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01.15.17

Links 15/1/2017: Switching From OS X to GNU/Linux, Debian 8.7 Released

Posted in News Roundup at 12:25 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • CC4 – Linux – A Brief Introduction

    Here I’ve given a speech concerning the topic of Linux, it’s benefits and where it stands today, with a little bit of history.

  • Some improbable 2017 predictions [Older, no longer behind paywall]

    Another important single point of failure is Android. It has brought a lot of freedom to the mobile device world, but it is still a company-controlled project that is not entirely free and, by some measures at least, is becoming less free over time. A shift of emphasis at Google could easily push Android more in the proprietary direction. Meanwhile, the end of CyanogenMod has, temporarily, brought about the loss of our most successful community-oriented Android derivative.

    The good news is that the efforts to bring vendor kernels closer to the mainline will bear some fruit this year, making it easier to run systems that, if not fully free, are more free than before. Lineage OS, rising from the ashes of CyanogenMod, should help to ensure the availability of alternative Android builds. But it seems likely that efforts to provide free software at the higher levels of the stack (microG, for example) will languish.

  • Desktop

    • Why I switched from OS X to GNU/Linux

      After I was done with my studies at the university I wanted to work for some company which worked with Open Source, I started at Pelagicore, where I still work. There we are creating custom Linux distributions for car manufacturers, we do UI work, we write Linux drivers, Linux middleware and so on. Because we work with Linux it is much more convinient to run Linux nativelly for developement too. At Pelagicore (almosc) all developers work on Linux desktops and laptops, I felt that I fit right in with my ThinkPad. And this was also why I used my iMac less and less, everybody around me was using Linux, it became cumbersome to do the overhead to get stuff running on the iMac which I already had running at work and on my laptop on Linux.

      I started with Ubuntu, but quite fast switched to Debian testing with Gnome 3 because I learned about how Canonical treats everyone, their users (the [Amazon problem (http://www.zdnet.com/article/shuttleworth-defends-ubuntu-linux-integrating-amazon/) with Unity Dash search results, problems with their Intellectual Property Policy, etc.) It also helped that there was Jeremiah, who evangalizes debian day in day out at work.

      In between I wanted to try out Arch Linux so I installed it on my ThinkPad, and man this was a performance boost, it felt like a new machine in comperison to Ubuntu. Nowadays I run Arch at work too. For stuff which doesn’t work, like some specific version of Yocto, I wrap it into a docker container with a Ubuntu image for compatibility.

    • Mintbox Mini Pro computer with Linux Mint now available for $395

      The Mintbox Mini Pro is a tiny desktop computer with a fanless design for silent operation, a low-power AMD processor, 8GB of RAM, 120GB of solid state storage, and Linux Mint 18 software pre-installed.

      It measures about 4.3″ x 3.3″ x 0,9″ and has a metal case made from zinc and aluminum.

      First introduced in September, the MintBox Mini Pro is now available for purchase for $395.

    • Librem 13 coreboot report – January 12, 2017

      Hello again Purists! I’ve made some progress on the coreboot port to the Librem 13 v1 hardware.

  • Server

    • Top 10 Linux Server Distributions of 2017

      You know that Linux is a hot data center server. You know it can save you money in licensing and maintenance costs. But that still leaves the question of what your best options are for Linux as a server operating system.

      We’ve researched, crunched the numbers and put dozens of Linux distros through their paces to compile our latest list of the top ten Linux server distributions (aka “Linux server distros”) — some of which you may not be aware.

      The following characteristics, in no particular order, qualified a Linux server distro for inclusion in this list: ease of installation and use, cost, available commercial support and data center reliability.

      Without further ado, here are the top 10 Linux server operating systems for 2017.

    • A Web Service Written in Pure Bash.

      The service itself is currently running on a Ubuntu 16.10 droplet on DigitalOcean. To expose my service I needed to open a connection with the outside world and initially played with netcat as it’s preinstalled on most *nix machines. This task wasn’t familiar to me at all, but I couldn’t read the incoming request and I couldn’t handle two users connecting at the same time. I explored inetd which lacked of documentation beyond the man page. Continuing with my research I found xinetd which is a more secure version of inetd. I also found a lot more sufficient documentation and user guides on creating a service. After installing xinetd I began building a primitive version of my pure bash service called beeroclock.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • Deloitte Blockchain Lab Opens in NYC

      Here’s another sign that blockchain is becoming big business.

      Deloitte today announced the formation of a blockchain lab in the heart of New York City’s financial district in what the global audit and consultancy firm expects will be a “make or break” year the technology. The lab is home to more than 20 developers and designers and will work with Deloitte teams abroad as well as over a dozen of the company’s technology partners.

      Open now and dubbed the Americas Blockchain Lab at Deloitte, the new practice will help drive the development of blockchains solutions for financial services firms, from proofs of concepts to ready-to-integrate solutions, stated the company.

      “Financial institutions have the power and ability to move blockchain to the next level,” said Eric Piscini, a principal with Deloitte Consulting, in a statement. “To get there, companies will need to move away from churning out proofs of concept and begin producing and implementing solutions.”

    • Graphics Stack

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Google Code-in draws to a close — students finish your final task by January 16, 2017 at 09:00 (PST)

        Mentors, you have until January 18, 2017 at 09:00 (PST) to evaluate your student’s work. Please get that done before the deadline, so that admins don’t have to judge the student work.

      • Mycroft Plasmoid for KDE Plasma 5
      • Plasma 5.9 Beta Kicks off 2017 in Style.

        Thursday, 12 January 2017. Today KDE releases the beta of this year’s first Plasma feature update, Plasma 5.9. While this release brings many exciting new features to your desktop, we’ll continue to provide bugfixes to Plasma 5.8 LTS.

      • The hype is great: WikiToLearn India Conf2017 is almost here!

        In less than two weeks WikiToLearn India Conf2017 is about to happen. We are extremely happy because this is the first big international event entirely dedicated to WikiToLearn. We have to thank the members of our community who are working hard to provide you this amazing event. For sure, the best thing about this conference is the great variety of speakers: Ruphy is flying from Italy to India to attend the conference and give a talk about WTL. For this event we have speakers lined up from Mediawiki, KDE and Mozilla Community. Several projects and ideas will meet at WTL India Conf2017 and this is simply amazing for us! The entire event will be recorded and videos will be uploaded online: you won’t miss any talk!

      • Fixing old stuff

        On FreeBSD, Qt4 is still a thing — for instance, for the KDE4 desktop that is still the latest full-KDE experience you can get from the official packages. And although that software is pretty old, the base system still evolves. FreeBSD 9 has been put to rest, and with it all the GCC-based FreeBSD systems. That frees us from having to deal with GCC and Clang at the same time, and we can generally patch things in just one way (usually towards more-modern C++). But the base system also evolves “out from under” older software. There’s an effort to update the base system compiler (for FreeBSD 12) to Clang 4.0 (sometime soon-ish), and that means that our older C++ code is being exposed to a newer, pickier, compiler.

  • Distributions

    • Reviews

      • Intro To Netrunner Desktop 17.01 GNU/Linux for Beginners

        This review of Netrunner Desktop 17.01 GNU/Linux is intended for end users and beginners. Netrunner is a desktop oriented operating system, ships with complete daily-usage desktop applications, and full multimedia codecs support. It means once the users install Netrunner they do not need to install anything anymore for all daily works. In this article you will find 12 points of review, download links, and some notes at the end. Enjoy it.

      • MX Linux MX-16 Metamorphosis – Winds of change

        MX Linux MX-16 Metamorphosis is a very decent distribution. It’s a small product, not very well known, and probably not your first home choice when it comes to Linux. But then, despite its humble upbringing, it does offer a powerful punch. You get all the goodies out of the box, and except for some Bluetooth issues and less-than-trivial customization, the slate is spotless. Music, phones, speed, battery life, fun, all there.

        Of course, the question is, can MX Linux sustain this record. If we look back, there were some rough patches, a bit of identity crisis, and the existential question of quality, the same journey that Xubuntu underwent. But then it kind of peaked and degraded some recently. Will MX Linux follow the same path? The last few years were good, with a steady, consistent improvement on all fronts. Then again, I thought Xubuntu was invincible, too.

        For the time being, predicting the future remains tricky. However, here and now, MX-16 is a great choice for a lightweight desktop. Xfce has come a long way, and you get all the essentials you expect from a home system. It’s all there, plus good looks, plus speed that rivals anything out there, among the best battery life numbers, great stability, and even some extra unique features like the live session save and MX Tools. A most worthy combo. All in all, 9.5/10. Warmly recommended for testing and sampling.

    • New Releases

      • Devil-Linux 1.8.0-rc2 released

        Devil-Linux 1.8.0-rc2 has been released! This is a major overhaul of Devil-Linux. Most programs and libraries have been updated and unmaintained ones have been removed. The main file system has been switched to squashfs, to further reduce the iso size. See the changelog for additional details.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • openSUSE Tumbleweed – Review of the Week 2017/02

        I hope you all ended up well fed and healthy in the new year. For the last few weeks we have seen quite a slow pace for Tumbleweed, just as pre-announced in my last review of the year 2016. We can surely expect an increased pace again as people from all around the world resume their regular life rhythms. For completeness sake I will cover in this weeks’ review not only this week, but also the few snapshots since my last review. That means, we cover 8 snapshots: from 2016: 1216, 1217, 1219, 1222 and 1226 and from 2017: 0104, 0109 and 0110. Sadly, 0111 and 0112 ran into some issues on openQA – but the issues are to most parts in the testing framework, not the product (from what we know). But not being able to fully confirm it, I did not feel comfortable releasing them into the wild onto you. After all, I know some of you are still having issues with the kernel 4.9 series (but good new on that part is on the horizon). 0112 might still cut it, if we solve the openQA issues in time.

      • Forget Ubuntu, now OpenSuse Linux comes to Windows 10

        If you have been following Techworm, you will know that you can run Ubuntu Apps on Windows using Bash. Microsoft brought the fun and power of Linux to Windows 10 with Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). This allowed the Windows 10 users to run Bash on Ubuntu on Windows 10 and enjoy Ubuntu Apps without having to install the Ubuntu distro separately.

      • You can now install SUSE Linux distribution inside WSL on Windows 10
      • It’s Now Possible to Use openSUSE Inside Windows 10, Here’s How to Install It
    • Red Hat Family

    • Debian Family

      • Updated Debian 8: 8.7 released

        The Debian project is pleased to announce the seventh update of its stable distribution Debian 8 (codename “jessie”). This update mainly adds corrections for security problems to the stable release, along with a few adjustments for serious problems. Security advisories were already published separately and are referenced where available.

        Please note that this update does not constitute a new version of Debian 8 but only updates some of the packages included. There is no need to throw away old “jessie” CDs or DVDs but only to update via an up-to-date Debian mirror after an installation, to cause any out of date packages to be updated.

      • Debian 8.7 Jessie Released
      • Debian 8.7 released

        This update adds corrections for security problems to the stable release, along with adjustments for serious problems.

      • Debian GNU/Linux 8.7 Released

        The Debian Project has released the seventh update of Debian 8 Jessie. This release ships with tons of security updates, bug fixes, and updated packages. The existing users of Debian 8 need to point the apt package tool to one of the updated Debian mirrors and get the update. The new installation media and ISO images are yet to be published.

