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01.30.17

Links 30/1/2017: Zemlin Does Politics, Ubuntu and Fedora Need Wallpapers

Posted in News Roundup at 7:54 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Intel’s BigDL: The Latest Deep Learning Tool to Go Open Source

    As we’ve been reporting, artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning remain red hot open source technology categories. A whole slew of applications for the artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning spaces were open sourced last year, and as this year ramps up, Intel is the latest organization to open source a key deep learning tool.

    The company has open sourced BigDL, a distributed deep learning library that runs on Apache Spark. It harnesses Spark clusters to run deep learning algorithms and simplifies the data loading from big datasets stored in Hadoop.

  • Events

    • Savoir-faire Linux Platinum Sponsor of DebConf17

      Savoir-faire Linux is a Montreal-based Free/Open-Source Software company with offices in Quebec City, Toronto, Paris and Lyon. It offers Linux and Free Software integration solutions in order to provide performance, flexibility and independence for its clients. The company actively contributes to many free software projects, and provide mirrors of Debian, Ubuntu, Linux and others.

    • IoTivity-Constrained: A Flexible Framework for Tiny Devices

      The future of IoT will be connected by tiny, resource-constrained edge devices, says Senior Software Engineer at the Intel Open Source Technology Center. And, the IoTivity-Constrained project is a small-footprint implementation of the Open Connectivity Foundation’s (OCF) standards that’s designed to run on just such devices.

      In his upcoming talk at Embedded Linux Conference + OpenIoT Summit, Kishen, who is lead developer and maintainer of the IoTivity-Constrained project, will present the project’s architecture, features, and uses. We spoke with Kishen to get a preview of his talk and more information about this lightweight, customizable framework for IoT.

    • WOOTConf 2017: Lockpicking, Willie Nelson developers, and more

      Do you know that wonderful feeling when a tiny little idea becomes a reality? That’s what this year’s WOOTConf at linux.conf.au 2017 was for me.

      It was a full day jam-packed with amazing, deeply technical talks from ten wonderful speakers.

    • See you at FOSDEM

      This time I have no talk (I somehow failed to submit anything in time), but still I’m there to meet people and listen to some talks. As I’ve agreed to help Software Freedom Conservancy on stand (in the H building), it’s quite likely that you will find me there. You will also have unique chance to grab phpMyAdmin stickers at this stand.

    • BelFOSS 2017

      On Friday I attended the second BelFOSS conference. I’d spoken about my involvement with Debian at the conference last year, which seemed to be well received. This year I’d planned to just be a normal attendee, but ended up roped in at a late stage to be part of a panel discussing various licensing issues. I had a thoroughly enjoyable day – there were many great speakers, and plenty of opportunity for interesting chats with other attendees.

  • Web Browsers

  • SaaS/Back End

    • American Express Wants “Full Advantage of Blockchain”, Joins Open-Source Hyperledger Project

      Credit card giant American Express has joined the Linux Foundation-led open-source cross-industry blockchain working group, the Hyperledger Project.

      In yet another noted example of the traditional financial services industry turning to Fintech’s poster child in blockchain technology, American Express has joined the Hyperledger Project as a ‘Premier’ member.

    • AmEx Joins JPMorgan, IBM in Hyperledger Blockchain Effort

      American Express Co. is elbowing its way into the crowded blockchain party.

      The biggest credit-card issuer by purchases has signed on to the Hyperledger Project, a industry group of more than 100 members developing blockchain technology for corporate use. The digital ledger known for underpinning bitcoin has potential to reshape the global financial system and other industries.

      American Express will contribute code and engineers to Hyperledger, which was started by the Linux Foundation in 2015 and now counts companies like International Business Machines Corp., Airbus Group SE and JPMorgan Chase & Co. as members. Many banks had previously joined a consortium called R3 CEV to explore ways to speed financial transactions using blockchain, but that group has lost members and last year formally joined Hyperledger.

    • Lessons Learned Running IBM Watson on Mesos
    • OpenStack Community Elects 2017 Board of Directors

      Individual Directors elected on Friday, January 13, are:

      Tim Bell, CERN
      Russell Bryant, Red Hat
      Steven Dake, Cisco Systems
      ChangBo Guo, EasyStack
      Kavit Munshi, Aptira
      Allison Randal, HPE
      Egle Sigler, Rackspace
      Shane Wang, Intel

      Gold Directors elected on Wednesday, January 4, are:

      Robert Esker, NetApp
      Kenji Kaneshige, Fujitsu
      Anni Lai, Huawei
      Junwei Liu, China Mobile
      Christopher Price, Ericsson
      Boris Renski, Mirantis
      Lew Tucker, Cisco Systems
      Joseph Wang, InwinStack

      Platinum Directors appointments are:

      Mark Baker, Canonical
      Alan Clark, SUSE
      Eileen Evans, HPE
      Toby Ford, AT&T
      Mark McLoughlin, Red Hat
      Todd Moore, IBM
      Imad Sousou, Intel
      Brian Stein, Rackspace

    • Supporting our global community
    • OpenStack Use Cases – New Analyst Papers and Webinar Now Available
    • Transitioning from OpenStack hobbyist to professional

      The hardest part of pivoting your career is proving that you are qualified in your new focus area. To land your first OpenStack job, you’ll want to prove you have a functional understanding of OpenStack basics, can navigate the resources to solve problems and have recognized competency in your focus area.

    • From hobbyist to professional, new analyst papers, and more OpenStack news
  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

    • LibreOffice 5.3 Is Coming This Week, A Look At The New Features

      LibreOffice 5.3 is expected to be released this week as the latest feature update to this cross-platform, open-source office suite. Here’s a quick feature overview look for those interested in LibreOffice 5.3.

      LibreOffice 5.3 will include many user-interface UI/UX improvements and the initial work on the MUFFIN project.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

  • Public Services/Government

    • Deputy decries lack of support for Linux in French Assembly

      The IT department at the French National Assembly should improve its support for Linux, says National Assembly Deputy Sergio Coronado. In a letter to the Assembly’s president, he objects to the lack of software updates and absence of technical support for deputies that use Linux on their computers.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Enforcement of open source licenses?

      What happens when codes are released under an open source license? Has the developer in effect written off his right to the code? Can a developer of open source software enforce his rights, or has he released his code to the world free of charge?

Leftovers

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Donald Trump’s Big Macs, bacon and Doritos – deconstructing his diet

      You’re the world’s most powerful man, moving into the world’s most famous address. Your staff includes five full-time chefs, which is four more than most cafes. So what’s top of president Donald Trump’s shopping list? Lay’s potato chips and Doritos, that’s what.

      Ah, crisps! Just the ticket for powering through a day of dubious decision-making and 3am tweets, no? Jo Travers, a dietitian and author of The Low-Fad Diet, is unconvinced. She is particularly worried about the impact of Trump’s diet (heavy on the fast food, easy on the veg) on his ability to think straight.

    • Is Gates Foundation, WHO’s Biggest Private Funder, Ineligible To Join WHO? [Ed: This headline contains an error. Should say “Briber” (for profit/agenda), not “Funder”; trying to buy even more influence.]

      In the letter, the groups detail the example of the Gates Foundation, which is seeking to be admitted as an external actor in “official relations” with the WHO and as a non-voting member of the World Health Assembly. The Gates Foundation is the largest non-governmental donor of the WHO.

    • WHO Board Agrees To Drop The Word ‘Counterfeit’ After 30 Years

      For nearly 30 years, the United Nations World Health Organization has been referring to poor-quality and fake medicines as counterfeit. But that is about to change.

      The new words approved by the WHO Executive Board on 27 January are “substandard and falsified,” which captures whether the drug is made with substandard ingredients or is represented as something it is not. The word ‘counterfeit’ would now be restored in practical terms to meaning a trademark violation, as it is defined under World Trade Organization rules on intellectual property.

    • WHO Members Negotiate Resolution On Cancer; High Prices In Question

      Cancer is spreading. According to the World Health Organization, the number of new cases of cancer is projected to increase to 21.6 million annually by 2030. The WHO Executive Board this week is considering a draft resolution for actions by the WHO member states and the secretariat. The resolution is being discussed and amended as issues such as the affordability and the accessibility of new cancer medicines, in particular in developing countries, are highlighted by many.

