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05.16.16

UPC an Attack Not Only on the European Public But Also on Staff of the EPO

Posted in Europe, Patents at 4:30 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

If it looks like a coup…

Brazil's media

Summary: Ousting of existing EPO staff and replacement of public interests with corporate interests (even large companies from abroad) is what the UPC turns out to be all about

THE EPO is undoubtedly being transformed, albeit covertly and silently, not just gradually. While there’s room for speculation around EUIPO (with ever-growing EPO overlaps/intersections and many mentions in the EPO’s Twitter account these days), one thing we know for sure is that UPC — if it ever became a reality — would change a lot at the examination and prosecution levels (both, not either one or the other). Software patents are just one aspect among many. According to this new press release: “Redline Detection announced today that in a first instance decision, the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich, Germany, has unanimously ruled to revoke in its entirety Star EnviroTech’s European Patent No. 1,384,984 dealing with the use of nitrogen generated smoke with dye to leak test vehicles in Europe.” This is owing to the appeals system (like PTAB in the US) and while an appeal is still possible, it does show the power of revocation of patents erroneously granted. If the UPC became a reality and the boards were eliminated, would that still be possible at all? The boards, in our experience, are probably the most skilled for this type of task.

Later in the day yesterday we wrote about the forced reform that violently crushes anything resembling scepticism, criticism or resistance. This is class war. There may be suicides and other human tolls, but at the end Battistelli and his bosses want to get their desired laws rammed down everyone’s throat.

We are gratified to see that Merpel is back to digging/drilling into EPO affairs. “Thank you for the article,” one person told her, adding:

Just a quick note: the day after it was published that article was already in the top viewed, now it is at the very top. Apparently, this kind of article is very popular… maybe we could have them more often (hint, hint…).

Merpel has not written much about the EPO so far this year. We are not sure why. Merpel asks, “Does the UPC spell disaster for the EPO Boards of Appeal?” That’s almost a rhetorical question. Here are some portions from her article:

However, the Administrative Council has taken no decision to allow members of the Boards of Appeal to serve as UPC judges, and Merpel understands that there is no plan to do so. What she is not sure about is where the pressure not to allow BoA members to also serve on the UPC has come from. She has heard that the EPO President is against the idea, as he does not wish to relinquish any EPO employees. Presumably, the Administrative Council is not in favour, otherwise they could take such a decision irrespective of the wishes of the President, but it seems that they have chosen not to. But she also now wonders whether the Preparatory Committee is also not in favour.

This seems to be a great mistake. The Boards of Appeal represent the largest concentration of expertise in adjudicating contentious patent disputes in Europe, with a proven track record of doing so in a transnational manner. An early decision to potentially second a significant number of Board of Appeal members could have allowed this resource to be used for the benefit of the UPC, while allowing significant extra flexibility for the manpower of the UPC, whose caseload in the initial stages is unknown and unknowable. The alternative that seems to be now being pursued of recruiting a set number of judges risks over- or under-staffing.

Perhaps the Administrative Council and the EPO President are concerned that the backlog of cases at the EPO Boards of Appeal (currently estimated at around 8000 cases) can only worsen if some Board members go off to be UPC judges part time. This is an issue of concern, but it seems to Merpel that the solution is not to prohibit the Board members from being UPC judges part time, but rather to increase the manpower of the Boards to compensate. The Boards of Appeal are large enough to accommodate some flexibility in staffing levels, much more easily than the fledgling UPC.

[...]

Merpel has now realised a further problem for the Boards of Appeal themselves. As she reported earlier, they are currently significantly under strength. If BoA members are not allowed to serve part time on the UPC, it must be very attractive to instead resign from the EPO and go to the UPC full time. This is a time of potential significant upheaval for the Boards, with likely changes to location, career structure, independence, and work expectations. The UPC must look like an attractive escape route. But when there are already a large number of unfilled places, any significant exodus at this time could irretrievably lose expertise in some technical areas. Such damage could take years to restore. Moreover, it will result in precisely the outcome (increase in backlog of appeal cases) the avoidance of which is presumed to lie behind not releasing Board members to serve part time at the UPC.

No doubt the Boards of Appeal are at the crosshairs. They know it. Now, consider some of the comments which reinforce this suspicion. Among the comments we find some mean-spirited claims such as this:

Well… BoA members do NOT have any experience in patent litigation, do they ?

Claim interpretation, claim construction, doctrine of equivalency means nothing to them.

So they may be somewhat qualified for nullity actions in view of EP oppositions, but I doubt that they can be regarded as qualified for litigation…

Merpel responds as follows:

Do you really think so? Do you consider that it is possible to evaluate the novelty of claim without claim interpretation and claim construction? And even if they do not currently apply it on a daily basis, Merpel thinks it absurd to suggest that equivalence is not something that a Board of Appeal member cannot easily adapt their experience to decide.

The idea that nullity and infringement are different animals is a strange one to practitioners in many countries.

A more valid criticism, in Merpel’s mind, is that BoA members will be unfamiliar with the procedural rules of the UPC, but then again so will everyone else.

This was rebutted by an habitual commenter (called Fritz) also:

If you see the mess that drafting patent agents often make of claims which are then granted, often without any A84 objection, it is unavoidable that the BoA deal with claim interpretation and construction. Especially in chemistry, exactly that is the BoA’s daily job. How many times are A83 objections made and elaborately discussed before the BoA while in fact they are A84 objections? How many decisions do not start their reasons with the interpretation of the claims? Someone who seriously thinks that the BoA have never dealt with construction and interpretation of claims, has no experience with the BoA and has not taken the trouble to read the decisions. Just take the white book and look up A84.

The question of nullity is not different from that a normal opposition situation. What is different is the question of infringement, where the evaluation of proof will play a big role. However, the judgement of the validity of proof is also not or not much different form that used in cases of alleged public prior use. So I, as a former patent agent, think that the BoA members are absolutely the best to start with UPC and to lay a good coherent basis for what is new to all of us. Apart from their experience with working in different languages.

Then comes up the fact about under-staffing of the Boards — a subject which we covered here many times before. To quote:

Does Merpel have any thoughts about the (deliberate?) under-staffing of the Boards? I have witnessed the President state that there was no recruitment freeze, but this is clearly not the case; it is easily demonstrated by e.g. review of job advertisements / purrr-rusal of the business distribution scheme, that until recently there was a significant paws, er, pause. But what – other than petulance or “pay-back” for perceived wrongs – is the end game here?

Well, Battistelli is trying to kill Boards (of Appeal), but he won’t admit this. He is like a silent assassin, an ENA neoliberal whose sensitivity to human emotions is next to zilch. That’s what many managers are trained to do and feel (or not feel). As one comment put it:

Perhaps the UPC will preserve us from the occasional nuttiness of the Boards of Appeal, whose decisions sometimes give the impression that they are made just to check that we’re awake and paying attention.

Whether this was sarcastic or not, the matter of fact is that without the Boards of Appeal things would be a lot worse. One comment that’s not agreeing with the OP must have come from a patent lawyer or attorney:

“The Boards of Appeal represent the largest concentration of expertise in adjudicating contentious patent disputes in Europe”. Really? Since when? Yes, they adjudicate on validity. But that is not the same (despite your wish that it were) as adjudicating on infringement matters.

And how many times have European Patent Attorneys tried to argue points of construction and interpretation before BoA members only to be told subtle matters like these are part of “enforcement” proceedings and, hence, not taken into account by the EPO? The BoA members have made good careers by avoiding these matters – particularly evidence in forms other than patent documents.

Perhaps Patent Attorneys might be better placed than EPO Examiners to take up Technical Judge positions in the UPC – at least they will be used to advising on enforcement as well as validity?

An “anonymous” German practitioner from Munich writes:

According to my personal experience BoA members simply do not bother about anything, which happens after grant/opposition. Infringement discussions or equivalency are completely new matters to them (not in the sense of novelty :-)).

Being a DE practitioner I am of course maybe biased/bifurcated in my thinking, but in my view the BoA will have to learn quite a bit of different thinking when being confronted with infringement issues.

This may of course be different for a UK judge, who is used to thinking about both issues in parallel…

This seems nonsensical because the nature of rulings in a court is very similar to examination or appeals, except when it comes to damage calculations. “The attorney arrogance displayed in some of the above comments is just frightening,” noted the following comment, correctly stating that people who work for the Boards are perfectly suitable for the task:

Somebody who thinks that the boards of appeal do not deal with claim interpretation and equivalence cannot have spent much time before the boards or in their decisions.

Infringement is another matter, but as the applicable rules very from country to country, every judge at the UPC will have to learn a lot in this domain.

The attorney arrogance displayed in some of the above comments is just frightening. If like me you have to deal with EP attorneys every day, you wonder what gives them the right to look down on others. Really. Speck and plank, remember?

But who needs the UPC in the first place? It’s best suited for large corporations, even foreign, definitely not for SMEs, which Europe is internationally known for. As one person called ‘MaxDrei’ (a patent attorney) put it, the UPC “looks to me like a deliberate and cold-blooded re-boot of the patents system in Europe.”

