Patents Roundup: Blackjack Patent Application, Apple’s Software and Design Patents, Decline in Patent Litigation and Alternating Troll Trends

Posted in America, Patents at 5:12 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: News about patents from around the Web, focusing on the USPTO in particular

Method of Playing Blackjack as a Patent?

A “patent application claiming a new method of playing Blackjack” was the subject of this new article from Patently-O — an article involving yet another one of those ridiculous patents (or applications) which often end up being used to shake down a lot of small companies, either in court or outside of the courts system (small companies usually prefer to settle outside any court because of the costs associated with legal defense).

To quote Patently-O:

The underlying appellate decision In re Smith involves a patent application claiming a new method of playing Blackjack. The new approach offered by offers ability to bet on the occurrence of “natural 0” hands as well as other potential side bets. Claim 1 in particular requires a deck of ‘physical playing cards” that are shuffled and then dealt according to a defined pattern. Bets are then taken with the potential of more dealing and eventually all wagers are resolved.

Apple Aggression With Patents

Not only small players are suffering. Large companies are trying to string barbwire around everything and then tax everyone.

This past week in the news we found FRAND proponents in Watchtroll, patent troll apologists everywhere in relation to the FTC and the VENUE Act, and we also found a lot of coverage of Apple’s patent war/assault on Android, either in relation to the infamous slide-to-unlock patent or those silly design patents which SCOTUS is poised to assess.

“Apple is competing in the courtrooms, not in the market, such that patent lawyers pocket a lot of money and products are modified for the worse.”Regarding the former, here is MIP alluding to a “107-page opinion [which] includes a majority opinion written by Judge Moore and three separate dissenting opinions filed by Chief Judge Prost and Judges Dyk and Reyna.”

Also in relation to the slide-to-unlock patent, here is Patently-O‘s coverage that says: “this case involves Apple’s patents covering slide-to-unlock; phone number recognition; and auto spell correction. At the district court, the jury found that three of Apple’s touch-screen patents infringed by Samsung devices (resulting in $119.6 million in damages). The jury also found one Samsung patent infringed by Apple, but only awarded less than $200,000 in damages. In a February 2016 opinion authored by Judge Dyk, the Federal Circuit reversed the jury verdicts – finding two of Apple’s patents invalid as obvious and the other not-infringed.”

These are software patents and separately there are design patents — a subject that the CCIA’s Mr. Levy wrote about (cross-posted at the Huffington Post), noting: “CCIA and other amici argued strenuously that under the Federal Circuit’s interpretation of § 284, it would be easy for patent trolls to start using design patents. After all, a design patent lets a patent troll threaten a company with losing all of its profits for any accused product. That’s orders of magnitude higher than they might be able to get with a utility patent, and should lead to much higher settlements.”

Apple is competing in the courtrooms, not in the market, such that patent lawyers pocket a lot of money and products are modified for the worse. Corporate media wrote about the latest twist, e.g. “Conundrum for Justices: Does a Design Patent Cover a Whole Smartphone?” from the New York Times and this from USA Today:

Chief Justice John Roberts said Apple’s iconic iPhone design applies to the exterior face of the phone — not “all the chips and wires.”

Apple is desperate to beat (or tax with patents) Android phones. How much money are they after? And given Apple’s declining share in tis market, how long will it be before Apple — like Microsoft — becomes more like a patent troll in this area?

The United States Government Recognises the Problem

Help might be on the way. “The government and the courts are finally getting fed up with patent trolls — and stupid patents,” (this means software patents) writes Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times today. It’s not a very thoughtful or profound article, but it does hit two birds with one stone (two strands of news). To quote:

Almost nobody disputes that America’s patent system is a mess, or that it’s been that way for an unconscionably long time.

Overworked and misguided patent examiners issue patents for manifestly undeserving claims. An entire industry of patent trolls has sprung up to assemble patent rights and exploit them, not to make products or develop services, but to harass other businesses into paying them off to avoid costlier litigation.

Efforts to reform patenting tend to run into resistance from big businesses, such as the pharmaceutical industry, that long ago figured out how to game the process and are disinclined to give up their advantage. As a result, a system that was written into the U.S. Constitution to encourage invention and innovation has been turned into a “dead weight … on the nation’s economy.”

The editor of IAM, writing about an upcoming event, reveals that an official-turned-lobbyist, David Kappos, will be at this event (speaking even). We predict he will talk about “clarity” as means of reaffirming his position that Alice is too vague and needs to be thrown away.

Litigation Numbers Decline

Whether or not Kappos will succeed, the patent system in the US is gradually healing itself. Kappos is one of the people who made it ill. There are less trolls, less software patents, and patent litigation numbers at the District Court and beyond and down, based on these latest figures from Lex Machina. Here is what IAM has just said about those:

New patent litigation filings fell in the third quarter as the overall volume of cases for the year approached levels not seen since 2011, according to data from Lex Machina.

From 1st July to 30th September 1,127 new lawsuits were filed in US district courts. That’s down from the total for the second quarter of 1,289, although up slightly from Q3 last year when 1,114 new cases were brought.

According to Lex Machina’s current prediction for the year, 2016 will see a total of just over 4,700 new lawsuits. This would be the lowest level since 2011. Over the last four years litigation volumes have been at unprecedented levels thanks, in large part, to new joinder rules introduced by the America Invents Act.

One of the characteristics of litigation volumes over the last two years is that the quarterly totals have often lurched from one extreme to another. Last year, for instance, saw one of the quietest recent quarters in Q3 but also two of the busiest in Q2 and Q4 as external factors such as the prospect of new patent legislation and new federal court procedures had an effect.

Lex Machina’s latest numbers confirm that quarterly totals are still very up and down, but the trend line for this year has undoubtedly been pointing south. With a huge spike in cases last November thanks to changes to pleading standards in patent cases, which came into effect on 1st December, it seems safe to assume that we’re going to see a fall, year-on-year in Q4.

Now that the US is moving towards a software patents-free (hopefully trolls-free as well) era with zones including Texas being safe for software developers (even after the VENUE Act or equivalent) we hope that the patent microcosm won’t succeed at turning the tide. Here is the National Law Review, one of their publications, covering the latest from the FTC:

FTC Releases Report on Patent Assertion Entities, Calls for Reforms to Reduce Nuisance Patent Lawsuits

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission issued its much anticipated study on patent assertion entities (“PAEs”) on October 6, 2016. The report, entitled Patent Assertion Entity Activity: an FTC Study, defines a PAE as “a firm that primarily acquires patents and seeks to generate revenue by asserting them against accused infringers.” The report highlights the business practices of PAEs (based on non-public data from 2009 to 2014) and includes recommendations for patent litigation reform. FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez praised the report for providing “an empirical foundation for ongoing policy discussions,” and said that the report’s recommendations “are designed to balance the needs of patent holders with the goal of reducing nuisance litigation.” The report provides valuable insights into a key area of intersection between the antitrust and patent laws and proposes concrete reforms that seek to balance the benefits of legitimate infringement litigation against the harms of nuisance suits.

Patent Trolling More of ‘Thing’ in East Asia

Patent trolling is no longer just a problem in the US and more evidence emerges of the growth of patent trolling in east Asia. IAM writes a lot about it these days, without mentioning the T word [1, 2, 3], resorting to euphemisms like “NPE” and “PAE” instead. One article says that “Panasonic transferred around 500 patents to Inventergy in January 2014; Huawei had assigned a number of assets several months earlier. Nokia entered its licensing alliance with the company in June that year.” These are essentially PAEs. It looks like China, Japan, Korea, Singapore and various other countries will need their own FTC-like study and resultant patent reform pretty soon. These policies are self-destructive to any nation if they give rise to trolls.

Software Patents Are Going Away and Their Proponents Fight Back Harder Than Before

Posted in America, Law, Patents at 2:56 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It’s hard to say goodbye

A conductorSummary: An overview of some of the latest press coverage regarding software patents now that they are difficult to acquire and especially difficult to assert in a court (the higher up, the harder)

SOFTWARE patents are a scourge and a plague. They harm developers all around the world, even those not residing in the US. These patents often boil down to nonsense that’s neither innovative nor novel.

“Like most software patents, here we have a non-inventive step; there’s nothing new about a rating system but because it’s done “on a computer” and “over the Internet” or regarding a vehicle we’re supposed to think it’s innovative and deserving a patent monopoly.”The other day Benjamin Henrion joked, “what an invention!”

He was referring to this blurb that says “Uber files patent application on rating your “ride” https://t.co/HcaLtCUGtJ details seem trite; inventor Ben Kolin https://t.co/gXPvZSAy44″ (direct link).

Like most software patents, here we have a non-inventive step; there’s nothing new about a rating system but because it’s done “on a computer” and “over the Internet” or regarding a vehicle we’re supposed to think it’s innovative and deserving a patent monopoly. What a hard argument to sell…

Another new example of this Uber ‘innovation’ says that: “In big cities, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who never used #Uber. Take a look at their #patent history” (this links to an article by Audrey Ogurchak at Watchtroll’s site).

Putting aside how unethical Uber is (Richard Stallman has a dedicated page about the subject), these software patents from Uber remind us that they are a real problem and several recent tweets or articles spoke about the threat Alice (and invalidations of patents on software) pose to Uber’s market value. As if Uber’s monopolistic practices are something that needs to be guarded…

“It’s sad to see that IBM continues to align with the dark side when it comes to patents whilst actively suing companies using software patents.”With this cautionary tale out of the way, let’s look at some of the encouraging coverage we saw in these past few days (half a week) following the famous ruling against software patents — a ruling that we wrote four articles about (so far). Here is a new article titled “Patents a “terrible fit” for software”. It says: “Copyright is a sufficient system for protecting software and the patent system is a “terrible fit”, a US Federal Circuit judge has said. The comments followed a ruling in the Intellectual Ventures v Symantec patent infringement case”

A lawyers’ Web site too admitted the undeniable; “Software Patents on Shaky Ground With Federal Circuit in Case After Case” said the headline, but the article is behind a paywall. Scott Graham, of Law.com, wrote: “The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit put on what could have been a clinic last week on software patent eligibility.”

Above the Law, another Web site which targets lawyers, published this:

Prominent Pro-Patent Judge Issues Opinion Declaring All Software Patents Bad

Well here’s an unexpected surprise. A lawsuit brought by the world’s largest patent troll, Intellectual Ventures, and handled on appeal (as are all patent cases), by the notoriously awful Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) may have actually killed off software patents. Really. Notably, the Supreme Court deserves a big assist here, for a series of rulings on patent-eligible subject matter, culminating in the Alice ruling. At the time, we noted that you could read the ruling to kill off software patents, even as the Supreme Court insisted that it did not. In short, the Supreme Court said that any patent that “does no more than require a generic computer to perform generic computer functions” is not patent eligible. But then it insisted that there was plenty of software that this wouldn’t apply to. But it’s actually pretty difficult to think of any examples — which is why we were pretty sure at the time that Alice should represent the end for software patents, but bemoaned the Supreme Court not directly saying so, noting it would lead to lots of litigation. Still, the impact has been pretty widespread, with the Alice ruling being used both by the courts and the US Patent Office to reject lots and lots of software and business method patent claims.

More invalidations of software patents are being reported (coming out from CAFC), but don’t expect lawyers-led or lawyers-fed media to speak about these. One patent attorney wrote: “Fed Circuit Affirms 101 Ineligibility of a Patent Claiming Detection of Unauthorized Access to Medical Information: http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/opinions-orders/15-1985.Opinion.10-6-2016.1.PDF …”

This decision is only days old and we have not seen it mentioned much.

IBM’s software patents lobbyist in chief, Manny Schecter, is obviously upset. He wrote “No US statute renders software ineligible for patenting,” to which Henrion responded with “Free speech is enough to liberate IBM’s programmers.”

It’s sad to see that IBM continues to align with the dark side when it comes to patents whilst actively suing companies using software patents.

“If one is still in denial about the need for patent reform, then one is delusional or too obsessed with one’s legal invoicing/fees (profits).”LWN, a Linux news site, recognises that we’re moving towards the end of software patents, but a lot in the side of the lawyers (the very vocal minority) are still in denial or in “attack mode”. They are attacking the messenger or the credibility of the judgment in an elaborate attempt to defend software patents. Here we have proponents of software patents at Bilski Blog (cross-posted here) espousing political views to discredit the reform attempts. This was liked by proponents of software patents, as one might expect. To quote the concluding bits: “One of the most common concerns about our government—voiced from all parts of the political spectrum—is that Congress gets too little done. Thus, the worry that a Congressional “fix” to our patent system is not likely anytime soon is understandable. However, problems caused by any real or perceived Congressional dysfunction may be dwarfed by allowing courts to re-write the Patent Act. If there is ever an area where the balancing of interests calls for the legislative process to be involved, it is in our intellectual property system. One person’s view—or even one Court’s view—of a good solution, however well-intentioned, is not the right approach.”

