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02.08.17

US Chamber of Commerce Attacks India in an Effort to Alter Its Patent Policy for American Multinational Corporations

Posted in America, Asia, Patents at 7:53 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The US Chamber of Commerce still believes that insulting countries will help

The US Chamber of Commerce International IP Index

Summary: Another reminder to Indians that the front group of the largest and often most abusive corporations is very, very angry at India for denying these corporations the ‘privilege’ to sue Indian companies (at least in Indian courts)

The “US Chamber International IP Index,” as IP Watch called it today, is still up to no good. We have been writing about this for many years. The government of the United States keeps bullying and shaming poor countries including India into legislating copyright and patent maximalism, i.e. industrial surrender. Cablegate has plenty of examples of that.

“It’s all just spin, as it’s designed to mislead and to shame.”Today, India’s biggest press, including the Times of India in this case, helped the US lobby by relaying what is very obviously self-serving propaganda from the patent industry. It attempts to shame India into granting software patents that it does not currently permit (among other things). To quote from the corporate English-speaking media: “The 5th Annual International IP Index reveals that India continues to lag behind the rest of the world in IP protections, coming in 43rd place out of 45 countries.”

Is this supposed to be a measure of shame? Why say “lags”? Maybe it’s ahead when it comes to liberalisation of ideas, free thought, independent development etc.

It’s all just spin, as it’s designed to mislead and to shame. “If Indian policymakers wish to deliver the kinds of results,” said the above, “the Modi administration once hoped for, they can act to address issues that impact Indian innovation, such as software patentability, life sciences patents, copyright protection…”

See? Software patents. India’s government and Indian citizens should stick the middle finger in the face of the US Chamber, which just hopes to entice them into colonisation and enslavement (by lawyers). What makes India so fantastic for software development/developers (I have been reading a lot about India’s software industry this week) is competitive costs and distance from patent trolls. If software patents were brought into India, prices would skyrocket and trolls destroys entire companies, or compel them to remove features from software products.

The News the EPO is Distracting From: No Justice for EPO Workers at ILO (Necessitating Immediate Removal of Immunity)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

President without brakes

Summary: ILOAT (of the International Labour Organisation) once again fails EPO staff, having neglected to even issue a judgment on cases that got appealed (referral to external body)

THE EPO is everything which is wrong about bodies that enjoy immunity; it’s being exploited to the max, in fact to the point where many people take their own lives.

One reader looked at the latest (today’s or this week’s) ILO decisions, which usually turn out to be useless to EPO staff. It’s all “”dismiss” “dismiss” “dismiss”,” the reader told us. “I looked (VERY quickly) through all 97 judgments, almost all of the EPO cases were dismissed for irreceivability (time barred or not individually applicable), only a couple of decisions were set aside, and they were very old, dating from pre-Elodie Bergot times. What we can learn is that it is completely against any basis of fair justice to rely on the ILOAT when it either takes so many years or can’t be used to challenge general decisions (despite what the Supreme Court in The Netherlands says).”

So will the Dutch reassess their recent decision? Their decision was contingent or heavily dependent on the illusion that external resorts to justice exist.

In the mean time, the out-of-control “Battistelli [...] is deliberately trying to turn the EPO into a mere registration system (like France’s),” said this new comment; in other words, any dimension of justice at the EPO would be eliminated and all they would require is a bunch of clerks who can file papers on a shelf. The following comment linked this to Battistelli’s dangerous UPC ambitions. To quote:

I am surprised that you think that association with the EU would be a solution. To my mind it is the problem. I do not believe that the formalization of EU-EPO links with the UPC and Battistelli’s arrival and actions are a coincidence. I do not think Battistelli is irrational as some have suggested. He is deliberately trying to turn the EPO into a mere registration system (like France’s), the better to favor big corporations (remember his instruction to examiners to treat such applicants preferentially). If he succeeds then a Europe-wide patent system vastly skewed in favor of big business and against small and medium-sized applicants is a huge prize.

Oversight by the European Parliament? Don’t make me laugh. There have been many objections raised against Battistelli in that toothless talking-shop, with no result. If the EU were to act as a bloc they could put a stop to his gallop immediately. But that won’t happen. Also, France could withdraw him at any moment. The fact that they don’t means that have something to gain by his continuation. Maybe they think the UPC court is a plum, or his political chums are being “encouraged” by those who would benefit from a Europe-wide registration system. I dunno. But considering the EU as a remedy for injustice is just plain daft. As someone has mentioned, one need only remember its accounts scandal.

One reply to it, citing a part that says Battistelli “has tried to push through more patents at a faster rate and at lower cost,” a reader wrote: “Saw this before at the USPTO during the Reagan years that caused a lot of rubbish to issue.”

Yes, on many occasions before we wrote that Battistelli was emulating the worst aspects of the USPTO (before it began repairing itself). Further down in the comments one person wrote:

I don’t know enough about their inner working or accountability but can imagine, ‘nice patent application ya got there gov, shame if something were to happen to it’.

I’m currently writing a patent so I’ve followed this story with interest. I wonder if so much of our governments are corrupt how could my patent application be screwed around with.

Applicants should definitely be concerned that the EPO does not serve justice or even do a proper job anymore. Examiners are depressed and overworked, ‘thanks’ to Battistelli. His EPO is even attacking its own judges (a Battistelli policy) and one separate comment from today said something interesting about Battistelli’s attempt to collectively ‘punish’ these judges by sending them to exile:

How likely is a legal challenge to the ability of a board of appeal to sit in Haar?

I am sure an enterprising attorney will request a question be submitted to the enlarged board pointing out that under Art. 6 EPC it is required that the EPO be located in Munich (with a branch at the Hague) and under Art. 15, the boards of appeal shall be set up “within” the EPO. Since Haar is not in Munich but “Landkreis München”. If so, what is the betting that the members of the EBA, who presumably are not in favour of moving, would agree that under the EPC, they must be located in the city of Munich rather than be shunted out.

