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12.24.16

Links 24/12/2016: Christmas Tux 2016, LLVM 3.9.1 Released

Posted in News Roundup at 12:30 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Benefits of Open Source Game Development

    Technology innovations have impacted every single industry sector in a tremendous way. Right from healthcare and education, to entertainment and gaming, there is no sector that has remained untouched by the influence of technology. The express evolution of technology means a win-win for both – users and the game developer are at a distinct advantage. The end users gain a much better gaming experience, while game programmers can apply these new technologies to create highly stimulating and enthralling games.

  • Encrypted messengers: Why Riot (and not Signal) is the future

    As a response to the Snowden revelations, the number of messaging apps that promise security against surveillance has rapidly multiplied. There seems to be an emerging consensus – ranging from Edward Snowden to the New York Times – that Signal is the best choice for those nervous about the privacy of their messages.

    Indeed, Signal has a number of advantages that set it apart from many competitors: The encryption algorithm that it uses is well-reviewed and most experts in the field think that it can indeed protect against dragnet surveillance. It also allows experts to inspect the source code of the entire app for back doors which makes it more trustworthy than competitors such as WhatsApp. Finally, OpenWhisperSystems – the company that produces Signal – is known to log only minimal information about its users. As a result, when law enforcement agencies demand information about message “metadata” (who messages when with whom), they cannot supply them with much useful information.

  • Intro to the Godot game engine
  • Events

    • Open Source Foundation Pakistan Holds Open Source Summit 2016

      Open Source Foundation Pakistan Holds Open Source Summit 2016. The 4th Annual Open Source Summit was held at Bahria University Islamabad Campus Yesterday. Mr. Asim Shahryar Hussain, MD PSEB, was the Chief Guest at the event.

    • PSEB for Open Source Technologies in 10 years

      Managing Director Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) Asim Shehryar Hussain Thursday said the board aimed at migrating government sector organization from licensed softwares to Open Source Technologies in next 10 years.

    • LibrePlanet 2017 keynote announcement: Author and tech activist Cory Doctorow

      Doctorow is a science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger — the co-editor of Boing Boing and the author of many books, most recently In Real Life, a graphic novel; Information Doesn’t Want to be Free, a book about earning a living in the Internet age; and Homeland, the award-winning, best-selling sequel to the 2008 young adult novel Little Brother.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Update on Multi-Process Firefox

        About four months ago, we launched multi-process Firefox to a small group of Firefox 48 users. Shortly after the carefully measured roll-out, we increased to approximately 50% of our user base. That included almost every Firefox user not using extensions. Those users have been enjoying the 400% increase in responsiveness and a 700% improvement when web pages are loading.

        With Firefox 49 we deployed multi-process Firefox to users with a select set of well tested extensions. Our measurements and user feedback were all positive and so with Firefox 50 we deployed multi-process Firefox to users with a broader set of extensions, those whose authors have marked them as multi-process compatible.

  • SaaS/Back End

    • OpenStack Spreads Out as a Public Cloud Solution

      While most people know that the hugely popular OpenStack cloud platform is used in many hybrid cloud deployments, lots of people still think of it as primarily for private clouds. That’s not necessarily the right mindset, notes a new report from Forrester Research this week.

      Especially in Europe, OpenStack is gaining traction as a public cloud solution notes Forrester’s report OpenStack’s Global Traction Expands For Its Newton Release.

      OpenStack is the most widely deployed open source cloud computing software. The December 2016 report focuses on Newton, the latest release of OpenStack software, and the plan for the 14th release of the software, codenamed Ocata and expected in February 2017. The report also details important next steps for infrastructure and operations leaders investing in the OpenStack platform.

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

    • LibreOffice 5.2.4, Mint Upgrading, Weather Forecast

      The Document Foundation is celebrating today with their release of LibreOffice 5.2.4. The announcement also teased upcoming LibreOffice 5.3 that will feature the new MUFFIN interface. Elsewhere, there seems to be some disagreement as to whether Mint’s heart is in their upgrades and Jonathan Corbet published his latest Linux Forecast. A couple of sites have gathered some fun activities for the long boring holiday season and, in case you missed it, Fedora 23 reached its end of life Tuesday.

    • Let’s celebrate with LibreOffice 5.2.4

      The Document Foundation (TDF) announces the availability of LibreOffice 5.2.4 “still”, the fourth minor release of the LibreOffice 5.2 family. Based on the upcoming announcement of LibreOffice 5.3, all users can start to update to LibreOffice 5.2.4 from LibreOffice 5.1.6 or previous versions.

    • LibreOffice updating its user interface

      I saw a recent blog post from LibreOffice about an upcoming change to their user interface. They call it the MUFFIN, a new “tasty” user interface concept. You can also find more details at the Design blog, discussing how they are evolving past the restrictions of the toolbar. The new MUFFIN will appear in LibreOffice 5.3.

    • Nine free and open source Microsoft Excel alternatives business-users should consider in 2016

      Spreadsheets are a staple for both small and large businesses, data analysts and marketers among others, most opting for the convenience and familiar interface of Microsoft Excel. But there are many options out there from Google, Apache, Libre and more offering free and open source alternatives.

    • Kickstarter open sources its mobile apps, OpenOffice for small business, and more news

      In this edition of our open source news roundup, we take a look at Kickstarter making the code for its iOS and Android apps open source, UNICEF and Malawi announcing the first humanitarian drone testing corridor in Africa, and more.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • LLVM 3.9.1 Released

      For those nervous about using LLVM Git/SVN of the current 4.0 development code but looking to have the latest fixes atop the stable LLVM 3.9 series, the LLVM 3.9.1 point release is now available.

