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02.06.17

PTAB Should Initiate Inter Partes Reviews (IPRs) of Universities’ Dubious Patents as Long as They Feed Patent Trolls

Posted in America, Patents at 8:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Universities and patent trolls

Summary: Academic institutions which enjoy public funding and are using it to pursue patents that are later sold for profit to patent trolls oughtn’t be immune to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), whose role is to ascertain and thus guard patent quality

IN OUR previous post we wondered aloud about suggestions against the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). Patent maximalists have been attempting to destroy PTAB for a while, even by insulting it. Now they are trying to latch onto the so-called ‘Trump effect’ to accomplish their goals and advance their agenda.

“Patent maximalists have been attempting to destroy PTAB for a while, even by insulting it.”Some of the latest from IAM, e.g. [1, 2], is more of the same, i.e. scepticism if not hostility towards PTAB. Mister Patently-O has this new paper about it, titled (at least for now) “Wrongly Affirmed Without Opinion”. It’s about the Federal Circuit (CAFC) light of AIA and PTAB (the eliminators of software patents) and in this followup ha said that the “basic argument in the paper is that both the Patent Act and the Lanham Acts require the Federal Circuit to provide an opinion when issuing a judgment on an appeal from the Patent & Trademark Office (PTO).”

We we noted here last year, CAFC was suffering from a ‘shower’ of such appeals; it was unable to cope with the load. Michael Loney, who has been keeping track of various PTAB statistics, wrote about such issues before.

Right now he is writing about courts giving a special treatment to universities when it comes to potentially bogus patents. To quote:

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board has dismissed three inter partes review (IPR) petitions challenging the claims of a patent owned by the University of Florida Research Foundation (UFRF). The Board said UFRF was entitled to an Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity defence against institution of an IPR.

A lot of US universities can now sell their patents to trolls (thanks to utterly terrible legislation), who then tax the public (again!) using patents the public actually paid for. It happens a lot, so universities don’t deserve a special kind of protection. Moreover, universities with public funding oughtn’t hoard patents in the first place. Patently-O wrote about it soon afterwards, but neither it nor Loney (Managing IP) mentioned this real conundrum, which made universities some kind of public-funded arsenal for trolls.

Questions Arise About Patent Policy and the Patent Trial and Appeal Board Amid Deregulation by Trump

Posted in America, Patents at 7:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

They mean patent litigation, not patents

Make Patents Great Again

Summary: Political change (transfer of power from one political establishment to another) is seen as an opportunity by patent maximalists seeking to restore the chaos which the US patent system (examination and litigation) once was

The last post dealt with Trump’s Supreme Court nominee (Neil Gorsuch) and Trump’s newly-appointed acting solicitor general (Noel Francisco). There’s no evidence to suggest that they are bad news when it comes to patent scope. Last month we wrote that patent policy under the Trump administration looks rather benign so far; they just need to keep people like Randall Rader out.

“Last month we wrote that patent policy under the Trump administration looks rather benign so far; they just need to keep people like Randall Rader out.”In similar news, Professor Dennis Crouch comments on “Trump Orders on Regulation” (a controversial/partisan subject). The gist of it is, “Question for patent prosecutors: What PTO regulations should be eliminated?”

A lot of patent prosecutors probably want an almost unaccountable USPTO where patent scope is out of control and there is no appeal board. Crouch’s site recently (almost on the same day as the above) gave his platform to Fish & Richardson, a patent law firm, to speak regarding the subject, i.e. he let them resort to influencing policy (guess what they want, as always). Oliver Richards (of Fish & Richardson) wrote: “Any resolution of the reviewability issue must comply with the statute, must put teeth to Congress’s embrace of efficiency, and at the same time must make sure that the rights of patent holders are adequately protected. The approach I have outlined above, in my view, adequately balances efficiency with appropriate supervision of the PTAB. I’m curious to see what you all think, and I look forward to reading the comments.”

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) is itself a supervisory function. Now they want to see it restricted as well? What are they advocating for, another Battistelli? Like those appeal boards that enjoy no independence (only in theory but not in practice)? Do they want another EPO-like scandal, this time in the US?

“What are they advocating for, another Battistelli?”IAM, i.e. the patent maximalists, went with the headline “Making patents great again?”

To quote: “President Trump’s election victory was one of the biggest political shocks in US history. His new administration promises changes in many areas – but when it comes to patents, much of the thinking remains unknown” (it should be noted that IAM’s editor does not like Trump and never tried to hide it).

It remains to be seen whether PTAB, which we shall deal with in our next post, is safe under Trump. We have not seen any evidence to the contrary, at least not yet.

US Supreme Court Nominations by Trump Administration Will Impact Patent Law (and Scope) in 2017

Posted in America, Law, Patents at 7:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Neil Gorsuch
Reference: Neil Gorsuch

Summary: Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch (likely to fill Scalia’s shoes) and potentially more Trump nominations/appointments will determine policy and help decide the scope of patents in the United States later this year

“Supreme” decisions like Alice matter a lot in the United States. The US Supreme Court has had a profound impact on software patenting, for example, even more than 2 years down the line.

Each country has a high or supreme court (take for example this new “report” about the Supreme Administrative Court in Taiwan about prior art investigations), but in some cases the impact of rulings is greater than in others. As Alice (or In Re Bilski) served to show, we cannot just ignore what is happening. Refusal to revisit Alice-like cases assures us a software patents-hostile environment/atmosphere for quite some time to come.

There are additional decisions coming up which involve patents. Lexmark, for example, (mis)uses patents to take control over products that it ‘sold’ to people — a subject last revisited a week ago by Patently-O, which wrote: “”In these cases, the most important brief is often the amicus filing by the U.S. Government. Here, the brief USG brief was filed on January 24 by President Trump’s newly appointed acting solicitor general (Noel Francisco) who (like Obama’s SG) has taken the position of supporting the challenger (Impression) against the patentee (Lexmark) and the Federal Circuit. Time will tell whether this stance is more generally predictive of the new administration’s stance on patent rights and patent enforcement.”

This is an example where someone appointed by Trump takes a position not favourable to the patent aggressor/maximalist. One might treat that as a positive sign. We still try to figure out what Neil Gorsuch, whom Trump wants to join US Supreme Court (SCOTUS), thinks about patents. There is very scarce evidence in that area and no doubt the composition of SCOTUS (basically about a dozen people) will help determine quite a lot in years to come. Another Supreme Court case was mentioned some days ago by MIP, which wrote:

The Supreme Court granted cert for the cross-petitions of Sandoz and Amgen on January 13, and will later this year will hear its first biosimilars case since the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA) came into effect.

In its petition, Amgen, represented by Deanne Maynard of Morrison & Foerster, wrote that in enacting the BPCIA, Congress “established procedures to control and streamline patent litigation” between biosimilar applicants and reference product-makers.

We welcome any feedback/input one might have about Gorsuch’s views on patents, but in the mean time we’ll have to wait and see some judgments.

China is Quickly Becoming a Patent Litigation Mess and Web Sites of Lawyers (or Their Fronts) Like It

Posted in Asia, Patents at 7:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Dime for the lawyers, but at whose expense?

Chinese coin

Summary: China’s newly-found obsession with patents has turned into a disease; Western lawyers love it and exploit it for promotion of patent maximalism in the West

THE OTHER DAY, over at IP Kat, Eleonora Rosati wrote about a “New National IP Strategic Action Plan in China” and said: “China wants to be seen as a responsible member of the international IP community that contributes actively to the formulation of international rules, wishes to accelerate the revision of the Treaty on the Protection of Broadcasts and Broadcasting Organizations, promote the implementation of the Doha Declaration on Public Health and the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances. The Plan also wants to promote the establishment of a mechanism to help protect and enforce IP rights of Chinese businesses abroad.”

“We remind readers that proponents of software patents in the US increasingly use “China” as their fig leaf.”China seems to have taken these ambitions too far, to the point of granting patents on just about everything, including software (which is not patentable elsewhere).

An article by Joff Wild, Jacob Schindler and Richard Lloyd of IAM, published in their latest magazine issue, continued their eagerness to push patent maximalism through China (trying to eat some of the Chinese “pie” and use China to ‘dare’ other countries to expand patent scope) and in another article they wrote: “For Asian tech corporates, convergence is presenting previously unknown legal risks and opportunities for collaboration. New entrants will have to be canny to survive in this increasingly complex business environment…”

So seek a lawyer? Like those that are funding IAM to help create this mess? We remind readers that proponents of software patents in the US increasingly use "China" as their fig leaf. IAM is just one of the symptoms. In last week’s blog post it wrote:

China-based data provider IP House recently put together a fairly thorough analysis of all the rulings delivered by the Beijing IP Court during 2015. The information on damages from this first batch of patent disputes should prove a useful benchmark for monitoring whether Chinese policymakers’ goal of increasing award amounts is being realised. More recent developments surrounding evidence preservation and punitive damages suggest that higher damages is a priority as litigation numbers in the country continue to zoom.

What it means is, China copies the mistakes made by the US about a decade ago and now it’s just a litigation hub that is destroying the country’s producing element. With this patent gold rush, which is becoming the subject of growing scrutiny, China is now devouring its own economy, in order to bolster trolls, not producers. Did they not learn from the mistakes already made in the US?

IBM is Attacking Patent Reform and is Lobbying for Resurgence of Software Patents

Posted in IBM, Patents at 6:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Because IBM is collapsing and has increasingly resorted to bullying small companies for their ‘lunch money’ (‘protection money’ or ruinous lawsuits over patents)

Ginni Rometty

Photo source (modified slightly): The 10 Most Powerful Women in Technology Today

Summary: IBM reinforces its role as enemy of Free software (and even all small developers of software) by virtue of promoting software patents and attempting to change legislation so as to assist its patent bullying strategy

FANGS may be symbolic, but while IBM tries to frame itself a “friend” of Linux and an “innovator” (e.g. with “Watson”) there is a very ugly side to the company and one that Ginni Rometty’s predecessors would probably not approve of. IBM is not a friend (not anymore, it’s actually close to Apple now) and it’s a big part of the problem we now face in the Free software world. IBM seems to have become a software patents proponent so heavy and loud that it now rivals Microsoft to the ‘title’.

According to this new post, “IPO created a special 101 legislative task force headed by IBM’s Marian Underweiser with Vice-Support from Bob Sachs (Fenwick & the BilskiBlog) whose proposal has now been released and fully adopted by the IPO Board.”

Notice the words “legislative task force”. They mean lobbying — the same thing that David Kappos does for IBM right now. As for Fenwick & West, watch this latest post from them. This patent law firm is trying to bypass the rules in order to patent abstract stuff like software.

The patent microcosm (with people like Sachs and Watchtroll rearing their ugly head on a regular basis), in the form of its front group Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO), is trying to destroy Alice and bring back software patents. IBM’s patent chief is even openly and publicly supporting/endorsing Watchtroll, which is currently attacking [1, 2, 3, 4] the reformer, Michelle Lee.

IPO being a front group that is detrimental isn’t news, but IBM playing a considerable role is noteworthy. Here is a portion of the post from Patently-O:

IPO Steps Up: Proposes Statute to Overturn Mayo and Alice

The Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) is run primarily by a group of 50 top intellectual property counsel (usually patent-focused) from many of the largest global innovative companies – all deeply involved in the patent system as patent holders and many as accused-infringers as well. Patent attorneys from various law firms serve in a support role for the organization. The IPO created a special 101 legislative task force headed by IBM’s Marian Underweiser with Vice-Support from Bob Sachs (Fenwick & the BilskiBlog) whose proposal has now been released and fully adopted by the IPO Board.