In summary:

  1. Staff of the EPO enjoys no access to justice
  2. Staff of the EPO is actively bullied by management
  3. EPO management enjoys immunity and impunity, taking advantage of (1) and (2) to instate an atmosphere of fear
  4. Judges of the EPO are constantly under attacks which cloud their judgment (see 3)
  5. Examiners at the EPO are unable to do their job properly

The EPO has become the very antithesis of what it was supposed to be and do. It’s a shame that the Dutch government is so obsessed with the perks it receives as a host nation that it’s unwilling to smell the coffee.

Laughable and Misleading: What the EPO Has Become Amid an Avalanche of Bad News

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 7:02 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The bad news keeps coming in faster than we’re above to cover these

Girl on a tricycle
Let’s talk about bicycles again?

Summary: By using “Russia” as a distraction (recycled old news) and refusing to even respond to a highly critical survey, in our humble assessment the EPO hopes that reporters won’t pay attention to what really happens at the Office

IN THE coming days we shall write a lot about the latest UPC lies. Yes, there’s still plenty of fake news and alternative facts out there. The UPC is for software patents and for patent trolls; it’s certainly not for SMEs.

Currently, thanks to the appeal boards, the EPO is still somewhat limited in its ability to grant software patents. As even Bastian Best, the loudest European proponent of software patents, has just put it, “[m]aking software quicker is not patentable [...] since the EPO Board of Appeal 3.5.06 had to decide whether the reduction of the execution time of a computer-implemented method is a technical effect and thus potentially patentable.”

We have enormous respect for the work of the Boards of Appeal and it hardly surprises anyone that Battistelli attacks them, not just their independence but also their staff. Battistelli has patent maximalism in mind and he wants them replaced by UPC courts, which rumours say he wishes to later preside over.

The EPO is meanwhile distracting from all the negative publicity (we wrote half a dozen articles about the EPO yesterday alone). Today it ended up reannouncing or recycling old news because it’s still rogue and failing and there is nothing new to tell the public. More patent maximalism and more litigation got promoted under the headline “EPO launches Patent Prosecution Highway pilot with Russian patent office” (warning: epo.org link). To quote:

“We’re pleased to be able to launch this programme with Rospatent,” said EPO President Benoît Battistelli. “The fast-track treatment will enable companies and inventors from Europe and Russia to obtain patents more quickly and efficiently, boosting business and innovation in both our regions.”

This is not news, it’s merely a distraction from real news (more on that later tonight).

“Such cynicism,” one person wrote last night in relation to Battistelli’s attacks on staff. “I can’t really blame you, but I won’t respond other than to say that I will certainly be doing what I can.”

To rescue the EPO from the tyrant, Battistelli, this person is eager to be “doing what I can” and we invite readers to send us information as we very much depend on information. Battistelli disseminates lies all the time and tries hard to prevent information from reaching reporters; fear and intimidation tactics are routinely used, with even innocent scapegoats to make an example of.

“You call it “cynicism”,” responded a person to the above, “I call it realism. But at least we now know thanks to Techrights that “the methods used by the EPO’s Investigative Unit compare favourably with Congo-standards.””

We wrote about that last night. The EPO is a horrifying place these days.

Immunity of the Intellectual Property Office of the European Union Causes Outrage in Spanish Media

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:36 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Antonio Campinos

Summary: Two stories about the EUIPO and Mr. Campinos, whose son wants to inherit the father’s immunity after reportedly “driving without a license, drunk and crashing the car”

LAST year we wrote about Antonio Campinos (above) as the likely successor of Battistelli (or a possible replacement for Battistelli amid calls for his firing/resignation).

We also took note of growing overlap between the EPO and EUIPO, which is led by Antonio Campinos. We wrote about half a dozen articles about it, including [1, 2]. Some believe that a merger is possible in the future, belatedly bringing the EPO under an EU wing (although the EPO covers more than the EU). These two already issue joined 'studies'.

A reader has told us about news that we missed, probably because it’s not in English. “The articles are in Spanish,” our reader explained. “Approximate translations of the headlines and summaries given below.”

1. ¿Debe responder en España de presuntos delitos el director de una institución europea con sede en Alicante?

(Should the director of a European institution based in Alicante be held responsible in Spain for alleged breaches of law?)

From the article: “A court in Alicante has to clarify whether the Director of the Intellectual Property Office of the European Union has immunity from a complaint for misdemeanor filed by a staff member of the organisation to which he refused final invalidity”.

2. Papá, ¿me prestas tu inmunidad?

(Papa, can you lend me your immunity)

From the article: “The son of the executive director of the EUIPO, claims this privilege after being charged for driving without a license, drunk and crashing the car

“The Regional Court of Alicante rejects the claim and emphasises that immunity is only applicable to activities which directly concern the operation of the organisation”

We already remarked about the situation at WIPO and the absurdity of immunity, so this is very much timely and relevant.

Links 8/2/2017: LinuxQuestions Members Choice Award Winners, OpenSUSE Site Cracked

Posted in News Roundup at 9:22 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • 2016 LinuxQuestions.org Members Choice Award Winners

    Desktop Distribution of the Year – Slackware (16.03%)
    Server Distribution of the Year – CentOS (23.86%)
    Mobile Distribution of the Year – Android (68.24%)
    Database of the Year – MariaDB (41.29%)
    Office Suite of the Year – LibreOffice (89.60%)
    Browser of the Year – Firefox (51.74%)
    Desktop Environment of the Year – Plasma Desktop – KDE (28.57%)
    Window Manager of the Year – Openbox (24.04%)
    Audio Media Player Application of the Year – VLC (33.60%)
    Video Media Player Application of the Year – VLC (64.36%)
    Network Security Application of the Year – Wireshark (26.09%)
    Host Security Application of the Year – SELinux (36.62%)

  • Desktop

    • How Linux Helped Me Become an Empowered Computer User

      If you were to ask any of my friends, they could readily attest to my profound passion for Linux. That said, it might surprise you to know that hardly two years ago, I barely knew what Linux was, let alone had any earnest interest in switching to it from Windows.

      Although a shift as dramatic as this seem astonishing when considered in hindsight, analyzing my path from one push or influence to the next paints a more telling picture. It is with this approach that I want to share my story of how I came to not only use, but indeed champion, the Linux desktop.

    • Which Linux Operating Systems We Use and Why

      We really want you to start using Linux. But as there are so many Linux operating systems to choose from, some of which we’ve featured here, it can be tricky to decide which one to get started with.

