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12.31.16

Links 31/12/2016: Firefox 52 Improves Privacy, Tizen Comes to Middle East

Posted in News Roundup at 8:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Server

    • 10 Linux System Administrators New Year’s Resolutions (2017)

      As we prepare to bid 2016 a more than deserved farewell, it is a time to make our New Year’s resolutions. Regardless of your experience level as a Linux system administrator, we think it is worthy and well to set goals for growth for the next 12 months.

      In case you are out of ideas, in this post we will share 10 simple professional resolutions that you may want to consider for 2017.

    • A Look Back at 8 IBM Strategic Acquisitions in 2016

      Big Blue expanded its analytics, disaster recovery and security capabilities in 2016 through a series of strategic acquisitions.

  • Kernel Space

    • The Development Pace Of Systemd Fell Sharply This Year

      With systemd having the most commits ever in 2015 for this project, I was curious to see how the statistics for 2016 compared… To some surprise, the number of commits to systemd fell sharply and the code churn is also down to a point not seen in a few years.

      In 2015 there were 5,528 commits to systemd while this year there have been 3,768 commits — a low not seen since 2012 when there were 2554 commits. But then when it comes to new code, this year were 156,491 added (and 94,288 lines removed), a low since 2011. Last year in comparison there were more than double that for lines added: 333k vs. 156k, though last year they also removed a lot of code too.

    • Linux Reboot System call and Linus’ Birthday

      Today (28-Dec) is Linus Torvald, Linux creator’s birthday and I wanted to share with you an easter egg hidden in the Linux reboot() system call.

    • Benchmarks

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Season of KDE

        December, is near to its end and 2017 is finally coming. The last month was hectic though. I had my semester exams in the first half of the month and I didn’t get much time in between to concentrate on my project. But the later half was quite productive. Half time has already passed by and this month was important as I made couple of changes to my UI and code which were important and required for long-term benefits. Another important news for this month is that GCompris had its 0.70 version release this month and we have finally replaced the GTK+ version in Windows with the Qt version. :smile:

      • Whew, what a year!

        This is not the place to present an opinion on all the other things that have happened in 2016, but when it comes to Krita, 2016 was perhaps the most intense year ever for the project. Let’s step back for a moment and do a bit of review!

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • Cinnamon Desktop – The Best Desktop Environment For New Linux User

        Cinnamon is a DE(Desktop Environment). DE is a collection of software, which collectively provide you a seamless Desktop experience. They are the reason, normal people who have no knowledge about the internal working of computer are able to use computers for a wide variety of purposes. Cinnamon is one such collection which is different. Different how? We will see, But for now, let’s just say that Cinnamon played a decisive role in making Linux mint, the most popular distro in the Linux world.

  • Distributions

    • The 6 Linux Distros We’re Most Excited For in 2017

      When I decided to write a list of Linux distributions 2017 will see grow and improve, I didn’t realise what a task I’d set!

      For while our name has Ubuntu in it, Ubuntu is not the only Linux distro we like to keep an eye on.

      Over the past few weeks we’ve been asking you to tell us which Linux distributions you are excited by, and the ones you think/hope will do well in 2017.

      Now it’s our turn.

    • Solus Announces First Release Of Brisk Menu

      We are happy to announce the first release of Brisk Menu, our implementation of a clean, efficient, and modern menu for the MATE Desktop. Brisk Menu 0.1.0 enables quick launching of applications, as well as access to session controls (such as logout, suspend, hibernate) and the system’s Control Center.

    • Distro Excitement 2017, Image Viewers, LibO Calendar

      Today in Linux news The Document Foundation offered a 2017 wall calendar to print off and hang on your wall. Elsewhere, OMG!Ubuntu! shared their picks for distros to watch in 2017 and Fedora has 17 image viewers for 2017. Sourceforge and TecMint have resolutions for administrators and developers as Google heads to Linux.conf.au 2017.

    • And the best distro of 2016 is …

      It is time for the final vote. I have already given you my opinion on the finest performers when it comes to individual desktop environments – Plasma, Xfce and even Gnome, but now, following in the best of our annual traditions, we need to vote on the most complete, most successful distribution of the year.

      Unlike the desktop environment votes, it will not be purely based on the final score. I will also incorporate other elements – how deeply has a particular distro charmed me, whether I have continued using it after the initial review, how it has evolved, and of course, the critical stability, support and friendliness parameters. And then, there’s your vote, too. So let’s run through the coveted shortlist. To wit, the 2016 elite.

    • New Releases

    • PCLinuxOS/Mageia/Mandriva Family

      • [Rosa] Happy New Year 2017

        We’re proud to wish you a good luck in new 2017 year.

        We’ll try our best to continue developing our linux distributions even much better in new 2017 year.

    • Gentoo Family

      • Gentoo-Based Calculate Linux 17 Launches with KDE Plasma 5.8.5 LTS and MATE 1.16

        Today, December 30, 2016, Alexander Tratsevskiy had the great pleasure of announcing the release and general availability of Calculate Linux 17, a Russian desktop-oriented computer operating system based on Gentoo.

        Calculate Linux 17 comes seven months after the Calculate Linux 15.17 release and promises great new features, including the latest KDE Plasma 5.8.5 LTS, MATE 1.16, and Xfce 4.12 desktop environments, along with the long-term supported Linux 4.4.39 kernel.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • Will SUSE Bring SBCs to Datacenters?