      • Debian GNU/Linux 8.7 Released With New Features and 85 Security Updates
      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • TedPage: The Case for Ubuntu Phone

            What I find most interesting thing about this discussion is that it is the original reason that Google bought Android. They were concerned that with Apple controlling the smartphone market they’d be in a position to damage Google’s ability to compete in services. They were right. But instead of opening it up to competition (a competition that certainly at the time and even today they’re likely to win) they decided to lock down Android with their own services. So now we see in places like China where Google services are limited there is no way for Android to win, only forks that use a different set of integrations. One has to wonder if Ubuntu Phone existed earlier whether Google would have bought Android, while Ubuntu Phone competes with Android it doesn’t pose any threat to Google’s core businesses.

            It is always a failure to try and convince people to change their patterns and devices just for the sake of change. Early adopters are people who enjoy that, but not the majority of people. This means that we need to be an order of magnitude better, which is a pretty high bar to set, but one I enjoy working towards. I think that Ubuntu Phone has the fundamental DNA to win in this race.

          • new Ubuntu Terminal snap – tabs and tiled view on Ubuntu 16.04 Unity 8
          • The Case for Ubuntu Phone: Flexibility for Mobile Networks

            Canonical engineer Ted Gould has put the case for Ubuntu Phone, arguing that mobile carriers will appreciate the ‘flexibility’ to bundle apps and services.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Baidu released artificial intelligence operating system DuerOS

    At this year’s CES show, Baidu released its artificial intelligence operating system system DuerOS, also announced at home with small fish to reach cooperation, small fish at home is the first equipped with Baidu DuerOS artificial intelligence manufacturers. Baidu said that this is the first time the introduction of dialogue type artificial intelligence operating system, Baidu is an important strategic product of artificial intelligence. DuerOS emphasizes the interactive nature of voice conversations through natural language. At the same time with the cloud of the brain, can always learn evolution, become more intelligent.

  • Intel Open-Sources BigDL, Distributed Deep Learning Library for Apache Spark

    Intel open-sources BigDL, a distributed deep learning library that runs on Apache Spark. It leverages existing Spark clusters to run deep learning computations and simplifies the data loading from big datasets stored in Hadoop.

    Tests show a significant speedup performance running on Xeon servers compared to other open source frameworks Caffe, Torch or TensorFlow. The speed is comparable with a mainstream GPU and BigDL is able to scale to tens of Xeon servers.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • New Port for RISC-V

      We’d like to submit for inclusion in GCC a port for the RISC-V architecture. The port suffices to build a substantial body of software (including Linux and some 2,000 Fedora packages) and passes most of the gcc and g++ test suites; so, while it is doubtlessly not complete, we think it is far enough along to start the upstreaming process. It is our understanding that it is OK to submit this port during stage 3 because it does not touch any shared code. Our binutils port has already been accepted for the 2.28 release, and we plan on submitting glibc and Linux patch sets soon.

    • [Older] Twenty-four new GNU releases in December
  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Data

      • Getting Election Data, and Why Open Data is Important

        Back in 2012, I got interested in fiddling around with election data as a way to learn about data analysis in Python. So I went searching for results data on the presidential election. And got a surprise: it wasn’t available anywhere in the US. After many hours of searching, the only source I ever found was at the UK newspaper, The Guardian.

        Surely in 2016, we’re better off, right? But when I went looking, I found otherwise. There’s still no official source for US election results data; there isn’t even a source as reliable as The Guardian this time.

        You might think Data.gov would be the place to go for official election results, but no: searching for 2016 election on Data.gov yields nothing remotely useful.

        The Federal Election Commission has an election results page, but it only goes up to 2014 and only includes the Senate and House, not presidential elections. Archives.gov has popular vote totals for the 2012 election but not the current one. Maybe in four years, they’ll have some data.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

Leftovers

  • New evidence: Was DB Cooper a Boeing employee?

    A band of amateur scientists selected by the Seattle FBI to look for clues in the world’s most infamous skyjacking may have found new evidence in the 45-year-old case.

    They’re asking for the public’s help because of new, potential leads that could link DB Cooper to the Puget Sound aerospace industry in the early 1970s.

    The scientific team has been analyzing particles removed from the clip-on tie left behind by Cooper after he hijacked a Northwest Orient passenger jet in November 1971.

    A powerful electron microscope located more than 100,000 particles on old the JCPenny tie. The team has identified particles like Cerium, Strontium Sulfide, and pure titanium.

  • If you don’t finish then you’re just busy, not productive

    I find this message extremely compelling, because I frequently find myself starting new programming projects in my spare time. In a lot of ways they are not a waste – I definitely learn a lot from these projects and gain a new skill.

  • Hardware

    • AMD Set to Launch Ryzen Before March 3rd, Meeting Q1 Target

      Then again, the launch could easily be anytime during February – this March 3rd date only really puts an end-point on the potential range. AMD has stated many times, as far back as August, that Q1 is the intended date for launch to consumers in volume. When we spoke with AMD at CES, nothing was set in stone so to speak, especially clock speeds and pricing, but we are expecting a full launch, not just something official on paper. Ryan will be at GDC to cover this exact talk, and I’ll be at MWC covering that event. Either way, we want to make sure that we are front of the queue when it comes time to disclosing as much information as we can get our hands on ahead of time.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Thirteen Dems Join GOP to Kill Sanders Resolution on Canadian Drug Imports

      Twelve Republicans and thirteen Democrats crossed party lines in a 52-46 vote against prodding Congress toward examining the allowance of pharmaceutical imports from Canada.

      The non-binding resolution failed last night amid a series of regular procedural considerations–a so-called “vote-a-rama.” Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) sponsored the measure.

      The move was a blow for those seeking to ensure access to healthcare, as the Senate also approved of a resolution orienting Congress toward a repeal of Obamacare, in a 51-48 vote.

      Notable Democratic defections on the Canada vote included Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the ranking member of the Senate health committee, and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a rumored 2020 presidential contender.

    • Dow Chemical Wants Farmers to Keep Using a Pesticide Linked to Autism and ADHD

      On Mondays, Magda and Amilcar Galindo take their daughter Eva to self-defense class. Eva is 12 but her trusting smile and arching pigtails make her look younger. Diagnosed with autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, Eva doesn’t learn or behave like the typical 12-year-old. She struggles to make change, and she needs help with reading and social situations. Eva’s classmates are sometimes unkind to her, and Magda worries for her daughter’s feelings and her safety. So once a week, after they drive her from her middle school in Modesto, California, to her tutor in nearby Riverbank, the Galindos rush off to the gym where they cheer Eva on as she wrestles with a heavy bag and punches the air with her skinny arms.

    • Even Without an Agriculture Secretary, Trump’s Cabinet Says Plenty about Food and Water Plans

      It’s official. This week’s Veterans Affairs nomination leaves the Trump administration’s Secretary of Agriculture position as the last cabinet slot to be filled. With his inauguration just 7 days away, the president-elect still hasn’t announced his pick for this vital position that touches every American’s life at least three times a day.

      But while we wait (and wait, and wait) to see who will run the department that shapes our nation’s food and farm system, it may be instructive to take a look at what some of his other personnel choices say about his intentions in this realm. And particularly, what the Trump team could mean for two of our most basic human needs—food and water.

      First, food. On the whole, today’s US agriculture system is skewed to production of commodity crops—chiefly corn and soybeans—the bulk of which become biofuel components, livestock feed, and processed food ingredients. That said, over the last 8 years we’ve seen increased emphasis, from the White House and the USDA, on healthy eating, local food systems, and the like.

    • Donald Trump’s Plan for Our Water is Just as Bad as You’d Imagine

      During his Presidential campaign, Donald Trump vowed to use his first 100 days in office to implement plans to overhaul our nation’s aging roads, bridges, ports and yes—water systems.

      This sounds great on paper. Infrastructure systems form the backbone of our nation, and when they fall apart society follows. So, while modernizing these systems is laudable, the devil is in the details. In reality, Trump’s plan for repairing our nation’s water systems would be an absolute disaster for just about everyone—except of course, water corporations and Wall Street investors.

      In fact, some of the same players that brought down our nation’s housing market are poised to repeat the same mistakes—but this time, with our water.

    • GOP House Takes Next Step Toward Taking Healthcare Away From Millions

      With a vote largely along party lines, the U.S. House on Friday pushed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, one step closer to death.

      Ahead of the 227-198 vote (roll call here), GOP House leaders expressed confidence that their chamber would pass a budget resolution paving the way for ACA repeal, “despite lingering wariness from the rank-and-file about proceeding without a plan to replace the health law,” as Politico reported. The Senate passed its version of the resolution in the wee hours of Thursday.

    • Obamacare Repeal = $7 Million Tax Cut for Nation’s Richest 400 People

      Repealing Obamacare, which Republicans on Friday appear closer to doing, would deliver a sizeable tax cut for the rich, a new report shows.

      Released Thursday by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the publication shows that the repeal would give to each of the top 400 highest-income taxpayers—who averaged incomes of roughly $318 million in 2014—a tax cut of about $7 million a year.

      That’s because getting rid of the healthcare law would mean getting rid of its two Medicare taxes, which are paid for by individuals with incomes above $200,000 and couples with incomes above $250,000. One is a 3.8 percent Medicare tax that hits their unearned income (like capital gains) above those thresholds, while the other is additional 0.9 percent tax on earned income above those thresholds.

  • Security

    • Microsoft Says Windows 7 Has Outdated Security, Wants You to Move to Windows 10 [Ed: all versions are insecure BY DESIGN]

      Windows 10 is now running on more than 20 percent of the world’s desktop computers, and yet, Microsoft’s bigger challenge isn’t necessarily to boost the market share of its latest operating system, but to convince those on Windows 7 to upgrade.

    • Debian GNU/Linux 8.7 Officially Released, Includes over 85 Security Updates

      If you’re using Debian Stable (a.k.a. Debian GNU/Linux 8 “Jessie”), it’s time to update it now. Why? Because Debian Project launched a new release, Debian GNU/Linux 8.7, which includes over 170 bug fixes and security updates.

    • CVS: cvs.openbsd.org: src

      Disable and lock Silicon Debug feature on modern Intel CPUs

    • How we secure our infrastructure: a white paper

      Trust in the cloud is paramount to any business who is thinking about using it to power their critical applications, deliver new customer experiences and house their most sensitive data. Today, we’re issuing a white paper by our security team that details how security is designed into our infrastructure from the ground up.

      Google Cloud’s global infrastructure provides security through the entire information processing lifecycle.This infrastructure provides secure deployment of services, secure storage of data with end-user privacy safeguards, secure communications between services, secure and private communication with customers over the internet and safe operation by administrators.

    • Google Infrastructure Security Design Overview [Ed: Google banned Windows internally]

      The content contained herein is correct as of January 2017, and represents the status quo as of the time it was written. Google’s security policies and systems may change going forward, as we continually improve protection for our customers.

