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05.13.16

Links 13/5/2016: ZFS in Debian, RBS Chooses Red Hat

Posted in News Roundup at 9:21 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

Leftovers

  • How Typography Can Save Your Life

    Since 1984 all cigarette packages have been required to include one of four specific health warnings, with the “SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING” phrase set in capital letters. In 2009, President Obama signed a new law that would require larger labels with vivid graphics, but the tobacco industry put up a legal fight, and the new labels have been in limbo ever since.

    Companies can (and do) claim that they are trying to “emphasize” the important stuff by putting it in all caps. This is actually the reason so many legal documents and contracts have sections that seem to be shouting. You can blame U.S. law for this one (specifically, the Uniform Commercial Code) which requires that certain sections of a contract be “conspicuous.”

    Usually those guidelines apply to the parts of the contract that sound something like: “COMPANY X DOES NOT GUARANTEE THAT WE’LL KEEP ANY OF OUR PROMISES AND EVERYTHING IS AT YOUR OWN RISK.” Makes sense that those sections should be hard to miss.

    Except that in this case, making text “conspicuous,” also makes it harder to read. And that’s because of a historical quirk.

  • Science

    • After Nine Years Of Censorship, Canada Finally Unmuzzles Its Scientists

      It’s important to remember that Canada is not alone in having these muzzling problems. The article notes that during the administration of President George W. Bush, US government scientists complained that inconvenient data was being altered or simply suppressed. More recently, the UK government unveiled plans to forbid its scientists from lobbying for changes in their own field. Although it has now introduced some exemptions from the controversial “gagging clause”, these seem half-hearted and possibly temporary. It obviously needs to pay more attention to Justin.

  • Health/Nutrition

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • UK Russian Embassy tweets screenshot from Command & Conquer Generals

      The Russian Embassy in London has tweeted a screenshot from PC real-time strategy game Command & Conquer: Generals.

      The image, of three green army trucks, was posted with the accompanying text: “Extremists near Aleppo received several truckloads of chemical ammo.”

    • Remembering Michael Ratner, Pioneering Lawyer Who Fought for Justice from Attica to Guantánamo
    • Michael Ratner, Champion of Human Rights and the Oppressed, Dies at 72
    • Michael Ratner Is Gone; You’re Still Here
    • Michael Ratner, Pioneering Civil and Constitutional Rights Lawyer, Dies at Age 72
    • From the Archives: Michael Ratner on American Imperialism
    • Web Exclusive: Reed Brody & Michael Smith Remember Michael Ratner (Part 2)

      The trailblazing human rights attorney Michael Ratner has died at the age of 72. For over four decades, he defended, investigated and spoke up for victims of human rights abuses across the world. In this web-only interview, Reed Brody and Michael Smith pay tribute to their close friend.

    • Michael Ratner, Lawyer Who Won Rights for Guantánamo Prisoners, Dies at 72

      Michael Ratner, a fearless civil liberties lawyer who successfully challenged the United States government’s detention of terrorism suspects at Guantánamo Bay without judicial review, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 72.

      The cause was complications of cancer, said his brother, Bruce, a developer and an owner of the Brooklyn Nets.

      As head of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner oversaw litigation that, in effect, voided New York City’s wholesale stop-and-frisk policing tactic. The center also accused the federal government of complicity in the kidnapping and torture of terrorism suspects and argued against the constitutionality of warrantless surveillance by the National Security Agency, the waging of war in Iraq without the consent of Congress, the encouragement of right-wing rebels in Nicaragua and the torture at the Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraq war.

      “Under his leadership, the center grew from a small but scrappy civil rights organization into one of the leading human rights organizations in the world,” David Cole, a former colleague at the center and a professor at Georgetown Law School, said in an interview this week. “He sued some of the most powerful people in the world on behalf of some of the least powerful.”

      Mr. Ratner, who majored in medieval English at Brandeis University in the 1960s, was radicalized by the teachings of the New Left philosopher Herbert Marcuse and the preachings of a classmate, Angela Davis, who went on to become a leading counterculture activist and American Communist and continues to teach and speak publicly.

    • U.S. Officials Ask How ISIS Got So Many Toyota Trucks

      Is Wallace saying to ISIS they better “buy American?” Is Wallace in the tank for ISIS? I don’t know.

    • Donald Trump Calls Hillary Clinton “Trigger Happy” as She Courts Neocons

      Donald Trump derided Hillary Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy record over the weekend, a glimpse into a potential general election strategy of casting Clinton as the more likely of the two to take the nation to war.

      Just moments after maligning Syrian refugees at a rally in Lynden, Washington, Trump pivoted into a tirade against Clinton as a warmonger.

    • State Department Fails to Vet or Monitor Military Aid to Egypt

      The U.S isn’t sufficiently vetting the sale of weapons to the repressive government of Egypt, and doesn’t know enough about how those weapons are being used – including night vision goggles and riot control weapons.

    • Obama Should Heed Hiroshima’s Survivors

      The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is a beautiful, haunting place. The most iconic landmark is the “A-bomb dome,” atop a large building that was not completely destroyed. As we left the memorial, Koji Hosokawa told us to stop. He looked us in the eye and told us not to forget the victims: “People lived here. They lived here.” President Obama should meet Koji Hosokawa and other hibakusha, and hear their stories.