IPO’s proposed a particular statutory amendment that would limit the eligibility question to whether “the claimed invention as a whole, as understood by [PHOSITA], exists in nature independently of and prior to any human activity, or exists solely in the human mind.” The proposal would seemingly flip the outcomes Alice, Mayo, and Bilski, although it is unclear to me how the statute treats a situation where a covered embodiment could exist solely in the human mind, but the invention as a whole also contemplates out-of-mind activities. The proposal specifically states that eligibility “is not impacted by . . . the claimed invention’s inventive concept.” Rather, the focus is solely on whether the claim-as-a-whole (1) “already exists in nature independently of and prior to any human activity” or (2) “exists solely in the human mind.” The proposed amendment further spells out that the entitlement to a patent is subject “only” to the limitations found in the Patent Statute.

According to her LinkedIn page, Marian Underweiser is connected also to IAM (which she takes pride in) and she used to work for Kenyon & Kenyon LLP (last mentioned here a very long time ago). She is the one heading this lobbying effort, on behalf of her employer IBM, so those still disillusioned about IBM can treat this as a wake-up call.

The EPO’s President, Benoît Battistelli, May Have Become One of Europe’s Most Hated People

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

This damages the image of the EPO and the worth of its patents (even those which are decades old)

Brexistelli
A countdown to Battistelli-Exit/Brexistelli

Summary: Benoît Battistelli is as unpopular as can be (0% approval rate from his own staff and stakeholders), but miraculously, thanks to political cowards who protect him, he still keeps his job and fills the swamp with yet more of his flunkies and cronies

IT HAS BECOME abundantly clear that not only EPO staff hates ‘their’ President. Stakeholders hate him too and he recently received a 0% approval rate in a survey — the same rating he got from his own staff. Even French politicians cannot stand him and they openly lash out at him. Battistelli’s so-called ‘boss’, who is busy slaughtering defenseless animals, doesn’t seem to realise that it’s more than a problem but an historic crisis. Everyone who lets it be shares the blame and is partly liable if not complicit, including the Dutch authorities.

Battistelli’s tenure is, at least on paper, to last for more than another year. But it could end much sooner; he definitely ought to have been sacked years ago. Right now it’s a political battle against Battistelli’s facilitators — those who shield him no matter how abusive he is and how enormous a damage he has done to the institute he claims to preside over.

How much more does the Dutch government want to tarnish its image? The Dutch “Supreme Court would gloss over this point [about lack of justice at the EPO] by using one of the most unconvincing excuses,” said this new comment. To quote:

The Appeal Court of the Hague certainly understood the point. Quoting directly from a translation of their decision:

“The circumstance that individual employees of EPOrg can at EPOrg and subsequently at ILOAT indeed contest any restriction of their right to strike, namely against any measures that might have been taken against them due to violation of the rules on strikes, is in this connection not decisive. Indeed, Art. 11 ECHR guarantees the right of collective action and of collective bargaining. It would be in contravention of the collective nature of these rights if only individual employees could afterwards contest the impairment of these rights. Such a judicial process cannot be considered as an effective legal remedy to enforce the collective rights that are at issue in this case. With regard to the right of collective bargaining it can be far less understood how this could be put up for discussion at ILOAT in the judicial process of an individual employee, or which other judicial process VEOB et al. could follow”.

Given that they will have read the lower court’s decision, the Supreme Court clearly was aware of this point. Also, it is hard to believe that SUEPO would not have raised the very same point in their arguments before the Supreme Court. However, the thing that I find hardest to believe is that the Supreme Court would gloss over this point by using one of the most unconvincing excuses I have ever seen.

Sadly, as attacks on staff have intensified again, particularly in the Netherlands (gestapo-style raids last week [1, 2]), people seem reluctant or afraid to speak out. SUEPO hardly makes a single statement these days (amid resignations), Merpel keeps totally quiet about it, and IP Kat in general gave up on the cause, more so after sanctions from the EPO. When it finally covers the EPO it just promotes Battistelli's UPC ambitions or amplifies EPO public relations (warning: epo.org link). In the EPO’s own words: “In its order for decision G1/15, related to the question of partial priorities and so-called toxic divisionals, the Enlarged Board of the EPO held that a generic claim encompassing alternative subject matter may not be refused partial priority, provided the alternative subject matter has been directly, at least implicitly, and unambiguously disclosed in the priority document. The reasoned decision will follow.”

There have been quite a few new comments about it, probably involving attorneys if not examiners too, but Battistelli is never even mentioned anymore because he terrorises his critics.

We don’t think there is much of a future to the EPO (not in its current form). The UPC too is collapsing, so what will Battistelli have to show for his ‘reforms’ (all the damage he has done)?

Links 6/2/2017: Linux 4.10 RC7, Next Debian Release ‘Frozen’

Posted in News Roundup at 5:14 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • Olimex Announces Their Open Source Laptop

      The design of this laptop is completely Open Source. Usually when we hear this phrase, the Open Source part only means the electronics and firmware. Yes, there are exceptions, but the STL files for the PiTop, the ‘3D printable Raspberry Pi laptop’ are not available, rendering the ‘3D printable’ part of PiTop’s marketing splurge incongruent with reality. If you want to build a case for the Open Source laptop to date, [Bunnie]’s Novena, random GitHub repos are the best source. The Olimex TERES I is completely different; not only can you simply buy all the parts for the laptop, the hardware files are going up too. To be fair, this laptop is built with injection molded parts and will probably be extremely difficult to print on a standard desktop filament printer. The effort is there, though, and this laptop can truly be built from source.

  • Server

    • Announcing PiCluster 1.4

      I am pleased to announce the new version of PiCluster. In this release, users can connect to a host running an rsyslog server and the PiCluster agent to view the log drain in the PiCluster web console and run searches. This combined integration provides a single pane of glass to monitor physical hosts and Docker containers easily. Let’s take a look on how to enable this functionality.

    • Raspberry Pi As An ARMed Commodity

      The 40-Rpi job costs $745.95 + 40X$35. This gives 10/100 Ethernet, 40gB RAM and 192 gHz-cores of computing power. That would be capable of a lot but would be a dog to configure in the usual way a desktop/server is configured. I would not be happy with the limited bandwidth of networking and storage bottle-neck (USB2). Most likely this would be useful for particularly narrowly defined computing tasks rather than general-purpose computing.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux 4.9.8

      I’m announcing the release of the 4.9.8 kernel.

      All users of the 4.9 kernel series must upgrade.

      The updated 4.9.y git tree can be found at:
      git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/stable/linux-stable.git linux-4.9.y
      and can be browsed at the normal kernel.org git web browser:

      http://git.kernel.org/?p=linux/kernel/git/stable/linux-st…

    • Linux 4.4.47
    • A Patch Is Being Worked On For Greater Kabylake Linux Performance With P-State
    • Linux 4.10-rc7

      Hey, look at that – it’s all been very quiet, and unless anything bad
      happens, we’re all back to the regular schedule with this being the
      last rc.

      Of course, when I actually looked at my calendar, I realized that if
      that actually happens, the next merge window will be awkward for me
      due to travel, so it turns out that I should never have hoped for
      things calming down in the first place. But I’ve done merge windows
      during travels before, so it’s not like it would necessarily be a big
      problem.

      And anything might happen during the next week anyway.

      Anyway, rc7 is pretty small, with about half being driver fixes
      (networking, GPU and HID accounts for most of it), 20% arch updates
      (x86, sparc powerp, some arm64 crypto) and the rest is “misc”:
      filesystems, generic networking, VM, genksyms scripting etc.

      It’s all fairly small, and nothing particularly stands out (apart from
      me being reminded once more about how much I hate modversions – we hit
      another random architecture-specific tooling bug that was triggered by
      it). Shortlog appended for the people who want to get an overview of
      the details.

      Linus

    • Linux 4.10-rc7 Released, 4.10 Kernel Might Be Officially Released Next Week

      The Linux 4.10 kernel is getting close to release with this Sunday’s release of Linux 4.10-rc7.

      Linux 4.10-rc7 was released a short time ago. Linus Torvalds commented, “Hey, look at that – it’s all been very quiet, and unless anything bad happens, we’re all back to the regular schedule with this being the last rc…It’s all fairly small, and nothing particularly stands out (apart from me being reminded once more about how much I hate modversions – we hit another random architecture-specific tooling bug that was triggered by it).”

    • Linus Torvalds Announces Linux Kernel 4.10 RC7, Final Release Coming February 12

      It’s Sunday evening again, and this means Linus Torvalds is announcing the availability of a new RC (Release Candidate) build of the forthcoming Linux 4.10 kernel branch, the seventh in the series.

    • If Linus Torvalds works well in airports, Linux 4.10 will land next week

      Last week Linus Torvalds suggested Linux kernel developers should hurry up and calm things down, because he worried that version 4.10 might take longer than he wanted to complete.

      And this week he’s all-but recanted that request, because he thinks he may not have time to finish the job.

    • Linux Kernel 4.9.8 Has Many Networking Changes, XFS File System Improvements

      We’re back on the track, as only two days after releasing the seventh maintenance update to the long-term supported Linux 4.9 kernel series, Greg Kroah-Hartman now announced the availability of Linux kernel 4.9.8.

      Linux kernel 4.9.8 is now considered the most advanced stable kernel build there is for GNU/Linux operating systems, and, if you’re using a distribution powered by this branch, such as Arch Linux, Solus, openSUSE Tumbleweed, etc., you’ll have to update as soon as it lands in the main repositories. According to the appended shortlog, the Linux 4.9.8 kernel is a small patch changing a total of 57 files, with 473 insertions and 273 deletions.

    • Linux Kernel 4.4.47 LTS Improves Mellanox, Renesas and Broadcom Ethernet Drivers

      Immediately after announcing the release of Linux kernel 4.9.8, renowned kernel maintainer Greg Kroah-Hartman published the forty-seventh maintenance update to the long-term supported Linux 4.4 kernel series.

    • Systemd should be better than it is, but it is still our best init system

      Some people will see my tweet as a slam on systemd, which is fair, because it is. Some people will see it as sort of praise for systemd, which is also fair, because it is that too. Just like X, systemd is a good illustration of Rob Pike’s famous quote that “sometimes when you fill a vacuum, it still sucks”.

      Systemd didn’t quite fill a vacuum, but then neither did X. Much like the aphorism that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the other forms, systemd is increasingly not particularly appealing while still being the best overall Linux init system that we have. Systemd still gets plenty of things right that other init systems mostly don’t, and it’s improved in some of those areas since 2012, when I wrote that entry. But at the same time systemd has increasingly picked up bad habits and gotten flabby, among other issues (eg), and it always had an air of brute force ‘we will get this done somehow’ about it.

    • Graphics Stack

      • AMDGPU “UMR” Debugger Open-Sourced

        AMD has just announced the release of their awaited AMDGPU open-source debugger.

        This AMDGPU Debugger is initially a user-mode register debugger, which allows privileged users to read/write to GPU registers for diagnosing and debugging. The tool also supports decoding ring contents, analyzing wave fronts, viewing machine states, and other functionality. The AMDGPU Debugger works with Southern Islands through Volcanic Islands hardware currently and requires the Linux 4.10 kernel.

      • LunarGLASS Shader Compiler Stack Is Still In Development

        When writing this week about ILO Gallium3D being dropped from mainline Mesa, a Phoronix reader asked if LunarGLASS would be the next thing to be removed from Mesa… But LunarGLASS never made it to mainline Mesa, though it still is in development.

        LunarGLASS is the multi-year project out of LunarG for creating an advanced shader compiler stack using LLVM IR. LunarGLASS origins date back to 2010 and there’s been out-of-tree patches for tieing it into Mesa. The focus was on reducing the number of different intermediate representations used by drivers and instead centralize around LLVM IR for GLSL, OpenCL, etc.