    • Security Through Transparency

      Encryption is a foundational technology for the web. We’ve spent a lot of time working through the intricacies of making encrypted apps easy to use and in the process, realized that a generic, secure way to discover a recipient’s public keys for addressing messages correctly is important. Not only would such a thing be beneficial across many applications, but nothing like this exists as a generic technology.

    • Patch your FreeBSD server for openssh vulnerabilities [11/Jan/2017]
  • Defence/Aggression

    • Trump must expose Obama-era power grabs: Column

      President-elect Donald Trump will face pervasive doubts about his legitimacy from the day he takes office. His opponents will likely portray him as governing in unprecedented and reckless ways. The best response to such charges is to open the books and expose how the Obama administration commandeered far more power than most Americans realized.

      Trump should follow the excellent precedent set by President Obama. In 2009, shortly after he took office, Obama released many of the secret Bush administration legal memos that explained why the president was supposedly entitled to order torture, deploy troops in American towns and cities, and ignore the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on warrantless, unreasonable searches. The disclosures signaled a new era in Washington and helped give Obama a reputation as a champion of civil liberties.

    • So How’s That Coalition Thing Working Out in Afghanistan?

      Short Answer: It’s been 15+ years of coalition and the Taliban are still there, the Afghan government in Kabul is even more corrupt, and most of Afghanistan is as economically decrepit as ever.

      A report, “Lessons From the Coalition,” emerged from a conference co-hosted by the U.S. Institute of Peace (yes, we have one, it is part of the State Department and doesn’t do much but organize events in Washington.) The conference brought together representatives from eleven major donor nations, the EU, UN, World Bank, and NATO to share common experiences and lessons from the Afghan reconstruction effort.

    • GOP introduces new gun silencer law

      Three GOP lawmakers introduced a new law that will make gun silencers easier to buy.

    • The Silence Of The Politicians

      I don’t doubt Trump would sign this into law. He likes breaking things and learning from the results. The first terrorist in a mass-shooting to use a silencer might change his mind but at what cost? How many more bodies do there have to be before USA brings in reasonable controls for access to firearms? It’s one thing to say good citizens have the right to firearms. It’s quite another to hold that murdering bad guys should have the same rights. Then there’s the problem of sorting out the good guys from the murdering bad guys. No, religion or skin-colour or address won’t do it…

    • A nuclear world: eight-and-a half rogue states

      The British nuclear force is not one of the larger ones, certainly in comparison with the United States and Russia. However, it still has 100-200 thermonuclear warheads, with just one of its Trident submarines capable of launching sixteen missiles, each with three warheads. The actual numbers may be lower than this in routine deployments, but a submarine ordered to fire could certainly ripple-fire over thirty warheads to different targets within half an hour. Typical missile flight times of less than half an hour mean that the destruction could all be achieved in just double that period (see: “Britain’s nuclear-weapons future: no done deal,” 21 July 2016).

    • Who’s Afraid of a Naked Emperor?

      Today, we have Russophobia. Smart, respectable people make fun of Russian people as if it’s a duty, a slight bow to the establishment just to make sure that they belong and are being obedient. The President of the United States says upfront that Russia is weak, small and no one wants anything from them except for oil, gas and arms, and so on.

    • Chelsea Manning Should Not Die in Prison

      On Wednesday, NBC News reported that President Obama had placed Chelsea Manning on a “short list” of individuals to whom he is considering granting clemency.

      Sentenced to serve 35 years in prison for disclosing information to the news media in 2010, Chelsea has spent almost seven years in custody — a term of incarceration already longer than any individual has ever served for comparable charges in United States history. Now, without action by President Obama before he leaves office and with nearly three decades left on her sentence, Chelsea is unlikely to survive to see her freedom.

      In the past six months alone, Chelsea has twice attempted suicide. After she first tried to end her life in July of last year, the military responded by bringing administrative charges against her for attempting suicide and then unexpectedly throwing her into solitary confinement before she was able to appeal those charges. A particularly cruel response to her despair, the punishment destabilized her just as she was beginning to recover. In solitary, she attempted suicide a second time.

    • Chelsea Manning and the Arab Spring

      What we call the Arab Spring was the result of many seemingly small things, butterfly effects. One of them was a courageous woman named Chelsea Manning. If the U.S. will take 35 years from Chelsea Manning’s life, may it console her that she has given us, Arabs, the secret gift that helped expose and topple 50 years of dictatorships.

      For me, it all started in mid-October of 2010, with a direct message on Twitter from a good friend of mine. He belonged to a circle of digital activists with whom I worked closely with for years on many advocacy projects in the Arab World, from anti-censorship strategies and campaigns to building and training non-violent protests movements. In that DM he urgently asked me to speak over encryption with him. After one single OTR chat session, he sent me an encrypted zip file containing a trove of around 400 texts files organized in about 15 folders. All the folders were named after Arab countries: Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Morocco, Bahrain, etc. I didn’t know what was in them. He told me just before ending the chat session: do something with them, I trust you and trust your knowledge and judgment.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Why I Got Kicked Out of Whole Foods …. Again

      It may surprise consumers that each of these facts are true of chickens in cage free farms, despite aggressive marketing of their eggs as humane. Companies that sell cage free eggs are able to charge more, although these eggs are less costly to produce. It’s time to stop the fraudulent marketing and constant search for a right way to do the wrong thing. Chickens, fish, cows, and pigs are all sentient animals who exhibit signs of pain, joy, and complex social relationships. The humane alternative to conventional eggs isn’t cage free, pasture raised, or any new label for exploitation.

    • We can learn so much from nature

      A French company, Colas, is working with the French National Institute for Solar Energy to test its Wattway technology under various conditions, with a goal of covering 1,000 kilometres of existing highway with thin, durable, skid-resistant crystalline silicon solar panel surfacing over the next four years. They estimate that could provide electricity for five million people. Although critics have raised questions about cost and feasibility, it’s not pie-in-the-sky. The technology is being tested and employed throughout the world.

      Rooftops are another place to generate power using existing infrastructure. Elon Musk’s company Tesla is making shingles that double as solar panels. Although they cost more than conventional asphalt shingles, they’re comparable in price to higher-end roof tiles, and can save money when you factor in the power they generate.

    • EPA Pick Pruitt’s “Radical Record” and Abundant Conflicts Probed by Senate Dems

      As Common Dreams and others have reported, Pruitt spent his time as Oklahoma attorney general launching multiple legal attacks against the EPA and its efforts to protect the environment and public health. Now, the Democrats on the Environment and Public Works committee want to know how the EPA will ensure that Pruitt is recused from involvement in those cases.

    • EPA Acknowledges Neonics’ Harm to Bees, Then ‘Bows to Pesticide Industry’

      The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday published two bee-related announcements, but with both, say environmental groups, the agency has failed the pollinators.

      One was its “Policy to Mitigate the Acute Risk to Bees from Pesticide Products.” It states that the “policy is not a regulation or an order and, therefore, does not legally compel changes to pesticide product registrations.”

      The other release was a set of draft risk assessments for three neonicotinoids, or “neonics.” They are the most widely used class of insecticides, and they have been linked to bee harm. The new assessments were for clothianidin, thiamethoxam, and dinotefuran, and an updated assessment on another, imidacloprid, was also included.

      Those assessments, according to Paul Towers, policy advocate and spokesperson for Pesticide Action Network, “are full of gaps and continue to ignore many of the most significant threats from neonicotinoids, particularly when they’re used as seed coatings on common crops,” their most frequent use.

  • Finance

    • Moody’s pays $864 million to U.S., states over pre-crisis ratings

      Moody’s Corp has agreed to pay nearly $864 million to settle with U.S. federal and state authorities over its ratings of risky mortgage securities in the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Friday.

      The credit rating agency reached the deal with the Justice Department, 21 states and the District of Columbia, resolving allegations that the firm contributed to the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the department said in a statement.

      “Moody’s failed to adhere to its own credit-rating standards and fell short on its pledge of transparency in the run-up to the Great Recession,” Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Bill Baer said in the statement.

    • Apple accused of App Store price-fixing in new lawsuit

      Apple is once again heading to court. However, the company won’t be arguing over patents for a change, instead Apple will need to fight off allegations of price-fixing in the iOS App Store as part of a new anti-trust lawsuit. This isn’t the first time Apple has been brought up on anti-trust charges either, the company was previously found to have been complicit in eBook price fixing, which ended with the company being fined £315 million.

    • Do You Make Less Than $47,500 a Year? Help Us Investigate Overtime Pay.
    • How Trump Could Kill a Plan to Get You Overtime Pay

      Donald Trump ran for president as the billionaire who would champion working people.

      As the president-elect put it in one of the major economic speeches of his campaign: “Too many of our leaders have forgotten that it’s their duty to protect the jobs, wages and well-being of American workers before any other consideration.”

      One of the first tests of Trump’s pledge to help workers will come in how his administration handles the complicated rules that govern who has the right to time-and-a-half overtime pay.

    • Will Betsy DeVos Restart The ‘Education Wars’?

      Education, which was hardly ever mentioned in the recent presidential election, has suddenly been thrust to the frontline in the increasingly heated conflict over President-Elect Donald Trump’s proposed cabinet appointees. The reason for that turn of events is his choice of Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. Her nomination risks “reigniting the education wars,” according to Randi Weingarten, the leader of the American Federation of Teachers, the nation’s second largest teachers union.

      Weingarten stated that warning in an address this week at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, and broadcast live on the AFT Facebook page.

      The union leader joins a chorus of education leaders and activists, as well as Democratic party government officials on Capitol Hill, in calls to delay the hearing for DeVos until after government ethics officials have finished their review of DeVos’ numerous ties to financial and charitable interests. After these calls for delay, the confirmation hearing was indeed postponed for a week.

      But what education wars?

    • There Are Moral Imperatives to Fighting Inequality: Correa

      In a wide-ranging interview with teleSUR, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa highlighted the historic achievements of his government.

      On the occasion of assuming the chairmanship of the G77 on Friday, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa spoke with teleSUR’s Abby Martin about the disaster of neoliberal policies in Latin America and the historic achievements of his model of 21st-century socialism.

    • Does Betsy DeVos Understand the Impact of Poverty and Trauma on Children’s Learning?

      Educators who look at learning from a developmental perspective know that the trauma and toxic stress associated with poverty can seriously interfere with a child’s brain development and inhibit learning. Children who have been overwhelmed by stress or exposure to violence, and experience lack of security frequently have difficulty controlling impulsive behavior and focusing their attention on tasks at school. While these behaviors are disruptive in classrooms – they are devastating to the children themselves.

      We understand neurobiological changes that are created by childhood trauma and toxic stress – these are changes in the emotional brain circuits that enable us to respond to crises, fear and threats. Children’s brains can be hijacked by emotions and deeply fearful responses to perceived threats. This reaction gives them less access to brain areas that support memory, focused attention, organizing information, and building positive relationships. We call these executive functions – and they are essential for learning.

    • Who killed bourgeois democracy in Europe?

      When a system calls itself democracy, but forces increasing parts of the demos (people) to live under poverty, its own central concept gradually becomes hollow.

    • Hammond threatens EU with aggressive tax changes after Brexit

      The chancellor, Philip Hammond, has suggested Britain could transform its economic model into that of a corporate tax haven if the EU fails to provide it with an agreement on market access after Brexit.