  • Security

    • ATM ‘Shimmers’ Target Chip-Based Cards

      Several readers have called attention to warnings coming out of Canada about a supposedly new form of card skimming called “shimming” that targets chip-based credit and debit cards. Shimming attacks are not new (KrebsOnSecurity first wrote about them in August 2015), but they are likely to become more common as a greater number of banks in the United States shift to issuing chip-based cards. Here’s a brief primer on shimming attacks, and why they succeed.

    • Senior journo slams ‘frustrating’ Windows 10 updates

      A senior editor at the American technology news website Cnet has slammed Microsoft over what he calls the most “frustrating” thing about Windows 10: the update process that happens automatically and cannot be stopped by users.

      Sean Hollister wrote about issues that he had faced and also problems encountered by a large number of Windows 10 users, all of whom had lost work or been forced to interrupt their schedules due to a Windows 10 update.

    • Does Trump’s Old Android Phone Pose Major Security Threat?

      Donald Trump is a big fan of the phones in the White House. “These are the most beautiful phones I’ve ever used in my life,” he told the New York Times in an interview this week. It’s not their aesthetics he’s drawn to, but the security built into the system that ensures no one is tapping his calls.

    • President Trump’s Insecure Android

      Once compromised, the phone becomes a bug—even more catastrophic than Great Seal—able to record everything around it and transmit the information once it reattaches to the network. And to be clear even a brand new, fully updated Android or iPhone is insufficient: The President of the United States is worth a great many multiples of expensive zero-day exploits.

    • Everything you know about security is wrong, stop protecting your empire!

      Let’s start with AV. A long time ago everyone installed an antivirus application. It’s just what you did, sort of like taking your vitamins. Most people can’t say why, they just know if they didn’t do this everyone would think they’re weird. Here’s the question for you to think about though: How many times did your AV actually catch something? I bet the answer is very very low, like number of times you’ve seen bigfoot low. And how many times have you seen AV not stop malware? Probably more times than you’ve seen bigfoot. Today malware is big business, they likely outspend the AV companies on R&D. You probably have some control in that phone book sized policy guide that says you need AV. That control is quite literally wasting your time and money. It would be in your best interest to get it changed.

      Usability vs security is one of my favorite topics these days. Security lost. It’s not that usability won, it’s that there was never really a battle. Many of us security types don’t realize that though. We believe that there is some eternal struggle between security and usability where we will make reasonable and sound tradeoffs between improving the security of a system and adding a text field here and an extra button there. What really happened was the designers asked to use the bathroom and snuck out through the window. We’re waiting for them to come back and discuss where to add in all our great ideas on security.

    • Reproducible Builds: week 91 in Stretch cycle

      Verifying Software Freedom with Reproducible Builds will be presented by Vagrant Cascadian at Libreplanet2017 in Boston, March 25th-26th.

    • Linux devices with standard settings infected by Linux.Proxy.10 malware

      Linux operating system was once known to be the most secure OS in the world, but things have changed since security researchers have found malware like Mirai and Bashlite infecting Linux-devices turning them into DDoS botnets. Now, another malware has been discovered targeting Linux.

    • Linux.Proxy.10 infects thousands of devices with standard settings
    • 4 ways to improve your security online right now

      Regardless of how monumental a task digital security can seem, you can lay a strong foundation when you get started. Remember that being secure is an ongoing process, rather than a state of being. Keep the tools you use up to date and periodically check your habits and tools to ensure your security is the best it can be. Security doesn’t have to be overly complex if you take it one step at a time.

    • Security advisories for Monday
    • Linux Security Threats: Attack Sources and Types of Attacks

      In part 1 of this series, we discussed the seven different types of hackers who may compromise your Linux system. White hat and black hat hackers, script kiddies, hacktivists, nation states, organized crime, and bots are all angling for a piece of your system for their own nefarious/various reasons.

    • OpenSSL issues new patches as Heartbleed still lurks [Ed: Dramatic sensationalism from IDG again, with FUD logo created by a Microsoft-connected firm]

      The OpenSSL Project has addressed some moderate-severity security flaws, and administrators should be particularly diligent about applying the patches since there are still 200,000 systems vulnerable to the Heartbleed flaw.

    • Linux: The 10 best privacy and security distributions

      Privacy has become an important issue for many users as corporations and governments stop at nothing to gather personal information. But Linux users do have some choices when it comes to distributions that help protect their privacy and security.

    • openssh authorized_keys “restrict” option lessens worries

      Starting with OpenSSH 7.2, a new “restrict” option for authorized_keys lines has become available. It sets all available restrictions that the current OpenSSH version can do (like no-agent-forwarding, no-x11-forwarding etc). One can individually turn on those features again by corresponding new options.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Québec mosque shooting: Six people killed after gunmen open fire in ‘terrorist attack on Muslims’
    • Canadian PM Justin Trudeau says mosque shooting a ‘terrorist attack on Muslims’

      The shooting at a Quebec mosque during Sunday night prays which reportedly killed five people was a “terrorist attack on Muslims”, said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

      “We condemn this terrorist attack on Muslims in a center of worship and refuge,” Trudeau said in a statement.

      Five people were killed after gunmen opened fire in a Quebec City mosque, the mosque’s president told reporters on Sunday. A witness told Reuters that up to three gunmen fired on about 40 people inside the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Center.

    • Jihadist groups hail Trump’s travel ban as a victory

      Jihadist groups on Sunday celebrated the Trump administration’s ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, saying the new policy validates their claim that the United States is at war with Islam.

      Comments posted to pro-Islamic State social media accounts predicted that President Trump’s executive order would persuade American Muslims to side with the extremists. One posting hailed the U.S. president as “the best caller to Islam,” while others predicted that Trump would soon launch a new war in the Middle East.

      “[Islamic State leader Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi has the right to come out and inform Trump that banning Muslims from entering America is a ‘blessed ban,’” said one posting to a pro-Islamic State channel on Telegram, a social-media platform. The writer compared the executive order to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, which Islamic militant leaders at the time hailed as a “blessed invasion” that ignited anti-Western fervor across the Islamic world.

    • U.S. Commando Killed in Yemen in Trump’s First Counterterrorism Operation

      One American commando was killed and three others were wounded in a fierce firefight early Sunday with Qaeda militants in central Yemen, the military said on Sunday. It was the first counterterrorism operation authorized by President Trump since he took office, and the commando was the first United States service member to die in the yearslong shadow war against Al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate.

      Members of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 carried out the surprise dawn attack, and the military said that about 14 Qaeda fighters were killed during a nearly hourlong battle. A Qaeda leader — a brother-in-law of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born cleric and top Qaeda leader in Yemen, who died in a drone strike in 2011 — was believed to have been killed.

      After initially denying that there were any civilian casualties, American officials said they were assessing reports that women and children had died in the attack.

    • Obama’s administration made the “Muslim ban” possible and the media won’t tell you

      I was outraged by the ban on refugees from war-torn countries in the Middle East. I’ve covered refugees fleeing war in Iraq and Syria over the last two years, meeting families on the road in Greece, Serbia and Macedonia, speaking to poor people in Turkey and Jordan and discussing the hopes and fears of people displaced in Iraq. If you want to ban “terrorists,” these are the last people to hit with a refugee ban. Instead the government should be using the best intelligence possible to find people being radicalized, some of whom have lived in the US their whole lives or who come from countries not affected by the ban, such as Saudi Arabia or Pakistan.

    • Protests Build Across the Country Against Trump’s Immigration Order

      President Trump defended his executive order restricting the entry into the U.S. of people from seven Muslim-dominated countries, saying the move was not about religion but about keeping the country safe, but administration officials appeared to backtrack on the scope of the order, even as demonstrators gathered across the U.S. to protest.

      Massive crowds packed Boston’s Copley Square, Battery Park in New York City and outside the White House, and public areas in other cities, with demonstrations also held at airports from coast to coast to protest the order, which suspended immigration from countries with ties to terror — Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran and Libya — for 90 days. The order also indefinitely suspends Syrian refugees from entering the U.S.

    • Trump Memorandum on Organization of National Security Council
    • Trump gives National Security Council seat to ex-Breitbart chief Steve Bannon

      President Donald Trump granted controversial adviser Steve Bannon a regular seat at meetings of the National Security Council on Saturday, in a presidential memorandum that brought the former Breitbart publisher into some of the most sensitive meetings at the highest levels of government.

      [...]

      In an interview with the New York Times this week, Bannon called the press “the opposition party” and said it should “keep its mouth shut”. He has previously described himself as “a Leninist” and an “economic nationalist”.

    • Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban Is Cowardly and Dangerous

      The order lacks any logic. It invokes the attacks of Sept. 11 as a rationale, while exempting the countries of origin of all the hijackers who carried out that plot and also, perhaps not coincidentally, several countries where the Trump family does business. The document does not explicitly mention any religion, yet it sets a blatantly unconstitutional standard by excluding Muslims while giving government officials the discretion to admit people of other faiths.

    • Emir of Kano cautions Muslim clerics against using mosque as cover up to preach hate

      Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi has warned Muslim clerics in the country to stop using the mosques as a cover up to preach disunity and inciting one another that could lead to disorder and insecurity in the country.

      Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who gave the warning in his sermon after commissioning the ultra modern mosque of the Federal University of Technology Minna, Niger state yesterday, said rather than incite people through preachings, the clerics should focus more on uniting the people of the country and preach against incessant killings of one another which he said is ungodly.

    • Philippine troops kill 15 Islamic State supporters; rebel leader wounded

      Philippine soldiers killed 15 militants and seriously wounded their leader, believed to be the Islamic State’s representative in the country, following air and artillery strikes in a southern province, a senior military official said on Sunday.

      Isnilon Hapilon, also known as Abu Abdullah and a leader of the Philippine militant group Abu Sayyaf, might die as he needed immediate medical treatment, military chief General Eduardo Ano told reporters, citing intelligence and communications intercepts.

      “He needs blood transfusion. Without proper medical treatment, he may die,” Ano said.

    • Girl, 17, found with bullet to head

      A 17-YEAR-OLD girl was found with her hands bound behind her back and a single bullet wound to the back of the head in bushes near her home at Calvary Trace, Arima shortly after 11 am yesterday.

      The victim was identified as Celine Thomas. Her boyfriend Carlyle Hamilton, 33, was hours earlier shot and critically wounded.

      According to reports, Hamilton was at home at 9.30 pm on Thursday when he was attacked by gunmen as he turned and ran out of the house, gunshots were fired and Hamilton was struck several times. He sought assistance from neighbours and was taken to hospital where he was treated and warded in stable condition.

      At 11 am yesterday, residents of Calvary Trace found Thomas’ body with her hands bound and a bullet wound to the back of her head. Officers of the Arima police as well as homicide officers were called to the scene and the body ordered removed to the Forensic Science Centre.

    • We Are Keeping Out Exactly The Immigrants We Should Be Welcoming — Honored Clemson Grad Kept Off A Plane, Separated From Her Dog And Life In SC

      This woman is exactly the sort of immigrant we want here. As for her legal status, a friend of hers, Shivakumar Chinnam, writes in the comments below her Facebook post, “She is on student visa. Finished her Phd recently.”

      I would guess that the American company she works for has applied for and probably gotten a work visa for her.

      Also, for anyone who knows the slightest thing about Islam, it is plain that she is the opposite of a radical Islamist.

    • US soldiers shoot and kill 8-year-old girl in Yemen

      While the media attention has been focused on the death of one US serviceman who was killed during a raid in Yemen, one of the most tragic casualties of the assault ordered by President Donald Trump was an eight-year-old girl.

      The raid took place over the weekend, as US forces attempted a “site exploitation” attack that attempted to gather intelligence on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the extremist group behind several high-profile terror attacks, including the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in two years ago.

      Though the United States hailed the operation as a success, reports from Yemen would seem to indicate that the price paid by Yemeni civilians and non-combatants was extraordinarily high.

    • Obama Killed a 16-Year-Old American in Yemen. Trump Just Killed His 8-Year-Old Sister.

      In 2010, President Obama directed the CIA to assassinate an American citizen in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, despite the fact that he had never been charged with (let alone convicted of) any crime, and the agency successfully carried out that order a year later with a September, 2011 drone strike. While that assassination created widespread debate – the once-again-beloved ACLU sued Obama to restrain him from the assassination on the ground of due process and then, when that suit was dismissed, sued Obama again after the killing was carried out – another drone-killing carried out shortly thereafter was perhaps even more significant yet generated relatively little attention.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • As Trump Reboots Pipeline Expansion, An Unexpected Delay Emerges

      Just as President Trump takes power promising to ramp up oil and gas production, a sudden resignation in a key agency threatens to put such projects on hold across the United States.

      On Thursday, Norman Bay, one of just three current members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), said he would resign effective Feb. 3, even though his term isn’t up until next year. His announcement came shortly after Trump decided Bay’s fellow commissioner, Cheryl LaFleur, would serve as the Commission’s new chair.

    • DAPL Protesters Hold Rally In Downtown Tulsa

      Protesters continue to camp in North Dakota, near the site of the contentious pipeline project that President Trump is pushing to finish.

      The order to speed up both the Dakota Access and Keystone XL Pipelines is drawing both praise and controversy.

      In downtown Tulsa, a rally against the pipeline was held Saturday afternoon.

      Between 150 and 200 people were at the rally for about two hours at John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park protesting.

    • American Psychological Association Weighs in on Trump’s Memorandum on DAPL

      Longtime activist Winona LaDuke says the actions to ignore the wishes of water protectors at Standing Rock in North Dakota seek to dehumanize American Indians.

      The American Psychological Association weighed in this past week after President Trump’s issuance of a presidential memorandum regarding construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline with this statement:

      “The American Psychological Association is concerned by President Trump’s apparent attempt to clear the way for the Dakota Access Pipeline to move forward as originally planned, which threatens the welfare of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

    • 8 Things You Didn’t Realize Will Be Ruined By Climate Change

      When you consider what a feat it is to willfully ignore mounting scientific evidence that global warming is affecting the world, climate change deniers are almost admirable. We say “almost,” because as we continue to argue over whether turning our planet into a colossal dutch oven by spewing toxic chemicals into the air is bad, climate change is slowly compiling a kaleidoscope of unexpected ways to make all of our lives a living hell.

    • How close is 1.5°C? Depends when you measure from

      Most scientists studying global warming compare today’s temperatures to those of the late 19th century because that is as far back as quality temperature observations go. But a new study makes the case for a better comparison period, one that includes the warming that had already resulted by the middle of the 1800s and shows how close the world already is to breaching international warming targets.

      Under the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, countries agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to keep global temperature rise “well below” 2°C (3.6°F) above pre-industrial levels and limit it to 1.5°C (2.7°F) above that mark in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. But the agreement left undefined exactly what period is considered “pre-industrial.”

      Most climate scientists use the second half of the 19th century as a stand-in for pre-industrial times, because of the lack of widespread temperature observations before that point. But as the Industrial Revolution was already underway by then, it is likely that there was already some human-caused warming by that point. A study published in Nature last year found a small, but detectable increase in global temperatures as far back as the 1830s for some parts of the world.

    • Trump ‘will definitely pull out of Paris climate change deal’

      A former climate change adviser to Donald Trump has said the US President will pull America out of the landmark Paris agreement and an executive order on the issue could come within “days”.

      Myron Ebell, who took charge of Mr Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team, said the President was determined to undo policies pushed by Barack Obama to restrict greenhouse gas emissions.

      He said the US would “clearly change its course on climate policy” under the new administration and claimed Mr Trump was “pretty clear that the problem or the crisis has been overblown and overstated”.

  • Finance

    • Federal Reserve Bankers Mocked Unemployed Americans Behind Closed Doors

      In 2011, unemployment was at a near crisis level. The jobless rate was stuck around 9 percent nationally, an unusually high number due to the continuing effects of the financial crash.

      House Democrats were aghast. “With almost five unemployed Americans for every job opening, too many people remain jobless because of a lack of work, not a lack of wanting to work,” said Congressman Lloyd Doggett, D-Tex. So in early November 2011, they introduced a bill to reauthorize Federal unemployment benefits, an insurance program designed to aide those looking for work.

      Behind closed doors at the Federal Reserve however, the conversation struck a different tone.

      The Federal Reserve’s mandate is to promote “maximum employment,” which essentially means: print enough money so that everyone who wants one has a job. Yet according to transcripts released this month after the traditional five-year waiting period, Federal Reserve officials in November 2011 were debating whether unemployment was caused by bad work ethics and drug use – rather than by the greatest financial crisis in 80 years. This debate then factored into the argument over setting monetary policy.

    • Trump Promised to Resign From His Companies — But There’s No Record He’s Done So

      At a news conference last week, now-President Donald Trump said he and his daughter, Ivanka, had signed paperwork relinquishing control of all Trump-branded companies. Next to him were stacks of papers in manila envelopes — documents he said transferred “complete and total control” of his businesses to his two sons and another longtime employee.

