Decline of Patent Quality at the EPO to Further Exacerbate With Latest Crackdown on Appeal Boards

Posted in Europe, Patents at 3:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Highest quality is lowest cost
Reference: Highest quality is lowest cost

Summary: Rather than emphasise and maintain quality control at the European Patent Office, the Battistellites seek to maximise the number of granted patents and rely on false claims

THE PATENT quality (not so-called ‘production’) at the EPO used to be the pride of Europe. Growing up in Europe, many people learned about famous European patent examiners such as Albert Einstein (pre-EPO era). Some of the strongest companies worked hard and paid a lot of money in an effort to be granted European patents (EPs), which were quite reputable around the world. Some of the brightest scientists examined applications in tandem/parallel and determined whether or not an innovation or claimed invention was indeed novel and would have courts agree upon challenge (high certainty of eligibility, quality, and novelty). These are the “good ol’ days” of the EPO.

“Some of the strongest companies worked hard and paid a lot of money in an effort to be granted European patents (EPs), which were quite reputable around the world.”Based on this evening’s (GMT) press release, errors in examination continue to be found. An alternative headline for the “news release” [sic] would be: “EPO erroneously granted a patent again. Reinforcing claims of decline in examination quality.”

Not too long ago somebody sent us an insider’s account regarding patent “production”, ECfS (Early Certainty from Search), Priority 1 (in the queue), the so-called “Paris criteria” and more. It helps confirm what we have been writing here for months if not years, namely that there is a massive decline in patent quality the and this gets more irreversible the longer Battistelli stays. To quote:

Once upon a time, EPO examiners were largely free to organize their own work. It was clear that EPC and PCT time limits were to be observed and that replies should not be laying waiting for years, but otherwise things were left to the good judgment of the examiner. That has changed dramatically. Now each examiner has an electronic cupboard in which files are arranged following some obscure algorithm and deviation from the strict order foreseen is considered a crime to be punished with a bad note for quality. Last year the priorities were apparently mainly set according to the “Early Certainty from Search” program. Apparently this year reaching the “Paris criteria” has been added as a new objective. There are further constraints on the examiner and some of those may clash. There is e.g. the total number of “products” to be achieved in a year and the ratio of searches and examinations to be maintained – all this in a situation that is not necessarily under the examiner’s control. In technical areas with a low search backlog maintaining the “ideal” search / examination ratio may not be possible, and total production is equally likely to suffer.

Last night we showed that Team Battistelli (the HR wing) lies about recruitment. It is making up for lack of quality (of examination) by throwing more unqualified or inexperienced examiners at the task, paying them less and offering them fewer incentives to do a good job. “Workforce planning,” as an insider put it, seems to involve “lowering recruitment standards” and “5-year contracts for examiners have also been considered, to be renewed only once” (damaging to work security and experience).

According to the following, “face-to-face technical interviews done by DG1 have recently been replaced by Skype interviews” (here again EPO administration sucks up to Microsoft with spyware endorsement). To quote the broader version of this insider account:

In a recent DG1 internal message, PD11 has asked staff to help the Office recruit more examiners in order to create the over-capacity in DG1 needed to work off the backlog and to meet the Paris criteria for search and examination. The question arises as to how the capacity will be brought back to normal once the backlog has melted. We suspect that the preferred option will be through “incentivised” retirement of senior examiners considered too expensive – incentivised through pressure and threat. The other option will be dismissal for professional incompetence. To facilitate the process of firing unwanted staff, the Office has submitted a document to the GCC that would take dismissals for professional incompetence out of the hands of the disciplinary committee and make it a “managerial decision” by the President after receipt of a majority opinion delivered by a newly-created “Joint Committee”. That cuts two ways: the procedure will become easier and quicker, and the time needed to challenge the decision will double because decisions taken after a disciplinary procedure can be (almost) directly taken to ILO-AT whereas managerial decisions need to go through the Internal Appeals Committee first. Under the circumstances probably not many of our colleagues will be convinced to recruit their friends to the Office. The apparent solution: lowering recruitment standards. The face-to-face technical interviews done by DG1 have recently been replaced by Skype interviews. Only the “psychological” interviews, done by the HR department, are still held in the Office. Apparently DG4 (HR) and not DG1 ultimately decides who will be hired or who will not. This clearly shows the Office’s new priorities, and who is the boss here. 5-year contracts for examiners have also been considered, to be renewed only once. After protests from DG1, DG4 backed off from that plan, but the recent staff changes now list all entrant examiners since 1 May 2016 as “contract staff”. Furthermore, the question remains whether a recruitment process that pays more attention to the psychological – generalist – profile considered desirable by HR than to the technical skills required in DG1 will allow the EPO to maintain the high level of quality that made the Organisation a success.

The ENA mentality of Battistelli would ruin the Office and leave it in an irreparable state. Paying millions of Euros to PR agencies, media companies and silly lobbying events will get harder when applicants become unwilling to pay for low-quality patents. At the same time, Battistelli is biasing if not destroying the appeals process in the name of so-called ‘production’ (measured using a misguided and wrong yardstick which assumes more patents would mean “better”, linearly). Hours ago someone left the following comment about Battistelli’s plan to send appeal judges to ‘exile’ (the EPO lied about it under the banner of "news"). “In summary,” says this person, “I still think that this is bad reform that in many respects decreases the independence of the Boards.”

Here is the full comment:

I referred to the amendments made during the last AC meeting, which, as I understand are those highlighted CA/43/16 Rev.1.

You refer to two points: the drafting of the Rules of Procedure and the involvement of the users in the BOAC.

The first point is dealt with in the new Rule 12c EPC, which, contrary to what you say, does not seem to have been amended at all during the Council.

In respect of your view that the Rules of Procedure would be drafted within the Boards, as present, it seems to be based on a superficial reading of the text.

Old Rule 12(3) EPC said that “The Presidium shall adopt the Rules of Procedure of the Boards…”.
The new Rule 12c says “On a proposal from the President of the Boards of Appeal and after the President of the European Patent Office has been given the opportunity to comment, the Committee set up under paragraph 1 (BOAC) shall adopt the Rules of Procedure of the Boards of Appeal and of the Enlarged Board of Appeal. “ Thus you see that the President of the Boards can only make a proposal but the adoption, i.e. the formulation of the final text, has been moved from the Boards to the BOAC after giving the President of the Office (which was previously not involved at all) the opportunity to comment. That is clearly a step in the direction of less independence.

In respect of the involvement of the users, it is true that the proposal has been amended to say that the BOAC “carry out, where necessary, user consultations on matters of direct concern to users, such as proposals to amend the Rules of Procedure of the Boards of Appeal and of the Enlarged Board of Appeal. “ But given how the opinions voiced by the users in the last consultation have not been into account, that is what I call a cosmetic amendment.

In summary I still think that this is bad reform that in many respects decreases the independence of the Boards. The fact that even worse reforms could and have been proposed is not a good reason for passing a bad reform. The members of the Council were right when they initially rejected it and I wonder on the basis of which deal struck behind closed doors they finally accepted it.

Patent offices live or die (or set their prices) based on demand and based on quality of examination. Unless ENA doctrine is elbowed out of the EPO, prices will have to drop (to maintain a level demand), just like recruitment standards fell, in a desperate effort to fill up the vacuum amid EPO brain drain.

Another fearsome outcome of all this — one which more directly impacts everyone in Europe — is that many low-quality patents would be granted, which would then pass all the costs to externalities like the European public, compelling small businesses which cannot afford going to court to just pay patent aggressors who fooled/tricked inexperienced EPO examiners (those recruited by the likes of Bergot) and faced no opposition from Battistelli-fearing (and understaffed) appeal boards whose cost virtually quadrupled so as to discourage appeals.

SUEPO “Speechless” About Administrative Council Delegates for “Cavalier Attitude Towards Law-Making” and “Contempt for Consultative Processes”

Posted in Europe, Patents at 1:49 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Battistelli and Kongstad

Summary: The latest Administrative Council meeting served to reinforce the belief that delegates are little more than lapdogs of Benoît Battistelli, no matter what abuses he’s implicated and directly involved in (the subject is hardly even brought up anymore)

LAST week we wrote many articles about the EPO because it was a rather jaw-dropping week which further defended allegations that the Administrative Council is in the pocket of Battistelli rather than its overseer.

This morning someone (not SUEPO) leaked to us the following statement that SUEPO had issued several days ago:

News from the 148th Meeting of the Administrative Council

The decision-making process in the Council has reached a new, absurd, depth.

CA/15/16 (self-insurance for health-care costs) was accepted without discussion.

CA/52/16 (standards of conduct and investigations) and CA/53/16 (review of the disciplinary procedures) were removed from the agenda and postponed to the next meeting without any comments or discussion.

