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07.01.16

Links 1/7/2016: Enlightenment 0.21.0, Peppermint 7, New Mint

Posted in News Roundup at 5:13 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

Leftovers

  • Google Calendar is down and people are freaking out

    If you depend on Google Calendar to manage your every minute, today isn’t exactly your day.

    Google Calendar went down on Thursday morning, preventing people from accessing their schedules.

  • Science

    • Light Pollution Is Throwing Off the Seasons

      We already know that light pollution has made the Milky Way invisible to one third of humanity. Now researchers have found that it might also be fast-forwarding the arrival of spring in the UK.

      In a study published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers describe how night-time light pollution is causing early budburst—emergence of new leaves on a tree—in four common types of British tree: ash, oak, sycamore and beech. The researchers based their findings on data collected by citizen scientists and satellite imagery giving information on levels of light pollution in areas across the UK.

      “For the last 13 years, a bunch of citizen scientist have been noting the time at which four common tree species come into budburst,”Richard ffrench-Constant, paper co-author and an entomologist at the University of Exeter, told me. “We found that budburst correlates with the amount of artificial light in an area.”

    • Stephen Hawking: Humankind is still greedy, stupid and greatest threat to Earth

      Physicist Stephen Hawking says pollution coupled with human greed and stupidity are still the biggest threats to humankind.

      During an interview on Larry King Now, the science superstar told King that in the six years since he’s spoken with the talk show host people haven’t cleaned up their act.

      “We certainly have not become less greedy or less stupid,” Hawking said. “The population has grown by half a billion since our last meeting, with no end in sight. At this rate, it will be eleven billion by 2100.”

      He noted that the massive problem of pollution has only grown in the last five years.

  • Hardware

    • How Sony, Microsoft, and Other Gadget Makers Violate Federal Warranty Law

      There are big “no trespassing” signs affixed to most of our electronics.

      If you own a gaming console, laptop, or computer, it’s likely you’ve seen one of these warnings in the form of a sticker placed over a screw or a seam: “Warranty void if removed.”

      In addition, big manufacturers such as Sony, Microsoft, and Apple explicitly note or imply in their official agreements that their year-long manufacturer warranties—which entitle you to a replacement or repair if your device is defective—are void if consumers attempt to repair their gadgets or take them to a third party repair professional.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Gun nut mom went back for more bullets before executing daughter

      Police say that Christy Sheats, the gun nut mom who shot dead her two daughters during a family confrontation that spilled into a Texas street, returned inside to reload before executing her child in view of horrified neighbors. She was still shooting when cops arrived, which is why they killed her.

    • Christy Sheats’ Daughters Beg For Their Lives In Chilling 911 Tapes

      The daughters of Texas mom Christy Sheets can be heard begging for their lives in 911 recordings released by police.

      The 42-year-old woman allegedly grabbed a gun and killed them Friday after calling a family meeting.

      In calls from Taylor Sheats, 22, and Madison Sheats, 17, they both can be heard begging their mother to put the gun down. “Please, don’t shoot. Please, I’m sorry. Don’t do it,” one of the young women urges.

      The voice of a man, presumably the girls’ father, Jason Sheats, 45, can be heard saying: “I’m sorry! I promise you whatever you want.”

    • Texas gun advocate shoots and kills her two daughters

      In March, Christy Sheats, 42, wrote on Facebook: “It would be horribly tragic if my ability to protect myself or my family were to be taken away, but that’s exactly what Democrats are determined to do by banning semiautomatic weapons.”

    • Islamic Radicalisation Surges In German Jails

      The trial of an Islamic State fighter in Germany has revealed the extent to which Salafists have infiltrated prisons and are radicalising Muslim criminals.

    • High Court grants legal challenge against British arms sales to Saudi Arabia

      British courts could ban the Government from signing off arms sales to Saudi Arabia after the first hurdle to a legal challenge was cleared.

      The High Court on Thursday granted a judicial review into the legality of UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia after a bid by campaigners and lawyers, who say the sales are unlawful.