    • Washington’s Military Addiction

      Put another way, in a Washington that seems incapable of doing anything but worshiping at the temple of the U.S. military, global policymaking has become a remarkably mindless military-first process of repetition. It’s as if, as problems built up in your life, you looked in the closet marked “solutions” and the only thing you could ever see was one hulking, over-armed soldier, whom you obsessively let loose, causing yet more damage.

    • Obama Broke Pledge To Demand Syrian Opposition’s Separation From Nusra Front

      The gradual erosion of the cease-fire in Syria over the past month is the result of multiple factors shaping the conflict, but one of the underlying reasons is the Obama administration’s failure to carry out its commitment to Russia to get US-supported opposition groups to separate themselves physically from the Nusra Front – the al-Qaeda organization in Syria.

    • A Need to Rethink Mideast Wars

      The request by a U.S. Army captain to a federal court for a declaratory judgment about his constitutional duties regarding going to war is the latest reminder of the unsatisfactory situation in which the United States is engaged in military operations in multiple overseas locales without any authorization other than a couple of outdated and obsolete Congressional resolutions whose relevance is questionable at best.

    • Army Chaplain Resigns over Drone Wars

      The U.S. government’s reliance on drones to sustain perpetual war in the Mideast is meeting resistance from some assigned to carry out and justify these tactics, including a U.S. Army chaplain who resigned in protest, writes Ann Wright.

    • George Zimmerman and the Long History of Selling “Souvenirs”

      Former neighborhood watch member George Zimmerman’s decision, one he has apparently reconsidered, to sell, as he describes, “the firearm that was used to defend my life and end the brutal attack from Trayvon Martin” is just an another link in the long chain of America’s historical obsession with selling and owning memorabilia connected with the murder of African Americans.

    • Baghdad gov’t paralysis made capital vulnerable to massive ISIL bombings

      Daesh (ISIL, ISIS) launched a series of suicide car and truck bombs in Baghdad on Wednesday, killing nearly 100 and wounding nearly 200 persons. Baghdad security had improved over the past couple of years, but the Coalition United for Reform blamed political wrangling on sectarian and party bases for the security lapses that allowed the attacks to take place. The president’s spokesman suggested that Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi might need to fire some security officials responsible for the capital’s well-being for this major lapse.

    • Do British international relations scholars question British foreign policy enough?

      Recently I came across a 2006 article that Eric Herring published in the Journal of International Studies titled ‘Remaking the mainstream: the case for activist IR scholarship’. In the article Herring argues that “British IR [International Relations] academics… produce very little primarily empirical work which documents the record of the British state in creating human misery abroad”. In addition he goes onto note “British IR academics engage in very little research exposing the deceptions and self-deceptions deployed by the British state to deny its responsibility for that human misery”.

      A rare self-critical admission from an academic about his own work and that of his profession, Herring’s argument struck me as very important and deserving of a wider audience. Currently a Professor of World Politics and Research Director in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies at the University of Bristol, I asked Herring about his 2006 article and whether anything had changed ten years later.

    • Drone warfare: the cost of progress

      Hambling argues that although most people think of armed-drones as being large pilotless aircraft such as the Reaper and Predator, their development is being paralleled by much smaller devices such as the Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System (LMAMS). The latter is suitable for use by individual soldiers, each of whom would carry small but lethal explosives with a range of several miles.

    • Former 9/11 Commissioner: ’28 Pages’ Clearly Expose Saudi Support

      Revealing serious fractures within the 9/11 Commission, a former member of that panel has called for the immediate declassification of the so-called “28 pages” that detail Saudi ties to the 2001 terrorist attack, saying they expose evidence that Saudi government officials were involved in the hijackers’ support network.

      “There was an awful lot of participation by Saudi individuals in supporting the hijackers, and some of those people worked in the Saudi government,” Republican John Lehman said in an interview with the Guardian published Thursday. Referring to the commission’s final report, issued in 2004, Lehman stated: “Our report should never have been read as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia.”

      He said recent claims made by the Commission’s former chairman and vice-chair—that only one Saudi government employee was “implicated” in supporting the hijackers, and that the Obama administration should be cautious about releasing the 28 pages because they contain “raw, unvetted material” but no “smoking gun”—was “a game of semantics.”

    • ‘Saudi Arabian government officials supported September 11 hijackers,’ former 9/11 Commission member claims

      A former member of the independent commission that investigated the September 11 terror attacks has claimed that Saudi government officials supported the hijackers.

      John F Lehman, who sat on the 9/11 Commission from 2003 to 2004, said there was an “awful lot of circumstantial evidence” implicating several employees in the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

      “There was an awful lot of participation by Saudi individuals in supporting the hijackers, and some of those people worked in the Saudi government,” he told the Guardian.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Climate Disobedience and the New “Public Trust” Laws of Nature

      This ancient idea, applied since Roman days, is pretty straightforward: The government has an affirmative duty to protect natural resources that are shared by everybody. In the past, the doctrine has been used to prevent the selling off of lakefront shorelines or the bulldozing of rare fossil beds. With the clock ticking on the climate crisis, many legal scholars and activists have begun asking whether it’s time to put the public trust to work on climate change.

    • West Virginia Democrats Just Nominated A Climate Denying Coal Baron Billionaire For Governor

      In November, West Virginians will have two choices. A a party-switching, self-funding, brash billionaire who denies climate change and loves coal, and a lawmaker who talks about bringing jobs back to the state.

      And that’s just the gubernatorial race.

      On Tuesday night, Jim Justice easily won the West Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary and will face off against Republican state Senate President Bill Cole in the general election.

    • Obama Just Cracked Down on Pollution From Fracking

      For the first time ever, the EPA will regulate methane emissions.