The Council then focused on CA/43/16 (reform of the Boards of Appeal) and CA/29/16 (post-service employment restrictions). On the first day a lengthy discussion took place, with interventions of twenty delegations mostly opposing the proposals and the fact that they were presented as a package. At the end of the day, the Chairman suggested that the Board 28 should prepare, together with the President and its team, a new version of both documents for the next day. New versions, CA/43/16 Rev.1 and CA/29/16 Add.1 Rev.1, were indeed adopted as a package almost without any discussion, with 35 votes in favour, only one vote against (NL) and two abstentions (HR, IT). We are speechless about the delegations’ complete change of mind overnight, their cavalier attitude towards law making (overnight haste work) and their contempt for consultative processes.

It is not clear to what extent the resolution adopted in the March Council and the recent Enlarged Board of Appeal decision were discussed in the confidential session. It appears that the Council delegates chose to ignore Mr Battistelli’s total disregard for their resolution, as well as his interference in the procedure before the Enlarged Board of Appeal.

SUEPO Central

Looking at IP Kat today (quiet day, possibly because it’s holiday in the US), there was only the following new comment about the abuse of justice by Battistelli — a long thread which over time developed into a discussion about BOAC (putting a Battistelli-appointed President in charge of the accused judge and his colleagues). To quote:

I said the amendments don’t do everything you might want, but they do address some of the concerns. They pick up some of CIPA’s suggestions, but not all of them. So they’re an improvement, but not perfect.

CIPA aside, AMBA was largely ignored. It’s probably AMBA’s input that should have carried more weight.

I took one of your concerns as an example: that the Rules of Procedure would be drafted by the BOAC. If that was ever proposed, then it is several months out of date.

Recall that last November BB [Battistelli] said that the Office (i.e. BB) would propose the RoP. Everyone said that was unacceptable. The AC told him to think again.

The AC (Administrative Council) has no bearing on Battistelli’s behaviour, as his action and inaction demonstrate (not obeying the Administrative Council’s demands and even extending the attack on staff representatives to The Hague, as noted above by SUEPO). There is hardly any separation between Battistelli and the Administrative Council anymore. There are also financial strings that ought not exist. Quoting further from the comment:

In February this year, BB made revised proposals. I don’t know exactly what they said about the RoP, but there was a big falling out between BB and the AC. The AC decided that Board B28 would tell BB what to say about the reform of the Boards of Appeal.

At the start of the latest AC meeting, therefore, CA/43/16 said that the new President of the Boards of Appeal would propose the RoP to the BOAC, and that he would be advised in this by the Presidium. Thus, the RoP would not be drafted by the BOAC, but within the Boards of Appeal, as at present.

CIPA requested that users should be consulted as well, preferably by having observer status on the BOAC. The amendment CA/43/16 Rev.1 made during the AC meeting doesn’t go that far, but it does say that the BOAC should consult users, particularly about the RoP.

Four months ago Board 28 (B28) lashed out at Battistelli and given that Battistelli has only gotten more abusive since (enhancing attacks on staff representatives and subverting the course of justice), it is not clear what has changed. Maybe the bully just made “Battistelli” the “B” in B28. Maybe the endless lies about “productivity” (in the future we shall demonstrate again that these were lies) helped silence them. Lying is very common in Team Battistelli, as we last illustrated last night.

Signs of Progress: Overly Litigious US Patent System Calms Down a Bit, Reform Upsets Megacorporations

Posted in America, Courtroom, Patents at 1:21 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

US patent lawsuits
Based on data from Lex Machina

Summary: Tensions and disputes over patents in the US are on the decline, potentially as a direct result of heightened scrutiny of patents over their quality

THE USPTO is loved by patent aggressors and feared by everybody else. According to these new figures from Lex Machina (reported by IAM in this case), the USPTO just got a little less scary. To quote one of many analyses to come (after the US holiday): “New patent lawsuit in the US were down by close to 1,000 filings in the first half of 2016 compared with the first six months of 2015, providing a further indication that the marked drop off in cases since December may be part of a longer-term trend.

“As expected, given the IAM funding sources, IAM is not particularly happy about it, but what IAM wants is typically the very opposite of what society as a whole should want.”“According to Lex Machina’s running total, there were 2,238 cases brought in the first six months of this year compared with 3,232 in 2015 and 2,923 in 2014. That makes it the lowest first half total since 2011, the year that the America Invents Act was signed into law and its new joinder rules led to a spike in filings. Lex Machina has not officially announced their numbers for the first six months of 2016, but Lex Machina’s database keeps a running total and it’s safe to assume that the final total to the end of June will be close to 2,238. Unified Patents released its analysis earlier today which put the number of new cases at 2,187.”

This looks like great progress, possibly attributable to PTAB (part of America Invents Act*) and the message it sent out to patent aggressors after Alice had been handed down from SCOTUS.

As expected, given the IAM funding sources, IAM is not particularly happy about it, but what IAM wants is typically the very opposite of what society as a whole should want. IAM’s agenda is still promotion of the EPO, opposition to patent reform, UPC advocacy, and software patents (there’s no ambiguity about it). In the US, which still grants some software patents and thus helps patent trolls, voices can be found of large corporations that are upset. IAM gives them a platform this week. It is quite revealing.

Over at Patently-O, a blog based in the US (unlike IAM which is British), a MacDermid v. DuPont petition gets mentioned today and to quote the original: “Whether the Federal Circuit has erred in holding that there “must” be a proven “reasonable expectation of success” in a claimed combination invention in order for it to be held “obvious” under 35 U.S.C. § 103(a).”

“It was eventually the Supreme Court — not US Congress (in the pockets of megacorporations) — that brought necessary change.”Arguments about obviousness of patents have become commonplace not just because of Alice (which mostly relates to business methods and software). Another Patently-O article from today speaks of Rapid Litigation Management v CellzDirect and says that “[o]n appeal, the Federal Circuit held that the claimed hepatocyte prep-method was “not directed to a patent-ineligible concept.””

To quote the original: “The inventors certainly discovered the cells’ ability to survive multiple freeze-thaw cycles, but that is not where they stopped, nor is it what they patented. Rather, “as the first party with knowledge of” the cells’ ability, they were “in an excellent position to claim applications of that knowledge.” Myriad, 133 S. Ct. at 2120 (quoting Ass’n for Molecular Pathology v. U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, 689 F.3d 1303, 1349 (Fed. Cir. 2012) (Bryson, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part)). That is precisely what they did. They employed their natural discovery to create a new and improved way of preserving hepatocyte cells for later use.”

Here we have Myriad (the SCOTUS determination) being used to challenge another kind of patent. It was eventually the Supreme Court — not US Congress (in the pockets of megacorporations) — that brought necessary change.
* A science-led Patent Trial and Appeal Board which invalidates many software patents these days.

Potential Alignment of Special Interests at Mishcon de Reya: EPO, Microsoft, and Brexit (or UPC)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 12:44 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Helping the oppressors and aggressors

Con de ReyaSummary: The aggressive London-based legal firm (recently hired by the EPO), Mishcon de Reya, shows up again in relation to matters that are of relevance to the EPO and we analyse potential correlations

REPUTATION LAUNDERING is a big and growing objective at the EPO. Battistelli and his goons are trying to control the press, e.g. by silencing critical voices in it and using it to defame critical voices inside the Organisation. See today’s tweet from the EPO. This award pays millions of Euros of EPO budget to private corporations including the media, but the EPO does not want to say this to the public. In addition, the EPO wasted money on lawyers whom it used to send threatening letters to critics, like those who dare speak about the EPO-Microsoft connection. For information about this connection see past articles such as:

The last one is about the UPC, which probably isn’t going to happen. Earlier today the EPO wrote: “The EPO is pleased to inform users of its Online Filing software that a new update is now available” (follow the links to the downloads page and see how Microsoft-centric it all still is).

We recently thought about some FFII joint action against the UPC, but seeing that Brexit is already sending the UPC down the drain, this might not at all be necessary. This week, FFII’s Ante Wessels looks at some overlaps between the investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS), the large corporations’ wet dream, and UPC (serving to highlight TPP/TTIP connections):

UPC and ISDS: who would have to pay the damages awards?


Investment lawyer Pratyush Nath Upreti argues that investors will be able to use investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) to challenge decisions of the Unified Patent Court (UPC). [1] Investors could for instance use a Dutch bilateral investment treaty to challenge UPC decisions. Upreti identifies Dutch investment treaties as suitable for treaty shopping and warns for more frivolous IP litigation in investor-to-state dispute settlement.

This raises a question. Who would bear the litigation costs and damages awards?

If investors use a Dutch investment treaty the Netherlands will be the respondent. UPC decisions may regard the whole UPC area (almost the whole EU). ISDS damages awards may include expected profits. The Netherlands could end up having to pay litigation costs and damages awards including expected profits for almost the whole EU.