    • LLVM 3.9.1 Release

      LLVM 3.9.1 is now available! Download it now, or read the release notes.

  • Public Services/Government

    • Dutch govt data centre sets open source standard

      The Dutch government’s data centre in Groningen (ODC-Noord) is setting a standard for government-hosted cloud services. Its combination of OpenStack (managing virtualised machines) and CEPH (handling storage) is attracting more and more central government services. The open source solutions are proving enormously scalable, while keeping costs low.

    • EC study: open source an important enabler for public sector collaboration

      Open source software provides an easy and affordable way to improve existing public services. According to the EC report ‘Analysis of the Value of New Generation of eGovernment Services and How Can the Public Sector Become an Agent of Innovation through ICT’, it allows a single developer to incrementally build human services based on publicly available source code.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Two more cities join Madrid eParticipation project

      This month, the two Spanish cities of Toledo and Chiloeches joined the Madrid open source software project for citizen participation. The Consul platform was originally created by the City of Madrid last year when it launched its participation portal. At the same time, the software was made available for re-use on GitHub. Since then, the number of participants in the further development of this software package has grown to about thirty Spanish cities.

    • Open Data

      • New Slovenian open data portal built on CKAN

        The Slovenian Ministry of Public Administration has launched a new National Open Data Portal (OPSI). The portal has been built on CKAN, the most popular open source software platform for storing and publishing open data.

    • Open Access/Content

      • Meet the Open Source Design Collective

        We love to spend time with collectives to learn why they do what they do, what their goals are and what they need to achieve them. We wanted to share one of these stories today: Open Source Design.

        [...]

        Free and open source software (FOSS) preserves privacy of its users and ensures they — rather than web oligopolies — are in control of their data. For free and open source software to be successful and reach adoption levels of proprietary apps, we believe good design and a seamless UX is essential.

        So, we bring together people currently working on design in open source projects as well as encourage new designers to join the movement and find projects which need their help.

        Members of our collective include people working on Mozilla, Wikimedia, Nextcloud, GNOME, OpenFarm, XWiki, Drupal, Transparency Toolkit, OpenStreetMap, Trustroots and more!

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Do Try this at Home: Growing Bacterial Paper with Open-source Bioart

        The work of Diane Trouillet uses living organisms to create open-source bioart that everyone can try to replicate at home.

        Diane Trouillet, a self-proclaimed artist-researcher from Toulouse, is moving the French art community. Back in 2013, the bioartist invented a bacterial paper that she is now exploring as an artistic medium.

      • Convert that Cheap Laser Engraver to 100% Open-Source Toolchain

        LaserWeb is open-source laser cutter and engraver software, and [JordsWoodShop] made a video tutorial (embedded below) on how to convert a cheap laser engraver to use it. The laser engraver used in the video is one of those economical acrylic-and-extruded-rail setups with a solid state laser emitter available from a variety of Chinese sellers (protective eyewear and any sort of ventilation or shielding conspicuously not included) but LaserWeb can work with just about any hardware, larger CO2 lasers included.

  • Programming/Development

    • Python 3.6 Released With Async Generators/Comprehensions

      New to Python 3.6.0 on the syntax side is support for formatted string literals, a syntax for variable annotations, asynchronous generators, and asynchronous comprehensions are among the changes.

    • Python 3.6 is packed with goodness

      Debuting a little more than a year ago, Python 3.5 hinted at how the language could become faster and more powerful without sacrificing the convenience and ease of use that characterize Python — without forcing everyone to toss out existing Python code and start over.

      Python 3.6 picks up where many of those improvements left off and nudges them into new realms. Python 3.5 added syntax used by static type checking tools to ensure software quality; Python 3.6 expands on that idea, which could eventually lead to high-speed statically compiled Python programs. Python 3.5 gave us options to write asynchronous functions; Python 3.6 bolsters them. But the biggest changes in Python 3.6 lie under the hood, and they open up possibilities that didn’t exist before.

    • Python 3.6.0 released
    • Tips on Developing Python Projects for PyPI

      I wrote two recent articles on Python packaging: Distributing Python Packages Part I: Creating a Python Package and Distributing Python Packages Part II: Submitting to PyPI. I was able to get a couple of my programs packaged and submitted.

Leftovers

  • Step Inside China’s Hellish, Illicit Steel Factories

    Kevin Frayer’s photographs of illegal Chinese steel factories look like postcards from the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Thick smoke spews out of tall stacks, steam rises from vast pits, and molten steel flows across the ground like lava. All around, men toil without even basic protective gear. “It was like stepping back in time,” says Frayer, who spent four days at two steel factories in Inner Mongolia in early November. “The way of working seemed unchanged and unaffected by technology.”

  • Hardware

    • New MacBook Pros Fail to Earn Consumer Reports Recommendation

      Apple launched a new series of MacBook Pro laptops this fall, and Consumer Reports’ labs have just finished evaluating them. The laptops did very well in measures of display quality and performance, but in terms of battery life, we found that the models varied dramatically from one trial to another.

      As a result, these laptops are the first MacBooks not to receive recommended ratings from Consumer Reports.