Here is the comment in full:

This looks to me like a deliberate and cold-blooded re-boot of the patents system in Europe. Ever since 1978, the patent litigators have been grinding their teeth in frustration, that patent attorneys and a Patent Office have been in the driving seat, when it comes to matters of patent validity in Europe. Who do they think they are, the judges and litigators cry.

One has to admire the lobbying skills of the litigators, to persuade the politicians and the judges and industry, that this aberration in Europe must cease, and that the age-old order must be restored. The conduct of pan-European cases on validity must be wrested away from mere patent attorneys, and brought home to the wise visionaries within the international law firms, serving their CEO clients. Never mind that the White Book of the case law of the Boards of Appeal of the EPO is far and away the most coherent and intellectually rigorous body of caselaw on the validity of patents that the world has ever seen. The only thing that has ever enabled strong FTO opinions to be given to industry is that White Book. Compare the mess of patent law that any national Supreme Court makes, when it ignores the teachings of the White Book.

As ever, you only know what you’ve got when it’s gone.

“MaxDrei makes an excellent point regarding “wise visionaries”,” this comment says. “Hear hear.”

Looking at another thread, one person notes that UPC “will have unprecedented commercial power in the Europe and the world.” The person recalls the saying “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” and here it is with some context:

For the UPC to be based on the EPO’s granting of patents, when the EPO seemingly does not have a Judiciary independent of the Executive, where the Executive of the EPO can apparently ignore the EBA or court judgements, is very worrying.

The UPC/UP will have unprecedented commercial power in the Europe and the world. Patents granted under it must be granted by an organisation that is properly held to account under international law and justice.

Who was it who says ….Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely…. a notion too far perhaps … I do hope so and that I worry unduly.

The UPC conspirators, as we noted before, try to hire people for the UPC before it's even approved (and it is definitely not unstoppable/inevitable). A comment on those ‘job advertisements’ from Bristows staff says:

It makes an interesting read. Note there is a specific ban on acting simultaneously as a member of the EPO Boards of Appeal and UPC legal judge (presumably technical judge too). One requirement is that “(c)andidates shall possess the qualifications required for appointment to judicial offices in the Member State of which they are nationals. This is a high bar here in the UK (though the paucity of information in the accompanying literature does not make this clear). It is not clear to me even whether UK members of the Boards of Appeal have such qualifications, which would be crazy. That august body would seem to provide a reservoir of candidates, though they’d have to learn a bit about infringement.

“It is not clear to me even whether UK members of the Boards of Appeal have such qualifications, which would be crazy.” Well, maybe it’s tailored to exclude members of the Boards of Appeal, just like that opening that Bergot took over (almost certainly with help from her husband and his old buddy, Battistelli [1, 2, 3, 4]). In another post from Merpel she previously took note of what had been happening to the Boards of Appeal. Here is the relevant part in full:

Boards of Appeal – disciplinary case
There are two issues relating to the Boards of Appeal.  First is the suspension of a member of the Board of Appeal by the Administrative Council, following the imposition on him of a “House Ban” by the President all the way back in December 2014.  Many (including almost all internal members of the Enlarged Board of Appeal Appeal and many distinguished external members – see IPKat post here) considered that the “House Ban” contravened the EPC, since only the Administrative Council can exercise disciplinary authority over a Board of Appeal member, but the position was somewhat regularised by the AC’s later action.  Later, the Service Regulations were amended by the Administrative Council last December, so that Board of Appeal members can be suspended pending disciplinary proceedings for up to two years, rather than four months as was previously the case (and is still the case for normal EPO employees).

The removal from office of a Board of Appeal member requires a proposal from the Enlarged Board of Appeal.  The EPO has now twice petitioned the EBA for such a proposal.  The first was rejected as inadmissible (See IPKat here).  The second case (given the unusual number “Art 23 2/15″, indicating that it is a proceeding pursuant to Article 23 EPC) has terminated in a Decision of 11 February 2016 that is rather inconclusive.  All of the admissible requests made to the Enlarged Board were withdrawn, while further requests will apparently be considered as a further reference – now the third related to the matter.  The Decision states it is to be published, but Merpel has not yet seen an official publication of it by the EPO.  Furthermore, Merpel wonders how many more opportunities the administration is going to have to put its case to the EBA while following the norms of natural justice.

Boards of Appeal – reform
There is general agreement that the Boards of Appeal of the EPO need some organisational reform.  Most see the main issue as being perception of independence from the rest of the EPO structure, given the quasi-judicial role of the Boards in reviewing EPO decisions and actions.  However, the proposal from the President of the EPO to reform the Boards was widely criticised, both for some of the specific details (some of which were considered to be incompatible with the EPC), and for the overall approach, which conflated independence with efficiency and seemed fixated on moving the Boards to another physical location.  Moreover, the Boards of Appeal were themselves not consulted during the drawing up of the proposals.  At the Administrative Council meeting of 16 and 17 December 2015, these proposals were not adopted; instead the AC mandated its own sub-group “Board 28” to elaborate guidelines to take the reform project forwards.  After a falling-out between the President and Board 28, at the March meeting of the Administrative Council, the President was asked to formulate proposals based on these guidelines (see the text of the AC Resolution below) for consideration at the June AC meeting.  We await details of what these proposals are.

The Boards of Appeal have put forward their own proposals for reform, and you can read the history of the reform from the point of view of the Boards on the website of their organisation AMBA.  Merpel understands that the Boards have NOT been consulted even in the latest re-formulation of a proposal for reform.

Merpel understands that the President is still fixated on the idea that the Boards need to be in a different building from the rest of the EPO, although now the idea is that it will be in another location in Munich, not another city altogether such as Vienna.  The Munich suburb of Garching, halfway out to the airport, is the latest rumour. The motivation to move the Boards from their current location seems odd since the justification is that the members of the Boards should not be mingling with the first instance Examiners whose decisions they are reviewing.  But the Boards largely work in the Isar building, whereas the Examiners work almost exclusively in the PschorrHöfe buildings.  The main other occupant of the Isar building is the President…

Boards of Appeal – resourcing
The original proposals for reform of the Boards of Appeal presupposed that they have an issue with efficiency.  These turned out to be based on misleading comparisons.  While the Boards themselves agree that something has to be done about the growing backlog of appeal cases (estimated at about 8000 cases), and some increase in efficiency probably needs to be part of that, most of the respondents to the EPO’s own consultation on reform of the Boards of Appeal emphasised that the reform and any efficiency increases need to be considered together.   A more pressing issue in the ability of the Boards to deal with the caseload was that for some considerable period no new appointments had been made, and reappointments left to the very last minute (this raising concerns that the delay in reappointment could be used to make Board members more biddable in the meantime).   Precise numbers are a little difficult to establish, but by March 2016, Merpel understands that no new appointments had been made for about 2 years,  7 Boards lacked a chairman and about 13 technical board member positions were vacant.  Finally, a few new appointments (2 chairmen and 3 technical members) were made at the March 2016 meeting of the Administrative Council.  Apparently the President denies that there has been any issue with the levels of staffing of the Boards, and considers that since he agreed to the creation of a new Board, the Boards have been “expanded”; it is to him apparently immaterial that this “expansion” is more than offset by the number of vacant positions and Merpel understands that this new Board was never in fact filled.  Merpel very much hopes that the Boards will continue to be fully staffed.

This post attracted many comments that relate to the Boards of Appeal. One person wrote:

“The Decision states it is to be published, but Merpel has not yet seen an official publication of it by the EPO.”

This point is of little impact on the individual case (the decision has reached the IPkat and the internet after all) but may have wide-reaching implications.

Does it mean that the EPO can disregard the order of a decision of a BoA?

Should we expect in the future that decisions of first instance departments are subject to a review by the BoA only as far as the orders of their decisions please the president?

Maybe next time the EPO could decide to ignore an order to refund the appeal fee or to maintain a biotech patent in an amended form which is “inconvenient” for the EPO.

Apart from these provocative questions it seems to me that the interference of the president in the Boards´decisions and their independence turns out to be a much bigger problem than what has been assumed until now.

“The [judge's] removal from office would,” according to another person, “under different circumstances, merit a good laugh.”

Well, there is nothing funny about being falsely accused of violence. That was quite a defamatory move from Team Battistelli and there may soon be legal action over it. Here is the comment in full:

No progress on the possible removal from office of the member of the Boards of Appeal, no progress on the reform of the Boards, no consultation of the Boards on the reform, no progress on the social agenda. The removal from office would, under different circumstances, merit a good laugh. It is probably hard to find a comparable level of incompetence, in particular in such a delicate matter.

In the meantime, the EPO continues to infringe on Human Rights, as decided by an appeal court in the Netherlands back in February 2015 [sic]. SUEPO obtained that judgment, the EPO is challenging it, and the Vice President DG1 (search, examination and opposition) stated on Dutch TV that a judgment against the EPO would in all likelihood be ignored. SUEPO shall nevertheless sign a memorandum of understanding accepting the regulations in question.

The Administrative Tribunal of the International Labor Organization (ILO-AT), the only external “court” to which EPO officials can turn, has raised serious concerns about EPO governance. ILO-AT is drowning with EPO cases, impeding its ability to serve as tribunal for other organizations.

All things considered, the current President continues to apply his “all or nothing” strategy. Escalation is followed by further escalation. It is hard to imagine that the current situation will improve under this President.