    • Coal made its best case against climate change, and lost

      Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private sector coal company (now bankrupt), recently faced off against environmental groups in a Minnesota court case. The case was to determine whether the State of Minnesota should continue using its exceptionally low established estimates of the ‘social cost of carbon’, or whether it should adopt higher federal estimates.

      The social cost of carbon is an estimate of how much the damages from carbon pollution cost society via climate change damages. In theory, it represents how much the price of fossil fuels should increase to reflect their true costs.

      The coal company called forth witnesses that represented the fringe 2–3% of experts who reject the consensus that humans are the primary cause of global warming, including Roy Spencer and Richard Lindzen, while their opposition invited witnesses like Andrew Dessler and John Abraham who represent the 97% expert consensus.

    • Brazil prepares to roll back green laws

      Taking advantage of Brazil’s present political turbulence, as the battle to impeach President Dilma Rousseff reaches its climax, reactionary politicians are quietly rolling back environmental and indigenous protection laws in defiance of the country’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.

      Environmentalists say that if the bill known as PEC 65/2012, now at the Senate committee stage, is approved, it means that major infrastructure projects will be able to go ahead regardless of their impacts on biodiversity, indigenous areas, traditional communities and conservation areas.

    • What Brazil’s New President Means For Its Environmental Laws

      As the suspension of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff Thursday triggers a political reshuffling, environmentalists in Latin America’s largest ailing economy worry that powers in the new administration favor infrastructure development and financial recovery over environmental laws.

      As it is now customary in multiple countries, Brazil requires environmental assessments prior to construction projects. But the Senate is now considering a bill that would give fast-track status to projects like roads, dams or ports deemed in the national interest by the president. That would allow developers to move forward simply by saying an environmental impact study is in the works, but bar agencies from halting the project once construction begins. Moreover, there is a proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate environmental licensing altogether. These proposals aren’t new, but their political backing could get a push within Brazil’s new interim government.

    • Dilma Rousseff suspended as senate votes to impeach Brazilian president

      Speaking after the vote, Rousseff remained defiant, denying that she had committed any crime, and accusing her opponents of mounting a “coup”.

    • Brazil Senate Votes for Impeachment Trial as Rousseff Vows to Fight ‘Coup’
    • We Can Stop Searching For The Clean Energy Miracle. It’s Already Here.

      Key climate solutions have been advancing considerably faster than anyone expected just a few years ago thanks to aggressive market-based deployment efforts around the globe. These solutions include such core enabling technologies for a low-carbon world as solar, wind, efficiency, electric cars, and battery storage.

    • Beyond Climate Confusion: Why Both Energy Innovation and Deployment Matter
    • How Anti-Coal Bernie Sanders Won Coal Country

      If you know about West Virginia’s attitude toward coal, and you also know about Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) attitude toward coal, then Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential primary results might have come as a bit of a surprise.

      Sanders — a staunch environmentalist pushing for more pollution regulations and a nationwide carbon tax — easily won West Virginia over his opponent Hillary Clinton on Tuesday. His win, some environmentalists said, was proof that you don’t have to be pro-coal to win in coal country.

    • BREAKING: EPA Finalizes Methane Rule For New Oil And Gas Operations
    • Six States Join TransCanada To Sue Obama Over Rejection Of The Keystone XL Pipeline

      Six states have joined with TransCanada to sue the Obama administration over its rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline permit application.

      TransCanada filed the suit in a federal court in Houston in January, alleging that the president had overstepped his constitutionally granted powers. The right to regulate trans-border commerce is reserved for Congress, the suit says.

      But the president denied the permit based on national security grounds, which is well within his rights, Center for Biological Diversity attorney Bill Snape told ThinkProgress.

      “They are basically asking the court to second-guess the president on a national interest decision,” Snape said.

    • ‘We’ll Do What It Takes To Stop It’: Kinder Morgan Pipeline in Crosshairs

      This weekend, hundreds of activists will encircle a Kinder Morgan facility in British Columbia on the ground and on the water, while demanding that Canada break free from fossil fuels, listen to science, and transition to a 100 percent renewable energy.

    • ‘Wholly Inadequate’: Environmentalists Decry EPA’s New Methane Rules

      Following President Obama’s promise to cut toxic methane leaks at oil and gas facilities, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday announced the U.S. government’s “first-ever” set of standards to reduce such emissions—but the new regulations were decried by environmentalist critics as not far-reaching enough.

    • Old species have climate survival skills

      Study of more than 600 vertebrate species shows those that have faced extreme environmental pressures in the past are now best equipped to survive climate change.

    • Agriculture, A Huge Contributor To Climate Change, Is Starting To Clean Up Its Act
    • Bay Area Voters Will Decide Next Month If They Want To Pay To Adapt To Sea Level Rise

      California has long been a leader in tackling climate change. But in June, voters in the San Francisco Bay area will have the chance to take their state’s commitment to addressing the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation a step further.

    • Palm Oil Is Burning Indonesia to the Ground

      Fire is a tool in this part of the world, and every year Indonesian farmers burn down wild forest to make room for more pulpwood, rubber plantations and palm oil. But last year was different. The fires fed on peatland raged beyond control, consuming the timber that burns so easily in the country’s dry season. Indonesia became Hell on Earth, with satellites showing the length of the country swaddled in smoke. Borneo and western Sumatra, the worst-hit areas, glowed like embers. Acid haze poured over the borders and into Malaysia and Singapore and Thailand.