It isn’t exactly news that UPC and ISDS would both serve large corporations and their aggressive lawyers such as Mishcon de Reya (also acting for Microsoft on the patent front). It was therefore interesting to see my lawyer publishing “The Mishcon de Reya legal challenge on Article 50 – some thoughts” (direct link to the source). As a reminder, Battistelli opposes Brexit because it harms his UPC plans; now his lawyers in London (who threatened me and stalked me online for a while after threatening letters had been sent by another firm regarding articles about Microsoft-EPO ties) step in and attempt to take action which would salvage the UPC and certainly help Microsoft too (a large client of Mishcon de Reya on the face of it). It’s a small world after all, but the overlap of interests, as explained above, might all boil down to coincidences. A pattern emerges, however, wherein Mishcon de Reya helps aggressive entities.

James Nurton, who did a soft interview with Battistelli some months back, earlier today released “Brexit 10 days on: latest developments”. It’s about the impact of Brexit, which EPO management certainty isn’t happy about. To quote Nurton: “Practitioners say that they have had many enquiries about filing national UK trade mark and design rights from clients who want to ensure they have protection in the country whatever happens post-Brexit.”

We suppose these enquiries actually meant money (per hour); so it’s not so bad after all to at least some of them…

Links 5/7/2016: KDE Plasma 5.7 Released, GSK Demystified

Posted in News Roundup at 8:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Mozilla emits nightly builds of heir-to-Firefox browser engine Servo

        Mozilla has started publishing nightly in-development builds of its experimental Servo browser engine so anyone can track the project’s progress.

        Executables for macOS and GNU/Linux are available right here to download and test drive even if you’re not a developer. If you are, the open-source engine’s code is here if you want to build it from scratch, fix bugs, or contribute to the effort.

  • SaaS/Back End

    • Is my OpenStack ready for Cloud Foundry?

      This year’s first Cloud Foundry Summit took place in Santa Clara at the end of May. Beyhan Veli from SAP and I gave a presentation about the Cloud Foundry OpenStack Validator, a new tool we developed as one of the results of our collaboration with SAP on the BOSH OpenStack Cloud Provider Interface project.

  • CMS

    • German ecommerce software Shopware becomes open source

      Shopware, said to be the largest shop system manufacturer of Germany, released version 5.2 of its ecommerce software. One of the biggest changes is the elimination of encryption software ionCube, thus making its software 100 percent open source.

      Shopware made version 5.2 of its ecommerce software available for download. Aside from the switch to open source, Shopware also added numerous new features, which it says are the result of more than 70,000 members from its community submitting proposals for improvement. CEO Stefan Hamann: “For several years, we have encouraged an open dialogue with the community in order to more directly connect with their wishes for an ecommerce platform.”

    • Install Cockpit CMS on Ubuntu 16.04
  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

    • Sources: Microsoft Tried To Buy Docker for $4B

      At last week’s DockerCon 2016 event in Seattle there was a lot of behind-the-scenes chatter about Microsoft wanting to buy Docker for billions of dollars. Microsoft’s bid for Docker was rumored to be as much as $4 billion for the 250-person container technology startup in the last six months, according to multiple sources with contacts close to both companies.

    • Uber Drives Gains With Open-Source Development

      The popular ride-sharing company adopts an open-source development platform to speed application coding and support more than five million trips per day.

  • BSD

    • PC-BSD’s Lumina Desktop Now In Beta For v1.0

      The Lumina Desktop Environment has made available their v1.0 beta release of the Qt-written desktop.

      PC-BSD developers and others continue working on Lumina as an alternative, lightweight desktop environment. While originating in the BSD world, Lumina continues to be designed to work on any Unix-like OS and is licensed under a 3-clause BSD license. Should you not be familiar with Lumina from our past articles, visit Lumina-Desktop.org to learn more about the project.

  • Public Services/Government

    • Bulgaria passes law requiring government software to be open source

      Amendments have been passed by the Bulgarian Parliament requiring all software written for the government to be open source and developed in a public repository, making custom software procured by the government accessible to everyone.

      Article 58 of the Electronic Governance Act states that administrative authorities must include the following requirements: “When the subject of the contract includes the development of computer programs, computer programs must meet the criteria for open-source software; all copyright and related rights on the relevant computer programs, their source code, the design of interfaces, and databases which are subject to the order should arise for the principal in full, without limitations in the use, modification, and distribution; and development should be done in the repository maintained by the agency in accordance with Art 7c pt. 18.”

    • Every country needs to follow Bulgaria’s lead in choosing open source software for governance

      The Bulgarian Parliament has passed amendments to its Electronic Governance Act which require all software written for the government to be open source and developed in a public repository.

    • Bulgaria Makes A New Law Requiring All Government Software To Be Open Source

      From the world of open source, here comes a great news. The Bulgarian government has passed a law that has made the use of open source software in government offices compulsory. We welcome this step and hope that other governments will take similar steps and make more information accessible to the users.

    • Bulgaria Got a Law Requiring Open Source

      Less than two years after my presentation titled “Open source for the government”, and almost exactly one year after I became advisor to the deputy prime minister of Bulgaria, with the efforts of my colleagues and the deputy prime minister, the amendments to the Electronic Governance Act were voted in parliament and are now in effect. The amendments require all software written for the government to be open-source and to be developed as such in a public repository.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Building a water collection vessel from scratch

        The Engineering Academy program is offered to top students from the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, as well as the School of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering in Singapore Polytechnic. The program aims to impart skills from a multitude of disciplines: electrical, electronics, mechanics, chemistry, design, and business.

        The project statement we were presented with at the beginning of the semester was: “Design a vehicle that can take two samples of water, at one meter and two meters underwater.” This posed a challenge to us as there were many intricacies of the vehicle that we had to think about, and it was a huge undertaking.

        However, we welcomed the challenge with open arms. We knew it would put all of our knowledge to the test and would necessitate the search for even more information on our own. This article will outline the very iterative process of planning and prototyping, and showcase the fruit of our labor.


  • Health/Nutrition

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Tony Blair faces calls for impeachment on release of Chilcot report

      Senior figures from Labour and the Scottish National party are considering calls for legal action against Tony Blair if the former prime minister faces severe criticisms from the long-awaited inquiry into the war in Iraq.

      A number of MPs led by Alex Salmond are expected to use an ancient law to try to impeach the former prime minister when the Chilcot report comes out on Wednesday.

      The law, last used in 1806 when the Tory minister Lord Melville was charged for misappropriating official funds, is seen in Westminster as an alternative form of punishment that could ensure Blair never holds office again.

    • How the U.S. Military Promotes Its Weapons Arsenal to the Public

      A young boy “shoots” a machine gun from a Vietnam-era helicopter at the New York Air Show in 2015. There are no certain statistics for the number of Vietnamese casualties during the war, but at least 1 million died, and potentially 2 million or more. A 1991 survey found that Americans estimated that about 100,000 Vietnamese had been killed.

    • Hacked Emails Reveal NATO General Plotting Against Obama on Russia Policy

      Retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, until recently the supreme commander of NATO forces in Europe, plotted in private to overcome President Barack Obama’s reluctance to escalate military tensions with Russia over the war in Ukraine in 2014, according to apparently hacked emails from Breedlove’s Gmail account that were posted on a new website called DC Leaks.

      Obama defied political pressure from hawks in Congress and the military to provide lethal assistance to the Ukrainian government, fearing that doing so would increase the bloodshed and provide Russian President Vladimir Putin with the justification for deeper incursions into the country.

      Breedlove, during briefings to Congress, notably contradicted the Obama administration regarding the situation in Ukraine, leading to news stories about conflict between the general and Obama.

      But the leaked emails provide an even more dramatic picture of the intense back-channel lobbying for the Obama administration to begin a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine.

    • Refuse To Celebrate July 4th Militarism

      Did you know that 85 to 90 percent of war’s casualties are non-combatant civilians?

    • How Hillary Clinton Ignores Peace

      Despite neocon-instigated chaos and bloodshed across the Mideast (and now into Europe), Hillary Clinton continues to advocate more “regime change” wars with almost no fear from a marginalized anti-war movement, writes Robert Parry.

    • America Destroyed

      When I was young, America still existed. No more. Not even the blather from the 4th of July can hide the obvious fact.

      The young do not know that they have lost their country, because they are born into a time when the country is lost. To them that is normalcy.

      Besides, the young are too busy texting and describing themselves, often intimately, on social media to be aware of the fate that awaits them, lost as they are in their insouciance.

      When I was young, the police were the public’s friends. We could count on them to help us, not abuse us. False arrest was rare. Abuse of citizens even rarer. Today both are routine.

    • The Orlando Shootings: Police SWAT Team Involved in the Killings?

      The official FBI police report acknowledges shootings at 2am, it does not confirm the occurrence of killings of hostages prior to 5am. The killings started when the Police SWAT Teams stormed the Building at 5.13am. (see Timeline Below)

      The Orlando Police Department Timeline summarized in an FBI Tampa Press release not only suggests that no one was killed before 5.13am when the SWAT team broke into the building, it also confirms that the first deadly shots were fired at 5.14am and that the suspect was killed one minute later at 5.15am. This assessment was confirmed by Judge Napolitano in a Fox News report.


