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08.07.16

Links 7/8/2016: State of the GNOME Foundation, Let’s Encrypt and Firefox

Posted in News Roundup at 2:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Open Source: Fuel Powering Innovation and Digital Transformation

    Open Source continues to make an impact on both IT and software development.

    Open source innovation has led to the development of new markets over ten times during the last twenty years, said David Senf, vice president at IDC Canada. The first major impact of Open Source was with the development of the Linux operating system. Next was the influence of the Apache web server, and then open source databases like MySQL came on the scene. After that, there has been a flood of open source software spanning many categories.

    Open source products include development tools, web browsers, the Android operating system, Hadoop for big data, and tools like Jenkins, Chef and Puppet for devops. Products like OpenStack are also taking on the cloud. And, in fact, much of the cloud today runs on Linux. Senf said that “open source is the platform that big data is built on. Without Hadoop and Spark, we wouldn’t have big data.”

  • ACT calls on government to support open source software

    It’s fair to say that NZ Rise co-chair Don Christie and ACT leader David Seymour don’t always see eye-to-eye.

    But Mr Christie today found some common ground, backing Mr Seyour’s call for the government to consider open source software.

    The Epsom MP says the government to take a new approach in its software procurement policies, allowing substantial savings to the taxpayer.

    “A substantial number of civil servants could generate the same output using open source software and open document formats, instead of proprietary software like Microsoft Office,” he says.

  • Web Browsers

Leftovers

  • Theresa May to end ban on new grammar schools

    Theresa May is planning to launch a new generation of grammar schools by scrapping the ban on them imposed almost 20 years ago, The Telegraph has learnt.

    In a move that will be cheered by Tory grassroots, the Prime Minister intends to pave the way for a new wave of selective schools.

    Mrs May is understood to see the reintroduction of grammar schools – banned by Tony Blair in 1998 – as a key part of her social cohesion agenda.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Russian Olympic doping scandal: McLaren Report ‘sexed up’, implicated clean athletes

      More evidence of deep divisions between the IOC and WADA over the Russian doping scandal have emerged in two articles in The Australian. One article, which is behind a paywall, derives from off-the-record conversations with IOC officials. The other article, which is open access, gives Professor McLaren’s side of the story. It alludes to the article behind the paywall and reproduces some of its material.

    • Amid Zika Scare, FDA Clears Way for GMO Mosquito Trial in Florida

      In a move that public health advocates are calling “irresponsible and frightening,” the U.S. Food and Drug Association on Friday cleared the experimental release of genetically modified mosquitoes in Key Haven, Florida.

      Pivoting off of the recent news that there is an outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus that has infected over a dozen people in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, the UK-based developers of the genetically modified organism (GMO) reportedly also called on the FDA to grant emergency authorization to release the insects in Miami.

      Oxitec, which produces other GMO products like “Arctic” apples and “AquaBounty” salmon, has developed what they describe as “self-limiting mosquitoes,” genetically engineered to die before reaching adulthood.

      As the company explains, Oxitec has genetically engineered male mosquitoes—known as OX513A males—which it will release into the wild to mate with native female Aedes aegypti, which bite and can potentially spread disease. Their offspring die off, reducing the population.

      “Releasing GMO mosquitoes into the environment without long term environmental impact studies is irresponsible and frightening,” said Zen Honeycutt, director of the anti-GMO group Moms Across America, in a statement on Saturday. “What about the creatures who eat the mosquitoes and all the life forms up the food chain? The impact could be irreversible… Allowing uncontrollable genetically altered life forms into the wild is not justified.”

  • Security

    • How Public Shame Might Force a Revolution in Computer Security

      The numbers are depressing. An estimated 700 million data records were stolen in 2015. But despite the billions spent on computer security, flaws that allow such attacks are fixed slowly. A June report found that financial companies, for example, take on average over five months to fix known online security vulnerabilities.

