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08.24.16

Links 24/8/2016: More From LinuxCon, Uganda Wants FOSS

Posted in News Roundup at 7:00 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • OpenIndiana Operating System Gets MATE 1.14 Desktop Environment, New ISOs

    Alexander Pyhalov from the OpenIndiana development team was happy to announce the availability of the latest MATE 1.14 open-source desktop environment for the Solaris-derived operating system.

  • 3 open source alternatives to Office 365

    It can be hard to get away from working and collaborating on the web. Doing that is incredibly convenient: as long as you have an internet connection, you can easily work and share from just about anywhere, on just about any device.

    The main problem with most web-based office suites—like Google Drive, Zoho Office, and Office365—is that they’re closed source. Your data also exists at the whim of large corporations. I’m sure you’ve heard numerous stories of, say, Google locking or removing accounts without warning.

    If that happens to you, you lose what’s yours. So what’s an open source advocate who wants to work with web applications to do? You turn to an open source alternative, of course. Let’s take a look at three of them.

  • NGINX’s Plan to Create a $1 Billion Business from its Open Source Software

    NGINX Inc. has a set an ambitious goal for itself: To become a $1 billion company within the next eight to 10 years. It will not be an easy task, especially given that its biggest competitor may be its own well-engineered open source software. For NGINX, the key to success will be to successfully get customers from additional markets.

    The open source NGINX project, which began in 2002, is a widely-used high-performance web server and reverse proxy. However, the commercial company, NGINX Inc., created to support the open source project, was founded much later, in 2011, with the first commercial product in 2013.

  • Hazelcast Releases Version 3.7

    Hazelcast, a provider of an open source in-memory data grid, has announced the general availability of Hazelcast 3.7. According to the company, the latest release is 30% faster than previous versions and is the first fully modularized version of Hazelcast. Each client/language and plugin is now available as a module – speeding up the development process for open source contributors, with new features and bug fixes released as modules alongside Hazelcast 3.7.

    Hazelcast continues to expand its footprint beyond its traditional “Java heartland,” the company says. The Hazelcast open source community has created clients for programming environments including Java, Scala, .Net/C#, C++, Python, Node.js, and Clojure. Java and Scala can be used for both clients and embedded members.

  • Hazelcast releases 3.7: cloud-enabled, 30% faster and the first fully modularized in-memory data grid
  • How to measure your community’s health

    How do you measure the health of your community, identify problems, and track progress towards your goals? What should you be measuring?

    Last month we discussed vanity metrics, those metrics that might sound impressive on the surface, but ultimately give you little insight or guidance to improve the health and well-being of your community. This naturally begs the question: What should you be measuring? And as I mentioned last month, the obvious but annoying answer: It depends. The first and foremost dependency relates to the nature of your community and where you and your members want it to go.

  • Events

  • Web Browsers

    • Chrome

      • Alphabet Inc (GOOGL) to Remove Chrome applications from Mac, Linux, Windows
      • Google Makes Changes to the Chrome App Ecosystem

        Google is making some sweeping changes in the way Chrome, Chrome OS and Android handle apps and applications. The company has announced that it is moving away from the app platform on its Chrome browser for all platforms aside from Chromebooks. Beginning in late 2016, you will require a Chromebook to be able to download new Chrome apps, although existing apps will be usable and developers can still release updates.

        Meanwhile, many Chrome OS users are beginning to use Android apps on the platform. Android apps arrived on Chromebooks in a heavy-handed way in June, but the developer channel was still buggy. Now, a new implementation has entered the beta channel with some much needed stability.

  • SaaS/Back End

    • Walmart, Comcast Hasten Innovation, Improve Agility With OpenStack

      As new technologies like applications and programming languages are introduced, it’s important for companies to remain flexible and fast enough to adapt, which is why Walmart and Comcast have embraced OpenStack.

      By adopting OpenStack solution OneOps, Walmart doesn’t have to spend unnecessary time writing code or automating new processes in order to keep up with new technologies, Andrew Mitry, OpenStack Lead at Walmart, explained today at OpenStack East 2016.

      Walmart already uses more than 3,000 applications and services and has more than 170,000 cores in more than 30 regions, with more than 60 Open Source products that are deployed more than 40,000 times each month. With OneOps, Walmart can automate low-level processes like load balance and firewalls using OneOps, which Mitry said frees up time and resources to manage more intricate processes that require manual oversight.

  • Databases

    • MySQL daddy Widenius: Open-source religion won’t feed MariaDB

      MySQL daddy Monty Widenius has dismissed claims the MariaDB fork is veering away from open source.

      Rather, the chief technology officer of MariaDB corporation called his firm’s embrace of a commercial licence for part of MariaDB “critical” to delivering new revenue and for the continued development of open-source software.

      Widenius told The Register in an interview that he believes criticism of MariaDB’s commercial licence for its new database proxy sever, MaxScale 2.0, is motivated by a “religious” belief in free and open source software.

      Not that Widenius is against the belief per se, he told The Register, it’s just: “Religion doesn’t put meat on the table.”

    • Percona Celebrates 10 Years of Leading the Open Source Database Revolution
  • CMS

    • How to Resolve Your Open Content Management Quandary

      After years of development and competition, open source content management systems (CMS) have proliferated and are very powerful tools for building, deploying and managing web sites, blogs and more. You’re probably familiar with some of the big names in this arena, including Drupal (which Ostatic is based on) and Joomla.

      As we noted in this post, selecting a CMS to build around can be a complicated process, since the publishing tools provided are hardly the only issue. The good news is that free, sophisticated guides for evaluating CMS systems have flourished. There are even good options for trying open CMS systems online before you choose one. Here, in this newly updated post, you’ll find some very good resources.

      he first thing to pursue as you evaluate CMS systems to deploy, including the many free, good platforms, is an overview of what is available. CMSMatrix.org is a great site for plotting out side-by-side comparisons of what CMS systems have to offer. In fact, it lets you compare the features in over 1200 content management system products. Definitely take a look. This site also has a good overview of the options.

    • Postleaf is an open-source blogging platform for the design-conscious

      Content management systems are boring until you have to use one. You can install a little Drupal or WordPress, pick up some Squarespace, or just dump to Medium, the graveyard for posts about protein shakes and VC funding. But what if you could roll your own CMS? And what if you made it really cool?

      That’s what Cory LaViska did. LaViska is the founder of SurrealCMS and has been making it easy to edit stuff on the web for nine years. Rather than build and sell an acceptable CMS, however, he took all of his best ideas and made a far better CMS. And he made it open source and called it Postleaf.

  • Education

    • Schools that #GoOpen should #GoOpenSource

      School administrators know that traditional proprietary textbooks are expensive. Teachers in budget-strapped schools often face shortages of textbooks. Worse, print content is usually out-of-date as soon as the ink dries on the page. There has to be something better than students hauling bulbous backpacks loaded with dead knowledge stamped on dead trees.

      In the fall of 2015, the U.S. Department of Education launched the #GoOpen campaign, an initiative encouraging public schools to adopt openly-licensed digital educational materials to transform teaching and learning, and perhaps lighten both backpacks and textbook bills. The Department recently published the #GoOpen District Launch Packet, a useful step-by-step implementation guide for schools planning a transition from traditional textbooks to Open Educational Resources (OER).

      We should applaud the Department of Education’s efforts to promote affordable, equitable, and quality educational materials for all schools. Their initiative empowers educators to curate, shape, and share educational content at a local level. No longer is the written word of proprietary publishers like Pearson the fountain of all classroom knowledge. Districts that choose to #GoOpen opt to honor teacher expertise, empower them to build communities of shared practice, and encourage collaboration with colleagues across counties and states. Given unfettered permission to revise, remix, and redistribute curriculum material, teachers are trusted to become active agents in the creation of high-quality learning materials.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • Funding

    • Be Bold, Be Curious, and Be Open, Advise Outreachy Participants

      In Tuesday afternoon’s “Kernel Internship Report and Outreachy Panel” session at LinuxCon North America, interns and mentors involved with the Outreachy program spoke enthusiastically of their experiences with the program. The panel was moderated by Karen M. Sandler, Executive Director of the Software Freedom Conservancy, and organizer of Outreachy.

      Sandler provided an overview of the Outreachy program, which offers a paid three-month internship for women and other underrepresented groups to work on a free and open source software project. Helen M Koike Fornazier, a former Outreachy intern and now a Software Engineer at Collabora, described her Linux kernel project involving video4linux, with Laurent Pinchart as her mentor. She wrote a driver, which simulates some media hardware using the Media API.

  • BSD

  • Public Services/Government

    • Uganda eager to tap into open source

      Uganda’s Ministry of ICT recently developed a FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) policy to regulate the deployment of open source software and use of open standards to accelerate innovation and develop local content.

      At the 7th African Conference on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), organised in conjunction with Uganda’s National Information Technology Authority (NITA-U) to encourage industry partnerships and uptake of OSS in East Africa, open software was recognised for its contribution to innovation.

      Frank Tumwebaze, Minister of ICT and National Guidance in Uganda, said, “Free and open software services will help my ministry to innovate better because it forms the platform (for) many of the innovative ideas. Free and open source software in Uganda is certainly something we have been talking about and I am sure we will do so even more in the next few days. Some of the things Uganda has put in place to harness the benefit from free and open source software include a Software Strategy and Policy in accordance with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) Trade, Services and Development expert meeting’s determination that free and open source software is an inseparable component of the global technology ecosystem.”

    • Ireland’s govt IT: Recession and job cuts forced us to adapt

      Ireland was hit hard by the global financial crunch of 2007 and 2008. It was the first of the EU member states to slip into recession immediately following the bursting of the economic bubble.

      As the economy contracted, banks faced default and government debt increased, with Ireland eventually taking an €67.5bn loan from the European Commission, European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

      Falling tax income and the need to bail out banks saw the Irish government spending in other areas of public life.

      The government had introduced the Public Sector Recruitment Embargo in 2009, which stopped hiring of all civil servants across government and cut pay and pensions – in return for a promise of no compulsory redundancies.