If one is still in denial about the need for patent reform, then one is delusional or too obsessed with one’s legal invoicing/fees (profits). It’s not hard to see what motivates the above.

One can tell that things have become pretty bed for this camp when Martin Goetz is again writing in support of software patents, and moreover chooses Watchtroll as his platform, again. Some background of both Watchtroll and Goetz would help one understand the significance of this. As we are going to show in our next post, some other familiar faces are coming out of the woodwork right now, trying hard to stop patent reform if not a comprehensive overhaul.

Links 12/10/2016: Ansible Galaxy is Free Software, FreeBSD 11 Released

Posted in News Roundup at 1:45 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • The 5 most common support issues for open source developers

    What is the number one factor that software developers consider when choosing which open source software packages to use? A recent survey conducted by Rogue Wave Software says support. What is the second most important factor? Who will carry the burden of providing that support.

    Between developers, a dedicated internal open source software (OSS) support team, an internal IT department, and contractors (or an OSS support vendor) an unsurprising 67% of developers in the survey said they are expected to be responsible for support. We also analyzed 34,000 internal support requests to glean additional insights.

  • MOD Duo: Building an open source guitar stomp box

    Some time ago the MOD Duo jumped onto my radar. In a nutshell, it is a guitar stomp box that comes loaded with different effects and sounds. Instead of buying the multitude of guitar pedals that many musicians string together in complex, if somewhat beautiful ways, the MOD Duo negates all that. It is a single box and what’s more, it is powered by open source.

  • 27 Open Source DevOps Tools In 7 Easy Bites

    I recently wrote an article featuring 25 DevOps vendors worth watching. However, in the world of DevOps, there are an awful lot of good tools that don’t really have a vendor attached, and I thought it was time to give the open source tools their due.

    While I wrote that there are tools that don’t have vendors, there are vendors that are attached to some of these open source tools. Those vendors provide development support, along with, in some cases, customer support and even proprietary versions of some of the tools that exist alongside their open source cousins. As long as there was an open source version that wasn’t “crippleware,” it was eligible for the cut.

  • Apache Milagro: A New Security System for the Future of the Web

    With 25 billion new devices set to hit the Internet by 2025, the need for a better worldwide cryptosystem for securing information is paramount. That’s why the Apache Milagro project is currently incubating at the Apache Software Foundation. It’s a collaboration between MIRACL and Nippon Telegram and Telegraph (NTT), and Brian Spector, MIRACL CEO and Co-Founder, discussed the project in his keynote at ApacheCon in May.

    Spector said the project was born in a bar on the back of a napkin after a brainstorm about how one would rebuild Internet security from the ground up. That sounds like a lot of work, but Spector believes it’s absolutely necessary: the future of the Web is going to be very different from the past.

  • Flanders to publish soil erosion monitoring tool

    The new method, now used by 5 soil erosion specialists, is based on well-known open source Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools, including the data viewing tool QGis and the Geospatial Data Abstraction Library. “QGis is the perfect platform for building GIS applications”, Huybrechts said at the FOSS4G 2016 conference in Bonn last August. “It’s open source, it is supported by a great community and it comes with a collection of tools and toolkits.”

  • DE radiation protection agency overcomes lock-in

    Germany’s Federal Office for Radiation Protection (Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz, BfS) is taking steps to rid itself of IT vendor lock-in. Within the next few years, it plans to have replaced its legacy proprietary analysis and reporting tools by modern, open source-based tools. Moreover, the new system, which is being tested, will improve the geographic information capabilities, and will lower costs significantly.

    The radiation protection agency was in set up in 1989, three years after the catastrophic nuclear accident in Chernobyl. Its main task is to protect population and environment from damages due to radiation.

    To help with decision-making and with generating of reports, the BfS’ crisis unit has for years been using a customised, proprietary software solution. This ‘Integrated Measuring and Information System’ (IMIS) lets BfS make sense of the data generated by some 1800 radiation measuring stations across the country. IMIS continuously monitors the environment and is able to detect small changes in radioactivity. Its results are merged, evaluated, refined and presented in well-arranged documents.

  • Pieter Alexander Hintjens: 3 December 1962 – 4 October 2016

    After a long and painful illness, a battle with cancer over the last six years, my brother has died in Brussels, aged only 53.

    My love for him has always been the adoring, muted kind that looked up to the light he shone, that basked in his enthusiasm and tried, and failed, to keep up with the thousand-and-one ideas he gave voice and form to. Many of his passions were beyond my comprehension but very real, nevertheless. As a computer programmer, writer of internet protocols and founder of on-line communities, his interests went way over my head. As an author, latterly, we connected and I was able to collaborate with him on one of his books – The Psychopath Code – an involvement for which I am profoundly grateful: Not only has this particular book helped me to navigate a few tricky moments in my own life, but the understanding we shared was like coming home.

    I can’t begin to do justice to my brother’s legacy as a professional innovator, thinker, and networker. Pieter was one of these rare people totally unafraid to take chances, to think not just outside the box but into the next universe. How he maintained his enthusiasm and energy, where his inspiration came from, I shall not know in this lifetime.

    His death last Tuesday has opened up a hole in my life, a tear in the fabric of my normal. Poignantly – and painfully – it is only as his legacy becomes clearer that I notice the loss of his quiet, determined contribution in my life. Always, in the background, he encouraged me, supporting my modest hopes for an ordinary life: my ambitions to study, to write, to marry and have a child. In all these attempts he was unwaveringly supportive, while seeking so little from me in return. Of course, elder brothers are looked up to, and often expected to take the lead. But lately, in these last few years, while he faced pain and uncertainty – about which he has written so candidly on his blog – while he battled fear and the shadows of disappointment with his trademark wry humour, he faced these challenges fearlessly and with a fiery determination that is frankly awe-inspiring.

  • Software AG Launches Open Source Internet of Things Analytics Kit

    Software AG (Frankfurt TecDAX: SOW) has significantly expanded the capabilities of its Apama Community Edition with a new Internet of Things (IoT) Analytics Kit, provided free of charge as Open Source Software under the Apache License, v2.0, along with the ability to run on Raspberry Pi. A different version of Apama Community Edition is also now available as a re-distributable runtime.

  • PhatWare Releases WritePad Handwriting Recognition Engine as Open Source

    PhatWare Corporation, a leading professional software and application developer, is pleased to announce that the entire source code of its award-winning, multilingual WritePad handwriting recognition engine is now available under GPL v.3 license.

  • Events

    • Announcing Google Code-in 2016 and Google Summer of Code 2017

      The Google Open Source Programs Office has announced Google Code-in 2016 and Google Summer of Code 2017. Google Code-in is for students from 13-17 years of age who would like to explore open source. “Students will find opportunities to learn and get hands on experience with tasks from a range of categories. This structure allows students to stretch themselves as they take on increasingly more challenging tasks.” Students will begin on November 28.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Maker Party 2016: Stand Up for a Better Internet

        Each year, Mozilla hosts a global celebration to inspire learning and making online. Individuals from around the world are invited. It’s an opportunity for artists to connect with educators; for activists to trade ideas with coders; and for entrepreneurs to chat with makers.

        This year, we’re coming together with that same spirit, and also with a mission: To challenge outdated copyright laws in the European Union. EU copyright laws are at odds with learning and making online. Their restrictive nature undermines creativity, imagination, and free expression across the continent. Mozilla’s Denelle Dixon-Thayer wrote about the details in her recent blog post.

  • SaaS/Back End

    • Cloudera Accelerates Portfolio of Self-Paced Big Data Training Courses
    • Survey Finds OpenStack Deeply Entrenched in the Telecom Space

      What percentage of players in the telecom industry now consider the OpenStack cloud platform to be essential or important to their success? According to a survey commissioned by the OpenStack Foundation, a whopping 85.8 percent of them do. That is more hard evidence that we are seeing actual deployments take the place of evaluation when it comes to OpenStack in the enterprise.

      The survey was executed by Heavy Reading and received 113 responses from representatives of telecom companies around the world: 54 percent from the US, 14.2 percent from Europe, 11.5 percent from the Asia Pacific region, 8.9 percent each from Central/South America and Canada; and 2.7 percent from the Middle East. Here are more of the key findings.

    • Recognizing active user contributors to OpenStack

      Within the OpenStack community, there are countless people conducting tests, maintaining infrastructure, writing documentation, organizing community events, providing feedback, helping with project promotion, and countless other roles that may or may not show up under the traditional list of contributors. Since a fundamental tenant of OpenStack is that much of the project’s governance comes from its active contributors, finding a way to expand the types of contributions that are “officially” recognized is an important step in bringing everyone’s voice to the table.

    • How to succeed as a remote documentation contributor in OpenStack

      Alexandra Settle, an information developer at Rackspace, will be speaking at OpenStack Summit in Barcelona. Alexandra is a core reviewer for OpenStack manuals, also working on the OpenStack Ansible and Swift project documentation, and serves as a mentor in documentation for the Outreachy project. She’s been interested in information technology since high school and is a fan of Fedora Linux. She began her career as an intern at Red Hat and after spending years using Windows machines, and love the ease of use and functionality that came with using Linux.

  • Databases

    • Couchbase and the future of NoSQL databases

      Well, I’ve built and led developer communities for 10+ years at Sun, Oracle, and Red Hat, so I have experience in leading crossfunctional teams to develop and execute strategy, planning, and execution of content, and marketing campaigns and programs. I’ve also led engineering teams at Sun, and I’m a founding member of the Java EE team.

      At Couchbase, a developer advocate helps developers become effective users of a technology, product, API, or platform. This can be done by sharing knowledge about the product using the medium where developers typically hangout. Some of the more common channels include blogs, articles, webinars, and presentations at conferences and meetups. Answering questions on forums and Stack Overflow, conversations on social media, and seeking contributors for open source projects are some other typical activities that a developer advocate performs on a regular basis.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

    • Facebook Yarn’s for your JavaScript package

      Facebook, working with Exponent, Google, and Tilde, has released software to improve the JavaScript development experience, which can use all the help it can get.

      Yarn, introduced on Tuesday under a BSD license and without the patent clause that terminates Facebook’s React license for those involved in patent litigation against the company, is an alternative npm client. It’s not to be confused with Apache Hadoop YARN (Yet Another Resource Negotiator), which is cluster management software.

  • BSD

  • Public Services/Government

    • Russia’s Preference for Open-Source to Hurt U.S. Tech Stocks

      Amid rising political tensions with the U.S., Russia is planning to further lower its usage of licensed software from IT giants like International Business Machines Corp IBM , Microsoft Corporation MSFT , SAP AG SAP and Oracle Corporation ORCL .

      Per Bloomberg, “The State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, is drafting a bill to restrict government agencies from buying licensed software, giving preference to open-source software.”

      The proposed law is an addition to an already existing federal law that came into effect on Jan 1, 2016, which restricts the use of foreign software in the public sector, if there is a domestic version available.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Paediatric Cancer Drug Being Developed Entirely In The Open

      The Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) has posted a Malaria Box, containing over 400 compounds that might be effective against malaria to almost 200 research groups in two years. It’s an open science project, because the only stipulation is that information is deposited in the public domain (and therefore cannot be patented).

      GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)’s Open Lab project, the Tres Cantos Medicines Development Campus near Madrid, Spain, enables visiting scientists to use GSK’s high-tech facilities to research neglected diseases such as malaria and TB.

      Even Bill Gates has tweeted that open-source collaboration between scientists could become a drug discovery catalyst.

      Now, one scientist is embarking upon a virtual pharmaceutical company that will develop a paediatric cancer drug in the open.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Shendy: A Low Cost Arsenic Detector for Drinking Water

        If you are designing life-saving tech to help refugees living in refugee camps, you’re probably not going to design a proprietary product, because doing so would be tantamount to signing the death warrant of a percentage of the refugee camp residents. Open source is how the most number of refugees can be helped. In that vein, learn about an initiative to design a low-cost. open source arsenic detector for use in ensuring safe drinking water in refugee camps.

  • Programming/Development

    • The State Of JavaScript

      Depending on who you ask, right now JavaScript is either turning into a modern, reliable language, or a bloated, overly complex dependency hell. Or maybe both?

      What’s more, there’s just so many options: Do you use React or Angular 2? Do you really need Webpack? And what’s this month’s recommended way of dealing with CSS?

    • A Javascript journey with only six characters

      Javascript is a weird and wonderful language that lets us write some crazy code that’s still valid. It tries to help us out by converting things to particular types based on how we treat them.

      If we add a string to something, it’ll assume we want it in text form, so it’ll convert it to a string for us.

      If we add a plus or minus prefix to something, it’ll assume we want its numerical representation, and will convert the string to a number for us, if possible.

    • rra-c-util 6.1
    • remctl 3.13

      remctl is a client and server that forms a very simple remote RPC system, normally authenticated with Kerberos, although including a remctl-shell variant that works over ssh.

    • Vala and Reproducibility

      This will help build process to avoid call valac in order to generate C source code, VAPI and GIR files from your Vala sources.