  • Finance

    • Illiberal Hollywood: Unchanged or Worse One Year Later

      Like Disney — two of its seven biggest films over the last decade were directed/written/led by women (Frozen, 2013), or led by a woman (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 2015). Yet its stock is languishing, and its lineup thin of women-directed/-written/-led. Maybe its board needs a shakeup and its stock needs to tank a little further before they wake up and realize an audience composed of +51% of the population shouldn’t be slighted by its hiring practices. Same goes for the rest of the entertainment industry: we expect better, and soon.

    • TTIP leaks highlight the dangers of regulatory cooperation

      TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) has sparked a public outcry in Europe. The recent leak of many parts of TTIP by Greenpeace, allowing us for the first time to read the negotiating position of the US, confirms the most serious concerns.

    • Kill TTIP Now

      The evil of American “democratic capitalism” is total and irredeemable. TTIP gives corporations unaccountable power over governments and peoples. The corporations must be slapped down hard, fiercely regulated, and forced by threat of long prison sentences to serve the public interest, and not the incomes of the executives and shareholders who comprise the One Percent.

    • How A Giant Restaurant Conglomerate Teamed Up With Banks To Stiff Its Workers

      Workers at Darden Restaurants chains are routinely told they must accept prepaid debit cards instead of paychecks, according to a new report from the worker organization Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United. A quarter of workers surveyed said they asked to be paid some other way and were told the cards are their only option.

    • As Wealthy Surge, U.S. Poor and Middle Class Incomes Have Gone Backward

      Middle- and low-income households in the U.S. made less money in 2014 than they did in 1999 as the middle class lost ground in almost 90 percent of the country’s metropolitan areas, a new analysis by the Pew Research Center released Wednesday has found.

      The report looked at 229 of the 381 federally designated “metropolitan statistical areas” in the U.S., from Seattle to Boston, which accounted for 76 percent of the nationwide population in 2014. It found that poorer households saw their income drop from a median of $26,373 in 1999 to $23,811 in 2014, while middle-class incomes fell from $77,898 to $72,919 in that same time period.

      The erosion of the middle class came as household incomes decreased, “a reminder that the economy has yet to fully recover from the effects of the Great Recession of 2007-09,” Pew said—but more than that, it is a reflection of rising income inequality.

    • Another Way the Rich Get Richer: Their Parents Give Them Obscene Amounts of Money Nearly Tax-Free

      It’d be great if we were all self-made men, like Citizen Trump.

      Of course, his self-making, like that of many wealthy people, is based in large part on a wealthy parent giving him a ton of money. Why work for a living when you can just hang around drinking single malt until daddy dies and leaves you his money?

      Trump’s papa left an estate valued at between $100 and $300 million in 1999. A nice start for a career in real estate for Don and his siblings.

    • The London Mayoral Election: a Victory for Whom?

      During his election campaign, Khan vowed to be “the most pro-business Mayor London has ever had”; stated his opposition to the “mansion tax”, the nationalisation of banks, and has pledged to work with the Tory government to defeat Corbyn’s push for a “Robin Hood Tax” – a fee on buying stocks, shares and derivatives publicly backed by the Labour leader last summer; and in recent weeks, Khan has described the fact that there are 140-plus billionaires and 400,000 millionaires in London as “a good thing” – echoing the haughty words of Labour’s true blue Tory Peter Mandelson,

    • London Summit: US Must End Tax ‘Hypocrisy’ or Corruption Will Prevail

      If the U.S. does not end its “hypocrisy” and hold itself to the same tax transparency standards as other nations, efforts to reform offshore secrecy will fail, leaders of the UK’s overseas territories warned at the global anti-corruption summit in London on Thursday.

      The comments—from leaders of the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, and the Isle of Man—came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told those gathered at the summit, “Corruption, writ large, is as much of an enemy [as terrorism], because it destroys nation states, as some of the extremists we are fighting or the other challenges we face.”

      The summit follows a massive leak of documents known as the Panama Papers which exposed how the world’s elite use offshore tax havens to hide their wealth, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, who hosted the conference.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Following Censorship Scandals, Obama Commits to ‘Fight Against Corruption’

      This just in from the Obama administration: corruption is bad, m’kay?

      No, seriously.

      Apparently, President Obama’s commitment to fighting corruption is so important that Secretary of State John Kerry actually felt the need to fly to London to reaffirm the United States government isn’t full of dirty rotten scoundrels who are just up to no good.

    • Parliament will fight to protect the BBC

      Today the government will publish a white paper setting out its plans for the future of the BBC. At the BAFTA awards on Sunday the director Peter Kosminsky rightly received a standing ovation. He used his acceptance speech to voice his fear that the White Paper will compromise our precious, independent, world-renowned organisation. He cautioned that the BBC was on a path to evisceration that would leave the broadcasting landscape bereft – and the output of television and radio determined solely by what lines the pockets of shareholders.

    • The BBC White Paper is a recipe for long-term decline

      The government’s proposals would be a blow to both the BBC’s freedom from government interference, and its place at the heart of British popular culture.

    • Decoding the BBC White Paper

      Apocalyptic rumours followed by a row-back and relief. It’s an age-old strategy, but what’s the reality behind the government’s BBC proposals?