    • Oh! The Horror! Ireland Stays Enslaved To MS

      For 15 years or so, I was in those same financial straits in schools where I taught and GNU/Linux and FLOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software) was the obvious solution. Obviously, one is better off to have IT for all rather than paying monopolistic prices for IT for a few. In schools, that meant extending the life of IT, elimination of malware and re-re-reboots, freedom from paper, freight for paper, storage for paper, … For governments freedom from lock-in to M$ and “friends” saved huge sums which could have been better spent on hardware or employees. Sigh.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

  • Programming/Development

    • Digital Asset Holdings to open up DAML for developers

      Digital Asset Holdings, the blockchain start-up commanded by Blythe Masters, has announced that it will be open-sourcing its DAML modelling language.

      DAML, which Digital Asset describes as a “smart-contact-like” system for financial applications and supporting tools, is hailed by the company as a solution to the current market of modelling languages being unsuitable for regulated financial applications.

      “Many that are exploring the use of smart contracts — legal agreements written as executable code to automate the processing of rights and obligations on a distributed ledger — are discovering the deficiencies with available smart contract languages,” the firm writes in a statement.

Leftovers

  • Science

    • 20% of scientific papers on genes contain gene name conversion errors caused by Excel

      These scientists didn’t have to write a scientific paper on the problems that Microsoft Excel causes. An easier fix would be “to raise awareness of the problem” via Excel UserVoice or reach out to the Excel team on Twitter for a faster response. It is a bit alarming that 20% of scientific papers have errors due to Excel, but it’s even more confusing that scientists don’t try to figure out a way to solve the problem. This latest scientific paper is not the first of its kind, as a Bing search can easily reveal.

    • Gene name errors are widespread in the scientific literature

      The spreadsheet software Microsoft Excel, when used with default settings, is known to convert gene names to dates and floating-point numbers. A programmatic scan of leading genomics journals reveals that approximately one-fifth of papers with supplementary Excel gene lists contain erroneous gene name conversions.The spreadsheet software Microsoft Excel, when used with default settings, is known to convert gene names to dates and floating-point numbers. A programmatic scan of leading genomics journals reveals that approximately one-fifth of papers with supplementary Excel gene lists contain erroneous gene name conversions.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Officials Pull Water Supply as Dakota Access Protest Swells in Number and Spirit

      Growing in number and spirit, the Standing Rock Sioux protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline is swiftly gaining strength ahead of a federal hearing on the controversial project. Support has spread across the country, and thousands have descended on the peaceful “prayer camps” in recent days, prompting state officials on Monday to remove the demonstrators’ drinking water supply.

      North Dakota homeland security director Greg Wilz ordered the removal of state-owned trailers and water tanks from the protest encampment, despite the sweltering heat, because of alleged disorderly conduct, according to the Bismarck Tribune, including reports of laser pointers aimed at surveillance aircraft.

    • After 525 years, it’s time to actually listen to Native Americans

      The center of the fight for our planet’s future shifts. But this week it’s on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation straddling the border between North Dakota and South Dakota. There, tribal members have been, well, standing like a rock in the way of the planned Dakota Access Pipeline, a huge hose for collecting oil out of the Bakken shale and carrying it off to the Midwest and the Gulf where it can be made into gasoline.

      The standoff has been picturesque and dramatic, featuring American Indians on horseback. But mostly it’s been brave and lonely, far from most journalists and up against the same forces that have made life hard for Indigenous Peoples for centuries.

      The U.S. Army, for instance. It’s the Army Corps of Engineers that last month granted Energy Transfer Corporation the permit necessary to start construction near the reservation, despite a petition signed by 150,000 people, and carried—on foot—by young people from the reservation all the way to Washington. That would be the same U.S. Army that—well, google “Wounded Knee.” Or “Custer.” “Washita River.” “Pine Ridge.”

    • EpiPen Uproar Highlights Company’s Family Ties to Congress

      The CEO of a Fortune 500 company, who is also the daughter of a U.S. senator, is under fire from for jacking up the rates of life-saving anti-allergy device known as the EpiPen.

      Heather Bresch, whose father is U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), became president of Mylan Pharmaceutical in 2009 and CEO in 2012. She is no stranger to controversy: She moved Mylan’s headquarters to The Netherlands last year, after a corporate “inversion” merger with Abbott Laboratories.

      The move enabled the company to operate its headquarters in the U.S. but maintain corporate citizenship in Holland, benefiting from a lower tax rate.

      But the EpiPen scandal, sparked by a sudden price hike, could cause more trouble for the company, its CEO, and her lawmaker father. This week, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee, demanded hearings on the EpiPen’s 450 percent price increase in just seven years.

    • WTO, WHO, WIPO Host Discussions On Antimicrobial Resistance In October

      Antimicrobial resistance has been described as a major threat to public health, as infections, even minor, might become killers again, if no new antibiotics are discovered. In October, the World Health Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization and World Trade Organization will join forces for a symposium organised to discuss how to foster innovation, and access.

      A Joint Technical Symposium on “Antimicrobial Resistance: How to Foster Innovation, Access and Appropriate Use of Antibiotics?” will be held on 25 October at WIPO.

      Antibiotic resistance, although occurring naturally as microbes become resistant to treatment, is said to worsened by overuse or misuse of antibiotics. Another factor accounting for the lack of private sector innovation seems to be that once a new antibiotic is found, it must be used sparsely in order to keep microbes from developing resistance, an approach that runs contrary to successful commercial markets.

    • WHO Pandemic Flu Review Group Meets Next Week
  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • UN Calls for 48-Hour Ceasefire So Aid Can Reach War-Ravaged Aleppo

      The United Nations is urging all factions inside Syria to commit to a 48-hour ceasefire so that emergency aid and relief workers can save lives and offer assistance to those caught inside the war-ravaged city of Aleppo.

    • Life and Death In Aleppo

      It is all still going on in Aleppo, where the U.N. has now dubbed desperate relief efforts “the apex of horror.” Omran Daqneesh, 5, the stunned and bloodied boy in the ambulance, survived. This weekend his 10-year-old brother Ali, buried longer in rubble from the same airstrike, has died, one of over 100 children of Aleppo killed just this month in similar attacks. Their deaths, it must be noted, were not as widely publicized, but just as deeply mourned.

      As much as the viral image of Omran came to represent Syria’s devastation for those distant from it, says Syrian activist Kenan Rahmani, Omran was a fleeting symbol, a trending hashtag soon gone from many memories. Ali, he says, is grim, ongoing reality. “Ali is the suffering itself, that which Omran tried to convey to us,” he writes. “Ali is the utter loss of everything. Ali is Syria as Syrians know it.” While Rahmani sorrowfully argues “no story in Syria has a happy ending,” there are at least shards of hope and moments of respite. In this extraordinary footage, newly surfaced from July, doctors perform an emergency C-section trying to save a mother and baby wounded in a barrel bomb attack. See the moment one calls, “That’s it! Cry! Cry!” Then help them save more here or here.

    • Propaganda for Syrian ‘Regime Change’

      Neocons and liberal hawks have poured millions of dollars into propaganda to justify “regime change” in Syria and are now desperate to keep the war going until President Hillary Clinton gets a chance to escalate, as Rick Sterling describes.

    • Militant Leader Talks About Break With Al Qaeda and Possible Syrian Rebel Merger

      Such a merger would also make it easier for U.S. officials to justify targeting other Syrian opposition groups like Ahrar al-Sham, as it would more closely associate them with a designated terrorist organization. Along with the Syrian government and mainstream opposition groups, Jabhat Fath al-Sham has been accused by monitoring organizations of committing systematic human rights abuses over the course of Syria’s civil war, including kidnappings and extrajudicial executions.

    • What’s Next for Turkey’s Exiled Cleric Fethullah Gülen?

      At the time, I was shocked by this description of a massive organization. The Gülenists were, according to Mr. X, recruiting in the police, the judicial system, and other government agencies. Gülen’s followers were creating a playbook for religious adherents to survive in a government dominated by a rigid secular ideology promulgated by the Kemalists.

    • Is Turkey’s Pivot to Russia about Erdogan’s Survival?

      The attempted coup of July 15, 2016 in Turkey shook that country’s political system to the core. Although President Tayyip Erdogan of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) had broken in 2013 with his former allies, the right wing religious cult around Fethullah Gulen, he appears to have believed that he had tamed it. He survived the members’ leak of recorded conversations pointing to AKP corruption and support of fundamentalist militias in Syria. His party went on winning elections without the Gulenists, who were revealed to have less popular support than they had imagined.

    • A revolution is not a dinner party

      Does the word “revolution” mean the same thing to the Kurdish liberation movement and to American leftists who supported Bernie Sanders? A little history…

    • Israel sold weapons to Argentina at height of Falklands War, reveal declassified Foreign Office files

      Israel sold weapons to Argentina at the height of the Falklands War in 1982, according to newly declassified Foreign Office files.

      British diplomats cited evidence that Israel had supplied the Argentine military junta with arms that were used against the Task Force during the campaign to liberate the islands.

      Israeli military exports before the war included the Skyhawk jets that would later be used to bomb British warships, killing dozens of soldiers, sailors and marines.

      Four British warships were sunk by bombs dropped from Skyhawks, including RFA Sir Galahad, a troop carrier that was set ablaze while anchored in Bluff Cove, killing 48 sailors and soldiers. Simon Weston, the badly burned veteran, was among the survivors. Another four ships were damaged by Skyhawks.

    • Such a long silence on Yemen

      Early this August, the Pentagon announced plans to sell weapons worth $1.15 billion to Saudi Arabia. The news itself was not surprising as the Arab kingdom is one of America’s biggest arms buyers, but the timing of the announcement was rather conspicuous. The Saudis had resumed heavy bombardment of Yemen after a lull as part of the peace process. By deciding to send in more tanks and armaments to Saudi Arabia at a time when the kingdom faces severe international criticism for rights violations in Yemen, including the killing of children, the U.S. was unmistakably sending a message that it’s with Riyadh in this war.

    • Lawmakers, Peace Groups Team Up to Block ‘Disturbing’ US-Saudi Arms Deal

      Anti-war advocates are launching an 11th-hour bid to stop U.S. Congress from approving a $1.15 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia in its fight against Houthi rebels in Yemen, which was announced earlier this month.