      • DRM-Misc-Next Issues Final Material For Linux 4.11

        The drm-misc-next tree is done with new feature material for the Linux 4.11 kernel cycle as the work is now being queued in DRM-next for this next kernel version.

        DRM-Misc usually caries various DRM core changes and other minor work. But now they’ve also begun using drm-misc-next for grouping together a lot of the smaller DRM drivers rather than each having their own Git repository that’s then submitted for pulling into DRM-Next directly. The discussion about using DRM-Misc as the staging area for the smaller DRM drivers can be found via this mailing list thread.

      • RADV Radeon Vulkan Driver Gets Support For Sparse Binding

        Bas Nieuwenhuizen’s driver hacking this weekend has led to support of Vulkan’s sparseBinding feature within this open-source Radeon Vulkan Linux driver.

      • Mesa Threaded OpenGL Dispatch Finally Landing, Big Perf Win For Some Games

        Four years ago Intel developers were working on a threaded OpenGL dispatch mechanism for Mesa, but it never ended up being merged. Now, prolific Mesa contributor and AMD developer Marek Olšák is looking to merge this code and clean it up.

      • INT64 Support Comes To Nouveau’s Gallium3D Driver

        Ilia Mirkin’s weekend hacking on the Nouveau NVC0 Gallium3D driver has led to ARB_gpu_shader_int64 support coming for this open-source NVIDIA Linux driver.

        ARB_gpu_shader_int64 is about supporting 64-bit scalar and vector integer data types for shaders and related 64-bit integer support for OpenGL. The Intel i965 Mesa driver has supported INT64 for Broadwell and newer, RadeonSI Gallium3D also has supported INT64, and there’s been support in LLVMpipe/Softpipe too, while now it’s been implemented for Nouveau.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • You Can Now Install Various KDE Apps from the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Snappy Store

        In December last year, we reported on the work done by KDE Community developer Harald Sitter to bundle the official KDE applications as Snaps and make them available for installation on the Ubuntu Snappy Store.

        A Snap build of the latest KDE Frameworks 5, a collection of add-on libraries for Qt 5, made its way into the Snappy Store, and can be easily installed on the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus) operating system if you execute the “sudo snap install kde-frameworks-5″ command in a terminal emulator.

  • Distributions

    • Arch Linux vs. Solus vs. openSUSE Tumbleweed: Your Favorite Rolling Distro Is?

      I recently had to reinstall my laptop, and, since I only use Linux on my laptop, I could not afford to spend half a day customizing the operating system, install hundreds of updates, and set up my favorite apps.

      I usually go with Arch Linux, but because installing it is not the easiest of tasks and I have to spend a lot of time making it the way I like, such as installing my favorite desktop environment, enabling AUR (Arch User Repository), installing various apps I need for work and everything else I do on my laptop, I decided to use a different distro.

      Of course, I could always go with an Arch Linux-based distro, such as Antergos, Manjaro, or Chakra GNU/Linux, but I’m not a fan of distributions based on another, not to mention that many of them are build around a certain desktop environment and I don’t like mixing packages and end up with a bloated system.

    • New Releases

      • IPFire 2.19 to Bring Tor 0.2.9.9 and OpenSSL 1.0.2k with New Security Fixes

        Michael Tremer announced the availability for public testing of the upcoming IPFire 2.19 Core Update 109 maintenance release of the open source Linux-based router and firewall distribution.

        The most important change included in this update appears to be support for the unbound 1.6.0 recursive and caching DNS resolver in the built-in DNS proxy, which will re-activate QNAME hardening and minimisation below NX domains. The change should also make IPFire check if a router drops DNS responses that are longer than a specific threshold.

      • 4MLinux 20.3 Operating System Ships with Linux Kernel 4.4.44 LTS, Security Fixes

        4MLinux developer Zbigniew Konojacki is informing Softpedia today about the immediate availability of the third point release of the 4MLinux 20.0 GNU/Linux distribution.

        4MLinux 20.3 is the third point release to the 4MLinux 20.x stable series of the independently-developed Linux-based operating system, bringing some of the latest security updates and a new kernel, namely Linux kernel 4.4.44 LTS.

        “This is a minor maintenance release in the 4MLinux STABLE channel. The release ships with the Linux kernel 4.4.44,” said Zbigniew Konojacki in the release announcement for the 4MLinux 20.3 release.

      • ISO Refresh: antergos 17.2
    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

    • Red Hat Family

    • Debian Family

      • The stretch freeze is coming

        The soft freeze has been on going for almost a month now and the full stretch freeze will start tomorrow night (UTC). It has definitely been visible in the number of unblock requests that we have received so far. Fortunately, we are no where near the rate of the jessie freeze. At the moment, all unblock requests are waiting for the submitter (either for a clarification or an upload).

      • My Monthly Update for January 2017

        It has been a quiet start to the year due to work keeping me very busy. Most of my spare time (when not sitting shattered on the sofa) was spent resurrecting my old website from backups. My son had plenty of visitors coming to visit as well, which prompted me to restart work on my model railway in the basement. Last year I received a whole heap of track, and also a tunnel formation from a friend at work. I managed to finish the supporting structure for the tunnel, and connect one end of it to the existing track layout. The next step (which will be a bit harder) is to connect the other end of the tunnel into the existing layout. The basement is one of the favourite things for me to keep my son and his friends occupied when there is a visit. The railway and music studio are very popular with the little guests.

      • My Free Software Activities in January 2017

        Welcome to gambaru.de. Here is my monthly report that covers what I have been doing for Debian. If you’re interested in Java, Games and LTS topics, this might be interesting for you.

      • Bits from the Release Team: stretch is frozen
      • Debian GNU/Linux 9.0 “Stretch” Has Entered the Final Phase of Development

        Debian developer Jonathan Wiltshire announced earlier that the forthcoming Debian GNU/Linux 9.0 “Stretch” operating system has entered the final phase of development and is now officially frozen, as of February 5, 2017.

        Debian GNU/Linux 9.0 “Stretch” will be the next major release of the acclaimed Debian GNU/Linux operating system, and it is currently being developed under the Debian Testing umbrella, which users can easily deploy on their systems if they want to become early adopters or just help with the testing.

      • Debian 9.0 Stretch Is Now Frozen

        Debian 9.0 “Stretch” is now frozen for its anticipated release later this year.

        Under Debian’s freeze policy, packages still allowed to land are those with targeted fixes, fixes for important bugs, and translation updates and documentation fixes.

      • Debian welcomes its Outreachy interns

        Better late than never, we’d like to welcome our three Outreachy interns for this round, lasting from the 6th of December 2016 to the 6th of March 2017.

      • Derivatives

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Open Source Drum Keyboard Could Be the Answer To VR’s Typing Woes

    As someone who spends a lot of time inside of a virtual reality headset, this is something I find myself barking angrily to myself quite a bit. My neighbors love me.

    The issues is that in order for a VR headset to function well it needs to keep outside light from getting inside. This is called “light leakage” and headsets block it by building a seal around your face where the headset meets it. With the exception of a small gap that usually appears around your nose, a VR headset is an impenetrable fortress for anything outside of the experience you are in. This is not so great for typing.

  • Open source enlightenment needed to end ‘dark ages’ of health IT

    Your article – “Whatever happened to Open Source in 2016?” highlights the brief vogue that open source recently enjoyed in the NHS – 2014-15 – and now seems to have lost. It raises some good questions and important issues, though I sense some broader perspective may be worth adding here.

    It’s worth remembering that healthcare is a well-established science – the first medical school established in the 9th century. While information technology is still a young science – the first MSc in software engineering dates from 1979.

  • Three Indonesian students win Google open source competition

    Raefaldhi Amartya Junior from Haiku, Scott Moses Sunarto from Moving Blocks and Kaisar Arkhan from FOSSASIA open source organizations successfully completed the 842 tasks set during the seven-week competition period…

  • AT&T will prove 5G using open-source SDN technology

    The blazing fast speed and low latency of 5G could suffer from the same obstacle that Gig-internet access does: a scarcity of apps that demonstrate its capabilities. Case in point: The Chattanooga municipal power company EPB slashed the price of Gig-internet to $69.95 per month because many customers opted for slower 100MB service at $59.95 because typical mobile and PC apps do not showcase the benefits of the top speed offering.

    It is a chicken and egg problem, or more aptly the chicken and the app problem. Without high-speed infrastructure, apps cannot be built that demonstrate the capabilities of 5G. And without apps, infrastructure will not reach cost effectiveness and be deployed at scale. 5G will not scale without distributing the cloud platforms into the network infrastructure running on software-defined networking (SDN) commodity hardware.

    Earlier this week, AT&T, the Linux foundation, IBM, Intel, Ericsson and others announced an open source partnership to contribute to a critical component of the SDN stack—Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy (ECOMP)—that in the future will run on the mass-produced, commodity telecom hardware.

  • An Open Source Data Analytics Library: Intel’s Impressive Entry

    What comes after “Big Data”? I’d say “Faster Big Data.” And it’s going to be a game changer well beyond what Big Data has done so far.

    Fast and efficient Big Data applications will change our lives. Some of them will drive our cars, move packages from warehouses to us, speed drugs from theory to reality, even predict crime. The applications seem limitless, and high performance will be revolutionary.

  • ​Catalyst snaps up open source technology veteran
  • Events

    • FOSDEM 2017 Day 1: Arrival

      Extra t-shirt, check! Toothbrush, check! 60 pairs of socks, check! Friday the 3rd february was day 1 of my trip to FOSDEM with Open Source Aalborg. We’ve booked flight tickets so we can go early in the morning just to make the best out of the 4 days we’ll be staying in Brussels. 10 minutes intensive situps + 10 kilometers bike trip to the airport at 5 AM and you feel like you can do anything afterwards. At the local airport in Aalborg I met Daniel and Anders. Much of the morning we spent just talking while flights, escalators and trains would take us to our destination. In all three years I have attended FOSDEM, it has had 500-600 events happening over the course of just one weekend. Finding and planning which talks to see and handling conflicting talks is enough of a hassle that it appears there is even an apps for it. I’m not that big of a talk goer though. I’m looking much more forward to helping in the GNOME booth, visiting booths and speaking with people I haven’t had a conversation with face-to-face for many months.

    • FOSDEM 2017 Day 2: Showtime

      All of us woke up at around 8, aiming to get to FOSDEM at half past 9. Booths would be set up between 9 and 10 and the first set of talks would start around 10. Since I have stayed at the accommodation before, I had a pretty good feeling for the route to go to FOSDEM, but we barely got out of the door before I realized that I had forgot all the merchandise I had brought with me, though.. :-)

    • GNU Hackers Meeting: GNU Hackers Meeting 2017 – Registration is open
    • [Older] Meet Guix at FOSDEM
    • PyLadies Pune meetup, February 2017

      This month’s PyLadies Pune meetup was held in reserved-bit, the new hackerspace in Pune. The microbits were sent by Ntoll, without his help this workshop was not possible.

  • SaaS/Back End

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

    • LibreOffice vs. Microsoft Office: It’s a format war

      Sun Microsystems was home to many critical open source projects including OpenOffice, MySQL, Java, and VirtualBox. When Oracle acquired Sun, members of these projects grew concerned about their projects. MySQL was forked, and the OpenOffice community created a body called The Document Foundation (TDF) to ensure the survival of the project.

      However, Oracle was displeased about the formation of TDF and the ensuing conflict led to LibreOffice becoming a fork of OpenOffice. The first release of LibreOffice came in 2011. By 2012, TDF was registered as an organization in Germany.

      On February 1, 2017, LibreOffice reached another major milestone with the release of version 5.3 and a brand new experimental interface, which may play a big role in the adoption of LibreOffice. At the same time, a new era of LibreOffice began with the arrival of LibreOffice Online.