      Which is most productive? What about games? Should you choose a Linux distro that focuses on media production? What about programming? Or is there one that covers all bases?

      In the end, it comes down to personal preference, but if you’re looking for a recommendation, the MakeUseOf Linux contributors all run Linux either as their main OS or as a dual-boot alternative. While we already have a list of the top Linux distros, here you can see which Linux operating systems we’re actually using in 2017.

  • Server

    • Q&A: MapR’s Jack Norris on the Converged Data Platform for Docker

      Today, MapR, one of the leaders in the Big Data space has announced a new environment that is optimized for Docker and container-based architectures, which the company bills as “critical for today’s modern architectures that require application development agility, fast time-to-value, and scale.” The company claims it is “the industry’s first persistent storage for containers that offers complete state access to files, database tables, and message streams from any location.” The MapR Converged Data Platform for Docker includes the MapR Persistent Client Container (PACC) that lets stateful applications and microservices access data for application agility.

    • Report: Docker and the Linux container ecosystem

      Our library of 1700 research reports is available only to our subscribers. We occasionally release ones for our larger audience to benefit from. This is one such report. If you would like access to our entire library, please subscribe here. Subscribers will have access to our 2017 editorial calendar, archived reports and video coverage from our 2016 and 2017 events.

  • Kernel Space

    • Graphics Stack

      • TGSI On-Disk Shader Cache For Mesa: Caching Comes To R600g/RadeonSI

        Timothy Arceri of Collabora has sent out his latest patches to Mesa in regards to the ongoing work for shader caches. The 40 patches published over night do benefit RadeonSI and R600g.

        Up to now Arceri’s GLSL shader cache has been about having a cache of the compiled shaders on-disk for the hardware being targeted and that focus up until recently was just for the Intel i965 driver. The shader cache effort being worked on now is adding support for caching of TGSI (Gallium3D’s IR) for drivers with RadeonSI caching now on his radar. With the TGSI effort, basically allowing an on-disk cache of the intermediate representation that is then consumed by the Gallium3D hardware drivers for generating their hardware-specific code.

      • Intel Linux Graphics Stack Certified for OpenGL 4.5, OpenGL ES 3.2 & Vulkan 1.0

        Intel’s Imad Sousou proudly announced that the open-source Intel Graphics Stack for Linux is now fully certified for the latest Khronos 3D industry-defined 3D graphics APIs, which include OpenGL 4.5, OpenGL ES 3.2, and Vulkan 1.0.

      • The Debate Over GLVND In Fedora 25 Is Still Going On

        The roll-out of GLVND support in Mesa as a Fedora 25 update was arguably botched, but it’s an important feature and is still being discussed.

        For those that haven’t been reading Phoronix the past few years, GLVND is the OpenGL Vendor Neutral Dispatch Library and is a NVIDIA-backed effort but with support from the upstream Mesa community for basically forming a new “Linux OpenGL ABI,” as it’s been referred to as over the years. Working to address the situation of different drivers competing for the libGL.so.1, and when installing NVIDIA/AMDGPU-PRO drivers currently, they clash with the current OpenGL library. This new ‘Linux OpenGL ABI’ takes care of it in simple terms by postfixing the driver’s name to each supplied libGL so they can happily co-exist on the same file-system while the central (GLVND-supplied) libGL.so.1 effectively works as a dispatcher so applications/games end up using the right driver. It’s roughly along the lines of how OpenCL and Vulkan drivers are implemented, but sadly it’s taken many years to improve the situation for OpenGL drivers on Linux.

      • RADV Fast Clears Land In Mesa Git, Fresh Vulkan Linux Benchmarks Imminent

        As a quick update to yesterday’s article about RADV fast clears by default was being proposed, that change-over just happened in Mesa 17.1-devel Git.

      • Wayland 1.13 Beta Released

        Bryce Harrington at Samsung’s Open-Source Group has announced the release of the Wayland 1.13 beta.

      • Mesa 17 3D Graphics Library Could Land By the End of the Week, RC3 Is Out Now

        Collabora’s Emil Velikov announced the availability of the third RC (Release Candidate) development snapshot of the upcoming Mesa 17.0.0 3D Graphics Library for GNU/Linux distributions.

        The Mesa 17.0.0 RC3 milestone comes two weeks after the release of the second RC build, and it brings numerous improvements across all the supported graphics drivers included in the stack. According to the release notes, a total of 66 changes have been implemented in this third, and probably the last Release Candidate.

      • Apple Proposing A New, Lower-Level Graphics API For The Web
  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • KDE Plasma 5.9 Desktop Environment Gets First Point Release, over 60 Bugs Fixed

        A few moments ago, the KDE project announced the general availability of the first point release of the KDE Plasma 5.9 desktop environment for Linux-based operating systems.

        That’s right, we’re talking about KDE Plasma 5.9.1, the first bugfix release to the latest stable series of the acclaimed and modern desktop environment for GNU/Linux distributions. This maintenance update comes only one week after the launch of KDE Plasma 5.9, and it fixes a total of 62 issues discovered or reported by users since then.

      • KDE Plasma 5.9.1, Bugfix Release
      • KDE Plasma 5.9.1 Released With Fixes

        For those that wait until point releases before upgrading your KDE desktop stack, Plasma 5.9.1 is now available.

        KDE Plasma 5.9.0 was released last week with a variety of new features while coming out today is the first point release.

      • QtWebKit Updated With WebGL Support, MinGW On Windows

        Qt WebEngine remains the primary module on modern Qt5 tool-kit versions for having web capabilities provided by Chromium. The migration from Qt WebKit to WebEngine happened around four years ago but there still are some developers pursuing out-of-tree support for Qt WebKit.

        In 2016 we covered a few times the work being done to revive Qt WebKit while coming out this week is a fresh “technology preview” release of the Qt WebKit code for those interested in this alternative to the Chromium-based Qt WebEngine.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • Apt Update Indicator For GNOME Shell Keeps You Informed About Available Updates [Ubuntu GNOME / Debian]

        Apt Update Indicator is a GNOME Shell extension that keeps you informed about available updates in Ubuntu GNOME / Debian.