        Is the Raspberry Pi destined to be coming to your datacenter? If not the Pi, then something like it — maybe Arduino or a single board computer we haven’t seen yet, perhaps developed by one of the OEMs? Unless I miss my guess, a Pi-like device is soon going to make up the guts in a new breed of server.

        Back in November, SUSE announced that it has ported SLES, its flagship Linux operating system, to run on the Raspberry Pi 3, and has released it under the somewhat predictable name SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for Raspberry Pi. According to the announcement, as well as an accompanying blog post by jayk, this is no big deal. It was done mainly just for the fun of it, with its only practical application being “that it would be really a cool way for our field team to demonstrate SLES at trade shows.”

      • GeckoLinux “Rolling” and “Static” editions updated

        The Rolling spins of GeckoLinux have been updated to a newer openSUSE Tumbleweed base system, together with some configuration improvements. Additionally, the GeckoLinux Static spins have also been updated with similar improvements.

        GeckoLinux offers live installable Rolling spins based on openSUSE Tumbleweed, and live installable Static spins based on openSUSE Leap 42.2. GeckoLinux currently offers customized spins for the Cinnamon, XFCE, Gnome, Plasma, Mate, and LXQt desktop environments.

    • Red Hat Family

    • Debian Family

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Tux4Ubuntu: Tuxify Your Ubuntu Linux This New Year

            Tux is the official mascot of Linux. He is named so because the penguin looks as if he is wearing a tuxedo. Tux isn’t much visible on various distributions that borrow the Linux kernel as their base. Tux4Ubuntu is a project aimed at bringing Tux to the never before places in the Ubuntu Linux distribution.

            “We want to bring Tux, the Linux penguin, to Ubuntu! From boot to desktop we’ve created themes that include Tux in all the right places,” says the team behind the Tux4Ubuntu project.

          • Ubuntu 16.04 Unity 8 current state

            Ubuntu 16.04 Unity 8 current state
            qt5, gtk3 native on mir, snaps, ubuntu snap store, system settings etc

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • 2016: Open source grows, but conflict remains

    Depending on where you stand, 2016 was either the best year ever for open-source software, or it was a year of controversy and danger. While it’s undeniable that 2016 saw more contributors to open source and more open-source projects than any prior year, it’s also true that this was a year of strife for communities, developers and users alike.

    Chief among those problems would have to be the Dirty COW local privilege escalation attack, a major vulnerability that seems to have been hiding inside the Linux kernel for the past nine years. The discovery of this exploit isn’t necessarily a knock against open-source software as a whole: The bug might never have been found if the sources weren’t also available.

  • 7 New Year’s Resolution Ideas for Open Source Project Developers

    It seems like only yesterday that 2016 begun and we were just about to see great changes happening with SourceForge. Now we’re at the end of it, readying ourselves for yet another year.

    As fond as we are of the year that was, now is not just a time for remembering “Auld Lang Syne”, but also a time to prepare for what comes next. For open source project developers that means not only reflecting upon decisions and actions made, but also coming up with new resolutions that will define the future of open source projects.

  • Business model as a variable to consider when choosing Open Source software.

    Any analytic report about who writes the code in open and collaborative environments will reflect how corporations involvement is increasing in Open Source software development at every level. More and more companies are transitioning from becoming FLOSS consumers to producers and almost every new software company out there has Open Source as a core strategy or even as part of their DNA.

    But who is sustaining the development of that key piece of software that will be a core part of your future product? Who pays those developers? Why? How does the key stakeholders benefit from the outcome of the ecosystem and the software they produce? How much do they invest in the production of that software? For how long? How do they get their income? What is the relevance of the software produced by the ecosystem they feed in their business models?

    These and similar basic questions need to be fully understood before a specific software becomes part of your key product or business. Knowing the answers to the above questions might not prevent you from surprises in the future but at least can prepare you for the potential consequences. What it is clear to me is that these answers are becoming more complicated to find and understand over time, specially for those companies who do not have a strong background on Open Source.

    Choosing a specific piece of software based on purely technical variables or even present healthiness of the community around the project/organization, expectations of the number of contributors or impact in general might not be enough any more. A specific community or project will become “your provider” so the business model behind it is equally important.

  • Events

    • Open source down under: Linux.conf.au 2017

      It’s a new year and open source enthusiasts from around the globe are preparing to gather at the edge of the world for Linux.conf.au 2017. Among those preparing are Googlers, including some of us from the Open Source Programs Office.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Firefox 52 Borrows One More Privacy Feature from the Tor Browser

        Mozilla engineers have added a mechanism to Firefox 52 that prevents websites from fingerprinting users using system fonts.

        The user privacy protection system was borrowed from the Tor Browser, where a similar mechanism blocks websites from identifying users based on the fonts installed on their computers.

        The feature has been active in the Tor Browser for some time and will become active in the stable branch of Firefox 52, scheduled for release on March 7, 2017.

        The font fingerprinting protection is already active in Firefox 52 Beta.

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

    • 2017 TDF and LibreOffice calendar

      2017 is just around the corner, so here’s a shiny calendar from The Document Foundation and the LibreOffice community. Print it out, hang it on your wall, and here’s to a great 12 months ahead!