      The Obama Administration, the FBI, the Media have casually dismissed the possibility of police involvement in the killings despite the statements emanating from police sources. Theater of the absurd: The official story is that the killings were ordered by the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) based in Raqqa, Northern Syria, which happens to be supported and financed by two of America’s staunchest allies, Turkey and Saudi Arabia in close liaison with Washington.

      The CCTV camera footage which is available to law enforcement officials will, most probably, not be made public.

    • The worst ISIS attack in days is the one the world probably cares least about

      First, they came for Istanbul. On Tuesday night, three suspected Islamic State militants launched a brazen assault on Turkey’s main airport, exploding their suicide vests after gunning down numerous passengers and airport staff. At least 45 people were killed. The world panicked; Istanbul Ataturk Airport is one of the busiest hubs in Europe and the Middle East, and it is among the most fortified. Are our airports safe, wondered American TV anchors. Could this happen here on the Fourth of July?

      Next, they came for Dhaka. Gunmen whom many have linked to the Islamic State raided a popular cafe in an upscale neighborhood in Bangladesh’s teeming capital. After a 10-hour standoff, authorities stormed the establishment; at least 20 hostages, mostly Italian and Japanese nationals, died at the militants’ hands. U.S. college students also were among the dead. The Islamic State’s reach is growing far from the Middle East, security experts fretted. Foreigners are at risk all over the Muslim world.

      Then, they attacked Baghdad. In the early hours of Sunday morning, as hundreds of Iraqis gathered during the holy month of Ramadan, a car bomb exploded in the crowded Karrada shopping district. The blast killed a staggering number of people — the latest death toll is at least 187 — including many children. The area is predominantly Shiite, making it a choice target for the Sunni extremist group.

    • Too Many Moments of Silence

      In silence we stop the world for an instant with a symbolic gesture lacking productive solutions. Courageous acts of integrity transform our intentions into new realities for ourselves and the world. When will we speak? When will we pay attention? Uncommon lives do more than stand and wait. When will we take time to really listen, learn and act upon what matters most? Do we know what that means anymore? Some say ours is a throw-away world. Do we see ourselves and others as disposable waste? Is that why we stand motionless and simply look on or look away? Perhaps we know too much about war and too little about peace.

    • Thomas Jefferson: America’s Founding Sociopath

      So, Jefferson perhaps more than any figure in U.S. history gets a pass for what he really was: a self-absorbed aristocrat who had one set of principles for himself and another for everybody else.

    • Public Eclipse of a Shining Patriot

      Such persecution continued for 88 days. The mainstream media (virtually the only media at that time) besieged Jewell’s private residence. Television networks spent $1,000 per day subletting an apartment of the tenant next door to Jewell’s so as to observe him. At any given time were an estimated 150 to 200 members of the press, some with high-intensity photo lenses, trained on every move Jewell made. The object of this maelstrom stated, “They had people over there who could read lips. They had a sound dish. They could hear everything that we said. They have a person writing down everything we said.”

      For three months this behavior was all but sanctioned by the FBI who allowed the media to be its willing handmaidens rather than act as a check on its power. That agency too kept both Richard Jewell and his mother under 24-hour surveillance as they allowed the real culprit to escape further and further away from justice. Agents lied to Jewell about seeking his participation in an anti-terror documentary to induce him to a police station where they promptly read him his Miranda rights. He correctly (and wisely) asked for an attorney. In the days which followed the FBI collected hair his samples, confiscated his truck, interrogated everyone he knew and compelled several to undergo polygraph tests.

    • President Obama’s New, Long-Promised Drone “Transparency” Is Not Nearly Enough

      The Obama administration released a summary today of the numbers of “non-combatants” it has killed outside actual war zones primarily through targeted killing strikes, as well as a new executive order aimed at creating new transparency and accountability rules for such strikes.

      Unfortunately, both the release and the new order fall far short of the standards for transparency and accountability needed to ensure that the government’s targeted killing program is lawful under domestic and international law.

    • Colombia’s Peace Finally at Hand

      With terrorist massacres hitting the news every few days, and financial markets reeling over the uncertain future of Europe, it’s no wonder pundits like Roger Cohen of the New York Times are warning that “the forces of disintegration are on the march” and “the foundations of the postwar world … are trembling.”

      But the news media have given only glancing coverage to one of the most positive developments of our time: the end to 52 years of armed conflict between the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

    • Drone Death Figures Show the U.S. “Simply Doesn’t Know Who it has Killed”

      Responding to civilian casualty figures released by the White House today, international human rights organization Reprieve has expressed dismay at how little the Obama Administration appears to know about those it has killed in its covert use of lethal drones outside of war zones.

    • For Obama’s Secret Wars, the Record Suggests a Far Worse Reality

      The new White House data relates only to Obama’s first seven years in office – during which it says 473 covert and clandestine airstrikes and drone attacks were carried out in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya.

    • A Less-Secret Drone Campaign

      The public’s right to information about the drone campaign, and about counterterrorism policy more generally, should not depend on the grace of executive branch officials. Transparency should be required by law.

    • When will the White House tell us the whole truth about drone killings?

      The Situation Room, a commander-in-chief with rapidly graying hair, a cluster of grim-faced men and women debating the ethics and the legality of a killing. This is how the Obama administration has for years sought to portray its notorious global drone killing program: cautious, calculated and as conscientious as possible.

      The Obama administration just released numbers suggesting this depiction is closer to reality than fiction. It announced that drone strikes in countries excluding Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria have resulted in between at least 64 and 116 noncombatant deaths during his administration. The president also issued an executive order effectively directing his successor to do as he is doing, and publish this data going forward.

    • Obama Administration Finally Releases Its Dubious Drone Death Toll

      In a long-anticipated gesture at transparency, the Obama administration on Friday released an internal assessment of the number of civilians killed by drone strikes in nations where the U.S. is not officially at war.

      According to the data, U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya killed between 64 and 116 civilians during the two terms of the Obama administration — a fraction of even the most conservative estimates on drone-related killings catalogued by reporters and researchers over the same period. The government tally also reported 2,372 to 2,581 combatants killed in U.S. airstrikes from January 20, 2009, to December 31, 2015.

    • American Journalist in Rebel-Held Syria Reports Barely Dodging a Missile Strike

      An American journalist and documentary filmmaker reporting from Syrian rebel-controlled territory near Aleppo says he was nearly killed in what he suspects was a drone strike last Sunday. Bilal Abdul Kareem, an American citizen originally from New York, was sitting in a car with his driver outside the village of Khan Touman, he reports, when a missile struck nearby the vehicle.

      “We heard some drones traveling overhead about half an hour before, which is not uncommon, but there were none of the screams that you normally hear before an airstrike,” Abdul Kareem told The Intercept. “We were sitting in the car, and then all of a sudden, everything went black. It felt like the earth had split open and we’d fallen into it. In reality, the explosion had sent the car into the air.”

      A video Abdul Kareem posted after the bombing on his YouTube channel showed the damage to the vehicle, as well as his camera equipment. He says this is the fourth airstrike that has nearly hit him in the past month. Given the frequency of the near-misses, Abdul Kareem believes he is being targeted. “Locals had told me that I was being targeted by someone, but I hadn’t believed it before,” he says. “I just chalked it up to being in a war zone — bad things happen — but now it seems clear that someone is targeting me.”

      Abdul Kareem is one of the last Western journalists covering the conflict in Syria from rebel-controlled territory. Earlier this year, he helped produce a series of exclusive CNN reports from Syria with journalist Clarissa Ward. His reporting has also been featured on the British outlets Channel 4 and Sky News.

    • At Their Own Peril, Americans Are Fuzzy on History

      Because many people in the United States don’t value history very much, they tend to allow politicians to be selective in their remembering of historical events – usually to manipulate public nationalism (which now passes for patriotism) for their own dubious policy goals. For example, if Americans had focused more on the fact that historically, the Vietnamese had been fighting fiercely over the centuries to throw out foreign invaders – such as the Japanese, the Chinese, and recently the French – perhaps they would have demanded that their politicians think twice, even three times, about invading that country. And if Americans had known that the historically fractious Iraq, an artificial country that had been created by the greedy colonial powers after World War I to exploit the country’s oil reserves, they might have wisely rejected George W. Bush’s attempt at military social work in one of the most unlikely places in the Middle East for democracy to flourish.

    • In Hopeless Occupation, War Becomes its Own End

      Other occupations — Belgium in the Congo, Japan in China, France in Algeria, Russia in Afghanistan, etc. — provide ample, if imperiously unheeded warnings, because they all failed. Wasn’t British colonial rule overthrown by insurgent militias using unconventional methods against superior forces here? Milt Bearden, a 30-year CIA veteran, wrote for the New York Times, “[I]n the history of the 20th century, no nation that launched a war against another sovereign nation ever won. And every nationalist-based insurgency against a foreign occupation ultimately succeeded.” Not some, not most: every one.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Sadiq Khan pledges “urgent action” to clean up London’s air quality

      All cars built before 2005 are to be charged an additional £10 per day to enter central London, Mayor Sadiq Khan announced today.