      Chief among them are the activist group CODEPINK and U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), who are calling on Congress to block the sale at least long enough to give lawmakers time to “give these issues the full deliberation that they deserve.”

      Congress has 30 days to object to the deal, announced August 9. Lieu has bipartisan support in the House of Representatives from Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), and Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), all of whom are sending a letter to the Obama administration on Thursday asking to delay the trade, citing the recent bombings of hospitals, schools, and residential areas by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.

      “I taught the law of war when I was on active duty,” Lieu told The Intercept on Monday. (Lieu served in the U.S. Air Force and is an Air Force Reserves colonel.) “You can’t kill children, newlyweds, doctors and patients—those are exempt targets under the law of war, and the coalition has been repeatedly striking civilians. So it is very disturbing to me. It is even worse that the U.S. is aiding this coalition.”

    • Deadline This Thursday: Urge Your Representative to Block Saudi Arms Deal
    • Moscow, August 1991: a world-changing failure

      25 years ago, an attempted takeover by communist hardliners led to the Soviet Union’s collapse.

    • British woman stabbed to death at Australian hostel by attacker shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’

      A British woman has been killed after being stabbed at a hostel in Australia by man who allegedly shouted “Allahu Akbar” during the attack.

      A 30-year-old British man is also in a critical condition following the attack at the Shelly’s Backpackers in the town of Home Hill in Queensland at around 11:15pm local time on Tuesday, police said.

      Queensland Police Service said up to 30 people witnessed the “senseless act of violence” at a room in the hostel.

      A 29-year-old French national was arrested at the scene and taken into custody. He was then transferred to hospital for treatment for “non-life threatening” injuries.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Leading Doctor Calls Climate Change Gravest Health Threat of 21st Century

      Climate change is the greatest threat to public health worldwide and doctors must step up to help mitigate it, according to a leading advocate speaking at the annual Canadian Medical Association (CMA) meeting in Vancouver on Monday.

      Dr. James Orbinski, a former top official with the medical charity Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), who is now an an associate professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto, urged physicians to “step up and step out” in the fight against climate change as part of their duties to create “health-in-all” policies.

      “We’re not separate from our biosphere, or our planet,” Orbinski told the audience of 600. “We can’t possibly live, survive, and thrive without our biosphere. It affects us and we affect it.”

      “Climate change is very much of our own making…but as doctors, we have a vital responsibility to urge the development of a health-in-all-policies approach,” he said.

      The summit is taking place following extreme weather events and other environmental catastrophes throughout Canada, from wildfires in Fort McMurray to a massive oil spill in Saskatchewan.

    • Gulf Residents Arrested Telling Obama: More Drilling Equals More Floods

      A group of Gulf residents were arrested after occupying the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) office in New Orleans on Tuesday, where they were demanding that President Barack Obama cancel an imminent lease sale for offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

      The BOEM auction scheduled for Wednesday would sell off an area the size of Virginia for fossil fuel drilling and exploration. It is set to take place in the Superdome “behind locked doors,” according to a press statement from protest organizers.

      Obama will tour Baton Rouge on Tuesday, in the wake of catastrophic flooding that hit Louisiana last week.

    • Louisiana Climate-Deniers Who Refused Sandy Victims Now Want Federal Flood Relief

      As residents of Louisiana this week struggle to recover from “one of the worst floods in modern history,” there is a chance that federal aid may not be so forthcoming thanks to a trio of Bayou State Republicans, who back in 2013 voted against helping victims of another storm: Sandy.

      House majority whip Rep. Steve Scalise, Rep. John Fleming, and Sen. Bill Cassidy all cast their votes against the $50.5 billion relief package because of their dogmatic adherence to austerity economics. At the time, Scalise said, “Paying for disasters and being fiscally responsible are not mutually exclusive.”

      But, as Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik and others noted this week, that decision may come to haunt them.

      “No one is saying that the flood-stricken communities of Louisiana don’t deserve all the assistance that the U.S. government can provide them,” Hiltzik wrote. “But so did the residents of the Sandy zone. How do the lawmakers’ 2013 votes to deny relief to those Northeast communities square with their demand for emergency flood assistance now?”

      All three signed onto a letter sent to President Barack Obama earlier this month calling for a disaster declaration and requesting “that vital federal resources be made available in an expedited manner.”

    • State pulls relief resources from swelling Dakota Access Pipeline protest camp

      North Dakota’s homeland security director ordered the removal of state-owned trailers and water tanks from the Dakota Access Pipeline protest campsite Monday, citing mounting reports of unlawful activity — the latest involving lasers — and the risk of damage.

      “Based on the scenario down there, we don’t believe that equipment is secure,” Homeland Security Division Director Greg Wilz said.

    • Indonesian parliament to investigate fire-linked firms in Riau

      The Indonesian parliament will form a task force to look into the cancelling of investigations against 15 companies alleged to be complicit in fires in Riau, the country’s top palm oil producing province.

      Legislators made the announcement on Friday as burning in Sumatra and Kalimantan continued to spread, prompting emergency responses from authorities there. The fires are an annual scourge caused by illegal slash-and-burn land clearing practices by companies and farmers, usually to make way for oil palm and timber plantations.

      The fires this week were most concentrated in West Kalimantan province, on Indonesia’s part of Borneo island, with 158 hotspots there on Friday, according to Indonesia’s disaster management agency chief Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. That was up from 106 a day earlier. Following a request from the governor, the agency will begin cloud seeding operations next week and send in two water-bombing helicopters in the meantime.

    • Climate change will mean the end of national parks as we know them

      After a century of shooing away hunters, tending to trails and helping visitors enjoy the wonder of the natural world, the guardians of America’s most treasured places have been handed an almost unimaginable new job – slowing the all-out assault climate change is waging against national parks across the nation.

      As the National Parks Service (NPS) has charted the loss of glaciers, sea level rise and increase in wildfires spurred by rising temperatures in recent years, the scale of the threat to US heritage across the 412 national parks and monuments has become starkly apparent.

      As the National Parks Service turns 100 this week, their efforts to chart and stem the threat to the country’s history faces a daunting task. America’s grand symbols and painstakingly preserved archaeological sites are at risk of being winnowed away by the crashing waves, wildfires and erosion triggered by warming temperatures.

      The Statue of Liberty is at “high exposure” risk from increasingly punishing storms. A national monument dedicated to abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who will be enshrined on a new $20 note, could be eaten away by rising tides in Maryland. The land once walked by Pocahontas and Captain John Smith in Jamestown, the first English settlement in the US, is surrounded by waters rising at twice the global average and may be beyond rescue.

    • Blue lakes are appearing in Antarctica – and that’s a bad thing

      In a new study, scientists who study the largest ice mass on Earth – East Antarctica – have found that it is showing a surprising feature reminiscent of the fastest melting one: Greenland.

      More specifically, the satellite-based study found that atop the coastal Langhovde Glacier in East Antarctica’s Dronning Maud Land, large numbers of “supraglacial” or meltwater lakes have been forming – nearly 8,000 of them during summer months between the year 2000 and 2013. Moreover, in some cases, just as in Greenland, these lakes appear to have then been draining down into the floating parts of the glacier, potentially weakening it and making it more likely to fracture and break apart.

      This is the first time that such a drainage phenomenon has been observed in East Antarctica, the researchers say – though it was previously spotted on the warmer Antarctic Peninsula and was likely part of what drove spectacular events there like the shattering of the Larsen B ice shelf in 2002.

      When it comes to East Antarctica, however, “that’s the part of the continent where people have for quite a long time assumed that it’s relatively stable, there’s not a huge amount of change, it’s very, very cold, and so, it’s only very recently that the first supraglacial lakes, on top of the ice, were identified,” said Stewart Jamieson, a glaciologist at Durham University in the UK and one of the study’s authors.

    • Nuclear waste accident 2 years ago may cost more than $2 billion to clean up

      The Los Angeles Times is estimating that an explosion that occurred at a New Mexico nuclear waste dumping facility in 2014 could cost upwards of $2 billion to clean up.

      Construction began on the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico’s Carlsbad desert in the 1980s (PDF). The site was built to handle transuranic waste from the US’ nuclear weapons program. The WIPP had been eyed to receive nuclear waste from commercial, power-generating plants as well.

      According to the LA Times, the 2014 explosion at the WIPP was downplayed by the federal government, with the Department of Energy (DoE) putting out statements indicating that cleanup was progressing quickly. Indeed, a 2015 Recovery Plan insisted that “limited waste disposal operations” would resume in the first quarter of 2016. Instead, two years have passed since the incident without any indication that smaller nuclear waste cleanup programs around the US will be able to deliver their waste to the New Mexico facility any time soon.

      Ars contacted the DoE for comment and has not received a response. We will update this article if we hear back.

    • Nuclear accident in New Mexico ranks among the costliest in U.S. history

      When a drum containing radioactive waste blew up in an underground nuclear dump in New Mexico two years ago, the Energy Department rushed to quell concerns in the Carlsbad desert community and quickly reported progress on resuming operations.

      The early federal statements gave no hint that the blast had caused massive long-term damage to the dump, a facility crucial to the nuclear weapons cleanup program that spans the nation, or that it would jeopardize the Energy Department’s credibility in dealing with the tricky problem of radioactive waste.

      But the explosion ranks among the costliest nuclear accidents in U.S. history, according to a Times analysis. The long-term cost of the mishap could top $2 billion, an amount roughly in the range of the cleanup after the 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.

      The Feb. 14, 2014, accident is also complicating cleanup programs at about a dozen current and former nuclear weapons sites across the U.S. Thousands of tons of radioactive waste that were headed for the dump are backed up in Idaho, Washington, New Mexico and elsewhere, state officials said in interviews.

    • Germany: Renewable gains, won by people’s power, face corporate threat

      In 2000, renewable energy made up just 6.3% of Germany’s electricity. By last year, it had risen to 31%.

      Cloudy Germany became a leading innovator in solar energy. It did so not by subsidising large power utility companies, but by mobilising hundreds of thousands into energy cooperatives. The two legs of this democratic energy transition are Germany’s commitment to phase out nuclear power and its feed-in tariffs, which allowed small renewable energy producers to sell their electricity.