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Hungary withdraws membership from Open Government Partnership

      Hungary has decided to withdraw its membership from the OGP, following a disagreement with the OGP Steering Committee on a report.

    • Scotland published its first action plan as OGP “Pioneer“

      Scotland published its first Open Government National Action Plan since it has been selected by the Open Government Partnership (OGP) as one of the fifteen “Pioneer” governments in April 2016.

    • Germany and Luxembourg joined OGP

      During the Paris OGP Summit 2017, Germany and Luxembourg were among the European countries that announced their intent to join the Open Government Partnership. Portugal said it will “soon” become a member of the institution.

    • Contracting 5 initiative officially launched at Paris OGP Summit
    • OGP countries shifting commitments from basics to innovations

      The countries participating in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) are shifting their attention from “getting the basics right” to innovative measures and reforms that translate into actions capable of generating real change. After ‘public service delivery’, the areas ‘fiscal openness’ and ‘access to information’ are the most prevailing in the commitments for 2015-2016.

    • Paris Declaration to promote collective actions in open government

      The Paris Declaration, which was presented at the OGP Paris Summit in December, will encourage cooperation between countries and civil societies to promote open government on a global scale. The Declaration lists twenty-one collective actions in which governments can take part and share experiences. “Actions are concrete cooperation, output-orientated and will produce tangible results”, the text of the Declaration states.

    • Open Data

      • French to test Sirene data in a hackathon

        Etalab, the French agency in charge of Open Data in France, and INSEE (Institut National de la Statistiques et des Etudes Economiques) – the French national agency for statistics, organised in November a hackathon to test and use the data of the SIRENE (Système informatique pour le répertoire des entreprises et des établissements) database which will be published as open data in January.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • ‘Open Source’ Robo-Car in ’17?

        The year 2016 opened the door to a new phase of highly automated driving, moving the discussion away from “wouldn’t it be nice-to-have-a-robo-car” to a more immediate “to-do list” with which regulators, car OEMs and technology companies must grapple if they hope to make self-driving cars commercially viable and safe.

        Gone are days of early-adapter giddiness over the Google car, or an “Autopilot” Tesla with over-the-air software upgrades.

        Reality sank in 2016. The industry is now aware Autopilot’s limitations. The automotive engineering community is taking a crash course in Artificial Intelligence (AI) that’s far beyond today’s computer vision. Engineers are taking note of challenges in machine learning (how do you certify the safety of AI-driven cars?). Many automakers are scrambling for a holistic approach toward cybersecurity.

        So, what’s in the auto industry 2017 agenda that could change the course of robotic car development?

Leftovers

  • Checking email as soon as you wake up could be ruining your day

    If you’re like most people, you wake up to an alarm ringing on your smartphone. Then you probably roll over and check your work email.

    That’s a dangerous way to start the day, according to a woman who studies happiness for a living.

    Reading just one negative email could lead you to report having a bad day hours later, says Michelle Gielan, former national CBS News anchor turned psychology researcher and best-selling author.

  • Deprecated: The Ars 2017 tech company Deathwatch

    This year’s Deathwatch was meticulously curated. After an ad-hoc process for candidate selection—including pleas for input from our secret cabal of Ars readers, editors, and covert operators—our Deathwatch electoral college scientifically assessed each nominated candidate. There was some heavy ballot stuffing for candidates like “the Environmental Protection Agency” and “the United States of America” in this year’s reader balloting. We suspected voter fraud, so we threw all that out and just went with our gut.

    This year, we’ve picked a magnificent seven companies for the Deathwatch. 2017′s list includes two (well, three, sort of) returning champions and a whole bunch of new contenders. Let’s kick things off by noting that it’s a bad year for companies whose names start with “Y.”

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Nightmare of Flint water crisis is far from over

      Flint can’t turn the calendar on 2016 fast enough.

      But will 2017 be any better?

      If history is any indicator, Flint’s situation may only get worse if those guiding the water crisis recovery are not very careful.

      It was nearly a year ago that the Flint water crisis exploded on the national scene.

    • Newly appointed “settlement master” could change government response to Flint water crisis

      A judge has appointed a mediator in a federal case that could dramatically change how the state of Michigan responds to the Flint water crisis.

      Last month, U.S. District Judge David Lawson ordered the state to immediately begin delivering safe bottled water to Flint residents. Right now the state provides water and filters but residents have to pick it up or call a hotline to get it delivered.

      Flint officials argue in court documents the city simply cannot afford to deliver supplies to everyone. The state filed documents saying water tests show Flint’s water is meeting federal standards. The state is asking Judge Lawson to dissolve this order.

  • Security

    • Security updates for Friday
    • Washington Post Publishes False News Story About Russians Hacking Electrical Grid

      A story published by The Washington Post Friday claims Russia hacked the electrical grid in Vermont. This caused hysteria on social media but has been denied by a spokesman for a Vermont utility company.

      The Post story was titled, “Russian hackers penetrated U.S. electricity grid through a utility in Vermont, officials say.”