      MPs on the international development committee and MEPs in the European Parliament earlier this year called on the Government to stop selling weapons to the autocratic petro-state.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • ACLU Files Challenge To CFAA Over Blocking Research Into Discrimination Online

      There’s been a lot of talk lately about the possibility of discrimination being built into the algorithms that determine our lives. In the past year, multiple publications have discussed what happens when algorithms are racist in a time when algorithms decide more and more of our lives. Just recently, we talked about judges using proprietary algorithms in sentencing, and how those algorithms themselves may judge people based on things like skin color. And just a few days ago, there was a fascinating NY Times article about inherent bias in artificial intelligence systems. I even went to a conference recently, where there was a whole discussion on the question of what do you do “if your algorithm is racist.” It’s not an easy question to answer, honestly, but one thing that we should not be doing is holding back research into these systems.

      And yet… that’s exactly what’s happening. And the culprit, once again, is the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act (CFAA), which we’ve written about for years. The law, which is woefully out of date, and was passed (literally) by a Congress that was freaked out over the movie WarGames, is supposed to target evil “computer hackers.” But it’s written so broadly, including terms like “unauthorized access” or “exceeding authorized access,” that it’s been used against things like violating a terms of service (that you didn’t read or even agree to) or against downloading too many files. And that’s scaring the hell out of researchers.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • These fires are huge, hidden and harmful. What can we do?

      As forest fires devastated Fort McMurray, Alberta, last month, a different sort of fire may have started beneath the ground. Peat, a carbon-rich soil created from partially decomposed, waterlogged vegetation accumulated over several millennia and the stuff that fueled Indonesia’s megafires last fall, also appears in the boreal forests that span Canada, Alaska and Siberia. With the intense heat from the Fort McMurray fires, “there’s a good chance the soil in the area could have been ignited,” says Adam Watts, a fire ecologist at Desert Research Institute in Nevada.

      Unlike the dramatic wildfires near Fort McMurray, peat fires smolder slowly at a low temperature and spread underground, making them difficult to detect, locate and extinguish. They produce little flame and much smoke, which can become a threat to public health as the smoke creeps along the land and chokes nearby villages and cities.

  • Finance

    • With The Brexit In The Bag, ‘Vote Leave’ Starts Vanishing Away Its Promises And Faulty Math

      In the aftermath of what is generally considered to be a Bad Idea, the forces behind the UK’s exit from the European Union has pulled up stakes on its website and shut the whole thing down. The problem is that it looks more like an attempt to bury the past than to warmly greet the future it helped create, as Wired’s Matt Kamen notes.

    • Brexit is great news for the rest of the EU

      Democrats across Europe are in shock over Brexit, when they should be jubilant. That a slim majority of British voters – primarily English and Welsh – have acted against their own short- and long-term economic interests to leave us is a blessing. For decades British governments have played a double game: getting all the benefits of EU membership while opting out of its burdens, in the meantime undermining and even blackmailing the club from within. All of this is now over.

    • Article 50: decoding Donald Tusk’s careful remarks

      So: Prime Minister David Cameron avoided blurting out any notification under Article 50 at yesterday’s European Council meeting.

    • Carney Signals Rate Cuts as Brexit Chaos Engulfs Political Class

      Mark Carney signaled the Bank of England could cut interest rates within months as the central bank tries to shield an economy rattled by the shock of Brexit and the chaos engulfing Britain’s political classes.

    • Stop Giving Chickens Away, Bill Gates

      If you are talking about a short-term food donation to stave off hunger, such as after an earthquake, go ahead, please help. But for any long-term good to come of all this, it must respect the realities of the local market, and it must be sustainable. Free chickens are unlikely to do that.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Leave donor plans new party to replace Ukip – possibly without Farage in charge

      The Brexit campaign’s biggest financial donor has said he is considering backing a new political party taking in members of Ukip, Labour and the Conservatives.

      In a sign that the referendum aftershocks already rocking the Conservative and Labour parties could be spreading to Ukip, the insurance multi-millionaire and Ukip funder Arron Banks criticised the party’s growth and proposed harnessing Brexit support in a new party. When asked if Farage would be in charge, he said the Ukip leader “may have had enough”.