      Both policies were fruits of the environmental movement. Now, the feed-in tariffs are under attack by the right-wing Angela Merkel government, which wants to hand over renewable energy to large corporations.

      The anti-nuclear leg of the renewable energy transition came out of protest. It was born out of a struggle against a nuclear power plant begun in the early 1970s.

      By the time the plant’s construction was stopped in 1977, the anti-nuclear movement had organised a 10-month occupation by 20,000-30,000 people at the construction site. The victory sparked similar protests across the country.

  • Finance

    • Postal Workers To Rally Against TPP Tuesday

      The 200,000-member American Postal Workers Union (APWU) is holding its biennial convention in Orlando this week. As part of that convention, there will be a rally to publicize opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The rally will take place Tuesday, August 23 at 3:30 pm beginning in the Hemisphere Ballroom of Orlando’s Dolphin Hotel.

    • From the destruction of Greece to democracy in Europe

      In protesting the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I, John Maynard Keynes wrote: “The policy . . . of depriving the lives of millions of human beings, of depriving a whole nation of happiness should be abhorrent and detestable — abhorrent and detestable, even if it were possible, even if it enriched ourselves, even if it did not sow the decay of the whole civilized life of Europe.”

      Last year’s third bailout of Greece, imposed by Europe and the International Monetrary Fund, does to Greece what Versailles did to Germany: It strips assets to satisfy debts. Germany lost its merchant marine, its rolling stock, its colonies, and its coal; Greece has lost its seaports, its airports — the profitable ones — and is set to sell off its beaches, the public asset that is a uniquely Greek glory. Private businesses are being forced into bankruptcy to make way for European chains; private citizens are being forced into foreclosure on their homes. It’s a land grab.

    • Is the TPP falling apart? Let’s take a look at where the 12 nations are at

      As the ratification fight intensifies, we’re watching closely as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) winds its way through national legislatures across the globe. So grab your popcorn, and let’s take a look at where the TPP stands in each country yet to ratify.

      United States

      In addition to opposition from both major U.S. presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the TPP recently faced two significant setbacks as Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi came out against the deal and House Speaker Paul Ryan deemed it pointless to even bring it up during the Lame Duck session of Congress later this year.

      However, President Obama is convinced he’s “got the better argument,” for this “political football” and is continuing to push hard for TPP ratification, as claims abound that a failure to do so could have costly consequences for the U.S. as a power in the Asian-Pacific region and in the eyes of its partners. He recently put Congress on notice that the TPP is coming, so it looks like we’ve a major fight ahead of us this fall.

    • Race and Class Gap Widening: Katrina Pain Index 2016 by the Numbers

      Summary: Hurricane Katrina hit eleven years ago. Population of the City of New Orleans is down by over 95,000 people from 484,674 in 2000 to 389,617 in 2015. Almost all this loss of people is in the African American community. Child poverty is up, double the national average. The gap between rich and poor in New Orleans is massive, the largest in the country. The economic gap between well off whites and low income African Americans is widening. Despite receiving $76 billion in assistance after Katrina, it is clear that poor and working people in New Orleans, especially African Americans, got very little of that help. Here are the numbers.

    • The average American family had the same amount of wealth in 2013 as it did in 1989

      The analysis shows the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans now hold three-quarters of the nation’s wealth, up from two-thirds in 1989, and a three percentage-point increase from the start of the recession. Most Americans found themselves with less wealth in 2013 than Americans of a similar age had in 1989; the only age group doing better than its counterparts from a quarter-century ago was senior citizens.

      The report was commissioned at the request of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who made inequality a central theme of his run for the Democratic presidential nomination this year. In a statement, he said the analysis “makes clear that since the 1980s there has been an enormous transfer of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the wealthiest people in this country.”

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Stoking Russia Panic for Partisan Gain Will Have a Long-Term Price for Peace

      Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein doesn’t have a show at all, let alone on RT. She once attended a function hosted by RT, which, by our current standards of liberal discourse, makes her a Kremlin agent, but the fact that such a demonstrably false statement could be made on cable news to thousands of people without anyone bothering to correct it shows how easy Russia panic is to stoke.

      Earlier in the segment, Nance made the claim that “someone” in Trump’s campaign “may” be an “agent of Russia,” citing a recent report in the Financial Times (8/19/16) alleging that Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s former translator “may” have “links” to Russian intelligence.

      The irony, of course, is that Nance himself has far more recent and better documented ties to US intelligence, but MSNBC feels no need to convince viewers he is not a CIA plant spreading disinformation.

      Nance had a hot tip, offered in smarmy “insider” tones: “Here’s a bit of strategic intelligence for you. Russia is doing a military massing of forces in Crimea in what appears to be an ‘October Surprise.’” That’s correct, an MSNBC contributor is openly speculating Russia will invade Ukraine for the express purposes of influencing the US elections.

      [...]

      Asking questions about Trump’s links to overseas money is entirely fair and above board (as are questions about Clinton’s ties to foreign funders). But to give the Trump charges more moral urgency, liberal pundits are dusting off old Cold War panic and playing up the reach, scope and sinister motives of Russia.

      The effects of this, if and when Clinton takes the White House, will be hard to downplay. How can the US negotiate the end of the Syrian conflict or the Ukrainian crisis if the public, even MSNBC-watching liberals, views Russia as irredeemably aggressive and incapable of ever being a US “friend”? In the interest of short-term partisan gain, pundits on America’s nominally liberal cable network are damaging the prospects of normalizing relations with Russia for years to come.

    • Let them debate

      Before 1988 the non-partisan League of Women Voters was the sponsor of presidential debates. Before that year’s debates between Republican George H.W. Bush and Democrat Michael Dukakis, however, the League pulled out.

      The candidates, the League claimed, had entered into deal deciding how the debates would unfold, including which candidates would be allowed and who would get to ask the questions. They wanted no part of that.

      Stepping into the void to decide the rules was the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has run all the presidential debates since. They are comprised of Democrats and Republicans. Essentially, the candidates are still deciding the rules.

      And to the surprise of no one, Democrats and Republicans are doing their best to keep other parties out, forcing Americans to choose between them. This year both the Republican and Democratic candidates are hugely unpopular, setting new records for unfavorable ratings. To many Americans, it is truly a choice of the lesser evil.

    • Emails threaten to shadow Clinton through Election Day

      The fallout over Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server appears certain to dog her until Election Day, after a federal judge ordered the State Department to accelerate its production of nearly 15,000 previously-unreleased emails uncovered by the FBI.

      The State Department is under intense pressure from Republicans to release the full set before Nov. 8.

      But sorting through all 14,900 documents is a gargantuan task. The first batch likely won’t be released until mid-October — just weeks before Americans head to the polls.

      It’s also not clear what the emails contain. They weren’t in the original trove of 30,000 documents that Clinton voluntarily turned over to the State Department in 2014. And their release could put her on the defense in the critical final stretch of the election.

      The revelation of the thousands of additional documents dovetailed with Monday’s release of another set of emails that exposed uncomfortably close ties between Clinton’s staff and the Clinton Foundation during her tenure as secretary of State.

      It was only the latest development in a long controversy Clinton has struggled to move beyond.

    • Clinton e-mail service providers served subpoenas by House, Senate

      Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, has sent subpoenas to three companies that provided services related to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server. The subpoena seeks information on how secure the server was and whether it was protected within the guidelines set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for systems used by government employees. Smith’s subpoenas were supported by Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

      The subpoenas were sent to executives of the data security firm Datto, SECNAP Network Security, and the ISP and managed services provider Platte River Networks. Datto’s SIRIS disaster recovery service was used to back up the e-mail server hosting ClintonEmail.com, and SECNAP provided its Cloudjacket managed intrusion detection and prevention service to the Clinton server. Platte River Networks apparently managed the server for at least part of the period that Clinton and her staff used e-mail accounts on it while at the State Department. All three companies had previously declined to provide information to Smith’s committee voluntarily.

    • Hillary Clinton’s Latest Email Scapegoat: Colin Powell

      Hillary Clinton has struggled for months to find a satisfactory explanation for why she chose to use a private email server and a personal email address while she was secretary of state, a choice that FBI Director James Comey described as resulting in “extremely careless” handling of classified information. Publicly, none of her excuses have met with much success.

    • Democrats are kidding themselves: The House is out of reach, period [Ed: mentioned before, reposted]

      Hillary Clinton has put the Electoral College into checkmate. She’s closer to Donald Trump in many red states like Kansas and Texas than he is to her in key swing states.

      As her lead swells, naturally, fired-up Democrats and a restless media have turned their attention to a more exciting story: Can Democrats retake the House of Representatives? But the outcome there is not really in doubt, either.

      It’s not going to happen. Democratic House candidates will likely get many more votes than Republican ones — as they did in 2012, when Democrats received 1.4 million more votes nationwide, but Republicans maintained a 234-201 advantage. Indeed, Trump is more likely to rebound in swing states than Democrats are to capture the 30 congressional seats they need to pry the speaker’s gavel from Paul Ryan.
      Even if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency in a landslide, there are simply not enough competitive districts remaining to give the Democrats any chance at winning the House.

    • Latest Hillary Email Scandal Revelation

      Hillary lied about not having classified State Department material on her personal home server. She lied about turning over to the State Department all emails relating to agency business.

      On Monday, the FBI announced discovery of 15,000 previously undisclosed emails. Some are personal. Others show foreign officials sought favors in return for large Clinton Foundation donations.

      Judicial Watch (JW) president Tom Fitton asked “(w)hen will State release them? It looks like the State Department is trying to slow-roll the release of the records. They’ve had them for at least a month, and we still don’t know when we’re going to get them.”

    • Donald Trump’s Odd Pitch for the Black Vote: Wooing With Insults

      Donald Trump has a problem. He is polling as low as 1 percent among African-American voters nationwide, and in the key swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania, he has earned an astonishing 0 percent of the black vote.

      So what’s Trump to do? Make a bold play for the black vote? Yes.

      But here’s the problem—the same problem that has earned him his meager support from black voters: The words of appeal he speaks drip with his deep contempt for black people.