    • LibreOffice 5.3 Upgrade Brings Open-Source Office Suite to the Cloud

      The open-source LibreOffice office application suite has been improving steadily since 2010, when it was forked from the Oracle OpenOffice suite. The latest incremental milestone is LibreOffice version 5.3, released Feb. 1 and providing users with new features and improved performance. LibreOffice bundles multiple applications including the Writer Document, Calc Spreadsheet, Impress Presentation, Draw, Math Formula and Base Database. Among the numerous feature updates in Writer are new PDF document-handling capabilities that enable users to import and digitally sign existing documents. Writer also benefits from new table formatting capabilities and an easier-to-use side menu for page options. LibreOffice typically is available as the default office suite in many Linux distributions and freely available for Apple Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows applications. Plus, with LibreOffice 5.3, the whole office suite also can be deployed in the cloud. In this slide show, eWEEK takes a look at key features of LibreOffice 5.3.

  • BSD

    • BSD @ FOSDEM 2017: Encrypted Disks, Go, CloudABI

      On Saturday at this year’s FOSDEM conference there was a BSD developer room where various talks were had for European BSD fans.

      For Phoronix BSD readers who weren’t in attendance at this year’s Free Open-Source Developers’ European Meeting, many of the PDF slides and videos have already been uploaded. When it comes to the BSD talks this year there was work presented on packaging Golang for pkgsrc, GELIBoot for booting FreeBSD from an encrypted disk, evolution on top of the BSD’s, and CloudABI for FreeBSD.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Data

      • Global Positioning System (GPS) Energetic Particle Data

        Energetic particle data from the CXD and BDD instrument on the GPS constellation are available to the space weather research community. The release of these data supports the National Space Weather Action Plan which was recently published by the Executive Office of the President’s National Science and Technology Council (NSTC).

  • Programming/Development

    • Corrode Is Still Advancing For Auto-Translating C Code To Rust

      Free software developer Jamey Sharp continues working on his “Corrode” project for being able to automatically convert C code into Rust.

      Corrode is all about converting C code to Rust, largely to migrate large, legacy code-bases over to Rust, which is known for its memory safety features and other benefits of a modern programming language. But Jamey Sharp does agree that not all C projects should turn to Rust but in cases like the CVS code-base, he continues to believe it’s much better off (and safer) in Rust.

    • A Makefile for your Go project

      My most loathed feature of Go is the mandatory use of GOPATH: I do not want to put my own code next to its dependencies. Hopefully, this issue is slowly starting to be accepted by the main authors. In the meantime, you can workaround this problem with more opinionated tools (like gb) or by crafting your own Makefile.

    • nanotime 0.1.1
    • RcppCCTZ 0.2.1

Leftovers

  • Science

    • French presidential hopeful to US scientists: You’re welcome here

      American brains: Welcome to France.

      French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron today invited U.S. climate and health researchers and businesses feeling gagged under President Donald Trump to cross the Atlantic.

      At a campaign meeting, the former economy minister, who is running as an independent, blasted a plan by Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon to tax robots and said that if elected, he would instead give researchers more resources and make regulation more predictable.

    • DeVos’ Code Words for Creationism Offshoot Raise Concerns About ‘Junk Science’

      At a confirmation hearing earlier this month, Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s pick for education secretary, responded to a question about whether she would promote “junk science” by saying she supports science teaching that “allows students to exercise critical thinking.”

      This seemingly innocuous statement has raised alarms among science education advocates, and buoyed the hopes of conservative Christian groups that, if confirmed, DeVos may use her bully pulpit atop the U.S. Department of Education to undermine the teaching of evolution in public schools.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Republicans Want to Make the EPA Great Again by Gutting Health Regulations

      Much of the country has been watching in horror as Donald Trump has made good on his promises to eviscerate the Environmental Protection Agency — delaying 30 regulations, severely limiting the information staffers can release, and installing Scott Pruitt as the agency’s administrator to destroy the agency from within. But even those keeping their eyes on the EPA may have missed a quieter attack on environmental protections now being launched in Congress.

      On Tuesday, the House Committee on Science Science, Space, and Technology is expected to hold a hearing on a bill to undermine health regulations that is based on a strategy cooked up by tobacco industry strategists more than two decades ago. At what Republicans on the committee have dubbed the “Making EPA Great Again” hearing, lawmakers are likely to discuss “The Secret Science Reform Act,” a bill that would limit the EPA to using only data that can be replicated or made available for “independent analysis.”

    • Israel To Decriminalise Personal Use of Cannabis

      Israel looks set to decriminalise the personal use of cannabis, it has been reported. During a news conference in Tel Aviv last Thursday, the nation’s Public Security Minister, Gilad Erdan, announced that he is adopting the recommendations of a panel that had been tasked with reviewing the matter.

    • Shrimp price fluctuations help pinpoint the economic effects of pollution

      Low oxygen levels cause a big problem for aquatic ecosystems. When oxygen falls below two milligrams per liter, the area is classed as “hypoxic,” a condition that can be driven by pollution such as agricultural runoff. Hypoxia has an effect on marine life that’s pretty relevant to fisheries: low oxygen in the environment slows down the growth of individual animals, meaning that populations are made up of smaller creatures.

      Research published in PNAS this week, led by Martin D. Smith at Duke University, uses a new method that takes a big step toward being able to quantify the economic impacts of the pollution that causes hypoxia. The approach could give policymakers a better tool to understand the costs and benefits of various pollution controls. Their technique could also help researchers to observe the effects of marine disturbances in other areas.

    • If We Care About Abortion, Asking Judge Neil Gorsuch His Opinion on Roe v. Wade Is Not Enough

      Now that President Trump has nominated federal judge Neil Gorsuch to be considered for the Supreme Court, one question on everyone’s mind is, “What’s his position on Roe v. Wade?” That is a shorthand way of asking, “Does he believe that a woman has a constitutional right to abortion.” That is a critically important question, but often it’s not the most important one regarding abortion rights.

    • Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch Has a Troubling History When Ruling on Disability Rights Cases

      On Tuesday night, President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, a federal appellate judge, as his nominee to replace the late Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court. As journalists and activists scour through Gorsuch’s judicial record, they would do well to pay attention to his decisions on disability rights.

      Two cases stand out during Judge Gorsuch’s time at Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.

  • Security

    • Vulnerability Note VU#867968

      Microsoft Windows contains a memory corruption bug in the handling of SMB traffic, which may allow a remote, unauthenticated attacker to cause a denial of service on a vulnerable system.

    • Op-ed: Windows 10 0day exploit goes wild, and so do Microsoft marketers

      There’s a zero-day exploit in the wild that exploits a key file-sharing protocol in most supported versions of Windows, including Windows 10, the latest and most secure version of the Microsoft operating system. The exploit is probably not worth worrying about, but you’d never know that based on the statement Microsoft officials issued on Thursday when asked what kind of threat the exploit poses:

      “Windows is the only platform with a customer commitment to investigate reported security issues and proactively update impacted devices as soon as possible,” an unnamed spokesperson replied in an e-mail. “We recommend customers use Windows 10 and the Microsoft Edge browser for the best protection.”

      An employee at Microsoft’s outside PR firm, WE Communications, wouldn’t explain why the statement advised customers to use Windows 10 and Edge when the exploit works on all versions of Windows and doesn’t require that targets use a browser. Ars reminded the employee that an advisory issued hours earlier by the CERT Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University warned that the vulnerability might leave Windows users open to code-execution attacks.

    • Former GCHQ deputy: Cyber attack ‘normal 21st century threat’

      A skills shortage and “chaotic” handling of personal data breaches are undermining confidence in the government’s ability to protect the UK from cyber attacks.

    • Public Accounts Committee slams government on cybersecurity strategy

      The Public Accounts Committee has taken the government to task over a lack of action on addressing cyber security in the UK – and that poor reporting of breaches and low oversight in general reduces its confidence in the Cabinet Office to protect the country from cyber threats.

      The report cites cyber security as one of the biggest threats that faces the country today, but committee chair Meg Hillier said that the government’s approach to personal data breaches “has been chaotic and does not inspire confidence in its ability to take swift, coordinated and effective action in the face of higher threat attacks”.

    • Cybersecurity firms pilloried by GCHQ technical director over “witchcraft”

      “we are allowing massively incentivised companies to define the public perception of the problem”.

    • Microsoft is disabling older versions of Skype for Mac and Windows on March 1 [Ed: Microsoft forces people to use the latest surveillance with the latest back doors for wiretaps & remote access]
    • Metasploit Targets Hardware for IoT Security Penetration Testing

      Open-source Metasploit penetration testing framework adds new hardware support, enabling researchers to target IoT devices, starting with automotive.

      Security vendor Rapid7 has been helping to lead the open-source Metasploit penetration testing framework project since October 2009, largely focused on software. On Feb. 2, Rapid7 announced a new expansion of Metasploit’s capabilities to enable security researchers to directly link to hardware for vulnerability testing.

      The new hardware enablement is currently in the open-source Metasploit framework and is available via GitHub. Additionally, Rapid7 plans on packaging the capability in the standard open-source Metasploit community edition.

    • This dump of Iphone-cracking tools shows how keeping software defects secret makes everyone less secure

      Last month, a hacker took 900GB of data from Cellebrite, an Israeli cyber-arms dealer that was revealed to be selling surveillance and hacking tools to Russia, the UAE, and Turkey.

      Yesterday, that hacker dumped Cellebrite’s arsenal of mobile cracking tools, including a suite of tools to attack Apple’s Ios devices (Iphones and Ipads).

      The dump reveals that Cellebrite seemingly repackages untested and unaudited jailbreaking tools as lawful interception products and sells them to repressive regimes. It also reveals that suppressing disclosure of security vulnerabilities in commonly used tools does not prevent those vulnerabilities from being independently discovered and weaponized — it just means that users, white-hat hackers and customers are kept in the dark about lurking vulnerabilities, even as they are exploited in the wild, which only end up coming to light when they are revealed by extraordinary incidents like this week’s dump.

    • Gentoo Developer: Is The Linux Desktop Less Secure Than Windows 10?

      Gentoo Linux developer Hanno Böck, who also writes for Golem and runs The Fuzzing Project as a software fuzzing initiative to find issues in software, presented today at FOSDEM 2017 over some Linux desktop security shortcomings and how Microsoft Windows 10 is arguably more secure out-of-the-box.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • 48 U.S. Jewish Centers Received Bomb Threats in Past Month: ‘Why Is No One Talking About This?’

      The coordinated threats started on the East Coast and spread west two weeks ago, culminating in the evacuation of 14 centers on Tuesday. U.S. Jews insist the threats should not be dismissed just because no bombs have been found.

    • Not ‘Lone Wolves’ After All: How ISIS Guides World’s Terror Plots From Afar

      When the Islamic State identified a promising young recruit willing to carry out an attack in one of India’s major tech hubs, the group made sure to arrange everything down to the bullets he needed to kill victims.

      For 17 months, terrorist operatives guided the recruit, a young engineer named Mohammed Ibrahim Yazdani, through every step of what they planned to be the Islamic State’s first strike on Indian soil.

    • A Lesson Media Missed About the Dangers of Scapegoating

      If you were unfamiliar with the way US corporate media works, you might assume that the murder of six people in a Quebec City mosque, allegedly by far-right white supremacist Alexandre Bissonnette, would be a big story. After all, the January 29 massacre happened when the United States was had just begun a furious debate over Donald Trump’s executive order barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, ostensibly as an anti-terrorism measure. Thousands of protesters descended upon airports across the country, denouncing the order as arbitrary scapegoating.

