group (UNWG) on Arbitrary Detention ruled that journalist Julian Assange had been subject to arbitrary detention by the Swedish and British governments and that it must end. The Center for Constitutional Rights noted the significant precedent in the law of detention and the larger implications this has, not only for Assange’s case, but also for the protection of whistle-blowers and refugees around the world.

    • Lawsuit Demands Information on Shadowy “Countering Violent Extremism” Programs in U.S.

      Last February, the White House held a three-day summit on the topic of “Countering Violent Extremism.” At the summit, government officials announced the launch of pilot programs in Boston, Los Angeles, and Minnesota to explore “the preventative aspects of counterterrorism as well as interventions to undermine the attraction of extremist movements.”

      One year later, it’s still unclear what that entails, exactly. The government has provided few details on how it actually intends to “counter extremism” in the U.S., despite calling CVE an “administration priority” in the 2017 fiscal budget and allocating tens of millions of dollars in spending. In an indication of how these efforts are ramping up, this week a Senate subcommittee on Homeland Security approved a bill to create of an “Office for Partnerships Against Violent Extremism,” which will soon head to the full Senate for approval. A 2017 budget submission for the Office of Justice Programs also mentions “$69 million for CVE programs” proposed for the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice.

    • Beyonce’s Super Bowl Touchdown for Black Lives Matter

      The video of “Formation” includes images of a flooded city, reminiscent of New Orleans after Katrina, with Beyoncé singing atop a partially submerged police car. The video ends with a camera panning to a wall graffitied with the words “Stop shooting us.” Zirin lauded Zandria Felice Robinson, a professor of sociology at the University of Memphis, for her explanation of the imagery in the video: “Layered in and through the landscape of a black New Orleans still rigorous and delightful, past and present, the black southern signifiers and simulacra are unrelenting here,” Zandria wrote in “New South Negress,” her blog. Beyoncé, she continues, “becomes every black southern woman possible for her to reasonably inhabit, moving through time, class, and space.”

    • First Circuit ruling affirms accountability for wrongful police killings

      The lawsuit at issue stems from the 2011 Framingham, Massachusetts SWAT police killing of 68-year-old African American grandfather Eurie Stamps. In the early morning hours of January 5, 2011, the Framingham SWAT team raided Mr. Stamps’ home with a search warrant because they suspected his stepson of selling drugs there. Mr. Stamps, whom officers knew would be in the home and posed no known threat, ended up dead.

    • Brendan Dassey, Max Soffar, and the False Confession Playbook

      How police extract false confessions from the innocent, with horrific consequences.

  • Internet/Net Neutrality

    • Should India’s Internet Be Free Of Charge, Or Free Of Control?

      In a far-reaching ruling, India has prohibited telecom service providers from charging different prices to consumers to access content on the Internet — a blow to Facebook and its aggressive bid to offer a free but stripped-down version of the Internet aimed at India’s poor.

    • Zuckerberg Admits His Defeat, Facebook Shuts Down Free Basics In India

      The world’s biggest social network Facebook has decided to shut down its controversial Free Basics service in India. This decision is being seen as a big win for the net neutrality advocates, who were opposing the service as it promoted differential data pricing.

    • One Year Later, ISP Claims That Title II Would Demolish Broadband Investment Found To Be Total, Indisputable Bullshit

      In late 2014, the Obama Administration and the FCC shocked everybody by announcing that the government would be uncharacteristically ignoring telecom lobbyists and reclassifying broadband service under Title II — ensuring it had adequate legal foundation for tougher net neutrality rules. As you might expect, the cable and phone companies immediately set to work with a blistering public relations barrage, with think tankers, editorials, industry consultants and thousands of industry mouthpieces all making one common refrain: Title II would utterly decimate broadband sector investment and crush innovation.