        Using it, you get a new icon on the GNOME Shell Top Bar which displays the number of package updates, while from its menu you can see exactly which updates are pending, apply the updates, and more.

      • On Epiphany Security Updates and Stable Branches

        One of the advantages of maintaining a web browser based on WebKit, like Epiphany, is that the vast majority of complexity is contained within WebKit. Epiphany itself doesn’t have any code for HTML parsing or rendering, multimedia playback, or JavaScript execution, or anything else that’s actually related to displaying web pages: all of the hard stuff is handled by WebKit. That means almost all of the security problems exist in WebKit’s code and not Epiphany’s code. While WebKit has been affected by over 200 CVEs in the past two years, and those issues do affect Epiphany, I believe nobody has reported a security issue in Epiphany’s code during that time. I’m sure a large part of that is simply because only the bad guys are looking, but the attack surface really is much, much smaller than that of WebKit. To my knowledge, the last time we fixed a security issue that affected a stable version of Epiphany was 2014.

      • This week in GTK+ – 33

        The past two weeks we’ve had DevConf and FOSDEM back to back, so the development slowed down a bit. Expect it to pick up again, now that we’re close to the GNOME 3.24 release.

        In these last two weeks, the master branch of GTK+ has seen 34 commits, with 20973 lines added and 21593 lines removed.

      • Maps at FOSDEM

        I went to FOSDEM again this year, my fourth year running. I go with a great group of friends and it is starting to become quite the tradition.

  • Distributions

    • Best Linux distros for 2017

      These are some of the best distributions out there, in my opinion. For better or for worse, the Linux world is full of distributions and there are passionate people who like ‘their’ distributions over others. Let us know which distribution you prefer for your own use case and why.

    • Reviews

      • MX-16 Xfce: very close to the ideal

        The MX Linux distribution is a relatively new name in the Linux world. However, its predecessors MEPIS and antiX were both popular some time ago. I even reviewed SimplyMEPIS 11.0 KDE back in 2012.

        I am not very sure what MX means. Is it a reference to Mexico? Or to Moto-cross? Of just a hybrid of Mepis and antiX? You can comment your ideas below.

        Debian Stable is the backbone of this distribution. It is Debian 8 Jessie version that was used as a base for the latest MX release.

      • Solus 2017.01.01.0: Impressive newcomer

        Solus is an independent Linux distribution where the rising Budgie desktop was born. Despite the fact it is relatively a new Linux distribution, Solus brings many stunning features. The most interesting feature is, of course, the superstar Budgie desktop that has catalyzed another important project called Ubuntu Budgie. The newest version of Solus, Solus 2017.01.01.0, was released on January 2017 and offers us plenty of new and interesting things to look around.

    • New Releases

    • Gentoo Family

    • Arch Family

      • Arch Linux: A simpler kind of Linux?

        Arch Linux certainly has its share of fans, with some being quite passionate about their favorite distribution. Recently a writer at Linux.com wrote a post about Arch and considered it to be a “simpler kind of Linux.”

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • Kurdish Hacker Posts Anti-ISIS Message on openSUSE’s Website, Data Remains Safe

        Softpedia was informed by Dr. Roy Schestowitz that the openSUSE News (news.opensuse.org) website got defaced by Kurdish hacker MuhmadEmad on the day of February 6, 2017.

        It would appear that the server where the news.opensuse.org website is hosted is isolated from the rest of openSUSE’s infrastructure, which means that the hacker did not have access to any contributor data, such as email and passwords, nor to the ISO images of the openSUSE Linux operating system.

        We already talked with openSUSE Chairman Richard Brown, who confirms for Softpedia that the offered openSUSE downloads remain safe and consistent, and users should not worry about anything. The vigilant openSUSE devs immediately restored the news.opensuse.org website from a recent backup, so everything is operating normally at this time.

      • OpenSUSE site hacked; quickly restored

        The openSUSE team acted quickly to restore the site. When I talked to Richard Brown, openSUSE chairman, he said that “the server that hosts ‘news.opensuse.org’ is isolated from the majority of openSUSE infrastructure by design, so there was no breach of any other part of openSUSEs infrastructure, especially our build, test and download systems. Our offered downloads remain safe and consistent and there was no breach of any openSUSE contributor data.”

        The team is still investigating the reason for the breach so I don’t have much information. The site ran a WordPress install and it seems that WordPress was compromised.

        This site is not managed by the SUSE or openSUSE team. It is handled by the IT team of MicroFocus. However, Brown said that SUSE management certainly doesn’t want any such incident to happen again and they are considering moving the site to the infrastructure managed by SUSE and openSUSE team.

      • Best Distros, openSUSE Whoops, Debian 9 One Step Closer

        In the latest Linux news, the news.opensuse.org got hacked and displayed “KurDish HaCk3rS WaS Here” for a while Monday and while the site has been restored, no comment on the hack has been issued. Elsewhere, Debian 9.0 has entered its final freeze in the last steps in preparations for release. FOSS Force has named their winner for top distro of 2016 and Swapnil Bhartiya shared his picks for the best for 2017. Blogger DarkDuck said MX-16 Xfce is “very close to the ideal” and Alwan Rosyidi found Solus OS is giving Elementary OS a run for its money. Phoronix.com’s Michael Larabel explained why he uses Fedora and Jeremy Garcia announced the winners of the 2016 LinuxQuestions.org Members Choice Awards.

    • Red Hat Family

    • Debian Family

      • Derivatives

        • Parsix GNU/Linux 8.15 and 8.10 Get Linux Kernel 4.4.47 LTS, New Security Updates

          It’s been a month since we’ve told you about the newest security updates that landed in the stable software repositories of the Debian-based Parsix GNU/Linux operating system, and it’s time to keep you guys up to date with what’s going on.

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Ubuntu OTA-15 Now Available With Minimal Changes

            While the Ubuntu Phone efforts are basically on-hold until migrating to a Snap-based Ubuntu Phone/Touch image, OTA-15 was released today.

            Ubuntu OTA-15 is rolling out today to Ubuntu Phone users, but it’s not worth getting too excited about.

          • Ubuntu Touch OTA-15 Has Been Officially Released for Ubuntu Phones and Tablets

            We’ve been informed earlier by Canonical’s Łukasz Zemczak, via an email announcement, that the Ubuntu Touch OTA-15 software update has been officially released for all supported Ubuntu Phone and Ubuntu Tablet devices.