      Because C source is distributed with a release’s tarball, any Vala project could be binary reproducible from sources.

      In order to produce development packages, you should distribute VAPI and GIR files, along with .h ones. They should be included in your tarball, to avoid valac produce them.

    • Fuck You Startup World

      Fuck your crazy work hours. Nobody gives a fuck that Elon musk is working 100 hours a week, and Marissa Mayer pulling it to 130 hour work week while still breastfeeding her newborns. You’re not Elon Musk , you ain’t Marissa Mayer, you’re not going to get to space, and you won’t build the next Space X. Do me a favor, put your fucking Mac away and go play with your kids.


      Fuck you startups with your extravagant parties and crazy off-site events that cost way too much money, you’re supposed to buy some fucking servers instead! Fuck spending money on ping pong tables that no one ever uses, fucking music rooms, nap rooms, meditation rooms, stress-free rooms, and pilates rooms. Fuck your ridiculous incentives that you give, too. Fuck your unlimited vacation policy, it’s fucking bullshit. We all know that your employees will take less time off.

    • Nailing Down Architectural Principles

      Software architecture needs to be documented. There are plenty of fancy templates, notations, and tools for this. But I’ve come to prefer PowerPoint with no backing template. I’m talking good old white-background slides. These are way easier to create than actual text documents. There are no messy worries over complete sentences. Freedom from grammatical tyranny! For a technical audience, concision and lack of boilerplate is a good thing. A nice mix of text, tables and diagrams gets the point across just fine. As a plus, this is naturally presentable — you don’t need a separate deck to describe your architecture when the deck is the reference document to begin with. As the architecture evolves, the slides evolve.


  • Amazon Wants to Get College Students Addicted to Prime

    Vincent Wang needed new jeans and a coat just before classes began this semester at the University of California, Davis, where he studies nutrition. Rather than trek several miles off campus to the nearest Target or Walmart, he ordered the clothes from Amazon.com Inc. and retrieved them from new Amazon pickup lockers right next to the university store that sells Aggies T-shirts and hoodies.

    Wang, 21, is one of millions of students who have taken advantage of Amazon Prime Student, which offers all the benefits of a regular Prime membership — quick delivery, music and video streaming and free online photo storage — for $50 a year, half the regular price. Amazon’s strategy echoes the one used for decades on college campuses by the credit card companies: snag young consumers early and, with artful promotions, try to make them loyal for life.

  • Science

    • Barack Obama: America will take the giant leap to Mars

      One of my earliest memories is sitting on my grandfather’s shoulders, waving a flag as our astronauts returned to Hawaii. This was years before we’d set foot on the moon. Decades before we’d land a rover on Mars. A generation before photos from the International Space Station would show up in our social media feeds.
      I still have the same sense of wonder about our space program that I did as a child. It represents an essential part of our character — curiosity and exploration, innovation and ingenuity, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and doing it before anybody else. The space race we won not only contributed immeasurably important technological and medical advances, but it also inspired a new generation of scientists and engineers with the right stuff to keep America on the cutting edge.

    • Technology Brings Peace, Not Peril

      Peres’ vision stands in stark contrast to Lord Jonathan Sacks’ dystopian commentary calling computers and radical Islamists the “two dangers” of this century, defeated only by “an insistence on the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of human life.”

      On the contrary, I believe innovation and technology will help defeat terrorists and sustain and enhance human life.

      Innovation and technology have extended our lives – most children born in the early 1900s didn’t live past the age of 50, but the average U.S. lifespan is now almost 79 years. Artificial intelligence is helping doctors make complex diagnoses. 3D printing is producing low-cost prosthetics for children and those who otherwise couldn’t afford care. Drones are delivering blood and emergency medicine in developing countries. The rabbi should explain his point that “Every new technology…benefits the few at the cost of the many” to the paraplegic patients learning how to walk thanks to virtual reality.

      While Sacks decries the idea of self-driving cars, this innovation can save tens of thousands of lives a year in the U.S. alone. More than 35,000 people died on our roads last year, and the federal government estimates over 90 percent of crashes are caused by human error. Eliminating the great majority of automobile deaths and serious injuries would certainly meet Sacks’ goal of preserving “the sanctity of human life.”

  • Health/Nutrition

    • The Long-lasting Wages of Neglect: Flint Residents Plagued Again by Water Crisis

      One year since a public health emergency was declared in Flint due to lead-contaminated water, the struggle continues for residents of the hard-hit city. The most recent issue they’re facing is an outbreak of shigellosis, a highly contagious bacterial infection that is transmitted through the accidental ingestion of infected fecal material and causes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain.

      Matt Karwowski, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC, says, “There is definitely some question about whether changes in hand-washing and hygiene practices may be playing a role. People in Flint have been concerned about the safety of their water supply, and that may be playing a role in their hygiene practices.”

    • Antitrust Suit Alleges Pharma Company Rubbished Its Own Product In Order To Stave Off Competition From Generics

      Techdirt has written a number of stories about how Big Pharma is never content with the patent bargain — that, in return for a time-limited, government-enforced intellectual monopoly, products will afterwards enter the public domain. Instead, companies have come up with various schemes to extend the life of that monopoly — and thus to cheat the public of the low-cost generic versions of the drug in question that should have appeared. The Daily Beast points to an antitrust lawsuit brought by 35 states and the District of Columbia against the makers of Suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat opioid addiction, over the alleged use of one such scheme, known as “product hopping”.

  • Security

    • Security advisories for Monday
    • Crash: how computers are setting us up for disaster

      When a sleepy Marc Dubois walked into the cockpit of his own aeroplane, he was confronted with a scene of confusion. The plane was shaking so violently that it was hard to read the instruments. An alarm was alternating between a chirruping trill and an automated voice: “STALL STALL STALL.” His junior co-pilots were at the controls. In a calm tone, Captain Dubois asked: “What’s happening?”

      Co-pilot David Robert’s answer was less calm. “We completely lost control of the aeroplane, and we don’t understand anything! We tried everything!”

      The crew were, in fact, in control of the aeroplane. One simple course of action could have ended the crisis they were facing, and they had not tried it. But David Robert was right on one count: he didn’t understand what was happening.

      As William Langewiesche, a writer and professional pilot, described in an article for Vanity Fair in October 2014, Air France Flight 447 had begun straightforwardly enough – an on-time take-off from Rio de Janeiro at 7.29pm on 31 May 2009, bound for Paris. With hindsight, the three pilots had their vulnerabilities. Pierre-Cédric Bonin, 32, was young and inexperienced. David Robert, 37, had more experience but he had recently become an Air France manager and no longer flew full-time. Captain Marc Dubois, 58, had experience aplenty but he had been touring Rio with an off-duty flight attendant. It was later reported that he had only had an hour’s sleep.

      Fortunately, given these potential fragilities, the crew were in charge of one of the most advanced planes in the world, an Airbus 330, legendarily smooth and easy to fly. Like any other modern aircraft, the A330 has an autopilot to keep the plane flying on a programmed route, but it also has a much more sophisticated automation system called fly-by-wire. A traditional aeroplane gives the pilot direct control of the flaps on the plane – its rudder, elevators and ailerons. This means the pilot has plenty of latitude to make mistakes. Fly-by-wire is smoother and safer. It inserts itself between the pilot, with all his or her faults, and the plane’s mechanics. A tactful translator between human and machine, it observes the pilot tugging on the controls, figures out how the pilot wanted the plane to move and executes that manoeuvre perfectly. It will turn a clumsy movement into a graceful one.

    • Canonical Patches New Linux Kernel Vulnerabilities in All Supported Ubuntu OSes

      Today, October 11, 2016, Canonical published several security advisories to inform Ubuntu users about new Linux kernel updates for their supported operating systems.

      Four new kernel vulnerabilities are affecting Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus) and Ubuntu 14.04 LTS (Trusty Tahr) or later versions, and three the Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (Precise Pangolin) series of operating systems. They are also affecting the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS for Raspberry Pi 2 kernel.

      The first security flaw is an unbounded recursion in Linux kernel’s VLAN and TEB Generic Receive Offload (GRO) processing implementations, which could have allowed a remote attacker to crash the system through a denial of service or cause a stack corruption. It was discovered by Vladimír Beneš and affects Ubuntu 16.04 and 14.04.

    • Security updates for Tuesday
    • Systemd and Ubuntu users urged to update to patch Linux flaws

      Linux users should beware of a recently discovered systemd vulnerability that could shut down a system using a command short enough to send in a tweet and Ubuntu users should update to new Linux kernel patches affecting supported operating systems.

      SSLMate founder and Linux administrator Andrew Ayer spotted the bug which has the potential to kill a number of critical commands while making others unstable, according to Betanews.

    • Microsoft: No More Pick-and-Choose Patching

      Adobe and Microsoft today each issued updates to fix critical security flaws in their products. Adobe’s got fixes for Acrobat and Flash Player ready. Microsoft’s patch bundle for October includes fixes for at least five separate “zero-day” vulnerabilities — dangerous flaws that attackers were already exploiting prior to today’s patch release. Also notable this month is that Microsoft is changing how it deploys security updates, removing the ability for Windows users to pick and choose which individual patches to install.

    • Ministry of Defence CIO – defending the data assets of the nation

      An interesting example of knowing what is actually important, such as being ‘secure’ does not mean pulling up drawbridges and never talking. It does seem possible that the MoD has lesson it can teach industry in building security defences in depth, using a wide range of tools, that then map onto the future world of mobile and cloud infrastructures.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • New Clinton email reveals direct support for ISIS from two powerful Western allies

      A new Hillary Clinton email published by WikiLeaks as part of the ongoing release of hacked campaign files confirms that Daesh (Isis/Isil) has state backing. And from powerful Western allies, no less.

      Anti-terrorism analysts have long seen Daesh as a non-state-affiliated actor which grew out of an al-Qaeda insurgency in Iraq (and later Syria). But the email sent by Clinton herself (dated 27 September 2014) shows there’s much more to the story.

    • Russkies at the Doorstep

      In a year noted for crude political discourse, eagerly serialized in the mainstream media, the MSM are themselves bellowing anti-Russian rhetoric, conspiracy theory, and fear-mongering. Of the two “evil of two lessers” contenders, Trump is the one who regularly gets hammered, justifiably in the case of his anti-Muslim and other racist and sexist slurs, while Clinton gets a pass, even an A+, for her repeated verbal assaults on Russia and its president, even as she reeks of class hostility toward Trump supporters.

      During the McCarthy era, the most perverse propaganda was about Russians hiding under beds; during the new cold war, it’s about Russians inside every telephone, computer, email, and website, while linking Putin to everything, says Guardian contributor Trevor Timm, “from Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn, Greece, and Spain.” It’s hard to reconcile mainstream bogeymania with the missing media attention to the massive Big Brother spying on US citizens, the moral transgressions of which are lately presented in Oliver Stone’s humanizing portrait, “Snowden.”

      The quite literal femme fatale (without the alluring charm) has quite a deadly track record in the Middle East, but the MSM, which tout Clinton’s compassion for children and concern for human rights don’t bother to note her criminal record in the destruction of Libya and support for repressive Arab dictators, her backing of the coup in Honduras, or her threats to make war on Russia and destabilize and destroy yet another Arab country, Syria. Netanyahu is her favorite foreign statesman, while Trump is attacked for not being sufficiently obsequious toward the butcher of Gaza. MSM “debate” hosts never think to ask the right questions, such as why has she supported assaults on the main enemies of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bahrain: Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Iran, and Syria? Like her underworld counterpart, Willie Sutton, she’d have to say it’s because that’s where the money is. Despite his many crackpot ideas, Trump is more pragmatic, less neocon, about US intentions in the Middle East. Just take the oil, he says, and forget about regime change.

      Clinton’s eponymous Foundation is built on millions of dollars of generous payola from “too big to jail” financiers along with feudalistic Qatar, the UAE, Oman, and the head chopping capital, Saudi Arabia. Bahrain gave a mere $100 thousand to the Foundation but $32 million to another money laundering operation, the Clinton Global Initiative. Syria, Iran, and Russia didn’t pay the bribes and are paying the price. The MSM choose not press her on the issue. Wikileaks has become the newspaper of record.

    • US government warned last year that selling arms to Saudi Arabia could ‘implicate it in war crimes’

      Officials within the Obama administration raised concerns over a 2015 $1.3billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, citing worries that the Saudi military did not have the ability to intervene in Yemen without harming civilians, an investigation from Reuters has found.

      Full scale civil war between the Western and Saudi-backed government and Houthi rebels broke out early last year. More than 10,000 people have been killed in the fighting, the UN estimates, and three million displaced from their homes. Saudi-led air strikes on the rebel-held city of Sanaa since March 2015 have killed thousands of civilians.

      According to emails, documents and interviews with several current and former officials familiar with the discussions, the US government’s lawyers ultimately did not reach a conclusion on whether supplying arms for the Saudi campaign could make the US a ‘co-belligerent’ in the conflict under international law.