      Sheri Dillon, the Trump attorney who presented the plan, said that Trump “has relinquished leadership and management of the Trump Organization.” Everything would be placed in a family trust by Jan. 20, she said.

    • Liberalism as Class Warfare

      What anti-establishment voters, and those who consciously withheld their votes, got right in the recent election is that the illusion of choice provided by the major Parties is anti-politics. Liberals, as guardians of the status quo, are class warriors on the side of economic mal-distribution and the immiseration of the laboring classes and poor for the benefit of the rich. The ease with which the misdirection of ‘deplorables’ was sold illustrates the conundrum confronting any actual Left political movement.

    • The high price Sunderland and Newcastle could pay for Brexit revealed

      The potentially disastrous cost of leaving the EU has been laid bare in a sobering report.

      The Cities Outlook 2017 report reveals 59% of all exports from Sunderland, the first place to declare its backing of Brexit, go to EU countries – the ninth highest figure out of 62 UK cities.

      Sunderland is also one of only seven cities which are heavily reliant on a specific industry for the majority of their exports – car-making at its Nissan plant.

    • Will Trump kill the Trump rally?

      Instead of focusing on pushing his stimulus plans through Congress, as investors had hoped, Trump is instead acting first on polarizing issues like the ban on travelers from seven majority-Muslim nations. The White House has also taken an aggressive stance on trade, raising concerns on Wall Street over the risk of a trade war.

      In other words, investors want tax cuts and spades in the ground, not deeply divisive travel bans.

      After a weekend of confusion and protests over the Trump travel ban, the Dow dropped more than 200 points on Monday.

    • New ISDS consultation seems surreal

      The European Commission has launched a consultation on an investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) variant: a multilateral investment court. 1 In an email the commission confirms the consultation has a narrow scope. The commission does not want feedback on the system as a whole. This way the system’s social and environmental impacts will go unmentioned in the consultation results.

      This is irresponsible, as the system as a whole will strengthen investments vis-à-vis democracy and fundamental rights. This undermines our values and ability to respond to crises, including climate change.

      Mankind faces its biggest challenge ever: climate change. For the commission it’s business as usual. Give multinationals their own court and keep the social and environmental impacts out of sight.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Austria’s new president calls for a tolerant nation and united Europe

      Austria’s new president has called for a tolerant and diverse nation, free of ideological and racial hatred, in an inauguration speech on Thursday that embraced the ideal of a united Europe.

      Alexander Van der Bellen outlined a markedly different vision from that offered during campaigning by his rightwing rival Norbert Hofer, the populist he defeated last month after an unprecedented repeat vote.

      Hofer had campaigned on a law and order platform in line with his Freedom Party’s (FPÖ) opposition to Muslim immigration, focus on Austrians first and depiction of the EU as an out-of-touch institution damaging the sovereignty of national states.

    • More facts, fewer pundits: Here’s how the media can regain the public’s trust

      No, journalism is far from dead — as anybody who has followed the investigative reporting of The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, for one, can attest — but it sure has taken a number of body blows. And some are self-inflicted.

      One of the worst: the sharp drop in public trust. Now, with a media-bashing president presenting a threat to press freedom, we need to get it back.

    • COUP: Under cover of #muslimban, Bannon throws top general and spy off the National Security Council and installs himself in their stead

      While the American public’s attention was focused on the thousands of families whose lives were disrupted and even put at risk by Trump’s ban on Muslims entering the USA, the US Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were removed from the list of permanent attendees in the President’s National Security Council. They were replaced with white nationalist Trump advisor Steve Bannon.

      Trump announced the changes shortly after speaking with Putin for an hour.

      Presidential press spokesman Sean Spicer downplayed Bannon’s lack of expertise, describing the avowed racist as “a former naval officer.” Bannon left the Navy in 1983. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whom Bannon is replacing, is an active-service four-star general.

    • Trump’s Information Wars

      Last Monday, according to the Times, President Donald Trump, meeting in the White House with congressional leaders, told a story about voting fraud that he had supposedly heard from Bernhard Langer, the German professional golfer. (Langer soon issued a statement repudiating Trump’s account.) Throughout the week, the President repeated his calumny that he lost the popular vote only because millions of “illegals” voted for Hillary Clinton. Trump’s obsession with this subject may arise from his pathological need to tally every score in his own favor, but he surely knows that his propaganda also advances the Republican Party’s efforts to extend barriers to legitimate voting by Latinos and African-Americans, through voter-I.D. requirements and other state laws. Diverse studies have turned up no evidence of significant fraud in recent elections. On Wednesday, Trump nonetheless vowed to sign an executive order commissioning a federal investigation.

      The major news organizations are still reckoning with how to report on the President’s lies. Many newspapers and networks now forthrightly point out false statements by Trump and his spokespeople. Such fact checking is essential, but it is also a task of the President’s making, one full of traps. Trump and his aides provoke conflict with the media to fire up supporters and renew the narrative of a people’s champion at war with the bicoastal establishment.

    • Uber customers lash out at ride sharing service amid anti-travel ban protests

      Uber found itself at the center of a storm created by the travel ban imposed by President Donald Trump’s executive order, as angry customers accused the company of attempting to profit from a taxi driver work stoppage.

      In response to a growing controversy, Uber announced it would create a $3 million defense fund to help cover the legal expenses associated with the executive order. It was unclear, however, if the move would be sufficient to quell the firestorm surrounding one of Silicon Valley’s darlings and a fixture in countless mobile devices.

    • Furious customers are deleting the Uber app after drivers went to JFK airport during a protest and strike

      Thousands of Uber customers are deleting the app and posting the evidence to social media after drivers tried to do business at JFK airport during a taxi strike.

      The NY Taxi Workers Alliance called for all drivers to avoid JFK Airport on Saturday in order to facilitate protests against President Donald Trump’s executive order barring travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US.

    • Uber pushes back on Trump’s order after #DeleteUber starts trending

      Uber pushed back against President Trump’s immigration ban, after taking serious heat on social media for its initial response.

      CEO Travis Kalanick tweeted Sunday afternoon that Trump’s travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries “is against everything Uber stands for.” He said the ban affects thousands of Uber drivers.

    • Recommended Reading: Is Mark Zuckerberg going to run for president?

      Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is making his way around the US after promising to meet with people in each state before the end of the year. This nationwide tour has a very similar feel to that of someone who’s running for office. So, is Zuck going to throw his hat in the ring for 2020? Maybe not, but there are some interesting signs he might make a run.

    • US embassy contradicts British government claim that ‘Muslim ban’ doesn’t apply to UK citizens

      The US embassy has appeared to contradict the Government’s claim that British citizens will be mostly exempt from Donald Trump’s travel ban on Muslim majority countries.

      Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Sunday night that he had received assurances from the US that the “Muslim ban” would only apply to UK dual nationals travelling from the listed countries to the US.

    • As long as you fight back

      If you are a US citizen and want to do something similar, here are some links to where you can find who represents you in the Senate and the House. (Note that to find your House representative, you need to enter your address or your extended 5+4 zip code, because of congressional district gerrymandering. Both of your state’s senators represent the whole state at large, so contact both of them.)

    • The Guardian view on Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim orders: not in our name

      Donald Trump has been president of the United States for 10 days. Many were prepared to give Mr Trump a chance. But even they must conclude he has been in office 10 days too long. Americans did a dreadful thing by electing Mr Trump. But the reality of it is only beginning to hit home. It is not his words that matter, awful though they are on subjects such as torture, but his actions. These raise urgent questions about whether America can afford to have such a president governing in such a way for four years — and how things may realistically change.

    • Theresa May’s Disgraceful Cowardice Has Let Britain Down – Join Us In Standing Up To Trump’s Tyranny

      Later today I will be joining thousands of people at a demonstration outside of Parliament.

      On this cold, grey night we will stand together in solidarity with Muslims across the world who are bearing the brunt of Trump’s bigotry. We will condemn the British Government’s appallingly meek response to the US president’s barbarism. And we will demand something better.

      Let’s be clear about what is happening right now, and Britain’s role in it. A US President is banning people coming to his country because of their religion. Those fleeing persecution and violence – often because of conflicts the West has been involved in – are being denied a safe haven. The world’s greatest power is gripped by the politics of fear and division – and risks sliding into an even darker place.

    • Theresa May told a US refugee ban was coming

      Team Trump told Theresa May when she was in the White House that they were about to ban refugees from coming to the US, using an Executive Order. The US administration team don’t appear to have gone into detail about what exactly they planned for dual nationals. It’s not clear whether they listed Muslim countries from which visitors would be banned.