    • Recount 2016: An Uninvited Security Audit of the U.S. Presidential Election

      The 2016 U.S. presidential election was preceded by unprecedented cyberattacks and produced a result that surprised many people in the U.S. and abroad. Was it hacked? To find out, we teamed up with scientists and lawyers from around the country—and a presidential candidate—to initiate the first presidential election recounts motivated primarily by e-voting security concerns. In this talk, we will explain how the recounts took place, what we learned about the integrity of the election, and what needs to change to ensure that future U.S. elections are secure.

    • Malware Purveyor Serving Up Ransomware Via Bogus ICANN Blacklist Removal Emails

      Fun stuff ahead for some website owners, thanks to a breakdown in the registration process. A Swiss security researcher has spotted bogus ICANN blacklist removal emails being sent to site owners containing a Word document that acts as a trigger for ransomware.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Something About This Russia Story Stinks

      In an extraordinary development Thursday, the Obama administration announced a series of sanctions against Russia. Thirty-five Russian nationals will be expelled from the country. President Obama issued a terse statement seeming to blame Russia for the hack of the Democratic National Committee emails.

    • Obama’s Dive into the Syrian Abyss

      The bloody Syrian war got bloodier when President Obama allowed U.S. Mideast allies and hawkish U.S. officials to supply weapons to Sunni jihadists including those fighting alongside Al Qaeda’s affiliate, reports Gareth Porter.

    • Donald Trump’s New Nuclear Instability

      President-elect Donald Trump exploded a half-century of U.S. nuclear-arms policy in a single tweet last week: “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.” With that one vague message, Donald Trump, who hasn’t even taken office yet, may have started a new arms race.

      Trump’s statement set off alarms around the world, necessitating a cadre of his inner circle to flood the airwaves with now-routine attempts to explain what their boss “really meant.” On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow confronted former Trump campaign manager and newly appointed Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway about the shocking tweet:

      Maddow: “He’s saying we’re going to expand our nuclear capability.”

      Conway: “He’s not necessarily saying that—”

      Maddow: “… He did literally say we need to expand our nuclear capability—”

      Conway: “…What he’s saying is…we need to expand our nuclear capability, really our nuclear readiness, our capability to be ready for those who also have nuclear weapons.”

    • Imagine A World Without Islam

      I am an atheist, but I have been reading in and about Islam since 9/11, and I see that it is not like other religions. It is a violent, totalitarian system masquerading as a religion. And because the Quran is said to be the word of Allah — handed down from Allah through the Angel Gabriel to Mohammed — it is supposed to be unquestionable and unchangeable. This likely means there is no reforming Islam.

    • Five Afghan teenagers are convicted of gang-raping a boy at knife-point in Sweden – but NONE will be deported because their homeland is ‘too dangerous’

      The court said that the boys would have been ‘hit very hard’ by deportation because of the security situation in Afghanistan.

      Four of the defendants received jail terms of 15 months while the fifth was given 13 months, Expressen reports.

      Prosecutors had claimed that one of the attackers filmed parts of the assault, overnight on October 24 and 25, and posted the footage on social media.

      The victim, also from Afghanistan, went to police before five suspects were detained on child rape charges, it has been reported in Sweden.

    • Underage girls trapped in Pakistan bride exchanges

      The 36-year-old Ramzan smiles, eager to please, as he uses his fingers to count out her age when they married. One, two, three . . . until 13, and then he stops and looks at her, points and nods several times.

      The girl’s father, Wazir Ahmed, says she was 14, not 13, but her age was beside the point. It mattered only that she had reached puberty when he arranged her marriage as an exchange: his daughter for Ramzan’s sister, whom he wanted to take as a second wife.

    • FGM in Kenya: ‘Girls are being paraded openly in the streets’

      In Kuria, public ceremonies celebrating the illegal season of female genital cutting have been allowed to take place unchallenged

    • Kenyan girls ‘to stay at school to avoid FGM over holidays’

      It has been reported that hundreds of girls in Kenya will spend the holiday season in schools instead of going home to avoid being subjected to female genital mutilation (FGM) by their parents.

      BBC News has revealed that although many schools should have closed over a month ago, they have remained open to shelter the girls, while some churches are doing the same.

    • Exit Obama in a Cloud of Disillusion, Delusion and Deceit

      Of course Russian hackers exist. They attack this blog pretty well continually – as do hackers from the USA and many other countries. Of course there have been attempted Russian hacks of the DNC. But the report gives no evidence at all of the alleged successful hack that transmitted these particular emails, nor any evidence of the connection between the hackers and the Russian government, let alone Putin.

    • Hypocrisy Over Alleged Russian ‘Hacking’

      As Official Washington rages over alleged Russian hacking of Democratic emails, a forgotten back story is how the U.S. government pioneered the tactics of cyber-war and attacked unsuspecting countries, recalls Michael Brenner.

    • Barack Obama Wasn’t Nearly As Tough on Israel as Republican Presidents

      The Obama administration’s final moves on the Israeli-Palestinian issue — a symbolic resolution allowing the United Nations Security Council to condemn Israeli settlements and a speech by Secretary of State John Kerry warning that the settlement project could permanently end the two-state solution — has sparked a critical backlash from the country’s supporters.

      These reactions range from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling the resolution “shameful” to right-wing members of Congress threatening to defund the United Nations.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • FOIA Requesters Sue Government Agencies Over Non-Responses To Requests For Election-Related Documents

      Two of the nation’s foremost FOIA enthusiasts — Jason Leopold and Ryan Shapiro — are suing a variety of federal agencies for their failure to respond to requests for documents related to the 2016 election.