            Ubuntu Touch OTA-15 is now the latest software version for any officially supported Ubuntu-powered device, but it’s a small hotfix that only addresses three issues reported by users since OTA-14 and updates the oxide-qt web browser engine for Qt (QML plugin) to version 1.19.7 to address some security flaws.

          • Ubuntu OTA-15 Is Now Rolling Out to Ubuntu Phones, Tablets

            Ubuntu OTA 15 has been released, and is being rolled out to all supported Ubuntu Touch devices. As we previously reported, Ubuntu OTA-15 is primarily bug fix and security update, and addresses issues with loading HTTPS sites in the stock Ubuntu web-browser.

          • 5 Ubuntu Unity Features You May Not Have Known About

            Ubuntu Unity has been around for a while and debuted in release 11.04. Since then Canonical has been introducing new features in each release. Some features have been embraced by the Ubuntu community at large. As a result, these features are still talked about to this day. Other features are not so lucky.

            In this article we’ll talk about a few Ubuntu Unity features that you might not know exist. These aren’t hidden features by any means, just some useful aspects of Unity that are small but aren’t really talked about much anymore. Here are five Ubuntu Unity features you may not have known about!

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • How to Manage the Security Vulnerabilities of Your Open Source Product

    The security vulnerabilities that you need to consider when developing open source software can be overwhelming. Common Vulnerability Enumeration (CVE) IDs, zero-day, and other vulnerabilities are seemingly announced every day. With this flood of information, how can you stay up to date?

    “If you shipped a product that was built on top of Linux kernel 4.4.1, between the release of that kernel and now, there have been nine CVEs against that kernel version,” says Ryan Ware, Security Architect at Intel, in the Q&A below. “These all would affect your product despite the fact they were not known at the time you shipped.”

  • 5 Open Source Software Defined Networking Projects to Know

    Throughout 2016, Software Defined Networking (SDN) continued to rapidly evolve and gain maturity. We are now beyond the conceptual phase of open source networking, and the companies that were assessing the potential of these projects two years ago have begun enterprise deployments. As has been predicted for several years, SDN is beginning to redefine corporate networking.

    Market researchers are essentially unanimous on the topic. IDC published a study of the SDN market earlier this year and predicted a 53.9 percent CAGR from 2014 through 2020, at which point the market will be valued at $12.5 billion. In addition, the Technology Trends 2016 report ranked SDN as the best technology investment for 2016.

  • Easier data center SDN deployments would enable private clouds
  • ‘Open Source’ Is Now a Word?

    “Open source” is now officially a word according to Merriam-Webster, according to my good friends at Ars Technica. Actually, I don’t know anybody at Ars Technica, but whenever you’re stealing news from another news source, you’re traditionally allowed to refer to everyone who works there as “my good friends.” The theory is that if they think you’re a friend of theirs, they won’t sue you.

    I say “according to Ars” because I can’t find proof anywhere that “open source” was indeed just added to the dictionary, as it’s not included as an example in the article my good friends at Merriam-Webster posted announcing the introduction of 1,000 new words on Tuesday. Or, if it’s there, the “find” function on my browser couldn’t find it, which would be really strange since the browser is designed and built by my good friends at Google.

  • 10 trends that will impact open-source tech in Saudi Arabia

    OPEN source has become an integral piece of every developer’s arsenal. The power of the community, the wisdom of many, and the ability to hook into various systems and solutions make open source incredibly powerful.

    At A10, we contribute to and embrace open-source solutions and provide APIs to empower developers to integrate their tools into our systems.

  • Netflix open-sources a Slack bot that helps devs manage GitHub repos [Ed: What good is "Open Source" that requires proprietary software to do anything?]

    Netflix announced today the release of HubCommander, an open source Slack bot to track and manage GitHub organizations and repositories.

    Netflix is the second large company to launch a Slack bot today. Earlier in the day, PayPal released its Slack bot for peer-to-peer payments.

  • IBM pushes accessibility with open-source projects

    Today, IBM began a new push to make applications accessible to users with disabilities. The company announced that is has made two accessibility projects available under open-source licenses. These projects are designed to help developers determine if their applications support the needs of those with limited mobility or vision.

    The two new projects are AccProbe and Va11yS. AccProbe is a standalone Eclipse RCP application designed to help developers test and debug accessible applications.

  • Events

    • Speak at The Linux Foundation’s Open Source Summit and Automotive Linux Summit in Japan

      More than 600 open source professionals, developers and operators will convene in Tokyo this year to collaborate, share information, and learn at Open Source Summit Japan. The technical conference will cover the latest in open source technologies, including Linux, containers, cloud computing, software-defined networking, and more.

      This year Open Source Summit Japan will also be co-located with Automotive Linux Summit, to be held May 31 – June 2 at the Tokyo Conference Center. Automotive Linux Summit gathers the most innovative minds from the automotive arena including automotive systems engineers, Linux experts, R&D managers, business executives, open source licensing and compliance specialists and community developers. The event connects the developer community with the vendors and users providing and using the code in order to drive the future of embedded devices in automotive.

    • FOSDEM 2017 Day 3: Talks & Chats

      Today I got early up, going with Andreas to the venue, arriving at 8.30 AM. He was going there to open the Open Source Design room, I was going there to open the GNOME booth. After the shift I then decided to wandered around to collect stickers and speak to various projects at their booths.

    • syslog-ng at FOSDEM 2017

      I spent the weekend at Free and Open Source Software Developers’ European Meeting, or as it is better known: FOSDEM – as I did in the past several years as well. This time I delivered two presentations on syslog-ng, and as usual, I spent the rest of the time in devrooms and in the exhibition areas.

    • DebConf17: Call for Proposals

      The DebConf Content team would like to Call for Proposals for the DebConf17 conference, to be held in Montreal, Canada, from August 6 through August 12, 2017.

      You can find this Call for Proposals in its latest form at: https://debconf17.debconf.org/cfp

      Please refer to this URL for updates on the present information.

    • Speak at ApacheCon 2017: 4 Days Left to Submit a Talk

      ApacheCon gathers attendees from over 60 countries to learn about core open source technologies directly from the Apache developer and user communities.