      What is clear is that there was enough of a sniff of a major switch in US policy flagged up in the White House to suggest you really ought to have an opinion on it.

    • Trump travel ban: Thousands join protests across UK

      Thousands of people have joined protests in London and in cities around the UK against a controversial travel ban on seven mainly Muslim countries imposed by US President Donald Trump.

      The ban bars citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

      MPs are holding an emergency debate on the immigration measures.

      A petition calling for Prime Minister Theresa May to cancel Mr Trump’s planned state visit to the UK has been signed more than 1.4 million times.

    • From Realignment to Reinforcement

      Leftists looking to take over the Democratic Party will confront even more roadblocks than in the past.

      [...]

      Reforming, realigning, or refashioning the Democratic Party into a vehicle for social democracy is one of the oldest, oft-repeated, and frustratingly unsuccessful strategies of the US left.

      The Populists tried it in the 1890s, only to be absorbed and disarmed. The new industrial unions of the CIO attempted it beginning in 1936, just as the New Deal began to retreat. The Democratic Socialists, led by Michael Harrington, pursued the realignment strategy in the 1970s at the very moment the “party of the people” began its trek to the neoliberal right. Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition launched two highly visible runs for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 1980s even as Democratic National Committee (DNC) chief Charles Manatt recruited big business and its money. Then came Bill Clinton.

      Could it be different this time around?

    • Trump, Breitbart, and the Rejection of Multicultural Democracy

      Amid reports that Trump elevated his chief strategist Steve Bannon to the National Security Council, who also had a hand in his executive orders banning immigration from several Muslim countries and refugees, I wanted to share some analysis of Breitbart, the right wing nationalist site he headed for a number of years.

      The point is to engage with the ideas of the movement behind the president, because this is not simply narcissistic and erratic behavior.

      Over the past month I spent some time doing close readings of Breitbart articles published during and after the campaign, and came away with an over-arching conclusion: for Bannon and Trump’s core group of supporters, the president’s victory was a rejection of multiculturalism, cosmopolitanism, and globalization and the triumph of white, Christian populist nationalism.

      Trump’s executive orders should be interpreted as the outgrowth of a coherent ideological framework and set of ideas about American democracy.

    • Who Hasn’t Trump Banned? People From Places Where He’s Done Business

      President Trump’s executive order banning travel to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries is being rightly challenged in the courts for, among other things, its unconstitutional interference with free exercise of religion and denial of due process. Overlooked in the furor is another troubling aspect of the situation: President Trump omitted from his ban a number of other predominantly Muslim nations where his company has done business. This adds further illegitimacy to one of the most arbitrary executive actions in our recent history, and raises significant constitutional questions.

      The seven countries whose citizens are subject to the ban are relatively poor. Some, such as Syria, are torn by civil war; others are only now emerging from war. One thing these countries have in common is that they are places where the Trump organization does little to no business.

      By contrast, other neighboring Muslim countries are not on the list, even though some of their citizens pose just as great a risk — if not greater — of exporting terrorism to the United States. Among them are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. A vast majority of people living in these countries, like the people living in the seven subject to the immigration ban, are peaceful and law abiding. But these three countries have exported terror to the United States in the past. They accounted for 18 of the 19 terrorists who perpetrated the Sept. 11 attack on American soil (an attack which was directed by another Saudi, Osama Bin Laden, with the assistance of an Egyptian, Ayman al-Zawahri).

    • Sorry, Mr. President: The Obama Administration Did Nothing Similar to Your Immigration Ban

      There are so many reasons to detest the Donald Trump administration’s executive order on “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” that it’s hard to know where to start.

      Others have already argued eloquently about its cruelty in singling out the most vulnerable in society; its strategic folly in insulting countries and individuals the United States needs to help it fight terrorism (the ostensible purpose of the order in the first place); its cynical incoherence in using the September 11 attacks as a rationale and then exempting the attackers’ countries of origin; its ham-handed implementation and ever-shifting explanations for how, and to whom, it applies; and, thankfully, its legal vulnerability on a slew of soon-to-be-litigated grounds, including that it may violate the Establishment and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

    • Trump’s Immigration Crackdown Will Backfire

      Government failures come in two basic forms. The first kind is not achieving the intended result—say job training that leads to no jobs or a Marine recruiting campaign that gets few takers. The second kind is doing damage that wouldn’t have been done otherwise. It’s roughly the difference between a cigar that fails to light and one that explodes.

    • Our Humanity

      Over the last few months, we’ve had a very, very small, but still vocal group of folks in our comments who have gotten angry every time we’ve been critical of Donald Trump — even when we were making nearly identical complaints about him as we did about Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. That group of people probably won’t like this post very much, though I do hope they’ll read it with open minds. We’re not a political blog. We cover technology and innovation, as well as the legal, economic and policy issues related to those things. Over the years, that’s included issues related to civil liberties and civil rights. We don’t see these things as being separate. They are all connected and intertwined. We’ve even spent plenty of time discussing immigration, though focusing on high tech and entrepreneur immigration.

      But I don’t think there’s any need for me to try to justify why I’m making this post on Techdirt today. This is about humanity. And if you want to complain in the comments that you don’t want to read this on a “tech” site, well, then maybe take a second and think about what this says about you. Basically my entire family came to America between around 1890 and 1920 — most of them escaping religious persecution elsewhere. My great grandmother had to hide in the bottom of a boat to escape from where she lived. Many came through Ellis Island, and were welcomed into America. My grandfathers built up businesses here. One fought bravely against Nazis (literally) in World War II for the US in Europe and North Africa, and came back to the US and built a company that (among other things) was a huge supplier for the Boy Scouts of America. While they may have struggled at times, my family came to America and was embraced by America, thrived in America and has always loved America. My wife is an immigrant. Her family moved here when she was young to give her and her siblings a better life. And that’s what they found. America embraced them and they embraced America back. They’re all US citizens.

      All weekend long, I’ve been reading all sorts of accounts about President Trump’s executive order. Some of it has been thoughtful. Some of it has been hysterical. Some of it has been painful. Some of it has been ridiculous.

      But it all comes back to one thing: this is about our humanity.

      The “excuses” that some have been spewing for the executive order make no sense. They say this is about “safety,” yet there is no evidence that the people being kept out were a risk to our safety. As many have noted, not a single terrorist attack has come from people from those countries. They say this is about “extreme vetting” but ignore that refugees already go through a ridiculously long and thorough “extreme vetting” process that can take years. They say that this is just an “inconvenience” to a “small group” of people, ignoring that they are basically upending the lives of entire families — families including those with permanent resident status, who have been valuable, contributing members to our country for years and years and years.

      This is madness.

    • National Security Council Changes Are Very Significant, Hayden Says

      Rachel Martin talks to ex-NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden about the reorganization of the White House National Security Council. Political adviser Steve Bannon has a permanent seat at the table.

    • Trump’s Immigration Order Could Affect Thousands Of College Students

      When President Trump signed an executive order Friday temporarily preventing citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S., a group of nonimmigrants was swept up in the ensuing chaos over who the ban would apply to: college students. Two undergraduates from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where spring semester classes don’t begin until next week, are among those who have been prevented from entering the U.S, according to the university. Although a federal court order from Massachusetts appears to allow the students temporary entry to the U.S., at the time of publication, MIT said it was still working to bring the two students back.

    • More than 100 former officials sign letter opposing Trump’s executive order

      Over 100 former officials who served under past presidents of both parties signed a letter calling on the current heads of multiple government agencies to urge President Donald Trump to “revisit and rescind” his recent executive order on immigration and refugees.

      The signatories wrote that a “blanket ban” on visitors from certain countries is “counterproductive from a security standpoint, and beneath the dignity of our great nation.”

      Signatories include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who served in President Bill Clinton’s administration, and President Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice. Richard Clarke, who served in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, also signed the document.

      The letter, obtained by Politico, is addressed to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, acting Attorney General Sally Yates, and acting Secretary of State Thomas Shannon.

    • After Trump Deemed China Foreign Enemy, Anti-Asian Hate Crimes In LA Surged: Expert

      An alarming uptick in hate crimes against Asian-Americans has led one nonprofit to take action.

      Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), a civil and human rights nonprofit, recently launched StandAgainstHatred.org, a website to track Anti-Asian hate crimes.