      “The security industry gets $75 billion every year to try to secure things, and what you get for that is everybody is hacked all the time,” said Jeremiah Grossman, chief of security strategy at SentinelOne, speaking at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

      Yet Grossman and some other veterans of the security industry have lately become more optimistic. They see a chance that companies will soon have much stronger financial incentives to invest in securing and maintaining software.

    • DefCon: How the Hacker Tracker Mobile App Stays Secure

      The DefCon hacker conference here at the Bally’s and Paris Hotels is a massive affair with many rooms, events and workshops spread across multiple times and days. While there is a paper schedule, many hackers now rely on Hacker Tracker, which has become the de facto mobile app of the DefCon conference.

      The Hacker Tracker was developed by two volunteers, Whitney Champion, systems engineer at SPARC, and Seth Law, chief security officer at nVisium. Champion built the Android version of the app while Law built the iOS version.

      In a video interview at DefCon, Law provided details on how Hacker Tracker is built and the steps he and Champion have taken to keep it and hacker data secure.

    • Windows 10 Linux Feature Brings Real, but Manageable Security Risks [Ed: Vista 10 is malware with intentional (baked in) back doors, Linux and GNU won’t make it any worse]

      The Bash shell support in the Anniversary Update for Windows 10 is a valuable tool for developers, but it needs to be used carefully because of potential security risks.

    • Linux Botnets Dominate the DDoS Landscape [Ed: Kaspersky marketing]
    • Desktop / Laptop privacy & security of web browsers on Linux part 1: concepts and theory
    • In DARPA challenge, smart machines compete to fend off cyberattacks

      The first all-machine hacking competition is taking place today in Las Vegas.

      Seven teams, each running a high-performance computer and autonomous systems, are going head-to-head to see which one can best detect, evaluate and patch software vulnerabilities before adversaries have a chance to exploit them.

      It’s the first event where machines – with no human involvement – are competing in a round of “capture the flag, according to DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), which is sponsoring and running the event. DARPA is the research arm of the U.S. Defense Department.

      The teams are vying for a prize pool of $3.75 million, with the winning team receiving $2 million, the runner-up getting $1 million and the third-place team taking home $750,000. The winner will be announced Friday morning.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Al Qaeda’s Name Game in Syria

      Washington’s neocon-dominated foreign policy establishment has long seen Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front as a strategic ally in Syria – and now hopes a name change will protect it through President Obama’s last months, reports Gareth Porter.

    • Stalling Obama’s Overtures to Russia

      Washington’s foreign policy mavens are thwarting President Obama’s moves to work with Russia to resolve the Syrian war and reduce other tensions, so the new Cold War can proceed under Hillary Clinton, says ex-British diplomat Alastair Crooke.

    • From Hiroshima to Trident: listening to the Hibakusha

      After two prototype atomic bombs incinerated Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, the “Hibakusha” who survived launched an emotional appeal – “Never Again”. Having warned for years about the “hell on earth” they suffered, only to see nuclear armed states continue to develop and deploy further weapons, these Hibakusha are joining with humanitarian campaigners to demand that governments now negotiate a legally binding international treaty to ban and eliminate nuclear weapons.

      Setsuko was a 13-year old schoolgirl in Hiroshima when a huge fireball incinerated most of her friends and family on 6th August 1945. Nicknamed “Little Boy” by its makers, the uranium bomb that engulfed her city 70 years ago changed the world for all of us. Three days later, on 9th August , the Americans used a different design – a plutonium bomb they called “Fat Man” – to destroy the beautiful city of Nagasaki, renowned for Madam Butterfly and Japan’s oldest Cathedral, with many historic international connections.

      War is always bloody and cruel. What really shocked people was the massive power of the destruction that just two bombs wreaked. The huge blast, intense flash and heat that killed over 100,000 people instantly, flattening buildings, setting off uncontrollable fires, and leaving many more with terrible injuries and burns. Then news began to leak out about the silent killer – radiation from these new bombs that caused sickness, tumours and cancer, killing tens of thousands more over the next months and years. Unlike previous weapons, the atom bombs produced radioactivity that maimed unborn babies and also seeped into the eggs and sperm of people who were exposed, changing genes and harming the health of future generations. The nuclear age had begun.