    • Pentagon Confronts a New Threat From ISIS: Exploding Drones

      Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State in northern Iraq last week shot down a small drone the size of a model airplane. They believed it was like the dozens of drones the terrorist organization had been flying for reconnaissance in the area, and they transported it back to their outpost to examine it.

      But as they were taking it apart, it blew up, killing two Kurdish fighters in what is believed to be one of the first times the Islamic State has successfully used a drone with explosives to kill troops on the battlefield.

      In the last month, the Islamic State has tried to use small drones to launch attacks at least two other times, prompting American commanders in Iraq to issue a warning to forces fighting the group to treat any type of small flying aircraft as a potential explosive device.

    • Photos Show Fragments of U.S. Bombs at Site of Yemen Funeral Massacre

      Fragments of what appear to be U.S.-made bombs have been found at the scene of one of the most horrific civilian massacres of Saudi Arabia’s 18-month air campaign in Yemen.

      Aircraft from the Saudi-led coalition on Saturday bombed a community hall in Sana’a, Yemen’s capital city, where thousands of people had gathered for a funeral for Sheikh Ali al-Rawishan, the father of the rebel-appointed interior minister. The aircraft struck the hall four times, killing more than 140 people and wounding 525. One local health official described the aftermath as “a lake of blood.”

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • EU draws fire for allowing ‘overfishing’ of Baltic cod

      European Union ministers have agreed to cuts in Baltic cod catch quotas for next year that fall well short of calls by scientists worried about the stock’s eventual collapse.

      The fisheries ministers agreed overnight Monday to reduce catches of western Baltic cod by 56 percent in 2017, despite calls by scientists for a 90-percent cut they say is needed to sustain stocks in Danish and German waters.

      EU fisheries commissioner Karmenu Vellu said the commission, the bloc’s executive, had proposed a reduction of 88 percent “to bring back the stock to sustainability as soon as possible,” but had to accept a compromise to reach a deal among all member states.

      Listening to the potential impacts on the different fishing fleets, Vellu said: “I have accepted a lower reduction that is still well above the lower limit of the scientific advice.”

    • Danish cod quotas slashed … but not enough, says environmental group

      Denmark’s environmental and food minister Esben Lunde Larsen has just completed tough negotiations in Luxembourg on next year’s fishing quotas in the Baltic Sea.

      Danish cod fisheries were hit hard, but not as hard as the EU Commission had originally planned.

      The EU Commission had originally envisaged a reduction of cod quotas in the western Baltic Sea of 88 percent. Larsen managed to negotiate that down to a reduction of 56 percent. In the eastern Baltic, the EU originally called for a reduction of 39 percent. The parties agreed on a 25 percent decrease.

    • Huge area of US West burned due to warming climate

      Wildfires in the American West can make for apocalyptic images, but they’re also routine, as the heat of the dry season can turn large areas of forest into fires-in-waiting. One lightning strike—or one careless human—can set off a blaze that consumes tens of thousands of acres.

      Several factors contribute to the extent of these wildfires. We’ve made efforts to put them out as soon as possible—it’s well intentioned and sometimes necessary to protect ever-expanding human communities. But in many places, putting out the fires has disrupted a natural process of forest housekeeping. With small bits of fuel allowed to accumulate on the forest floor for longer, fires become less frequent but much more intense.

      Climate also plays a role. Year-to-year variability leaves some summers noticeably drier and hotter than others. And then there’s climate change. What can we say about its influence on fires in the West?

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • New WikiLeaks emails show influence of Univision chairman in Clinton campaign

      The clashes between presidential candidate Donald Trump and the Spanish-language Univision television network began within days of Trump’s announcement last year that he was seeking the Republican nomination.

      Now, a series of emails pirated from the Democratic National Committee and published in the past week by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks show that within days of Trump’s June 16, 2015, announcement of his candidacy, Univision’s chairman, Haim Saban, was urging the Clinton campaign to take a tougher stance on Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda.

    • Media, Politics & The Death Of Intellectual Honesty

      Yeah, so I get that it’s political silly season, and people like to throw around all kinds of arguments of “bias” — especially towards the media. I’ve been on the receiving end of those accusations, but for the most part, I think claims of media bias are silly and over-hyped. What’s true, though, is that it’s all too easy to be sloppy in reporting and to try to hype up a nothing story into a something story. Here’s a story where no one comes out of it looking very good and the end result is a complete mess. It starts with Newsweek reporter Kurt Eichenwald. Last night I saw a marginally interesting story by Eichenwald about how a Russian government connected news website, Sputnik, misread an email leaked via Wikileaks from Hillary Clinton pal Sidney Blumenthal to campaign chief John Podesta. The email contained a link and full text to a much earlier Eichnwald story about Benghazi and Clinton. The Sputnik story incorrectly stated that the text in the email was by Blumenthal, and not by Eichenwald. It took one sentence out of this longer article, and falsely claimed that Blumenthal was admitting that the mess in Benghazi was “preventable.”

    • Gary Johnson: The more you know him, the less you like him

      Personally, I like Gary Johnson. I got to know him in the 1990s when he was governor of New Mexico. I was working to end the drug war, legalize marijuana and treat hard drugs as a public health, not criminal issue. Johnson came out for marijuana legalization, so I spent some time in New Mexico helping that agenda.

      But, the more I got to know him the less I liked his political views. He took money from the private prison industry and proudly supported private prisons. Making prisons into profit centers creates ongoing human rights violations. Prisons should be a function of government not a corporate profit center. Johnson opposed needle exchange to prevent HIV/AIDS, drug treatment and programs to help people with drug problems get their lives going in a positive direction.

    • 8 Most Damning Takeaways from ‘October Surprise’ Email Hack from WikiLeaks–This Looks REALLY Bad
    • In the Democratic Echo Chamber, Inconvenient Truths Are Recast as Putin Plots

      Donald Trump, for reasons I’ve repeatedly pointed out, is an extremist, despicable, and dangerous candidate, and his almost-certain humiliating defeat is less than a month away. So I realize there is little appetite in certain circles for critiques of any of the tawdry and sometimes fraudulent journalistic claims and tactics being deployed to further that goal. In the face of an abusive, misogynistic, bigoted, scary, lawless authoritarian, what’s a little journalistic fraud or constant fearmongering about subversive Kremlin agents between friends if it helps to stop him?

      But come January, Democrats will continue to be the dominant political faction in the U.S. — more so than ever — and the tactics they are now embracing will endure past the election, making them worthy of scrutiny. Those tactics now most prominently include dismissing away any facts or documents that reflect negatively on their leaders as fake, and strongly insinuating that anyone who questions or opposes those leaders is a stooge or agent of the Kremlin, tasked with a subversive and dangerously un-American mission on behalf of hostile actors in Moscow.

    • WikiLeaks posts more John Podesta emails

      WikiLeaks Monday morning posted an additional 2,000 emails that appear to be from the account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta.
      This is the second hack in four days from WikiLeaks, which claims it has a trove of more than 50,000 emails from Podesta.

      The emails appear to be mostly from 2015, covering a litany of policy and strategy discussions between Clinton staffers on how to handle issues of the day and the press, including the release of the book “Clinton Cash” alleging nefarious activity by the Clinton Foundation. Another email has long-time Clinton aide Doug Band referring to Chelsea Clinton as a “spoiled brat.”

      Clinton campaign responded to the release by slamming the Trump campaign for “cheering on a release today engineered by Vladimir Putin,” after Trump adviser Jason Miller tweeted a link to the document page with the phrase “And here…we…go.”

    • Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Strained to Hone Her Message, Hacked Emails Show

      On the eve of the New Hampshire primary in February, a longtime aide to Bill Clinton was worried. Hillary Clinton was about to go down to defeat in the state, and the former president was despondent.

      “He’s losing it bad today,” Mr. Clinton’s chief of staff, Tina Flournoy, wrote to John D. Podesta, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, in an email. She added, “If you’re in NH please see if you can talk to him.”

      The email was one of thousands released by WikiLeaks on Monday that provided a revealing glimpse into the inner workings of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. They show a candidacy that began expecting a coronation and was thrown badly off course by a misreading of the electorate and a struggle to define what she stood for.

      Stretching over nine years, but drawn mainly from the past two years, the correspondence captures in detail the campaign’s extreme caution and difficulty in identifying a core rationale for her candidacy, and the noisy world of advisers, friends and family members trying to exert influence.

    • Bernie Sanders endorses his brother in race to replace David Cameron

      US presidential hopefuls do not often intervene in British parliamentary byelections. But then, not many presidential candidates are Bernie Sanders. And more than that, he is intervening on behalf of his older brother.

      Sanders, who missed out on taking the Democratic nomination from Hillary Clinton, has recorded a brief but heartfelt campaign video aimed at voters in Witney, Oxfordshire, that talks up the attributes of his brother, Larry.

      Larry Sanders, who has lived in the UK since 1969, is standing for the Green party in the constituency, which will elect a new MP on 20 October to replace David Cameron, who quit the Commons last month.

    • Jill Stein Would Be a Blessing for the Supreme Court; Gary Johnson Would Be a Disaster
    • Hillary Clinton Campaign Avoided Helping Single-Payer Ballot Measure, Emails Show

      Hillary Clinton’s campaign was no fan of a major ballot measure to create a universal health care system — at least according to newly released documents from her campaign chairman’s email account.

      The emails from John Podesta’s account last November coincided with Clinton’s trip to the swing state of Colorado, where health insurers are funding the opposition to a ballot measure that would create a single-payer health care system in the state. Podesta and the Clinton campaign have not confirmed the authenticity of the emails but have not disputed them, and Wikileaks noted that Clinton appeared to confirm their authenticity during her Sunday night debate with Donald Trump.

    • Trump tells supporters to go vote on ‘November 28th’

      Donald Trump is asking his supporters to go out and vote him — 20 days after the presidential election is scheduled to take place.

      “Make sure you get out and vote,” Trump told supporters on Tuesday at rally in Florida. “November 28th.”

      Election Day is Nov. 8, 2016.

      To make matters worse, voters in the Sunshine State don’t have much time to register for the election.

    • In private correspondences, Ford Foundation president Darren Walker rubbished Sunday Guardian’s stories, calling it a “mouthpiece for the BJP”

      John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman for the 2016 US presidential elections, closely monitored and may have intervened in the controversy surrounding the Ford Foundation and other foreign charitable foundations last year, according to to a set of leaked emails released by Wikileaks on Tuesday.

      In the first half of 2015, Ford Foundation president Darren Walker sent a number of emails to Podesta, most of which were updates on events taking place in India after the Modi government tightened the rules governing foreign charitable foundations and NGOs. During this time, the Ford Foundation was put on a government watch list over funding it gave to activist Teesta Setalvad in 2009.

      One e-mail, for instance, appears to be a deep-dive monitoring of how the Indian media reported the government’s probes into foreign funding, and specifically how various newspapers and editorials viewed the Ford Foundation’s troubles.


      One e-mail from Walker to Podesta, sent on June 8th 2015, strikes a note of frustration and notes that the Ford Foundation “ had sent urgent notes to the Reserve Bank of India asking for assistance” in transferring funds in order to ensure that the foundation could sustain its basic operations in India.

      “I promised I’d give you an update on any developments in India,” Walker writes. “At this point this point, we’ve heard nothing further from the GOI. I sent urgent notes to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Reserve Bank of India last week asking for assistance in immediately releasing our bank accounts from their current status so we can transfer funds from NY for basic operations (mostly salary support, not grants),” the email reads.

      The Ford Foundation president also angrily references the article carried by the Sunday Guardian in early June, which profiled the Ford Foundation’s activities in India while describing it as an “entity outside the law”.

      “I’m attaching an article from the Guardian, which purports to be an independent newspaper, but is really the mouthpiece for the government and BJP. It’s rife with misrepresentations and erroneous information…not a very encouraging article. I appreciate your help,” Walker wrote.

    • Is there actually evidence that Trump allies had a heads-up on what WikiLeaks was doing?

      On a plane somewhere over the United States on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta spoke to reporters about his email being hacked and the contents ending up at WikiLeaks.

      Podesta suggested that Roger Stone, a longtime ally of Donald Trump’s who is working with a pro-Trump super PAC, may have known about the email hacking before the release.

      “I think it’s a reasonable assumption to — or at least a reasonable conclusion — that Mr. Stone had advance warning and the Trump campaign had advance warning about what Assange was going to do,” Podesta said.

      Is that a reasonable assumption, much less a reasonable conclusion?

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Why the ‘Safe-Space’ Debate Is a Problem for Adjuncts

      The University of Chicago lit up social-media feeds last month after its dean of students published a letter informing incoming freshmen that “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” had no place on a campus dedicated to “freedom of inquiry and expression.”

      Although some journalists noted that the letter may have been aimed at pleasing high-profile right-wing donors, opposition to such measures doesn’t track neatly along party lines. Neither the Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek nor the paleoconservative pundit Ann Coulter has much use for so-called “political correctness” measures.

    • Zambia: Internet censorship during the 2016 general elections?