      The heart of his new pitch to the African-American community is this: “You live in your poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth is unemployed. What the hell do you have to lose?”

      When I heard him speak these words, I was astonished at how quickly an appeal for votes could devolve into an insult. Frankly, I felt more than insulted—I felt oddly traumatized, like I had heard these words before. Then it hit me: the memory of the scene from “The Color Purple,” where Celie (Whoopi Goldberg) finally decides she’s had enough abuse, but Albert (Danny Glover) won’t let her go without one last “appeal.”

    • Photo Op
    • Trump’s New Billionaire Backer Also Funds Huge Stockpile of Human Urine

      The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post have all noticed that Robert Mercer, co-CEO of the giant hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, has emerged as a key backer of Donald Trump.

      Mercer, who first spent over $10 million trying to make Ted Cruz president, just gave $2 million to a Super PAC supporting Trump. Mercer is also a top investor in the Breitbart News Network. According to the Post, Mercer’s daughter Rebekah nudged Trump to bring in Stephen Bannon, Breitbart’s executive chairman, to run his campaign.

      But here’s what the mainstream media won’t tell you: Robert Mercer and his daughter have also funded a gigantic stockpile of human urine in Oregon.

    • A Clinton Family Value: ‘Humanitarian’ War

      The current debate over the future of U.S. foreign policy is largely over whether the U.S. should continue its self-anointed role as the policeman of the world, or whether it might be wise for the next administration to put, in the words of Donald J. Trump, “America First.”

      On the other hand, Hillary Clinton has repeatedly called for a more active U.S. foreign policy. The 2016 election is shaping up to be, among other things, a battle between the inarticulate isolationism of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s liberal interventionism. Hers is an approach which came into vogue during the administration of her husband.

    • Could a New York Times Exposé Help Level the Playing Field for Advocates in the Press?

      In its recent series “Think Tanks Inc.,” the New York Times exposed the deep financial ties between corporations and think tanks, outlining how corporate donors reaped influence and rewards from such “mutually beneficial” relationships. As someone who has worked in Washington, D.C. for 15 years in communications roles, and in corporate communications and PR prior to that, this is not surprising to me. Every piece of research or analysis that comes from an organization — whether it’s a company, a non-profit, or even a government entity — puts forth an agenda.

    • No Need to Build The Donald’s Wall, It’s Built

      At the federal courthouse, Ignacio Sarabia asks the magistrate judge, Jacqueline Rateau, if he can explain why he crossed the international boundary between the two countries without authorization. He has already pleaded guilty to the federal misdemeanor commonly known as “illegal entry” and is about to receive a prison sentence. On either side of him are eight men in the same predicament, all still sunburned, all in the same ripped, soiled clothes they were wearing when arrested in the Arizona desert by agents of the U.S. Border Patrol.

      Once again, the zero tolerance border enforcement program known as Operation Streamline has unfolded just as it always does here in Tucson, Arizona. Close to 60 people have already approached the judge in groups of seven or eight, their heads bowed submissively, their bodies weighed down by shackles and chains around wrists, waists, and ankles. The judge has handed out the requisite prison sentences in quick succession — 180 days, 60 days, 90 days, 30 days.

    • Belted by Trump

      I wondered about confronting Mr. Trump with my concerns and imagined his “customer service” skills. First, he would blame and then insult me for putting on weight over the past few years. He might even insult me with a short person joke or two just for good measure despite being totally unrelated to the belt problem. Then I would be berated for being so stupid as to buy a product with his name on it and expecting any type of quality or satisfaction (I do deserve that one). The whole experience would be a “gotcha” moment, where like other hucksters, once the money changes hands, you are stuck with the product, like it or not. Those of us with marketplace expectations of fair play, quality merchandise and honest representation of the product are easy pickings for con artists like him.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Sony Apparently Issuing Takedowns To Facebook For News Articles About PS4 Slim Leak

      Recently, Sony had let it be known that it would soon be announcing some new offerings for its PlayStation 4 console. While most of the media coverage had focused on what is suspected to be a new, more powerful version of the console, a leak this week instead revealed a different console offering, consisting of a newly slimmed down form factor PlayStation 4 with a slightly redesigned controller. As an owner of a PS4, I can join others’ interest in this design, with the original console being somewhat bulky. I can also join others in having only a mild bit of surprise as a reaction, given that Microsoft had already announced a slimmed down version of its Xbox product, and given that Sony has done this with previous versions of the console as well.

      But I was slightly surprised to learn that Sony has apparently been setting its lawyers on spooking gaming media sites and taking down news articles from social media accounts about the leak. Reports of the latter have just started coming in.

    • Think Tank That First Proposed SOPA Now Claims ‘Proof’ That SOPA Would Have Been Great

      Oh boy. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is a DC-based think tank that, from it’s name, you might think would promote things that are important for innovation. And yet, this misleadingly named think tank has been on the wrong side of almost every major tech issue over the last few years — perhaps because a large segment of its funding comes from anti-technology industries, like the entertainment industry and the large telco/broadband providers. This is the same organization that argued that net neutrality was bad, that kicking people off the internet for piracy was a good idea, that the US gov’t should encourage countries to censor the internet and, most recently, that broadband companies charging more to not track your every move is “pro-consumer.”

      But perhaps the pinnacle of bullshit policy proposals from ITIF was that it was the organization (again, funded by the entertainment industry) that first proposed the basic framework of site blocking as a response to copyright infringement, back in 2009. The basis of that proposal was then turned into SOPA, leading ITIF to take a victory lap for creating what it believed was such a good law.

      Of course, you know how that all went down. After actual technologists pointed out how problematic the ITIF approach to site blocking would be, and the public spoke up, the bill went nowhere. And ITIF is basically the sorest of sore losers. Last fall, ITIF published a bogus snarky “report” insisting that it’s original SOPA plan for DNS blocking “did not break the internet.” This, of course, conveniently misstates what was meant by “breaking the internet” when tech experts like Paul Vixie explained the problems with SOPA. It wasn’t that the overall internet would just stop working or that fewer people would use it, but rather than basic ways in which the internet is expected to function (I reach out to this DNS entry, I get back the proper response) would fail, and that would open up opportunities for serious mischief, from man in the middle attacks to breaking how certain security protocols work.

    • Peter Thiel’s Lawyer Now Sending Questionable Defamation Threat Letters To Media On Behalf Of Melania Trump

      Charles Harder is the California lawyer who likely will forever be known as “Peter Thiel’s lawyer” after Thiel helped set up his own law firm with the “focal point” of hunting for any lawsuit that might destroy Gawker. It appears that Thiel is happy to share his pet lawyer with his new best buddy, Donald Trump, or Trump’s wife, Melania. On Monday the UK’s Daily Mail (not exactly known for its accuracy in reporting) received a threat letter from Harder, representing Melania Trump, claiming that its recent article on Melania was defamatory.

      I’m not exactly sure where Mr. Harder is looking to sue but, if it’s in the US, it’s difficult to see how the article reaches the level of defamation by any stretch of the imagination. Melania Trump is, obviously, a public figure and, under US law, for a news report to be defamatory it needs to not only be incorrect and harmful but also published “with actual malice” — meaning that the Daily Mail would have known that the published statements of fact were false, or they had a reckless disregard for the truth. Reading through the original Daily Mail article, I don’t see how that could possibly be the case. The supposed “bombshell” claims in the piece are statements from a couple of different sources alleging that Melania was an escort when she first came to NY (and that may be how she met Donald in the first place). But the Mail is actually (somewhat surprisingly, given its reputation), quite careful with those statements, pointing out that they came from a book, but also noting that there’s little evidence to back them up. It also points to a Slovenian magazine article claiming that the modelling agency Melania worked for was actually an escort service, but the Mail only notes that the magazine said this, and then gets a quote from the guy who ran the modelling agency saying (vehemently) that the story wasn’t true.

    • Ece Temelkuran: Turkey’s drive to make theatre “suitable”

      In 2013, the Ministry of Culture began to evaluate its subsidies to private theatres under the criterion of being “suitable with regard to public decency”. This enforcement arose as part of the Turkey Art Association (TÜSAK), which was put forward in a bill advocating the audition and support of art associations affiliated with the state. In this way, the legal foundation for state-imposed censorship was laid.

      For the evaluation of private theatre companies’ grant requests to the Ministry of Culture, submission of the play’s script was made obligatory. Shakespeare’s Macbeth was removed from the State Theatre repertoire in 2014.

    • Cloudflare Faces Lawsuit For Assisting Pirate Sites

      In recent months CloudFlare has been called out repeatedly for offering its services to known pirate sites, including The Pirate Bay. These allegations have now resulted in the first lawsuit after adult entertainment publisher ALS Scan filed a complaint against CloudFlare at a California federal court.

    • How censored is China’s first Tibetan-language search engine? It omits the Dalai Lama’s website

      China launched its first Tibetan-language search engine this week, called Yongzin. It aims to be a “unified portal for all major Tibetan-language websites in China,” according to the state news agency Xinhua.

      Yongzin means “master” or “teacher” in Tibetan. It is the world’s first search engine solely in the Tibetan language, and also the one and only choice for China’s seven million Tibetan people, unless they use a VPN to jump China’s Great Firewall. Chinese search engines like Baidu and Sogou don’t search in Tibetan, while Google, which does, has been blocked in China for years.

      Yongzin features sections for news, images, videos, and music just like Google, and even has a logo with similar colors and designs to Google’s, which was quickly noticed.

    • Some questions for those who are cheering Gawker’s demise

      Gawker.com, the pioneering and controversial media blog, officially died yesterday. It was killed by billionaire Peter Thiel in his successful quest to bankrupt Gawker Media Group through a series of lawsuits he funded – most notably wrestler Hulk Hogan, who sued over the publication of a portion of his sex tape four years ago.

      Out of all the controversial topics that we’ve tweeted about at Freedom of the Press Foundation – and there have been a lot – by far the most negative response we’ve received is from Gawker critics who are happy to see the website die.