      The group felt compelled to do so after not only seeing a disturbing amount of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant crimes, but also a huge jump in anti-Chinese hate as well. And the rise of this violence towards Asian-Americans is something the group wants to call attention to, stating that awareness is lacking.

    • The Dark History of the White House Aides Who Crafted Trump’s “Muslim Ban”

      The Trump administration has insisted since Sunday that the president’s executive order banning travel to the United States from seven predominately Islamic countries “is not a Muslim ban.” But as Mother Jones first reported in a series of investigations starting last summer, the two top Trump advisers who reportedly crafted the immigration crackdown—Stephen Bannon and Stephen Miller—have a long history of promoting Islamophobia, courting anti-Muslim extremists, and boosting white nationalists.

      For nearly a year before stepping down as the CEO of Breitbart News to lead the Trump campaign, Bannon hosted a SiriusXM radio show, Breitbart News Daily, where he conducted dozens of interviews with leading anti-Muslim extremists. Steeped in unfounded claims and conspiracy theories, the interviews paint a dark and paranoid picture of America’s 3.3 million Muslims and the world’s second-largest faith. Bannon often bookended the exchanges with full-throated praise for his guests, describing them as “top experts” and urging his listeners to click on their websites and support them.

    • Obama science adviser: Trump immigration ban ‘an abomination’

      Former White House science adviser John Holdren has condemned US President Donald Trump’s decision to temporarily ban all refugees and citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States.

      Holdren, who served eight years under President Barack Obama, told Nature on 30 January that the ban is “perverse” and “an abomination, and a terrible, terrible idea”. The executive order enacted on 27 January will not increase the country’s security, he adds, and may damage it by sending an offensive message to Muslims, who make up a quarter of the world population.

      “If the ban is maintained, it will damage a wide array of collaborations in science and technology around the world,” says Holdren, who led the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from 2009 until earlier this month. “A more prosperous world is a more stable world, and it’s clear that innovations in science and technology drive economic growth.”

    • Acting Attorney General Orders Justice Dept. Not to Defend Refugee Ban

      “I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right,” Ms. Yates wrote in a letter to Justice Department lawyers. “At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.”

      The decision is largely symbolic — Mr. Trump’s nominee to be attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is likely to be confirmed soon — but it highlights the deep divide at the Justice Department and elsewhere in the government over Mr. Trump’s order.

    • Schwarzenegger rips Trump for immigrant ban

      Escalating a running feud with Donald Trump, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday criticized the president’s order barring citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, calling aspects of its implementation “crazy.”

      “I think that the real problem is that it was vetted badly,” Schwarzenegger, a Republican and immigrant from Austria, told Extra. “I know what he’s trying to accomplish, and his fear about having people come in from other places and cause harm to the country and all of that stuff. But there is another way of going about it to do it the right way and to accomplish still all the same goals. And so I think that they were hasty with it.”

  • Censorship/Free Speech

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Former NSA lawyer says US border plans to demand tourists’ browser history, phone data would be unlawful

      A former senior lawyer for the National Security Agency has called plans to force visitors to the US to turn over contacts lists, browsing histories, and social media data “tremendously intrusive” and “grossly overbroad.”

      April Doss, former associate general counsel for intelligence law at the National Security Agency, argued in a phone call that such a move would almost certainly be unlawful.

    • Former National Security Lawyer: Asking Tourists To Share Browsing And Contact Data ‘Tremendously Intrusive’

      A former senior lawyer for the National Security Agency (NSA) described the Trump administration’s proposal to begin demanding to review the browsing and contact data stored on the mobile phones of people visiting the United States as “tremendously intrusive” and “grossly overbroad,” as well as probably unlawful.

    • NSA Cites New ‘Security Concerns’ In Preemptive Refusal To Even Search For Contractor Documents

      We’ve become accustomed to the NSA’s infamous Glomar responses. The agency is fond of telling FOIA requesters that it’s not saying it has the sought-after documents on hand, but it’s also not not saying that either. It’s the public records Schrödinger’s box, where requested documents lie in a dual state of existence and nonexistence, supposedly because any hint either way would rend the national security fabric in twain.

      Brendan O’Connor of Gizmodo reports that a January 17th response to his FOIA request contains some new additions to the NSA’s usual Glomar.

    • Already Under Attack In Top EU Court, Privacy Shield Framework For Transatlantic Data Flows Further Undermined By Trump

      A year ago, Techdirt wrote about the melodramatically-named “Privacy Shield.” Under EU data protection laws, the transfer of EU citizens’ personal data is only legal if the destination country meets certain basic conditions for data protection. Signing up to Privacy Shield is designed to allow US companies to meet that requirement. The earlier framework, called “Safe Harbor,” was thrown out by the EU’s highest court, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), largely because of NSA spying on data flows. Privacy Shield was hurriedly cobbled together because, without it, the vast flows of data across the Atlantic that occur all the time would be much harder to square with EU laws.

      However, since the NSA has not stopped spying on data flows, some in the EU feel that Privacy Shield offers as little protection for personal data as Safe Harbor. This led the Irish civil liberties group Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) last October to ask the EU’s General Court — one of the more obscure courts of the CJEU — to annul the Privacy Shield framework, arguing that it too lacks adequate privacy protections.

    • Ex-cop: it’s “bizarre” if we can’t explain to public what our snooping gear does

      So much of what we’re going to be doing with the Privacy Commission is policy. At the end of the day, like with a stingray, Hailstorm, cell-site simulator stuff, it’s going to be developing a policy that works for the Privacy Commission, and the City of Oakland as a community and the Oakland Police Department as an organization. That’s how I got involved.

      What happened early on with the stingray, as an example, is that it became pretty abundant that one of the big outcomes was going to be a policy. And just so you’re familiar, there was legislation that was passed.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Donald Trump’s shameful ban on Muslims and refugees

      Amid the outcry against President Donald Trump’s immigration ban on seven Muslim countries (US refugee ban: Trump decried for ‘stomping on’ American values, theguardian.com, 28 January), typically no mention is being made of the fact that the United States is a major participant in the terrible wars in five of them: Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. As such, potent issues of religious discrimination and humanitarianism aside, the US has a major responsibility to ameliorate the effects of the wars on civilians by taking in refugees from those countries, obviously with careful vetting of each applicant. It is also interesting that Saudi Arabia, the source of much Islamist extremism, is not included in the list of “banned” countries.

    • Australia will support Donald Trump on strong border protection policies: Julie Bishop

      Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says the Turnbull government will support Donald Trump’s “strong immigration and border protection policies”, as the leaders of Britain and Germany criticise an executive order banning entry to the United States for refugees and citizens from a range of majority Muslim countries.

    • We Won: ACLU Wins Stay On Refugee Ban

      An Obama-appointed federal judge in Brooklyn granted a temporary, emergency, national stay Saturday evening blocking Trump’s grotesque effort to ban Muslim refugees after the American Civil Liberties Union – God love ‘em – filed a class action lawsuit amidst widespread outrage and massive airport protests. While the order stems from the case of two Iraqis detained at JFK Airport, it will be applied nationally to up to 200 people already detained and any more visa-holders arriving in the U.S.; those still abroad will remain in legal limbo until a Feb. 21 hearing. With immigration lawyers still admirably flocking to airports to offer help, the ACLU announced the victory on Twitter with the concise, “We won.” From one supporter – and, implicitly, millions of us – “You are heroes.” Live video from the ACLU and others outside the court, with more details to come on what remains a developing story.

    • White House discussing asking foreign visitors for social media info and cell phone contacts

      Amid the chaos and confusion of President Donald Trump’s new executive order on immigration and refugees, sources tell CNN that White House policy director Stephen Miller spoke with officials of the State Department, Customs and Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security and others to tell them that the President is deeply committed to the executive order and the public is firmly behind it — urging them not to get distracted by what he described as hysterical voices on TV.

    • Red Hat, IBM, other tech giants express alarm over Trump immigration order

      IBM, Red Hat, Google, Apple and other tech giants expressed dismay over an executive order on immigration from President Donald Trump that bars nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.

      Raleigh-based Red Hat, which has operations around the world, noted that the company is “looking carefully” at the order and added: “From what we see so far, we are concerned that the changes are inconsistent with Red Hat’s values, including diversity.”

      Red Hat, which was among the biggest opponents of North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom bill” HB2, pointed out that the company “is strong because of the thousands of diverse voices that comprise our company. Our continued work to advance the technology industry depends greatly on our ability to attract the best and brightest talent from around the world.”