      In an interview with German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, Hammond said if Britain were left closed off from European markets after leaving the EU, it would consider abandoning a European-style social model, with “European-style taxation systems [and] European-style regulation systems”, and “become something different”.

    • Michael Hudson: Donald Trump Wants to Make the 1% Even Richer
    • Resisting the Trumpublican Shock Doctrine Blitzkrieg

      The Trumpublicans are intent on manipulating the shock of Donald Trump’s victory to roll back much of the New Deal and Great Society; ram through unvetted Cabinet appointments intent on undermining the legal mandate of the very Departments they are charged with leading; legitimize unprecedented conflicts of interest; and intimidate opponents, professional civil servants, and the press, in a rapid Blitzkrieg, before the opposition even knows what hit them.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Yertle, the Commander-in-Chief

      Dr. Seuss taught me to read. My older brother brought Seuss books home to me from the local public library because I was too young to have a library card of my own.

      The Cat in the Hat, Bartholomew and the Oobleck, Horton Hears a Who! — all, for better or worse, played a role in my early childhood development, a phase from which I have yet to emerge, but never mind. Yet as I watched Donald Trump’s press conference on Wednesday morning, a performance reminiscent of PT Barnum — if Barnum suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder, congenital petulance and anger management issues — I was reminded of a different Dr. Seuss masterwork…

      [...]

      Whatever the case, the point of Yertle and Mack’s tale is simple: Protest can topple a tyrant. Sometimes it has to be loud and rude. Next weekend, around the events of the inauguration, thousands and thousands will march and voices will be raised. Let these be just the beginning.

    • Outrage After Trump Insults Civil Rights Icon John Lewis

      On the Saturday morning of a holiday weekend honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., President-elect Donald Trump trashed civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), after Lewis said he would not attend next week’s inauguration ceremony.

      The Georgia lawmaker—who has served in Congress since 1987; is the last living speaker of the 1963 March on Washington; and was severely beaten after leading civil rights demonstrators across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965—told NBC News on Friday that he does not plan to attend Trump’s inauguration.

      “It will be the first one that I miss since I’ve been in Congress,” Lewis said. “You cannot be at home with something that you feel that is wrong, is not right.” Lewis is one of a handful of Democratic lawmakers who have announced this week that they’ll be skipping the ceremony.

    • It Can Happen Here

      On November 8 the rise of a right-wing nationalist regime in the United States became a realistic possibility, if not now then in the coming years. Such regimes stress nationalist and patriotic themes, play upon and intensify fear of minority ethnicities and/or religions and/or other long-oppressed groups, promise to resolve festering economic problems of ordinary people, and direct the blame for such problems at a convenient scapegoat such as foreigners or immigrants rather than the real causes. Such regimes, if consolidated, invariably restrict long-established individual rights and introduce, or intensify, the use of extra-legal violent methods at home and abroad. This possibility has sent shock waves throughout U.S. society, including in the long-ruling establishment, creating a sense of chaos in which it seems anything can happen.

      The greatest danger is the political coalition that emerged on November 8. Such coalitions have underpinned right-wing nationalist regimes in the past. It is made up of traditional right-wing constituencies suddenly combined with significant parts of the working class. Such a political base, held together by the above themes and promises, can enable a right-wing nationalist regime to emerge in a democratic capitalist system even without the upstart demagogic leader winning an absolute majority.

    • GOP Leader Threatens to Subpoena Ethics Chief Who Called Out Trump Conflicts

      Instead of investigating concerns that President-elect Donald Trump will come to power with numerous conflicts of interest, the Republican head of the House Oversight Committee is now threatening the government ethics monitor who called them out.

      Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) sent a letter (pdf) to Walter Shaub, head of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), admonishing him for “blurring the lines between public relations and official ethics guidance,” citing a series of OGE tweets encouraging President-elect to commit to “full divestiture” of his business holdings (which he has refused to do.)

      In the letter, Chaffetz warns Shaub that the OGE’s operations are being examined by the committee and then demands that he make himself available “for a transcribed interview with the Committee staff as soon as possible, but not later than January 31, 2017.”

    • Why Bernie Sanders Came Up Short—and How That Lesson Can Fuel Future Progressive Victories [Ed: Misses the point that -- as Podesta E-mails and DNC leaks made VERY clear -- Clinton and DNC sabotaged Sanders]

      Bernie began the race fairly late in the game, with 3 percent name recognition, no money, and all kinds of baggage that pundits believed would disqualify him out of hand. By the time the Iowa primary came, Bernie was surging in the national polls. He went on to win twenty-two states and received an astonishing 46 percent of the pledged delegates for the nomination.

    • Five Ways Trump’s “News Conference” Wasn’t a News Conference

      Tyrants don’t allow open questioning, and they hate the free press. They want total control. That’s why Trump’s so-called “news conference” on December 11 – the first he’s held in six months – wasn’t really a news conference at all.

    • Donald Trump’s Fake News Conference

      The media waited with bated breath for Donald Trump’s first news conference in 167 days. But I’m sure many journalists knew what was coming: a show, orchestrated by The Apprentice executive director so as to reveal precisely nothing but used instead to revile his critics. Vladimir Putin couldn’t have done better.

      Trump was true to form, and character: He spent very little time answering (actually avoiding) questions, he brought along a small crowd of flatterers to applaud his lines, he had three people (his communications spokesman, his vice president-elect, and his tax lawyer) stand in to defend him, and he bragged about how many jobs he will create and how he had turned down a $2 billion business opportunity with Dubai.

      [...]

      Trump also tried to preempt further discussion of his financial conflicts of interest by putting the Trump Organization in the hands of his two sons. As various ethics specialists in and out of government have pointed out, that decision is no solution. As one of them said, Trump will be in violation of the Constitution on the day he takes office. He actually had the audacity to say that he has every right to run both his organization and the presidency—implying that we should be grateful for his choice not to do so, as though we don’t already know that he has every intention to remain in charge of his empire. He again refused to release his tax returns, saying that only the press wants him to do so. Trump’s attitude is clear: I’m the president and I’ll do what I want; try to stop me.

    • Meet Mike Pompeo, the Far-Right Christian Zealot Who Will Lead Trump’s CIA

      Pompeo is a deeply conservative evangelical Christian who has said, “America had worshipped other Gods and called it multiculturalism. We’d endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.” He believes politics is “a never-ending struggle . . . until the rapture.”

      He does not sound like the type of person one normally associates with the intelligence community. But this is Trump’s administration, and Trump has promised to shake things up. An apocalyptic Islamophobic fanatic at the head of CIA will no doubt bring change to the agency.

      [...]

      Trump has also declared that his presidential orders to torture suspected terrorists would not be refused by those under him. When told that torture is illegal, he simply said he would change the law because we “have to get tougher.”

      Pompeo surprised the committee when he said he would not comply with an order to torture and that he couldn’t imagine that Trump would ask him to do it. He insisted he would always comply with the law. Of course, he also has said the Bush administration’s torture regime was legal, so that’s not entirely reassuring. Still, Pompeo’s testimony was widely interpreted as distancing him from Trump’s stated position.

    • Trump and the Dangers of Secret Law

      President-elect Trump has disdained the rule of law when it comes to national security, vowing to reinstitute torture and suggesting that the military should target terrorists’ families. In response, President Obama recently released a report describing the legal and policy framework for United States military operations. The idea is simple: If the rules are made public, it will be easier to hold the Trump administration accountable for violations—or to spot when the rules have changed.

      Obama is undoubtedly correct in calculating that legal transparency will help safeguard the rule of law. But his initiative begs the question: why stop at military operations?

      Since the attacks of 9/11, every area of national security policy has increasingly been regulated by secret law. For instance, much of the authority to conduct mass surveillance, and the limits that apply, are set forth in classified orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (or “FISA Court”). In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed that this court had secretly interpreted the Patriot Act to allow the collection of nearly every American’s phone records.

    • Obama’s Farewell

      OK. See you at the country club, buddy, after your lunch with Penny Pritzger, the Chicago Hilton Hotels billionairess, who put you in office back when in 2008.

      And now America changes one real estate wheeler-dealer for another, this time one who takes the direct reins of government. And he’s Obama’s legacy as well….

    • Bringing Trump Nation Down to Size

      Exit polls show that 25 percent of Trump voters expressed the view that their candidate was not fit to be president, which lowers Trump’s unqualified support to 20 percent of the electorate. Which is on the high side, when you consider those who think he’s disgusting or dishonest or both but voted for him anyway.

    • Unicorns, Gnomes, and Plea to the Press on Covering Trump

      The story of the appalling press conference of January 11 needs to be the story of the lies that were told, the status of the very real and legitimate questions that the reporters asked but which were not answered, and the insistence on the importance of getting answers to those real questions.

      We need to stay grounded in our shared and dangerous reality, and not get sucked into an analysis of the illusions created by a master illusionist.

    • Bracing for Trump, Protests Commence in Nation’s Capital and Beyond

      “The Trump team has already announced that some of their first acts of brutality will be to lash out against immigrants and Muslims,” organizers wrote in a call to action. “Their aim is to deport millions of immigrants, rip millions of families apart, and drive tens of millions of immigrants, refugees, and their families and friends into silence out of fear.”

      “We are committed to standing up for an America which values all people,” they continued. “Just one week before Donald Trump’s inauguration we will stand up to say yes to community, love for one another, shared strength, and human dignity. It is time for us to link arms and stand as a line of defense against Donald Trump’s promised reign of terror.”

    • Who’s the Real Manipulator of Elections?

      In berating Russia for alleged interference in the recent U.S. election, the U.S. intelligence community ignores the extensive U.S. role in manipulating political movements around the globe, observes Jonathan Marshall.

    • The Scheme to Take Down Trump

      Is a military coup in the works? Or are U.S. intelligence agencies laying the political groundwork for forcing Donald Trump from the presidency because they can’t abide his rejection of a new cold war with Russia? Not long ago, even asking such questions would have marked one as the sort of paranoid nut who believes that lizard people run the government. But no longer.

    • What’s Propaganda Got To Do With It?

      Amid the “fake news” controversies in the aftermath of the 2016 United States Presidential election, the notion of propaganda surged back into popular consciousness. Across the political spectrum, online conversations about propaganda bloomed like a thousand flowers of media anxiety.

      For example, shortly after the election, futurist Alex Steffen garnered thousands of retweets and likes with a tweet that declared, “Fake news is propaganda. The powerful demanding apologies from artists is censorship. Business dealings while in office are corruption.” To underscore the anti-authoritarian thrust of the message, a follow-up Medium post featured an image of 1984 author (and dedicated democratic socialist) George Orwell, invoking the thought-limiting qualities of that novel’s Newspeak. Although Steffen did not name the President-Elect in his short text, the post is tagged, “Donald Trump.”

    • Trump, Russia, and the Return of Scapegoating, a Timeless American Tradition

      Now that the intelligence chiefs’ report on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election is available in expurgated form—and we have no reason to assume the classified version is any more substantial than the rubbish made public last Friday—it is time to do that most difficult thing: step back and take a cold, hard look at ourselves. What we find, to put my conclusion first, is that most of us will do more or less anything just now to avoid taking a cold, hard look at ourselves and what it is we are up to.