“A typical management tactic,” wrote another person, “which pre-dates Battistelli, is to promise to be good in the future, if only the Union will accept the status quo.”

Well, they should fight on. Here is this comment about SUEPO:

SUEPO is right to insist on revisiting the so-called “reforms’ (a term which gives the measures a legitimacy they simply don’t have; after all “reforms” are always good, aren’t they?). The investigation guidelines are one such “reform”, as are the measures taken against SUEPO and its officials, the house arrest of sick staff, the unrealistic targets, the promotion rules which reinforce arbitrariness, etc etc. Using the term “reforms” for these measures is not neutral – it is adopting the management’s rhetoric, and reinforcing the scenario it would like the public to belief it – that of idle time-serving workers paid too much to do too little. (Extraordinary, therefore, that the EPO’s proud reputation over all the years of its existence was built on such a shaky foundation).

A typical management tactic, which pre-dates Battistelli, is to promise to be good in the future, if only the Union will accept the status quo. It is always an empty promise, but it allows the management to seem reasonable and the Union to seem intransigent. SUEPO must and will, I hope resist it.

Right now the pattern we’re seeing is simple to interpret. Anyone who is not 100% on board with Team Battistelli must be crushed and made an example of. Regarding the suspension of a judge one person wrote the following:

Does it mean that the EPO can disregard the order of a decision of a BoA?

The answer is yes, definitely. Should the EBA for instance decide to reject the AC´s late request for dismissal of a judge and decide he should be reintegrated into DG3, the president could simply maintain the house ban he imposed upon him 18 months ago, and there is absolutely nothing anybody could do.

The interference of the president in the Boards´decisions and their independence indeed is a much bigger problem than what has been assumed until now. The legitimacy of the whole EP (and UPC) construction would no longer stand up to scrutiny by a national constitutional court.

Going back to the previous thread — the one which focuses on the UPC — DG3 is noted as follows:

Merpel may also wish to consider the recent mooted change to dg3 rules concerning the requirement of approval for employment after leaving the epo. Thus even retiring or resigning would not clearly free a BoA member, particularly if his/her pension were being held hostage? I think that was part of the proposed changes to ensure the Boards’ independence.

Given the excellence of the White Book of DG3 case law, patent disputes in Europe these days usually come down to an argument over the facts. Is the teaching in the patent sufficient to perform the claimed invention? Is there in D1 a disclosure good enough to enable something within the claim? Was there a novelty-destroying prior use or not? How actually does the accused embodiment perform? Once the facts are established, the law is almost invariably straightforward to apply, both on infringement and on validity.

But readers, where (if anywhere) is fact-finding done better than at the EPO? In the courts in London, I would of course say, but at what cost?

What would be nice is top quality objective and dispassionate English common law fact-finding applied to the established DG3 law on claim construction and the substantive law of the validity of patents. Fat chance of that though, eh? Nowhere near enough work for mainland patent litigators, is there?

Regarding the gradual elimination (or phasing out) of the Boards, one person hypothesises as follows:

Well, I could think of further reasons for the UPC not takin on BoA-members.

1) Would a board member risk incurring the wrath of His President, in cases where he/she would have to rule in a way not favourable to the EPO?

2) The risk of the impression of a bias is indeed high.

3) Maybe not everyone agrees with MaxDrei in the quality of the BoA rulings and his dismissal of the national courts. As a DPMA-examiner I find the BGH decisions pretty coherent. In the cases I had to look at EPO-decisions (in parallel examinations or opposition proceedings) I found them often questionable and the reasons for the decisions often insufficiently disclosed (in German proceedings the courts would talk of “Begründungsmangel”).

The above does not quite pass muster for the following reason, as noted by MaxDrei:

Good point from Fragender. But how many English decisions does he read, I wonder. He would then be even more keen to disparage individual decisions of individual EPO Boards of Appeal. Naturally, as an Englishman, I find that the reasoning in the decisions of my own domestic courts appeals to me much more than what I find in EPO decisions. I guess it’s the same for him, as a German.

My point though is the integrity of the “body” of established case law of the EPO, in the White Book and a distillation of more than a thousand decisions each year for more than thirty years now.

I regret that the BGH (unlike the UK Supreme Court) persists in maintaining its own line, choosing not to defer to the established case law of the EPO Boards of Appeal. Just as the USA thinks it only matter of time before the world swings in to line with American case law, so the legal community in Germany supposes it only a matter of time before all Europe adopts the BGH line.

But now, with the coming of the UPC though, it is indeed perhaps only a matter of time. If so, what a pity.

In response:

I didn’t mean to say the BGH-line is necessarily better. In some respects I think the BoA-line is better, in others the BGH line. The EPO has dumbed down the person skilled in the art way too much for my liking (I have over 12 years of experience as a design engineer…).
I simply wanted to say they are not necessarily making a mess, simply by not following the BoA-decisions.
And yes, I do read fewer British decisions than German ones – but I try to read at least the interesting ones. They seem to be well written, usually.
It will be interesting to see, which line the UPC will develop.

That is if the UPC actually develops into anything at all…

An EPO examiner added the following input:

1) and 2): I think that it is rather the other way round. BoA members are excluded exactly because they ruled in a way that dipleased Battistelli in the past. The exclusion must be seen together with the understaffing of the boards, the attempts to move them out of Munich and to reform them in a way to render them more loyal.
Other EPO employees that have been more loyal and are surely more biased (maybe Mr. Lutz and friends) do not seem to be excluded from the UPC because the exclusion mentions only board members.

3) I think that it depends to what you are looking for. I agree with maxdrei and I find that english decision are better reasoned on the fact finding. BGH decisions seem, when you manage to extrapolate the reasoning from the amtsdeutsch, less reasoned than the average BoA decision. Decisions of my colleagues in the examinaning and opposition division are of course different and not to be compared with BoA decision: unfortunately I must agree with you that some of them are not very well reasoned.
But all this is, of course, a personal opinion.

Putting side this string of comments on why Battistelli is crushing the Boards and the role the UPC plays in achieving this, one person believes that Battistelli is “doing his best to ensure that the UPC is dominated by France.” Look how many French people are now in EPO management. Some of them are relatives and some are former colleagues of Battistelli. Coincidence? Lucrative jobs with astronomical (and sometimes secret) salaries? Therein lies a major scandal and this is why French politicians need to take action. It has become a national embarrassment to France. Here is the comment in full:

In my enthusiasm for the point that the UPC will go all German I had overlooked the role of Battistelli in the build-up to the launch of the UPC, doing his best to ensure that the UPC is dominated by France. Not Germany, and certainly NOT by any judges who learned their profession at the EPO.

When Germany, France and the UK are united, that no judge coming from the EPO will have any chance of judging at the UPC, what chance do DG3 members have, in the Brave New World of patent law made by the EU?

Here is one comment which suggests that not the UPC but some new rules that pose an existential threat to the Boards:

From what I hear it is not the UPC that looms in the future of the BoA. Rather it is the new rules which were refused by the AC in december that spell disaster. Those rules will be presented to the AC in June without any serious change, so I heard, and render the BoA very dependent on the opinion of the president, so then indeed there is a danger that BoA members dare not decide independently anymore. Again, those new rules have been put together without any consultation of the BoA and dead against the opinions of the users of the system, who heavily criticised the fact that independence was mixed up with efficiency, which was in general found satisfactory. Also it will be impossible for former BoA members to work in the field of patents without the consent of the AC. By the time such a consent might be given, if at all, time has gone by and the request has become moot. In fact that amounts to a Berufsverbot for members of the BoA. So no returning to their old job e.g. as a patent agent, no consultancy, etc., preventing any possibility to create some extra income. Again an example of the utter undemocratic way the EPO is governed nowadays, going against all legislation found normal in the member states, which, should these rules be accepted this time, I cannot but regard as a vindictive collective punishment of the BoA members. What a world…..

This, according to the above, is “an example of the utter undemocratic way the EPO is governed nowadays, going against all legislation found normal in the member states…”

It seem abundantly clear that both EPO staff and patent attorneys (or lawyers) now realise that the UPC is a ruinous plan of Battistelli et al. It benefits not them but few external forces, such as billionaires and their multinational corporations which probably evade tax (as usual). We need more people to mobilise against the UPC as it literally harms more than 99% of Europeans for the gains of 1% (or less) who are not even European.

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      Last month, openDemocracy was in New York to meet the Caravan Activists, a remarkable group of men and women, who have lost loved ones to the ‘war on drugs’. Now they campaign to change the system.

    • Impasse or turning point for the ‘war on drugs’? UNGASS 2016, explained

      The global drug control regime was established to bring state control over, and eventually eradicate, illicit drug markets. But it is not going well. The last UN drug summit, in 1998, met under the slogan “A Drug Free World – We Can Do It”. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that, 18 years later, we can’t do it. The challenge facing the member states gathered in New York last month was to acknowledge that basic truth, acknowledge that repressive approaches had actually created many of the problems we now face, and agree a programme of action that could at least reduce the harmful impacts of a globally established commodity market with high demand, and multiple supply options.

    • Who Gets to Drink From the Great Lakes?