    • Laura Kuenssberg Meet Barbra Streisand

      I have cropped this to protect the identity of the sender, but I assure you it is perfectly real and not at all unusual. (This is actually sexist on my part as if it were a man I would not have cropped it. I can only ask you to forgive me, I am old). I am sure Kuenssberg, being vastly more famous, gets more abuse than I do. But the fact either of us receives abuse does not mean we are above criticism. The young woman tweeting above being unpleasant is not evidence I am right about anything. Still less does it mean criticism of me should be suppressed.

      To say that abusers “hijacked” the petition criticising Kuenssberg for her terrible biased journalism, is like saying your car is hijacked by an insect landing on it.

      But the extremely cheerful news is that the furore caused by 38 Degrees removing the petition has meant that tens of millions more people have heard of the petition, than if it had gone ahead. David Cameron standing up in the House of Commons saying Kuenssberg is not biased in itself will have made a million people realise that she is. Laura Kuenssberg, meet Barbra Streisand. The “Streisand Effect”, named after the actress’ attempt to suppress photos of her mansion, is the internet phenomenon whereby attempts to suppress information lead to far more people knowing it.

    • Donald Trump’s Unsurprising Surprise

      Donald Trump’s ascension to the Republican presidential nomination was predictable, paved by years of right-wing fear-mongering and dissemination of anti-knowledge, says former GOP congressional staffer Mike Lofgren.

    • Will Trump’s ‘Man Card’ Play to Women?

      As the presidential election of 2016 unfolds, presumptive Republican nominee Donald J. Trump seems bent on proving a simple aphorism: No one ever went broke overestimating the misogyny of the American people.

      Trump continues to spew rhetoric seemingly designed to alienate women voters, prompting pundits and analysts to search for the strategic significance of such utterances. “Donald Trump has been playing the man card,” Kelly Dittmar of the the Rutgers Center for American Women and Politics told NPR’s Asma Khalid in an interview that aired on Tuesday.

      And lately, he seems to be micro-targeting the key domestic-violence constituency. At a campaign stop in Spokane over the weekend, Trump renewed his complaint against Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton for playing the so-called “woman’s card.”

  • Censorship/Free Speech

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Anti-virus pioneer John McAfee: Your phone may be snooping on you

      Computer security pioneer John McAfee pulls out his cell phone to stare at a notification on the screen.

      “It says something changed in my account, please press next,” McAfee says. “I have the best (security) habits in the world and I cannot keep my phone secure.”

      McAfee, whose name became synonymous with antivirus protection, says he’s no longer as worried about computer security. Now, he says, the danger comes from the camera and microphones we carry everywhere in our pockets, attached to our smartphones. It’s a “trivial” matter, he says, for a hacker to remotely and secretly turn on a phone’s sensors.

    • Surveillance: Who owns you and your life?

      There are many dimensions to the concept of privacy.

      A fundamental question is: Who owns you and your life?

      If you are not the owner of your person – that will open up for abominations like slavery, organ farming, and some absurd utilitarian concepts.

      But if you are the owner of your person – this must include your body as well as your mind and your faculties.

      So… if you are the owner of your person – does anybody else (a private person or a collective of persons) have the right to look into your mind, your thoughts and your beliefs? Does anybody else have the right to look into your relations to other people, your quest for knowledge or your personal habits and preferences?

    • 45,000 People Ask Netflix to Stop VPN Crackdown

      A letter signed by nearly 45,000 people calls upon Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to reverse the company’s broad VPN ban. To enforce geographical restrictions Netflix started blocking VPN users more aggressively this year, but according to OpenMedia there are better alternatives that respect the privacy of users.

    • FBI Has Sights on Larger Battle Over Encryption After Apple Feud

      After buying a software tool to access a dead terrorist’s encrypted iPhone, the FBI is exploring how to make broader use of the hack while bracing for a larger battle involving encrypted text messages, e-mails and other data, Director James Comey said.

    • While It Is Reauthorizing FISA Amendments Act, Congress Should Reform Section 704

      If it’s not that, then you would think it’d have to be the wacky interpretation, the middle option. After all, Americans are at least as likely to use Gmail as foreigners are, so to get the Gmail of Americans overseas, the NSA would presumably ask Google for assistance, and therefore trigger 703, unless there were a wacky legal interpretation to bypass that. There are things that make it clear NSA has a great deal of redundancy in its collection, even with PRISM collection, which makes it clear they do double dip, obtaining even Gmail overseas and domestically (which is why they’d have GCHQ hack Google’s overseas fiber). It’s possible, though, that the NSA conducts so much bulk collection overseas it is actually easier (or legally more permissive) to just collect US person content from bulk collections obtained overseas, thereby bypassing any domestic provider and onerous legal notice. I suppose it’s also possible that NSA now uses 703 (my proof they don’t dates to 2012 or earlier), having had to resort to playing by the rules as more providers lock up their data better in the wake of the Snowden revelations. (Note, Mieke Eoyang has an interesting FAA suggestion that would require exclusivity when NSA accesses content from US providers, thereby preventing them from stealing Google data overseas.)

    • Your Conversation On The Bus Or Train May Be Recorded

      When you ride on buses or trains in many parts of the United States, what you say could be recorded. Get on a New Jersey Transit light rail train in Hoboken or Jersey City, for example, and you might notice an inconspicuous sign that says “video and audio systems in use.”

      A lot of riders are not happy about it.

      “Yeah I don’t like that,” says Michael Dolan of Bayonne, N.J. “I don’t want conversations being picked up because it’s too Orwellian for me. It reeks of Big Brother.”