      This is commonly done by way of scapegoating. The Russian case is extreme, but it must not be seen in isolation.

      It is true that Americans today are a divided people in many respects. But let’s not make too much of this, for we display a striking unity in our tendency to blame others for our difficulties, shortcomings, and failures, of which there are unusually many at this moment—every one our own doing. It is tempting to anatomize our current outburst of scapegoating according to political persuasion—which party abuses whom—but this does not do because almost everyone gives in to flinching from failures that are all our own.

    • Images That Refute Trump’s Attack on Hero John Lewis
    • Rep. John Lewis: ‘I Don’t See Trump as a Legitimate President’

      In an exclusive interview with NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., said he does not believe Donald Trump is a “legitimate president,” citing Russian interference in last year’s election.

      Asked whether he would try to forge a relationship with the president-elect, Lewis said that he believes in forgiveness, but added, “it’s going to be very difficult. I don’t see this president-elect as a legitimate president.”

      When pressed to explain why, he cited allegations of Russian hacks during the campaign that led to the release of internal documents from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign co-chairman, John Podesta.

    • Trump team discussing border wall with Army Corps, Interior Department

      President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team is engaged in active discussions with the US Army Corps of Engineers and Interior Department to begin planning a wall along the Mexican border, including how specific environmental laws could get in the way, CNN has learned.

      A US official with knowledge of a visit last last month to the Interior Department — which oversees most federal lands and major environmental laws — said the transition team was particularly interested in finding out “how long it would take” to build the wall given potential legal obstacles.

    • The Great Wall Of China Didn’t Have Trump’s Problems

      Really, Trump caught onto this panacea during his campaign that can’t really work as intended/proclaimed and will cost a bundle and will do a lot of damage. Waiving legalities doesn’t really change that. As Trump is fond of saying, “It’s not going to happen!”.

    • Six Reasons Why Trump’s Wall is Even Dumber Than Most of Trump’s Other Ideas

      At his turbulent his news event last Wednesday (I won’t dignify it by calling it a news conference), Trump reiterated that he will build a wall along the Mexican border. “It’s not a fence. It’s a wall,” he said, and“Mexico will pay for the wall.”

      Here are 6 reasons why Trump’s wall is an even dumber idea than most of his others.

    • Dem boycotts of inauguration grow

      In a sharp break with tradition, a growing number of Democrats are announcing they will boycott President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.

      Ten House Democrats so far have issued public statements saying they won’t attend the Jan. 20 ceremony following an extraordinarily divisive election. Still others say they’re torn about going.

      It’s a departure from lawmakers of both parties putting aside their personal feelings to watch the new president take the oath of office. While the majority of Democrats still plan to go, the fact that even a handful are making a point of boycotting shows the depth of antipathy toward Trump.

    • Human Rights Watch lists Trump as threat to human rights

      Human Rights Watch is listing President-elect Donald Trump as a threat to human rights, calling his campaign a “vivid illustration of the politics of intolerance.”

      “Donald Trump’s election as US president after a campaign fomenting hatred and intolerance, and the rising influence of political parties in Europe that reject universal rights, have put the postwar human rights system at risk,” the group said in a Friday statement announcing a new report.

      The 687-page World Report analyzes Trump’s campaign, pointing to his rhetoric as a cause for worry over human rights violations.

      “(Trump’s) campaign floated proposals that would harm millions of people, including plans to engage in massive deportations of immigrants, to curtail women’s rights and media freedoms, and to use torture,” the report says, quoting Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth.

    • James O’Keefe caught trying to bribe protesters to riot at Trump inauguration

      James O’Keefe is the Breitbart-affiliated fraudster and fake news pioneer who staged the hoax videos about Acorn and Planned Parenthood that disrupted the last two election cycles; his MO is to dress up in disguises and then attempt to trick progressives into saying damning things on camera (he’s not very good at it, having been rumbled by both CNN and Jay Rosen and Clay Shirky).

    • Dossier’s Russia Charges Should Be Treated Skeptically–but Taken Seriously

      It’s not an intelligence report, or a government report of any kind. No official agency had a hand in creating it; indications are it was leaked to media by the same private group that commissioned it. Putting it in the “intelligence” category makes it harder to think about how media outlets should deal with it, bringing in questions of journalism’s relationship to the state. Really, despite its anonymous author reportedly having a background in British intelligence, it’s closer to being itself a strange sort of journalism: It’s an investigator’s account of what information they say they learned by talking to people—not unlike a news article.

    • Mainstream Media’s Russian Bogeymen

      In the middle of a major domestic crisis over the U.S. charge that Russia had interfered with the U.S. election, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) triggered a brief national media hysteria by creating and spreading a bogus story of Russian hacking into U.S. power infrastructure.

    • NYT: If Only We Knew What We Already Know About Jeff Sessions

      Jefferson Beauregard Sessions seems to be on his way to becoming attorney general. Many people are angry and frightened, that the person in charge of the Justice Department could be a man whose public record demonstrates hostility to the idea of equal rights under the law. In particular, Sessions brought vote fraud charges, threatening decades of prison time, against voting rights activists who had worked with Martin Luther King; he has referred to the Voting Rights Act as “intrusive,” and supported voter suppression.

      That’s part of why there have been sit-ins and phone banks and multi-group public statements, reflecting the large number and wide range of people familiar with Sessions who state that his record, not his accent or personal demeanor, make him unfit for office.

      In this light, the January 8 New York Times editorial struck me as highlighting, painfully, the limits of elite media.

    • WATCH: In His Former Life as Alabama’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions Abused His Power and Was Read the Riot Act Over It

      It is now well-known that Jeff Sessions’ record as a senator shows blindness or hostility to the rights of those the attorney general is responsible for protecting — people of color, women, LGBT people, religious minorities, and immigrants. Less well known, but equally disturbing, is his record as a prosecutor. When he last exercised the power of a prosecutor, as attorney general for Alabama in the 1990s, he abused that power.

      The biggest case his office handled was thrown out in what the judge called the worst case of prosecutorial misconduct he had ever seen. In a remarkable opinion, the Alabama state trial judge hearing the case concluded that “the misconduct of the Attorney General in this case far surpasses in both extensiveness and measure the totality of any prosecutorial misconduct ever previously presented to or witnessed by the Court.”

    • Fox News Going All-In on Trump in the New Era

      January 19, 2009—the day before Barack Obama was sworn in as president—Fox News aired the first episode of Glenn Beck. Obama was a polished representative of the multicultural values that the conservative movement had fought to defeat for decades, and Beck was the perfect expression of right-wing rage and frustration with him: The eponymous host alternated between anger, conspiracy theories and sobbing.

      Beck’s tenure at the channel didn’t last long; Fox News chair and CEO Roger Ailes declined to renew his contract in early 2011. But by that point, the GOP had won back the House of Representatives in the 2010 Tea Party wave, a right-wing backlash movement that owed at least some of its success to Beck’s overly earnest mugging.

      Beck’s hire signaled to the network’s base and the country at large the direction Fox would take as a reaction to Obama’s election: The network was prepared to spend the next four to eight years in constant opposition to the newly elected president, with no angle of attack too extreme.

    • America in Need of ‘Democracy Promotion’

      Both the ruling party and the principal opposition party extensively manipulate the boundaries of legislative districts to benefit their own party and to entrench incumbents, but this practice has disproportionately benefited the ruling party because of its control over most state legislatures, where the manipulative line-drawing occurs.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Christian Censorship: I Talked About Race And Was Silenced

      A few days ago, I posted this piece, called An Apology To Black Women. Per my usual modus operundi, I posted it in various Christian Facebook groups. Within a few hours, I received a message from an admin of one of the groups. It said, essentially “We, the admins of ____ removed your post because even our one black admin found it offensive.”

    • Why the Senate’s Attack on Backpage Will Backfire

      The businessmen who run the classifieds website Backpage.com received a serious verbal lashing from a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday. They were accused of committing a crime that every member of the committee eagerly denounced — profiting from the sexual exploitation of children. Backpage had already shut down its popular adult services section the day before, citing ongoing acts of “government censorship.”

      It may be easy for lawmakers of both parties to agree that child sex trafficking should be condemned, but the hearing and the 20-month probe behind it drew plenty of controversy outside the Senate chamber. For a company accused of facilitating the exploitation of kids, Backpage saw a good number of organizations rush to its defense, including internet freedom groups, free speech advocates and libertarian think tanks.

    • Government Pressure Shutters Backpage’s Adult Services Section

      The announcement came on the eve of a hearing by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI). The hearing was the backdrop for the release of a committee report [PDF] alleging [PDF] that Backpage knew that its website was being used to post ads for illegal prostitution and child sex trafficking, and directly edited such ads to make their illegality less conspicuous or flagged for the posters how to do so themselves.

      While acknowledging the horrific nature of sex trafficking, EFF has participated in several cases to remind courts about the importance of preserving strong legal protection under the First Amendment and Section 230 (47 U.S.C. § 230) for Internet intermediaries.

    • EFF is Proud to Stand Beside Techdirt in its “First Amendment Fight for its Life.”

      The First Amendment provides vitally important protections for publishers – the Supreme Court ruled that public figure plaintiffs in defamation lawsuits must prove that offending statements about them are in fact false, and that the speaker actually knew they were false or seriously doubted them when they were published. That rule protects speakers, bloggers, and reporters against lawsuits designed merely to squelch critical speech about public figures. Nonetheless, defending against such suits can be very costly.

      [...]

      Techdirt is a vital resource – it provides a wide audience with independent journalism addressing some of the biggest technology issues of our time. The Internet community wouldn’t be the same without it. But of course this case is not just about Techdirt. It’s about freedom of the press generally.

      We commend Techdirt for taking on this fight for freedom of expression. And we urge everyone who cares about a free and independent press to support Techdirt in “its First Amendment fight for its life.”

    • Arizona Bill Would Ban Discussion of Social Justice, Solidarity in Schools

      Arizona state representative Bob Thorpe, a Republican, has just proposed a bill that would ban any school courses or extracurricular activities that “promote” any kind of “social justice” or “solidarity” based on race, class, gender, politics, or religion.

      The legislation, House Bill 2120, also appears to connect classes on social justice and solidarity with “promotion of the overthrow of the United States government,” which it also explicitly outlaws.

      Tucson.com reports that “Thorpe said Thursday his bill is aimed specifically at things like a ‘privilege walk’ exercise (pdf) sponsored by the University of Arizona and a course entitled ‘Whiteness and Race Theory’ at Arizona State University.”

      The law is sweeping yet fails to define many of its tenets—for example, it allows the teaching of “accurate” history of an ethnic group, but doesn’t define who or what would determine what is accurate. And Arizonans fear that not only does it threaten students’ and teachers’ rights to freedom of expression and assembly, but that it would go so far as to outlaw all charity efforts and most student groups at schools around the state.

    • KING: Arizona lawmaker proposes new bill banning classes or events discussing social justice on college campuses

      A conservative Arizona lawmaker, Rep. Bob Thorpe, is proposing a far-reaching law in Arizona, House Bill 2120, banning virtually every college event, activity or course which discusses social justice, skin privilege, or racial equality. Violating the law would allow the state of Arizona to levy multimillion-dollar fines and penalties against universities — removing at least 10% of their state aid.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • End of the line: surveillance, precarity and resistance in the call centre

      I spent six months undercover in call centres, researching how workers are subject to constant watch, psychological pressure, and what they do to resist. This is what I discovered.