      The suspect in the attack at the Cultural Islamic Center of Quebec, which left eight wounded in addition to those killed, was known for his anti-immigrant (and anti-feminist) views; among the “likes” on his (now suspended) Facebook page were Donald Trump, French neo-fascist Marine Le Pen, the Israeli Defense Forces and anti-Muslim writers Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens (The Intercept, 1/30/17). The attack could have provided a critical lesson in the fallacy, and the danger, of singling out particular categories of people.

    • The Double Standard on Yemen’s Suffering

      The Trump administration condemns Iran as somehow responsible for a Yemeni rebel group’s attack on a Saudi warship, but ignores the Saudi-inflicted bloodbath on the Yemeni people, as Gareth Porter explained to Dennis J Bernstein.

    • Unspeakable: the Black Book of Imperial Terrorism

      American “mainstream” journalists who want to keep their paychecks flowing and their status afloat know they must report current events in a way that respects the taboo status of the nation’s underlying inequality and oppression structures and its savage and relentless imperial criminality. Those topics are understood as off limits, as beyond the narrow parameters of acceptable and polite discussion. They are subjects that serious reporters and commentators have the deeply indoctrinated common sense to avoid.

    • Trump’s Iran-Bashing Distraction

      Like other U.S. presidents, Donald Trump is falling in line behind the Israeli-Saudi fiction that Iran is the principal source for world terrorism and regional disorder, a dangerous turn, notes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

    • Trump Ban Leaves 12-Year-Old Girl Facing Return to War-Torn Yemen

      Ahmed Ali spent Sunday at a hotel near Djibouti’s International Airport, anxiously checking CNN on his phone to see if the Trump administration would allow him to fly to the United States with Eman, his 12-year-old daughter.

      Ali, 39, is a U.S. citizen. But his daughter had been living with grandparents in Yemen while American authorities processed her visa application. After years of waiting, the U.S. embassy issued the precious piece of paper last Wednesday, and father and daughter were excitedly preparing Friday for the flight that would unite Eman with her mother and two sisters.

    • Trump’s Executive Order Strands Brooklyn Doctor in Sudan

      On Saturday morning, Dr. Kamal Fadlalla traveled more than two hours from his family’s home in Wad Madani, Sudan, to the country’s capital of Khartoum to board a flight back to the United States.

      For Fadlalla, a second-year resident in internal medicine at Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn, this was to be an early ending to his first trip back to his home country since he started in his training program 20 months ago.

      He left the U.S. on January 13, a week before President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Fadlalla had planned to stay in the country until early February, but colleagues called late last week to warn him to hurry if he wanted to get back into the United States. Though he had a newly issued H-1B visa for foreign workers in specialty occupations, he lived in Sudan, one of the seven predominantly Muslim countries from which President Donald Trump banned visitors for at least 90 days.

    • Is Trump repeating Bush’s worst mistakes?

      Even if one subscribes to the questionable concepts of collective guilt and collective punishment, it is quite clear that Donald Trump’s decision to ban citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US serves only one purpose: To satisfy the alt-right, a loose set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals united in their opposition to multiculturalism, social justice movements and mainstream conservatism whose torchbearer Steve Bannon is a key power broker within the new administration.

      Notably, not one of the 9/11 attackers came from any of the seven countries affected. In fact, according to an analysis by the Cato Institute, none of their nationals has killed Americans on US territory between 1975 and 2015.

    • How US Believes Impossible Things

      This delusion is repeated periodically by American military officials. A year ago, following the release of Russia’s new national security document, naming as threats both the United States and the expansion of the NATO alliance, a Pentagon spokesman declared: “They have no reason to consider us a threat. We are not looking for conflict with Russia.”

      Meanwhile, in early January, the United States embarked upon its biggest military buildup in Europe since the end of the Cold War – 3,500 American soldiers landed, unloading three shiploads, with 2,500 tanks, trucks and other combat vehicles. The troops were to be deployed in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary and across the Baltics. Lt. Gen. Frederick Hodges, commander of U.S. forces in Europe, said, “Three years after the last American tanks left the continent, we need to get them back.”

    • Why sectarianism fails at explaining the conflict in Syria

      The history of identity politics and colonial division in Syria shows episodes where national unity has triumphed in the face of division.

      The Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916 partitioned the Arab world into sub-states to be merged into the respective British and French empires. Syria fell under a French mandate heralding another phase of colonialism after the centuries led rule of the Ottoman Empire.

      From the beginning of their colonial rule, the French sought to divide Syria into four sectarian sub-states in order to make ruling the country easier. This plan for partition was heavily opposed by the indigenous and heterogeneous Syrian population. The French plan to divide Syria backfired spectacularly sparking a series of local tensions and led to the Great Syrian revolt in 1925, in which all sects and religious groups participated.

      The primordialist approach that sectarianism is a reflection of old age historic differences cannot be applied in Syria, it has been proven to be simplistic and lacking in depth. Other factors contributed to sectarianism, but unlike Iraq, Syria does not have a history of genuine sectarian division.

      A close inspection of the narrative surrounding the crisis exposes numerous assumptions regarding the nature of political identity in the country, with a strong disregard for political economy, social fabric, ideology and colonialism. While sectarianism may be a component, its role as the primary cause of the war remains secondary.

    • Misreporting Iraq and Syria

      All wars always produce phony atrocity stories – along with real atrocities. But in the Syrian case fabricated news and one-sided reporting have taken over the news agenda to a degree probably not seen since the First World War. The ease with which propaganda can now be disseminated is frequently attributed to modern information technology: YouTube, smartphones, Facebook, Twitter. But this is to let mainstream media off the hook: it’s hardly surprising that in a civil war each side will use whatever means are available to publicise and exaggerate the crimes of the other, while denying or concealing similar actions by their own forces. The real reason that reporting of the Syrian conflict has been so inadequate is that Western news organisations have almost entirely outsourced their coverage to the rebel side.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • ‘Restore my liberty’ says Julian Assange

      WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has made a fresh plea to the UK and Swedish authorities to “restore” his liberty.

      He has been living inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for more than four years because he fears he will be extradited to the US.

      Mr Assange, who has been questioned about a sex allegation in Sweden, spoke out a year after a UN legal panel ruled he should be allowed to walk free.

      The UK Foreign Office previously said that finding “changes nothing”.

      In February 2016, the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found he was being “arbitrarily detained” by the UK and Sweden.

      Mr Assange said a year on the two governments had failed to comply with the ruling.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • 100,000 may have died but there is still no justice over Indonesian air pollution

      It started with a mild cough. Muhanum Anggriawati was just 12 years old when the cough began, transforming within weeks into a violent hacking that brought up a yellowish-black liquid.

      At the end of last year, her father told an Indonesian court how she had been taken into hospital, and treated with oxygen therapy, then with a defibrillator. Nothing, however, had worked. After a week on a breathing machine, she died in the hospital, her lungs still full of the foul mucus.

      Anggriawati is believed to have been one of many victims of the haze, or air pollution, that regularly spreads across Indonesia because of the huge deforestation fires linked to palm oil and other agribusiness.

    • Sweden pledges to cut all greenhouse gas emissions by 2045

      Sweden has committed to completely phase out greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 and called for all countries – including the US – to “step up and fulfil the Paris Agreement”.

      In one of the most ambitious emissions plans published by a developed nation, the Swedish government has reaffirmed the urgency of tackling climate change, ignoring uncertainties about global policies under Donald Trump’s administration.

      “Our target is to be an entirely fossil-fuel-free welfare state,” said Climate Minister Isabella Lovin.

    • Expanding oil palm cultivation in Indonesia: changing local water cycles raises risks of droughts and floods

      During El Niño in 2015, devastating forest fires in Indonesia directed international attention towards land use changes and deforestation on the archipelago. At least partially a result of clearing land for plantation estates, those fires spurred debate about the sustainability of palm oil, which is the most traded vegetable oil. Recently, seven European governments signed the Amsterdam Declaration. Its signatories, including Germany, committed themselves to helping the private sector to achieve a fully sustainable palm oil supply chain by 2020.

    • Factcheck: Mail on Sunday’s ‘astonishing evidence’ about global temperature rise

      In an article in today’s Mail on Sunday, David Rose makes the extraordinary claim that “world leaders were duped into investing billions over manipulated global warming data”, accusing the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of manipulating the data to show more warming in a 2015 study by Tom Karl and coauthors.

      What he fails to mention is that the new NOAA results have been validated by independent data from satellites, buoys and Argo floats and that many other independent groups, including Berkeley Earth and the UK’s Met Office Hadley Centre, get effectively the same results.

    • Donald Trump reminiscent of Stalin says chief scientist Alan Finkel as science ‘literally under attack’

      Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel has compared US President Donald Trump’s move to censor environmental data with former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s control of science in the USSR.

      Speaking at a Chief Scientists’ roundtable discussion at the Australian National University on Monday, Dr Finkel made his comments saying he was “going off topic” as “science is literally under attack”.

    • Trump’s scientific censorship remiscient of Stalin: Finkel
    • Australia’s Chief Scientist labels Trump’s censoring of environmental data as ‘Stalinist’
    • Australia’s chief scientist compares Trump to Stalin over climate censorship
    • ‘Biggest Oil Find’ of 2016 Puts Crown Jewel Texas Oasis in Crosshairs for Fracking

      Travelers crossing the long stretch of arid desert spanning West Texas might stumble across an extraordinarily improbable sight — a tiny teeming wetlands, a sliver of marsh that seems like it should sit by the ocean but actually lays over 450 miles from the nearest coast.

      This cienega, or desert-wetlands (an ecosystem so unusual that its name sounds like a contradiction), lies instead near a massive swimming pool and lake, all fed by clusters of freshwater springs that include the deepest underwater cave ever discovered in the U.S., stretching far under the desert’s dry sands.

      Famous as “the oasis of West Texas,” Balmorhea State Park now hosts over 150,000 visitors a year, drawn by the chance to swim in the cool waters of the park’s crystal-blue pool, which is fed by up to 28 million gallons of water a day flowing from the San Solomon springs. The pool’s steady 72 to 76 degree Fahrenheit temperatures make the waters temptingly cool in the hot Texas summer and surprisingly warm in the winter, locals say — part of the reason it’s been called “the crown jewel of the desert.”

  • Finance

    • Mrs May discovers you can’t be a bridge builder and a bridge burner

      The cruellest remark made about Britain by an American came out of the mouth of Dean Acheson, secretary of state to President Truman. Speaking in the early 1960s, he bagged himself an immortal place in the books of quotations with the withering observation: “Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role.”

      The first half of that sentence was obviously correct. At its zenith, the British empire held sway over a quarter of the land surface of the planet. Quite a feat for a modestly sized, wet and blowy island in the north-east Atlantic. This was an empire over which “the sun never set”. Until it did. By the time Acheson delivered his jibe, there were only a few pink specks under the continuing rule of Britannia. It lingered also in some lines in the national anthem, the archaic handles on honours and a residual belief, sustained by Britain’s heroism in the Second World War, that there remained something exceptional about these islands.

    • ‘I’m WORRIED’ – Farage fears Theresa May ‘won’t make much progress’ on Brexit in 2017
    • Poor US roads mean FedEx is going through tires twice as fast

      The decaying state of the United States roadway system can be costly for drivers. For companies where vehicles are central to the business model, it’s no trivial concern. Speaking before a hearing in Washington DC earlier this week, FedEx CEO Fred Smith spoke about the need for improving the nation’s roadways, and reported that his company is using twice as many tires as it did two decades ago because of the state of the the country’s infrastructure.

      The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee convened a hearing on February 1st called “Building a 21st Century Infrastructure for America”, which aimed to examine the challenges facing the country’s roads, bridges, and seaways in the coming years. Chairman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania outlined that the growth of the US population in the coming decades will put a huge strain on existing infrastructure, which is already in disrepair.