      Water has become the 21st-century equivalent of oil, and a plan to divert water from the Great Lakes to surrounding areas is raising questions about the possibility of future water grabs from far-flung water-sparse regions.

      While plans to divert water from the Great Lakes basin date back to the early 1900s, modern-day attempts have become increasingly extravagant. In 1982, Congress directed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to study the feasibility of using Great Lakes water to irrigate farmland on the Great Plains. (Not so feasible, said the Corps.) Fifteen years later, a businessman in Canada secured a permit from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment to transport 158 million gallons of water each year from Lake Superior to Asia in tanker ships. (He withdrew his proposal in 1998 under pressure from Canadian officials.) And in 2007, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, in his presidential bid, suggested piping Great Lakes water to the arid Southwest. (Richardson’s campaign foundered and his trial balloon burst.)

    • How to avert a Great Lakes catastrophe

      A pair of 63-year-old underwater pipelines (collectively, Enbridge Line 5) spanning the Straits of Mackinac carry about 23 million gallons of crude oil and liquid hydrocarbons a day.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • The Ugly Consequences of the U.S. Military Having Immunity to Commit War Crimes in Afghanistan

      “The U.S. bombing of the hospital was a war crime. But the United States can bomb any place it wants—a school, refugee camp, hospital—and they will not be held accountable,” said Hakim, a physician and mentor to the grassroots organization Afghan Peace Volunteers. “U.S. immunity is atrocious. It’s intolerable. They should be held accountable like every other human being.”

      Hakim, who requested his last name and city of residence be withheld for security reasons, spoke with AlterNet from Afghanistan just weeks after the Pentagon released a heavily redacted internal investigation in which it exonerated itself of war crimes for its October 2015 bombing of a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital in Kunduz that killed 42 civilians. The 16 U.S. service members immediately responsible will face administrative consequences but not court martial, and the high-level architects of U.S. policy in Afghanistan will remain untouched. The military provided the fallacious justification that the massacre did not amount to a war crime because it was unintentional.

    • Surprise! Despite Syria-Iraq Turmoil, Major Mideast Economies growing 3-4%

      When you only hear bad news from a place, you form a negative opinion of it. But when I went looking for news about the economies of the most populous Middle Eastern countries, I was surprised to find that the IMF and/or World Bank is seeing between 3.5 and 4% growth in 2016.

      You would think Turkish President Erdogan’s renewed conflict with Kurds in the country’s southeast, along with the occasional bombings in Ankara and Istanbul that have hurt tourism, plus the Russian cancellation of some joint projects, the fall in Russian tourism, and the cancellation of fruit and vegetable orders– that all these things would have hurt economic growth. Well, maybe they did, but the Turkish economy is still set to grow 4% this year. Of course, you could argue that the economy might be growing 7% if Erdogan hadn’t picked all those fights. And, it is not as if the profits are being equally spread around the population.

    • Top 3 Signs Bill Clinton didn’t kill himself to “give” the Palestinians a State

      Former President Bill Clinton on Saturday claimed “I killed myself to give the Palestinians a state,” and maintained that he secured an agreement, which the Palestinians turned down. In fact, no such text was ever presented to the Palestinian side, and then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak kept flaking out on commitments previously made, leaving the Palestinian negotiators with nothing to agree to. Negoatiator Aaron Miller later admitted, “There was not a formalized, written proposal that covered the four core issues. There was no deal on the table. None of the issues were explained enough in detail to make an agreement, though the Israelis made an interesting argument on Jerusalem.”

      No time here to go into the paternalist and colonial language about “giving” the Palestinians a state. They are a stateless people because they are unrecognized; they would get a state by recognizing them as such, not giving them anything.

    • Refugees from ‘Endless’ War

      Policymakers in Official Washington talk piously about waging “humanitarian” wars, but the real-life consequences of these interventions play out in squalid refugee camps far from U.S. shores, as Ann Wright witnessed.

    • Why, and How, Congress Should Enact an AUMF

      Just as bad was how Congress approached the resolution, enacted in October 2002, authorizing the offensive war in Iraq. This time there was no consideration at all of the resolution in committee—only a cursory floor debate. Republicans were mostly observing party loyalty to their president. Democrats were anxious to get the vote out of the way as quickly as possible to maximize the time between the vote and the elections in November. Political pusillanimity prevailed. One of the few members to lament this shoddy and rushed performance of Congress’s duty was Senator Robert Byrd, who said on the Senate floor a few weeks before the invasion, “This chamber is for the most part ominously, dreadfully silent. You can hear a pin drop. Listen. You can hear a pin drop. There is no discussion. There is no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing.”

    • Eyewitness Odessa: Anti-Fascist Resistance in Ukraine

      At the end of World War Two, the city of Odessa in present-day Ukraine was declared a Hero City by the Soviet Union for its determined resistance to Nazi occupation. It’s a designation still valued by the people of this multicultural metropolis of a million people on the western shore of the Black Sea.

      On May 2, 2016, Odessans once again showed their great capacity for courage. Defying threats by local and national fascist organizations, thousands of city residents, accompanied by international monitors from across Europe and the United States, gathered to pay their respects to the victims of a fascist massacre and press their demand for an international investigation.

    • SCS for South China Sea aren’t the scariest letters in the world … they’re CPEC

      Don’t make the mistake of regarding the CPEC as another South China Sea, an opportunity for a budget-fattening play date for the US and PRC and other regional militaries, one carefully constrained and choreographed between several high-capacity partners within a relatively stable political and security matrix…

    • The Assassination Complex: A Long-Overdue Window into America’s Vast Killing Machine

      Based on dramatic revelations from a post-Snowden whistleblower and written by Jeremy Scahill and other Intercept writers, The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program provides a long-overdue window into America’s vast killing machine: who makes the decisions on who will be killed; how those decisions are made; how the strikes are carried out; most of all, in a thoughtful foreword by Edward Snowden and afterword by Glenn Greenwald, the implications for a democratic society of all this due-process-free, non-battlefield killing.

    • Suspect device in Old Trafford controlled explosion was dummy left behind after training exercise
    • Norwegian Ryanair flight to Manchester delayed after hoax security alert

      Police in Norway evacuated a Ryanair aircraft due to fly to Manchester and after a hoax security alert.

      Officers writing on an official Twitter account said they had arrested two passengers due to suspicious behaviour.

      Officials searched bags and quizzed other passengers from the flight, as the ‘bomb squad’ headed to the airport

      Reports suggest only the Ryanair flight FR3225, was due to take off at 18.55 from Rygge Airport near Oslo, was affected.

      Police, writing on Twitter in Norwegian and translated into English, said: “Due to suspicious behaviour on two passengers who were flying into Manchester police have evacuated the aircraft control mechanisms.”

    • Watch worried fans climb fences after Old Trafford evacuate following suspect package find

      Fans and police have been praised for the swift and orderly evacuation of the stadium but a few supporters in the North West quadrant of the stadium were reportedly confused about their exit route.

    • Bomb threat at Manchester United’s Old Trafford after training device left behind

      An embarrassing security blunder brought chaos and disruption to the final day of the English Premier League soccer season on Sunday, as tens of thousands of fans at Manchester United’s iconic Old Trafford stadium were evacuated by police due to a suspected bomb threat.

      United, one of the most famed and successful teams in the world, was due to host Bournemouth to conclude its league campaign. After an “incredibly lifelike” package, including a taped device made up of a cell phone and protruding wires, was discovered, the game was cancelled and supporters ordered out of the 75,635-seat venue.

    • Old Trafford ‘bomb’ was left behind after security training at Manchester United

      Some 50,000 supporters were evacuated from the ground when the alarm was raised about 15 minutes before the kick-off.

      United players were warming up on the pitch when they were told to leave.

      The club and the police have now revealed the device had been accidentally left behind by a private company following a security training drill.

    • Old Trafford ‘dummy bomb’ has happened before

      Many around the football world have been left astounded by the events at Old Trafford on Sunday, as Manchester United’s match with Bournemouth was abandoned by what was thought, at the time, as a suspicious package.

      Then, with fans evacuated and bomb disposal experts sent to the stadium, it transpired that the device was a dummy, giving rise to the theory that the ‘bomb’ was a hoax. But in a remarkable twist, it has now emerged that the so-called bomb was a training device left over from safety excercises earlier in the week.

      And perhaps even more remarkably, this is not the first time such a scenario has presented itself in English football, with Wolverhampton Wanderers having to evacuate part of their Molineaux stadium in 2014 while police investigated what turned out to be a training device left over in the Steve Bull Stand.

    • Manchester United Game Canceled Over Fake Explosive From Training Exercise

      Manchester United’s game against Bournemouth was canceled after a suspicious package was found at the Old Trafford stadium, the club said Sunday, but police later said the package was actually a training device left behind during an earlier security exercise.

    • Old Trafford security alert – statement
    • Manchester United bomb scare was caused by security blunder after dummy device was left in Old Trafford toilet BY MISTAKE
    • Imperial Designs? Current US Ambassador to Brazil Served in Paraguay Prior to 2012 Coup

      The U.S. ambassador to Brazil previously served in Paraguay in the lead up to the 2012 coup against Lugo, who was ousted in a manner similar to Rousseff.