      It was this awe-inducing power that excited some leaders, while making others fearful for the future. The UN General Assembly’s first ever resolution tried to address “the problems raised by the discovery of atomic energy”. Some of the scientists who had contributed to designing and making the first bombs had begged President Harry Truman to demonstrate their power but not use them on people. After seeing the carnage wrought in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, many more scientists joined doctors and women’s organisations to argue for all nuclear weapons to be banned. They wanted to prevent more being built, and called for stringent controls on nuclear technologies to ensure that no-one would ever use them for weapons again.

    • Hiroshima, Presidential Campaigns and Our Nuclear Future

      Seventy-one years ago on August 6th and 9th the world entered the nuclear age with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing and injuring in excess of 200,000 immediately and untold additional fatalities from lingering radiation effects.

      The first nuclear arms race followed, resulting in the ability to destroy civilizations and life as we know it on the planet. Under the pretense of Mutually Assured Destruction – M.A.D., where the U.S. and U.S.S.R. threatened to destroy each other if attacked– the myth of nuclear deterrence was born. This ultimately became the greatest driving force of the arms race because if one side had one nuclear weapon the other needed two and so on and so on until the global arsenals swelled to tens of thousands of weapons. We have lived with this threat hanging over us to the present day lulled into a state of psychic numbness, unaware and oblivious to our potential impending doom.

    • Hiroshima: do the British Members of Parliament remember?

      During the Trident debate on 18 July, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May emphatically declared “Yes” to the question of whether “she personally [is] prepared to authorise a nuclear strike that could kill 100,000 innocent men, women and children”.

      Today, 6 August, is the 71st anniversary of the first use of a nuclear weapon. Over 140,000 people died when the code-named “Little Boy” uranium bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima in 1945.

      In the House of Commons debate, Chris Law, one of the 56 Scottish National Party (SNP) MPs who voted against the government motion to replace Trident, noted that “no one in this House truly knows what it is like to experience the horror, shock, pain and loss, and the complete devastation, of a nuclear strike”.

      He recalled a survivor from the Hiroshima bombing, Setsuko Thurlow, who visited Scotland in May, after speaking at the United Nations Working Group on multilateral disarmament in Geneva. “She could be our mother, our grandmother, our aunt or our sister. She told us that in the final year of war in Japan, when she was 13 years old, the first thing she remembers of the bomb hitting was a blue-white light and her body being thrown up into the air. She was in a classroom of 14-year-olds, every one of whom died; she was the only survivor. As the dust settled and she crawled out of that building, she made out some figures walking towards her. She described them as walking ghosts, and when some of them fell to the ground, their stomachs, which were already expanded and full, fell out. Others had skin falling off them, and others still were carrying limbs. One was carrying their eyeballs in their hands. So when I hear the Prime Minister today say that she was would be satisfied to press the button on hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children, I ask her to go and see Setsuko Thurlow—I am sure she would be delighted to have a discussion about what it is really like to experience a nuclear bomb. That in itself should be the complete reason why we do not replace Trident.”

    • How US Spies Secured the Hiroshima Uranium

      A dark secret behind the Hiroshima bomb is where the uranium came from, a spy-vs.-spy race to secure naturally enriched uranium from Congo to fuel the Manhattan Project and keep the rare mineral out of Nazi hands, reports Joe Lauria.

      Since the first use of a nuclear weapon in Hiroshima 71 years ago, on Aug. 6, 1945, the story of where the uranium for the bomb came from and the covert operation the U.S. employed to secure it has been little known.

      That is until the publication next week in the United States of a new book, Spies in the Congo, by British researcher Susan Williams (Public Affairs Books, New York), which unveils for the first time the detailed story of the deep cover race between the Americans and the Nazis to get their hands on the deadliest metal on earth.