      The first lawsuit, filed a couple of weeks ago, concerns records pertaining to FBI director James Comey’s actions in the last few weeks before Election Day. Most of the documents sought relate to the FBI’s on-again, off-again investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. The pair also seeks a variety of communications between Comey and the rest of the FBI, as well as any internal FBI discussions about the number of leaks that accompanied Comey’s last-minute dive back into the email investigation.

      Shapiro and Leopold are also seeking unredacted copies of Clinton email investigation documents previously released by the FBI. They also would like to see what the FBI has on hand that references a variety of right-wing news sites, including Breitbart News and alternativeright.com.

    • FBI Says It Has 487 Pages Of James Comey Talking Points, Refuses To Release Any Of Them

      Leopold had requested FBI Director James Comey’s talking points for a variety of subjects, including “going dark,” the terrorist attacks in Paris, the “Ferguson Effect,” and encryption. The FBI responded with two things, both of which add up to nothing.

      The letter Leopold received noted that the FBI had found 487 pages responsive to his request. Of those, the agency will be releasing a grand total of zero pages. All 487 have been withheld under FOIA exemptions b(5) through b(7)(E).

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • China to ban ivory trade by the end of 2017

      China will ban all domestic ivory trade and processing by the end of 2017, state media reported on Friday, in a move hailed by activists as a gamechanger for Africa’s elephants.

      African ivory is highly sought after in China where it is seen as a status symbol and prices for a kilo (2.2 pounds) can reach as much as $1,100 (£890).

      “China will gradually stop the processing and sales of ivories for commercial purposes by the end of 2017,” the official Xinhua news agency said, citing a government statement.

      The announcement follows Beijing’s move in March to widen a ban on imports of all ivory and ivory products acquired before 1975 after pressure to restrict a trade that sees thousands of elephants slaughtered every year.

      Xinhua said the complete ban would affect “34 processing enterprises and 143 designated trading venues, with dozens to be closed by the end of March 2017”.

    • Climate researcher’s defamation suit about insulting columns is on

      Several years back, some conservative columnists wrote pieces that accused a prominent climate researcher of having fraudulently manipulated data, phrasing it in a way that made comparisons with a convicted child molester. The researcher demanded the columns be removed; when the publishers refused, he turned to the courts. His suit, filed in the District of Columbia’s Superior Court, has been kicking around ever since, as motions to get it dismissed have ended up languishing amidst more filings and an appeal.

    • Buoyed by DAPL Fight, Canadian Chiefs Launch Legal Battle Against Enbridge Pipeline

      Buoyed by the success of Indigenous resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a coalition of Canadian First Nation chiefs have launched legal action against the Trudeau government for its recent approval of the Enbridge Line 3 expansion.

      Derek Nepinak, grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, wrote on Facebook Wednesday that the group’s legal team filed an appeal in federal court challenging the approval, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced late last month in tandem with the expansion of Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline.

      Condemnation of both projects was swift, with First Nations vowing to fight back. “Just as Indigenous Peoples are showing unwavering strength down at Standing Rock, our peoples are not afraid and are ready to do what needs to be done to stop the pipelines and protect our water and our next generations,” Nepinak said at the time.

  • Finance

    • The Coming Assault on Social Security

      The first assault of the new Trump administration and Republican Congress upon Social Security has been launched. It comes in the form of release of a new report by the Congressional Budget Office, which of course these days is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Congressional Caucus.

      Using some financial sleight-of-hand, this CBO report pushes forward by two years the date at which its ideologically driven experts claim Social Security benefits will exhaust the Trust Fund, and since the Social Security program is required to be self-financing, the date at which, barring adjustments by Congress in the program’s funding and/or benefit payment levels, promised benefits would have to be cut by what the CBO claims will have to be 31%.

      Such a cut would clearly be a staggering blow to the finances and livelihoods of nation’s retirees, dependents and the disabled.

      This end-of-the-year CBO report is at odds with a report issued earlier this year by the Trustees of the Social Security Administration, which projected that the Trust Fund, barring any changes in taxes or benefit payments, would be tapped out in 2033, and that at that point benefits, barring some fixes in Social Security financing, would have to be cut by an also horrific but far lower 21% (with the remaining 79% of benefit payments being covered by current employee FICA taxes being paid into the system).

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • False Media Reporting on Trump’s Request to State Dept for Info on Gender Equality Programs

      The Washington Post, quickly followed by the New York Times and NPR and many others, headlined a story that Trump’s transition team asked the State Department for a list of programs and jobs aimed at promoting gender equality.

    • Ralph Nader

      On this week’s program, we hear a speech by Ralph Nader, recorded in Berkeley CA this past October, and hosted by Mickey Huff. Nader spoke on some of the themes of his latest book, “Breaking Through Power,” and explained his proposal for a public-interest lobbying organization with a presence in all 435 Congressional districts.

    • Mormon Tabernacle Choir member quits, refuses to sing for Trump

      Another member of a group selected to perform at Donald Trump’s inauguration is protesting.
      Jan Chamberlin, a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, is quitting the group and saying that she could never sing for Trump.