    • Corporate America Is Inching Even Closer to a Constitutional Convention

      During a Colorado Springs rally on Oct. 18, 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump announced, “The time for congressional term limits has finally arrived.” For many, it was one of Trump’s more moderate proclamations. Term limits don’t sound like such a bad idea.

      But it’s possible this comment signaled support for a broader, more partisan agenda. Term limits are a central demand for a growing movement of states-rights activists focused on weakening the federal government—and they are dangerously close to convening the first state constitutional convention in U.S. history.

      [...]

      If the convention gets triggered, state legislators from across the country will convene to propose amendments, which would then need ratification by three-fourths (38) of the states, either through the state legislatures, with governors having power to break a tie, or through state ratification conventions.

    • Denver police to protesters: ‘Stop doing anything that could be construed as free speech’

      Protesters at the Denver airport over the weekend were told by police that it was illegal to exercise “free speech without a permit.”

      Denverite reported that over 200 people gathered at the Denver International Airport on Friday to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven majority-Muslim countries.

      In video posted to YouTube, Police Commander Tony Lopez can be seen advising demonstrators that they are in violation of the law.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • Ding Dong: Silly Six Strikes Copyright Infringement Scheme Is Dead

        The pointless “six strikes” plan — a hilarious “voluntary agreement” between some big ISPs and the MPAA & RIAA is no more. It’s dead. It never should have lived, and of course, the MPAA is now blaming everyone but itself for the failure — and we’ll get to that. But first, some background.

        As you may remember, back in 2011, after significant direct pressure from the White House, many of the big ISPs and the MPAA & RIAA came to a (ha ha) “voluntary” agreement on a six strikes program to deal with “repeat infringers.” There was a lot of history behind this, which we won’t rehash, but the shorter version is that, for many years, the MPAA & RIAA have stupidly believed that if you could kick people off the internet (completely) if they’re caught infringing three times, that would magically make piracy go away. They got a “three strikes” law passed in a few countries, starting with France. It was a complete disaster, as basically everyone who wasn’t from the MPAA and RIAA predicted.

        In the US, it became clear that there wasn’t the political appetite to push through a three strikes law, so instead parts of the government, starting with the White House, started putting tremendous pressure on ISPs to work out a deal. The negotiations took a very, very long time. There were lots of rumors about them and then radio silence — until the “six strikes” deal was announced. The “compromise” was that (1) it was six strikes instead of three and (2) after six strikes… nothing happened. The key aspect of the three strikes plans the legacy entertainment industry had pushed was that you lose your internet connection. But the ISPs, rightfully, considered that a complete dealbreaker and basically refused any deal with a cut off.

      • ‘Nerd Judge’ Questions Evidence in KickassTorrents Case

Everything Benoît Battistelli Does Without Staff Consultation is Without Merit, More So Amid Union-Busting Catastrophe

Posted in Courtroom, Europe, Patents at 7:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The European Patent Organisation has truly become a “swamp” without any accountability or adherence to rules

The EPO swamp

Summary: By attacking union leaders, many of whom are also staff representatives, Battistelli discredits if not invalidates everything he has done, an old ruling from the International Labour Organisation serves to show

THERE was a lot of discussion recently, including over the weekend, about the lack of legality of what EPO management tries doing to staff. There is no concept of justice at the EPO, except in theory, as Battistelli is crushing the union and thus staff representation. Going several decades back, we find precedence, too. Decisions where statutory consultation hasn’t properly taken place are quashed, for example, such as in this ILOAT judgement.

We have highlighted few key items in the full decision, which is almost 5 pages in length.

SEVENTIETH SESSION
In re HOFMANN (No. 2)

Judgment 1062

THE ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNAL,

Considering the second complaint filed by Mr. Dieter Gerhard Hofmann against the European Patent Organisation (EPO) on 18 December 1989, the EPO’s reply of 5 March 1990, the complainant’s rejoinder of 10 May and the Organisation’s surrejoinder of 30 July 1990;

Considering Article II, paragraph 5, of the Statute of the Tribunal and Articles 38, 84 and 107 of the Service Regulations of the European Patent Office, the secretariat of the EPO;

Having examined the written evidence and decided not to order oral proceedings, which neither party has applied for;

Considering that the facts of the case and the pleadings may be summed up as follows:

A. The EPO has concluded with insurance brokers, van Breda and Company International, on behalf of several insurance companies a “collective insurance contract” for the protection of staff. Title II of the contract covers “Death and total permanent invalidity insurance” and applies to staff who qualify under the EPO Service Regulations.

Article 84(1) of the Regulations reads:

“The benefits payable shall be as follows:

(b) in the event of death of the permanent employee or permanent invalidity totally preventing him from performing duties corresponding to his level of employment in the Office: a lump sum equal to 2.75 times his annual basic salary …”;

and 84(4):

“One third of the contribution, calculated by reference to the basic salary of the permanent employee, which is required to meet the insurance of the risks under paragraph 1b) shall be charged to the employee, but so that the amount charged to him shall not exceed O.6% of his basic salary.”

The monthly premium is set in the collective insurance contract, and every five years the EPO reviews the amount with van Breda. It did so late in 1987.

The complainant, who was born in 1949, is a permanent employee of the EPO. Up to the end of 1987 his contribution came to 0.1881 per cent of basic salary. Thus his pay slip for December 1987 showed an amount of 7,053 Deutschmarks as basic salary and a deduction of 13.27 Deutschmarks therefrom as his contribution to the premium for death and invalidity insurance for that month.

By circular 163 of 20 January 1988 the Personnel Department of the Office informed the staff that the premiums were put up as from 1 January 1988 because of a rise in the number of successful claims in the last few years. For any permanent employee below the age of 55, like the complainant, death insurance was thenceforth to cost 0.374 per cent and invalidity insurance 0.0638 per cent of basic salary, a total of 0.4378 as against the 0.1881. The complainant’s pay slip for January 1988, which he got on the 26th, showed a deduction of 30.88 Deutschmarks as his one-third contribution to the premiums.

On 18 April 1988 he lodged an internal appeal under Article 107 of the Service Regulations against the increase on the grounds that the EPO had failed to consult the General Advisory Committee (GAC), a body comprisingrepresentatives of both staff and management, as Article 38(3) of the Regulations required. That provision says that
the Committee shall “be responsible for giving a reasoned opinion on” any proposed amendment to the Regulations or implementing rules “and, in general, except in cases of obvious urgency, any proposal which concerns the whole or part of the staff …”. Over 450 other staff members lodged similar appeals at about the same time.

In its report of 23 May 1989 on the complainant’s and the other appeals the internal Appeals Committee, holding that the EPO had acted in breach of 38(3), recommended levying contributions at the old rates until the President had got the GAC’s opinion and refunding the amounts overpaid with interest at the rate of 8 per cent a year from 1 January 1988. But by a communiqué of 4 October 1989, the impugned decision, the Personnel Department announced that the President of the Office had rejected the appeals.

B. The complainant submits that the increase in premiums and therefore the impugned decision were unlawful: Article 38(3) applied, it was not complied with, and there was no “obvious urgency” warranting an exception. Not until the GAC held its 63rd meeting on 3 December 1987 in West Berlin did it hear of the EPO’s intention to put the premiums up. A staff representative at once objected to the lack of consultation, but the GAC was unable to give a “reasoned opinion” by 1 January 1988 since it did not have full information, the subject was complex, and the Christmas break was near. It was wholly the EPO’s fault that no consultation took place. It had known for five years that the insurance contract would have to be renewed by the end of 1987 since clause 2 said so. The duty laid down in 38(3) is all the stricter because it has authority to increase the financial burden on its staff by varying the terms of the collective contract: 38(3) is the only safeguard the staff have. Proper explanation and discussion of the big increase in premiums were called for. Judgment 744 (in re Snell) affords a precedent for enforcing such a requirement.

The complainant asks the Tribunal to set aside the decision to increase his contributions, order that they be restored to the figure of 0.1881 per cent of basic salary and that he be paid the amounts wrongfully deducted since 1 January 1988 plus interest at the rate of 10 per cent thereon, and award him 2,000 Deutschmarks in costs.

C. The EPO submits that the complaint is unfounded. It points out that it had not yet signed with van Breda the codicil to the contract embodying the new provisions when it informed the GAC of the increase at its meeting on 3 December 1987. It then told the members of the GAC that it was ready to discuss the matter and to put full information at their disposal. It did not sign the codicil until 19 April 1988. The GAC might, if so minded, have given an opinion on the outcome of the negotiations, and the staff representatives might have asked it to meet for the purpose before the end of the year.