  • SaaS/Back End

    • New Options for Valuable Hadoop and Spark Training

      Metis, which bills itself as “an accredited intensive data science bootcamp,” is steadily moving forward with its big data processing courses, which teach students how to work with Hadoop and Spark, two of today’s most widely used distributed computing paradigms. As we’ve reported, enterprises are finding tools like Hadoop hard to work with. Gartner, Inc.’s Hadoop Adoption Study, involving 284 Gartner Research Circle members, found that only 125 respondents who completed the whole survey had already invested in Hadoop or had plans to do so within the next two years. The study found that there are difficulties in implementing Hadoop.

  • CMS

    • Migrated blog from WordPress to Hugo

      My WordPress blog got hacked two days ago and now twice today. This morning I purged MySQL and restored a good backup from three days ago, changed all DB and WordPress passwords (both the old and new ones were long and autogenerated ones), but not even an hour after the redeploy the hack was back. (It can still be seen on Planet Debian and Planet Ubuntu. Neither the Apache logs nor the Journal had anything obvious, nor were there any new files in global or user www directories, so I’m a bit stumped how this happened. Certainly not due to bruteforcing a password, that would both have shown in the logs and also have triggered ban2fail, so this looks like an actual vulnerability.

    • WordPress 4.7.2

      When WordPress originally announced their latest security update, there were three security fixes. While all security updates can be serious, they didn’t seem too bad. Shortly after, they updated their announcement with a fourth and more serious security problem.

      I have looked after the Debian WordPress package for a while. This is the first time I have heard people actually having their sites hacked almost as soon as this vulnerability was announced.

    • 4 open source tools for doing online surveys

      Ah, the venerable survey. It can be a fast, simple, cheap, and effective way gather the opinions of friends, family, classmates, co-workers, customers, readers, and others.

      Millions turn to proprietary tools like SurveyGizmo, Polldaddy, SurveyMonkey, or even Google Forms to set up their surveys. But if you want more control, not just over the application but also the data you collect, then you’ll want to go open source.

      Let’s take a look at four open source survey tools that can suit your needs, no matter how simple or complex those needs are.

  • Education

    • Charlie Reisinger’s ‘The Open Schoolhouse’

      Charlie Reisinger is the IT Director of the Penn Manor School District, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He recently finished writing a spellbinding book describing how his school district decided to adopt open source software and methods. When reading this book, I sent an email to Charlie saying: “This book reads as if it’s your doctoral thesis — it’s a multiyear capstone project.” Charlie responded, “It felt in some way like that while writing the book.” Charlie went on to tell me that the reason he wrote the book was to help other school districts make the plunge into open source. “Come on in – the water is warm!” is the reassuring tone throughout the book.

      Here is my video review of this book. Note — at 27-minutes long, it’s much longer than my other video book reviews. I had no choice but to give the book its due. It’s a masterful piece of storytelling that offers hope to students and teachers everywhere.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • openbsd changes of note 6

      In a bit of a hurry, but here’s some random stuff that happened.

      Add connection timeout for ftp (http). Mostly for the installer so it can error out and try something else.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • What to know before jumping into a career as an open source lawyer

      Advising clients on open source issues is a ton of fun—you often get to do deep dives into the technology to understand how it works, you can have a huge impact on their products and bottom line, and you can also help build healthy communities of paid developers and volunteers who are creating better tech.

    • Don’t Send An Engineer To Do A Lawyer’s Job

      A thread on an open source project mailing list offers seven lessons on how to engage an open source community over legal issues.

      A thread on an Apache mailing list (Now safely in the past) provides a great illustration of what not to do when your employer’s interests seem to need engagement in an open source community. Instead of asking a suitably-trained lawyer to directly engage, the company asked an engineer to engage when they wanted special terms for a contribution. They went on to propose custom terms, a custom CLA and even implied that they wanted private bilateral negotiations. This session runs through the thread and draws seven lessons for approaching an open source community with your legal issues.

    • Is the GPL a copyright license or a contract under U.S. law?

      In this talk I will summarize the case law on the contract or license question in the U.S. Certain obligations under the GPL may be merely contractual, meaning there are less damages and enforcement mechanisms available to a plaintiff, while other obligations may have more teeth. I will use this analysis to help the community think about how it might craft software licenses in the future.

    • Looking for a job? 6 questions to ask your recruiter

      Who owns the copyright to my open source contributions? You should carefully review any employment contract because some companies may claim ownership of anything you create while employed by them, regardless of whether it was created during your personal time. There is no right or wrong, but it is good to know before you start. Understanding the equipment and time that you can use for your personal open source contributions is of the upmost importance when signing any contracts.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • 5 elements for getting teams organized

      In his book The Open Organization, Dr. Philip Foster defines governance as “the system and process by which power is managed and thus instills order where potential conflict threatens the opportunities to realize mutual gains which is essential for open organizations.” According to Dr. Foster, open governance models for 21st Century businesses should contain five core elements: independence, pluralism, representation, decentralized decision making, and autonomous participation.

Leftovers

  • Oracle Policy Change Raises Prices on AWS

    News came last week that Oracle has, in effect, doubled the price for running its products on Amazon’s cloud. It has done so with a bit of sleight-of-hand on how it counts AWS’s virtual CPUs. It also did so without fanfare. The company’s new pricing policy went in effect on January 23, and pretty much went unnoticed until January 28, when Oracle follower Tim Hall stumbled on the change in Big Red’s “Licensing Oracle Software in the Cloud Computing Environment” document and blew the whistle.

  • 25 things you didn’t know about ‘Wayne’s World’ on its 25th anniversary

    Believe it or not: Oddball comedy Wayne’s World made its debut on the big screen 25 years ago on Feb. 14. The movie, adapted from the Saturday Night Live sketches with Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers), the enthusiastic host of a public access cable show from his parents’ couch, and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey), his socially inept and genius sidekick, went on to surpass $100 million at the box office and develop a cult following.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Sailing Towards An Iceberg – Let’s Not Settle For Food Rationing In Britain

      Lettuce rationing probably wasn’t in most pundits’ predictions for 2017. But this winter our supermarket shelves have been emptying of the green vegetables we take for granted.