      The possible role of the United States government in the ouster of the democratically elected President Dilma Rousseff is being scrutinized after it emerged that Liliana Ayalde, the present U.S. ambassador to Brazil, previously served as ambassador to Paraguay in the lead up to the 2012 coup against President Fernando Lugo.

      In a case very similar to the current political crisis unfolding in Brazil, Lugo was ousted by the country’s Congress in June 2012 in what was widely labeled a parliamentary coup.

    • American Horror Story: The Shameful Truth About the Government’s Secret Experiments

      Fool me over and over and over again, shame on both of us.

      Shame on every politician, bureaucrat and technician who is a shill for the U.S. government’s abuses and lies, and shame on every gullible American who keeps buying into the government’s propaganda, believing that it has our best interests at heart.

      Unfortunately, as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government has seldom had our best interests at heart.

      The government didn’t have our best interests at heart when it propelled us into endless oil-fueled wars and military occupations in the Middle East that wreaked havoc on our economy, stretched thin our military resources and subjected us to horrific blowback.

    • The Real Story of Our Decades-Long Foreign Policy Disaster That Set the Middle East on Fire

      The brilliant Andrew Bacevich explains why our massive march to folly in Middle East has to be seen as one war.

    • The Civil War Inside the US Military

      In early April, a battalion of senior military officials appeared before a Senate panel and testified that the US Army is “outranged and outgunned,” particularly in any future conflict with Russia. Arguing for a much bigger budget for the Army, they claimed that, absent a substantial increase in funding, the Russians would overtake us and, even scarier, “the army of the future will be too small to secure the nation.”

    • Poof! It’s Forgotten

      Five Ways the Newest Story in Iraq and Syria is… That There Is No New Story

    • Defense Bill Coming This Week: A Boost for War and Tyranny

      For many of us concerned with liberty, the letters “NDAA” have come to symbolize Washington’s ongoing effort to undermine the US Constitution in the pursuit of constant war overseas. It was the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2012 that introduced into law the idea that American citizens could be indefinitely detained without warrant or charge if a government bureaucrat decides they had assisted al-Qaeda or “associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States.” No charges, no trial, just disappeared Americans.

      The National Defense Authorization bill should be a Congressional mechanism to bind the president to spend national defense money in the way Congress wishes. It is the nuts and bolts of the defense budget and as such is an important oversight tool preventing the imperial executive from treating the military as his own private army. Unfortunately that is no longer the case these days.

    • Human rights activists project ‘Daesh Bank’ onto Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Berlin

      Human-rights activists have projected the Isis flag and the phrase “Daesh bank” onto the side of the Saudi embassy in Berlin.

      The “guerrilla light project” was organised by artist Oliver Bienkowski, who wanted to highlight the country’s relationship with the extreme Islamist movement and its much-criticised human rights record.

      Saudi Arabia has been accused of indirectly creating Isis through the propagation of its fundamentalist Wahhabist interpretation of Islam.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Hillary Clinton, the Conveniently Negligent Queen

      Hillary Clinton should have known that. At least according to her own spin, which she previously used to indict Edward Snowden. Now these words may come back to haunt her; “When I would go to China or I would go to Russia…we would leave all my electronic equipment on the plane with the batteries out, because this is a new frontier and they’re trying to find out not just about what we do in our government, they’re trying to find out about what a lot of companies do and they were going after the personal emails of people who worked in the State Department. It’s not like the only government in the world that is doing anything is the United States.”

      Considering agency rivalry, the FBI may not bother to ask the NSA whether foreign intel successfully hacked into the subterranean server (the NSA certainly knows). And even if they asked, the NSA notoriously does not share data with other federal agencies.

      So here’s a solution. The FBI should politely ask Beijing and Moscow for copies of all Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • China April coal output down 11.0 pct on year – stats bureau

      May 14 China produced 268 million tonnes of coal in April, down 11 percent on the year, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Saturday, with producers cutting back in a concerted effort to shore up prices.

      Output over the first four months of the year reached 1.081 billion tonnes, down 6.8 percent compared with the same period of last year.

    • National Park Service Stands Up For Grizzly Bears, Yet Again

      On May 10, among the thousands of comments to US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) on its proposal to strip Endangered Species Act protections from Yellowstone grizzly bears and allow a trophy sport hunt, was a brief letter from the National Park Service (NPS) that packed a big punch: don’t hunt the bears that wander close to Park boundaries (link).

    • Our Fossil-Fuel Economy Destroys the Earth and Exploits Humanity

      Whether or not we care to admit it, our current economy is extractive—that is, it’s built on the exploitation and extraction of human labor and the earth’s resources. It relies on corporations that force workers to work long hours in unsafe conditions for insufficient wages and benefits. It exists by the continual removal of nutrients from the soil, minerals from the mountains, and fossil fuels from underground. This system isn’t working for us today, and it isn’t going to work for us tomorrow. We know that infinite growth is not possible, but this economy depends on it.

    • Volunteers for the Long Haul

      Good old Knoxville, Tennessee — this scruffy little town that I love — will host the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a dismal bureaucracy, on May 26, 2016. BLM is heading to the vibrant, plush Tennessee Theatre in the heart of downtown to take comments on how “public” lands are utilized for coal mining. Specifically, strip mining will be under the microscope. Moreover, taxpayer-funded, corporate welfare-ridden, landscape-plunderingstrip mining will be examined.

      Though King Coal is in decline it is still a major industry. An estimated 40% of coal extracted in the United States comes from land managed by the BLM. We taxpayers fund the BLM and thus the mining on these landscapes. We then have to watch as the black rock is sold at bargain prices to industry giants. It’s American capitalism. Risk and cost are socialized while profit is privatized. It’s nation against country. State against our lands.

    • Climate Democracy for Rural Communities

      In early March, farmers and rural residents of southeast Minnesota gathered for three intensive days of presentations, discussion and deliberation around the thorny issue of climate change. The Winona, Minnesota Climate Dialogue participants, most of them in shirts and jeans, were a blend of ages, cultural backgrounds and jobs. Some had lived in the community their whole lives, while others had moved to the area recently. All said they loved where they lived and cared about its natural beauty—ideally positioned where fertile farmland meets the deeply carved Mississippi River Valley. But, all certainly did not come to the table with any shared view of climate change or common political perspective.

      [...]

      The dialogue process is far more than an exercise in community decision making; it’s the opportunity to rebuild democracy. Democracy requires informed citizens. Without positive, pro-rural voices or proposals on the table, climate change deniers have been able to focus on the additional burdens that new regulation or taxation would bring to rural America while ignoring all of the ways in which climate change itself will negatively impact rural America—and the opportunities for economic development in a new, clean energy economy.

      Climate change can make people feel powerless. Therefore, democracy in action requires more than an informed citizenship. People also need to have agency—the feeling and actual power to do something about the problem, not just individually, but as a collective.

      The Rural Climate Dialogue process is three-fold: through peer to peer collaboration it enables us to understand the climate challenge for the community; it builds an amplified on-the-ground network of cooperation to implement both policy and non-policy solutions; and then it reforms the political process so that our leaders (and the policies they pass) are influenced and include a more diverse network of citizens.

    • ‘Not a Symbol, A Signal’: Wave of Direct Actions Points to Fossil-Free Future

      Mass arrests took place during the weekend’s Break Free actions around the world, and more demonstrations were happening on Sunday, the final day of a global wave of actions calling for a just transition away from fossil fuels.

    • For Inspiring ‘A New Agenda,’ Naomi Klein Wins 2016 Sydney Peace Prize

      Author and activists says award ‘comes at a time when the impacts of the climate crisis are being acutely felt’ around the world

    • A Song Of Fire And No Ice: We Just Had Our Fourth Record-Breaking Hottest Month In A Row

      A record fire-storm in Canada fueled by record warmth. Record ice-melt in Greenland and the Arctic sea, driven by off-the-charts warmth in the far north. And, NASA reported Friday, we’ve just been through the hottest April and the hottest January-April on record — by far.

    • April breaks global temperature record, marking seven months of new highs

      April 2016 was the hottest April on record globally – and the seventh month in a row to have broken global temperature records.

      The latest figures smashed the previous record for April by the largest margin ever recorded.

    • Shell creates green energy division to invest in wind power

      Shell, Europe’s largest oil company, has established a separate division, New Energies, to invest in renewable and low-carbon power.

      The move emerged days after experts at Chatham House warned international oil companies they must transform their business or face a “short, brutal” end within 10 years.

      Shell’s new division brings together its existing hydrogen, biofuels and electrical activities but will also be used as a base for a new drive into wind power, according to an internal announcement to company staff.

      With $1.7bn of capital investment currently attached to it and annual capital expenditure of $200m, New Energies will be run alongside the Integrated Gas division under executive board member Maarten Wetselaar.

    • Revealed: New Zealand’s enormous 60-year, 25 million tonne illegal fishing lie

      Michael Field, whose book The Catch helped expose the labour and human rights abuses in New Zealand’s fishing industry, says a report out today reveals a decades-long abuse of our much-vaunted quota system, with more than twice as many fish caught as declared.

      New Zealanders know the power of national utterances; we live by “clean and green” and “a great place to raise kids”.