    • Trump Lends the Banksters a Hand

      Back when he was a presidential candidate, Trump said things about the big banks that made him sound like a Bernie Sanders Democrat.

      In his final ad before Election Day, for example, he blasted the “global power structure” that he said was robbing the country blind and enriching the wealthy at the expense of working Americans.

    • Wall Street Is Even More Craven Than We Thought

      Democrats used to see Jamie Dimon as one of the good guys on Wall Street. Once hailed as a “progressive” by The New Republic, the JPMorgan Chase CEO counted himself friends with two different chiefs of staff to President Barack Obama and traveled to the first black White House no less than 16 times. In 2009, The New York Times described him as “Obama’s favorite banker.” He has publicly supported same-sex marriage and the legalization of undocumented immigrants.

      Dimon gave hundreds of thousands to Democratic Party candidates, the party itself, and even the Center for American Progress, a think tank advancing the ideas of Bill Clinton and Obama.

    • You don’t just pay for Uber when you use one, your taxes subsidise the service too

      Services like Uber reduce the value of existing investments, and infrastructure like traditional taxi licenses, meaning that the sharing economy is effectively subsidised by taxpayers

    • Trump Met with CEOs of America’s Largest Companies to Push Pro-Jobs Agenda
    • Here’s who sat where in Trump’s first big business council meeting — and what the layout communicates
    • Ivanka Trump plays big role even without White House title
    • Ken Clarke: why I’m voting against article 50 – video

      Tory MP Ken Clarke says on Tuesday he will vote the against the bill allowing the government to trigger article 50, which would begin two years of Brexit negotiations. Speaking in the House of Commons on the first day of the debate, the former chancellor says the referendum result has not made him a Brexiter

    • Ken Clarke on Brexit: ‘I’ve never seen anything as mad or chaotic as this’

      Last week, the veteran parliamentarian was the only Tory to vote against triggering article 50, his passionate pro-Europe speech making him an unlikely hero of the remain left. So how bad does he think Brexit could be? ‘A historic disaster,’ he says

    • MPs: Scotland should seek its own Brexit immigration deal

      Scotland should seek a “differentiated” deal on immigration when the U.K. exits the European Union, a cross-party Scottish parliamentary committee said Monday.

      Because Scotland depends on young EU migrants to boost its workforce and its population, a “hard Brexit” — with strong controls on immigration — is likely to have a negative impact on its economy, the committee found.

    • Futures Shaped by Automation and Catastrophe: Peter Frase on Capitalism’s Endgame

      As we automate more jobs and continue on a road to scarcity of resources, whither capitalism?

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Trump’s Troubling First Days

      Ladies and gentlemen, we are already in the midst of a national emergency. The radical right — both religious and political — have been crusading for 40 years to take over the government and in Trump they have found their rabble-rouser and enabler. They intend to hallow the free market as infallible, outlaw abortion, Christianize public institutions by further leveling the “wall” between church and state, channel public funds to religious schools, build walls to keep out brown people and put “America first” on the road to what Trump’s nominee to be Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, has called “God’s Kingdom.”

    • Amid the Chaos in Berkeley, a Grinning Face, Covered in Blood

      Last May, Brock attended a rally for Bernie Sanders in Vallejo, waving a “Trump 2016″ sign, with a camerman in tow. That night, he told followers of his podcast’s Facebook page that things had gotten “ugly.” Although he had escaped with “no punches, no black eyes,” he said, he was confidant that footage of himself arguing with the senator’s supporters about race, the economy and gender studies, would cause a stir. “I’m sure it’s going to go viral somewhere, I don’t mind going viral,” he said.

      That footage, of Brock trolling the Sanders supporters, did not go viral. It wracked up all of 45 views. Despite the fact that the footage began with his cameraman predicting, confidently, “someone’s gonna punch him in the face,” it contained no violence.

      [...]

      On the right, though, no one seems at all concerned by the fact that Brock appears to have played an active role in baiting his attackers until they assaulted him.

      That’s particularly strange, because, just a few months ago, the default explanation for all violent assaults on protesters at Donald Trump rallies was the conspiracy theory that supporters of Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton had been dispatched to those events specifically to incite attacks and drive news coverage. Now that the exact opposite scenario has taken place, Breitbart and Fox News seem uninterested in asking what, exactly, those images of Eddy Brock’s beaming, bloody face tell us about this point in American political history.

    • Trump and Staff Rethink Tactics After Stumbles

      During his first two dizzying weeks in office, Mr. Trump, an outsider president working with a surprisingly small crew of no more than a half-dozen empowered aides with virtually no familiarity with the workings of the White House or federal government, sent shock waves at home and overseas with a succession of executive orders designed to fulfill campaign promises and taunt foreign leaders.

    • Mr. Trump’s Random Insult Diplomacy

      These ought to have been the honeymoon days of Trump-era diplomacy. With no major foreign policy crisis to troubleshoot and world leaders anxious to decipher what, exactly, America First would look like on the global stage, President Trump had an opportunity to reassure allies and start laying the foundation for joint approaches to international challenges.

      Then the president began picking up the “beautiful” Oval Office phone. In the span of a couple of weeks, Mr. Trump has rattled the world by needlessly insulting allies and continuing to peddle the dumbfounding narrative that the United States has long been exploited by allies and foes alike.

      His administration has not departed radically from some core positions it inherited from the Obama administration. Last week, for instance, it admonished Russia over its destabilizing role in eastern Ukraine and signaled unease about Israeli settlements. Yet Mr. Trump’s pugnacious approach to foreign relations and his first executive orders — the most misguided of which was the sweeping travel ban targeting people from seven predominantly Muslim nations — have already undermined America’s standing. The fallout has included large demonstrations in Europe, searing news coverage (the latest cover of the German newsweekly Der Spiegel features an illustration of Mr. Trump holding the severed head of the Statue of Liberty) and strong rebukes from United Nations officials.

    • Two-thirds of Britons believe Trump is ‘threat to international stability’

      Almost two-thirds of the British public believe Donald Trump is a threat to international stability and a clear majority believe he will be a bad president, according to an Opinium/Observer poll conducted during his tumultuous second week in office.

    • Trump’s Populist Deceit

      While misogyny, racism, and ethnic taunts were conspicuous signposts on Donald Trump’s path to the White House, much of that road was paved with “populist”, “anti-establishment” and “anti-globalization” rhetoric. Trump’s inaugural address featured numerous populist lines (e.g. “What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people”), attacks on the status quo (“The establishment protected itself, not the citizens of our country”), and barbs aimed at globalization (“One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind.”)

    • Don’t Call Trump “Crazy”: The Dangers of Pathologizing Bad Politics

      The word “crazy” is deployed in many contexts in our society, often in a manner that implies abhorrent behavior must be linked to mental illness. Throughout Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and the early weeks of his presidency, it has proven nearly impossible to traverse social media — or press coverage of the president — without encountering language that describes Trump as “insane,” a “lunatic” or clinically narcissistic. Some have even argued that it’s “okay” to assess a public figure’s mental health from a distance, despite longstanding psychiatric standards that prohibit such speculative diagnoses. The ethics that prohibit such diagnoses have, however, had little effect on public narratives that depict Trump as being “insane.”

    • You Are the Conscience of This Nation

      The back of my eyelids should come with those parental warnings you get at the movies. Oh, the things I see. A teenage girl, staring at the locked door of a shuttered Planned Parenthood clinic, unable to get the free screening that would catch her early-onset cervical cancer as a man in shadow hoards the sidewalk holding his Bible triumphant screeching, “Praise God!” I see an ocean, slick with oil and choked with plastic beneath a smokestack sky as it creeps up the beach, through the seawall, across the road, down the block, over the hill, inexorable and voracious in its ponderous wrath. I see the eyes of war orphans like dull lamps staring hopelessly through barbed wire at signs reading “No Entry.” I wake to their screaming. An hour has passed. I go back to work.

    • How Jeff Sessions Helped Kill Equitable School Funding in Alabama

      In the early 1990s, children across Alabama’s large rural stretches still attended faltering public schools, some with exposed wiring and rainwater leaking into classrooms. The education was in disrepair, too. Teachers couldn’t assign homework for lack of textbooks. A steel mill announced it would no longer hire local high school graduates because most tested below the eighth grade level. In short, Alabama’s most economically disadvantaged students, primarily black children and those with disabilities, were missing out on a basic education.

      Then, for a moment, change seemed possible. A civil-rights lawsuit challenging the system for funding Alabama’s schools succeeded, and the state’s courts in 1993 declared the conditions in the poor schools a violation of Alabama’s Constitution. Gov. Guy Hunt, who had battled the litigation, accepted defeat, and vowed to work with the courts to negotiate a solution for equitably funding all of Alabama’s schools.

      “This is a unique and timely opportunity to make historic improvements in Alabama’s public schools for our children,” Hunt said at a news conference in 1993, “and we will not miss this opportunity.”

    • Hundreds march through downtown Cleveland in opposition to Trump’s travel ban

      Hundreds of marchers took to Cleveland streets Friday to protest President Donald Trump’s travel ban affecting people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

      The protest began at 4 p.m. in Ohio City’s Market Square and made its way across the Detroit-Superior Bridge. Marchers stopped at the Carl B. Stokes U.S. Courthouse before reaching their final destination of Cleveland City Hall, where organizers spoke out against Trump’s immigration order and called for Cleveland to become a sanctuary city.

      Trump’s executive order last week has spawned protests and legal challenges across the country. Late Friday, a federal judge in Seattle temporarily blocked the ban, the Associated Press reported.

    • The Deep Denialism of Donald Trump

      Donald Trump is hardly the first President to lie to the American people. Nor is he the first to place ideology before data. But this White House, unlike any other, has already crossed the threshold into a space where facts appear to mean nothing.

      Eventually, the President’s daily policy outrages, his caustic insults, and his childish Twitter rants will fade into history. But it will take years to gauge the impact of having a habitual liar as President. When words like “science” and “progress” become unmoored from their meaning, the effects are incalculable. And let’s not kid ourselves: those words today are under assault with a ferocity we have not seen for hundreds of years.

    • Why Nobody Cares the President Is Lying

      If President Trump’s first tumultuous weeks have done nothing else, at least they have again made us a nation of readers.

      As Americans grapple with the unreality of the new administration, George Orwell’s “1984” has enjoyed a resurgence of interest, becoming a surprise best seller and an invaluable guide to our post-factual world.

      On his first full day in office Mr. Trump insisted that his inaugural crowd was the largest ever, a baseless boast that will likely set a pattern for his relationship both to the media and to the truth.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Recent Law School Grad Sues Twitter Because Someone Made A Parody Twitter Account

      Another day, another wacky legal complaint. This one, first spotted by Eric Goldman was filed by a recent law school grad, Tiffany Dehen. She’s fairly upset that someone set up a parody Twitter account pretending to be her that portrayed her in an unflattering light. So she has sued. For $100 million. And she’s not just suing the “John Doe” behind the account… but also Twitter. Oh, and also the University of San Diego, because she’s pretty sure that someone there is responsible for this account (she just graduated from USD’s law school). Oh, and according to the exhibits that Dehen put in her own lawsuit, the account is labeled as a parody account.

    • Good News: Nevada’s Strong Anti-SLAPP Law Is Constitutional

      For many, many years we’ve talked about the importance of strong anti-SLAPP laws. In case you’re new to the subject, SLAPP stands for a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. In short, SLAPP suits are lawsuits where it is fairly obvious that the intent of the lawsuits is to stifle free speech, rather than for a legitimate purpose under the law. The intention of anti-SLAPP laws are to allow for such lawsuits to be tossed out of court quickly — and, frequently, to force those who bring those suits to pay legal fees. While actually getting a federal anti-SLAPP law is really important, for now, we’re left with a patchwork of state laws. While many (though not all) states have anti-SLAPP laws, they vary widely in terms of what they cover and just how strong or effective they are.