    • ‘Donald Trump’ emails British MP asking for money – receives ‘warm hope’ his ‘repugnant’ campaign will fail

      Glasgow East MP Natalie McGarry also finds it extraordinary that the anti-immigration US billionaire appears to be approaching foreign nationals with his ‘beggging bowl’

    • Burn It All Down

      Unless Lin-Manuel Miranda does a musical of his life, Bernie’s just a footnote in the history books. But the stigma that he won via a set of tricks to include the “superdelegate system,” some election fraud, and overt partisanship by the Democratic National Committee and much of the media, never mind what Obama does with the FBI report into her mishandling of classified information, lingers like the smell of ripe sh*t in a stadium toilet.

    • This is the creepiest thing David Cameron has ever said

      He will say Britons believe in “certain values”, adding: “To belong here is to believe in these things. And it means confronting head-on the poisonous Islamist extremist ideology. Whether they are violent in their means or not, we must make it impossible for the extremists to succeed.”

      It’s expected Cameron will introduce a counter-extremism bill in his Queen’s Speech later in May. Planned measures include introducing new orders to ban extremist organisations and restrict people who seek to radicalise youngsters.

    • Top Clinton aide was “frustrated” with her boss’ e-mail practices

      We already knew that Hillary Clinton’s e-mail and mobile device issues were likely a pain for State Department employees—and even some foreign governments. But new testimony recorded on Tuesday by one of Clinton’s top aides illuminates the extent of those headaches.

      Huma Abedin is the vice-chair of Clinton’s presidential campaign and the former deputy chief of staff and senior advisor to Clinton during her stint as secretary of state. She was deposed on June 28 by an attorney representing the conservative action group Judicial Watch as part of discovery for a lawsuit being brought against Clinton. Judicial Watch published the transcript of that deposition yesterday, and Abedin revealed what she knew about Clinton’s use of the mail server and how she was “frustrated” with the technical glitches caused by Clinton’s mobile device and e-mail travails.

    • Feds ask for 27-month delay in release of Clinton staff emails

      The Obama administration on Thursday asked a federal court to delay until October 2018 the release of 14,000 pages of emails from aides to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

      In a court filing on Wednesday, administration lawyers said the State Department miscalculated the amount of material it would need to process the documents as part of a lawsuit with the conservative organization Citizens United.

      As a result, the government asked for a 27-month delay to release the emails, which were originally due out on July 21.

      “State deeply regrets these errors, and is working diligently to correct them as quickly as possible,” the lawyers said.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • US courts didn’t reject a single wiretap request in 2015, says report

      The number of wiretaps authorized by the courts in 2015 rocketed compared to the year before, says a new report.

      According to the annual wiretap report released on Thursday, which outlines how many real-time intercept requests were submitted by state and federal law enforcement agencies, the courts allowed 4,148 wiretaps during the last calendar year, up by 17 percent on the year-ago period.

      Most were issued by state courts. The majority of wiretaps were authorized in California, which accounted for 41 percent of all applications.

      New York came in second with 17 percent of wiretaps for the year.

      But not a single wiretap request was rejected during 2015, the report showed.

    • How many US wiretap requests were rejected in 2015? Not a single one.

      A new federal report shows that the number of surveillance requests skyrocketed in 2015, and that courts approved every single one of them. That’s right, not one single wiretap request was rejected during 2015.

      The U.S. government’s annual wiretap report details how many real-time intercept requests were submitted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. The most recent edition of this report, released today, says America’s courts allowed 4,148 wiretaps during the last calendar year, up by 17 percent from the previous year.

      Most of the wiretap requests in the most recent report period were issued by state courts, and California approved the most of all states — a whopping 41% of all applications.

    • A Government Error Just Revealed Snowden Was the Target in the Lavabit Case

      It’s been one of the worst-kept secrets for years: the identity of the person the government was investigating in 2013 when it served the secure email firm Lavabit with a court order demanding help spying on a particular customer.

      Ladar Levison, owner of the now defunct email service, has been forbidden since then, under threat of contempt and possibly jail time, from identifying who the government was investigating. In court documents from the case unsealed in late 2013, all information that could identify the customer was redacted.

    • Lavabit founder confirms feds’ Snowden spy efforts led to encrypted email service shutdown

      Lavabit founder Ladar Levison last week confirmed what had been an open secret: That he shuttered his encrypted email service in 2013 because of the federal government’s pursuit of former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.