      The Hogan case certainly brings up a lot of tangled questions about the tension between privacy and free speech and it’s understandable that many people have found Gawker’s decision to publish a clip of Hulk Hogan’s sex tape deplorable. (It’s also true that Gawker did a lot of exemplary investigative journalism). But condemning a specific story and cheering the demise of a media organization at the hands of the legal system are two very different things.

    • Bogus Defamation Lawsuit With Fake Defendant Results In Negative Reviews Of Dentist Being Taken Down

      Earlier this year, complaint site Pissed Consumer noticed a disturbing new trend in the dark art of reputation management: unnamed rep management firms were using a couple of lawyers to run bogus defamation lawsuits through a local court to obtain court orders demanding the removal of “defamatory” reviews.

      What was unusual wasn’t the tactic itself. Plenty of bogus defamation lawsuits have been filed over negative reviews. It’s that these lawsuits were resolved so quickly. Within a few weeks of the initial filing, the lawsuit would be over. Each lawsuit improbably skipped the discovery process necessary to uncover anonymous reviewers and proceeded straight to judgment with a (bogus) confessional statement from each “reviewer” handed in by the “defamed” entity’s lawyer for the judge’s approval. Once these were rubber stamped by inattentive judges, the lawyers served Google with court orders to delist the URLs.

      To date, no one has uncovered the reputation management firm behind the bogus lawsuits. In each case, the companies purporting to be represented by these lawyers were shells — some registered as businesses on the same day their lawsuits were filed.

      It’s one thing to do this sort of thing from behind the veil of quasi-anonymity afforded by the use of shell companies. It’s quite another to file a bogus lawsuit with an apparently forged signature (of the supposed defamer) under your own name. But that’s exactly what appears to have happened, as detailed in this post by Public Citizen’s Paul Alan Levy.

    • Why are GitHub and WordPress.com censoring content?

      The Great Equalizer. The Great Democratizer. Many such phrases have been used to describe the internet over the years—mostly focusing on the rapid dissemination of uncensored information.

      Even social media sites (such as Twitter) have played critical roles in real-world revolutions. The ability for the average person to spread ideas, news and information—without corporate or government censorship—has brought about massive power and freedom to the people of the world.

      But what happens when the key websites and services—the ones we rely upon to spread those messages—censor that content? That’s a bad thing, right? Well, this seems to be happening a lot recently, especially in relation to leaked content (regardless of the type of content or the source from which it originated).

      GitHub, a service primarily used for open source and free culture projects, recently completely censored a repository that contained information proving the NSA developed malware targeting numerous systems.

      Maybe there’s a legitimate reason for this. But if there is, GitHub is staying quiet. I reached out to GitHub’s press department for comment one week ago, and as of today, I have not received any response of any kind.

      And WordPress.com, the company that runs the popular blogging platform, censored content posted by “Guccifer 2” that was potentially damaging to the reputation of the Democratic party.

    • BANNED TOGETHER: A CENSORSHIP CABARET Set for Banned Books Week in NYC

      The Dramatists Legal Defense Fund (“DLDF”) will present “Banned Together: A Censorship Cabaret” as a part of Banned Books Week (September 25-October 1st), the annual celebration of the freedom to read. The performance will take place on September 29th and 30th at 5PM at the Drama Book Shop (250 W 40th St).

      “Banned Together: A Censorship Cabaret” is a celebration of songs and scenes from shows that have been censored or challenged on America’s stages, created to raise awareness around issues of censorship and free expression in the Theater. The performances will feature selections from “Cabaret”, “Chicago”, “Almost, Maine”, “Rent” and “Angels in America,” among other notable works, with contextual commentary by DLDF president John Weidman.

    • Muthambi defends SABC censorship
    • SABC to face music at parliament
    • South African minister faces grilling over SABC crisis
    • Muthambi to explain SABC editorial policy
    • Activists call for Facebook ‘censorship’ change after Korryn Gaines death
    • Facebook censorship of Korryn Gaines police killing puts Zuckerberg in crosshairs
    • Facebook deactivation during fatal police standoff alarms civil rights, consumer activists
    • Why Did You Shut Down Korryn Gaines’ Account? Facebook C.E.O Asked
    • How Facebook censors your posts
    • Facebook and politics’ relationship status: It’s complicated
    • Trolls and spam not welcome in Twitter’s new features
    • Twitter to give everyone ‘quality filter’, letting them mute tweets judged to be bad
    • How to Remove Twitter’s New ‘Quality Filter’ Censorship Setting
    • Twitter has a really good anti-harassment tool
    • Twitter (TWTR) Rolls Out New Feature to Filter Tweets
    • Twitter has a really good anti-harassment tool – and it’s finally available to everyone
    • Twitter ‘quality filter’ works because it’s about news, not social
    • Twitter’s ‘Quality Filter’ Gets Rid Of Trolls, But There’s A Major Catch
    • Twitter Unveils Features to Filter Tweets, Notifications
    • Twitter Updates Quality Filter Tool for All
    • Quality Filter Comes To Twitterati’s Rescue
    • Twitter adds more user control with latest features
    • Now Ignore Trolls on Twitter [Ed: Just the start: expect on by default, expansion of scope of “trolls”, later no option to toggle it off, Like UK ISPs…]
    • Twitter’s New “Quality Filter” Addresses Abuse on the Platform, Also Try New Notification Settings [Ed: Twitter has already done so-called 'quality filtering' for a while but called it shadow-banning. Suppression of particular ideas.]
  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Pokémon Go loses its luster, sheds more than 10 million users [Ed: Nintendo's experiment with crowd-sourced CCTV (with microphone) and hotspot collector is rapidly failing]

      It had almost 45 million daily users in July, but this figure appears to have sunk by more than 12 million since the start of August, to just over 30 million said to be playing Pokémon Go. Further decline is expected, as downloads, engagement, and the time users spend on the app have all also visibly flopped, according to data provided by Sensor Tower, SurveyMonkey, and Apptopia.

      Bloomberg, which saw the raw data, reported that other major apps such as Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat “can breathe a sigh of relief” that Pokémon Go is finally wobbling, as the game’s popularity had apparently been costing them considerable amounts of users.

      “Given the rapid rise in usage of the Pokémon Go app since the launch in July, investors have been concerned that this new user experience has been detracting from time spent on other mobile focused apps,” said Axiom Capital Management analyst Victor Anthony.

    • Encryption under fire in Europe as France and Germany call for decrypt law

      A fresh chapter of the crypto wars looks to be opening up in Europe, after the French and German interior ministers took to a podium yesterday to lobby for a law change that would enable courts to demand that Internet companies decrypt data to help further criminal investigations.

      So, in other words, to effectively push for end-to-end encryption to be outlawed. Yes we’ve been here before — many times.

      Giving a joint press conference in Paris yesterday with German’s Thomas de Maizière, France’s interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve called for the European Commission to change the law to afford security agencies the ability to access encrypted data.

      They want their proposals discussed by the European Commission at a meeting next month.

      The context here is that France and Germany have suffered a spate of terrorist attacks over the past year, including a co-ordinated attack in Paris in November 2015 that killed 130; a July 2016 attack in Nice where a truck driver ploughed into crowds celebrating Bastille Day; and a stabbing in a church in Northern France that killed an elderly priest.

    • Secret Cameras Record Baltimore’s Every Move From Above

      The sky over the Circuit Court for Baltimore City on June 23 was the color of a dull nickel, and a broad deck of lowering clouds threatened rain. A couple dozen people with signs—“Justice 4 Freddie Gray” and “The whole damn system is guilty as hell”—lingered by the corner of the courthouse, watching the network TV crews rehearse their standups. Sheriff’s officers in bulletproof vests clustered around the building’s doors, gripping clubs with both hands.

      Inside, a judge was delivering the verdict in the case of Caesar Goodson, the only Baltimore police officer facing a murder charge for the death of Freddie Gray. In April 2015, Gray’s neck was broken in the back of a police van, and prosecutors had argued that Goodson purposefully drove the vehicle recklessly, careening through the city, to toss Gray around.

    • At 25, the World Wide Web Is Still a Long Way From Reality [Ed: 24/7 tracking, camera/s, microphone]

      In recent years, the web has lost some of its mojo. It hasn’t quite lived up the lofty ideals laid down by Berners-Lee and so many of his disciples. Facebook makes 84 percent of its money from its mobile app—not the web. Tinder, Snapchat, and many other newer apps aren’t even available on the web.

    • AshleyMadison security protocols violated privacy laws, watchdog says

      AshleyMadison used inadequate privacy and security technology while marketing itself as a discreet and secure way for consenting adults to have affairs, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada says.

      In a report Tuesday, the privacy watchdog says the Toronto-based company violated numerous privacy laws in Canada and abroad in the era before a massive data breach exposed confidential information from their clients to hackers.

      The hack stole correspondence, identifying details and even credit card information from millions of the site’s users. At the time of the breach in July 2015, AshleyMadison claimed to have 36 million users and took in more than $100 million in annual revenue.

    • Poor privacy at Ashley Madison site at time of hack

      The dating website Ashley Madison was in violation of Australian and Canadian privacy laws at the time when it suffered a security breach last year.

      Australian and Canadian authorities carried out a joint investigation into the breach and made this finding in a report which has been released today.

      Avid Life Media, the owner of the website, has been asked to enhance privacy safeguards, amend information retention practices, improve information accuracy and increase transparency.

      ALM has signed an enforceable undertaking with the Australian Information Commissioner to implement these measures.

    • Facebook can guess your political preferences — here’s how to see how it’s categorized you

      This is yet another case of Facebook knowing way more about you than you think.

      The social network is categorizing its users as liberal, conservative, or moderate. This information is valuable for campaign managers and advertisers, especially in the midst of election season.

      For some, Facebook is able to come to conclusions about your political leanings easily, if you mention a political party on your page. For those that are less open about politics on social media, Facebook makes assumptions based on pages you like.

      As The New York Times explained, if you like Ben and Jerry’s Facebook page and most of the other people that like that page identify as liberal, Facebook might assume you, too, are liberal.

      I’m not too politically active on Facebook, and I was curious to see how it categorized me. To my surprise, I am “very liberal,” when I was expecting “moderate” or “conservative.”