    • Facebook Board Member Offends 1 Billion Indians, Suggests British Rule Was Good For India

      Facebook board member and Silicon Valley luminary Marc Andreessen offended India with his colonialism tweet. He suggested that India should embrace Free Basics as the denial will harm the country is a big manner. He suggested that India’s anti-colonialism mindset has hurt the country’s economy and the government is repeating the same mistake by opposing Free Basics.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • US Industry IP Index Rates Nations

      The United States Chamber of Commerce has released an index rating countries on their use and treatment of intellectual property and innovation, finding the United States to be top in the world. The report scores the largest emerging economies relatively low, including China, despite that country’s dominance in rates of IP filings in recent years, far outstripping the United States.

    • Discussions On Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge Resume At WIPO Against Stormy Background

      After a hiatus of one year, the WIPO Committee working on the protection of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore against misappropriation resumes its work next week. The subject is touchy, with most developing countries asking for legal protection, while some developed countries do not want to consider binding rules. Disagreement already arose at the end of 2015 over interpretation of the committee’s mandate, freshly approved in October.

    • Trademarks

      • Not Mormon®, But Still Mormon

        Who is a Mormon? This is a fundamental question of self-identity, religion, and even Wikipedia. One would think, however, that that answer would not be found in trademark law.

        Intellectual Reserve, Inc. (IRI), which owns and manages the trademarks of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has made a series of trademark claims against small startups and organizations using the term “Mormon” in their names and URLs, including our client, the Mormon Mental Health Association (MMHA).

        We first heard of IRI making claims to own the word “Mormon” when they got into a legal dispute with a company called “Mormon Match.” IRI claimed that both the company name and the associated URL infringed on IRI’s trademarks in the terms “Mormon” and “Mormon.org” (among others).

      • Navajo Nation’s Trademark Suit Against Urban Outfitters Proceeds; But Should It?

        Alright, this one has me more than a bit puzzled. We’ve written here before about Urban Outfitters, which has previously been on the receiving end of intellectual property disputes in the form of the company’s use of famous Obama iconography and for trying to inject a bit of humor into its coffee offerings. This time around, however, the clothing retailer is facing a lawsuit from the Navajo Nation for selling clothing and merchandise with patterns inspired by Native American designs and including the word “Navajo” or “Navaho” in the offerings.

    • Copyrights

      • U.S. Copyright Law Forces Wikimedia to Remove “Public Domain” Anne Frank Diary

        This year The Diary of Anne Frank entered into the public domain in the Netherlands, allowing millions of people around the world to read it for free. However, under U.S. law the book remains copyrighted, which prompted the Wikimedia Foundation to remove a copy of the book from its servers, under protest.

      • Law Students Line Up Behind ‘Baby Blue’ — Will Harvard Law Review Sue?

        Back in 2014, we wrote about a crazy story, where the Harvard Law Review was claiming copyright over legal citation standards. It’s true that the Harvard Law Review Association has published the famous “Bluebook” of legal citation standards for many years, but the idea that such citations are copyrightable is crazy. In response to this, law professor Chris Sprigman and open records guru Carl Malamud alerted the world of their intention to publish “Baby Blue” — a competing legal citations publication. They noted that the 10th edition of the Bluebook, which as published in 1958, had clearly fallen into the public domain, and they were going to use that as the starting point for their competing product. Late in December, we pointed out that Harvard Law Review freaked out after its expensive Ropes & Gray lawyers saw a few tweets from Malamud suggesting Baby Blue was almost ready for publication. On Christmas Eve, a pricey lawyer sent off a nastygram, threatening a copyright infringement lawsuit if Baby Blue were published.

      • US Congress Passes Customs Bill With Strong IP Enforcement Provisions

        The United States Congress today passed the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, establishing clearer rules on customs officials’ work to stop infringing goods from entering the US. The Act creates a new National IP Coordination Center for coordinating investigations, training and other activities.

      • Years Later, White House Sends Two Copyright Treaties To Senate For Ratification: One Good, One Bad

        It’s not clear why it’s taken this long, but late Wednesday, the White House sent two WIPO treaties over to the Senate for ratification: The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled — usually just called “The Marrakesh Treaty” or “The Marrakesh Treaty for the Blind” — and the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances, usually just called “The Beijing Treaty.” The Beijing Treaty was completed in 2012. The Marrakesh Treaty in 2013. It’s not clear why it took the White House until 2016 to move on them, but such is life.

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