      Complaints about MacBook Pro batteries have been popping up online since the laptops first went on sale in November. Apple says that these computers should operate for up to 10 hours between charges, but some consumers in Apple’s support forums reported that they were only able to use their laptops for three to four hours before the battery ran down.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • [Older] Why Doctors Still Worry About Measles

      My grandmothers had measles. Your grandmothers had measles. In medicine, it is taken for granted that all people born before 1957 had measles, whether they remember it or not.

      Grandmothers invariably were invoked on questions of measles back when I was doing my residency in the 1980s in Boston. When there was a child in the emergency room with a truly striking and scary rash, a senior attending physician would stride in, look at the child, and announce something like, “Your grandmother could diagnose measles from across the room!”

      Nowadays, pediatricians worry that we’ve lost our collective memory and therefore some of our healthy fear of the disease and its serious complications — at least until an exposure happens and people start to panic.

    • Snyder: I’m not concerned about being charged over Flint water crisis

      Gov. Rick Snyder said Wednesday he has “no reason to be concerned” that Attorney General Bill Schuette will bring criminal charges against him in connection with the Flint drinking water crisis, and most of the $3.5 million he is spending on outside criminal legal defense fees is to pay for work on turning over documents to investigators.

      In an interview with the Free Press at his Capitol office, Snyder said he “can’t speak for the attorney general,” but asked if he is getting concerned that Schuette might decide to bring criminal charges against him, Snyder said: “I have no reason to be concerned.”

    • Gov. Snyder adds $1.5 million to contract for his Flint water criminal defense

      Gov. Rick Snyder has approved adding $1.5 million to a contract for legal services with a law firm that’s defending him against possible criminal charges tied to the Flint water crisis.

      The State Administrative Board received notice of the action at its meeting Tuesday, Dec. 20, the same day Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed new criminal charges against two former Flint emergency managers appointed by Snyder and two former city officials.

      The governor’s emergency managers were running Flint before and during a water emergency that unfolded after a change in the city’s source water.

      Lead leached into the city’s drinking water after the state Department of Environmental Quality allowed the use of the river without requiring treatment to make it less corrosive to lead and lead solder in home plumbing and transmission lines.

    • Vaccine Found 100 Percent Effective at Preventing Ebola Infection

      In medical news, a new study finds an experimental vaccine was 100 percent effective in protecting West Africans against the Ebola virus during an outbreak in 2014-15, raising the prospect that the future spread of the deadly disease could be halted. The finding was reported Thursday in the British medical journal The Lancet. An assistant director-general of the World Health Organization said the study compared about 6,000 residents of Guinea who received the vaccine with a similar-sized group who hadn’t.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Julian Assange: “Donald? It’s a change anyway”

      When they appeared on the scene for the first time in 2006, few noticed them. And when four years later they hit worldwide media headlines with their publication of over 700,000 secret US government documents, many assumed that Julian Assange and his organisation, WikiLeaks, would be annihilated very shortly.

      Since 2010 Assange has lived first under house arrest and then confined to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been granted asylum by Ecuador. The country’s officials judged his concerns of being extradited to Sweden and then to the US to be put on trial for the WikiLeaks’ revelations well-grounded.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Shanghai water supply hit by 100-tonne wave of garbage

      Medical waste, broken bottles and household trash are some of the items found in more than 100 tonnes of garbage salvaged near a drinking water reservoir in Shanghai.

      The suspected culprits are two ships that have been dumping waste upstream in the Yangtze river. It has then flowed downstream to the reservoir on Shanghai’s Chongming island which is also home to 700,000 people.

      The reservoir at the mouth of the river is one of the four main sources of drinking water for the country’s largest city, according to local media.

      China has struggled with air, soil and water pollution for years during its economic boom, with officials often protecting industry and silencing citizens that complain. China’s cities are often blanketed in toxic smog, while earlier this year more than 80% of water wells used by farms, factories and rural households was found to be unsafe for drinking because of pollution.

    • Sorry, Trump, You Can’t Bring Back Coal When Solar Costs Half as Much

      Bloomberg released a new report this week with some startling findings about solar energy. To wit:

      * Solar energy can now be generated for about half the cost of coal. Coal had been the cheapest energy source, but it has now been overtaken by solar. That means it is crazy to build new coal plants– you’d be costing yourself money.

    • Climate scientist wins major court battle just in time for Trump administration

      In a legal first, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that a climate science researcher can proceed with defamation claims against writers who made false allegations about his scientific work.

      The ruling by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, found that a “reasonable jury” could find that two writers defamed Michael Mann — known for the famous “hockey stick” graph showing that modern climate change is unprecedented in human history — by making false claims about his work, and comparing him to a notorious child molester.

      The court found that two writers for the National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, may have defamed Mann by comparing him to Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was convicted of molesting dozens of children in 2012.

    • Policy like EPA’s Clean Power Plan would mean higher crop yields

      After the Supreme Court ruling clarifying that the EPA had an obligation to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, the Environmental Protection Agency developed the Clean Power Plan to target greenhouse gases. That’s not the only pollutant that is reduced by cutting emissions and moving away from coal for power generation, though. Limiting the rest of the stuff that comes out the smokestack has health an economic benefits, as well—“co-benefits” in the policy lingo.

      One type of pollution on that list is the compounds that react to produce ozone in the lower atmosphere. While ozone up in the stratosphere shields us from skin-burning UV radiation, ozone at the surface is a lung irritant. It harms plants, as well, reducing the uptake of CO2 that fuels growth.

    • China’s smoggiest city closes schools amid public anger

      China’s smoggiest city closed schools Wednesday as much of the country suffered its sixth day under an oppressive haze, sparking public anger about the slow response to the threat to children’s health.