      She sent a resignation letter to the choir president this week.
      “I’ve tried to tell myself that it will be all right and that I can continue in good conscience before God and man,” Chamberlin wrote in a Facebook post. “I only know I could never ‘throw roses to Hitler.’ And I certainly could never sing for him.”

    • Deplorability

      How badly did those who survived worshipping Adolf Hitler in the early days must have felt when they learned the truth, that just about everything the “fuhrer” told them was a lie… How badly will a performer feel when this great adventure turns out badly? How badly will those foolish voters feel in a few years when the economy is in the tank and the world hates what USA is doing even more than they do now?

    • Ridiculous Congressional Proposal Would Fine Reps Who Live Stream From The Floor

      It would be nice if we weren’t remind daily just how petty politicians can be (on all sides of the aisle… so don’t go making this about one party or the other). Over the summer, we wrote about a situations in which House Democrats tried to stage a protest on the House floor — and House Republicans responded by gavelling the House out of session and turning off the live feed on C-SPAN so that the protest could not be easily seen (again, this isn’t partisan: the House Dems did the same to House Repubs eight years ago). In response, some of those participating in the protest started using Periscope and Facebook Live to livestream online from the floor.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Russia’s Five Most Memorable Censorship Moments of 2016

      Roskomnadzor, the Kremlin’s federal censorship agency, is responsible for regulating the Internet in Russia, which includes enforcing police orders and court decisions to ban websites and online services deemed “harmful” or “illicit.”

      According to figures released in April 2016, Roskomnadzor has blocked more than 25,000 websites, though the actual number of sites affected by these bans is more than 600,000, say activists at RosKomSvoboda, because they share the same IP addresses as sites blacklisted officially.

      Today, the number of banned websites in Russia is still rising steadily. As 2016 comes to a close, RuNet Echo looks back at the five most controversial, infamous, and even ironic actions this year by Russia’s federal censors.

    • Internet Censorship: Governments Shut Down The Internet More Than 50 Times In 2016

      As internet access becomes more prevalent around the world, so too do attempts to suppress it. According to digital rights organization Access Now, there were more than 50 attempts by governments to shut down the internet during 2016.

      Access to internet was cut for a variety of reasons throughout the year, including several attempts to stifle dissent and affect outcomes of the democratic process.

      Deji Olukotun, the senior global advocacy manager at Access Now, told the Inter Press Service an internet shutdown was imposed in Uganda by President Yoweri Museveni–including a blackout of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter —on the morning of election day.

    • Governments Shut Down the Internet More Than 50 Times in 2016
    • Facebook temporarily bans author after he calls Trump fans ‘nasty fascistic lot’

      A journalist was temporarily banned from Facebook after a post in which he called Trump supporters “a nasty fascistic lot”, in the latest example of the social media platform’s censorship of journalists.

      Facebook “reviewed and restored” the post by Kevin Sessums after being contacted by the Guardian and dropped the posting ban.

      “We’re very sorry about this mistake,” a spokesman said. “The post was removed in error and restored as soon as we were able to investigate. Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong.”

      Sessums, who is well known for his celebrity profiles for Vanity Fair and two best-selling memoirs, says that he shared a Facebook post from ABC political analyst Matthew Dowd that read: “In the last few hours I have been called by lovely ‘christian’ Trump fans: a jew, faggot, retard. To set record straight: divorced Catholic.”

      [...]

      “It’s chilling. It’s arbitrary censorship,” Sessums said. “I was like, ‘Wait a minute, do I have to be careful about what I say about Trump now?’”

    • Google Removed Over 900 Million ‘Pirate’ Links in 2016

      Google removed over 900 million pirate site URLs from its search results in 2016. The staggering number is an increase of nearly 100% compared to the year before. While Google has taken some steps to make pirate sites less visible, it continues to disagree with rightsholders on how to move forward.

    • Ban Trump, Twitter and Free Speech

      Chief among those opposing ideas they want silenced are Donald Trump’s. His remarks — from the silly, labeled unpresidential, to the more extreme labeled racist/sexist/misogynist/hateful — have attracted a surprising group of otherwise intelligent people demanding he be shut up.

    • Singapore teen blogger seeks US asylum
    • Singapore teen blogger seeks US asylum
    • Singapore activist blogger, 18, seeks U.S. asylum
    • Controversial Singapore teen blogger seeks U.S. asylum
    • James Woods, Culture Warrior, Returns to Fight
    • Conservative Actor James Woods Returns to Twitter Six Weeks After Quitting Over Political Censorship
  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • The Government didn’t install cameras and microphones in our homes. We did.

      It begins: Amazon’s constantly-listening robotic home assistant was near a domestic murder case, and now the Police wants access to anything it might have heard. There have been similar cases in the past, but this is where it starts getting discussed: There are now dozens of sensors in our house. Do we still have an expectation of privacy in our home?

      A recurring theme in the dystopic fiction of the 1950s was an everpresent government watching everything you did, as witnessed in the infamous Nineteen Eighty-Four and many others. Adding to the dystopia, starting in the 1970s with movies such as Colossus, computers are typically added to the mix of watching everything all the time.

      However, these fictional dystopias all got one critical thing wrong in predicting the future: the government never installed cameras and microphones in everybody’s home. We did. We did it ourselves. And we paid good money for them, too. A smart television set — with infrared cameras built in, watching the people watching the television set as well as listening to them — costs good money that we happily paid.