Negotiations are not worth starting until late in the year, when the brokers have the most recent data available for the purpose of reckoning new premiums. Yet there was an urgent need to reach agreement on the new rates since they were to come into effect at 1 January 1988 and it was undesirable to apply them retroactively. The staff representatives never asked for the further information offered. The President put the matter on the agenda of the GAC’s meeting on 13 April 1988 – a week before the codicil was signed – and the Committee then discussed it, but again the staff representatives apparently did not think it worth carrying further.

The GAC was asked in November 1988 whether it wanted to state an opinion on the subject and it declined to do so. It then reaffirmed an earlier practice of delegating its supervisory function by appointing a staff representative and a management representative to follow the negotiations with the brokers on the matter of premiums for medical insurance. Having had no reason to believe that it wished to depart from that practice, the President cannot be taken to task for not seeking the GAC’s opinion on the matter of death and invalidity insurance.

D. In his rejoinder the complainant asks what the legal basis can have been for charging the staff higher rates of contribution from January to March 1988 when the EPO did not sign the codicil until 19 April 1988. It is specious to argue that the Administration was willing to discuss the matter. What it told the GAC on 3 December 1987 merely shows up its awareness of its failure up to then to enable the GAC to give a reasoned opinion. Since there was no time thereafter for the GAC to consider the matter properly before the new rates came in, the offer of information and discussion was pointless.

The matter was not urgent: the EPO did not even put it on the agenda of the GAC’s December 1987 meeting, and the President did not exercise his discretion under 38(5) to set a time limit for the GAC’s opinion.

The fact that in earlier years the GAC, with the staff representatives’ consent, delegated the task of overseeing thereview of medical insurance premiums just means that the staff representatives took a flexible approach to that rather complex matter. Such delegation did not apply to death and invalidity insurance. Had the GAC been told in time that the clauses of the contract on such insurance were to be altered it might have taken the same approach. It neither expressly nor by implication waived its right to be consulted. To bring it in only when the decision could no longer be changed was a travesty of consultation.

E. In its surrejoinder the EPO submits that the complainant’s rejoinder in no way weakens the force of the arguments in its reply. It maintains that there was an established practice, which the complainant does not dispute, of delegation of its supervisory function by the GAC. There is no reason not to apply the same procedure to insurance of the risks of death and invalidity as to medical insurance. In both cases the premiums are similarly reckoned. The staff representatives on the Committee were not diligent in seeking information. Since they knew that the time had come to revise the premiums they could have taken the initiative and asked the Committee to take up the matter.

CONSIDERATIONS:

1. The EPO is party to a collective insurance contract with a consortium of six insurance companies, administration of the contract being delegated to a firm of insurance brokers, van Breda and Company International, who are responsible for negotiating the terms of renewal of the contract. Under Article 84(4) of the Service Regulations the employee shall pay one-third of the contribution required to meet the costs of insurance against death and total permanent invalidity, provided that the amount shall not exceed 0.6 per cent of basic salary.

In January 1988 the EPO decided to increase the rates of contribution by its staff in the period from 1 January 1988 to 31 December 1992 to the cost of insurance of risks under those heads. The present challenge to that increase rests on the alleged failure by the EPO to follow the procedure for consultation set out in the Service Regulations.

The procedure for consultation

2. Article 38 of the Regulations establishes joint committees for the Office comprising a General Advisory Committee and local advisory committees. Article 38(3) reads:

“The General Advisory Committee shall, in addition to the specific tasks given to it by the Service Regulations, be responsible for giving a reasoned opinion on:

- any proposal to amend these Service Regulations or the Pension Scheme Regulations, any proposal to make implementing rules and, in general, except in cases of obvious urgency, any proposal which concerns the whole or part of the staff to whom these Service Regulations apply …”

Article 38(5) further provides:

“Opinions of the joint committees which are required in respect of administrative decisions must be delivered within the time limits laid down in each case by the President of the Office, such time limits being not less than fifteen working days. Once the time limit has expired, the opinion shall no longer be required.”

The EPO’s reply

3. The Organisation maintains that the absence of an opinion by the General Advisory Committee (GAC) does not make the challenged decision unlawful. It points out that not until 4 December 1987 did it complete negotiations with the brokers about the premiums to take effect at 1 January 1988 and the matter was therefore urgent. It cites the minutes of the GAC’s 63rd meeting on 3 and 4 December 1987, which under the heading “General Information” record that, the GAC had been told that because of an increase in the costs of death and invalidity insurance there would be a substantial increase in the contributions payable by employees and that, if the GAC wished, the Administration would give more details and data about the negotiations.

The President of the Office put the matter on the agenda of the Committee’s 64th meeting, which took place on 13 April 1988, but the Committee gave no opinion. At its 67th meeting, on 24 and 25 November 1988, it agreed to delegate its functions in the matter to a representative of the Administration and a representative of the staff on condition that it should be informed of the outcome of the negotiations.The EPO submits that that was an established practice of the GAC’s and that, in the absence of any decision to the contrary, the Committee intended to dispense with the requirement of giving “a reasoned opinion” on the new rates of contribution.

The Tribunal’s ruling

4. The first issue is whether the decision to increase staff contributions to the costs of death and invalidity insurance was a proposal within the meaning of Article 38(3).

The answer is that it was, because the payment of contributions for such coverage was compulsory and indeed one of the conditions of service.

5. Secondly, did the proposal fall within the exception in Article 38(3) as a “case of obvious urgency”?

It was known that the previous insurance contract would terminate at 31 December 1987, and by 4 December it was clear that there would be an increase in staff contributions. It cannot therefore be properly argued that the increase was unforeseeable. Although the negotiations were not completed until 4 December 1987 the Administration must have been aware before 3 December 1987, the date of the GAC’s meeting, what the brokers were asking for and whether other insurers could offer lower rates. Consultation in the context of Article 38 entails giving the GAC enough information to enable it to come to “a reasoned opinion”. Merely telling it that the Administration would give it more details and provide data on the negotiations if it so wished did not comply with Article 38, which is plainly intended to make for proper consultation between the two sides.

6. As the Organisation admits, though the matter was put on the agenda of the GAC’s meeting on 13 April 1988, the President set no deadline for it to give an opinion. At that meeting a staff representative asked whether copies of the documents setting out the proposals by van Breda and the counter-proposals by the EPO could be made available to the Staff Committee. On 30 August 1988 the Office gave the Staff Committee document GAC/6/88, and the GAC discussed it at its 67th meeting, on 24 and 25 November 1988. The two sides disagreed as to whether an
opinion was necessary and, as was said above, that was when the Committee decided to delegate its function to a representative of the administration and a representative of the staff.

The Article 38 procedure calls for joint consultation: it does not transfer decision-making authority from the Administration to the GAC. The submission of document GAC/6/88 to the Committee and its decision to delegate its function fulfilled the requirements of Article 38, because by 24 November 1988 the GAC was in a position to give a reasoned opinion.

7. In the light of the foregoing the decision to apply the higher rates of contribution to the complainant from 1 January 1988 cannot stand. They did not become properly payable until 26 November 1988. The complainant, who has never disputed liability to pay contributions at the old rates, must be repaid the difference between the amounts reckoned at the old and the new rates for the period from 1 January 1988 to 25 November 1988. But inasmuch as he remained fully covered during that period by insurance against the risks of death and total permanent invalidity the Tribunal will not order the payment of interest.

DECISION:

For the above reasons,

1. The decision to increase the complainant’s contributions to the costs of death and invalidity insurance is quashed from 1 January 1988.
2. The decision is confirmed as from 26 November 1988.
3. The EPO shall pay back to the complainant the amounts wrongfully deducted for the period from 1 January 1988 to 25 November 1988.
4. It shall pay him 2,000 Deutschmarks in costs.

In witness of this judgment by Mr. Jacques Ducoux, President of the Tribunal, Miss Mella Carroll, Judge, and the Right Honourable Sir William Douglas, Deputy Judge, have signed hereunder, as have I, Allan Gardner, Registrar.Delivered in public sitting in Geneva on 29 January 1991.

Jacques Ducoux
Mella Carroll
William Douglas
A.B. Gardner

Updated by PFR. Approved by CC. Last update: 7 July 2000.

Also of relevance to this are ILO Judgment 1291, Judgment 982, and Judgment 1600. We don’t know much about Dieter Gerhard Hofmann (he would be in retirement age by now), but his case remains relevant to this date.

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