    • Germany’s biggest Turkish Islamic network admits some imams spied for Ankara

      A Turkish Islamic group operating in Germany acknowledged that some of its imams complied with Turkish government instructions to give Ankara tips on suspected adherents of exiled US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

      Ditib, which stands for Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, is believed to have strong ties to Diyanet (Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs), a Turkish state-run religious affairs watchdog. Ditib previously denied its members were handing over information on Gulen supporters in Germany to the Turkish government.

      In a comment to Rheinische Post on Thursday, however, the secretary-general of Ditib, Bekir Alboga, appeared to have changed his tune, admitting that although “the written instructions of the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs were not addressed to Ditib… some Ditib imams wrongly followed them.”

    • Poll: Will Digital Privacy Become a Luxury?

      Technology is a tool that also risks becoming a threat to privacy

      Cell phones now regularly track their users’ locations, monitor their health habits and keep tabs on their schedules and preferences—a series of tools that could also become a threat to privacy.

      An increasing reliance on technology and mobile devices has raised more questions about data privacy and whether it risks becoming a luxury.

    • NSA records allege dozens of cases of workers ripping agency off

      A group of five National Security Agency contractors falsified their time sheets to claim they had worked almost 200 days that agency investigators concluded they in fact had not, according to the agency’s inspector general.

      The incident was one of more than 100 in which the NSA’s internal watchdog found that civilian employees and contractors claimed falsely that they’d been at work — incidents that a spokesman said cost the surveillance outfit based at Fort Meade almost $3.5 million.

      The NSA disclosed the cases in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Baltimore Sun. The records cover five years ending in 2014, when The Sun request was originally filed.

    • What’s Up with WhatsApp?

      Despite my jaded feelings about corporate Internet services in general, I was suprised to learn that WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption was a lie. In short, it is possible to send an encrypted message to a user that is intercepted and effectively de-crypted without the sender’s knowledge.

      However, I was even more surprised to read Open Whisper Systems critique of the original story, claiming that it is not a backdoor because the WhatsApp sender’s client is always notified when a message is de-crypted.

      The Open Whisper Systems post acknowledges that the WhatsApp sender can choose to disable these notifications, but claims that is not such a big deal because the WhatsApp server has no way to know which clients have this feature enabled and which do not, so intercepting a message is risky because it could result in the sender realizing it.

      However, there is a fairly important piece of information missing, namely: as far as I can tell, the setting to notify users about key changes is disabled by default.

      So, using the default installation, your end-to-end encrypted message could be intercepted and decrypted without you or the party you are communicating with knowing it. How is this not a back door? And yes, if the interceptor can’t tell whether or not the sender has these notifications turned on, the interceptor runs the risk of someone knowing they have intercepted the message. Great. That’s better than nothing. Except that there is strong evidence that many powerful governments on this planet routinely risk exposure in their pursuit of compromising our ability to communicate securely. And… not to mention non-governmental (or governmental) adversaries for whom exposure is not a big deal.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Down to the Wire: Obama’s DOJ Issues Scathing Report on Systemic Abuse Within Chicago Police

      The Justice Department released a blistering report on Friday concluding what many in Chicago have been saying for years: that the city’s police officers routinely use excessive and deadly force, particularly against black and Latino residents; that they systematically violate civil rights; and that the department consistently fails to hold officers accountable for abuse and misconduct.

      With one week to go before the beginning of the Trump administration — which is widely expected to take a considerably less aggressive approach toward police abuse — federal officials this week tied up the loose ends on some of the department’s most high profile investigations of police departments.

      On Thursday, Justice Department officials signed a consent decree with the city of Baltimore, outlining reforms the city will be required to undertake after a scathing report published last August found a pattern of stops, searches, arrests and use of force that violated the First and Fourth Amendments as well as federal anti-discrimination laws.

    • Shots In The Back, Children Tasered: DOJ Details Excessive Force By Chicago Police

      In “numerous incidents,” Chicago officers chased and shot fleeing people who posed no threat to officers or the public, the DOJ says. In some cases, there was no basis even to suspect the person of committing a serious crime.

      “The act of fleeing alone was sufficient to trigger a pursuit ending in gunfire, sometimes fatal,” the DOJ writes.

      In one case, the report says, police officers fired 45 rounds at a man who was running away, killing him. They claimed he had fired a gun at them while they were chasing him — even though they noted there was no gun found on the man.

    • Free Chelsea Manning Now

      Freedom is suddenly in sight for Chelsea Manning. There is a real chance the Iraq War veteran and Wikileaks whistleblower could be home by Groundhog’s Day.

      Even a year ago it was unthinkable; now, it could be a partial redemption of the Obama administration’s shoddy record of persecuting leaks and whistleblowers.

    • Justice Department balks at securing CIA ‘Torture Report’ at federal court

      The Obama administration is resisting a federal judge’s order for a rare copy of the so-called Torture Report, saying the damning Senate study of the CIA’s secret post- 9/11 prison network is not the government’s to give the court.

      Judge Royce Lamberth on Dec. 28 ordered the Justice Department to deliver a copy of the report to his court for safekeeping. He said it would be preserved at a top-secret storage facility maintained by the U.S. District Court at 333 Constitution Ave. in Washington, D.C.

      But Justice Department attorneys wrote in a 16-page filing on Friday that delivery of a government copy of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence document would “unduly interfere … with the larger oversight relationship between the Senate Committee and the CIA.”

    • Polish couple ‘forced to work for £4 a day’ in Nelson

      A Polish couple were forced to work for £4 per day and treated with less respect than dogs, a court has heard.

      Mohammed Riaz, 62, and his son Khuram, deny forcing or compelling Margorsha Bienick and Michal Czesniawski into labour in Nelson, Lancashire.

      The father and son, 27, told Burnley Crown Court the couple were alcoholics who would have been on the streets.

      The jury was shown a video of Ms Bienick describing working long hours and being shouted at.

    • Kolkata’s Imam sparks row again: ‘Women should always be in veil’

      At an event organized at the Tipu Sultan Mosque on Friday, Barkati said, “Women are more respectful if they hide themselves from the eyes of men. If they are ‘sexy “, then they will attract more eyes and will fall victim to men’s “hawaz”. Like Rajasthani women use veil, Bengali women wear saris and Muslim women wear burqas, veils will make them respectful.”

      When asked what he meant by ‘sexy’, Barkati said he meant ‘attractive’ by the word ‘sexy’. Explaining his stand, Imam Barkati said, “Young women are innocent. Even without their knowledge, they become the object of men’s lust. So by wearing veil, she will follow the Hindustani culture and will be able to protect herself properly.”

    • CMS: Police found no evidence that teacher assaulted a Muslim kindergartener

      Police found no evidence to confirm a November report that a teacher bullied and assaulted a Muslim kindergartener at David Cox Road Elementary, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools reported Friday.

      Principal Celeste Spears-Ellis notified parents that the accused teacher has returned to the classroom after the District Attorney’s Office found “no evidence of an assault other than the complainant’s report” and no grounds for criminal charges.

    • Donald Trump accuses civil rights icon John Lewis of ‘all talk and no results’

      Donald Trump has ignited fresh controversy — on the eve of Martin Luther King Day — by accusing one of the civil rights leaders who marched and struggled with him of “talk and no action”.

      In a pair of tweets on Saturday morning, he said Congressman John Lewis should not have “falsely” complained about the election result.

      “Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart,” said Mr Trump.

    • It’s begun: Internet providers are pushing to repeal Obama-era privacy rules

      Some of the nation’s biggest Internet providers are asking the government to roll back a landmark set of privacy regulations it approved last fall — kicking off an effort by the industry and its allies to dismantle key Internet policies of the Obama years.

      In a petition filed to federal regulators Monday, a top Washington trade group whose members include Comcast, Charter and Cox argued that the rules should be thrown out.

      “They are unnecessary, unjustified, unmoored from a cost-benefit assessment, and unlikely to advance the Commission’s stated goal of enhancing consumer privacy,” wrote the Internet & Television Association, known as NCTA.

    • The Breakthrough: Meet the Reporter Who Went Undercover in the Hermit Kingdom

      But some journalists have been able to evade the censorship. Suki Kim, an American novelist and investigative journalist, spent months undercover inside the country, working as an English teacher at a boarding school for North Korea’s young elites. Her reportage captured an unprecedented portrait of the country, showing the hopes, dreams and lies of North Korean youth.

      This week on the Breakthrough, Suki Kim takes us behind the closed borders of the Hermit Kingdom and reveals how she became one of the first reporters to go undercover in North Korea.

    • Turkey’s Relentless Attack on the Press

      It should come as no surprise that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey would praise Donald Trump for refusing to talk to a CNN reporter at a news conference.

      For years, Mr. Erdogan has been crushing independent voices as part of a broader effort to assert authoritarian control. Earlier this month, the Turkish police arrested the top legal adviser and a former chief executive of Dogan Holding, a conglomerate that owns the newspaper Hurriyet and CNN Turk. This followed the detention in mid-December of another company executive, Barbaros Muratoglu, reportedly accused of “aiding a terror group,” namely the organization of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999. The company has denied links to Mr. Gulen.

    • Complaints Describe Border Agents Interrogating Muslim Americans, Asking for Social Media Accounts

      Customs and Border Protection agents have been invasively questioning Muslim-Americans at U.S. border crossings about their political and religious beliefs, asking for their social media information, and demanding passwords to open mobile phones, according to a set of complaints filed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

      In one case, a 23-year old American citizen alleges that he was choked by a CBP agent after declining to hand over his phone for inspection while crossing the border back from Canada.

      The complaints deal with the cases of nine people who have been stopped at various U.S. border crossings, eight of whom are American citizens, and one Canadian. They were filed to the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Justice.

    • Prisoners With Physical Disabilities Are Forgotten And Neglected in America

      Dean Westwood arrived at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Oregon in a wheelchair. Prison officials required him to surrender his property, submit to a search, and agree to administrative procedures like finger printing. This is standard practice. But unlike other detainees, Dean is paralyzed below the waist and has limited use of his arms and hands.

      Staff at the Oregon jail didn’t know how to handle someone with his disability. They rough-handled his limbs and pulled his fingers apart to get his fingerprints. They stripped him down for a search, rough-handling his genitals. They forced his body into a set of jail clothing that was a couple of sizes too small, which caused Dean severe irritation below the waist.

    • How to Talk to Congress

      As this year begins with a new president and new Congress taking power, more people than ever want to know how to make their voices heard in Congress. As the Legislative Counsel at EFF, my job is to help the organization and our supporters reach out to Congress more effectively. We’ve put together this guide in order to share some of our findings about how best to impact decisions in government. This represents years of trial and error at EFF as well as my own experience working in Congress and Washington, D.C. for a number of years before joining the organization.

    • Fury at Azaria Verdict is Israel’s Trump Moment

      The United Kingdom has Brexit. The United States, an incoming president Trump. And Israel now has Elor Azaria. It may not have the same ring, but ultimately the turning point could prove as decisive.