      Since Friday a choking miasma has covered a large swathe of northeastern China, leaving more than 460 million gasping for breath.

      Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei province, was one of more than 20 cities which went on red alert Friday evening, triggering an emergency plan to reduce pollution by shutting polluting factories and taking cars off the road, among other measures.

      Nowhere has been hit as hard as Shijiazhuang, which has seen a huge rise in pollution.

    • Arctic temperatures soar to 30 C above normal

      On Thursday, the temperature there was almost 30 C warmer than average, and it continued into Friday morning. Ocean buoys recorded temperatures near the North Pole of 0 C or warmer. That’s right: It’s warmer in the Arctic than it is in Thunder Bay, Ont.

      This isn’t an isolated event. Arctic temperatures have been unusually warm for the past few months, though perhaps not quite as dramatically different as we’re seeing now.

    • North Pole hits melting point in time for Christmas, so Santa can just swim to you now

      Today is an extremely unusual December day at the North Pole, with temperatures getting very close to the melting point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0 degrees Celsius.

      For perspective, the temperature at the North Pole is about 40 degrees Fahrenheit above average for the date.

      Data from a buoy located about 80 miles south of the dark, windswept pole hit 32 degrees on Thursday morning as storm systems dragged unusually mild air into the high Arctic. Aiding the warm spell is the fact that these winds passed over Arctic waters that would normally be covered with sea ice but are open ocean this year after a severe sea ice melt season and record-slow winter freeze-up.

      The bizarre Arctic heat wave, which will be brief, lasting only two days, is similar to another warmup that occurred in December 2015, and there is scientific evidence showing that these extreme events are becoming more frequent and extreme in the Arctic as sea ice melts and air temperatures increase.

    • UK hits clean energy milestone: 50% of electricity from low carbon sources

      Half of the UK’s electricity came from wind turbines, solar panels, wood burning and nuclear reactors between July and September, in a milestone first.

      Official figures published on Thursday show low carbon power, which has been supported by the government to meet climate change targets, accounted for 50% of electricity generation in the UK in the third quarter, up from 45.3% the year before.

      The rise was largely driven by new windfarms and solar farms being connected to the grid, and several major coal power stations closing.

  • Finance

    • Ireland’s love affair with Apple triggers hate at home

      The Irish government’s unwavering protection of Apple has infuriated the very people who stand to gain the most.

      The residents of Cork are souring on the tech giant — the city’s biggest employer — and fanning the flames of Euroskepticism.

      The European Commission slapped Apple with a €13 billion penalty for allegedly accepting a sweetheart tax deal from Ireland earlier this year. Cork residents resent Dublin’s unwavering defense of the tech giant, most recently its support of the company’s appeal Monday that claimed the EU Commission overstepped its powers. Instead of banking an amount roughly the size of the country’s annual health budget, Irish leaders recoiled at the order and defended its four-decade-long relationship with Apple.

    • Why Supervision Committees Spell Danger for Corrupt Officials

      In four years, China’s anti-corruption campaign has made huge inroads despite doubts about its sustainability. It is now time for the country to enforce a unified mechanism with universal coverage to curtail corruption and abuses of power.

      Last month, the General Office of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which runs the party’s daily operations, issued a directive to the provinces of Zhejiang in the east and Shanxi in the north, as well as to the Beijing Municipality, asking each to build a supervisory body overseen by their local legislative systems. This was an unprecedented measure, as it implied that real power was to be ensconced in an extra-party institution.

    • Source: Trump weighing tariffs as high as 10%

      Trump transition team tell sources that they are talking about the possibility of imposing tariffs through executive action. Jim Acosta reports.

    • Thirty things you didn’t know about the EU referendum

      This has been a bumper autumn for political publishing. I’ve recently finished five of the main books on the EU referendum campaign and, although some of the key revelations have already been serialised in newspapers, there is plenty of material in them worth reporting that hasn’t yet been flagged up anywhere. So, as a Christmas service for anyone who has not read enough about the EU referendum already this year, here are 30 things about it that you might not know.

    • Silver Lake Said to Join $1.2 Billion Round in Key Alibaba Arm

      Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s on-demand services unit is close to securing $1.2 billion of funding for expansion after getting backing from first-time investors including Silver Lake Management and China’s sovereign wealth fund, people familiar with the matter said.

      The latest round for Koubei, which deals in local services such as food delivery, will surpass a $1 billion target with backing from China Investment Corp., according to the people, who asked not to be named because the matter is private. The round also includes Yunfeng Capital, a fund backed by Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma, and values the two-year-old startup at about $8 billion, they said.

    • Minimum wage going up in 21 states, including Florida

      Come the new year, millions of the lowest-wage workers across the country will get a raise.

      Some of those raises will be very minor — a cost of living adjustment amounting to an extra nickel or dime an hour. But in several places the jump will be between $1 and $2 an hour.

    • School cleaners who went on strike over pay sacked before Christmas

      Three long-serving primary school cleaners, who went on strike over claims their wages and conditions were cut when a private company took over the contract, have been sacked days before Christmas.

      The women – Lesley Leake, Marice Hall and Karen McGee – sparked a debate over outsourcing when they went on strike for 14 weeks after their school in West Yorkshire was turned into an academy earlier this year.

      Known as the “Kinsley cleaners”, the women said they had their wages cut from £7.85 an hour to the minimum wage of £7.20 once the contract switched from Wakefield council to C&D Cleaning in April.