    • Creator of NSA’s Global Surveillance System Calls B.S. On Russian Hacking Report

      We’ve previously documented that the hacking evidence against Russia is extremely weak, and the new report on Russian hacking doesn’t say much.

      Indeed – if Russia hacked the Democratic party emails (from the DNC and top Clinton aide John Podesta) – the NSA would have all of the records showing exactly who did it.

    • UK Councils Used Massive Surveillance Powers To Spy On… Excessively Barking Dogs & Illegal Pigeon Feeding

      Over in the UK, we’ve highlighted many of the problems of massively expanding surveillance through the (most likely illegal) “DRIPA” (Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill) and the new Snooper’s Charter. And yet, the government there keeps insisting that such powers would never be abused. But, that’s ridiculous. As we’ve seen in the past, it’s difficult to find examples of surveillance powers not being expanded and abused over time. And, now the UK is realizing exactly how that works. The Guardian, via Freedom of Information requests, has discovered that local British councils were given the ability to use surveillance powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to spy on all sorts of people for what appear to be minor infractions…

    • Signal for Android now circumvents censorship in Cuba and Oman

      Open Whisper Systems, the company that makes the Signal encrypted messaging app and that contributed to the encryption in Facebook-owned WhatsApp, today updated its Signal app for Android with the ability to avoid being censored in two more countries: Cuba and Oman.

    • Encrypted chat app Signal sidesteps censorship in Cuba and Oman

      Last week it was Egypt, and now users in Cuba and Oman can send messages without fear of them being intercepted and altered by lawmakers.

    • Signal Desktop Beta: Convenience Added to Security

      Signal Private Messenger has been simplifying the encryption of voice and text messages for several years now. Not only is it a drop-in replacement for existing Android and iOS contract and messaging apps, but its handling of encryption handshakes is invisible to the user, making encrypted messages no harder from the end-user’s perspective than non-encrypted ones. That is an accomplishment in itself, but Signal has gone one step further, releasing a beta version of Signal Desktop for Android, allowing users to text and play calls from a laptop or workstation synced to a phone.

      Signal has come in for some criticism, which I should probably answer before going further. First, the rumor persists that its server code is proprietary. According to Open Whisper Systems, the non-profit that develops Signal, that was true until June 2016 because restrictions on the Apple store were incompatible with the GNU General Public License. However, changes in those restrictions now make it possible to license Signal’s server code under the Affero General Public License, which the Free Software Foundation recommends for on-line services.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Fatal shootings by police remain relatively unchanged after two years

      Despite ongoing national scrutiny of police tactics, the number of fatal shootings by officers in 2016 remained virtually unchanged from last year when nearly 1,000 people were killed by police.

      Through Thursday, law enforcement officers fatally shot 957 people in 2016 — close to three each day — down slightly from 2015 when 991 people were shot to death by officers, according to an ongoing project by The Washington Post to track the number of fatal shootings by police.

      The Post, for two years in a row, has documented more than twice the number of fatal shootings recorded by the FBI annually on average.

    • Saudi Arabia jails man for a year after he publically called for end of male control over women

      A Saudi man has been jailed for a year after he called for an end to the ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom’s male guardianship system.

      The unnamed man was also fined 30,000 riyals (£6,500) after being convicted of “inciting to end guardianship of women”, the daily Okaz newspaper reported.

      He was arrested while putting up posters inside mosques which called for the government to abolish strict rules giving men control over women.

      The man admitted to pinning up posters in several mosques and said he solely launched an “awareness campaign” after finding some “female relatives were facing injustice at the hands of their families,” the daily newspaper said, according to the AFP news agency.

    • If Donald Trump Targets Journalists, Thank Obama

      If Donald J. Trump decides as president to throw a whistle-blower in jail for trying to talk to a reporter, or gets the F.B.I. to spy on a journalist, he will have one man to thank for bequeathing him such expansive power: Barack Obama.

      Mr. Trump made his animus toward the news media clear during the presidential campaign, often expressing his disgust with coverage through Twitter or in diatribes at rallies. So if his campaign is any guide, Mr. Trump seems likely to enthusiastically embrace the aggressive crackdown on journalists and whistle-blowers that is an important yet little understood component of Mr. Obama’s presidential legacy.

      Criticism of Mr. Obama’s stance on press freedom, government transparency and secrecy is hotly disputed by the White House, but many journalism groups say the record is clear. Over the past eight years, the administration has prosecuted nine cases involving whistle-blowers and leakers, compared with only three by all previous administrations combined. It has repeatedly used the Espionage Act, a relic of World War I-era red-baiting, not to prosecute spies but to go after government officials who talked to journalists.

    • French workers gain ‘right to disconnect’

      A new law forcing French companies to give their workers the right to ignore their smartphones outside of work hours takes effect Sunday.

      The measure — introduced as part of a controversial overhaul of the French labor code earlier this year that is the first of its kind in the world — will oblige companies that employ more than 50 people to negotiate a set of rights with their staff about when they have to work outside of contracted work hours.

      In 2015, Labor Minister Myriam El Khomri commissioned a study that warned about the dangers of “info-obesity,” suggesting that using a smartphone to check work emails at all hours of the day can cause burnout, sleeplessness and relationship problems.