      [...]

      The link between Shinkolobwe and Hiroshima, where more than 200,000 people were killed, is still largely unknown in the West, in the Congo and even in Japan among the few survivors still alive. Another ignored link is the disastrous health effect on Congolese miners who handled the uranium as virtual slaves of the Belgium mining giant Union Minière, owners of Shinkolobwe in the then Belgian Congo.

    • U.S. Releases Drone Strike ‘Playbook’ in Response to ACLU Lawsuit

      In response to a court order in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Obama administration has released a redacted version of the White House document that sets out the government’s policy framework for drone strikes “outside the United States and areas of actual hostilities.”

      The Presidential Policy Guidance, once known as “the Playbook,” was issued by President Obama in May 2013 following promises of more transparency and stricter controls for the drone program. But while the administration released a short “fact sheet” describing the document, it did not release the PPG itself, or any part of it.

    • ACLU Forces US Government to Release Secret Drone Playbook

      Three years and thousands of deaths later, the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama late Friday finally made public its guidelines for conducting lethal drone strikes.

      The release of the Presidential Policy Guidance (PPG), also known as “the Playbook,” came in response to a lawsuit filed last year by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) seeking the framework—which Obama said at the time was created in the interest of greater transparency and oversight over the expansive targeted killing program.

      “For the same human progress that gives us the technology to strike half a world away also demands the discipline to constrain that power—or risk abusing it,” the president declared in May 2013 during a landmark foreign policy speech at National Defense University.

    • White House Finally Releases Its “Playbook” For Killing and Capturing Terror Suspects
    • Obama releases drone strike ‘playbook’

      President Barack Obama has to personally approve the killing of a U.S. citizen targeted for a lethal drone strike outside combat areas, according to a policy Obama adopted in 2013.

      The president also is called upon to approve drone strikes against permanent residents of the U.S. and when “there is a lack of consensus” among agency chiefs about whom to target, but in other cases he is simply “apprised” of the targeting decision, the newly-disclosed document shows.

      The presidential policy guidance on drone strikes, often called the drone “playbook,” was disclosed in an edited form Friday night in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.

      When Obama approved the guidance in May 2013, the White House issued a fact sheet about the policy, but declined to release the document itself—even in a redacted form.

    • Say Hello to Southeast Asia’s New Silk Roads

      It’s not only China vs. the US in the South China Sea. Few in the West realize that two completely different, intersecting stories are developing in maritime and mainland Southeast Asia.
      The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague denied China’s historic rights to waters in the South China Sea within its nine-dash line; it also ruled that the Spratly Islands are not islands, but “rocks”; thus they cannot generate 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zones (EEZs).

    • ISIL Captures Thousands trying to flee it in Iraq, Executes a Dozen

      The Oman Daily’s Jabbar al-Rubaie reports that Iraqi security sources announced yesterday that Daesh (ISIL, ISIS) had executed a number of the residents of the city of Hawija near Kirkuk in northern Iraq because they attempted to escape the city, over which Daesh holds sway. Hawija is a largely Sunni Arab city in Diyala Province on the frontier with the Kurdish-speaking regions. Some of its elite families welcomed Daesh fighters in 2014 but they now have buyers’ remorse.

      The Iraqi army is gradually moving north, fighting Daesh in towns and villages around Mosul, the country’s second- or third-largest city, which is now the only major power base for Daesh in the country.

      The governor of Salahuddin Province, Ahmad al-Jabouri, announced that 120,000 people had fled Daesh territory and areas where the Iraqi army is advancing, going south to Tikrit and its environs just in the past couple of days.

      Hawijah, being close to the now largely Kurdish city of Kirkuk, was used by Daesh as a staging ground for attempted strikes into Iraqi Kurdistan. The Kurds have riposted with their own paramilitary force, the Peshmerga, who have besieged the town in the past year. It has also been subjected to allied bombing campaigns. Last January, as well, hundreds of residents made a break for it, attempting to flee.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • ‘The Real Battle Is, Who’s Going to Own the Energy Supply?’