      As we’ve pointed out in the past, a few years ago, Nevada passed a really great anti-SLAPP law, though it’s been under attack the past few years. Thankfully, Marc Randazza informs us that Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law has been found to be Constitutional, meaning that it will survive largely intact (a few changes had been made a few years ago to bolster the law’s likelihood of surviving).

    • Censorship or parental control? Va. lawmakers divided on bill

      Virginia’s House of Delegates could take a final vote Monday on a bill that would require schools to notify parents of any potentially sexually explicit classroom material and require that schools offer an alternative for the students of any parents who opt out.

      Opponents of the bill said it amounts to censorship in schools. Supporters said it is simply a requirement to keep parents informed and in control.

    • IMPLOSION: ‘Clock Boy’ Lawsuit Against Shapiro Dismissed, Shapiro Awarded Attorneys’ Fees

      On Thursday, the 162nd District Court of Texas ruled decisively against Mohammed Mohammed, father of Ahmed “Clock Boy” Mohammed, dismissing Mohammed’s complaint against Daily Wire editor-in-chief Ben Shapiro and awarding Shapiro his attorneys’ fees as well.

      “This is an excellent day for free speech,” Shapiro said. “Using law as warfare is perhaps the most disgusting tactic of politically correct activists across the country, and we couldn’t be more excited to stand up against such frivolous use of our court system. My initial comments suggested that false charges of Islamophobia only muddy the waters when it comes to policing actual dangerous activity, and I’m proud to fight back against such charges.”

      Shapiro was represented by Kurt Schlichter, Esq., of Schlichter & Shonack, LLP, in Los Angles, and Chris K. Gober, Esq., and Ross Fischer, Esq., of The Gober Group, PLLC, of Austin, Texas.

    • Fake ‘Hate Crime’ Report at Beloit College Leads to Arrest

      Twenty-year-old Michael Kee was arrested and charged with Obstructing, Disorderly Conduct, and Criminal Damage, for allegedly spray painting an anti-Muslim threat and symbol on his door and a wall near his dorm. Police say he then reported it as a threat against his religion and ethnicity.

      Police say his motive was a reaction to anti-Semitic message reportedly slid under the door of a Jewish student on campus, saying Kee had “observed how the Beloit College community had come together after the first reported incident and wanted similar attention.”

    • Social media led to ‘strange’ practices: Saudi cleric

      Social media have led to “strange practices” such as the use of “fingertips instead of minds” to think, a Saudi religious leader said today in the Islamic kingdom where online platforms are used widely.

      “The nature of social media has given rise to strange practices contradicting morals, customs and norms,” Sheikh Saud al-Shiraim said during weekly prayers at Mecca’s Grand Mosque, the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

      “People are using their fingertips to think instead of their minds and tongues,” he said, adding that the ease of online communication has detracted from the “grandeur and importance” of the spoken word.

    • Texas’ Overbroad Cyberbullying Bill Could Silence Unpopular Speech

      Online harassment is a serious problem. But censorship is not the solution. Thus, EFF has long opposed anti-harassment rules that would chill and punish lawful online speech. And courts have long struck down such laws for violating the First Amendment.

      EFF now opposes a new Texas bill that would target online harassment of youths. Students most in need of protection—including those expressing unpopular opinions or documenting sexual assault—could find themselves facing disciplinary action or even expulsion. While we sympathize with the intention of the authors, trampling on fundamental free speech rights isn’t the solution to harassment.

      This bill has many flaws, but we emphasize four in our letter to the Texas legislature.

    • The Social Media Hive Mind

      You might have clicked on my misleading tweet to get to this page. I had to disguise the content so Twitter wouldn’t throttle it.

      Here’s why…

      This morning I tweeted a link to a great video that describes in detail how Twitter “throttles” the tweets of any content that disagrees with their political views. The video describes how Twitter gives a fake message that some tweets are no longer available, to discourage you from clicking to them. The tweets still exist, and you can access them by directly clicking the links in the tweets, but most people would not think to do that.

      If you don’t think that’s a real thing, here’s my tweet about the video. They did it to me. And this is common for my tweets about Trump or climate science. They throttle me to prevent them from going viral. And it only happens with certain types of content.

    • RadiTo podcast app sidesteps Iran’s censorship
    • Of Arab Spring, censorship and hope

      The euphoric high of the Arab Spring had propelled most ordinary Egyptians to dream high. Their collective spirits had soared with the revolution, before that fatal twist in the tale. As filmmaker, scriptwriter and social commentator, Hala Khalil had lived those highs, dug deep into the abyss of despair.

    • Amos Yee’s ‘humanitarian release’ from detention denied: Law firm
    • Amos Yee to be detained until March 7 hearing for asylum bid
    • Lawyer: Singapore teen seeking asylum detained until hearing
  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Google, unlike Microsoft, must turn over foreign emails: U.S. judge

      A U.S. judge has ordered Google to comply with search warrants seeking customer emails stored outside the United States, diverging from a federal appeals court that reached the opposite conclusion in a similar case involving Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O).

      U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Rueter in Philadelphia ruled on Friday that transferring emails from a foreign server so FBI agents could review them locally as part of a domestic fraud probe did not qualify as a seizure.

    • Google told to hand over foreign emails in FBI search warrant ruling

      The ruling is notable because it goes against an appeals court judgement last year — recently upheld — pertaining to Microsoft customer data held in servers outside the US. In that instance a federal court ruled the company did not have to hand over data stored on its servers in Ireland to the US government, declining to “disregard the presumption against extraterritoriality,” as the judge put it.

      However in the Google case, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Rueter ruled on Friday that the act of transferring emails from a foreign server did not qualify as a seizure. According to Reuters, the judge ruled there is no “meaningful interference” with the account holder’s “possessory interest”, going on to assert that any privacy infringement occurs “at the time of disclosure in the United States”, rather than when the data itself is transferred.

    • Building, And Losing, A Career On Facebook

      It’s tempting to think of Facebook as pure entertainment — the dumb game you play when your boss looks away, or your date goes to the bathroom. But that’s underestimating how powerful the Facebook empire has become. For some, the app is more important than a driver’s license. People need it to contact colleagues, or even start and build businesses.

      It’s hard to know how many people rely on Facebook for work, but NPR interviewed dozens who do. Their stories reveal an unsettling fact: This Silicon Valley giant — one that has woven its way into the lives of more than a billion people — can be a black box, silent about how it makes decisions.

    • The FBI Is Building A National Watchlist That Gives Companies Real Time Updates on Employees

      The FBI’s Rap Back program is quietly transforming the way employers conduct background checks. While routine background checks provide employers with a one-time “snapshot” of their employee’s past criminal history, employers enrolled in federal and state Rap Back programs receive ongoing, real-time notifications and updates about their employees’ run-ins with law enforcement, including arrests at protests and charges that do not end up in convictions. (“Rap” is an acronym for Record of Arrest and Prosecution; ”Back” is short for background). Testifying before Congress about the program in 2015, FBI Director James Comey explained some limits of regular background checks: “People are clean when they first go in, then they get in trouble five years down the road [and] never tell the daycare about this.”

      A majority of states already have their own databases that they use for background checks and have accessed in-state Rap Back programs since at least 2007; states and agencies now partnering with the federal government will be entering their data into the FBI’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) database. The NGI database, widely considered to be the world’s largest biometric database, allows federal and state agencies to search more than 70 million civil fingerprints submitted for background checks alongside over 50 million prints submitted for criminal purposes. In July 2015, Utah became the first state to join the federal Rap Back program. Last April, aviation workers at Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport and Boston Logan International Airport began participating in a federal Rap Back pilot program for aviation employees. Two weeks ago, Texas submitted its first request to the federal criminal Rap Back system.

    • Can Foreign Governments Launch Malware Attacks on Americans Without Consequences?

      Can foreign governments spy on Americans in America with impunity? That was the question in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Thursday, when EFF, human rights lawyer Scott Gilmore, and the law firms of Jones Day and Robins Kaplan went to court in Kidane v. Ethiopia.

      Jones Day partner Richard Martinez argued before a three-judge panel that an American should be allowed to continue his suit against the Ethiopian government for infecting his computer with custom spyware and monitoring his communications for weeks on end. The judges questioned both sides for just over a half hour. Despite the numerous issues on appeal, the argument focused on whether U.S. courts have jurisdiction to hear a case brought by an American citizen for wiretapping and invasion of his privacy that occurred in his living room in suburban Maryland. The question is relevant because, under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, foreign governments are only liable for torts they commit within the United States.

    • Victories in Encrypting the Web: News and Government Sites Switch to HTTPS

      The last year has seen enormous progress in encrypting the web. Two categories in particular have made extraordinary strides: news sites and US government sites. The progress in those fields is due to months of hard work from many technologists; it can also be attributed in part to advocacy and sound policy.

      Freedom of the Press Foundation has been leading the call for news organizations to implement HTTPS. In December 2016, it launched Secure the News, which tracks HTTPS deployment across the industry, grading sites on the thoroughness of their implementation.

    • Invasive Digital Border Searches: Tell EFF Your Story

      Following President Trump’s confusing executive order on terrorism and immigration, reports surfaced over the weekend that border agents at airports were searching the cell phones of passengers arriving from the Middle East, including U.S. permanent residents (green card holders). We’re concerned that this indicates an expansion of the already invasive digital practices of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which is why we’re asking for your digital border search stories.

    • Hacked police forum accounts for sale on the dark web

      A data broker is selling hundreds of thousands of accounts used by police and federal agents from a hacked law enforcement forum.

      The database is said to have been stolen in 2015, and contains 715,000 records on members who have registered with PoliceOne.com, a news site and community for police officers and law enforcement professionals.

      According to a posting on a dark web marketplace, the stolen data includes usernames, passwords stored in MD5 (an algorithm that nowadays is easy to crack), email addresses, dates of birth, and other forum data, such as if a member is a verified law enforcement officer.

    • $400: The Price of Over 700,000 Police Accounts on the Dark Web

      A hacker is selling hundreds of thousands of accounts that were allegedly used by police and federal agents on a hacked law enforcement forum. The database being sold in the dark web contains over 715,000 user accounts. The breached site, PoliceOne, is a news site and community reportedly used by verified police officers and investigators to discuss specialist topics.

    • WATCH: The real “beautiful mind” belongs to Bill Binney, NSA whistleblower and metadata czar

      When Bill Binney, former NSA analyst and head of the anti-terror ThinThread metadata program sits in front of you and says he is not afraid of the government, you have to admire him. A wheel-chair-bound U.S. serviceman who rose in the ranks of intelligence to work in top-secret NSA programs, Binney created ThinThread prior to September 11, 2001, and says it mathematically broke down all phone communications anywhere in the world without any infringement on Constitutional rights. Identities were protected, except in suspected terrorism cases, and the program was self-running. More important, it worked.

    • NSA’s No. 2, its top civilian, will retire shortly

      Richard Ledgett, deputy director of the National Security Agency, has announced he will retire this spring, the agency confirmed to CyberScoop Friday.

      Ledgett, 59, has been deputy director — the agency’s top civilian — since January 2014, when he succeeded Chris Inglis. Prior to that, according to his official biography, “He led the NSA Media Leaks Task Force … responsible for integrating and overseeing the totality of NSA’s efforts surrounding” the Ed Snowden megaleaks.

    • NSA deputy director resigning this spring

      The No. 2 official at the NSA will soon leave his post, the agency confirmed today.

      NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett has announced his plans to retire in the spring, an NSA spokesman told POLITICO.