      Two fallacious narratives have greeted the army medic’s manslaughter conviction last week, after he was filmed firing a bullet into the head of a wounded and helpless Palestinian, 21-year-old Abdel Fattah Al Sharif.

      The first says Azaria is a rotten apple, a soldier who lost his moral bearings last March under the pressure of serving in Hebron. The second – popular among liberals in Israel – claims the conviction proves the strength of Israel’s rule of law. Even a transgressing soldier will be held accountable by the world’s “most moral army”.

      In truth, however, the popular reaction to the military court’s decision was far more telling than the decision itself.

      Only massed ranks of riot police saved the three judges from a lynching by crowds outside. The army top brass have been issued bodyguards. Demands to overrule the court and pardon Azaria are thunderous – and they are being led by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

    • Chicago Police Routinely, ‘Systemically’ Abused Civil Rights: DOJ

      Chicago police systematically violated people’s civil rights by routinely using excessive force, particularly against African-Americans and Latinos, according to a bombshell report (pdf) from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released Friday.

      The report is the conclusion of a 13-month investigation into the Chicago Police Department (CPD), launched after the October 2014 police killing of 17-year-old black Chicago resident Laquan McDonald, whose fatal shooting was captured by the patrol car’s dashboard camera.

      According to the inquiry, police routinely violated the Fourth Amendment by using “unnecessary and avoidable” force, including deadly force, which investigators attributed to poor training and accountability systems.

    • Smooth-Talking Jeff Sessions Can’t Hide Disturbing Record

      Although Jeff Sessions’ confirmation as attorney general of the United States by the GOP-controlled Senate is a foregone conclusion, it is still important to analyze his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Thus far, the hearing has shed a troubling light on his positions.

      In his responses to the senators’ questions, Sessions loudly protested the idea that he has ever embraced racism, homophobia or sexism. Calling allegations of racism “incredibly painful,” Sessions assured the senators, “I abhor the Klan and all it represents.” However, that has not always been the case. He once joked that he thought the KKK was “OK until I found out that they smoked pot.”

    • How ride-hailing apps like Uber continue cab industry’s history of racial discrimination

      Our new paper, “Racial and Gender Discrimination in Transportation Network Companies,” found patterns of discrimination in how some drivers using ride-hailing platforms, such as Uber and Lyft, treat African-American passengers and women. Our results are based on extensive field studies in Seattle and Boston, both considered liberal-minded cities, and provide stark evidence of discrimination.

    • Benny King and the Criminalization of Addiction in America

      You see, just like hundreds of thousands of poor, disproportionately black and brown Americans sidelined from American life – stuffed out of sight in state and federal penal institutions across the U.S. – King is serving time for one, and only one, unconscionable reason: he suffers from a substance abuse problem. He drinks.

    • Allegations of Russian Hacking Cover Up Larger Issue: Attacks on Independent Journalism

      Washington, D.C., and the mainstream media have spent much of the last week zeroing in on allegations that Russia interfered in the United States presidential election. Truthdig contributor Chris Hedges argues that such intense coverage is merely a way for establishment elites to criticize independent journalism.

      In an interview with RT America’s Simone Del Rosario, Hedges cites the McCarthyist attacks on independent outlets—including Truthdig—last year and says that the recent wave of reporting on Russia continues the alarmist narrative.

      Specifically, he labels a report recently released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence an “utter embarrassment.” He notes that U.S. intelligence chief James Clapper possessed “a deep rage” toward independent news outlets during his testimony before Congress last week.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • EFF to Court: Don’t Let California Gag IMDb

        California is trying to gag websites from sharing true, publicly available information about actors in the name of age discrimination. But one online service, IMDb, is fighting back. EFF and four other public interest organizations have filed in a friend of the court brief in the case, urging the court not to allow celebrities to wipe truthful information about them from the Internet.

Number of New Patent Cases in the US Fell 25% Last Year, Thanks in Part to the Demise of Software Patent Trolls

Posted in America, Courtroom, Patents at 11:29 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The legal paper ‘industry’ is walking away, gradually

Moving paperwork

Summary: Litigation and prosecutions that rely on patents (failure to resolve disputes, e.g. by sharing ideas, out of court) is down very sharply, in part because firms that make nothing at all (just threaten and/or litigate) have been sinking after much-needed reform

IN ORDER to understand what goes on in the mysterious (or cryptic) world of patent trolls we often turn to IAM ‘magazine’, which is paid by some trolls to embellish or soften their image. We read IAM ‘magazine’ very critically and try to extract from it some morsels of information. The other day we saw IAM ‘magazine’ conflating patents with “markets” again, as if patents are products up on the shelf or something (to trolls they are). It was also writing about this patent troll which got fed by Stanford University, whose patents were derived from publicly-funded research. To quote some background to this:

WiLAN has stepped up its campaign against the growing personal digital assistant market filing six lawsuits before and after Christmas against a series of big tech companies including Amazon and HTC over patents that underpin Siri, the popular electronic assistant on Apple devices. The most recent case was filed on Tuesday against ZTE in district court in Delaware, bringing the total number of suits that the NPE’s subsidiary IPA Technologies has filed in this campaign to 11.

WiLAN acquired the patents in question in two tranches, including a package of nine grants in May 2016, from SRI International, a non-profit research institute which spun out of Stanford University more than 40 years ago. SRI began developing the technology for a voice-controlled electronic assistant following a grant from the US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), eventually setting up Siri Inc which was spun out as an independent entity in 2007 and was then bought by Apple in 2010.

We wrote about WiLAN many times before (6 years ago we named the person behind it, Jim Skippen). It’s regarded or understood to have become a pain in the bottom to a lot of Linux/Android OEMs, not just to companies like Apple. It’s a destructive entity which Canada should take shame — not pride — in.

The other day IAM also mentioned RPX, which is a massive troll that Microsoft joined 7 years ago. IAM wrote about it in the context of litigation decline — a subject which we covered here many times in the latter half of 2016. America Invents Act and PTAB had a lot to do with this decline, as IAM admits:

The headline numbers for the 2016 litigation year in the US were out last week and showed a big drop in the total number of new patent infringement cases. According to Unified Patents there were 4,382 new cases, a drop of almost 25% on the 2015 figure. That is the lowest level since 2011 when the America Invents Act (AIA) came into force and new joinder rules had a significant inflationary effect on litigation volume.

RPX also released some stats and included a numbers of interesting data points. Among them was a big fall in the number of NPE campaigns against companies with revenues of $50 billion or more. Those companies are, of course, typically among the most popular targets for licensing efforts but they’re also the ones most likely to fight back in long, drawn-out lawsuits.

RPX basically speaks of itself, as it tends to engulf and attack large entities. After Alice and some of the aforementioned reforms we don’t expect RPX to find quite the same level of ‘success’ (shakedown). In fact, like many other trolls we hope it will cease operations. We know for a fact that Intellectual Ventures is suffering and even laying off a lot of staff.

The patent microcosm, growingly irritated by the sharp drop in litigation, is already sucking up to Donald Trump, hoping that he will put someone corrupt like Randall R. Rader in charge, assuring regressions in law. On the other hand, Matt Levy, who opposes patent maximalism and calls for further patent reforms, has just published these suggestions to the Trump Administration, focusing in particular on patent trolls (a side effect or symptom of low patent quality):

What the new administration should be doing with patents

[...]

Continue to Fight Patent Trolls

It is true that patent troll litigation dropped in 2016, but according to a recent RPX report, nearly all of that drop is due to fewer lawsuits against very large, well-funded companies. Patent trolls seem to be shifting their focus to smaller businesses that can’t afford to defend themselves effectively. Trolls’ venue of choice continues to be the Eastern District of Texas, as I’ve written about a number of times.

A new paper by Brian Love and James Yoon confirms why this is true: patent trolls use the Eastern District of Texas (EDTX) because its procedures increase costs for defendants quickly. In fact, 90 percent of cases there are filed by patent assertion entities. The paper also shows that only 18 percent of EDTX cases have any local link to the original inventor, original patent owner, or the first named defendant. By comparison, nearly 88 percent of the cases filed in the Northern District of California (which includes Silicon Valley) have such a link to the district.

The reality is that we need venue reform. Congress needs to fix the patent venue statute so that patent owners can’t sue a company virtually anywhere. The evidence is simply undeniable that patent trolls are taking advantage of a court with overly friendly rules in order to extort money, and there’s no reason to allow this to continue any longer.

Do No Harm on Patentable Subject Matter

With recent Supreme Court decisions, there has been a lot of handwringing about the patentability of software, diagnostic methods, and certain biotech inventions. There have even been proposals to do away with the patent-eligibility requirement altogether.

Congress needs to let the law develop slowly. The courts are gradually coming to some reasonable interpretations based on previous case law, and that’s as it should be. There are a lot of stakeholders with competing interests, and the best way to develop this law is a bit at a time. Yes, it’s painfully slow, but it’s the way our legal system works.

These calls to “do away with the patent-eligibility requirement altogether,” (or at least weaken them) as Levy puts it, were often funded by companies like IBM and Microsoft, which paid a former USPTO Director (David Kappos) to become their lobbyist and undermine Alice, bringing back software patents in a crooked fashion that’s akin to bribery of officials.

America Invents Act Improved Patent Quality, But Right Wingers Threaten to Make It Worse Again

Posted in America, Patents at 10:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Rumours suggest that Donald Trump will add Randall R. Rader to his swamp

Randall R. Rader
Photo from Reuters

Summary: The past half a decade saw gradual improvement in assessment of patents in the United States, but there is a growing threat and pressure from the patent microcosm to restore patent maximalism and chaos

The USPTO has been gradually improving under Michelle Lee, who sought positive reform and is said to be on her way out after Trump’s inauguration. The former Director, David Kappos, is now lobbying (in exchange for money!) to make things worse again. It looks as though Trump is about to blow away any progress with Rader as Director (or similar position). Rader is not only corrupt but is also a software patents proponent.

The following new post by Jason Rantanen links to this new report from the USPTO:

USPTO Releases its 2016 Performance and Accountability Report

I’m pleased to announce that the USPTO has published its Performance and Accountability Report (PAR) for fiscal year (FY) 2016. The PAR serves as the USPTO’s annual report, similar to what private sector companies prepare for their shareholders. Each year the USPTO publishes this report to update the public on our performance and financial health.

[...]

We will continue efforts in the Enhanced Patent Quality Initiative, which is a multifaceted initiative that builds on past efforts and includes future programs aimed at improving the accuracy, clarity, and consistency of patents; continue implementation of the patent dispute resolution portions of the AIA; meet the wave of legal challenges to the USPTO’s interpretation of the AIA and its regulations implementing the statute; develop outreach at both headquarters and regional offices; expand on dissemination of data; attain and maintain full sustainable funding; and provide IT support for a nationwide workforce with a “24/7/365” operational capability.