      An extreme weather cocktail of drought, flooding and freezing conditions has wiped out crops in Southern Spain, while Italy, Turkey and Greece are struggling with poor conditions. Lettuce is currently the main casualty, with spinach, aubergines and broccoli also under threat.

      Everyone’s having great fun tweeting about the #lettucecrisis and the earlier #courgettecrisis. Complaining about price rises, sharing photos of shortage signs, listing all the supermarkets they’ve trekked to, searching for a humble aubergine.

    • Republicans Are Using Big Tobacco’s Secret Science Playbook to Gut Health Rules

      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, 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.”

    • 50,000 women in Germany have suffered genital mutilation: report

      Thousands of girls in Germany face genital mutilation on top of the tens of thousands of women who have already suffered it, a new government report claims.

      The study, published on Monday by the Family Affairs Ministry, found that 48,000 woman and girls living in Germany have been victims of female genital mutilation (FGM), an increase of 30 percent since 2014.

      According to the authors, between 1,600 and 5,700 girls in Germany are faced with undergoing the illegal operation to remove external parts of their genitalia.

    • Shift work and heavy lifting may reduce women’s fertility, study finds

      Women who work at night or do irregular shifts may experience a decline in fertility, a new study has found.

      Shift and night workers had fewer eggs capable of developing into healthy embryos than those who work regular daytime hours, according to researchers at Harvard University.

      There was also a reduction of around 15 per cent in the number of eggs ready for fertilisation in women with jobs requiring heavy lifting, including nurses and interior designers, they said.

  • Security

    • Lynis – Security Auditing and Hardening Tool for Linux/Unix Systems

      First i want to tell you about system security before going deeper about Lynis. Every system administrator should know/understand about system security, Hardening, etc,. So that we can make our system up and running smoothly without any issues otherwise we have to face so many issues.

    • Security Hygiene for Software Professionals

      As software makers, we face a unique threat model. The computers or accounts we use to develop and deliver software are of more value to an attacker than what ordinary computer users have—cloud service keys can be stolen and used for profit, and the software we ship can be loaded with malware without our knowledge. And that’s before we consider that the code we write has a tremendous value of its own and should be protected.

    • AI isn’t just for the good guys anymore

      Last summer at the Black Hat cybersecurity conference, the DARPA Cyber Grand Challenge pitted automated systems against one another, trying to find weaknesses in the others’ code and exploit them.

      “This is a great example of how easily machines can find and exploit new vulnerabilities, something we’ll likely see increase and become more sophisticated over time,” said David Gibson, vice president of strategy and market development at Varonis Systems.

      His company hasn’t seen any examples of hackers leveraging artificial intelligence technology or machine learning, but nobody adopts new technologies faster than the sin and hacking industries, he said.

      “So it’s safe to assume that hackers are already using AI for their evil purposes,” he said.

    • MongoDB And Open Source: Super-Sized Vulnerability? [Ed: TopSpin Security is spinning and lying. MongoDB didn’t have a vulnerability, it was the fault of bad setup.]
    • Secdo adds Linux support

      Security vendor Secdo has added Linux to the list of operating systems supported by its Pre-emptive Incident Response product. It has provided a short list of supported versions of Linux including RHEL, Ubuntu and CentOS. While it doesn’t name SUSE Enterprise Server (SES) it does say that it is also supporting other versions of Linux.

    • An Update on WebKit Security Updates
    • 5 security tips for shared and public computers

      For many of us, the most important part of security is making our personal data safe. The best security will withstand any abuse, theoretically. However, in the real world, you can’t cover all possible situations of abuse. Therefore, the best strategy is to use multiple techniques for increasing security. Most normal people don’t need complicated schemes and cryptography to be safe. But it’s good to make it hard for intruders to get access to your data.

    • Tuesday’s security advisories
    • Windows SMB zero-day exploit published after Microsoft fails to fix issue

      A Windows Server zero-day security vulnerability has been released into the wild after Microsoft failed to issue a patch, despite having been warned of the problem three months ago.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Up to 13,000 secretly hanged in Syrian jail, says Amnesty

      As many as 13,000 opponents of Bashar al-Assad were secretly hanged in one of Syria’s most infamous prisons in the first five years of the country’s civil war as part of an extermination policy ordered by the highest levels of the Syrian government, according to Amnesty International.

      Many thousands more people held in Saydnaya prison died through torture and starvation, Amnesty said, and the bodies were dumped in two mass graves on the outskirts of Damascus between midnight and dawn most Tuesday mornings for at least five years.

    • The media is ignoring leaked US-government documents on Syria

      Discussing western reporting of the Syrian war, veteran Middle East correspondent Patrick Cockburn recently noted “fabricated news and one-sided reporting have taken over the news agenda to a degree probably not seen since the First World War”.

    • Our Articles on the Terror Attacks the White House Says Weren’t Covered

      The White House has released a list of 78 terrorist attacks that it says were underreported. The Trump administration, under fire for immigration restrictions and other policies it says are designed to curb terrorism, has portrayed the media and other institutions as playing down the threat.

      But the list, which was released on Monday night and details episodes from September 2014 to December 2016, includes dozens of attacks that were heavily covered in the press, including The New York Times. (Examples are included in the list below.)

      Just as striking was what the list excluded: attacks targeting Muslims, the overwhelming majority of Islamist terrorism victims.

    • How Corporate Media Paved the Way for Trump’s Muslim Ban

      President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel from seven predominantly Muslim nations justifiably led to much outcry from activists, politicians and foreign leaders. The list—currently struck down by a federal judge in Seattle—was arbitrary, motivated by disjointed racist panic and was reportedly causing deaths worldwide. But while it’s important to lay primary blame for the ban at the feet of the man who signed it, years of Islamophobic coverage in corporate media—right-wing, centrist and “liberal”—laid the propaganda groundwork to get us here.

      Surveys have found support for Trump’s Muslim ban ranging from 42 to 47 percent. This in line with the 43 percent of Americans willing to admit to having at least some prejudice against Muslims. Trump’s order exploits an irrational fear that media have spent at least 15 years conditioning.