      When you think of impediments to fighting climate change, you might think of the power of the fossil fuel industry, or corporate globalization running roughshod over people’s effort to tend to their environments as they have, in some cases, for millennia. A recent New York Times article finds a different villain: renewable energy, or, in Times reporter Eduardo Porter’s words, “the United States’ infatuation with renewable energy.” It’s a puzzling assertion, even before you get to what Porter says is the most worrisome development–that renewables are pushing out nuclear power, which he describes repeatedly as producing “zero carbon” electricity.

    • Environmental licence for São Luiz do Tapajós hydroelectric dam denied

      Brazilian environmental agency rejects Tapajós River mega-dam, citing likely major impacts on Amazon’s indigenous people and the environment.

    • Wake Up: These Unneeded Instruments Can Wreak Mass Destruction

      New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has recently advanced a clean energy plan which mandates that New York transition half of its energy needs to renewables by 2030. By regressive contrast, New York’s Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved enormous subsidies for three aging nuclear power plants―Ginna, Nine Mile Point and FitzPatrick―located in Upstate New York. Estimates of the costs of these subsidies range from $59 million to $658 million by 2023, with specialists such as Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group predicting that costs could grow to $8 billion. New York consumers will be covering the tab via their utility bills.

      Ginna and Nine Mile Point are owned by the Exelon Corporation, and Exelon has plans to purchase the FitzPatrick plant. You can be sure that Exelon is frothing at the mouth for this huge bailout that was approved without adequate public scrutiny. Approval of this plan gives New York State the not-so-honorable distinction of being one of the first states to bailout the aging nuclear industry in our increasingly green energy age. The long-coddled nuclear industry is hoping that other states will follow suit.

    • Protected Is Not Conserved

      On the northwest Iberian peninsula, in Galicia, local communities manage more than 2,800 mountains. The Spanish coastline includes 230 cofradías: ancient, locally run governance systems that provide 83 percent of the country’s fishing employment and 95 percent of all Spanish ships. Iniciativa Communales estimates that roughly 60 percent of Spain falls under what international organizations call ICCAs: Indigenous Peoples and Community Conserved Territories and Areas. In Spain, these community-managed sites include forests, pastoral lands, Sociedades de Caza (hunting associations) and marine and coastal areas.

    • For Decades, the USDA Was Black Farmers’ Worst Enemy. Here’s How It Became an Ally

      In 1920, the number of Black-operated farms peaked at nearly a million, accounting for 15 million acres of farmland—the size of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New Jersey combined. They made up 14 percent of the country’s farmers.

      The height of Black farming didn’t last. Faced with the economic and social barriers of the time and decades of racist and discriminatory policies, Black farmers spent the next century in decline. By 1982, their numbers were down to about 30,000—just 2 percent of the nation’s total. That same year, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights predicted that no Black farmers would remain by the year 2000.

      But today, the number of Black farmers in the United States is suddenly growing again. In 2012, there were more than 44,000 of them, up about 15 percent from 10 years earlier. Nationally, they were still less than 2 percent of the country’s farmers, but their growth is noteworthy after such an extensive decline. Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Florida all show gains, while Texas takes the lead with a gain of more than 2,500 Black farmers.

    • Proof That Charging Customers for Plastic Bags Reduces Their Use

      England has cut its plastic bag use by 85 percent ever since a 5 pence (7 cent) charge was introduced last October, according to government figures.

      The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced that 6 billion fewer plastic bags were taken home by shoppers in England. The levy also resulted in a £29 million ($38 million) donated to charity and other good causes thanks to the charge.

    • India: The Deadly Global War For Sand

      The killers rolled slowly down the narrow alley, three men jammed onto a single motorcycle. It was a little after 11 am on July 31, 2013, the sun beating down on the low, modest residential buildings lining a back street in the Indian farming village of Raipur Khadar. Faint smells of cooking spices, dust, and sewage seasoned the air. The men stopped the bike in front of the orange door of a two-story brick-and-plaster house. Two of them dismounted, eased open the unlocked door, and slipped into the darkened bedroom on the other side. White kerchiefs covered their lower faces. One of them carried a pistol.