      In a statement issued June 24, Levison said that the gag order that had enforced his silence had been lifted. “After three years, and five separate attempts, the federal judge overseeing the case has granted Mr. Levison permission to speak freely about [the] investigation,” the statement read.

    • Snowden’s email provider confirms it was an investigation target

      It’s a poorly kept secret that officials targeted Lavabit’s secure email service as part of their investigation into Edward Snowden’s leaks. Heck, the US government inadvertently leaked the truth itself. However, a gag order has prevented Lavabit from publicly acknowledging this… until now. In a statement, company founder Ladar Levinson can finally confirm that law enforcement pursued Lavabit in order to access Snowden’s communications. When the investigation began, authorities wanted the provider to hand over an encryption key that would not only expose Snowden, but all 410,000 Lavabit customers. It’s no wonder that Levinson decided to close shop — it’s hard to advertise private email when the feds can theoretically spy on any of your users.

    • Government websites to use HTTPS encryption from October

      GOVERNMENT DIGITAL SERVICES (GDS) websites will use HTTPS encryption from 1 October, according to new security guidelines. And about time too.

      In addition, all services will have to publish a Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC) policy applicable to their email systems.

    • Leaked FBI documents reveal secret rules for spying on journalists with National Security Letters

      Today, The Intercept published leaked documents that contain the FBI’s secret rules for targeting journalists and sources with National Security Letters (NSLs)—the controversial and unconstitutional warrantless tool the FBI uses to conduct surveillance without any court supervision whatsoever.

    • US efforts to regulate encryption have been flawed, government report finds

      US Republican congressional staff trying to find a middle ground on encryption have said previous efforts to regulate privacy technology were flawed and that lawmakers need to learn more about technology before trying to regulate it, according to a report released on Wednesday.

      The 25-page white paper – entitled Going Dark, Going Forward: A Primer on the Encryption Debate – does not claim any magical solution to the fight over encryption software that has roiled western capitals for more than two years. It was written by Republican staff on the House committee on homeland security, led by representative Michael McCaul, who has proposed a bipartisan top-level panel of encryption experts with senator Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat.

      But the document remains notable nonetheless for its measured language and criticism of other lawmakers who have tried to legislate their way out of the encryption debate. It also sets a new starting point for Congress as it mulls whether to legislate on encryption during the Clinton or Trump administration.

    • Facebook is chipping away at privacy – and my profile has been exposed

      Quietly, over the last year, Facebook has killed the concept of a private account.

      The site has always had a love-hate relationship with privacy: it’s long offered some of the most granular controls of any social network for choosing who sees what content, letting users make posts visible on a sliding scale from “everyone” to “only me”.

      That’s increasingly important for Facebook, which has seen a reduction of 21% in “original sharing”, users making posts about their own life. As people have become more aware of the downsides of sharing personal details publicly, it seems that they’ve stopped sharing altogether. Letting them have some control over who sees what they post is an important part of restoring trust.

    • Facebook wins privacy case, can track any Belgian it wants

      In a somewhat unexpected twist, Facebook has won a legal battle against Belgium’s data protection authority, which had sought to prevent Facebook from tracking non-Facebook (or not-logged-into-Facebook) users, both on the Facebook website itself but also via the company’s Like and Share buttons that can be found in even the darkest depths of the known universe.

      The Brussels appeals court dismissed the case on Wednesday, saying that the Belgian CPP (Commission for the Protection of Privacy) had no jurisdiction over Facebook, which has its European headquarters in Dublin, Ireland.

      “We are pleased with the court’s decision and look forward to bringing all our services back online for people in Belgium,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

    • Facebook Wins Belgian Court Case Over Storing Non-User Data

      Facebook Inc. won an appeal overturning a Belgian privacy ruling that prompted the social network to block people without an account from accessing its site within the country.

      The Brussels Court of Appeal said the nation’s data protection authority couldn’t prevent Facebook from storing data from non-users in a fight over measures the technology giant says help it combat hacking attacks.