      The levy, which will be in addition to the existing congestion charge and will apply to all vehicles with pre-Euro 4 emission standards, is one of a package of measures aimed at cleaning up London’s poor quality air.

      City Hall says the new fee, which it dubs the ’T-charge’, would “be the toughest crackdown” on polluting vehicles by any major city around the world when it comes into effect next year.

    • Climate Change’s Iniquitous Transmission of Urgency: The Gulf South

      The “South,” both as a global region and within industrialized countries, is where the people most vulnerable to climate catastrophe are located. It is here that we find the highest concentration of fossil fuel sacrifice zones, home to low-wealth citizens who enjoy little to no access to political power in their respective nations. And it’s here that we find some of the more efficacious models of climate resistance and resilience that you’ve never, or barely, heard about.

  • Brexit and Finance

    • Brexit: Which Kind of Dependence Now?

      The EU in essence is a cartel intended to suppress competition among the states of Europe — which is not to say it has had no liberalizing objectives or effects, such as freedom to move and work without visas, and disincentives for corporate subsidies. (I said this is complicated.) Competition, however, is too important to be suppressed because it reveals critical information we are unlikely to acquire otherwise. Since vital knowledge is disbursed among large numbers of people, competition is, as Nobel laureate economist F. A. Hayek put it, a unique “discovery procedure.” It’s not just a matter of freedom; it’s a matter of progress, and of life and death for those in the developing world.

    • EU Accused of Trying to Push Through ‘Toxic’ Trade Deal Ahead of Brexit

      Trade campaigners in the UK have accused the European Commission of attempting to hasten attempts to push through a controversial trade deal between Canada and the EU ahead of the UK leaving the EU. The accusations come before a meeting tomorrow of the EU Commissioners in Brussels where it’s expected the implementation of the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) will be agreed upon.

    • Nigel Farage has said ‘the real me will come out’ now he’s resigned and people are terrifed by what that means

      The leader of Ukip – a political party whose primary platform had been to push the UK towards leaving the EU – seems to have stepped down.

    • Charlotte Church ‘Shocked’ At ‘Horrifying’ Abuse After Nigel Farage Tweet

      Charlotte Church has said she is “shocked” by “horrifying” abuse she has received after tweeting about Nigel Farage in the wake of his resignation as Ukip leader.

      After the Brexit campaigner stepped down saying he “wants his life back”, the singer was one of many well-known people who vented their anger.

    • David Cameron, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage described as ‘rats fleeing a sinking ship’ after Brexit vote

      David Cameron, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage have been described as “rats fleeing a sinking ship” following their resignations in the immediate aftermath of Britain’s historic European Union referendum.

      Guy Verhofstadt, the former Prime Minister of Belgium who now heads up the alliance of Liberal and Democrats for Europe, made the comparison the day after Mr Farage resigned as the leader of the UK Independence Party, saying “he couldn’t possibly achieve more”.

    • Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson are unpatriotic quitters, says Juncker

      Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, has accused Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson of being unpatriotic quitters, after the pair stood back from leadership positions after the UK’s historic vote to leave the European Union.

      “The Brexit heroes of yesterday are now the sad heroes of today,” Juncker told MEPs at the European parliament in Strasbourg.

      “Those who have contributed to the situation in the UK have resigned – Johnson, Farage and others. They are as it were retro-nationalists, they are not patriots,” he said.

    • Christoph Waltz calls Nigel Farage ‘head rat’ and condemns Brexit as ‘abysmal stupidity’

      Waltz criticised Mr Farage for not failing to see through and stand up for what he had been vigorously campaigning for throughout his political career.

    • Tax haven route won’t work for post-Brexit UK, OECD says

      The United Kingdom is unlikely to try to lure international investment by becoming a tax haven after it leaves the European Union, according to an internal memo prepared by the body responsible for the drafting international tax rules.

      The head of tax at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which advises developed nations on policy, said the UK could use its freedom from EU rules to slash corporate tax but the political price would be high.

      The idea the country may cut tax on multinational companies’ profits, which could also help them avoid tax on profits made elsewhere in the EU, has been raised by some accountants and policy experts since the country voted to leave the bloc.

      “The negative impact of the Brexit on UK competitiveness may push the UK to be even more aggressive in its tax offer,” the OECD’s head of tax, Pascal Saint-Amans said in the memo, details of which were seen by Reuters.

    • Business pessimism ‘doubles after Brexit vote’

      UK business confidence has fallen sharply in the aftermath of the vote to leave the EU, research suggests.

      The share of businesses that reported feeling pessimistic about the UK economy doubled in the week after the Brexit vote.

      The figure jumped from 25% the week before the referendum to 49%, according to YouGov and the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

      Falling confidence can lead companies to pull back on investment and hiring.

      Scott Corfe, director at the CEBR, said that the figures indicated a “significant shock reaction” among UK businesses following the vote last month.

    • Disaster capitalism: the shocking doctrine Tories can’t wait to unleash

      One of the most startling aspects of the Brexit debate is the rapidity with which the Conservatives have set it behind them. Within hours of the result David Cameron was on the steps of 10 Downing Street, describing this slim majority as “a very clear result” and proposing irrevocable steps to set it in motion. Within days his chancellor, who had threatened a punishment budget only weeks earlier, was falling into line.

      The referendum was manifestly won on the basis of misinformation, and puts the UK in an extremely dangerous situation, and there are several plausible scenarios for avoiding it. Yet among the candidates to succeed Cameron, even former remainers are now voting leave. “Brexit means Brexit,” Theresa May stated on joining the race on Thursday. “There must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the back door, and no second referendum.” All the bloodshed in the Tory leadership contest masks an underlying consensus: they are all determined to block every exit from Brexit.

    • Does Article 50 require an Act of Parliament? A brief thought-experiment.

      Here is a question: would a decision by the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union require an Act of Parliament?

      On this question, one week or so after the referendum vote for Leave, it may be fairly said that “views differ”. Some constitutional lawyers say one thing, others say the other.

    • The Mishcon de Reya legal challenge on Article 50 – some thoughts
    • Post Brexit, trade unions must fight to protect NHS workers including those from the EU

      Trade unions must take immediate action to reassure NHS and social care staff from the EU that they are welcome and needed in the UK – and to protect the rights of all workers.

    • Sanders Organizing Grassroots Push Against TPP for DNC Platform Meeting

      Environmentalists oppose it. So do labor unions, medical professionals, and major religious groups, as well as every leading presidential candidate.

      So why hasn’t the Democratic Party gone on record opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)?

      That’s what Bernie Sanders wants to know.

    • New Jersey’s Student Loan Program is ‘State-Sanctioned Loan-Sharking’

      Amid a haze of grief after her son’s murder last year, Marcia DeOliveira-Longinetti faced an endless list of tasks — helping the police access Kevin’s phone and email, canceling his subscriptions, credit cards and bank accounts, and arranging his burial in New Jersey.

      And then there were his college loans.

      When DeOliveira-Longinetti called about his federal loans, an administrator offered condolences and assured her the remaining balance would be written off.

    • Austerity and ‘Benefits Street’ in Stockton-on-Tees

      The myths on which Benefits Street was based – namely the myth of so-called “workless communities” – are demonstrably false; however the furore it has generated demonstrates that the politics of class and representation still matter.

    • Obituary: British Austerity (2010-2016)

      Many, even on the Conservative backbenches, now question its utility. Growth in the UK stalled throughout the period, falling markedly below competitors in the global markets. The UK was positioned as the foremost adherent of this bastardised Keynesian policy which saw its own Government cannibalise its own functions in a maudlin effort to lose weight. Over the past six years spending fell 10% – similar crashes have been seen previously only in times of war or famine.

    • A Sad And Shameful Day For Puerto Rico

      “You never let a serious crisis go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel infamously said when he was President Obama’s White House chief of staff. So it is with the legislation that President Obama signs into law Thursday that offers Puerto Rico a process for managing its crushing debt.

      This bill is being heralded as a rare moment of bipartisan cooperation to solve a serious crisis, in this case the default by Puerto Rico on more than $1 billion of general obligation bonds on July 1. The island’s government has already missed payment deadlines on other bonds.

    • STRIKE! Nearly 1,000 Trump Taj Mahal Workers Walk-Off Job Ahead of Atlantic City’s Biggest Weekend of the Year

      Many workers at the Trump Taj Mahal, including those with years on the job, have seen only $.80 in total raises over the last twelve years. The cost of living in Atlantic City has risen over 25 percent in the same time period. Housekeepers, servers and other casino workers at the Taj Mahal earn an average of less than $12/ hour.

    • Them, Freeloaders.

      Comfort zones are available for us to shatter them, both physically and mentally.