  • Finance

    • What Recovery? In Cities All Over America, the Middle Class Is Drastically Declining

      Since the year 2000, more than 80 percent of metropolitan areas saw their household incomes decline, pointing to a shrinking middle class that’s fueling economic insecurity.

      According to the Pew Research Center, which previously documented a national trend of middle class decline, “the changes at the metropolitan level … demonstrate that the national trend is the result of widespread declines in localities all around the country.”

    • Pataphysical Conditions on the Ground

      Pace Hillary and Trump but manufacturing jobs once again creating a solid middle class and a moveable feast of economic mobility will not return. Walls, embargoes, penalty taxes, passport revoking, and resurrection of unions will not do it. “Low pay married to high profits in much of the service economy is contributing to a widening income chasm that is rending society in all sorts of ways. Used to the prosperity once delivered by manufacturing, American workers are rebelling against the changing tide.” (Eduardo Porto, “Moving On From Farm And Factory,” The New York Times, April 27, 2016.)

      A postindustrial tomorrow is the ticket. We are all a service economy now with a sharp distinction between serving “on the ground” and serving in cyberspace. Flipping a burger or delivering a pizza, mowing a lawn or cleaning a pool, walking dogs or baby carriages are “on the ground” services. In cyberspace, brokers and investors practice their dark derivative arts, marketers and advertisers huckster products and services, the outraged blog and tweet, and the overworked and not working surf for personally chosen brands of anesthetics and distractions, sports, porn, gambling, and shopping high on the list. Those still in school preparing for the service economy network socially, updates on Facebook, videos on Instagram, occasion marking selfies, keeping up on Twitter, and rushing at nano speed beyond all things analog, where, as Baudrillard expresses it, “the whirligig of representation goes mad.”

    • If You’re Low-Income, America Is Still an Oligarchy

      At least that’s the argument in a recent article by Vox’s Dylan Matthews. Matthews cites new research finding that the rich and middle class agree on about 90 percent of bills that come before the United States Congress.

      [...]

      What’s more, policies favored by the middle class and poor, who together comprise a majority of Americans, passed just 20.4 percent of the time, while those favored by only the rich passed 38.5 percent of the time. In other words, the rich had more success getting their policies enacted than the middle class and poor combined—which is the very definition of an oligarchy.

    • Tricky Timing for the Class of 2016

      This year’s high school graduates were 10 years old when the economy hit the skids in 2008. Many college graduates in the class of 2016 were 14. Yet, their economic prospects remain darkened by the enduring effects of the Great Recession.

      That is not to say there has been no improvement. The class of ’16 has more and better-paying job opportunities than earlier post-crash graduating classes, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute. But for the most part, today’s graduates still face employment conditions that are worse than in 2007, the year before the recession, and are much worse than in 2000, when the economy was last at full employment.

      The recent unemployment rate for college graduates ages 21 to 24 was 5.5 percent, compared with 4.3 percent in 2000. Their underemployment rate — which includes the unemployed, those who have briefly left the work force and those stuck in part-time jobs — was recently 12.3 percent, compared with 7.1 percent in 2000. And in 2015, nearly 45 percent of college graduates ages 22 to 27 were in jobs that did not require a college degree, compared with 38 percent in 2000. Over the same period, student debt has soared, which means that many of today’s graduates are trying to pay off more debt with less secure jobs.

    • Reinvention and Whiplash: Bernie, Hillary, and “Strange Bedfellows” in the Democratic Party

      Meanwhile, beneath and beyond the seemingly interminable electoral extravaganza, the profits system’s ever- accelerating real-time assault on livable ecology pushes life on Earth ever closer to an apocalyptic cliff.

    • TTIP vs Europeans: A wake-up call for the Commission

      The massive opposition to TTIP in Europe should convince the EU to listen to its citizens, as the issue has the potential, in conjunction with other factors like Brexit, to bring the whole idea of the Union into question, writes Nomi Byström.

      Nomi Byström is a postdoctoral researcher in computer sciences at Aalto University, Finland.

      In all corners of Europe, opposition to TTIP has swept like wildfire since the deal was announced in 2013. Huge demonstrations in Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Amsterdam, London, Helsinki, Vienna, Warsaw, Ljubljana and Prague show no sign of ending. In its first year alone, 3,263,920 people signed a petition against TTIP by a London-based charity. Not only do Dutch voters seek a referendum on TTIP, opinion polls make sobering reading on where most Europeans stand. Only a few days ago, it was revealed that some 70% of Germans see TTIP as bringing “mostly disadvantages”.

    • TPPA shines light on constitutional shortcomings

      The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement has been before Parliament since February of this year.

      As the Green MP on the relevant committee, I attended the hearings the committee held, reading the 3000 written submissions and listening to the 255 oral submissions presented in person.

      In eight years in Parliament, I have not witnessed such passion from New Zealanders as in these hearings. Whatever the substantive issues of the treaty, and we all have our views, the fact is that people harbour deep concern over the general nature of this particular agreement.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Bernie or Bust will save us: The foul stench of “lesser evilism” has made our politics useless

      For months now, my Facebook feed has been clogged with inspirational posts about Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders getting arrested at a civil rights rally. Bernie Sanders’s modest tax returns. Bernie Sanders with a bird. Now that the delegate math is stacked against him, my Facebook feed is full of panicky moralistic posts about how Bernie or Bust is going to ruin everything, that it’s time for Sanders supporters to give up on ideological purity and unify behind the presumed nominee.

      But the case for giving up on Sanders is turning out to be as difficult to make as the one for nominating him. Could it be that the Bernie or Bust movement, however righteous or quixotic, is not about Sanders at all, but another symptom of a high-rolling advertising-driven culture that has eroded all our trust in the social contract? I mean, if you’re looking for someone to blame, Edward Bernays is your man, not Sanders—and certainly not anyone who plans to write in Sanders’s name on a general election ballot.

    • Trump’s Dangerous Strategy: How Inciting His Supporters Could Backfire

      When Donald Trump tells his supporters that if he doesn’t get the Republican nomination: “It’s a rigged system; it’s a corrupt system, it’s 100% crooked,” he is resurrecting a theme that created some of America’s darkest hours. Trump is trying to solidify his support by attacking the legitimacy of the political system. While Movement Conservatives since Newt Gingrich have attacked the legitimacy of Democrats in Washington, Trump is going further: delegitimizing the government itself. Americans have been in this place before. In the late nineteenth century, when the nation’s economic and political tensions looked much like today’s, unpopular politicians trying to overcome overwhelming odds did the same thing.

    • Nevada Democrats defend exclusion of Bernie convention delegates that led to explosion of anger

      Nevada’s Democratic State Committee defended excluding 58 Bernie Sanders’ delegates at their convention Saturday night, saying they failed to register properly as Democrats before the final caucus.

      At the contentious convention, held in the Paris hotel in Las Vegas, scuffles broke out as Sanders’ supporters claimed that the state party subverted the will of the voters by awarding more pledged delegates to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

      According to the Las Vegas Sun, Clinton took 20 of the 35 pledged delegates Nevada will send to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this summer.

    • Ben Carson Lets Drop That Sarah Palin Is on Trump’s VP Short List

      On a day when the New York Times dropped a bombshell of a piece about Donald Trump’s long history of crude comments and disgustingly sexist treatment of women, Trump surrogate Dr. Ben Carson detonated a little bombshell of his own.

    • Here’s what happened at Saturday’s dramatic Nevada Democratic convention

      The people who attend the Democratic convention this weekend were chosen during voting in early April. At that point, Sanders out-organized Clinton, getting 2,124 people elected to the state convention (according to the tabulation at the always-essential delegate-tracking site the Green Papers) to Clinton’s 1,722. That suggested that voting at the state convention would flip: Sanders would win those 4-to-3 and 3-to-2 contests, giving him a 7-to-5 victory at the convention and making the state total 18-to-17 for Clinton instead of 20-to-15.

      [...]

      On Friday, Sanders’s campaign released a statement (apparently after a conversation with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid) thanking his supporters in the state and saying that working together “respectfully and constructively on Saturday at the Nevada Democratic convention” would help the party beat Donald Trump in November. On Saturday morning, though, there was tumult.

    • Tensions Flare, State Chairwoman Flees in Delegate Dispute at Nevada Democratic Convention (Video)

      Sanders supporter Rachel Avery posted video of the point in the evening when Paris Hotel security made it clear that the conference, as far as they were concerned, was officially over…

    • To Leave the Future Open: On the False “Choices” of Election 2016

      Not long ago, I promised to say more about my own choice, so I offer this reflection. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind, and I’m not trying to. But this is no ordinary election year; political, financial, and ecological systems are all in various stages of crisis and collapse. I hope what I say here is useful to some as we think not only about specific candidates and the election but also beyond them.

      The violence I’m speaking of here is the “normal” violence of mainstream American institutions. Michael Bronski and I have recently written a book about such violence (Considering Hate: Violence, Goodness, and Justice in American Culture and Politics) which is widespread and massive. It kills swiftly and through the systemic diminution of life chances for Black, Indigenous, and Latino/a communities, and for working class and poor people of all races.