    • Trump advisor Icahn says it’s ‘crazy’ to think he couldn’t serve while owning stocks

      Carl Icahn told CNBC on Thursday it’s “crazy” to say he should sell his holdings to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest while serving as an adviser to President-elect Donald Trump.

      Trump on Wednesday named the billionaire activist investor, a frequent critic of some Obama administration rules and a major fossil fuel investor, a special advisor on regulation. Critics say Icahn could use the role to craft regulatory policies that would help his companies and benefit him personally.

    • The Surprising Danger of Being Good at Your Job

      Science confirms what high performers have known for years: It’s not easy being so competent.

      A study from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business suggests that people with high self-control — the kind of people who remember birthdays, choose the salad instead of the fries, take on extra projects at work, and resolve conflicts easily — might actually pay a price for those virtues.

      “People always talk about how having high self-control is a good thing,” says researcher Christy Zhou Koval, a Ph.D. candidate and first author on the study, which was published in this month’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. And in many ways, it is a good thing: “Go-getters get what they go after,” she points out. “They’re better at goal pursuits. They make very good relationship partners.”

    • The #Brexit mask begins to slip: they’re still after our rights

      We welcomed the Prime Minister’s pledge at Conservative Party Conference (repeated by Ministers) that workers would keep their current rights – and gain new rights – after Brexit. It’s not enough, but it’s a start (we want it guaranteed, not just pledged, and we want to make sure British workers don’t fall behind those across Europe.) And it’s clearly not a done deal, as REIDsteel boss Simon Boyd showed this week by writing to every single MP urging them to use Brexit to scrap a whole swathe of protections for working people, including working time, holiday pay and health and safety.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Trump Grill Could Be the Worst Restaurant in America

      Halfway through a recent late lunch at the Trump Grill—the clubby steakhouse in the lobby of Trump Tower that has recently become famous through the incessant media coverage of its namesake landlord, and the many dignitaries traipsing through its marbled hall to kiss his ring—I sensed the initial symptoms of a Trump overdose. Thanks to an unprecedented influx of diners, we were sitting at a wobbly overflow table outside the restaurant, in the middle of a crush of tourists, some of whom were proposing to their partners, or waiting to buy Trump-branded merchandise, or sprinting to the bathroom.

      As my companions and I contemplated the most painless way to eat our flaccid, gray Szechuan dumplings with their flaccid, gray innards, as a campy version of “Jingle Bells” jackhammered in the background, a giant gold box tied with red ribbon toppled onto us. Trump, it seemed, was already fighting against the War on Christmas.

    • Beyond fake news: an investigation into the murky world of fake campaigns

      So far, so normal. There are plenty of rights groups, big and small, which have worked on the issue of migrant workers in Qatar in the context of the World Cup. The fact that we hadn’t previously heard of this organization was not that surprising.

    • Donald Trump’s Pick for Health Secretary Traded Medical Stocks While in House

      President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to run the Health and Human Services Department traded more than $300,000 in shares of health-related companies over the past four years while sponsoring and advocating legislation that potentially could affect those companies’ stocks.

    • Out of options

      It was a chilly afternoon in April 2013 when Roy Roberts, a former GM executive now charged with righting the struggling Detroit Public Schools, appeared in the auditorium of Oakman Elementary/Orthopedic, a school on the city’s northwest side. Roberts had arrived with an entourage of district officials and he didn’t waste any time with small talk. “We’ll be closing Northwestern,” he announced.

      About a dozen parents were there, among them Aliya Moore, the president of the parents’ organization. Moore’s older daughter, Chrishawana, was in fifth grade and her final year at the school, where she’d been since kindergarten. Her youngest, Tylyia, just a toddler at the time, had become a fixture on the campus, often seen coloring in the back of one of the kindergarten classrooms. Moore wasn’t sure what to make of the robocall she’d received the night before summoning her to the meeting, but she knew she had to be there.

    • 5 Reasons Fake News Killed Facts In 2016

      Hi. I’m Cracked editor David Bell. Before I wrote columns, I was a full-time researcher for the site. During that time, I wrote scores of articles calling out the terrible instances of fake news occurring weekly online. The series strove to be bipartisan, from exposing fake racism against Obama to misguided outrage about Obama to generally batshit stories reported anyone from Gawker to Breitbart. It’s not hard to remain objective when your brain is a flood of deadline stress mixed with throbbing Odin rage toward the mainstream media. In the thick of it all, I hoped my humble contribution would be joined by an internet-wide embracing of reason.

    • Fake News Is Not the Real Media Threat We’re Facing

      From all the recent hand-wringing about “fake news,” you would think that the hand-wringers had never stood in a supermarket checkout line, surrounded by 72-point headlines about alien abductions and miracle cures. Fake news has been around as long as real news, as any historian of early modern Europe can tell you (Renaissance readers gobbled up stories about women giving birth to rabbits, and men from Africa with faces in their chests). Social media has certainly transformed how fake news circulates, speeding up its circulation and extending its reach and impact. The temptation to blame many of our current ills on it—and by extension, on Mark Zuckerberg—is understandable. But the hand-wringing has in fact distracted attention from a much more important problem involving the American media. That problem is not fake news but the continuing delegitimization of real news by American conservatives. This delegitimization has been taking place for a long time (as The Nation’s Eric Alterman has meticulously reported, and as even some conservative media figures have admitted), but during the past year it has taken a frightening new turn. If the mainstream American news media are to have any hope of avoiding potentially catastrophic results—both for themselves and for American democracy—they need to change how they report on American politics, and on the ideological apparatchiks they continue to describe, misleadingly, as “journalists.”