      A research study by the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) and Strathmore University’s Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT).

    • Peter Thiel’s Lawyer Says He’s Stopped ‘Monitoring’ Gawker, But Still Sending It Bogus Takedown Demands

      Remember how the billionaire funder of Facebook and Palantir, Peter Thiel, insisted that he was bankrupting Gawker to protect your privacy? Well, the lawyer, Charles Harder, that Thiel set up with a monthly retainer, specifically to focus on lawsuits that could kill Gawker dead, has become something of a “celebrity” in the “let’s stomp out free speech” circle of celebrities. Last month, the Hollywood Reporter did a big profile on Harder and his newfound fame (and rapidly growing client list of famous people upset about press coverage). In some “bonus cuts,” reporter Eriq Gardner noted on Twitter that Harder told him he no longer “monitors” what’s left of Gawker (now called Gizmodo Media, and owned by Univision).


      This is, to put it mildly, a load of complete bullshit. Harder, who in that profile claims “I believe very strongly in a free press” doesn’t seem to understand how the First Amendment works. Cook’s statement is clearly one of opinion, and it’s clearly protected speech. And despite Harder also saying in that profile that he’d like to change the standard for defamation of public figures, the law as it stands requires not just that the statements be false statements of fact, but also that they be said maliciously. And, yes, Harder is a public figure (remember, there was just a whole Hollywood Reporter feature about him).

      What Harder appears to be doing here is little more than threatening a SLAPP suit to try to shut up the press from saying negative things about him. Even the references to Cook being sued in the past are ridiculous, since most of those lawsuits are from Harder himself, and most of them are completely bogus.

      So far, it does not appear that Univision is complying with any of these demands (which is good to see). So, let’s see what Harder does next. Is he now going to go after Univision too? Will Thiel continue to fund that as well? Because most of the threats seem entirely bogus, and would be laughed out of court.

      And, of course, this is yet another reminder of why we really need a federal anti-SLAPP law to stop such bogus threats in their tracks.

    • Banned by the bureau: Censorship in Lebanon

      When Darine Hotait, the Lebanese-American filmmaker, learned that her film I say dust had been banned from screening at the Lebanese Film Festival (LFF), she was confused. She couldn’t think of a reason why the film got censored although some people had told Darine in advance that it was obvious that they would ban the film.

      They. The Bureau of Censorship, a division of General Security, one of Lebanon’s many military bodies. The bureau is not known for transparency and rarely discloses what exactly they have censored and why. They don’t want to be held accountable. They don’t want to leave any trace.

    • More Details Uncovered On Bogus Defamation Lawsuits Being Used To Delist Negative Reviews

      More details have also surfaced in a case Levy is still dealing with — the filing of a bogus defamation lawsuit on behalf of dentist Mitul R. Patel against an unhappy patient. In this peculiar case, both the supposed plaintiff and defendant claim to have had their signatures forged on the court documents used to secure an order to delist content.

      Patel’s motion to vacate the bogus lawsuit points a finger at a reputation management firm SEO Profile Defense LLC — led by Richart Ruddie — which Patel alleges filed the suit (and forged his signature) without his knowledge after he signed a contract with it for reputation management services.

      Additional details uncovered by Levy and Volokh suggest this isn’t the reputation management firm’s first bogus lawsuit rodeo.

    • NBC Delayed Story About Trump’s Access Hollywood Recording Over Fear That He Might Sue

      So just this past Thursday, we wrote about Trump’s habit of threatening to sue the press over any coverage he considers negative. In the past, we’ve also covered his stated plans to open up libel laws. The comments on that post got pretty ridiculous after people who can’t possibly be regular Techdirt readers complained that I was clearly just stirring up shit because I’m a Hillary Clinton supporter. This despite the fact that pretty much everything we’ve ever written about her has been critical too — including her own ridiculous comments mocking free speech and praising censorship. It also ignores that just a few days earlier I had also sided with the Trump campaign when it received a bogus, censorious, cease & desist letter from the city of Phoenix. We’re staying pretty consistent here: we don’t support censorship, no matter whose team you’re on. But, sure, I know. It’s crunch time and people are really concerned about supporting their team, rather than actually discussing issues.

      But this is an important issue. Threatening a free press with bogus defamation lawsuits and SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) claims are a really big problem. Case in point: on Friday, as I’m sure you’re already aware, the Washington Post published a video of Donald Trump happily discussing sexually assaulting women, and how it’s okay because he’s a celebrity. As you also know, this became the story of Friday and the weekend, as it appeared to push a bunch of people who had previously supported Trump over the edge to pull their support (why this story rather than earlier ones, I don’t fully understand, but…).

      Either way, the story led to a few different varieties of followup stories about how the Washington Post got the story. And all of them note that Access Hollywood found the tape itself last Monday, and realized it was newsworthy. They then took it to their corporate parent, NBC, and some work was done on getting the story out — but it kept getting pushed back. This led many to ask why it could possibly take so long for NBC to report on this. They knew the tape was authentic, so they didn’t need to confirm that.

    • Users enraged, confused over YouTube censorship
    • YouTube announces initiative for digital clean-up

      YouTube has launched a program called YouTube Heroes that will allow users to report inappropriate content in the form of a game.

      Members will earn points, advance in levels and gain access to exclusive rewards and features on the site dependent on the quality of their contributions.

      How do these “Heroes” earn points? By flagging inappropriate videos, adding captions to content and sharing their knowledge with other Heroes in message boards and Google Hangout sessions.

    • Censorship Kills Potential Twitter Acquisition

      Last year, I wrote about how Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) may be acquired by either Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) or Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL). Early this year, I soured on Twitter stock because economic weakness would hurt ad spending. I further soured on it after incidents of it censoring users for their political statements and its mismanagement of Periscope.

      In the past few weeks, the rumors of Twitter being bought crept up again. This list consisted of Saleforce.com (NYSE:CRM), Alphabet, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Verizon (NYSE:VZ), Microsoft, and Disney (NYSE:DIS). I think traders were bidding Twitter stock up because if Alphabet (the most likely buyer) had to compete with another firm, it would drive the price up.


      Twitter isn’t like any other acquisition for the companies looking at it. Even for Microsoft, buying Twitter would be nothing like buying LinkedIn. The reason it is different is its public nature. While most companies are trying to avoid political controversy, Twitter would put them front and center of the action. This situation isn’t inherently bad, but with the way Twitter is treating free speech with disdain, it has become a potential problem for buyers.

      There have been many examples of Twitter suspending accounts which are politically incorrect. One example of this was journalist Glenn Reynolds getting his account suspended for tweeting “run them down” in reference to drivers being in a situation where protesters were blocking the streets and attacking cars which stopped. It’s not my place to discuss the veracity of this statement, but it isn’t Twitter’s place either! Twitter has become known for wielding a heavy hand when dealing with political statements. Deleting accounts is the last thing a firm with user growth problems needs. 17 million tweets were sent out pertaining to the recent presidential debate. This shows that political expression is paramount to the website’s existence. It needs to foster debate instead of stifling it.

    • Suit alleges censorship on Elkhart city Facebook page

      The accusation is one of censorship.

      “I think basically I was posting about issues around the Lerner Theater and the A.D.A. violations and discrimination the city was engaged in and they didn’t care for that too much and they deleted all those posts and eventually banned me from commenting,” said Richard Wolf.

    • Seh Calaz defies Censorship Board

      MABHANDITI frontman, Seh Calaz, on Saturday performed the controversial track, Hohwa — No Under 18, at a concert in Gweru at the weekend in defiance of the Censorship Board’s ban imposed of sexually-explicit song.

    • ‘End this censorship… and bring back library artwork’
    • NMC is not to bring a media censorship
    • National Media Center is not to censor media, aims to build reconciliation – Chairman
  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Comcast in middle of Oregon fight over taxes and censorship

      Experienced television buyers say some television stations occasionally flag advertisements that use footage from rival stations, though most ultimately relent.

      The video-on-demand service — used by customers who want to watch a show after it has aired — reach a relatively small number of viewers. The pro-97 ads that mention Comcast have run on other Oregon cable and network providers.

    • Does NSA support of CYBERCOM blur lines?

      The Title 10 versus Title 50 debate has long surrounded the way intelligence and covert activity is conducted in accordance with the law. A key issue surrounding intelligence and war fighting efforts is the blurring of lines clearly identified in statutes. For example, intelligence organizations are barred from spying domestically on American citizens.

      As the discussions of a potential split between the National Security Agency and US Cyber Command continue to swirl, what would an empty-nested NSA, freed from its child organization, CYBERCOM, look like?

    • A Good American: Surveillance, 9/11 and the NSA

      The idea of small digital events linked together in a dance of relationships is illustrated elegantly on screen. There are shots of clouds of gnats buzzing in sunbeams, perhaps in reference to Binney’s rural Appalachian birthplace.

      The NSA’s response to the 9/11 revelations was to shelve ThinThread in favour of a much more expensive program, TrailBlazer. After NSA director Michael Hayden was appointed in 1999, Binney had been asked how he could use $1.2bn to revamp his operation. He calculated that he could organise surveillance on the entire planet in near real time, for just $300,000.

      Money may lie at the heart of the NSA’s questionable decision making. After 9/11, Binney recalls the order that came through from Maureen Baginski, the NSA’s head of Signals Intelligence (Sigint), to not rock the boat or embarrass large technology companies. “We can milk this cow for 15 years. 9/11 is a gift to the NSA. We’re going to get all the money we need and then some,” she is alleged to have said.

    • Encrypted communications could have an undetectable backdoor

      Researchers warn that many 1024-bit keys used to secure communications on the internet today might be based on prime numbers that have been intentionally backdoored in an undetectable way.

      Many public-key cryptography algorithms that are used to secure web, email, VPN, SSH and other types of connections on the internet derive their strength from the mathematical complexity of discrete logarithms — computing discrete logarithms for groups of large prime numbers cannot be efficiently done using classical methods. This is what makes cracking strong encryption computationally impractical.

      Most key-generation algorithms rely on prime parameters whose generation is supposed to be verifiably random. However, many parameters have been standardized and are being used in popular crypto algorithms like Diffie-Hellman and DSA without the seeds that were used to generate them ever being published. That makes it impossible to tell whether, for example, the primes were intentionally “backdoored” — selected to simplify the computation that would normally be required to crack the encryption.

    • NSA-style agency could install ‘trapdoors’ in many cryptographic keys – study

      It took the research team “a little over two months” to break a weakened 1,024-bit key using “an academic cluster” of 2,000 to 3,000 CPUs.

      Two years after Snowden revelations exposed “Bullrun,” Heninger and others published research posting that the NSA could break powerful encryption. Getting past 1024-bit primes would require a machine that costs a few hundred million dollars, they wrote, yet that supercomputer would still only be able to crack about one 1024-bit prime a year. A well-funded and determined institution like the NSA could fit the bill.

      Since 2010, the National Institute for Standards and Technology has recommended using keys of at least 2,048 bits, though 1,024-bit keys are still common, Ars Technica wrote.

    • NSA could put undetectable “trapdoors” in millions of crypto keys

      Researchers have devised a way to place undetectable backdoors in the cryptographic keys that protect websites, virtual private networks, and Internet servers. The feat allows hackers to passively decrypt hundreds of millions of encrypted communications as well as cryptographically impersonate key owners.

      The technique is notable because it puts a backdoor—or in the parlance of cryptographers, a “trapdoor”—in 1,024-bit keys used in the Diffie-Hellman key exchange. Diffie-Hellman significantly raises the burden on eavesdroppers because it regularly changes the encryption key protecting an ongoing communication. Attackers who are aware of the trapdoor have everything they need to decrypt Diffie-Hellman-protected communications over extended periods of time, often measured in years. Knowledgeable attackers can also forge cryptographic signatures that are based on the widely used digital signature algorithm.

      As with all public key encryption, the security of the Diffie-Hellman protocol is based on number-theoretic computations involving prime numbers so large that the problems are prohibitively hard for attackers to solve. The parties are able to conceal secrets within the results of these computations. A special prime devised by the researchers, however, contains certain invisible properties that make the secret parameters unusually susceptible to discovery. The researchers were able to break one of these weakened 1,024-bit primes in slightly more than two months using an academic computing cluster of 2,000 to 3,000 CPUs.

    • Massive report details the surveillance powers of 12 Central and South American nations

      Unblinking Eye, EFF’s giant, deep research report (available in Spanish, English and Portuguese) on the state of surveillance law in latinamerica, reveals an alarming patchwork of overbroad powers given to police forces and government agencies.

      In the 1980s and 1970s, the military dictatorships of Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay and Brazil pooled their resources in something called “Operation Condor,” which was used to effect mass kidnappings, torture, murders and disappearances. Today, less than a generation later, these countries and their neighbors are effecting surveillance dragnets that are one click away from totalitarianism. Following a military coup in one of these countries, the new generalissimos would be able to quickly crush their opposition and undertake mass arrests of all potential dissidents.