    • U.S. National Security Agency’s deputy director is retiring

      The deputy director of the U.S. National Security Agency, the intelligence agency in charge of electronic surveillance and code-breaking, is retiring, an NSA spokesman said on Friday.

      Richard Ledgett will retire in the spring, spokesman Michael Halbig said in an emailed statement. “It has been anticipated that he would retire in 2017 and he decided the time is right this spring after nearly 40 years of service to the nation.”

    • GCHQ recruits teenagers for summer camps for new generation of spies to fight off Russian cyber-attacks

      Security services are recruiting teenagers for summer camps as they attempt to rear a new generation of agents with digital skills that can ward off Russian cyber-attacks.

    • Skills shortage leaving Britain at mercy of cyber-attacks – former senior GCHQ spook

      Britain is ‘highly vulnerable’ to a powerful cyber-attack due to a shortage in skilled staff and the “chaotic” handling of personal data, a former GCHQ deputy director warns.

      The caution came after the influential Public Accounts Committee (PAC) announced it had lost confidence in the government’s ability to protect Britain from cyber-attacks.

    • How Will Steve Bannon Interact With The NSA? His New Role Is Unprecedented

      On Sunday, President Donald Trump took an unprecedented step with one of his many executive orders: He made his chief White House strategist, Steve Bannon, a member of the National Security Council. Since its creation by President Harry S. Truman in 1947, there has never been a political adviser gathered around the table with the president and some of the highest members of the Cabinet. More concerning still is that President Trump removed two seats from the table in that same executive order — the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the director of national intelligence. Given that the national intelligence director was just kicked out of the Situation Room, how will Steve Bannon interact with the NSA?

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Homeland Security suspends travel ban

      President Donald Trump’s government moved swiftly Saturday to comply with a federal judge’s order halting his travel ban — even as Trump himself denounced the judge — but readied its legal defense of the controversial executive action.

      The Department of Homeland Security announced it has suspended all actions to implement the immigration order and will resume standard inspections of travelers as it did prior to the signing of the travel ban. But it said the Justice Department — which is expected to file an emergency motion to stop the order — needed to challenge the ruling “at the earliest possible time.”

    • Borders Reopen to Banned Visa Holders; Trump Attacks Judge

      A day after a federal judge temporarily blocked President Trump’s immigration order, the nation’s borders were open on Saturday to visa holders from seven predominantly Muslim countries. But there was confusion at airports around the world as the White House vowed to quickly seek an emergency stay of the ruling.

      On another day of chaotic developments over the week-old order, the State Department reversed its cancellation of visas for people from the affected countries and restarted efforts to settle refugees, small numbers of travelers began venturing to airports to try to fly to the United States, and Mr. Trump mounted a harsh personal attack on the judge.

    • White House Pulls Back From Bid to Reopen C.I.A. ‘Black Site’ Prisons

      The Trump White House appears to have backed off for now on its consideration of reopening overseas “black site” prisons, where the C.I.A. once tortured terrorism suspects, after a leaked draft executive order prompted bipartisan pushback from Congress and cabinet officials.

      On Thursday, the White House circulated among National Security Council staff members a revised version of the draft order on detainees that deleted language contemplating a revival of the C.I.A. prisons, according to several officials familiar with its contents.

      The draft order retains other parts of the original that focus on making greater use of the military’s Guantánamo Bay prison, which the Obama administration had tried to close. Those sections, reflecting repeated vows from President Trump, include a call to bring newly captured terrorism detainees there and to freeze plans for any more transfers.

    • Imam married 34-year-old to ‘fragile’ child bride who was just 14, court told

      A girl who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a 34-year-old man she was forced to marry was just 14 at the time, a Melbourne court has heard.

      Mohammad Shakir, 34, is accused of having sex with the girl between September 30 and October 1, 2016, following their wedding, which was conducted by former imam Ibrahim Omerdic.

    • REVEALED: Number of people looking for Sharia-complaint banking SOARS in UK

      The Sharia-compliant bank has recorded a 449 per cent rise in Islamic savings since 2012 and this week reported a soaring number of applications for its home purchase and buy-to-let purchase plans in 2016.

      Al Yayan bank said extraordinary figures reflect general growth in consumer demand for Islamic banking in Britain.

      The surge in applications for the two plans received a record number of eligible enquiries last year, marking a 99 per cent increase over the past five years.

    • Racial Disparities In Student Arrests Is An Epidemic Affecting Children Nationwide

      Black students make up 15.5 percent of school enrollment nationwide but a staggering 33.4 percent of students arrested. This alarming finding comes from Education Week’s analysis of the latest federal Civil Rights Data Collection from the 2013-2014 school year.

      This is a problem for all parts of our country. As Education Week reports, racial disparities are found in 43 of our 50 states and in the District of Columbia. In most of these states, the share of Black students arrested is at least 10 percentage points higher than their share of enrollment in schools with at least one arrest.

    • Trump Schooled on Separation of Powers

      President Trump is getting a crash course on the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers as federal courts knock down his temporary immigration ban aimed at seven mostly Muslim countries, reports Marjorie Cohn.

    • Return of the Torturers: Back to the Crime Scenes of the Past

      The Trump administration has signaled that it is willing to return to the heinous crimes of the past two decades, including torture and abuse, secret prisons, and extraordinary renditions. The appointment of Gina Haspel as the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency clearly indicates that the use of torture, including the use of waterboarding, which has been endorsed by the President, the national security advisor, and the CIA director, could once again be a major part of the U.S. campaign against international terrorism.

      Haspel was a central figure in the CIA’s criminal behavior during the Bush administration. She ran the CIA’s first secret prison in Thailand, where the brutal interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri took place. No intelligence was gleaned from the use of torture in these interrogations. When the head of the Counterterrorism Center, Jose Rodriguez, ordered the destruction of the videotapes of the torture, it was Haspel who drafted the cable that ordered the destruction. This was clearly evidence of obstruction of justice in view of the investigation of torture and abuse that had already begun.

    • The Irony of Trump’s Immigration Ban

      Although the vast majority of Americans are descended from immigrants, the country goes on periodic rages against immigration for certain groups, now including President Trump’s partial ban on Muslims, reports Lawrence Davidson.

    • Appeals court denies immediate reinstatement of Trump travel ban

      The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied a motion to immediately reinstate President Donald Trump’s travel ban early Sunday.

      Officials with the U.S. Department of Justice asked the court late Saturday to remove a federal judge’s temporary block of Trump’s executive order that halts travel from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

      Because the court denied the Justice Department’s request, the executive order will remain suspended.

    • Working Overtime In Washington State

      At least one court is not willing to put the world on Trump’s yo-yo. The United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit is taking its job seriously unlike Trump who dashes off an executive order without proper consideration of effects and constitutionality. A suspension of his travel-ban until the proper review is done is the right thing to do. Thanks to the lawyers and courts for working overtime to do the right thing.

    • Ottawa’s anti-radicalization centre to look at all forms of hate including alt-right: Goodale

      Ottawa’s planned national counter-radicalization centre will help root out lone wolf and copycat attackers – no matter what kind of messaging inspires them, said Canada’s public safety minister, a week after one man was charged for shooting and killing six Muslim men at a mosque in Quebec City.

    • New CIA director pledges crackdown on whistleblowers

      Mike Pompeo, the newly-confirmed director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency, has pledged to “aggressively seek to ensure we have the most effective programs for identifying insider threats” in a chilling statement of intent to US senators.

      Pompeo’s statement is a sign that the new director intends to pursue the same anti-leaks policies that discourage whistleblowing as were enforced by the previous administration under President Obama.

      Pirate Party Whistleblowing Spokesperson Rebecca Sentance said:

      “The special relationship we have with the United States has continually been put under strain with the Obama administration killing privacy, and it appears that those now being appointed under President Trump are looking to build on and expand this bad legacy.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Trump’s FCC just dropped all investigations into zero-rating practices

      There’s a new FCC in town and it isn’t wasting any time. Mobile carriers can rest easy today knowing that the Federal Communications Commission is no longer pursuing an investigation into mobile plans that don’t count services like streaming video or music against a user’s data consumption. The practice is more commonly known as zero-rating.

      Providers putting forth these plans, which let them deem particular data streams exempt from a consumer’s data bucket, have found themselves in hot water among proponents of net neutrality. Now, that’s all about to change.

      Today in a press release, the FCC declared that it would drop the issue altogether. In strong language, the statement said that the FCC will “recommit to permissionless innovation,” letting companies act “without fear of Commission intervention based on newly invented legal theories.”

  • DRM

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Trademarks

      • HowStuffWorks Attempts To Explain Why Advertisers Use Super Bowl Euphemisms, But I Have A Simpler Explanation

        It’s common knowledge at this point why advertisers start to go wonky after the new year. We’ve long talked about how all kinds of groups and companies suddenly begin playing the euphemism game when it comes to the Super Bowl, America’s annual celebration of brain trauma. Everyone, from comedians to beer makers to tech companies, goes to great lengths to wink at everyone as they all refer to the Super Bowl by any name other than its own. Why? Well, because the NFL has a trademark on the term, which allows it to restrict the user of the phrase only to its sponsorship partners… except that that’s not remotely true and isn’t how trademark law works at all. Instead, the only real prohibition is on the implication that a company is an official sponsor of the NFL when it isn’t. Beyond that, simply calling the game what it’s called isn’t trademark infringement.

        But this is confusing enough that this year the website HowStuffWorks has done an entire piece to explain to an almost certainly confused public why companies are pretending that nobody knows what they’re talking about when they say “the big game” instead of “the Super Bowl.” It’s a post that deserves a rebuttal, which I will helpfully provide.

    • Copyrights

      • Former Prime Minister Admits to Being a Movie Pirate

        These days it’s pretty unlikely for anyone in authority to admit bending the law, not in public at least. However, when you’re a lawyer, former Croatian prime minister, and former NATO counselor – and you’re being pranked on TV by someone claiming to be a Microsoft big-shot – the situation is apparently more fluid.

      • Federal Court Basically Says It’s Okay To Copyright Parts Of Our Laws

        For many years, we’ve written about Carl Malamud and his non-profit organization Public.Resource.org, which goes to great lengths to make sure that the law and other government documents are widely available to the public. While he’s gotten lots of attention for battling states over their claims to hold a copyright in the law, perhaps his biggest fight has been over the question of whether or not private standards that are “incorporated by reference” into the law, are still covered by copyright. And, unfortunately, the federal district court in Washington DC has just ruled against him, and effectively said it’s okay to lock up some important elements of the law with copyright. This is bad news.

        Some background: as you probably know, there are tons of standards bodies out there who create various standards. Most techies are quite familiar with various technology standards, developed by various groups. But standards obviously go way beyond just the tech industry. Think: building codes for plumbers and electricians. These are often developed by independent, private bodies. Of course, you may also realize that some of these standards are in the law as well. These are generally known as “incorporated by reference.” That’s just a fancy way of saying that a private group created a standard and then lawmakers put into the law “this thing we’re regulating needs to meet those standards.” So, for example, fire codes may be developed by a private body, but then governments say that any building has to meet those standards. Voila: those standards are “incorporated (into the law) by reference.”

      • How Is ‘Non-Literally Copying’ Code Still Copyright Infringement?

        Back in 2014, when ZeniMax first claimed that Oculus and its CTO John Carmack had copied the company’s VR technology, we pointed out the obvious: since ZeniMax hadn’t made a peep until the announcement that Facebook was buying Oculus for a cool $2-billion, it was a pretty blatant cash-grab. Now ZeniMax has scored a partial win in its lawsuit against Oculus and its executives, with the jury rejecting claims of trade secret misappropriation but awarding $500 million for copyright and trademark infringement and violation of non-disclosure agreements.

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