    • FBI Doesn’t Want Privacy Laws To Apply To Its Biometric Database

      The FBI has been building a massive biometric database for the last eight years. The Next Generation Identification System (NGIS) starts with millions of photos of criminals (and non-criminals) and builds from there. Palm prints, fingerprints, iris scans, tattoos and biographies are all part of the mix.

      Despite having promised to deliver a Privacy Impact Assessment of the database back in 2012, the FBI’s system went live towards the end of 2014 without one. That’s a big problem, considering the database’s blend of guilty/innocent Americans, along with its troublesome error rate. The FBI obviously hopes the false positive rate will continue to decline as tech capabilities improve, but any qualms about bogus hits have been placed on the back burner while the agency dumps every piece of data it can find into the database.

      The FBI has shown little motivation to address Americans’ privacy concerns by providing an updated Impact Assessment (the one it does have dates back to the program’s inception in 2008), but has wasted no time in alerting legislators about its own privacy concerns.

    • Was NSA surveillance used on refuge occupiers labeled as ‘domestic terrorists,’ lawyer asks

      Oregon standoff defendants want a federal judge to order prosecutors to disclose whether law enforcement intercepted their emails, phone calls or other electronic communications using national security surveillance methods.

      “Defendants are entitled to know how the government monitored their communications and activities and then to test … whether the government’s evidence is derived from that surveillance,” defense lawyer Amy Baggio wrote in a court filing Wednesday afternoon.

    • What former NSA chief Michael Hayden said after watching the new Snowden trailer

      “You’re gonna make me do this?” Michael Hayden, former NSA and CIA director, said to Business Insider before watching the “Snowden” trailer for the first time.

      After about 30 seconds, Hayden looked up from the iPad screen and said: “Could we be done?”

      Oliver Stone’s “Snowden” tells the story of NSA subcontractor Edward Snowden who infamously leaked classified information about the NSA’s surveillance activities to journalists in 2013. To Hayden, the portrayal is an “alternative universe.”

    • The NSA’s stunning 9/11 failure: How big-money contractors made us more vulnerable to attack

      On September 12, 2001, Bill Binney snuck back into work at the NSA dressed like cleaning staff so he could try to help understand who had attacked the United States. A top NSA mathematician, Binney had rolled out a sophisticated metadata analysis system called ThinThread, only to have it canceled less than a month before 9/11. Top executives at the agency had decided a clunky program called Trailblazer, contracted out to the intelligence contractor giant SAIC, would be NSA’s future, not the cheaper, more effective and privacy-protective ThinThread.

      While NSA Director General Michael Hayden had sent most NSA staffers home on 9/11 and the day after —hence Binney’s disguise — the contractors were hard at work. As Binney describes in “A Good American“ — a documentary about Binney due for wider release in September — some contractors working in his unit had gotten a warning. “While I was in there trying to look at the material on my computer, the president of the contracting group that I had working on ThinThread came over to me and said that he’d just been in a contractor meeting” with a former top SAIC official who moved back to NSA, supporting Trailblazer. The contractors, it turns out, were warned not to embarrass companies like SAIC, which (the implication is) had just failed to warn about the biggest attack on the United States since Pearl Harbor. “Do not embarrass large companies,” the former SAIC manager, according to Binney, said to the other contractor. “You do your part, you’ll get your share, there’s plenty for everybody.” Stay quiet about the failures that led to 9/11, and you’ll be financially rewarded.

    • FBI Won’t Say Whether It Bought These Gmail Password Stealing Boxes

      Ever heard of an “app interception system”?

      So-called app interception or cloud interception systems are small physical boxes that steal social media passwords, emails, Dropbox contents and more from smartphones of passers-by, all with no interaction from the target.

      Now, in response to Freedom of Information requests from Motherboard, the FBI has refused to neither confirm nor deny whether the agency has any contracts with two of the main companies selling such devices.

      “The mere acknowledgment of whether or not the FBI has any such records in and of itself would disclose techniques, procedures, and/or guidelines that could reasonably be expected to risk of circumvention of the law. Thus, the FBI neither confirms nor denies the existence of any records,” the responses to two requests read.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Prison Telecom Monopolies ‘Evolve,’ Now Rip Off Inmate Families With Shoddy Video Services, Too

      We’ve noted a few times how interstate inmate calling service (ICS) companies have a disturbingly cozy relationship with government, striking (technically buying) monopoly deals that let them charge inmate families $14 per minute. Worse, some ICS companies like Securus Technologies have been under fire for helping the government spy on privileged inmate attorney communications, information that was only revealed after Securus was hacked late last year. Given the apathy for prison inmates and their families (“Iff’n ya don’t like high prices, don’t go to prison son!”) reform on this front has been glacial at best.

      As such, ripping off inmate families and delivering sub-par services continues unabated. As many prisons eliminate personal visits, these ICS firms have expanded revenues by pretending to offer next-generation teleconferencing services. But while slightly more economical ($10 for 20 minutes), apparently companies like Securus with no competitors, a captive audience, and no repercussions for sloppy technology haven’t quite figured out how to make this whole video chat thing work yet.

    • Amos Yee arrested again for charges of hurting religious feelings

      Amos Yee, the teenager who was found guilty for hurting the feelings of Christians and posting an obscene image online last year, was arrested by the police on Wednesday and since released on bail.

    • Amos Yee arrested for two offences

      Teenage blogger Amos Yee has been arrested again for offences under two sections of the Penal Code – a year after he was convicted of wounding the feelings of Christians and uploading an obscene image.

    • Singaporean blogger Amos Yee arrested

      Police told the newspaper that Yee had violated sections of Singapore’s Penal Code after he published a YouTube video in November last year.