      “Belgian courts don’t have international jurisdiction over Facebook Ireland, where the data concerning Europe is processed,” the Brussels court of appeal said in a ruling Wednesday, referring to the company’s European headquarters. The court also said there was no urgency to rule on the case since Belgian court proceedings only started in mid-2015 over behavior that started in 2012.

    • My Activity Dashboard — How To Know How Much Google Knows About You
    • Google’s My Activity reveals just how much it knows about you

      Google has rolled out new tools to let users see what its ad-tracking service has learned about them, and to let users opt in or out of a new personalised ads service.

      The addition to Google’s account settings, called My Activity, allows users to review everything that Google has tracked about their behaviour – across search, YouTube, Chrome, Android and everything else – and edit or delete it at each step.

      If you use Google for everything you do, you might be surprised by just how much it catalogues about your comings and goings on the internet.

    • Another Terrorist Watchlist Leaks, This One Compiled By Thomson Reuters

      Thomson Reuters’ “global screening solution” pulls from hundreds of other databases, including sanctions lists, law enforcement lists, and compiled data from regulatory agencies. The collection doesn’t cause too many problems in the United States, but as Joseph Cox of Motherboard points out, it’s a bit more a problem when deployed in Europe.

      [...]

      As we’ve seen from other terrorism blacklists, the US government is no better at drawing conclusions or checking its lists for false positives on a regular basis. The fact that Thomson Reuters database pulls from hundreds of sources is probably better than the FBI/DHS method of shrugging people onto terrorist watchlists based on hunches, surnames, or camera ownership. It’s still disturbing that a private entity can control access to various services around the world by selling a watchlist to corporate customers, but there’s no reason to believe this private blacklist is any worse than those compiled by various governments.

    • US Intelligence Agencies To Americans Travelling Abroad: Trust No One, Use Burner Phones, They’re All Out To Get You

      The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has been going through something of an awkward phase the last few years. The Office, which is a part of the White House, and is supposed to direct and coordinate various parts of the intelligence community, has been trying to figure out how to be more open and “transparent” to the public since the Snowden documents began flowing. Given that historically the intelligence community has focused on being as secret as is humanly possible, it’s not very good at this whole transparency thing. And sometimes it’s just really, really awkward. Just try (really) to watch this video it put out on Wednesday, telling US travelers abroad to fear everyone and everything.

    • Encryption thwarting Feds, terrorists going dark … or not, actually

      Despite repeated warnings by the Obama administration over the use of encrypted communications by criminals, the government says that it encountered less encryption last year than in 2014.

      This according to the latest US Courts Wiretap Report on government surveillance requests, which was published this month.

      The report, which logs federal and state wiretap authorizations, finds that law enforcement officials encountered encrypted communications during wiretaps just seven times in 2015, compared to 22 times in 2014.

    • US border control could start asking for your social media accounts

      The US government is proposing making social media accounts part of the visa screening process for entry into the country.

      US Customs and Border Protection’s proposed change would add a line on both the online and paper forms of the visa application form that visitors to the US must fill out if they do not have a visa and are planning on staying for up to 90 days.

      The following question would be added to both the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (Esta) and I-94W forms: “Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/Platform—Social media identifier.”

      The information will be optional, for now, but the proposed change published by the US Federal Register states that “collecting social media data will enhance the existing investigative process and provide Department of Homeland Security (DHS) greater clarity and visibility to possible nefarious activity and connections by providing an additional tool set which analysts and investigators may use to better analyze and investigate the case.”

    • Amazon Dash buttons may get a new brand blitz
    • Here’s What Facebook’s Big New Change Really Means
    • Mobile messaging apps vying for dominance in Asia and beyond
    • App providers ordered to fulfill ’6 obligations
    • China tightens rules for mobile app developers
    • App providers face new data collection regulations in China
    • China issues regulations on mobile APP collection of user data
    • Mobile app developers in China hit with draconian new rules
    • New Regulations Could Make Apple Part of China’s Surveillance and Censorship Machine
    • Alexa does not like when you ask her about the NSA

      Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa is pretty good at answering most questions. But if you ask her if the NSA is monitoring you right now? She turns herself off.