    • Iron Grip of Theresa May Said to Cut Her Off From Key Colleagues

      U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is increasingly isolated as her demands to control all areas of policy alienate key colleagues, according to more than a dozen officials who worry tensions will undermine planning for Brexit.

      Speaking anonymously because the subject is delicate, many of the government figures said an early period of goodwill toward May had given way to division and resentment, leading to policy mistakes that had to be hastily corrected. Much of that stems from the influence wielded by her joint chiefs-of-staff, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, the people said.

    • Michael Flynn had role in firm co-led by man who tried to sell material to the KGB

      President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for national security adviser partnered in recent months with a technology company co-led by a businessman who pleaded guilty to trying to sell stolen scientific material in the 1980s to the KGB, the former Soviet intelligence service.

      Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn joined the advisory board of Brainwave Science in February, company documents show. The Massachusetts firm develops controversial “brain fingerprinting” technology designed to assess whether people under interrogation are being truthful by measuring their brain waves. The firm offers training in how to use the technology, in partnership with Flynn’s consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, according to Brainwave’s website.

    • The Democratic Game Plan for Making Trump Miserable — and Regaining Power

      Now that the 2016 election has formally ended, and there’s no denying Donald Trump the presidency, Democrats can finally and fully focus on their strategy for opposing him. I say “opposing him,” because everything Trump has done since November 8 shows beyond a reasonable doubt that there’s not going to be some shockingly moderate Trump administration as open to Democratic as to Republican policies and priorities. Becoming a “loyal opposition” is not an option, and if Democratic leaders actually went in that direction (beyond a few formulaic expressions of willingness to cooperate with Trump if he turns out to be someone other than himself), the Democratic rank and file would probably find themselves new leaders.

      There is not much question that most congressional Democrats will be taking as a template Mitch McConnell’s declaration of scorched-earth opposition to all Barack Obama’s policies and initiatives in early 2009. Partly it’s a matter of payback, but the more important motive is that it worked: Democrats lost their control over Congress at the very first opportunity, in the 2010 midterms; even before that, major elements of Obama’s agenda — including climate-change legislation — were derailed. But there are some major differences between the situation of Democrats today and that of Republicans in 2009 and 2010 that should be reflected in the party’s strategy.

    • Don’t be fooled by these dishonest attacks on the ‘metropolitan liberal elite’

      Nearly half the population in Britain and America oppose the current attack on decent values. That’s not marginal, it’s mainstream – and strong

    • Trump’s unpopularity threatens to hobble his presidency

      President-elect Donald Trump will descend on Washington next month, buoyed by his upset victory and Republican control of Congress to implement his agenda.

      But he’s facing a major obstacle: Trump will enter the White House as the least-popular incoming president in the modern era of public-opinion polling.

    • Korean protests in Santa suits occupy Seoul’s streets, demanding removal of impeached president Park

      Everybody knows that North Korea is a failed state basket-case full of starving people and multigenerational concentration camps, but South Korea is hardly the model of good governance: from the long-serving leader who stole $200M and gave it to his kids (who now live happily in America off his nest-egg) to those long-ago days of 1988 when the government kidnapped homeless people and developmentally delayed people and put them into forced labor camps — some of which still operate today.

      More recently, South Korean President Park Geun-hye has been revealed to be a stooge of a Rasputin-like cult leader, leading to her impeachment (of course, they didn’t impeach her when she passed an incredibly invasive surveillance bill despite a brave filibuster.

    • Why the Green Party Continues to Demand Presidential Recounts

      Presidential recounts are not about changing election results. At least, that is not their primary purpose. At their core, recounts are about ensuring confidence in the integrity of the voting system.

      It is unfortunate, if not all that surprising, that the two largest corporate-controlled political parties have chosen to stand in the way of these grassroots-demanded recounts—in the case of Republicans, actively blocking them in the courts; in the case of Democrats, capitulating in their refusal to push for them. In an election marked by so many irregularities, public distrust, and outright evidence of hacking, Americans deserve to know now more than ever that the election was accurate and secure.

      That is the ultimate goal of this and every recount: to restore confidence in our elections and trust in our democracy.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • A modest proposal for Facebook News Feed

      Over the past year, there has been much hue and cry about Facebook’s fake news problem. The company deferred dealing with it first by saying that a better machine-learning model will fix the problem and then by saying it will rely on third-party fact checkers to flag “disputed” stories when they are shared. Both of these ideas are OK, but they are missing one crucial ingredient. That ingredient, as Charlton Heston screams in Soylent Green, is people.

      Economist Brad DeLong has been saying for a while that robots may take over many jobs, but there are some things robots cannot do alone. Humans will always be needed to make decisions that require a nuanced understanding of how culture works, especially in political and social debates where context is everything. An algorithm might be able to learn some of the signs of fake news—certain hashtags perhaps, or a viral reach that starts with shares happening at bot-like speed. But a human is always going to be needed at some point to determine whether those signs point to fake news or real news that’s blowing up organically because it’s actually important. And these humans need to be well-trained in media analysis themselves, able to spot hoaxes and lies better than an average reader.

    • Mark Zuckerberg appears to finally admit Facebook is a media company

      Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, appears to have finally conceded that the social network is a media company, just not a “traditional media company”.

      In a video chat with Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, Zuckerberg said: “Facebook is a new kind of platform. It’s not a traditional technology company. It’s not a traditional media company. You know, we build technology and we feel responsible for how it’s used.