      Rooted in ideologies that are, interdependently, white supremacist, patriarchal and capitalist, this violence is a predictable structural feature, not an aberration, of the entire criminal legal system, including prisons and policing. It is a feature of many forms of custodial care. It is found within public and private educational institutions; the health care system; corporations and many workplaces; the military. This violence usually gets little attention; when it does come into public view, usually as the result of crisis and the accompanying sensationalized media coverage, there is a flurry of activity to produce cosmetic public ceremonies, commissions, or even token policy reforms that do little or nothing to get at its root causes. A designated “bad apple,” disciplined or prosecuted, often serves as the scapegoat for systemic harm.

    • Russia’s Diversity of Opinion

      The usual U.S. depiction of Russian media is that all you get is Kremlin propaganda, but prime-time talk shows actually offer wider diversity of opinion and more substantive debates than what appears on American TV, says Gilbert Doctorow.

    • You Can’t Distract Us Forever: a Note to Justin Trudeau

      The revenue agency’s investigation into KPMG’s tax scheme has been stalled for more than three years, and no one will explain why. According the CBC’s investigation, “In February 2013, a federal court judge ordered KPMG to turn over a list of unidentified multimillionaire clients who placed their fortunes in an Isle of Man tax shelter scheme.” KPMG has still not complied and the fact that the CRA has not requested a court date to enforce its court order has been described as “mysterious.” Maybe not.

      [...]

      If Justin Trudeau can’t deal with the rot in his own rogue agency, his carefully crafted political persona will be permanently tainted. What will remain is the same old Bay Street Liberal Party unashamedly serving the rich and powerful.

    • Electoral Folly: No Matter How Good the Candidate, Business as Usual Rules Elected Office

      2016 is shaping up to be a year of social movements: Black Lives Matter, trans-equity, teachers and workers struggles. It is also an election year, and one candidate, Bernie Sanders, has activists and organizers across the country “feeling the bern.” But is the enthusiasm justified, will electing good politicians lead to substantial change?

      “The question is,” according to Kshama Sawant, Seattle’s socialist city council member, “How can we build a public movement that would counter business opposition?” This was Sawant soon after her historic victory where she and her party, Socialist Alternative, defied expectations and won a tight race against an entrenched incumbent Democrat, Richard Colin. Her major legislative agenda, “$15Now,” a substantial minimum wage hike for workers, faced hostility from business interests. Sawant recognized that they couldn’t do it alone, that it would take a movement of regular people to make change.

      But how far did the minimum wage law go given the tremendous support Sawant’s campaign generated, and did her repeated electoral success help build social movements as she often claims? This article wants to go back to Sawant’s central question posed in 2014 – how can we build social movements to counter business power?

    • What’s Left?

      Sanders says he is campaigning for a “political revolution”. Sawant and other genuine socialists have embraced this call and taken it up as their own. This is indeed strange since the expression has historically been used to describe a change at the top that is distinct from a fundamental change of the whole. The expression “political revolution” was popularized by Leon Trotsky in his fight against Stalinism in the Soviet Union. In that context, it was a call to replace the murderous, bureaucratic regime at the head of the Soviet state with a form of workers democracy, while retaining the socialized economy and property relations that had been won in the Russian revolution. The idea was to replace the rot at the top without reverting to capitalism.

      [...]

      What’s needed is not some new party in the abstract, but a new tool that can be used by working people to fight for political power as a class, with the ultimate aim of replacing the rule of the capitalist minority with the democratic rule of the working class majority. Along the way, in our zeal to build the movement we know is needed to set the world right, we should remember: success is not measured by how many people you have marching behind your banner, but by the number of people marching behind your banner in the right direction.

    • Conservatives bash the Beeb for advertisers

      Distinctiveness is the keyword running through the BBC White Paper but to understand the proposals we need another word: advertising. We can speculate on the driving motivations, from grandstanding free-market ideologising to petty political point-scoring, but one explanation stands out: the White Paper delivers to those commercial media and advertising interests wanting to get more of us to switch from BBC services to services that carry advertisements.

      It does not deliver everything the advocates of immediate dissolution of the BBC want, of course, but it accepts and advances the commercial case to cut competition for audiences in lucrative markets. The majority commercial view is that the BBC is a tolerable if not advantageous presence, as long as they can enjoy the greatest commercial opportunities that the political system can deliver from BBC reform.

    • RNC Chair: Nobody Cares How Awful Trump Has Been To Women

      In its effort to rally behind Donald Trump as the presumptive nominee, the Republican Party is embracing a new messaging strategy: None of the terrible things Trump has said or done matter to anybody.

      Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said as much Sunday morning. On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Priebus about the Saturday New York Times story cataloging multiple times Trump has mistreated women in private. “Does that bother you?” Wallace asked.

    • Purged, Hacked, Switched: On Election Fraud Allegations in Hillary Clinton vs Bernie Sanders

      According to Gonzalez, “the suppression of tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Arizona voters” was a violation of the Voting Rights Act as it had a “disproportionate affect on Latino” voters. “Typically, Latino voters vote more heavily on election day” rather than in early or absentee balloting. Seventy percent of Latino voters in the state are in Maricopa county, according to Gonzalez, and the Democratic (and Republican) party should not seat delegates from Arizona: “Those delegates should be thrown out, the awarded delegates based on a fraudulent vote should not be allowed. Either that delegation should be disqualified in total at the party convention or you have to have a new election.”

      Unless Democrats or the New York City Board of Election can provide compelling evidence contrary to Election Justice USA’s findings, New York’s delegation also should not be seated at the Democratic Convention in July.

    • Why Trump Can Lie and No One Seems to Care

      The GOP candidate gets away with outrageous, contradictory statements because the mainstream media and the public let him.

    • Understanding the Republican Insurgency: the Donald Trump Phenomenon

      Donald Trump is no champion of the poor – he is a billionaire born into money, a crude, predatory capitalist in the mold of Silvio Berlusconi. The similarities between these two figures are striking, and give one an indication of the absolute rotten depths to which a national politics must fall before the working classes start to embrace these kinds of figures in their electoral preferences.

    • Thomas Frank: Bill Clinton’s Five Major Achievements Were Longstanding GOP Objectives

      Thomas Frank, author of Listen, Liberal, discusses the Hillary Doctrine’s basis in neoliberalism, how the Democratic Party stopped governing on behalf of the working class and how President Bill Clinton’s major achievements actually enacted conservative goals, and ultimately hurt working people.

    • WATCH: Fox News’ Vile Jesse Watters Gets Humiliated by the Very People He’s Trying to Humiliate

      “This country has become a joke,” one victim said, “and Donald Trump is the punchline.”

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • President Obama Just Said He Opposes Campus Censorship. Here’s How He Can Prove It.

      The plague of political correctness infecting every corner of life on American college campuses has grown so ubiquitous that even President Obama—by no means a conservative or contrarian on education matters—is bemoaning student-initiated censorship.

      [...]

      The Vox piece on Obama’s comments is largely positive; it certainly doesn’t criticize the president for observing that college students are too narrow-minded and censorship-driven. Perhaps that’s not so surprising—Vox has actually run at least two pieces from professors lamenting that the preferences of a few irate students have made teaching much more difficult and less rewarding. Indeed, many on the intellectual left are supportive of the idea that college administrators are all-too eager to humor the demands of the hyper-offended minority.

      But I’m skeptical that any amount of public pressure from intellectuals can inspire campuses to change so long as the federal government continues issuing guidance to universities that obligates them to censor. If Obama is actually opposed to the new scourge of political correctness on college campuses, he could prove his dedication to the cause by directing the Education Department to relax its relentless Title IX inquisition.

    • Can we face away from Facebook?

      Facebook remains uncontested as the social media champ of Wall Street. Its stock recently hit an all-time high while Twitter’s hit its low. As an enrollee in both, I can tell you why — and the why of it is reason for concern.

      Beneath those warm visuals of Thanksgiving pies and bulldogs playing with canaries lies a data-gathering megalopolis focused on gathering one’s personal information and selling it. Facebook knows your social connections, your shopping habits and your likes. It does offer privacy settings, but they take effort. Meanwhile, users are under constant assault to ”give it up” in the name of some convenience or pleasure.

      Facebook’s genius is in its ability to hide this machinery. It seems a safe place. Users must reveal their identities, which cuts down on the careless hurling of snark.

    • Olivier gala: Mike Ward the big winner

      Humorists in solidarity say freedom of expression is the basis of their work

    • Gala les Olivier: Comedy and controversy
    • Canadian Comedy Sketch Canceled…About Freedom of Expression
  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Hidden Microphones Exposed As Part of Government Surveillance Program In The Bay Area

      Hidden microphones that are part of a clandestine government surveillance program that has been operating around the Bay Area has been exposed.

      Imagine standing at a bus stop, talking to your friend and having your conversation recorded without you knowing. It happens all the time, and the FBI doesn’t even need a warrant to do it.

      Federal agents are planting microphones to secretly record conversations.

    • Lack of Online Privacy Has Chilling Effect, U.S. Department of Commerce Says

      The constant threat of breaches, surveillance, and online data collection stopped almost half of American households from doing business and expressing opinions online last year, according to a new survey from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

      Using 2015 census data, a new analysis from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) finds that out of 41,000 internet-using households (representing a total of around 19 million), 45 percent claimed they’ve refrained from banking, buying stuff, posting on social media, or talking about controversial topics online over the last year. The reasons people gave for the chilling effects vary, but a significant majority (63 percent) cited identity theft, followed by credit card fraud, corporate data collection, government surveillance, and other factors.