    • Defending Human Rights in a Digital Age
    • Federation Council Approves Controversial Anti-Terrorism Laws

      The upper house of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council (FC), has passed a controversial anti-terrorism legislation package, the Interfax news agency reported Wednesday.

      The laws include far-reaching surveillance initiatives, harsher punishments for inciting or justifying terrorism online, and an increase in the number of crimes with which children aged between 14 and 17 can be charged. The lower house of parliament, the State Duma, approved the laws on June 24.

      Independent Duma Deputy Dmitry Gudkov took to social media to call the vote a “revolution” after five of the 170 council members voted against the legislation. The FC usually passes legislation unanimously.

    • Guy Asks Indian Supreme Court To Ban Encrypted WhatsApp… Because People Plan Raves With It

      And, yes, he also tossed in the “fear! terrorists!” argument as well, because of course. And it’s not just WhatsApp. He also wants a variety of other messaging platforms, such as Telegram, Hike and Viber, banned for using encryption (even though the implementations on many of those platforms is questionable). Of course, we don’t need to go through all the reasons why this is dumb. Strong encryption is much more likely to help protect the private information of the general populace from people looking to do bad things with it than it is to help terrorists in their planning. Could terrorists use it? Yes, just as terrorists can use other neutral, but important technologies for bad purposes. But we don’t go and ban them entirely just because they can be misused.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Donald Trump renews support for waterboarding at Ohio rally: ‘I like it a lot’

      Donald Trump offered renewed support on Tuesday for the use of torture while repeatedly comparing a proposed free trade agreement to rape.

      Trump, who has often praised the use of waterboarding and has spoken positively about alleged war crimes committed by American troops, said at a campaign rally, “We have to fight fire with fire”, after referencing the penchant for beheadings by Isis.

    • Texas Judge Indicted For Making Secret 10-Year Deal With Red Light Camera Company

      The market for red light cameras obviously can’t sustain itself, even with certain legislators drooling over the prospect of installing these revenue generators at every intersection.

      Part of the problem is the technology is still incredibly fallible. Cameras have issued tickets to walls, parked vehicles, and many, many drivers obeying all traffic laws. Millions of dollars of refunds have been paid out by municipalities who once thought they’d have to do nothing more than sit back and let the cash roll in.

      Citizens aren’t fans, so legislators have often pushed these through with a minimum of discussion. Major players in the traffic cam industry lobby hard for placement of their products — sometimes going as far as to engage in good old analog bribery and corruption.

      Officials, both public and private, have been indicted (and convicted) for their participation in the proliferation of traffic cams. Not that the cameras themselves were necessarily illegal, but because the only thing better than an uptick in public funds is an uptick in private funds.

    • Silicon Valley’s Leaky Pipeline Problem

      The latest data point from a Bloomberg analysis reveals that nearly 1,900 U.S. entrepreneurs received venture capital funding for their startups, 2009-2016. Of those, just 141 were women.

      So, then, you have to ask: Which women? Because things are even worse for women of color. A recent report from #ProjectDiane showed that from 2012 to 2014, African American female founders effectively received next to no venture funding. Of the 10,238 funding deals during that period, only 0.2 percent (24, total) went to African American women entrepreneurs.

      What’s happening here? If you believe that entrepreneurial capacity and talent are evenly distributed by gender and race, then why is there this vast difference in how men versus women, versus women of color, are able to tap venture funding?

    • Chagos islanders cannot return home, says Supreme Court

      Former residents of the Chagos Islands who were forcibly removed from their homeland more than 40 years ago have lost their legal challenge to return.

      Families left the Indian Ocean islands in the 1960s and 70s to make way for a US Air Force base on Diego Garcia, the largest of the group of islands.

      An Immigration Order preventing anyone from going back was issued in 1971.

      The Supreme Court – UK’s highest court – upheld a 2008 House of Lords ruling that the exiles could not return.

    • Apostates refused service at Wegmans bakery – fear of invoking offense led to discrimination, says Ex-Muslims of North America

      Wegmans, a chain of 89 grocery stores, refused to bake and decorate a cake for a private celebration for those who have left the faith of Islam.

      The request included a picture of the Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) name and logo, with a caption of “Congratulations on 3 years!”, but was refused by an associate from the Fairfax branch of the popular chain, stating that the request was “offensive”.