    • Apple Acquires Personal Health Data Startup Gliimpse

      Apple’s ambitions in the health sector continue to expand, with its digital health team making its first known acquisition—personal health data startup Gliimpse, Fast Company has learned.

      Silicon Valley-based Gliimpse has built a personal health data platform that enables any American to collect, personalize, and share a picture of their health data. The company was started in 2013 by Anil Sethi and Karthik Hariharan. Sethi is a serial entrepreneur who has spent the past decade working with health startups, after taking his company Sequoia Software public in 2000. He got his start as a systems engineer at Apple in the late 1980s.

      The acquisition happened earlier this year, but Apple has been characteristically quiet about it. The company has now confirmed the purchase, saying: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

    • First on CNN: FBI investigating Russian hack of New York Times reporters, others

      Hackers thought to be working for Russian intelligence have carried out a series of cyber breaches targeting reporters at The New York Times and other US news organizations, according to US officials briefed on the matter.

      The intrusions, detected in recent months, are under investigation by the FBI and other US security agencies. Investigators so far believe that Russian intelligence is likely behind the attacks and that Russian hackers are targeting news organizations as part of a broader series of hacks that also have focused on Democratic Party organizations, the officials said.

      The Times said email services for employees are outsourced to Google. CNN requested comment from Google but didn’t receive comment. The FBI declined to comment.

      Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said the company had seen “no evidence” that any breaches had occurred.

    • Russia’s Hackathon Continues, Targeting The New York Times And Other News Agencies
    • The Real Russian Mole Inside NSA [Ed: The latest Rubbophobia from ‘ex’ NSA staff John “Watch My Dick” Schindler]
    • Former NSA analyst: Russia ‘can listen in on anything it wants’
    • Hints suggest an insider helped the NSA “Equation Group” hacking tools leak
    • A Second Snowden at the NSA? Here’s What We Know
    • Juniper Confirms Shadow Brokers Firewall Implants
    • Juniper confirms leaked NSA exploits affect its firewalls
    • NSA leak: Juniper Networks confirms its firewalls are vulnerable to leaked ‘Equation Group’ exploits
    • NSA-linked Cisco exploit poses bigger threat than previously thought
    • Hacking the hackers: everything you need to know about Shadow Brokers’ attack on the NSA
    • Why Twitter Was the Platform of Choice for Ripping Apart the NSA Dump
    • Snowden’s Long Shadow Darkens NSA’s Reputation
    • Not Even NSA Can Keep Software Exploits Secret
    • Who Are The NSA’s Elite Hackers?
    • A Peek Inside The Matrix: What The Shadow Brokers Affair Means For A Cyber Future
    • Your ‘Smart’ Power Outlets Are Now Botnets Thanks To The Internet Of Broken Things

      Making fun of the Internet of Things has become a sort of national pastime, made possible by a laundry list of companies jumping into the space without the remotest idea what they’re actually doing. When said companies aren’t busy promoting some of the dumbest ideas imaginable, they’re making it abundantly clear that the security of their “smart,” connected products is absolutely nowhere to be found. And while this mockery is well-deserved, it’s decidedly less funny once you realize these companies are introducing thousands of new attack vectors in every home and business network the world over.

      Overshadowed by the lulz is the width and depth of incompetence on display. Thermostats that fail to heat your home. Door locks that don’t protect you. Refrigerators that leak Gmail credentials. Children’s toys that listen to your kids’ prattle, then (poorly) secure said prattle in the cloud. Cars that could, potentially, result in your death. The list goes on and on, and it grows exponentially by the week.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • With Voting Rights at Risk Across US, International Monitors Called to Help

      With the right to vote “more vulnerable now than at any time in the past 50 years,” an American civil rights coalition is calling for an increase in international election monitors during the 2016 election.

      In a letter sent this weekend, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, comprised of more than 200 national organizations, urged the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to expand its election monitoring mission in the United States this November.

      The body has sent observers to every U.S. presidential election since 2002 and intends to send 500 observers for 2016.

      However, citing the 2013 gutting of the Voting Rights Act (VRA)—as well as recent news that as a result of the decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the U.S. Justice Department is scaling back its deployment of election observers in 2016—the group wrote “to emphasize that the OSCE’s plans to monitor the upcoming U.S. presidential election will be more essential than ever before and to encourage the OSCE to greatly expand its election monitoring mission in the United States for this election.”

    • FBI Apparently Made Darkweb Child Porn Site Faster During Its Hosting Of Seized Server

      Another FBI/Playpen/NIT case has moved to the point of a motion to dismiss. The lawyer for defendant Steven Chase is arguing the government should abandon its prosecution because the FBI’s activities during its conversion of child porn site Playpen into its own Rule 41-flouting watering hole were “outrageous.” What did the FBI do (besides traveling beyond — far beyond — the warrant’s jurisdiction to strip Tor users of their anonymity) to merit this accusation? It made Playpen a better, faster child porn website. Joseph Cox reports for Motherboard…

    • Lawyer: Dark Web Child Porn Site Ran Better When It Was Taken Over by the FBI

      In February 2015, the FBI took control of Playpen, the largest dark web child pornography site at the time. But instead of shutting the site down, the agency kept it going for just under two weeks, in order to deliver malware to its visitors in the hope of identifying suspects in its investigation.

      Newly filed court exhibits now suggest that the site performed substantially better while under the FBI’s control, with users commenting on the improvements. The defense for the man accused of being the original administrator of Playpen claims that these improvements led to the site becoming even more popular.

      “The FBI distributed child pornography to viewers and downloaders worldwide for nearly two weeks, until at least March 4, 2015, even working to improve the performance of the website beyond its original capability,” Peter Adolf, an assistant federal defender in the Western District of North Carolina, writes in a motion to have his client’s indictment thrown out.

    • What It Looks Like When The Terrorists Win: The JFK Stampede Over Fans Cheering For Usain Bolt

      We’ve talked a great deal here about what a theater of security our national airports have become. Far from accomplishing anything having to do with actually keeping anyone safe, those in charge of our airports have instead decided to engage in the warm fuzzies, attempting to calm an easily-spooked traveling public through bureaucracy and privacy invasion. The hope is that if everyone suffers the right level of inconvenience and humiliation, we’ll all feel safe enough traveling.

      But it’s quite easy for the 4th wall in this security theater to be broken by the right sort of circumstance. In case you missed it, one such circumstance happened recently at JFK Airport. The fallout was described in a first-person account in New York Magazine by David Wallace-Wells.

    • ‘Assange kill attempt’? Unknown man climbs Ecuador’s London embassy, sheltering WikiLeaks chief

      Social media users are in a panic after WikiLeaks said an unknown man had climbed the Ecuadorian embassy in London where Julian Assange has been staying for four years. Users suggested that it was probably an assassination attempt, “ordered by Clinton.”

      “…At 2:47am an unknown man scaled the side wall [and the] window of the Ecuadorian embassy in London; fled after being caught by security,” a statement from WikiLeaks said early Monday morning.

    • ‘Cardboard justice’ | Youth groups stand against killings

      Hundreds of students spoke out against the rising number of killings, with the continuation of the counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, now coupled with President Duterte’s war on drugs.

      Youth groups Anakbayan and League of Filipino Students (LFS) led simultaneous candle-lighting protests on August 11, at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman and Manila campuses, Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Sta. Mesa, Manila and the University of Sto. Tomas in España, Manila.

    • NBN leaks: AFP carries out raid at parliament house

      The Australian Federal Police has conducted a raid at the Department of Parliamentary Services at Parliament House to try and find out the source of leaks that led to a number of stories about the NBN.

      AFP personnel met staff of shadow special minister of state Stephen Conroy after they arrived at parliament house at about 10am. The meeting took place in a room of the basement of parliament.

      Media personnel were asked to leave a section of the basement, but were later allowed to film AFP personnel as they left the area. The AFP officers are said to be looking at the email records and logs of Labor staffers, in order to try and track the media they were in contact with.

      In February, there were claims in the mainstream media that the Coalition multi-technology mix broadband network faced mounting delays and rising costs.

    • Passengers back Jeremy Corbyn’s claim that Virgin Train was ‘ram-packed’

      Other people on the train have however come forward to say it was in fact very busy, at least at the start of the journey.

      One passenger, Keren Harrison, posted a picture of herself on the train with Mr Corbyn and gave an account of events that contradicted the company’s version.

      “I was on said train and it was very busy!” she said. “He got seat about 45 mins in when staff started shuffling people around!”

      She added in another tweet that the train was “chock-a”.

      Separately, Charles Anthony, a Corbyn-supporting video journalist who shot the original film also released new footage and disputed the company’s account.

    • Hijab approved as uniform option by Scotland Police
    • French police make woman remove clothing on Nice beach following burkini ban

      Photographs have emerged of armed French police confronting a woman on a beach and making her remove some of her clothing as part of a controversial ban on the burkini.

      Authorities in several French towns have implemented bans on the Burkini, which covers the body and head, citing concerns about religious clothing in the wake of recent terrorist killings in the country.

      The images of police confronting the woman in Nice on Tuesday show at least four police officers standing over a woman who was resting on the shore at the town’s Promenade des Anglais, the scene of last month’s Bastille Day lorry attack.

      After they arrive, she appears to remove a blue long-sleeved tunic, although one of the officers appears to take notes or issue an on-the-spot fine.

    • Nice Officials Say They’ll Sue Internet Users Who Share Photos Of French Fashion Police Fining Women In Burkinis

      This seems pretty ridiculous on all sorts of levels, but never think things are so ridiculous that some politicians can’t make them worse. Guillaume Champeau from the excellent French site Numerama alerts me to the news that the deputy mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi is threatening to sue those who share these images over social media. Yup, France, a country that claims to pride itself on freedom is not just telling women that they can’t cover themselves up too much on the beach, but that it’s also illegal to report on the police following through on that.

    • In Wake of Burkini Ban, Muslim Women Demand Criminalization of Fat White Men in Speedos

      A French-Muslim group has called for a ban on what it terms “woefully-endowed white walruses terrorizing our kids in public,” alongside the repeal of a string of municipal measures outlawing the burkini in southern France.