    • Robert Reich’s Impossible Quest: to Save Capitalism for the Many

      Robert Reich’s latest book, Saving Capitalism For the Many, Not the Few, graphically details how current U.S. capitalism operates in stark contrast to the post-World War II period of the 50s, 60s and 70s. For Reich, the earlier period represented almost an ideal state: “the rules of the game were basically fair.” The rules defined a system in which “widely shared prosperity generates more inclusive political institutions, which in turn organize the market in ways that further broaden the gains from growth and expand opportunity.”

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Major Political News Outlets Offer Interviews for Sale at DNC and RNC Conventions

      For high-rolling special interests looking to make an impression at the presidential conventions next month, one option is to pay a lot of money to a media outlet. Lobbyists for the oil industry, for instance, are picking up the tab for leading Beltway publications to host energy policy discussions at the convention, including the Atlantic and Politico.

      And for the right price, some political media outlets are even offering special interviews with editorial staffers and promotional coverage at the convention.

    • The Busted Theory of ‘Broken Windows’ Still Has Media Defenders

      Broken Windows was always about constant police contact with vulnerable groups of people. A buffet of interactions, the theory was in some ways just a crude, physical form of surveillance. The fact that it never worked was secondary to what did work: creating a politically accepted justification for crackdowns on those populations. After all, the theory implied that the squeegee man, the subway dancers, the “loosie” sellers and the homeless were responsible for the murder rate. Broken Windows was not a failure but a hugely successful communications strategy that promoted the idea that the poor were dangerous and that the cops should be unshackled to deal with them.

      It’s time to bury that idea and reverse that strategy by listening to the stories of those who’ve been dealing with the fallout of decades of a law and order onslaught.

    • Back to the Future

      The priority now of the political “elite” is to ensure voters never again get the chance to make a choice the political class do not want. Jeremy Corbyn is the thing the political class want least.

      Do you remember when 184 Labour MPs refused to vote against the Tory benefit cuts that ruined lives and caused suicides? They did so on the grounds that their focus groups showed the public wanted benefit cuts, and so it would be wrong to oppose the Tory Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

    • Trump Taps Consultant Accused of Defrauding PAC to Lead Colorado Campaign

      Patrick Davis has denied allegations that he inappropriately steered hundreds of thousands of dollars raised by a conservative PAC to organizations linked to himself and his friends. Now he’ll lead Trump’s campaign in a key swing state.

    • On the Lost Art of Intellectual Honesty

      Politics has become a branch of PR. It is just about selling. The party, candidate or policy you are selling must be portrayed as the absolute epitome of excellence, with no flaws whatsoever. Political discourse has therefore become juvenile. It is about expensively dressed, well groomed salesmen with perfect teeth. Thought is positively frowned upon.

    • Hillary’s Mode of Governance: Boozy X Chromosomes Making Peace

      The NYT has an article describing how a bunch of apparently moronic Hillary aides believe they will govern when she becomes President. I say moronic not just because — in a week when Hillary’s spouse scored an enormous own goal by chatting up Attorney General Loretta Lynch on the tarmack in Phoenix — numerous Hillary aides said Hillary might keep Lynch as AG.

    • Theresa May, Your New Islamophobic Prime Minister?

      A quick Google news search for “Theresa May and “Abu Qatada” reveals over 2,000 mainstream media articles in the last three days combining both. This is hardly surprising, as in her speech announcing her candidacy for Tory leader (and thus PM) May dwelt on her deportation of Abu Qatada as evidence she was qualified for the job. The May supporting Tory MP who was put up for Sky to interview immediately afterwards managed to say “Abu Qatada” three times in a two minute interview.

      Abu Qatada should indeed be a powerful symbol – but not the symbol he has become, a hate figure. He should rather be a symbol of the hate-filled and intolerant place Britain has become, and the dreadful injustice meted out to individuals both by the state and the media.

    • How Unpatriotic Is Donald Trump?

      There is little in Trump’s rambling off-the-cuff speeches and media interviews, or in his reactionary stream-of-conscious tweets, that demonstrate his understanding of patriotism. Trump is a snake oil salesman, and he is arguably in the midst of his greatest pitch to date. Smart consumers should do their research to find out the truth about the “product” they are being sold by Mr. Trump.

    • Journalistic Standards at the Guardian

      Note Ms Hinshliff’s use of inverted commas there, indicating that “media conspiracy” was the actual phrase used. Except it wasn’t. Wadsworth never used the phrase, or indeed either of the words “media” and “conspiracy” separately. What he actually said is widely available, as is video footage of him saying it. I published it yesterday, along with what I hope was a very rational consideration of what the incident did and did not signify .

    • Thoughts on the Media and the EU Referendum

      a) I did not accept the argument that the BBC was biased in the referendum campaign towards Brexit. Indeed especially in the last few days, I thought it was biased towards Remain.
      b) However the BBC had been guilty of helping promote Brexit by giving Farage massive and disproportionate publicity for many years, from when UKIP was a negligible electoral force. They were always willing to give right wings views publicity but not left wing views.
      c) The right wing print media were indeed a major problem distorting democracy. However the solution to this should be to break up media ownership, not impose government control of content.
      d) Project Fear had not succeeded in the Scottish referendum. It had seen a 35 point unionist lead cut to a 10 point lead, making it one of the most disastrous campaigns in history. The question of why Project Fear “succeeded” in Scotland but not the EU referendum was therefore a false one.
      e) Media coverage focused on the despised political class rather than the facts.

    • Hillary Cheated

      Who are you going to believe: us, or your lying eyes? That’s the good word from Democratic Party powers that be and their transcribers in the corporate media, in response to the “allegations” by Bernie Sanders supporters that the nomination was stolen by Hillary Clinton.

    • Wow. Americans Really, Really Don’t Like Trump or Clinton

      Via a new Gallup poll, more evidence comes Friday that the nation’s electorate really doesn’t like this year’s leading presidential candidates.

      Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has the dubious distinction of being the most unfavorably viewed of any candidate over the past seven decades—displacing 1964 Republican candidate Barry Goldwater from the bottom spot.

      The poll offers no smug moment for Clinton: her scores put her among the bottom four presidential candidates, with scores barely better than those of Goldwater.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Court battle looming over SABC censorship

      The Helen Suzman Foundation has launched an urgent court bid to stop the SABC from implementing its decision to censor reporting of protests.

      The application is against the SABC, its board, chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng and communications minister Faith Muthambi, the foundation said in a statement on Monday.

      It would be heard in the high court in Pretoria. The provisional court date is 29 July, but it could be moved forward pending the availability of lawyers.

      “It is impermissible for the SABC to distort or refuse to cover important news, as a result of political partisanship or otherwise.

    • Are ad-blockers killing the media?

      In the summer 2016 issue of Index on Censorship magazine, Spiegel Online’s managing editor Matthias Streitz and Privacy International technologist Richard Tynan go head to head to debate the rise of ad-blockers.

      Many publishers have voiced concern that this software – which allows users to block online adverts from their screens – is damaging their revenue streams.

      “If you consume our content, you must allow us some means of monetisation,” said Streitz. While Tynan argued that online adverts pose a security risk and ad-blockers allow users to “retain control over who the communicate with, and [minimise] the amount of data companies collect on users’ online patterns”.

    • SABC facing court challenge on censorship

      The Helen Suzman Foundation has launched an urgent application asking the High Court in Pretoria to suspend the implementation of the policy until the court has decided whether it is lawful, or pending the finalisation of an inquiry by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) into the matter.

    • Icasa to rule on SABC’s ban on protest reports

      The SABC is likely to know on 7 July whether its contentious decision to ban coverage of violent protests is valid.

    • Sanity, Shami Chakrabarti and the Ruth Smeeth Affair

      On the Chakrabarti report itself, it seems to me a model of good sense. It is interesting to note that her recommendations on what areas (including holocaust denial and the Nazis) and what language to ban from discourse, end up very closely mirroring the same rules we have adopted over the years on this blog, effectively to bar anti-Semitism.

    • Censorship reform: a concession too far?
    • Of censorship and cyberbullying

      The recent clash between Brikkuni vocalist Mario Vella and OPM aide and blogger Glenn Bedingfield has once again exposed the limitations of freedom of speech.

      Vella is widely known to be outspoken and vitriolic in his public commentary. On this occasion, however, many felt that his comment about Michelle Muscat (which was both obscene and highly personal) had ‘crossed the line’.

    • Israel Says Facebook Has ‘Simply Become A Monster’

      Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Facebook was responsible for a spate of Palestinian attacks on the country’s citizens.

      “Facebook today sabotages, it should be known, sabotages the work of the Israeli police, because when the Israeli police approach them, and it is regarding a resident of Judea and Samaria, Facebook does not cooperate” with the West Bank, Erdan said in a television interview Saturday, Reuters reported.

    • A contemporary twist to Khajuraho: A Bengaluru artist redefines censorship through art

      Applying censorship to illustrate censorship itself is what Akshita’s art intends to achieve.