      The surveillance laws in these countries have severely lagged behind the powers that the countries’ spies have bought for themselves through purchasing new high-tech toys from companies in the USA and EU. These old laws assume that wiretapping happens to one phone line at a time, not across a whole country’s communications — communications that yield far more intimate and compromising information than could be gleaned by spying on the old wireline telephone system.

    • Facebook, Twitter and Instagram sent feeds that helped police track minorities in Ferguson and Baltimore, report says

      A powerful surveillance program that police used for tracking racially charged protests in Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., relied on special feeds of user data provided by Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, according to an ACLU report Tuesday.

      The companies provided the data — often including the locations, photos and other information posted publicly by users — to Geofeedia, a Chicago-based company that says it analyzes social media posts to deliver real-time surveillance information to help 500 law enforcement agencies track and respond to crime. The social media companies cut off Geofeedia’s access to the streams of user data in recent weeks after the ACLU discovered them and alerted the companies about looming public exposure.

      The popularity of Geofeedia and similar programs highlights how the rise of social media has given governments worldwide powerful new ways to monitor crime and civil unrest. Authorities often target such surveillance at minority groups or others seeking to publicly air political grievances, potentially chilling free speech, said the ACLU’s California affiliate, which unearthed Geofeedia’s relationship with social media companies through a public records request of dozens of law enforcement agencies.

    • Twitter’s Woes Signal the End of the Social Wars

      Two buzzwords define the past decade of computing: mobile and social. Those days are coming to an end. Although smartphones and social media remain as important as ever, the war to control those platforms are over. Winners are being coronated as the losers are, at last, conceding.

      Microsoft plans to unload what’s left of its Nokia purchase, and BlackBerry—remember them?—is abandoning the hardware business. That essentially ends the smartphone wars, leaving iOS and Android as the dominant operating systems. Now, Twitter’s ongoing woes suggest the end of the social platform wars are nigh.

    • Facebook, Twitter cut access to monitoring tool used by police

      Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter were handing over data to a monitoring tool that law enforcement agencies were using to track protesters, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

      The social media analysis tool, called Geofeedia, had been harvesting posts from the social media networks for surveillance purposes, and more than 500 law enforcement and public safety agencies have been using it, the ACLU said in a Tuesday report.

      Through a public records request, the ACLU found that Geofeedia had entered into agreements with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for their users’ data.

      In uncovered emails, Geofeedia said the tool was useful for monitoring protests in Ferguson, Missouri, involving the 2014 police shooting death of Mike Brown.

      The ACLU is concerned that the tool can “disproportionately impact communities of color,” through its monitoring of activists and their neighborhoods. Among Geofeedia’s features is an interactive map of real-time Instagram posts showing user locations.

    • Why PIA doesn’t fly a warrant canary: it’s solving the wrong problem

      Private Internet Access doesn’t have a warrant canary. That’s because warrant canaries alert somebody to damage that has already happened. The right way to go about the problem is to prevent the damage from happening in the first place.

      At PIA, privacy is at the soul of what we do. Our business partners have occasionally been surprised when we say upfront that we’re in privacy first, business second – but that’s the passion we have. Making money is a matter of being able to continue pursuing the primary goal, privacy, on a sustainable basis.

    • Twitter yanks data feeding tube out of police surveillance biz

      Twitter has suspended its commercial relationship with a company called Geofeedia – which provides social media data to law enforcement agencies so that they can identify potential miscreants.

      The social media company announced the change through its Policy account on Tuesday morning following the publication of a report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California.

      The civil liberties advocacy organization obtained records indicating that Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter provided bulk user post data to Geofeedia, which markets its social media monitoring software to law enforcement agencies as a way to track activists, among other uses.

      Following reports alleging increased use of social media surveillance last month, both Facebook and its Instagram division ceased providing data to Geofeedia on commercial terms. Facebook did not respond to a request to provide further details.

    • Ron Wyden Discusses Encryption, Data Privacy and Security

      After Apple and the F.B.I. made their battle over encryption public in February, members of Congress quickly jumped into the debate. Some lawmakers promised new rules that would give authorities more access to smartphones, while others promised to fight off those laws.

      Yet after several hearings and bills, and the formation of congressional working groups, little has been done to resolve the central tug of war between the tech industry and federal authorities over civil rights versus national security.

      Law enforcement officials have argued that hundreds of criminal investigations have been held up by their inability to get access to locked smartphones and encrypted apps. Privacy advocates and tech companies say such access would cost people their personal information and lead to a slippery slope of surveillance.

    • “A First Amendment in the Digital Age”—Peter Zenger Lecture

      I had the honor of delivering the inaugural Peter Zenger lecture at Columbia Journalism School last week. The lecture is named for a newspaper publisher who was tried for libel in the 1730s for printing articles mocking and criticizing William Cosby, New York’s royal governor. Many historians consider Zenger’s acquittal to have been a milestone in the development of American press freedom. In my lecture last week, I offered some thoughts about digital-age threats to the freedoms of speech and the press, focusing mainly on government surveillance and secrecy. The text of my remarks is below. If readers have reactions, I’d love to hear them—I’m at Jameel.Jaffer [at] Columbia.edu.

    • Facebook’s Version of Slack Is Coming for Your Workplace. What Now?

      Sitting at work all day scrolling through Facebook is almost definitely frowned upon by your bosses, but Facebook wants to change that with the launch of a new version of Facebook—specifically designed for work—called Workplace.

      Facebook is ubiquitous. If it’s not Mark Zuckerberg handing out “Free Basics” to developing countries, it’s internet connectivity beamed down from giant, solar-powered drones. As of July 2016, the social network had 1.71 billion monthly users. Facebook is without doubt one of the most pervasive technological phenomenons of the 21st Century. Thing is, Facebook’s hit a brick wall when it comes to growth. Everybody who would want to use Facebook, generally speaking, is already, or at least will be using Facebook very soon. So, to eke out the last embers of growth in a saturated market, Facebook has now, officially, entered your workplace.

    • Toyota, BMW, Allianz ink data-sharing deal with autonomous start-up Nauto

      Global automakers Toyota, BMW and insurer Allianz will license technology from Silicon Valley start-up Nauto, which uses cameras and artificial intelligence systems in cars to understand driver behavior, Nauto said on Friday.

      Nauto Chief Executive Stefan Heck told Reuters the carmakers and insurer will integrate the technology into their test vehicles and use the aggregate and anonymized data – whether on driving habits, difficult intersections, or traffic congestion – to help develop their autonomous vehicle strategies.

      The investment by BMWi Ventures, Allianz Ventures and the Toyota Research Institute underscores the auto industry’s demand for smart systems to improve vehicle and driver safety, reduce liability and make fleet operations more efficient, while preparing for self-driving cars of the future.

    • Want to Remove a Google Result? File a Trumped-Up Lawsuit

      Across the US, dozens of lawsuits have been filed in order to remove defamatory material from review sites such as Yelp, or Google’s search results. That’s not unusual, but, the thing is, many of the defendants’ addresses are seemingly made-up, some of those named in the cases have never been informed of the suits, and some of the court documents contain forged signatures, according to The Washington Post.

      Linked to at least some of the cases is a selection of companies run by a Richart Ruddie, including SEO Profile Defense Network LLC, and Profile Defenders. Profile Defenders specialises in “online reputation management,” according to its website. In short, these companies and others are allegedly carrying out a pretty novel tactic to clean up content that would reflect negatively on its clients: filing fake lawsuits to encourage websites or online services to remove content.

    • Yahoo disables automatic email forwarding feature: AP

      Yahoo Inc disabled automatic email forwarding at the beginning of the month, the Associated Press reported, citing several users.

      While those who have set up forwarding in the past are unaffected, users who would want to leave following recent hacking and surveillance revelations are struggling to shift to rival services, the AP reported on Monday. (apne.ws/2dKpUW3)

      The company has been under scrutiny from investors after disclosing last month that at least 500 million user accounts were stolen from its network in 2014.

      Reuters reported last week, citing sources, that Yahoo last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials, a move that raised a lot of human rights concerns.

    • Power, secrecy and cypherpunks: how Jacob Appelbaum ripped Tor apart

      Edward Snowden’s face seems ever present in Berlin, where stickers on doors and lamp-posts promise there’s always “A bed for Snowden” and posters plug Oliver Stone’s eponymous film.

      The whistleblower’s explosive 2013 revelations about international government surveillance generated some good advertising for Berlin, cementing its reputation as hipster technology activist capital of the world. The city’s cheap lifestyle and post-second world war aversion to surveillance, as well as sympathetic Germany residency rules, have created a powerful network of support and infrastructure for its dedicated cyberactivism community. We are “poor, but sexy”, its residents like to say.

      Many of Berlin’s technologists work freelance, employed by anti-surveillance projects or secure messaging tools. And some are employed by Tor, a long running web anonymity project with something of a cult following.

      That community recently met in Seattle to tackle a new challenge: a long-running saga of allegations of sexual assault, bullying and harassment that has ripped Tor’s community apart.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Delta State Police Expose Another Illegal ‘Baby Factory’ In Asaba

      On Friday, Delta State Police Command discovered another ‘baby factory’ in Asaba, the Delta State capital, following a tip-off. The police, who stormed the factory located at Oduke area within Asaba metropolis, arrested the proprietor’s husband and a female syndicate who is alleged to be the operator – as a Nurse. Sunday Vanguard gathered that the husband’s duty was to impregnate the women, whose age-range is between 18 and 20; the wife then allegedly sells the children upon delivery. The Command rescued seven pregnant girls.

    • Wheelchair-bound woman gang raped in refugee centre after asking to use the toilet

      The victim had shared a taxi home with a man after going for dinner in a restaurant in Visby, Sweden, when she said she needed to use the toilet.

      Believed to be in her thirties, the woman was then offered to use the one at her fellow passenger’s home.

      Her lawyer Staffan Fredriksson said: “She followed him in and had no fears that something would happen. Then the man took advantage of the situation. The abuse started in the toilet.”

    • Law and Order – Trump Unit
    • Judge Posner Smacks Around Cabbies For Thinking That Cities Allowing Uber Violates Their ‘Property Rights’

      It’s no secret that cab companies and many cab drivers don’t much like Uber and Lyft. Competition is tough. And cabs in most cities have survived thanks to artificial limits on competition through medallions and the like. This has always been a stupid, and frequently corrupt, system. For years, before Uber and Lyft came along, people talked about the ridiculousness of artificially limiting competition in this manner, but it was only once those companies came along that the true ridiculousness was made clear. While some forward looking cabbies have embraced these and similar systems, others have been fighting the new reality, often in fairly ridiculous ways. In Milwaukee and Chicago, cab companies sued those cities, arguing that allowing this type of competition amounted to a Fifth Amendment violation, in the form of “taking private property for public use without just compensation.” What private property, you might ask? Well, according to the cab companies, the artificially restricted competition is their property. No, really.

    • 27 Arrested Resisting Dakota Access Pipeline on Indigenous Peoples’ Day

      On Monday, protests and actions were held across the country to mark Indigenous Peoples’ Day and to oppose further construction of fossil fuel infrastructure. In North Dakota, hundreds of Native Americans and their allies gathered to resist the construction of the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline, which has faced months of resistance from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and members of hundreds of other tribes from across the U.S., Canada and Latin America. At least 27 people were arrested blockading construction at two separate worksites, including Hollywood actress Shailene Woodley.

    • DHS Inspector General Says Office Has No Idea How New Cybersecurity Act Is Supposed To Be Implemented

      The reanimated CISA, redubbed The Cybersecurity Act (a.k.a., OmniCISA) and hurried through the legislative process by stapling its 2000 pages to the back of a “must-pass” budget bill, is still in the processes of implementation. Not much is known about what the law is intended to do on the granular level, other than open up private companies to government surveillance so the USA can beat back “the cyber.”

      Surveillance aficionados were quick to lean on private companies to start sharing information, but the government needs to be taught new tricks as well. There’s plenty of info siloing at the federal level, which keeps the DHS, FBI, and others involved in the cyberwar from effectively communicating, much less sharing anything interesting they might have had forwarded to them by the private sector.

      The federal government has been less than successful in securing its own information — something CISA was also supposed to fix. The DHS’s Inspector General has performed a follow-up investigation on the department’s implementation of CISA’s requirements. For the most part, things seem to be moving forward, albeit in a vague, undefined direction.

      The OIG notes that the DHS has put together policies and procedures and, amazingly, actually implemented some of them. Better still, it has moved many critical account holders to multi-factor authorization. Unfortunately, the DHS still has a number of standalone systems that can’t handle multi-factor authorization, which will make them more vulnerable to being breached.

    • How U.S. Torture Left a Legacy of Damaged Minds

      Before the United States permitted a terrifying way of interrogating prisoners, government lawyers and intelligence officials assured themselves of one crucial outcome. They knew that the methods inflicted on terrorism suspects would be painful, shocking and far beyond what the country had ever accepted. But none of it, they concluded, would cause long lasting psychological harm.