    • Blogger Amos Yee arrested again

      Teen blogger Amos Yee has been arrested again, a year after he was convicted of wounding the feelings of Christians and uploading an obscene image.

    • Amos Yee arrested on Wednesday

      Teenage blogger Amos Yee, whose online comments on religion prompted police reports to be lodged against him, has been arrested, his former lawyer Alfred Dodwell confirmed. Yee was arrested on Wednesday (May 11), said Mr Dodwell, who was contacted by Yee’s mother seeking help.

    • Court Denies Immunity To Law Enforcement Officer Who Arrested Crew Sent To Clean Out His Foreclosed House

      Lieutenant Timothy Filbeck of the Butts County Sheriff’s Department found himself in a not-at-all unusual situation: his home was being foreclosed upon. Like many others who have undergone this process, Filbeck was served with a variety of notices explaining the steps of the process and warning him of the consequences of not complying.

      Filbeck moved out of the doomed home and into a family member’s. This would apparently be the last rational thing he would do in response to the foreclosure. The insurance company for the bank inspected the home four times before coming to the conclusion it had been abandoned by Filbeck. The utilties had been turned off and “cobwebs extended from wall to wall in every room.”

      When the company began preparing the house for auction, things started to get interesting. Employees spent a day cleaning the house out and removing any abandoned property inside it. At some point, Filbeck apparently decided to drop by his old house and noticed the things he had left behind were missing. He could have contacted any of the companies involved in the foreclosure proceedings. He could have done nothing after realizing that leaving a foreclosed house abandoned tends to result in the removal of property also considered abandoned. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals notes that Lieutenant Filbeck chose “none of the above.”

    • BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes and team expelled from North Korea

      BBC correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes and his team have been expelled from North Korea after being detained over their reporting.

      Our correspondent, producer Maria Byrne and cameraman Matthew Goddard were stopped by officials on Friday as they were about to leave North Korea.

    • Myth of the Ferguson Effect Is Hard to Kill

      The myth of the widely debunked “Ferguson effect” on policing is hard to kill. FBI Director James Comey once again raised the specter of the impact of protests against police brutality on police effectiveness yesterday, when he made comments suggesting that a spike in violent crime in some cities may be correlated to officers’ fear of doing their jobs because of community hostility and the growing popularity of cop watching.

    • What’s Missing From The Conversation About Education Reform? Student Voices.

      The education law that President Obama signed at the end of last year to replace No Child Left Behind, called the Every Student Succeeds Act, has garnered widespread bipartisan support. The legislation is particularly popular among states and teachers, who hope that ESSA will allow them to play a larger role in shaping the education system.

    • How Obama’s Efforts to Free Drug War Prisoners Are Being Stymied by His Own Bureaucrats

      With the sentence commutations announced last week, President Barack Obama has now cut more than 300 harsh drug war prison sentences, besting the previous six presidents combined. Thousands more could be eligible for commutations, but bureaucratic obstacles inside the Justice Department mean the clock is likely to run out before Obama gets a chance to free them.

    • Ferguson’s New Police Chief Slams Crooked Cops in First Speech

      The Ferguson police department has been in turmoil since the August 2014 killing of Michael Brown—but a newly appointed police chief hopes to correct the deep-seeded wrongs. It starts with clearing the department of crooked cops, which is the new police chief’s goal.

    • U.S. Government Agencies Probe Sexist Hiring Practices In Hollywood
  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Comcast, Wireless Industry Using ‘Diversity’ Groups To Oppose Net Neutrality, Fight Cable Set Top Box Reform

      We’ve noted several times how one of the sleaziest lobbying tactics in telecom is the co-opting of minority or “diversity” groups to support policies that actually hurt these groups’ constituents. Such theater benefits large telecom companies by presenting the illusion of broad support for what usually are extremely anti-consumer (or anti-small business and startup) policies. And it’s not just minority groups being used in such fashion; telecom lobbyists have long used “retired seniors,” hearing impaired groups and cattle rancher associations to push bad policy.

      This kind of disinformation is pervasive, incredibly destructive, and common practice in everything from the construction industry to patent reform.

      But telecom lobbyists have long been masters at this particular game. It works something like this: an ISP like Comcast (or some other telecom-affiliated lobbying group) will help fund a group’s new event center. In exchange, these groups parrot any policy Comcast puts forth, be it opposition to net neutrality or support for the latest merger. Quid pro quo obligations are never put in writing, letting these groups claim their positions only coincidentally mirror that of their donors.

    • Germany to Rescind Piracy Liability for Open Wifi Operators

      People operating open WiFi networks in Germany have long risked being held liable for the actions of those using them. However, to the relief of thousands of citizens that position will change later this year after the country’s coalition government decided to abolish the legislation which holds operators responsible for the file-sharing activities of others.

  • DRM

    • An Open Letter to Members of the W3C Advisory Committee

      Dear member of the World Wide Web Consortium’s Advisory Committee,

      You may have heard that over the past year we’ve been trying to insert legal safeguards into the Encrypted Media Extensions project at the W3C, which standardizes streaming video DRM. We’ve previously been opposed to the W3C adopting EME, because of the legal issues around DRM, and because DRM requires user agents to obey third parties, rather than their owners.

      However, we think that there’s a compromise that both DRM advocates and opponents should be able to live with.

      I’m writing today to see if you will support us in an upcoming W3C vote on the charter of the Media Extensions Group, where we will be proposing this compromise.