    • Sony Locks Up The PSN Account Of A Man Named ‘Jihad’ Because You’ll Never Guess Why

      Terrorism is scary. That’s the entire point of terrorism, of course. The relatively meager bodycounts of acts of terror — compared with, say, most minor individual battles in either of the World Wars — are actually attempting to create some kind of political or social change amongst the victims. And guess what? It totally works! After all, western nations, the bastions of freedom and puppy dogs that we are, have reacted to what is ultimately a minor threat by reporting toddlers to the authorities, freezing the bank accounts of people with dogs whose names are a couple of letters off of the scary terror-enemy, and refusing online services to people with scary (read: Islamic) sounding names. Freedom, you see, isn’t free, and we have to pay for it with freedom.

      And the real lesson that should be learned from pretty much the entire early part of this century is that once you start the fear-ball rolling when it comes to terrorism, it gets really hard to prevent it from trampling a great deal of innocent people in some of the dumbest ways possible.

    • The SABC and censorship on Al Jazeera

      South Africa is embroiled in a national debate over media censorship. This, after the SABC made the editorial decision to stop airing video of violent protests. The SABC has maintained the move was to protect journalists from becoming victims while covering such events.

    • The SABC and media censorship
    • Like North Korea and China, SA is a huge fan of censorship, DA says
    • ‘SA unashamedly parades love for censorship on international stage’: DA

      What does South Africa have in common with China‚ Russia and North Korea? “Poor human rights track records” and they are the “biggest practitioners of censorship”‚ the Democratic Alliance’s Phumzile van Damme suggested on Tuesday.

    • ANCYL backs SABC management amid anti-censorship debacle
    • SABC facing court challenge on censorship
    • ANC is also a victim of SABC censorship: Mantashe
  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • FBI Still Not Counting How Often Encryption Hinders Their Investigations

      The annual wiretap report is out. The headline number is that wiretaps have gone up, and judges still don’t deny any wiretap applications.

    • Federal Court: The Fourth Amendment Does Not Protect Your Home Computer

      In a dangerously flawed decision unsealed today, a federal district court in Virginia ruled that a criminal defendant has no “reasonable expectation of privacy” in his personal computer, located inside his home. According to the court, the federal government does not need a warrant to hack into an individual’s computer.

      This decision is the latest in, and perhaps the culmination of, a series of troubling decisions in prosecutions stemming from the FBI’s investigation of Playpen—a Tor hidden services site hosting child pornography. The FBI seized the server hosting the site in 2014, but continued to operate the site and serve malware to thousands of visitors that logged into the site. The malware located certain identifying information (e.g., MAC address, operating system, the computer’s “Host name”; etc) on the attacked computer and sent that information back to the FBI. There are hundreds of prosecutions, pending across the country, stemming from this investigation.

    • Your Favorite Website Might Be Discriminating Against You

      And because of a little-known law, it can be illegal to test for discrimination online.

      It can be pretty convenient when Facebook processes the gargantuan amount of personal data it has on you to show you ads for the precise lemon curd recipe you never knew you were craving.

      But what are the harms associated with this kind of targeting? It’s hard to answer that question — because an overbroad law actually prohibits the kind of studies best positioned to figure it out.

      The implications go far beyond dessert — studies have shown that people are being treated differently online based on their race, actual or perceived. Websites have been found to use demographic data to raise or lower prices, show different advertisements, or steer people to different content.

    • Security Tips Every Signal User Should Know

      There are dozens of messaging apps for iPhone and Android, but one in particular continues to stand out in the crowd. Signal is easy to use, works on both iOS and Android, and encrypts communications so that only the sender and recipient can decipher them.

    • Making Sense of a Troubling Decision: New Court Ruling Underscores the Need to Stop the Changes to Rule 41

      We wrote about a case last week that was deeply disturbing: a federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia held that individuals have no reasonable expectation of privacy in a personal computer located inside their home. In this court’s view, the FBI is free to hack into networked devices (aka, pretty much everything) without a warrant.

      Fortunately, this is only the opinion of a single district court judge, so it’s not controlling precedent throughout the country. But the decision makes one thing clear: we need to stop the changes to Rule 41, amendments that will make it easier for the government to get a warrant to remotely search computers.

      First, the changes to Rule 41 are going to result in a lot more government hacking. And, as the decision in the Eastern District of Virginia illustrates, that dramatic increase in government hacking is going to occur in a legal environment where judges are struggling to understand the technology and the implications their decisions will have for people’s security and privacy. If law enforcement is going to be allowed to stockpile and exploit vulnerabilities to investigate domestic crimes, there need to be stringent safeguards on the circumstances when they can do this. And it’s up to Congress, not the courts, to create those rules. If Congress allows the changes to Rule 41 to go through, they’re effectively saying: “Courts, you figure it out.” As the recent court decision shows, that is a perilous path.

      Second, the changes to Rule 41 will encourage forum shopping. As we wrote before, under the changes, law enforcement will be able to apply for warrants before judges or in districts with the most flexible view on the Fourth Amendment and its requirements. And, if last week’s decision is any indication, the FBI has a very friendly venue conveniently located near its headquarters—the Eastern District of Virginia. If the FBI is looking to obtain an expansive warrant under the new Rule 41 to search a computer whose location is hidden by “technological means,” it won’t have to travel far.

    • FBI Cameras in Seattle Need to Be Regulated by the Public — Not Secretly Imposed on the Public

      While you’re strolling the Seattle streets this summer, take a moment to look up. Thanks to the FBI, there’s a new bird in town atop the maples and the power lines: surveillance cameras housed in birdhouse-like “concealments” attached to the city’s utility poles.

      The new species was first spotted in the wild last July, and a state public-records request by KIRO 7 yielded limited information from Seattle City Light in November. But most Seattleites likely weren’t aware of their presence in the city until recently, when the U.S. Department of Justice sued the city and Seattle City Light to prevent the release of additional information about the cameras, including their locations. A federal judge promptly blocked the release of the location information, at least for now.

      Whether that decision is correct as a legal matter is complicated. The government claims, “Every FBI pole camera is associated with a particular subject or particular investigation,” and that revealing a camera’s location would have a “devastating impact” on ongoing police work.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Disabled cancer patient slammed to the ground by TSA guards, lawsuit claims

      A disabled teenage cancer patient was injured during a violent arrest by security agents at Memphis international airport, her family has alleged in a lawsuit filed against the Transport Security Administration.

      Hannah Cohen, 18, at the time of her arrest on 30 June 2015, and her mother had been on their way home to Chattanooga from St Jude’s hospital in Memphis, where Hannah underwent her final treatment for a brain tumor.

      Hannah and her mother, Shirley, told the Guardian that the pair had made the trip hundreds of times, and knew the airport security routine well. Shirley would usually go through the scanner first and wait for Hannah on the other side, since Hannah’s tumor, and numerous surgeries and treatments since she was two years old, had left her easily confused and frightened in unfamiliar situations.

      According to the complaint, the warning alarm was triggered when Hannah passed through the body scanners. Hannah attributed the alarm to her shirt’s design.

    • Racial Bias and Arrest Tech

      Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court took away a little more of your right to be free from unlawful police searches. In a 5-3 decision in Utah v. Strieff, the Court held that if the police illegally stop and search you, they can use against you any evidence they find, as long as they determine—after they’ve stopped you—that you’re one of the 7.8 million Americans with an outstanding arrest warrant.

      Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote a fiery and spot-on dissent that forcefully demonstrates the troubling links between racial discrimination, police stops of pedestrians and motorists, arrest warrant databases, and out-of-control police surveillance technologies.

    • I’m a Former Marine Who Was on the No Fly List for 4 Years — and I Still Don’t Know Why

      “You’re on the no-fly list,” the woman at the kiosk told me. It was a Wednesday, six years ago, at Midway Airport in Chicago. I was traveling to Spokane, Washington, for my job as a dog trainer.

      I had absolutely no idea how I could have ended up on the No Fly List. I waited for Ashton Kutcher to come out and tell me I was being Punk’d. No luck.

      At least 30 federal agents swarmed me. They didn’t handcuff or manhandle me, but the sheer number of them was intimidating. I was in a state of shock, looking at them confusedly. Their expressions turned puzzled, too, when they noticed my Marine Corps shirt.”You’re on the no-fly list,” the woman at the kiosk told me. It was a Wednesday, six years ago, at Midway Airport in Chicago. I was traveling to Spokane, Washington, for my job as a dog trainer.

      I had absolutely no idea how I could have ended up on the No Fly List. I waited for Ashton Kutcher to come out and tell me I was being Punk’d. No luck.

      At least 30 federal agents swarmed me. They didn’t handcuff or manhandle me, but the sheer number of them was intimidating. I was in a state of shock, looking at them confusedly. Their expressions turned puzzled, too, when they noticed my Marine Corps shirt.

    • ‘Vatileaks’ trio including mother of newborn facing jail terms

      Vatican prosecutors have demanded prison sentences for a senior clergyman, a communications consultant and a journalist accused of involvement in “Vatileaks” – the leak of sensitive Holy See documents.