      Inside the bedroom Paleram Chauhan, a 52-year-old farmer, was napping after an early lunch. In the next room, his wife and daughter-in-law were cleaning up while Paleram’s son played with his 3-year-old nephew.

  • Finance

    • More than 100 Americans Are Rich Enough to Buy the Presidential Election Outright

      Two billion dollars, the estimated cost of this year’s presidential election, is big money, but it is not huge money. Two billion is one-tenth of NASA’s annual budget, one-twentieth of the Harvard endowment, one-thirtieth of the personal wealth of Warren Buffett. Buffett is number two on the 2015 Forbes list of 106 Americans who hold personal fortunes of $5 billion or more, the Club of 106. These billionaires are rich enough to pay for the campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and still have $3 billion left over.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • As Republicans Defect, Will Clinton Be Tempted To Tack Right?

      The sense of panic among elite Republicans is palpable. They’re beginning to understand that when they look at Donald Trump they’re staring into the orange-hued face of their party’s potential demise.

      The GOP defections to Team Hillary were already well underway by the time of last week’s Democratic National Convention, which featured endorsement speeches from billionaire ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg and other Republicans.

      Since then Hewlett-Packard executive and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman has come out for Clinton. So has Republican-leaning hedge fund billionaire Seth Karman and Republican Congressman Richard Hanna. A CNN poll showed that nearly one in four self-identified conservative voters said they would support Clinton over Trump.

    • Big Money vs. Black Lives: Movement connects money in politics to racial justice

      This week, a coalition of more than 50 organizations connected to the Black Lives Matter movement released a highly-anticipated policy agenda document, “A Vision for Black Lives.”

      Rooted in the cause launched in 2013 to protest the killings of African Americans by police, the document began to take shape at a gathering in Cleveland last year. According to the coalition’s website, it aims to “articulate a common vision and agenda” for the movement.

      The detailed, in-depth platform focuses on six core planks: 1) ending the war on black people, focused on criminal justice; 2) reparations; 3) invest-divest, with proposals to redirect resources spent on criminal justice; 4) economic justice; 5) community control over decision-making; and 6) political power.

    • The Making of Donald Trump, As Told by a Journalistic Nemesis

      Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Cay Johnston isn’t happy with the way the press has been handling Donald Trump. “The coverage has been extremely poor in my opinion,” Johnston, who at 67 clearly still enjoys making trouble, pronounced at no less a lions’ den than the National Press Club on Thursday night in Washington.

      So Johnston, as he is wont to do when he sees something going wrong, decided to tackle the problem himself.

    • Democracy Debatable as Judge Rejects Third-Party Bid to Share Stage

      A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit by the Green and Libertarian parties seeking a space on the debate stage alongside the Democrat/Republican “duopoly.”

      The complaint, launched last fall, presented an anti-trust argument against the Commission on Presidential Debates, saying that a “cognizable political campaign market” is being corrupted by the commission’s rules, which bar a candidate from debating unless they are polling at 15 percent or higher.

      And while observers were not surprised that the court dismissed the challenge, the judge’s rationale raised some questions about the role that the media plays in crafting the current two-party system.

      “Plaintiffs in this case have not alleged a non-speculative injury traceable to the Commission,” wrote (pdf) U.S District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer, an appointee of former President George W. Bush.

    • What Julian Assange’s War on Hillary Clinton Says About WikiLeaks

      In recent months, the WikiLeaks Twitter feed has started to look more like the stream of an opposition research firm working mainly to undermine Hillary Clinton than the updates of a non-partisan platform for whistleblowers.

      [...]