      “We don’t write the news that people read on the platform. But at the same time we also know that we do a lot more than just distribute news, and we’re an important part of the public discourse.”

    • Superstar reporter warns ‘fake news’ panic is censorship trap

      And if you want to find out what is “fake news,” ask perhaps the top investigative reporter in journalism.

      Sharyl Attkisson spotted the fake news trend long before it became a recent catchphrase.

      And she doesn’t portray it, as do many in the mainstream media, as some right-wing conspiracy. In fact, Attkisson told WND she often sees the mainstream media as prime culprits when they push suspect stories.

      So, what is really behind the mainstream media’s war on fake news?

    • Cyberbullying in India is a form of censorship: Mishi Choudhary, Executive Director of SFLC

      Cyberbullying and online harassment is a major global problem. The lack of a physical presence only means that people are more mentally exposed in the digital realm. A majority of children in India encounter online harassment in one form or another, but their parents are oblivious of the fact. Facebook recently launched a portal to tackle cyberbullying, and allow parents to let their children navigate the social network safely. We discussed online harassment with Mishi Choudhary, the Executive Director of Software Freedom Law Centre (SFLC), a Delhi-based not-for-profit legal services organization. SFLC.IN brings together students, lawyers, technologists and policy analysts to defend freedom in the digital realm.

    • Leading Jewish Scholar Prosecuted in France for Alleged anti-Muslim Remarks

      One of the world’s leading historians on the Jewish communities in Arab countries is being prosecuted in France for alleged hate speech against Muslims.

      The Morocco-born French-Jewish scholar Georges Bensoussan, 64, is due to appear next month before a Paris criminal court over a complaint filed against him for incitement to racial hatred by the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, the group recently announced on its website.

      The complaint, which leading French scholars dismissed as attempt at “intimidation” in a statement Friday, was over remarks about anti-Semitism by Muslims that Bensoussan, author of a definitive 2012 work entitled “Jews in Arab Lands,” made last year during an interview aired by the France Culture radio station, the Collective said.

    • Adam Saleh: YouTube star ‘wasn’t speaking Arabic on phone when kicked off Delta flight’, passenger claims

      A passenger on the Delta Airlines flight from which YouTube star Adam Saleh was ejected on Wednesday has come forward to claim the prankster was not on the phone to his mother when he was removed.

      In fact, the supposed passenger said in a Reddit post, Mr Saleh had goaded a friend into shouting in Arabic across the plane and filmed fellow passengers’ reactions, before being told to be quiet. The claim tallies with a statement released by the airline.

    • US Government Targets Pirate Bay and Other ‘Piracy Havens’

      The US Government has listed some of the largest piracy websites and other copyright-infringing venues. The USTR calls on foreign countries to take action against popular piracy sites such as The Pirate Bay, which has important “symbolic value,” according to the authorities. In addition, stream-ripping is mentioned as an emerging threat.

    • BipCoin to Provide “Censorship-Proof DNS,” Succeed Where NameCoin Failed

      Journalists, artists, and the purveyors of other potentially controversial material have reason to be wary that their content may be taken down and censored, even more so as some of the top United States journalists warn that Donald Trump’s administration could have a chilling effect on journalistic freedom.

      Online domains that are registered with DNS (Domain Name System) are registered under centralized control and are ultimately able to be taken down, meaning that a website can be essentially censored at whim by a sufficiently controlling government. NameCoin set out to solve this vulnerability by creating a distributed domain name registration system, unable to be taken down through centralized control. However, due to various developmental flaws, NameCoin never reached more than a historical and novelty significance.

    • Kerala High Court brings procedural fairness to film censorship

      Film censorship in India has always been subject to, and defined by the whims and caprices of those appointed as the tsars of dictating the terms for movie and documentary viewership. There was no mandatory legal requirement to give a fair and proper hearing to film-makers before arriving at a final decision. Similarly, there have been cases galore – like the Supreme Court’s ruling in the KA Abbas case- that a film must be seen as a whole before deciding upon censoring it. Moreover, there have been many instances where the censors have been sitting over decisions, resulting in mounting losses for directors and producers alike. Doughty directors had to knock on the doors of the courts to get their films released, and were often compelled to insert excisions as the censors demanded.

    • Censorship in the House a lack of good faith
    • Putin on Culture Censorship: Impossible to Ban Anything in Modern World
    • Town council video request was not an attempt at censorship, says town councillor
  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Tor at the Heart: OnionShare

      In August 2013, David Miranda was detained for nine hours and searched at Heathrow Airport in London while he was trying to board a plane back home to Rio de Janeiro. Working on a journalism assignment for the Guardian, he was carrying an encrypted USB stick that contained classified government documents. When I first learned about this story, I knew there must be safer ways to move sensitive documents across the world than physically carrying them, one that didn’t involve putting individual people at risk from border agents and draconian “terrorism” laws that are used to stifle award-winning journalism.

    • Obama moves to split cyberwarfare command from the NSA

      With weeks to go in his tenure, President Obama on Friday moved to end the controversial “dual-hat” arrangement under which the National Security Agency and the nation’s cyberwarfare command are headed by the same military officer.

      It is unclear whether President-elect Donald Trump will support such a move. A transition official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the next administration’s plans, said only that “cybersecurity has been and will be a central focus of the transition effort.”