    • Dark Days and the Coming of Fascism in the New America

      Today, there is nothing stopping the American republic, which has already devolved into a plutocracy and is recognized as such by even some mainstream political science scholars, from disintegrating further. For certain, after first sparking a democratic revolt (which seems to be happening right now) but later descending into a chaotic political order, the American republic will eventually degenerate into a dictatorship – or “rule by the criminal” – where US society would be guided by those exhibiting only the basest of human emotions.

    • Throwing Roses To Hitler

      Poor poor Drumpf. Turns out he is unbeloved not just by the Rockettes, most Americans and almost every other country – see China’s shiny new Trump rooster and an international cascade of horrified, belittling images – but by many Mormons. Despite a long tradition of political neutrality and conservatism, many Mormons are reportedly upset at the planned appearance of their iconic Mormon Tabernacle Choir at the inauguration of a sexist, racist, intolerant, moronic alleged president-elect who “DOES NOT reflect the values of Mormonism and does not represent its diverse 15+ million members worldwide.” Charging that Trump betrays the church’s principles and values, almost 30,000 Mormons have signed a petition to protest the scheduled performance and demand it be cancelled.

    • California Blames Incarcerated Workers for Unsafe Conditions and Amputations

      In September, after months of organizing via smuggled cellphones and outside go-betweens, prisoners across the country launched a nationwide strike to demand better working conditions at the numerous facilities that employ inmate labor for little or no pay.

      The strike, which spread to dozens of institutions in 22 states, briefly called attention to a fact about prison labor that is well-understood in America’s penal institutions but scarcely known to the general public: Inmates in America’s state prisons — who make everything from license plates to college diploma covers — are not only excluded from the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on slave labor, but also exist largely outside the reach of federal safety regulations meant to ensure that Americans are not injured or killed on the job. Excluded from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s mandate of protecting American workers, these inmates lack some of the most basic labor protections other workers take for granted.

    • Ukraine’s corrupt counter-revolution

      Corruption remains Ukraine’s biggest problem. According to polls conducted in December 2016, 89% of the country’s population considers the current government’s battle against corruption to be a failure. As Petro Poroshenko reaches the halfway mark of his first term as president, these figures don’t bode well.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Dutch Regulators Demand T-Mobile Stop Zero Rating, Remind Users That Free Data Isn’t Really Free

      We’ve talked a lot about how the FCC’s refusal to outright ban “zero rating” here in the States opened the door to all manner of net neutrality violations and anti-competitive behavior. Thanks to this omission, we’ve now got gatekeepers like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast all exempting their streaming content from usage caps, while penalizing competing services. Consumers also now face T-Mobile and Sprint plans that throttle video, music and games by default — unless users pony up an additional monthly fee. Some folks, like VC Fred Wilson, saw this coming a long way off.

      And while the FCC only this month acknowledged this kind of behavior is anti-competitive and problematic, the “enforcement” (which is a pretty generous term for the weak-kneed letters the agency is sending out) comes too late as the FCC appears poised to be scheduled for a defunding and defanging under the incoming Trump administration.

  • DRM

    • DRM vs. Civil Liberties: 2016 in Review

      Imagine a world where your Internet-connected car locks you in at the behest of its manufacturer—or the police. Where your media devices only let you consume mass media, not remix it to publish a counter-narrative or viral meme. Where your phone is designed to report on your movements and communications. Where your kid’s toy tells them it’s their friend, then talks about how much it loves sponsored products and transmits everything it hears in your home back to its manufacturer. Where your phone stops working if the police or the manufacturer ask it to. Where these backdoors are vulnerable to hacking, so anyone with the right resources can take advantage of them.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • Prenda’s Paul Hansmeier Now Under FBI Investigation For His ADA Lawsuits

        The wheels of justice have turned to the point where Team Prenda copyright trolling efforts have netted John Steele and Paul Hansmeier federal indictments. The list of charges the pair face is ugly: mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and suborning perjury.

        After Prenda’s many copyright lawsuits fell apart, Paul Hansmeier decided to start trolling small, local businesses with ADA lawsuits, hoping to turn what little legal expertise he has into profitable settlements. During this time, Hansmeier was also facing the dismantling of an attempted bankruptcy filing — one that very much looked like an attempt to avoid paying judgments resulting from Prenda’s years of bullshit. To avoid having his assets turned over to creditors, Hansmeier engaged in some creative accounting, like handing off money to a newly-formed trust and… dumping cash into a cardboard box.

      • EU’s Departing Internet Commissioner Leaves Behind Copyright Plan That Will Outlaw Basic Internet Functions

        We’ve written quite a few times about EU Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, a bigoted luddite, who bizarrely was put in charge of internet regulations for no clear reason at all. His main focus seemed to be on putting in place policies whose sole goal was to harm the internet because many key internet companies are American. Oettinger, who seems to be magnetically connected to all sorts of scandals has failed upward to a new job as the EU’s budget chief, but as EU Parliament Member Julia Reda notes, he’s still leaving a trail of internet destruction in his wake. In particular, she highlights ten everyday internet activities that would be outlawed if Oettinger’s copyright and internet proposals become law. It’s a pretty eye-opening list, and should raise serious questions about why Oettinger was ever put in charge of anything having to do with the internet.

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