    • Scientology Seeks Captive Converts Via Google Maps, Drug Rehab Centers

      Fake online reviews generated by unscrupulous marketers blanket the Internet these days. Although online review pollution isn’t exactly a hot-button consumer issue, there are plenty of cases in which phony reviews may endanger one’s life or well-being. This is the story about how searching for drug abuse treatment services online could cause concerned loved ones to send their addicted, vulnerable friends or family members straight into the arms of the Church of Scientology.

    • No decision after hearing for UK man accused of hacking FBI, NASA

      After two days of evidence, Lauri Love still does not know whether he will be extradited to the United States.

      In hearings at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, the Judge heard from 15 witnesses for the defence, but none from the prosecution. Lauri Love, 31, of Stradishall, has been accused by the US authorities of hacking into the US Federal Reserve, NASA, the FBI, and the Missile Defence Agency.

      He was first arrested by the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) in October 2013 and was released on bail in July 2014. US prosecutors claim that Love’s alleged offences were not politically motivated and were instead designed to “to disrupt the operations and infrastructure of the US government” by stealing classified data and personally identifying information of government and military personnel.

    • Johnny Manziel’s Lawyer Accidentally Texts The AP And Then Threatens To Sue Them If They Report On It

      It’s become common game by many in America and elsewhere to crap on lawyers whenever the opportunity presents itself. This is done unfairly in many cases, with a lack of understanding of what the adversarial nature of our legal system requires of legal advocates. For instance, a lawyer that strongly advocates for a client accused of something terrible isn’t himself or herself terrible. That’s the duty of the job.

      But for one of the lawyers on the staff of Johnny Manziel, the seemingly troubled and frequent guest of the court who was once primarily known as a football player, it appears both that proper lawyer-ing is a bit more difficult than for most and that he’s a bully to boot. As you may have heard, Bob Hinton, who had been tasked with representing Manziel in his domestic abuse court case, accidentally texted the Associated Press information about his attempts to settle the case in a rather unfavorable light with respect to his client.

    • Rhode Island Governor Dumps Revenge Porn Bill In Favor Of Upholding First Amendment

      In an unexpected turn of events, Rhode Island’s governor has chosen the First Amendment over the hot button issue of revenge porn. One of several bad bills recently introduced by legislators (the others being a dreadful CFAA clone and badly-written “cybercrime” bill) is dead, killed by a politician who actually realized the potential damage to free speech it might have caused.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

  • DRM

    • Xbox Fitness Users Shelled Out Big Bucks For Workout Programs They’ll Soon Be Totally Unable To Use

      In late 2013, Microsoft launched Xbox Fitness for the then-new Xbox One. The fitness program leaned heavily on the Kinect motion sensor you’ll recall Microsoft initially and ingeniously forced everybody to buy — even though many users had no interest in the accessory. Xbox Fitness included 30 free training sessions, but also allowed users to pay significantly more for additional workouts, including shelling out $60 for P90X routines, to individual Jillian Michaels videos that cost users $12 each. These users likely assumed that once they bought these workouts, they’d be able to use them indefinitely.

      Those users apparently didn’t get the memo that we no longer own the things we buy.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • African Group Proposes Patents And Health Programme At WIPO

      This week in the World Intellectual Property Organization patent law committee, the African Group submitted an updated proposal for a work programme on patents and health that would help developing countries tailor patent law to their circumstances.

    • US Sees Weak African IP Protection, But Not Enough To Lose Unilateral Trade Benefits

      The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) today (29 June) released its annual report on the eligibility of African nations for unilateral trade benefits offered by the US. While some countries were praised for progress on intellectual property protection, others were found to be weak in this area, but none were removed from eligibility for that reason. Overall, reporting on IP rights varied widely in the report.

    • TAFTA/TTIP Just Got Harder: Brexit Is ‘A Midsummer Night’s Nightmare’ Says EU Trade Commissioner

      After the dramatic and largely unexpected victory of the “Brexit” (Britain Exit) camp in the UK — those who want the country to leave the European Union — politicians around the world are trying to work out what the implications will be. For the UK, of course, it meant an immediate trashing of the UK pound against the US dollar; for the US, it meant the loss of a reliable ally within the EU camp.