      Fifteen years later, it is clear they were wrong.

      Today in Slovakia, Hussein al-Marfadi describes permanent headaches and disturbed sleep, plagued by memories of dogs inside a blackened jail. In Kazakhstan, Lutfi bin Ali is haunted by nightmares of suffocating at the bottom of a well. In Libya, the radio from a passing car spurs rage in Majid Mokhtar Sasy al-Maghrebi, reminding him of the C.I.A. prison where earsplitting music was just one assault to his senses.

      And then there is the despair of men who say they are no longer themselves. “I am living this kind of depression,” said Younous Chekkouri, a Moroccan, who fears going outside because he sees faces in crowds as Guantánamo Bay guards. “I’m not normal anymore.”

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • FCC: Comcast Routinely Charges Customers For Hardware, Services Never Ordered

      When you’re among the worst ranked companies for customer service in America, you consistently need to find new ways to ramp up your game if you want to take malicious incompetence to the next level. Enter Comcast, which despite constant promises that it’s getting better, routinely keeps finding itself in the headlines for immeasurably shady business practices. Earlier this year, for example, the company was sued by Washington’s Attorney General for charging users a $5 per month “Service Protection Plan,” then routinely and intentionally charging users for repairs that should have been covered under it.

      This week, America’s least-liked companies is finding itself in the headlines for another misleading practice: errantly and routinely billing customers for hardware or services they never ordered. According to a new FCC announcement, Comcast will be paying the agency $2.3 million to settle an investigation into the behavior.

    • To Combat Dropping Ratings, The NFL Thinks Fining Its Teams For Sharing Video On Social Media Is The Answer

      It’s been a time of remarkable progress of late when it comes to professional sports organizations being smart about how to pursue viewers in this here digital era. Major athletic institutions are finally opening up the door to wider streaming options, putting aside the doomsayers. Add to that that other leagues are starting to realize what a boon Major League Baseball’s Advanced Media product has been to viewership and attendance and it seemed like we were on the precipice of a golden age in digital sports media.

      Leave it to the NFL to ensure that we take at least one step backwards. What once seemed like a never ending funnel of money and upward trending viewership, the NFL has undergone something of a ratings correction as of late. It seems that amidst the controversy over head injury, bad officiating, the contraction of one-day fantasy football, and what some think is a generally declining quality of the on-field product, less people are watching games, both in person and on television. This had to happen at some point, if for no other reason than because NFL ratings over the past 2 decades were completely boffo. But the NFL’s choice to combat this inevitable decline takes a page from the days we finally just got over.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • WIPO Assembly Adopts Revisions For Stronger Oversight, Protection Of Whistleblowers [Ed: it’s hogwash, it won’t change anything unless Gurry et al resign]

      After much negotiation, amendments to a World Intellectual Property Organization internal oversight mechanism were adopted today by the annual WIPO General Assembly. Under the amendments, investigating allegations of wrongdoing of high-ranking WIPO officials will be made more transparent and facilitate access to documents by WIPO member states in case of an investigation.

    • WIPO General Assembly Agrees On Two New WIPO Offices; No Deal On Design Treaty[Ed: paywall]
    • BGH rules for patentees on appeal – again

      In two decisions published yesterday on its website, the German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof, BGH) overturned two decisions by the Federal Patent Court (Bundespatentgericht) invalidating the patents in suit for lack of novelty. Both decisions are remarkable not because they break new ground in (patent) law (they don’t), but rather because the BGH corrects the fact finding of the lower court and finds in favour of the patentees. They fuel the impression that the Federal Court of Justice is more patent-friendly than the Bundespatentgericht, or, to put it another way, that the Federal Patent Court has become overly strict.

    • Trademarks

      • TTAB issues final rules to increase efficiency

        The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board has issued final rules that will take effect in January. The biggest focus is on making filing completely electronic

      • Sanity: MasterCard Loses Absolutely Idiotic Trademark Challenge Against An Athletic Competition

        One wonders if there is a gas leak in the legal department at MasterCard HQ. Because there is nothing in those logos that would mislead a drunken chimp, never mind a human being. Yet MasterCard moved forward with challenging the trademark application for World Masters Games, because trademark bullying knows no limits. The Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand, fortunately, essentially laughed this out of the trademark office.

      • General Court confirms that body-builder silhouette cannot be registered as a trade mark for nutritional supplements

        In 2014 the applicant, Universal Protein Supplements Corp, filed an application with the EUIPO to have the EU territory designed in respect of the international registration of a figurative sign representing a body-builder. The application was for goods and services in the classes indicated above.

        The EUIPO examiner rejected the application, on grounds that the mark lacked any distinctive character and was descriptive for the purpose of Article 7(1)(c) of Regulation No 207/2009 on the (now) European Union Trade Mark (EUTMR).

        In late 2014 Universal Protein appealed the examiner’s decision.

    • Copyrights

      • Which “Brazil” Will Chair The Marrakesh Treaty Assembly?

        The supposedly impossible happened: The Marrakesh Treaty entered into force on 30 September, three months after reaching the necessary minimum of 20 ratifications. By then, 22 countries had done so – two more did so during the Marrakesh Assembly.

      • Court Rejects Massive Torrent Damages Claim, Admin Avoids Jail

        A former torrent site operator has largely avoided the goals of an aggressive movie industry prosecution in Sweden. Against a backdrop of demands for years in prison and millions in damages, the 25-year-old owner of private tracker SwePiracy was handed 100 hours community service and told to pay $194,000.

      • BREIN Tracks Down YouTube Pirate, Warns Others

        Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN continues to put pressure on pirates all over the Internet, including those on YouTube. This week they forced a pirating film uploader to cease his activities, warning that repeat infringers may have to pay penalties that could run into the thousands of euros.

      • MPAA Reports Pirate Sites and Hosting Providers to U.S. Government

        The MPAA has reported several piracy-promoting websites and services to the U.S. Government. The list features major torrent sites The Pirate Bay and Extratorrent, file-hosting services such as Openload and Rapidgator, and for the first time it also includes several of their hosting companies.

      • The Copyright Office wants your comments on whether it should be illegal to fix your own stuff

        Under Section 1201 of the DMCA, a law passed in 1998, people who fix things can be sued (and even jailed!) for violating copyright law, if fixing stuff involves bypassing some kind of copyright lock; this has incentivized manufacturers so that fixing your stuff means breaking this law, allowing them to decide who gets to fix your stuff and how much you have to pay to have it fixed.

        What’s more, DMCA 1201 has been used to punish and threaten security researchers who revealed defects in products with these locks, on the grounds that knowing about defects in these products make it easier to jailbreak them. That’s turning an ever-larger slice of the products we entrust with our private data, finances, health and even our lives into no-go zones for security r

Index: Our Jesper Kongstad Series of Danish Stories

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: A listing of our series of articles about the Chairman of the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation (EPO), including addenda

THE 14 recent posts about Jesper Kongstad are already indexed in our EPO wiki, but one single index with all the articles about Jesper Kongstad might also be valuable, so here it is:

  1. Danish Fairy Tales and Legends: The Secret Life of Jesper Kongstad
  2. Introduction to Jesper Kongstad, EPO Chairman of the Administrative Council
  3. Addendum: Controversial Chinchilla Farming by the Kongstad Family
  4. Danish Stories – Part II: Kongstad’s Political Masters in Denmark and Rumoured Connections to the Venstre Party
  5. Addendum I: Photos of Troel Lund Poulsen and Michael Dithmer
  6. Addendum II: Photos of Troel Lund Poulsen With Fur
  7. Danish Stories – Part III: Jesper Kongstad a Danish Civil Servant With a Distinctly Entrepreneurial Streak
  8. Danish Stories – Part IV: Jesper Kongstad and FJORDBLINK MEDICAL ApS
  9. Addendum I: FJORDBLINK MEDICAL ApS Technically Housed in Jesper Kongstad’s New Mansion?
  10. Addendum II: FJORDBLINK MEDICAL ApS – Further Information and a Mystery
  11. Danish Stories – Part V: Jesper Kongstad’s Chinchilla Fur Farming
  12. Addendum I: Danish Fur Industry – Further Information Regarding Political Lobbying
  13. Addendum II: Article About the Kongstads’ Villa Becoming a Breeding Farm for the Fur Industry
  14. Danish Puff Pieces: Latest ‘Puff Pieces’ From Denmark About the Opening of a New DKPTO Branch Office

We look forward to any updates from readers or correspondents in Denmark. We hope this will help Danish journalists further their breadth or scope of research for future articles.

Addendum II: Article About the Kongstads’ Villa Becoming a Breeding Farm for the Fur Industry

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:35 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“It is easier than mink,” explains the wife of Jesper Kongstad, who is personally skinning chinchillas that she grows for profit.

Summary: An English translation of the article “Fra villa til chinchilla”, which makes it indisputable that the Chairman of the Administrative Council of the EPO (and his wife) collaborate with the bloody industry which turns animals into ‘fashion’ for the super-rich

TODAY’S feature article and the accompanying addendum teach us that a top EPO figure, the only one capable of doing something to stop Battistelli and his army of loyalists, is anything but ethical.

On numerous occasions we have mentioned an article (original in Danish) which we finally have an English translation of. The article helps establish close connections between the Kongstads and the fur industry in Denmark.

An English translation of this 2014 article from LandsbrugsAvisen is included below, plus some photos which we may be able to use (under Fair Use for criticism).

From the villa to chinchillas

Friday 28 February 2014

Written by Mia Winther Jørgensen

Majbritt Kongstad with the dog Hector. Hector was bought after the family moved to the farm. He is good at catching mice and finding runaway chinchillas. Jesper Kongstad works full time but supports Majbritt in the project and also helps to feed the animals and renovate the stables so that they can expand to three hundred animals.

Two years ago Majbritt and Jesper Kongstad decided to pack up and leave Rungsted and move to the countryside at Helsinge in Northern Zealand [Denmark]. As a result of coincidences and a strong desire for new challenges the villa was replaced by a chinchilla farm.

A hundred chinchillas have found their way to Bremelandsgård, but the goal is to triple the amount, as the chinchillas could be a source of income for Majbritt and Jesper Kongstad. The dream of chinchillas was planted at a dinner table where the Director of Kopenhagen Fur sowed the fledgling seeds for another Zealand fur farmer. Independence and rural life was appealing.

“We have not rejected Rungsted but rather we have chosen the countryside. I would like to be challenged again in connection with my work, and we would like to be close to nature so the farm here was the perfect choice,” says Majbritt Kongstad. The farmhouse was renovated and ready to move in. The 24 hectares of land is leased out. There should be work for one person on the farm when Jesper Kongstad the Director of the Patent and Trademark Office is in Copenhagen.

“My husband works more than full time, so the work on the farm has to be looked after by one person. When he retires we can look after the farm together. Chinchillas are easy to care for. I don’t understand why there are not more people breeding them because it is so straightforward,” says Majbritt.

Majbritt has skinned a total of 40 animals so far. It’s a learning process and it does not go quite as fast as for more experienced breeders.

The secret furs

Around 70,000 chinchilla pelts are sold annually via fur auctions held by Kopenhagen Fur. It is a small niche production and yet it was the choice which Majbritt Kongstad opted for.

“It is easier than mink. Mink, for example, requires a number of environmental approvals. Chinchillas are cute little animals and that makes it a pleasure to look after them,” says Majbritt. She was introduced to the world of fur at a dinner where the Director of Kopenhagen Fur spoke about fur production in such a captivating manner that Majbritt was enthralled.

This led to Majbritt undertaking practical training on a mink farm in Zealand. She carried out further research because a mink farm seemed like an overly ambitious project. The choice fell on chinchillas and shortly afterwards Majbrit started practical training on a chinchilla farm in Præstø in Southern Zealand.

“We didn’t sit down and have a brainstorming session about what to do in the country. It was probably mostly coincidences that came into play and which led to the decision to go for chinchillas. You can spend a very long time planning such things, but if you just throw yourself into it, you’ll find out how to do it along the way.”

She has a hundred animals so far but the plan is to expand to three hundred when the stables are renovated.

“We won’t get rich on it, but I expect that I should be able to make a profit. However, I am still learning and I spend a lot of time reading and going to the fur auctions, so I can learn more about which fur is the best.”

A Rural Idyll

Majbritt spends fifteen hours a week on the chinchillas. The family has no regrets about the change of lane.

“It is exciting and challenging, and that is what I wanted when I quit my job in the local authority at Fredensborg. I find it invigorating to care for the animals. It’s soothing. The animals make pleasant sounds and I can allow my thoughts to fly,” says Majbrit. Although it is pitch-dark and completely silent they are pleasantly surprised. “Neighbourliness is different in the countryside. People are prepared to help each other. It is an aspect that we had not seen before we moved,” says Majbritt Kongstad.

The chinchilla is not just an animal for skinning. The plan is to find out whether the meat can be used for livestock feed and she would like to sell the animals she cannot use as pets.