      Speaking to reporters yesterday, Dr. Yasmina Al-Hazeemi of France’s Think of the Children! Foundation urged the nation’s parliament to criminalize the tight-fitting male swimsuit, framing the so-called ‘budgie smuggler scourge’ as a public safety crisis: “These obscene bathers are in fact evil terrorists imperiling the mental health of millions,” claimed the Algerian-born pediatrician. “For the sake of our traumatized children and the very soul of our Republic, we must crush this shameless cult of sagging manboobs, shrivelled racoon balls and itsy-bitsy Sarkozian wee wees!”

      The Front for the Supremacy of Stocky Indigenous Speedo Lovers, meanwhile, slammed the proposed ban as “yet another Islamic attack on France’s noble secularism.” “From the beaches of Corsica to the shores of distant Thailand, it’s our natural-born right to let it all hang it, no matter how many millions of juvenile nightmares it may cause,” said FSSIS chair Jean-Paul Le Grosporc, who then blasted Al-Hazeemi’s “slanderous attack on the honor of the Frenchman’s glorious manhood – unlike the dark savages flooding our continent, we natives are growers, not showers!”

    • Mansplaining Science To A Doctor, Cycling To An Olympian

      I have to say — the invention of the word “mansplaining” was something of a relief to me. Finally, there was a word for that weird, creepy thing men do when they assume authority over you when they have none. “You wrote a book? I read a book once. It was green. The thing about writing books is…”

      The word was born from an essay called “Men Explain Things To Me” by Rebecca Solnit. In it, she tells an anecdote where she was at a party when a man, on hearing that she wrote books about the photographer Eadweard Muybridge, told her that she really should read this wonderful new book on Muybridge that he had just read and proceeded to tell her all about this Muybridge guy.

    • NLRB: Graduate Students at Private Universities May Unionize

      In a blow to private institutions and a boon to their graduate student employees, the National Labor Relations Board ruled Tuesday that graduate research and teaching assistants are entitled to collective bargaining under the National Labor Relations Act.

      Graduate student unions at public institutions are common, as students’ collective bargaining status on public campuses is governed by state law. But the NLRB oversees graduate student unions on private campuses. Tuesday’s decision in favor of a graduate student union bid at Columbia University effectively reverses an earlier NLRB ruling against a graduate student union at Brown University, which had been the law of the land since 2004. The decision also overturns a much longer-standing precedent against collective bargaining for externally funded research assistants in the sciences.

      Graduate students at Columbia and elsewhere celebrated Tuesday’s decision, saying they planned to move forward with their union drives. While many professors applauded the decision to recognize students as legitimate workers, other groups described it as reckless, with the potential to transform — for the worse — the relationship between institution and student. Columbia or other universities could move to challenge the ruling in federal court.

      Columbia’s graduate assistants are affiliated with the United Auto Workers, but there are active drives on a number of other campuses affiliated with different unions, including the American Federation of Teachers and Service Employees International Union. The latter was a key player in a wave of recent adjunct faculty union drives.

    • The Blacklist – how to go on the run
  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • One More Time With Feeling: Net Neutrality Didn’t Hurt Broadband Investment In The Slightest

      You’ll recall that ISPs (and the lobbyists, think tanks, politicians, and consultants paid to love them) argued incessantly that if we passed net neutrality rules, investment in broadband infrastructure would grind to a halt, leaving us all weeping gently over our clogged tubes. ISPs like Verizon proudly proclaimed that net neutrality rules would “jeopardize our investment and the development of innovation in Broadband Internet and related services.” ISP-tied think tanks released study after statistically-massaged study claiming that net neutrality (and the reclassification of ISPs as common carriers under Title II) would be utterly catastrophic for the broadband industry and its consumers alike.

      But as time wore on it became abundantly clear that these warnings were the empty prattle of a broken industry, using a thick veneer of bunk science to defend its monopoly over the uncompetitive broadband last mile.

      Since net neutrality was passed there has been absolutely no evidence that a single one of these claims had anything even remotely resembling merit, with broadband expansion pushing forward at full speed, constrained only by the ongoing lack of competition in many markets. We’ve watched as outfits like Google Fiber continue to expand its footprint. We’ve watched as Verizon suddenly promised to deploy fiber to cities long neglected. We’ve watched as Comcast and AT&T rushed to try and keep pace with gigabit investments of their own. In short, nothing changed, and things may have even improved.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Review Of WIPO Development Agenda Implementation: Good Progress But Expectations Unfulfilled

      A group of independent reviewers has found definite progress on implementing the landmark 2007 Development Agenda Recommendations at the World Intellectual Property Organization. But the UN agency needs to elevate the debate, tie in with UN development agencies, create reporting mechanisms, make projects more compatible with local development levels, and detail use of financial and human resources, the reviewers found.

    • Trademarks

      • Little Tree Air Freshener Company Sues Non-Profit For Making Tree Shaped Ornaments

        At the time, we noted how odd it was to take out a full page ad warning people against supposed trademark infringement, and over-claiming its own rights at the same time (e.g., “no matter how you use it.”). So it comes as little surprise that Car-Freshener corporation is a bit of a trademark bully in court. Though, perhaps it’s met its match — and it may result in it losing some trademarks.

        Trademark lawyer Marty Schwimmer, who runs the excellent Trademark Blog, is representing a non-profit organization, Sun Cedar, that has been sued by Car-Freshener for daring to create tree-shaped blocks of wood (cedar!) that smell good. The answers and counterclaims from Sun Cedar is worth the read in full, but we’ll hit a few high points here. Sun Cedar is not just a non-profit, but an organization that tries to train and to employ “at risk” individuals, including those who are homeless, ex-felons and substance abusers to help them get back on their feet. The organization creates objects out of wood, including tree shaped ornaments. It even ran a very successful Kickstarter project last year.

      • And Just Like That, The Dumbest Trademark Suit Over Saying ‘Thank You’ Disappears

        It is with mostly pleasure, but a little bit of sadness, that I am here to inform you, dear reader, that the idiotic trademark lawsuit brought by Citigroup against AT&T because it dared to say “thank you” to its customers is dead. Yes, what started only a couple of months ago as an unintentional test to see just how far a large corporation could twist trademark law out of its useful intentions has been dropped by both parties with prejudice, meaning that no further legal action can be taken on the matter.

        At issue was AT&T including the phrase “thank you” in some of its messaging and branding. Citigroup, as it turns out, somehow got the USPTO to approve a trademark for the phrase “thankyou” and declared that, largely because the two companies had done some co-branding work in the past, customers might be confused by an AT&T ad thanking them for their business into thinking that it has something to do with Citigroup. I read the argument Citigroup made in its filing as to why this confusion was likely, but my brain came to a screeching halt every few sentences, distracted by questions like, “How much can a bank’s lawyers drink during the day?” and “Precisely how many peyote buttons would I have to swallow before ‘thank you’ equalled ‘Citigroup’ in my addled mind?”

    • Copyrights

      • Copyright Group, In Arguing Against FCC’s Set Top Box Proposal, Appears To Argue That VCRs & DVRs Are Also Illegal

        Earlier this month, we wrote about how the Copyright Officer had filed a really bizarre and legally dubious comment with the FCC concerning the FCC’s plan to open up competition in TV set top boxes, ending cable company’s monopoly on those boxes (for which they bring in $21 billion in revenue per year). The FCC’s plan was pretty straightforward — and the cable companies have attacked it on all sides, with the one argument that seems to be sticking is that this plan is somehow an affront to copyright, and would result in piracy. This is blatantly, factually incorrect. The FCC’s plan makes it clear that any system would retain existing technology protection measures against piracy (for better or for worse). If this new system resulted in infringement, it would because there’s infringement on the internet already, not because of these new rules.

        [...]

        Except, if what I’ve bolded above is actually copyright law, then the VCR, the DVR, the MP3 player, photocopiers and much of the very internet itself are inherently against copyright law. But that’s not what courts have found. If you look at the classic Betamax lawsuit, it made it abundantly clear that even when there were license agreements between content providers and TV stations that end users could absolutely record and watch content via an “unlicensed” device, known as the VCR. This just takes the Copyright Office’s ridiculous assertion that copyright holders and ISPs can somehow write fair use out of their agreements for end users, and takes it even further to effectively write the Betamax ruling out of existence and set up a framework that says there can be no fair use in new consumer electronics.

        That’s both wrong and crazy. And, yes, I know that the former Copyright Office boss Ralph Oman has argued that all technology should be considered infringing until Congress says it’s okay, but that’s not the actual law, and it’s incredibly dishonest to suggest it’s the case.

        Here’s the important thing that the Copyright Office and the Copyright Alliance don’t seem to understand (or are willfully ignoring). This content is already licensed. The only people who will get access to it are those who have a legitimate right to access the content from their cable providers. In other words, everything is licensed. There is no “harm” at all. The only issue is that the content can be accessed (by the paying subscribers!) via alternative hardware (which might add some more features, but which will still have the same copy protection). But nothing in this creates any problems for the content creators, because the overall setup is the same. They have licensed the work. The hardware alternatives that may arise may include some additional features, such as recording and such, but that’s well within their legal rights under fair use. The complaint here seems to just be that the Copyright Alliance and the Copyright Office don’t like fair use and don’t want the Betamax standard to exist any more.

        The Copyright Alliance and its funders in the entertainment industry may wish that the VCR were never made legal (even though it was a device that basically saved Hollywood by bringing in massive new markets and revenue streams), but they don’t get to rewrite history and pretend it doesn’t exist.

      • Techdirt Podcast Episode 87: An Interview With Kim Dotcom’s Lawyer

        Ira Rothken is a lawyer on the front lines of many major legal battles relating to copyright and piracy, including defending Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and, most recently, taking up the defense of Kickass Torrents operator Artem Vaulin. This week, Ira joins us on the podcast to discuss the ins and outs of these and other cases where the entertainment industry has come down hard on consumers and innovators.

      • Singapore Government launches public consultation on major copyright reform

        Singapore is currently engaged in a significant reform of its Copyright Act. In this context, yesterday Government launched a public consultation [open until 24 October 2016, 5 pm GMT+8] to seek feedback on proposed changes to this country’s copyright regime. This is the full consultation paper.

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