    • Feds Will (Finally) Mine Social Media for Background Checks

      After years of development, the US government has come up with an official policy to mine the public social media accounts of potential employees during background checks.

      The policy was signed on Thursday by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. It allows intelligence agencies to collect “publicly available social media information,” so it doesn’t cover anything that’s not public information already, and expressly forbids agencies to request passwords or create fake or real social media accounts to interact with the applicants “in order to bypass privacy controls.”

      Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, and an expert in government secrecy, said that this policy has been in the works for 8 years.

    • Needed: More Snowdens – Ex-intel analyst

      I was an active duty Marine working in signals intelligence in 2013 when Edward Snowden exposed the mass surveillance programs of the National Security Agency. Snowden’s alleged espionage had a lasting effect both on my work and on my attitude toward it.

      As a cryptologic linguist and intelligence analyst, my day-to-day activities were directly compromised when I was suddenly unable to use certain methods and tools due to the leak. Not only that, Snowden’s action created a moral dilemma for me as a member of the intelligence community. I began questioning the morality of my work. If the public was outraged by what Snowden leaked, will they be outraged by how the U.S. is fighting terrorism?

    • Snowden derides ‘traitor versus hero’ media coverage

      Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor now hiding in Russia from U.S. espionage charges, Thursday chided the media for making too big a deal of him.

      “I was very forceful in my first interviews: I am the least important part of the story,” he said on a secure video channel to a packed audience at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics.

    • Hidden Microphones Exposed As Part of Government Surveillance Program In The Bay Area

      Hidden microphones that are part of a clandestine government surveillance program that has been operating around the Bay Area has been exposed.

      Imagine standing at a bus stop, talking to your friend and having your conversation recorded without you knowing. It happens all the time, and the FBI doesn’t even need a warrant to do it.

      Federal agents are planting microphones to secretly record conversations.

    • Japanese firm introduces privacy visor that confuses facial recognition software

      According to a report in Inverse, Japan’s Nissey Corp. is set to release a privacy visor that the company claims will scramble digital facial recognition software.

      “This is a way to prevent privacy invasion through the many image sensors in smartphones and other devices that can unintentionally photograph people in the background,” commented National Institute for Informatics researcher and a visor developer Isao Echizen.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Lesser of Two Evils Vote is Counterproductive and Morally Corrupt

      If you vote for Clinton as the lesser of two evils, you’re compromising your moral values, you’re condoning the Democratic Party’s shoddy treatment of millions of progressives, and you’re sabotaging future real change. You’re virtually guaranteeing the Democratic Party elites will put you in this position again and again. If you refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils, maybe you’ll help elect Trump (or maybe your write-in or third party choice will win). But you’ll certainly send a very clear message to Democratic Party elites that you’ll no longer tolerate being ignored, marginalized, or shamed with false lesser of two evil choices.

    • Police called in to investigate David Cameron letters as election fraud probe grows

      Police have been asked to investigate whether letters sent by the Conservatives to voters in David Cameron’s name broke election laws.

      In the latest twist to the investigation into the party’s election spending, a former Liberal Democrat MP told police that mail-outs by the Tories were not properly recorded as local election expenses and may have broken spending limits.

      Conservatives say the letters, which were signed by David Cameron, did not count as local campaign expenditure because they did not mention the name of the Tory candidate in the area.

    • White Cop Brutally Beats Black Teen for Riding Her Bike—Then Charges Her with Assault (Video)

      A Tacoma, Washington family is suing over the brutal beating in 2014 of then-15-year-old Monique Tillman, who a Tacoma Police officer pulled off her bicycle, choked and then shocked with a Taser.

      The Free Thought Project reported Saturday on the attack, which was recorded by security cameras.

      Monique Tillman and her brother were bicycling home on May 24, 2014 when they cut through the parking lot of the Tacoma Mall. Officer Jared Williams, a uniformed white officer of the Tacoma Police Department, was working mall security that day. He pursued the two teenagers — who are black — and informed them that they were trespassing on mall property.

    • “Take it off! This is America!”: North Carolina man pleads guilty to federal crime after yanking Muslim woman’s headscarf off during flight

      A North Carolina man pleaded guilty Friday to forcibly removing a Muslim woman’s head scarf during a flight between Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, late last year.

    • Chomsky: The Majority of Today’s Elected Democrats Are Moderate Republicans

      The majority of Democrats have shifted to the right so far that the two-party system is almost unrecognizable, according to Noam Chomsky.

      “There used to be a quip that the United States was a one-party state with a business party that had two factions: the Democrats and Republicans—and that used to be pretty accurate, but it’s not anymore. The U.S. is still a two-party state, but there’s only one faction, and it’s not Democrats, it’s moderate Republicans. Today’s Democrats have shifted to the right,” Chomsky told RT America’s Anissa Naouai.

    • A Tribute To Radical Human Rights Lawyer Michael Ratner

      Michael Ratner spent the last half century steadfastly fighting for human rights. He was a radical lawyer, who led the Center for Constitutional Rights. He was an outspoken advocate for civil liberties and truth-telling, as he represented WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. He was instrumental in winning due process rights for Guantanamo Bay prisoners, and he died on May 11.

      In a sober statement celebrating the work of Ratner, the Center for Constitutional Rights declared, “For 45 years, Michael brought cases with the Center for Constitutional Rights in U.S. courts related to war, torture, and other atrocities, sometimes committed by the U.S., sometimes by other regimes or corporations, in places ranging from El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and Guatemala, to Yugoslavia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Iraq, and Israel.”

    • British-Based Cubans Face US Blockade in Piano Project

      As a sign of just how punitive the blockade remains, earlier that month a group of Cuban musicians based in Britain had their money withheld by Eventbrite, a US website-based company. Cuban pianist Eralys Fernandez, who lives in London, had used the ticket sales website for a classical music concert held in an East London church in mid-March.

    • Trumping Up Torture

      Calculated production of suffering, as much as capricious, is known as barbarism, yet should become US policy according to Donald Trump. He specifically aims to institute “a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”

      Barbarism, it goes without saying, is what makes terrorism bad, and no confidence is warranted that either of them produce much besides pain, indignation and escalation.

      Yet there is a clear difference between Trump and ISIS in that the latter has an actual strategy of escalation. Trump just thinks that the harsh extraction of words will serve most captives right and is bound to be worthwhile even if it doesn’t provide useful intelligence (though he assures us it does). His pitch is simple: Our enemy is brutal so we must be too.

      To know the first thing about logic is to know that doesn’t follow. It is virtually equivalent to saying that our enemy is evil so we should be evil too.

    • Turkey’s Creeping Authoritarianism: Is the Resistance Enough?

      Turkey’s march towards authoritarianism took another dangerous turn this past week with the forced resignation of moderate Islamist Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, apparently at the insistence of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

      Though constitutionally the Turkish prime minister wields executive authority and the president is largely a figurehead, Erdoğan—who served as prime minister for eleven years before term limits forced him to step down in 2014—appears to still be in charge.

    • CIA admits: We sent Mandela to jail

      A former CIA spy has revealed his key role in the arrest of Nelson Mandela, which led to the future South African president’s trial and imprisonment for almost 28 years.

      The bombshell disclosure led yesterday to a demand for the CIA to come clean about putting behind bars a figure who became one of the world’s most revered statesmen.

      A veteran political associate of Mandela called it a “shameful act of betrayal” that “hindered the struggle against apartheid”.

    • Philippine president-elect Duterte vows to kill criminals

      “What I will do is urge Congress to restore (the) death penalty by hanging,” Duterte, 71, told a press conference in Davao.

    • The Supreme Court Is at Stake: Why the Presidential Election Matters

      It is no secret that the makeup of the US Supreme Court will be a major issue as the fall election campaigns unfold. And yet, many voters will choose not to vote. “It’s too much effort. I forgot to register when I moved. My vote won’t matter.”

    • Voices from UK Detention Centers

      The pregnant detainee was writing back in March. It’s not clear how she spent Mother’s Day, but in all likelihood she spent it in detention or was deported, and in either case, would be spiraling deeper into mental instability at this point. Wherever she and her child end up, they might never escape the sense of being “controlled by somebody.” When protesters rallied on May 7, trying to break the silence around detention across Europe and the North America, they brought their voices to an often ignored human rights issue. Yet it is even rarer to hear the people who live in the immersion of that silence every day speaking out in their own words.

      This is what the isolation of detention does, forcing us to forget what we sound like, and eventually to forget how to speak.

    • My Acceptance Speech for the 2016 Blueprint Enduring Impact Whistleblowing Prize

      I keep fighting to survive and thrive. I am fighting my court-martial conviction and sentence before a military appeals court, starting this month. I am fighting to make the full investigation by the FBI public. I am fighting to grow my hair beyond the two inch male standards by the U.S. military.

    • Are our smartphones afflicting us all with symptoms of ADHD?

      When was the last time you opened your laptop midconversation or brought your desktop computer to the dinner table? Ridiculous, right? But if you are like a large number of Americans, you have done both with your smartphone.

  • DRM

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