      The prosecution called for three years and nine months’ prison for communications consultant Francesca Chaouqui, who had been involved in a review of Vatican finances and is accused of both “inspiring” and of ultimate responsibility for the leaks.

    • Directive on combating terrorism: LIBE Committee must oppose dangerous provisions!

      This evening the committee of the European Parliament on Civil Liberties (LIBE) will vote on the draft directive on combating terrorism. La Quadrature du Net already warned about the dangerous provisions of this text and urges once more MEPs to oppose this text.

    • America’s Female Prison Population Has Grown 800% and Nobody Is Talking About It

      Holly Harris may wear cowboy boots to work, but the Kentucky mom and Executive Director for the US Justice Action Network (USJAN) is far from your average southerner.

      This past Saturday, June 25th, Harris talked about her work to a group of journalists and bloggers who traveled to Washington D.C. from different corners of the country to hear from leaders of the criminal justice reform movement. Harris was the first speaker at FreedomWorks’ #JusticeForAll event, and as the leader of USJAN, she set the tone for what turned out to be a fascinating conference.

    • Time Served for a Non-Violent Drug Offense? Sorry, You Still Can’t Vote if You Live in Iowa

      When Americans go to the polls in November to elect the next president, more than 5.8 million of them will be unable to vote due to a past felony conviction.

      Many of them, like our client Kelli Griffin, were convicted of a non-violent drug offense and have since recovered from drug dependence, served their sentence, and returned to their communities. But because Kelli lives in Iowa — one of three states, along with Florida and Kentucky, that disenfranchise people for life after a felony conviction — she remains a second-class citizen denied full participation in the democratic process.

    • Donald Trump, Torturer in Chief

      Among the many controversial statements made by Mr. Donald Trump, his recent one on the use of waterboarding tops them all. Speaking at a rally in Ohio, when asked if the U.S. should use waterboarding to extract confessions from prisoners, Trump said, “I like it a lot. I don’t think it’s tough enough.” It was an irresponsible statement by a man who knows no moderation on serious issues.

      Waterboarding is a form of torture in which water is poured over a cloth covering the face and breathing passages of a person, causing the individual to experience the sensation of drowning. It causes not only extreme pain, but also damages the lungs and the brain due to oxygen deprivation. In addition, it may cause lasting psychological damage and death. It is among the cruelest forms of torture.

    • Because the Prosecutors Withheld Evidence, This Man Has Spent 30 Years on Death Row

      The prosecution denied its misconduct for decades. Then the Supreme Court gave Terry Williams a chance for a new trial.

      The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office intentionally withheld critical evidence in 1986 when it prosecuted 18-year-old Terry Williams and won a death sentence. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the Pennsylvania courts, putting the prosecution’s wrongdoing on display.

      At Terry’s trial, the prosecution told the jury a story: at age 18, Terry had killed 56-year-old Amos Norwood for “no other reason” than to rob him. The prosecutors described Norwood as a kind man who volunteered at church. But they knew much more about Norwood than they let on. When they withheld that information from the defense and from the jury, they violated the law.

      Terry had grown up in a terror-filled household, the victim of beatings by his mother and stepfather. He was six when an 11-year-old neighbor, someone he considered to be like a big brother, first lured him with promises of food — something that he often didn’t have at home — and then sexually assaulted him. Terry was repeatedly sexually abused and exploited by adults, including one of his middle school teachers.

    • Computer Crime Bill Stalls in Rhode Island

      Rhode Island legislators recently decided not to advance a bill that would have made that state’s bad “anti-hacking” law even worse. This is good news. But the struggle continues against other vague and overbroad computer crime laws.

      As EFF previously explained, this Rhode Island bill was a threat to many different kinds of innocent, common, and beneficial uses of computers. It would have further empowered prosecutors to bring charges against computer users who violate a corporate terms-of-service agreement to access confidential information, as well as whistle blowers and independent computer security researchers. It would have imposed a minimum of five years of incarceration for a first offense, even where there was no intent to obtain financial gain. It allowed for the stacking of charges, enabling prosecutors to seek even lengthier prison terms. And there was no showing that existing laws are insufficient to protect confidential computer data.

    • Independence Day Delusions

      The concept of “freedom” is at the very least ambiguous, and, at the most, destructive to those being deceived by false patriotism. The people who benefit from the uncontrolled pursuit of money push the concept of individual freedom on the rest of us, making us feel unpatriotic if we disagree. “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself,” once blathered Milton Friedman, whose economic theories made America the most unequal developed nation.

    • July 4: What the Flag Means to Me on My Birthday

      It wasn’t until many years later, while reading an issue of the armed forces newspaper Stars and Stripes in Vietnam that I began thinking and feeling differently about the flag and what it represents. There was a story about an arrest and jailing for flag burning somewhere in the United States. I had recently experienced the horror of seeing numerous bodies of young women and children that were burned alive in a small Delta village devastated by napalm. Since the pilots had “successfully” hit their targets, they were feeling good and had received glowing reports that would bode well in their military record for promotions. I wondered why it was okay to burn innocent human beings 9,000 miles from my home town, but not okay to burn a piece of cloth that was symbolic of the US policies intentionally burning villagers to death with napalm. Something was terribly wrong with the Cold War rhetoric of fighting communism that made me question what our nation stood for. There was a grand lie, an American myth that was being fraudulently preserved under the cloak of our flag.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • How Do We Achieve an Open, Secure, Trustworthy, and Inclusive Internet?

      Today at the OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy in Mexico, the Global Commission on Internet Governance released its final report, One Internet. Despite its important-sounding name, the Commission is not an official body, but a think tank convened in 2014 by the Center for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and Chatham House, composed of a diverse panel of 29 invited experts from industry, government, academia, and civil society (including EFF Pioneer Award recipient Anriette Esterhuysen).

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Trademarks

      • Aspartame is back–and is Pepsi playing by a new branding playbook?

        Nevertheless, it turns out that trademark strategy may sometimes be better viewed as the use of generic (or nearly so) terms without any apparent interest in whether or not they meet the requirements for registration. Case in point is the announcement last week by PepsiCo, as reported here, regarding changes to its soft drink line-up and the names assigned to these products. At the heart of these moves by Pepsi is the presence or absence of the artificial sweetener, aspartame. While used for a long time, aspartame has been challenged on various health grounds, so much so that in 2015 Pepsi removed it from the formulation for its Diet Pepsi soft drink product, in favor of sucralose. Pepsi thereby hoped to capture customers who are wary for health reasons of products containing aspartame. The problem is that the removal of aspartame from the Diet Pepsi soft drink did not blunt the continuing decline in sales. The solution—bring back the diet version with the aspartame ingredient.

    • Copyrights

      • [Older] California Legislature Drops Proposal to Copyright All Government Works

        You spoke, and the California Legislature listened. We’re happy to report that A.B. 2880 was amended in the State Senate to remove the dangerous sections that EFF and over 25 other organizations opposed. Your messages to the Legislature were vital to this effort.

        The prior version of A.B. 2880 that was passed by the State Assembly would have given state government agencies vast new power to assert copyrights and trademarks over government-created work. It also would have added a broad new exemption to the California Public Records Act, the state’s version of FOIA.

      • Pirating TV-Shows and a Movie Costs Finnish Man Over €32,000

        The so-called ‘copyright-trolling’ piracy lawsuits in Finland have claimed their first victim in court. Despite operating an open Wi-Fi network, a man has been ordered to pay more than 32,000 euros in damages and costs for sharing ten episodes of the TV show “Black Sails” and a movie.

      • With Canada’s Entry, Treaty for the Blind Will Come Into Force

        A groundbreaking international agreement to address the “book famine” for blind and print-disabled people is now set to go into force after passing another key milestone today. The agreement requires countries to allow the reproduction and distribution of accessible ebooks by limiting the scope of copyright restrictions.

        The Marrakesh agreement takes aim at the global shortage of ebooks available in suitable formats for the print disabled, which in some regions is as low as 1% of published books. At the time of its completion, only 57 of the 184 member countries of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) had copyright exceptions for this purpose, and inconsistencies between them made sharing books between countries nearly impossible.

      • EFF to Copyright Office: No New Barriers to DMCA Safe Harbors

        As the debate over the future of the DMCA safe harbors heats up, the US Copyright Office is proposing a plan that could undermine those safe harbors much sooner.

        One of the myriad conditions of DMCA safe harbor protection from copyright liability (protection on which thousands of intermediaries rely to survive) is to register an agent to receive DMCA takedown notices. Last month the Copyright Office announced that it would finally be implementing a new, much cheaper and streamlined electronic registration process.

      • Chilean Proposal for Unwaivable Payments to Authors Creeps Onward to Colombia

        EFF has observed an alarming trend: when certain parties face challenges in attempting to monetize their contributions to copyrighted works, lawmakers often attempt to address it by handing out new copyright-like veto powers. We’ve dubbed this trend “copyright creep”, and it’s running rampant all over the world.

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