      Pressure had grown on Obama to make such a move on the grounds that the two jobs are too large for one person to handle, that the two organizations have fundamentally different missions and that U.S. Cyber Command, or Cybercom, needed its own leader to become a full-fledged fighting force.

    • The Year Encryption Won

      Between the revelations of mega-hacks of Yahoo and others, Russia’s meddling in the US electoral system, and the recent spike in ransomware, it’s easy to look at 2016 as a bleak year for security. It wasn’t all so, though. In fact, the last 12 months have seen significant strides in one of the most important aspects of personal security of all: encryption.

      End-to-end encryption, which ensures that the only people who can see your communications are you and the person on the receiving end, certainly isn’t new. But in 2016, encryption went mainstream, reaching billions of people all over the world. Even more significantly, it overcame its most aggressive legal challenge yet, in a prolonged standoff between Apple and the FBI. And just this week, a Congressional committee affirmed the importance of encryption, giving hope that future laws around the topic will include at least a modicum of sanity.

    • Silicon Valley’s Trump rebellion now has EFF calling for more encryption

      The Electronic Frontier Foundation is keenly worried that President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress will step up surveillance activities and pass laws to curtail electronic rights.

      As a result, the EFF is advising the tech sector to use end-to-end encryption for every transaction by default, and to scrub logs. “You cannot be made to surrender data you do not have,” the EFF said.

    • I Know What You Downloaded on BitTorrent….

      So what have you downloaded lately?

      If you’re using BitTorrent without a VPN, proxy or seedbox, there’s a good chance that the rest of the world can see without asking.

      Several companies have made it their job to monitor and report files that are shared through torrent sites. This is also how tens of thousands of people end up getting warnings in their mailboxes from copyright holders, or worse.

    • This low-cost device may be the world’s best hope against account takeovers

      The past five years have witnessed a seemingly unending series of high-profile account take-overs. A growing consensus has emerged among security practitioners: even long, randomly generated passwords aren’t sufficient for locking down e-mail and other types of online assets. According to the consensus, these assets need to be augmented with a second factor of authentication.

      Now, a two-year study of more than 50,000 Google employees concludes that cryptographically based Security Keys beat out smartphones and most other forms of two-factor verification.

      The Security Keys are based on Universal Second Factor, an open standard that’s easy for end users to use and straightforward for engineers to stitch into hardware and websites. When plugged into a standard USB port, the keys provide a “cryptographic assertion” that’s just about impossible for attackers to guess or phish. Accounts can require that cryptographic key in addition to a normal user password when users log in. Google, Dropbox, GitHub, and other sites have already implemented the standard into their platforms.

    • US begins asking visitors for social media details

      The US government has started asking visitors from countries that have a visa waiver arrangement with it to provide details of their social media accounts when applying for the waiver.

      A report on the website Politico said the practice, which iTWire reported about in June, had begun on Tuesday this week.

      Australia is among the 38 countries that have a visa waiver agreement with the US; prospective visitors have to visit the electronic system for travel authorisation (ESTA) website and apply for a waiver before they travel.

    • U.S. government begins asking foreign travelers about social media

      The U.S. government quietly began requesting that select foreign visitors provide their Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts upon arriving in the country, a move designed to spot potential terrorist threats that drew months of opposition from tech giants and privacy hawks alike.

      Since Tuesday, foreign travelers arriving in the United States on the visa waiver program have been presented with an “optional” request to “enter information associated with your online presence,” a government official confirmed Thursday. The prompt includes a drop-down menu that lists platforms including Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube, as well as a space for users to input their account names on those sites.

    • Camera Makers Aren’t in a Hurry to Add Encryption

      Cameras are missing one feature that may help journalists in sticky situations: encryption. Last week, over 150 documentary filmmakers and photojournalists signed an open letter to major camera manufacturers such as Nikon and Sony urging the companies to adopt encryption into their products.

      But the manufacturers aren’t exactly jumping at the chance. Out of five companies contacted by Motherboard, only two, Nikon and Olympus, responded, and neither said they would be pursuing any changes.

    • Snowden disputes Congressional report on NSA leaks

      In a 33-page report, Congress calls former NSA contractor Edward Snowden a liar and says his leaks mostly put US military at risk. Snowden disagrees.

    • House Oversight Committee Calls For Stingray Device Legislation

      The Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has issued its recommendations on the use of cell site simulators (a.k.a. “Stingrays,” presumably to Harris Corporation’s trademark erosion dismay) by law enforcement. Its recommendations are… that something needs to be done, preferably soon-ish.

    • Top US Surveillance Lawyer Argues That New Technology Makes The 4th Amendment Outdated

      Reuters has an interesting piece looking at how many experts are concerned that mass surveillance efforts by the federal government are making a mockery of the 4th Amendment. The focus of the article is on the scan of all Yahoo email that was revealed back in October, but it certainly touches on other programs as well.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Trademarks

      • A TITANIC trade mark dispute

        It has been nearly 20 years since Titanic hit cinemas worldwide and slightly more than 100 since the eponymous ocean liner hit an iceberg.
        Despite these somewhat mixed associations, many businesses have sought to use the Titanic name for products and services ranging from spas to property developments.

      • Butterball Sues Australian Wine Company Over Its ‘Butterball’ Chardonnay

        It just won’t stop when it comes to trademark disputes involving the alcohol industry. Such disputes between wine, beer, and liquor companies are legion. In such a crowded industry, it needs to be hammered home that the purpose of trademark law is not so that big companies can bully smaller companies, but rather so that customers are protected from imitation products and from being confused as to who they are buying from.

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