Watchtroll, in the mean time, being the software patents proponent that the site always is, suggests changes that would inherit bad elements of the EPO, where software patents are habitually being granted in defiance of the rules (more so under Battistelli than before, to the point where legal firms say it’s easier to get software patents at the EPO than at the USPTO). To quote from the summary:

In summary, there is a plausible case that the US law on obviousness is indeed compatible with the above-explained EPO problem-and-solution approach. It could even be said that the steps of the problem-and-solution approach appear to have been inspired by US law and practice!

Under present working styles, USPTO examiners concentrate on the claims and spend little or no time reading the description. If they are to initiate obviousness rejections using the problem-and-solution format they would have to change habits and consult the description to locate any effects related to the distinguishing features.

I remark that the problem-and-solution approach is not a new statement of the law of obviousness: it is a statement of practical steps to be taken by a practitioner in order to come to an objective assessment of obviousness/non-obviousness compatible with the Statute Law and Case Law. It is an approach designed for large organizations like the USPTO who need to maintain uniformity.

[...]

The US Law on obviousness is indeed compatible with the EPO problem-and-solution approach. The USPTO, unlike the EPO, may be bound by the ratio decidenti of superior court decisions, but this should not impede completing the MPEP with instructions like the problem-and-solution approach. All that is needed is to arouse interest in potential long-term advantages for the USPTO notably the perspective of increased quality. Application of the approach does not imply any change in the Statute or Case Law, simply a determination to complement the current piecemeal guidelines by a coherent methodology.

It follows that the USPTO not only could adopt an approach for assessing obviousness like the EPO problem-and-solution approach, but in my view the quest for quality is a good reason why it should do so.

A guest post at Patently-O, composed by Professors Arti Rai (Duke) and Colleen Chien (Santa Clara), is titled “Patent Quality: Where We Are” and it names the legacy of Kappos, which is similar to that of Battistelli (compromising patent quality to artificially make ruinous ‘gains’):

When former USPTO Director David Kappos took the helm in 2009, budgetary strains and application backlog demanded immediate attention. Even so, then-Director Kappos pushed through redesign of the agency’s IT system, gave an across-the-board increase in time to examiners, adjusted count allocation so as to reduce incentives for rework, and emphasized quality improvements through international worksharing, industry training, and the creation of the Common Patent Classification system. Then, with the passage of the American [sic] Invents Act of 2011, the agency’s budgetary position stabilized and the stage was set for further focus on quality. The backlog subsided, with the queue of patents reduced by 30% over the last eight years, according to statistics released by the USPTO.

It was only after the America Invents Act (AIA), which then created PTAB, that patent quality started to make more sense. We hope that even in the era of a Trump Administration the same kind of trend will persist, though we are not particularly optimistic about it.

PTAB — Not Deterred by Courts — Continues to Invalidate a Lot of Software Patents

Posted in America, Patents at 10:14 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Don’t believe the legal paper ‘industry’ (or the patent microcosm)

Some paperwork

Summary: The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) continues to make progress reforming the patent system by eliminating a lot of patents and setting an example (or new standards) for what is patent-eligible after Alice

THE patent microcosm wants us to believe that the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) has devalued or stopped what PTAB was doing. They want us to think there’s some kind of feud or conflict — one that they themselves inflame.

Let’s wait and see how many law firms will bother covering the frequent outcomes from cases where CAFC sides with PTAB on issues pertaining to invalidation of patents. Here is one such new case. To quote MIP:

The Federal Circuit has dismissed an appeal of Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) final written decision in an inter partes review (IPR), arguing that because “Phigenix has not offered sufficient proof establishing that it has suffered an injury in fact, it lacks standing to bring suit in federal court”.

Here is a direct link to the decision [PDF]

PTAB is breaking some records again (based on some criteria), as shown by these latest figures. For the uninitiated, PTAB is slaughtering/squashing software patents more frequently than anything else, including courts. Petitions to PTAB, or IPRs as they are commonly called once processed, are also more reachable/accessible to small businesses that hope to undermine patents which large companies should never have been granted in the first place.

MIP’s PTAB round-up says:

December Patent Trial and Appeal Board petition filing was the fourth-highest of 2016, the Federal Circuit recently heard en banc arguments in one PTAB appeal and granted en banc rehearing in another, the appeals court remanded the Board in In re NuVasive, and the District of Delaware interpreted the scope of estoppel narrowly in Intellectual Ventures v Toshiba

When patent trolls like Intellectual Ventures go after large companies such as Toshiba they expect to get a lot of money. Intellectual Ventures was recently defeated in an epic cases where quite a few of its patents — software patents to be exact — got rejected by a prominent CAFC judge.

There is no compelling evidence to suggest that things are changing in favour of the patent microcosm, at least not in PTAB. No doubt, however, they will continue to lie to everyone — their clients included — in order to improve their bottom line. The term “fake news” seems applicable here.

EPO Abuses Come Under Fire From Politicians in Luxembourg

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:20 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Latest among many countries to express concern

Claudia Dall'Agnol
Source: Wikipedia

Summary: Luxembourg is the latest nation in which concerns about the EPO’s serious abuses are brought up not only by the media but also by politicians

THE EPO is very quiet this month. No “news” or “blog” items have been published since before Christmas.

Around Christmas time the media in Luxembourg published this article, which we mentioned here before. There is not much new information in there (not of great significance anyway) except parts which pertain to political interventions in Luxembourg. Notably, Claudia Dall’Agnol (pictured above) raises concerns and Etienne Schneider acts like a Battistelli mouthpiece, which makes Schneider look rather foolish and gullible. Does anyone out there still believe any word that comes out of Battistelli’s mouth? He’s a chronic, shameless liar. He’s a manipulative politician disguised as a manager.

Here is the English translation from SUEPO [PDF], which we reproduced below in HTML form:

“We’ve got our eye on it”

EUROPEAN PATENT OFFICE

Behind the façade of the European Patent Office (38 countries belong to it, Luxembourg among them) a massive social conflict has broken out.

The battle between the President and the staff union Suepo, which represents the majority of the 7,000 strong workforce, has been raging for more than five years. Minister Etienne Schneider is now providing a reply to the question raised in Parliament on this issue by LSAP deputy Claudia Dall’Agnol.

The management style adopted by President Benoît Battistelli, who took this office in 2010, appears to have led from escalation to escalation. Only recently, staff members took to the streets in their thousands in Munich to march to the consulates. If we are to believe what the union members are saying, Battistelli has been tightening the screws for a long time, to such an extent that the environment at work can sink no lower. In the course of the year, three senior Suepo members have been summarily kicked out. Our information is that the President has produced very flimsy excuses for doing this – some would say totally far-fetched.

Another senior Suepo figure was dismissed without notice at the beginning of November at the branch of the Office at The Hague, and a further member is said to have been subjected to extreme pressure. How, why, when, and who is concerned is not clear from the accusations. Two weeks ago, EPO officials at The Hague were called upon to carry out a protest demonstration at the Dutch branch office. A majority of the 2,800 or so personnel working there took part, and really made their voices heard (► Link).

“Focus of attention”

The Minister responsible, Etienne Schneider, in his reply to the question raised in Parliament by Deputy Claudia Dall’Agnol simply repeated the official version put about by the EPO President. There have allegedly been cases of bullying, but those responsible have been identified and punished. The staff member who was ejected in November at The Hague is said to have been the main person responsible.

But we have received entirely different information, too, which points to the President unleashing a systematic campaign of harassment against many of his staff, but in particular against the personnel representatives who are members of Suepo.. Schneider appears to be equally at ease in his reply,since he goes on to write: “I can give assurance that the Luxembourg delegation continues to pay close attention to the development of the social dialogue at the EPO, and to provide its support to any initiative in that context.”

According to Etienne Schneider, the agenda at the next meeting of the Advisory Board is scheduled to include the results of an internal survey on the issue of social dialogue and working conditions at the branches of the European Patent Office.

As can be seen from the above (last three paragraphs), Battistelli’s apologists seem to be relying on paid-for propaganda from PwC. We previously we wrote about it in the following articles:

SUEPO is very quiet these days, but the same goes for the EPO in general, including the management. This gives us more time to unearth and publish older material whose analysis is well overdue. Expect much more to come out in the coming days.

Constitutionality as a Barrier and Brexit Barriers to UPC Keep the Whole Pipe Dream Deadlocked

Posted in Europe, Law, Patents at 4:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

UPC, RIP

Summary: The UPC is still going nowhere fast, but the demise (or death) of the UPC as we know it must not be taken for granted

THE UPC may be unconstitutional (or un-Constitutional) in a lot of states. Does Battistelli care? Well, he hardly cares about the laws, let alone constitutions. According to this or this, quoting the new (and latest) paper from Dr. Ingve Björn Stjerna, “German ratification proceedings comprise several options for bringing the ratification legislation before the German Constitutional Court (“BVerfG”) for a constitutional law review in which the CJEU would be invoked as regards Union law questions by way of a request for a preliminary ruling.”

“We need more Free Open/Source software companies to help us battle the UPC, which would definitely usher in not only patent trolls but also software patents in Europe.”Given Germany’s selfish interests, as we recently noted in relation to Germany's Justice Minister Heiko Maas, we very much doubt the government will care if the UPC turns out to be un-Constitutional. Things have gotten so bad in fact that Maas also flagrantly disregards/ignores EPO abuses (as per German law) on German soil. As for Team UPC, it’s paying for propaganda. These people play dirty. Very dirty.

Thankfully, as we repeatedly pointed out before, the UPC in in a limbo. In fact, based on the abstract of this upcoming FOSDEM talk, Robinson Tryon too agrees with the “limbo” analogy. “With the future of the European Union’s Unitary Patent Court in limbo due to the Brexit,” he writes, “leaders in Free Software owe it to themselves and their companies to be more agile and more prepared to address patent issues…”

We need more Free Open/Source software companies to help us battle the UPC, which would definitely usher in not only patent trolls but also software patents in Europe. Here is the full abstract of the upcoming talk:

Are FOSS Companies Ready to Deal with Patents in the US and Europe?

Most small businesses have no patent strategy. Though many FOSS companies have policies in place regarding copyright and keeping detailed records of code contributions, few have paid enough attention to how patent litigation could affect them. For those FOSS businesses active in multiple countries or looking to expand into an international market, failure to understand the patent ecosystem in each jurisdiction could be a costly mistake.

Most small businesses have no patent strategy. Though many FOSS companies have policies in place regarding copyright and keeping detailed records of code contributions, few have paid enough attention to how patent litigation could affect them. For those FOSS businesses active in multiple countries or looking to expand into an international market, failure to understand the patent ecosystem in each jurisdiction could be a costly mistake.

This talk will use recent cases and ongoing changes in the patent systems of the US & Europe as modern examples for our discussion. We’ll describe the pitfalls that can affect any company, tabulate the costs of litigation, and offer methods businesses can use to reduce overall risk.

With the future of the European Union’s Unitary Patent Court in limbo due to the Brexit, and with no public position on patents from the United States’ next administration, leaders in Free Software owe it to themselves and their companies to be more agile and more prepared to address patent issues — whether they work at a small startup or at a large multinational corporation.

We previously coordinated some action (such as petitioning) regarding the UPC, but seeing how things are moving in the UK (with the business-oriented Madame Tesco leaving to be replaced by Boris Johnson's brother after just months in her job), it seems like the UPC is falling apart anyway, even without some outside intervention.

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