      This has puzzled some of the group’s supporters, and led to speculation that the site’s Australian founder, Julian Assange, had timed the release of emails hacked from the servers of the Democratic National Committee to drive a wedge between supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. The publication of emails that revealed an anti-Sanders agenda inside the Democratic party was certainly welcomed by the Republican nominee, Donald Trump.

    • New York Times Could Kick Voter Suppression While It’s Still Up

      Big media are heralding a federal appeals court ruling striking down a North Carolina law that made it harder to vote. Harder for some, that is; the court noted that the restrictions—on things like early voting and same-day registration — targeted African-Americans with “almost surgical precision” — and, indeed, came in the wake of the state’s request for specific data on voting practices by race, which came in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder saying states with histories of discrimination no longer needed to get federal clearance for such changes.

      So it’s great to see the New York Times (7/29/16) excoriating North Carolina Republicans’ “scurrilous attempt” to “suppress the rising power of black voters.” In a better world, of course, such campaigns would not have enjoyed years of tailwind from media like the Times rhetorically “balancing” claims of potential voter fraud with evidence of actual voter suppression.

      And, mindful of the paper’s current note that court decisions like this one show the “bitter struggle for basic fairness beyond the national spotlight,” we will look for media to report this story out—with follow-up on how, for instance, North Carolina will address the inevitable confusion over the amended rules, given there’s no funding for public education, as Samantha Lachman notes at Huffington Post. Or on how, as The Nation‘s Ari Berman points out, this ruling poses a challenge to the Supreme Court’s Shelby decision, premised as it was on voter suppression as a thing of the past

    • Noam Chomsky’s 8-Point Rationale for Voting for the Lesser Evil Presidential Candidate

      Among the elements of the weak form of democracy enshrined in the constitution, presidential elections continue to pose a dilemma for the left in that any form of participation or non participation appears to impose a significant cost on our capacity to develop a serious opposition to the corporate agenda served by establishment politicians. The position outlined below is that which many regard as the most effective response to this quadrennial Hobson’s choice, namely the so-called “lesser evil” voting strategy or LEV. Simply put, LEV involves, where you can, i.e. in safe states, voting for the losing third party candidate you prefer, or not voting at all. In competitive “swing” states, where you must, one votes for the “lesser evil” Democrat.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Trump Can’t Stop Attacking the Press — He Still Thinks It Is a Reality Show He Controls

      Donald Trump has a pretty complicated relationship with the press. On one hand, the Republican nominee knows the value of free media; at least part of his meteoric rise to the top of the ticket can be attributed to the billions of dollars worth of free media he’s received throughout his campaign. On the other hand, he routinely bullies and berates journalists for pointing out his least favorite thing (the truth), and occasionally gets off mocking reporters with disabilities and/or vaginas.

      Given Trump’s troubling treatment of the press throughout the primaries (when he first floated the idea of “open[ing] up” libel laws to increase his ability to sue reporters), it’s no surprise that the relationship has grown even more turbulent since he became the official candidate of the Grand Old Party and brought on VP pick Mike Pence. Here are some of the more egregious attacks the Trump/Pence campaign has waged against the press.

    • Pan-dem candidate protests alleged censorship over ‘call me a HongKonger’ shirt

      Pan-democratic lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu staged a public demonstration on Thursday by wearing a t-shirt which reads “Call me a Hongkonger” in response to an incident in which a man claimed to be politically censored for wearing the same t-shirt near Yeung’s protest site.

      Two weeks ago, a man surnamed Tang was reported to have visited the Jubilee Garden estate in Shatin district to visit his friend, but alarmed the guard when registering at the estate’s atrium. Tang was later approached by two additional security guards who offered to escort him to his friend’s apartment, according to Apple Daily.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Medical Complicity in CIA Torture, Then and Now

      Unlike contract psychologists James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, OMS personnel did not design the torture program, nor did they personally waterboard detainees. But OMS personnel — including psychologists, physician’s assistants, and physicians — were nonetheless involved in the program from Abu Zubaydah’s “enhanced interrogation” sessions in 2002 onwards.