      [...]

      As that mentions, trade is one area where the UK played a key role for the US, and its departure from the EU will make negotiations for the TAFTA/TTIP deal, now dragging on into their fourth year, even harder, since the UK was one of the main countries pushing for it. The European Commission is worried: after the results of the Brexit vote were known, the EU’s commissioner for trade, Cecilia Malmström, called it “A midsummer night’s nightmare,” (original in Swedish.)

    • Will the USPTO’s “Patents 4 Patients” Program Even Make It Off the “Cancer Moonshot” Launch Pad?

      Second, in the field of biology specifically, there is considerable debate about whether there are any laws of nature at all. The Evolutionary Contingency Thesis states that there are no laws of biology, since biological relationships are the result of evolutionary forces—random mutations, environmental variables and selection pressures, and multiple functionally equivalent adaptions. As Stephen Gould put it vividly: “evolution is like a videotape that, if replayed over and over, would have a different ending every time.” That a particular sequence of amino acids codes for a specific protein is just as much a result of contingent evolutionary forces as the ability of aspirin to stop headaches: neither was a necessary outcome of the universe. Or to put in the terms overused by the Supreme Court, neither of these are on the level of Einstein’s E=mc2 or Newton’s universal law of gravitation.

    • WIPO Patent Law Committee Adopts Work Programme; Good Omen, Some Say

      World Intellectual Property Organization members attending this week’s patent law committee meeting agreed on a work programme, reflecting divergent views on patents and health, exceptions and limitations, and patent quality.

    • Trademarks

      • You’ll Never Guess Which Portmanteau Everyone Is Suddenly Trying To Trademark

        It had to happen. There was no avoiding it. It’s quite common for individuals, and sometimes even businesses, to surf the wave of a popular news cycle and attempt to translate some story into a trademark to exploit. A good percentage of the time, this is done as something of a short-term squatting attempt, where some word or phrase becomes suddenly popular and someone races to trademark it in order to license or sell it to another entity. Other times, it’s simply done to capitalize on the sudden popularity of a word or phrase directly.

        You already know where this is going. Yes, the “Brexit” trademarks are starting to pour in, almost literally in the case of Sam Adams Boston Lager maker Boston Beer.

      • NRA Trademark Complaint Over Yes Men Parody Takes Down 38,000 Websites

        You may have seen last week a website called ShareTheSafety.org, which was an impressively detailed parody site, pretending to be from the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gunmaker Smith & Wesson about a “buy one, give one” handgun program — where it claimed you’d buy a handgun, and a free handgun would then be sent to an inner city individual “in need” of a gun. The parody was deep and thorough — including setting up another domain, NRApress.org, in order to post a single press release about this program, and which cleverly is designed with actual links to actual NRA press releases and, if you just go to the main domain, it redirects to the NRA’s actual press site. The site definitely fooled a few people, and there were lots of questions popping up on Twitter about whether or not it was real or parody.

        Of course, a day or so after it started spreading, it was revealed that famed pranksters The Yes Men were behind it. They also posted a promo video and a fake press conference announcing the program (the fake press conference being a fairly common Yes Men trope).

    • Copyrights

      • Marrakesh Treaty brought into force by Canada accession

        Canada has become the key 20th nation to accede to the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled. This means the treaty will come into force on September 30, three months after Canada’s accession.

      • WIPO Treaty On Copyright Exceptions For Visually Impaired Enters In Force

        The World Intellectual Property Organization treaty to facilitate access to books in special formats for visually impaired people will enter into effect, as the 20th member state acceded to the treaty today.

        As a result of the accessions, the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled will enter into effect on 30 September 2016, according to sources.

      • Malibu Media Sues Its Former Lawyer Over Missing Funds, Breach Of Bar Rules

        All aboard the schadenfreude express! It appears that when you base your business model on dubious litigation, you also to attract dubious litigators. (See also: Righthaven, Prenda Law.) So, this latest development in the Malibu Media saga — brought to our attention by Sophisticated Jane Doe of Fight Copyright Trolls — is perhaps less surprising than inevitable.

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