Any further comment is not necessary. The Kongstads are doing a fine job demonstrating their sociopathy. It’s not as though they really need the money and I doubt many people have it within themselves to slaughter the cute animal above and then skin it for some super-expensive coats. Well, Battistelli might be heartless enough to do it, but not most people… it takes an animal — not a human — to do such things to helpless animals.

Addendum I: Danish Fur Industry – Further Information Regarding Political Lobbying

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Kongstad’s mansion of horror

Kongstad mansion
See "Controversial Chinchilla Farming by the Kongstad Family" for more such photos

Summary: The (international) political aspect of the fur industry and Kopenhagen Fur in particular, as covered by the media

WHILE researching for our latest long post that implicates a very high EPO figure we came across more evidence that shows the degree to which politics play a role in the systematic killing of tens of millions of small animals for their skin.

We did, for example, come across this stuff about the political influence of the fur industry in Israel. It seems that the international fur industry got heavily involved in efforts to stop the Israeli parliament passing a bill to ban the trade of mink and fox skins in Israel.

According to reports, Kopenhagen Fur played a key role in this. There’s an article about the affair here. As a reminder, there’s a link between Kopenhagen Fur and the Chairman of the Administrative Council of the EPO.

There are also some more detailed articles on Ha’aretz but they are subscription only. See Report: Israeli Lawmakers Shelved Fur Ban After Taking Funded Trip to Denmark

Summary: “Channel 1 report alleges that four MKs visited Copenhagen on International Fur Trade Federation’s dime.”

Read more in Denmark, Israel and the Deathly Stench of Fur

“It has become impossible to speak about the EPO without speaking about politics. Eponia does not exist in a vacuum.”Summary: “From 2009-2014, the world’s major fur associations – Denmark makes about $2 billion a year from the industry – waged an expensive battle to quash the Knesset bill to ban the trade of mink and fox skins in Israel.”

How many other countries has that happened in? Apropos payments for policy, see our article "Some Details About How the EPO’s President is Rumoured to be ‘Buying’ Votes and Why It’s Grounds/Basis for “Immediate Dismissal”" (published in May).

It has become impossible to speak about the EPO without speaking about politics. Eponia does not exist in a vacuum.

Danish Stories – Part V: Jesper Kongstad’s Chinchilla Fur Farming

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Danish fairy tales are no fairy tales but horror stories

Mink political influence

Summary: Bremelandsgård has turned from a villa into a chinchillas slaughtering operation, owing to Jesper Kongstad’s fur farming venture

ARTICLES AND ADDENDA in this series about the business ventures of Jesper Kongstad, Chairman of the Administrative Council of the EPO, have so far included the following ten posts (plus some new gem from last night):

These ten previous parts of the series have attracted some interest from local media and EPO insiders. An EPO insider, for example, posted the following tweet (with newly-added photos) when our series started.

Killing chinchillas

The chinchillas angle attracted the most attention because of the animal cruelty element of it. The sad thing is, the super-rich probably lack the empathy to even understand why it’s immoral. They grow animals not for food or for leisure but for skin, as “fur” can imply something like wool (shaving it off rather than skinning to death for no purpose other than rich people’s fashion, not even for food).

Today’s last installment (last unless new information turns up or becomes available) is probably the most important. This one deals with the chinchilla fur farming venture.

As reported in a February 2014 article in the Danish farmers’ journal LandsbrugsAvisen (more on that in an upcoming addendum), Majbritt and Jesper Kongstad decided to sell their villa in the affluent suburban neighborhood of Rungsted on the Zealand coast north of Copenhagen in 2012 and relocate to a farmhouse in Valby, a rural area in the Gribskov municipality which is situated about 80 km north-west of Copenhagen.

“The sad thing is, the super-rich probably lack the empathy to even understand why it’s immoral. They grow animals not for food or for leisure but for skin, as “fur” can imply something like wool (shaving it off rather than skinning to death for no purpose other than rich people’s fashion, not even for food).”The villa in Rungsted was called “Strandhøj” and was located at Højagervej 6, 2960 Rungsted. The name “Strandhøj” has been used by Kongstad for some of his companies, for example STRANDHØJ HOLDING ApS which now operates under the name FJORDBLINK MEDICAL ApS (CVR number 25942507).

According to publicly available data on Danish real estate Web sites, the Rungsted villa had a floor space of 172 square metres and was sold in March 2012 for a price of 6.95 million DKK (approx. 934k EUR). It seems that it was originally purchased by the Kongstad family in January 2004 for the price of 3.91 million DKK (approx. 525k EUR) so this indicates that there had been a healthy appreciation in property prices in the neighbourhood during the intervening years.

“The inspiration for Ms. Kongstad’s interest in fur farming was reportedly provided by a dinner table conversation with Torben Nielsen, who was at the time the CEO of Kopenhagen Fur.”The new farmstead of Bremelandsgård is located at Vibelandsvej 8, Valby, 3200 Helsinge and was apparently purchased in May 2012 for a price of 7.5 million DKK (approx. 1 million EUR). The house boasts an impressive 240 square metres of floor space and the property also includes around 22 hectares of agricultural land. Sources include but are not limited to this one.

As far as is known, the purchase of the Bremelandsgård property was financed mostly by credit (mortgage). At the same time it is unclear what exactly happened to the proceeds of the sale of the Rungsted villa. This has caused some people to speculate that at least some of the proceeds might have been used to cover operating losses in one or more of the various private businesses forming part of the Kongstad family business conglomerate, in particular the losses incurred by FJORDBLINK MEDICAL ApS (CVR number 25942507) during the preceding years.

The move to the farmhouse has given Kongstad’s wife, Majbritt, the possibility to reinvent herself as a chinchilla breeder and director of a fur farming operation which forms the subject of today’s article.

The inspiration for Ms. Kongstad’s interest in fur farming was reportedly provided by a dinner table conversation with Torben Nielsen, who was at the time the CEO of Kopenhagen Fur.

In October 2011 Ms. Kongstad proceeded to place a small ad in Dansk Pelsdyravl (“Danish Fur Farming “) a trade magazine published by the Danish Fur Breeders’ Association. We have managed to get a copy of it [PDF], based on or derived from the source. The text of the small ad read as follows:


Mink farm in Zealand for purchase.

Possibly as smooth change in ownership over a number of years.

Contact me if you are considering sale or cooperation.

After some initial research, it appears that Ms. Kongstad came to the conclusion that a mink farming operation was an overly ambitious project and decided instead to opt for chinchillas.

The Kongstads’ chinchilla fur farming venture has received coverage in a number of Danish agricultural journals and has also been featured on local television (we showed some images from this programme earlier on in this series).

“The company “Bremelandsgård” is a sole proprietorship registered in the name of Jesper Kongstad.”There is also an Internet presence on Facebook which is maintained under the name of “Kongstad Chinchilla”.

Although Majbritt Kongstad appears as the public face of the venture, the business operation seems to be actually controlled by a company called “Bremelandsgård” (CVR number 34572445) which is named after the farmstead in Valby.

The company “Bremelandsgård” is a sole proprietorship registered in the name of Jesper Kongstad.

According to the CVR entry, its main activity is “breeding of fur animals, etc.” The official registration data also indicates that the company engages in secondary lines of activity described as “business and other management consultancy activities”. Because “Bremelandsgård” is operated as a sole proprietorship no accounts are available.

“For readers who are not familiar with Denmark, it should be noted that it is a — if not the — major hub of the global fur industry. Denmark is home to 1,500 mink farmers who together rear about 17.2 million minks per year – about one-fifth of the world’s supply.”The connection to Torben Nielsen, the former CEO of Kopenhagen Fur, who is said to have inspired this venture is interesting and may be worth looking at in closer detail.

For readers who are not familiar with Denmark, it should be noted that it is a — if not the — major hub of the global fur industry. Denmark is home to 1,500 mink farmers who together rear about 17.2 million minks per year – about one-fifth of the world’s supply.

Kopenhagen Fur, which is the largest fur skin auction company in the world, is owned and managed by the Dansk Pelsdyravlerforening, the Danish Fur Breeders’ Association. The sale of more than 40 per cent of the world’s mink skin production is conducted from here. According to an article entitled “Adventures in the skin trade – How the Danes became masters of the global fur business” published in the Economist, Kopenhagen Fur auctioned 21 million pelts in 2013 and had a turnover of €2.1 billion.

Here’s a quick glance at this article, complete with an apt caricature:

Danish fur

In May 2014 the Danish press reported that Kopenhagen Fur had made a “secret donation” of 70.000 DKK (approx. 9,400 Euro) to the Danish liberal party Venstre which did not appear in the party’s accounts.

“In May 2014 the Danish press reported that Kopenhagen Fur had made a “secret donation” of 70.000 DKK (approx. 9,400 Euro) to the Danish liberal party Venstre which did not appear in the party’s accounts.”Connections between the Danish fur industry and politics have also been explored in a recently published book entitled Skjulte penge (“Hidden money”) which was written by Chris Kjær Jessen and Carl Emil Arnfred, two investigative journalists from the leading Danish national daily newspaper Berlingske. The book Skjulte penge investigates “power, political parties and lobbying in Danish politics”. Amongst other things it examines the role of the fur industry and Kopenhagen Fur and the influence which it exerts in political circles.

Here is a picture of the book’s cover:

Skjulte penge

In an article entitled Kan minkavlere købe sig til politisk indflydelse? (“Can mink breeders buy political influence?”) published by Dagbladet Information in June 2016, the Danish journalist Morten Frisch referred to the book Skjulte penge and discussed some of the known links between Kopenhagen Fur and various Danish politicians including those from the Venstre party with which Kongstad is rumoured to have close associations.

This is the source of the caricature at the top.

The extent of the Kongstads’ connections to Kopenhagen Fur and the Danish Fur Breeders’ Association is at present still unclear and needs further research.

“Connections between the Danish fur industry and politics have also been explored in a recently published book entitled Skjulte penge (“Hidden money”) which was written by Chris Kjær Jessen and Carl Emil Arnfred, two investigative journalists from the leading Danish national daily newspaper Berlingske.”What is known, however, is that the Bremelandsgård fur farming operation receives coverage in the form of puff-pieces in Dansk Pelsdyravl (“Danish Fur Farming”) a bi-monthly trade magazine published by the Danish Fur Breeders’ Association with a circulation of 4,000 copies.

Kopenhagen Fur which is owned and managed by the DFBA is also known to have given publicity on its Web site to fur farming events held at Bremelandsgård.

The most recent “open day” event took place on 17 September 2016 as reported on the Kopehagen Fur Web site.

“Kopenhagen Fur which is owned and managed by the DFBA is also known to have given publicity on its Web site to fur farming events held at Bremelandsgård.”The Kongstads are members of the Agricultural Association of the Gribskov Chamber of Commerce (Erhverv Gribskov Landbrugsforening) and are known to be active in local fur breeding circles. Majbritt Kongstad is listed as a member of the executive committee and current treasurer of the Zealand Chinchilla Association (Sjællands Chinchillaforening).

Committee meetings of the Zealand Chinchilla Association regularly take place at the Kongstad farmstead.

The annual committee meeting for 2015 was held at Bremelandsgård on Saturday 30 May 2015 as can be seen from an invitation sent to the committee members [PDF].

Some people have pointed out that Kongstad’s involvement in the fur farming business could potentially involve him in conflicts of interest.

One reason given for this is that as Director General of the DKPTO he is responsible for administrative decisions relating to intellectual property rights, including trademarks, in Denmark.

“Committee meetings of the Zealand Chinchilla Association regularly take place at the Kongstad farmstead.”As can be seen from the publicly accessible online database of the DKPTO, the Danish Fur Breeders’ Association has quite a number of registered trademarks assigned under its official Danish name Dansk Pelsdyravlerforening.

The most recently registered trademark assigned to the DFBA is “KOPENHAGEN FUR INVEST” which apparently refers to a publicly traded investment fund associated with Kopenhagen Fur.

It has also been suggested that Kongstad’s involvement in commercial fur farming could raise other awkward questions due to the fact that fur farming is banned or strictly regulated in many European countries and highly controversial in others because of ethical and/or animal welfare concerns. See this page for details.

“Some people have pointed out that Kongstad’s involvement in the fur farming business could potentially involve him in conflicts of interest.”Although chinchilla fur farming is currently perfectly legal in Denmark, some people have begun to wonder whether the involvement of the Director General of the DKPTO in such an enterprise would be compatible with the “dignity requirement” applicable to Danish civil servants under § 10 of the Danish Civil Servants Act:

“Officials must conscientiously abide by the rules that apply to their position, and both within and outside the service prove worthy of the esteem and trust that the position requires.”

For the moment these are open questions but it seems that Kongstad’s connections to the Danish fur industry and in particular to Kopenhagen Fur deserve further investigation.

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channels: Come and chat with us in real time

New to This Site? Here Are Some Introductory Resources




Samba logo

We support

End software patents


GNU project


EFF bloggers

Comcast is Blocktastic? SavetheInternet.com

Recent Posts