    • Philippines’ Duterte vows to keep ‘shoot-to-kill’ order

      Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to maintain his “shoot-to-kill” order against drug dealers while in office and says he “does not care about human rights”.

      About 800 people have been killed since Duterte won a landslide election in May, according to reports by the local press which has been tracking the maverick politician’s campaign pledge to kill tens of thousands of criminals.

      “This campaign (of) shoot-to-kill will remain until the last day of my term if I’m still alive by then,” the 71-year-old said at a news conference in his southern hometown of Davao.

    • Don’t blame the masses

      Whether or not the world is in an unusually bad state these days, it certainly seems so. Even Americans, famous for our lack of interest in world affairs, now closely follow news from far away. Much of it is frightening.

      Terror attacks are claiming innocent lives around the world. Syria is being torn apart. China and Russia boldly pursue their national interests and defy American dictates. Turkish democracy is evaporating. Iran and Saudi Arabia are at each other’s throats. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan drag on interminably. The European Union is staggering, with Britain quitting and others perhaps to follow. Meanwhile, several European countries are drifting toward right-wing authoritarianism. Donald Trump’s campaign threatens to take the United States in the same direction.

      This is the opposite of what many Americans expected. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 set off a wave of triumphalism in the West. Americans welcomed the “end of history” and presumed that all countries would quickly adopt political and economic systems like ours. There was to be a “peace dividend” as tranquility settled over the globe. People would become more prosperous. Nations would cooperate. All would gratefully submit to America’s will.

    • Pentagon Tapping In to Social Science to Target Activist Movements

      According to its website, the Minerva Initiative, created by the secretary of Defense in 2008, seeks “to define and develop foundational knowledge about sources of present and future conflict with an eye toward better understanding of the political trajectories of key regions of the world.”

      Ahmed attempted to contact the initiative’s developers, but received either “bland” responses or no responses at all.

      One of the most startling aspects of the initiative is its conflation of peaceful activism with terrorism. “[S]upporters of political violence” are “different from terrorists only in that they do not embark on ‘armed militancy’ themselves,” Ahmed explains. And although university researchers were told that the initiative was a “basic research effort” with no real application, Ahmed cites an email that clearly shows “that DoD is looking to ‘feed results’ into ‘applications.’ ”

      RT provides other examples of the Minerva Initiative’s university projects. The University of Washington received $2 million to study children involved in terrorist movements, resulting in a report titled “Understanding the Origin, Characteristics and Implications of Mass Political Movements.” Another project at the University of Denver seeks to understand “instability in middle-income countries” and “the Tunisias and the Libyas and the Ukraines.”

    • Yusra Mardini: Olympic Syrian refugee who swam for three hours in sea to push sinking boat carrying 20 to safety

      Almost every athlete at the 2016 Olympic Games will have an interesting backstory, but Yusra Mardini’s is more extraordinary than most.

      Mardini is in Rio to represent a team of 10 refugee Olympic athletes.

      While any other 18-year-old’s biggest achievements may be confined to the A-level results they leave school with, Mardini’s is almost incomprehensible.

      She and her sister are responsible for helping to save the lives of 20 people, including their own, after jumping off their sinking dinghy into the Aegean Sea and pushing their boat to land.

    • Five Star Movement: Italy’s populist progressives?

      Last week, a woman called Prima Pagina and asked: “Why were things that cost 50,000 liras priced at 50 euros and not 25, their supposed value?” She wondered why the spike in prices had never been rectified.

      The radio presenter Giorgio Meletti, a journalist from Il Fatto Quotidiano, replied that customers did lose money, but that was compensated by the fact that “each of us has a relative running a retail business who’s made a profit”. A baffling answer, yet it is typical of a major current in Italy’s national discourse, one often dismissive of left-right differences.

      In his view, nobody suffered significant losses – things evened themselves out. To drive his point home, Meletti went on to say that politics isn’t about left and right any more, but populism and non-populism instead.

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