      This letter briefly describes briefly the problem, our proposed solution, and what you can do to help.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • US President Signs New Trade Secrets Law

      US President Barack Obama yesterday signed into law a measure aimed at strengthening trade secret protection including by allowing federal courts to hear cases involving trade secret theft.

    • At The Behest Of Big Pharma, US Threatens Colombia Over Compulsory Licensing Of Swiss Drug

      As Techdirt readers well know, Big Pharma really hates compulsory licensing of its patented drugs, where a country steps in and allows an expensive drug to be made more cheaply in order to provide wider access for its people. Such massive pressure is applied to nations contemplating this move, that even global giants like India quail. A new story is unfolding that reveals just how far companies are prepared to go in order to prevent it from happening. It concerns Colombia’s possible use of a compulsory license for the drug imatinib, sold under the name Glivec, and used to treat leukemia. Despite the fact that the company holding patents on the drug, Novartis, is Swiss, the US has started to lean heavily on Colombia in order to persuade it not to go ahead with the move.

    • Trademarks

      • Remembering Andy Grove, and maybe just the most audacious trademark ever

        There are two slogans that will be ever-identified with Andy Grove. The first is “Intel Inside”, while the second is “Only the Paranoid Survive”, the title of his 1996 book in which he emphasizes the importance of a company to avoid complacency, if it hopes to stay ahead of its competitors. The Economist magazine, in its remembrance of Andy Grove, could have chosen either slogan as best capturing Grove’s legacy. It chose to entitle the piece– “The man who put Intel inside”.

    • Copyrights

      • New UK copyright enforcement strategy: “Track down” infringers, brainwash kids

        The Intellectual Property Office has outlined harsher approaches towards copyright, trademark, and patent enforcement in the UK over the next few years.

        Rather than the “notice and takedown” approach currently used for handling copyright infringement, the UK government is mulling the idea of advancing it to “notice and trackdown,” although the details are not yet clear.

        Beyond increased enforcement, it appears that the IPO also wants to educate consumers and users of “the benefits of respecting IP rights, and do so.” The IPO wants to get ‘em young, too, by encouraging “greater respect” for copyright among children and students.

        These new strategies are outlined in a new UK government paper called “Protecting creativity, supporting innovation: IP enforcement 2020.” The document sets out how it will make “effective, proportionate and accessible enforcement of IP rights a priority for the next four years.”

      • Gene Kelly’s Widow Claims Copyright In Interviews Done By Gene Kelly, Sues Over Academic Book

        Another day, another story of copyright being used for censorship, rather than as an incentive to create. Here’s the headline: Gene Kelly’s widow is suing to stop an academic book exploring various interviews that were done over the decades with the famed actor/dancer. And here’s the lawsuit, in which Kelly’s widow, Patricia Ward Kelly, who was married to Gene Kelly for the last seven years of his life, claims that she holds the copyright on every interview that Kelly ever did.

      • Techdirt Reading List: Copyfight: The Global Politics Of Digital Copyright Reform
      • Copyright and consequences: Google’s Andy Rubin defends Android to jury

        During hours of unrelenting cross-examination today, Andy Rubin, Google’s former Android chief, was on the stand in the Oracle v. Google trial defending how he built the mobile OS.

        Rubin’s testimony began yesterday. He’s another one of the star witnesses in this second courtroom showdown between the two software giants in which Oracle has said it will seek up to $9 billion in damages for Google’s use of certain Java APIs in the Android operating system. Since an appeals court decided that APIs can be copyrighted, Google’s only remaining defense in this case is that its use of those APIs constitutes “fair use.”

      • Stakes Are High In Oracle v. Google, But The Public Has Already Lost Big

        Attorneys for the Oracle and Google companies presented opening statements this week in a high-stakes copyright case about the use of application-programming interfaces, or APIs. As Oracle eagerly noted, there are potentially billions of dollars on the line; accordingly, each side has brought “world-class attorneys,” as Judge William Alsup noted to the jury. And while each company would prefer to spend their money elsewhere, these are businesses that can afford to spend years and untold resources in the courtroom.

        Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the overwhelming majority of developers in the computer industry, whether they’re hobbyist free software creators or even large companies. Regardless of the outcome of this fair use case, the fact that it proceeded to this stage at all casts a long legal shadow over the entire world of software development.

      • The biggest problem for the Oracle v. Google retrial: Judge Alsup’s reality distortion field

        For purely emotional reasons, this retrial appears rigged to me. Various pretrial decisions didn’t seem evenhanded to me, with Google perhaps benefiting from Judge Alsup’s frustration with the fact that his highest-profile IP ruling was nullified by three higher judges than him. Judge Alsup would, of course, benefit from a final decision in Google’s favor in the sense that his 2012 non-copyrightability blunder would then be deemed inconsequential in retrospect.

      • Sun’s Jonathan Schwartz at trial: Java was free, Android had no licensing problem

        Former Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz took the stand today in the second Oracle v. Google trial, testifying about how the Java language and APIs were used while he was at Sun’s helm.

        After a brief overview of his career path, Schwartz launched into a discussion about Java, a software language that Sun created and popularized. It’s critical testimony in the Oracle v. Google lawsuit, in which Oracle claims that Google’s use of Java APIs, now owned by Oracle, violates copyright law. Oracle is seeking up to $9 billion in damages.

        Was the Java language, created by Sun Microsystems in the 1990s, “free and open to use,” Google lawyer Robert Van Nest asked?

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