      Attention has rightly been paid to the Islamophobia industry—a loose consortium of professional far-right trolls such as Pam Geller, Frank Gaffney, Steve Emerson, Breitbart, Infowars, etc. And while these forces certainly were major factor in creating the Trump-friendly Muslim-fearing climate, it’s important not to lose sight of at least three other media phenomena that also had a major role: 1) the presentation of “terrorism” as a unique, existential threat, arbitrarily defined as applying almost exclusively to Muslim violence, 2) New Atheist liberal bigots and 3) disproportionate news coverage of the ISIS spectacle.

    • As Netanyahu and May Chat, a Large Nest of Israeli Spies in London Exposed

      Shai Masot, the Israeli “diplomat” who had been subverting Britain’s internal democracy with large sums of cash and plans to concoct scandal against a pro-Palestinian British minister, did not appear in the official diplomatic list.

      I queried this with the FCO, and was asked to put my request in writing. A full three weeks later and after dozens of phone calls, they reluctantly revealed that Masot was on the “technical and administrative staff” of the Israeli Embassy.

      This is plainly a nonsense. Masot, as an ex-Major in the Israeli Navy and senior officer in the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, is plainly senior to many who are on the Diplomatic List, which includes typists and personal assistants. There are six attaches – support staff – already on the List.

    • Yemen withdraws permission for US ground raids after Donald Trump’s first botched military operation

      Yemen has withdrawn its permission for the US to conduct special operations missions in the country after the raid on an al-Qaeda base last month which killed up to 30 civilians and a US Navy Seal.

      There has been widespread anger in Yemen at the reported loss of life in a ground raid in which “almost everything went wrong,” as one US military official described it, leading Yemeni officials to suspend the counter-terror programme.

      Neither Yemen nor the US have officially announced the decision, which was reported by the New York Times, citing unnamed American officials.

    • Stephen Kinzer: America’s Empire State of Mind

      Why are we everywhere in the world, so often with guns drawn? The provocative reporter Stephen Kinzer has covered a number of our “regime-change” interventions in the world, from Guatemala to the Middle East. And in book after book, he’s sharpened the question: how did our country that was born in proud rebellion against the British Empire become the mightiest empire of them all — taking on the sorrows and burdens and expenses that come with most of a thousand military bases around the world. And how has the instinct to intervene persisted through so many bitter mistakes and losses, from the first de-stabilization of democratic Iran in the 1950s to Vietnam in the 60s to Iraq yesterday and Afghanistan today?

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • The WikiLeaks-inspired war for the Mormon Church’s deepest secrets

      Nine years ago, Karger helped expose the Mormon Church’s role in Proposition 8, the successful ballot initiative that struck down same-sex marriage in California. The Church of Latter-day Saints, a religion founded in the mid-19th century by Joseph Smith, a merchant’s son turned prophet, donated millions of dollars to the effort. The church also offered volunteers and considerable resources to Project Marriage, the anti-LGBT group backing Prop 8. After the church became involved, the campaign was pulling in $500,000 a day in donations.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Corps to issue DAPL easement as soon as Wednesday afternoon

      The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has finished its review of the Dakota Access Pipeline and will issue an easement under the Missouri River/Lake Oahe as early as Wednesday afternoon, but the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has pledged to challenge the decision in court.

      The decision comes two weeks after President Donald Trump asked federal agencies to speed up their review of the crude oil pipeline that tribal and environmental activists have protested for months.

      In a memo called “Compliance with Presidential Memorandum” and dated Tuesday, a senior Army Civil Works official said he reviewed all the corps study of the pipeline and decided the easement was warranted.

    • Floods and erosion are ruining Britain’s most significant sites

      Climate change is already wrecking some of Britain’s most significant sites, from Wordsworth’s gardens in Cumbria to the white cliffs on England’s south coast, according to a new report.

      Floods and erosion are damaging historic places, while warmer temperatures are seeing salmon vanishing from famous rivers and birds no longer visiting important wetlands.

    • Europe escalates action against UK for breaching air pollution limits

      An EU review has revealed multiple failings by the UK in applying environmental law, on the same day that the commission escalated its action against Britain for breaching air pollution limits.

      Britain has been in breach of EU nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limits since 2010, with London overshooting its annual air pollution limit for the whole of 2017 in just the first five days.

      The Guardian understands that a “reasoned opinion” will now be sent on 15 February to the UK and four other countries: Germany, France, Italy and Spain. If a satisfactory response is not received within two months, a case at the European court could follow.

    • A Crack in an Antarctic Ice Shelf Grew 17 Miles in the Last Two Months

      A rapidly advancing crack in Antarctica’s fourth-largest ice shelf has scientists concerned that it is getting close to a full break. The rift has accelerated this year in an area already vulnerable to warming temperatures. Since December, the crack has grown by the length of about five football fields each day.

    • Florida Republican Proposes Bill to Abolish the EPA

      There’s been much outrage over the Republican party’s disdain toward the Environmental Protection Agency. On Friday, Florida Republican congressman Matt Gaetz presented the most radical idea yet—eliminate the agency entirely. He proposed HR 861, a bill “to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.”

    • Standing Rock Sioux Tribe says they will continue to fight DAPL despite Corps’ decision to issue easement

      Archambault II said he knows the Standing Rock movement has inspired people around the world to shape their world at home and abroad.

    • Controversial Dakota pipeline to go ahead after Army approval

      The U.S. Army will grant the final permit for the controversial Dakota Access oil pipeline after an order from President Donald Trump to expedite the project despite opposition from Native American tribes and climate activists.

      In a court filing on Tuesday, the Army said that it would allow the final section of the line to tunnel under North Dakota’s Lake Oahe, part of the Missouri River system. This could enable the $3.8 billion pipeline to begin operation as soon as June.

      Energy Transfer Partners is building the 1,170-mile (1,885 km) line to help move crude from the shale oilfields of North Dakota to Illinois en route to the Gulf of Mexico, where many U.S. refineries are located.

    • Welcome to Sumatra, Indonesia, an environmental genocide in the making

      Outside Southeast Asia, few people know of Palembang, a city on Sumatra, the sixth largest island in the world. A gloomy and immense city, with almost two million inhabitants, most of them living in cramped and squalid conditions.

      The tropical River Musi bisects the city, a desperately polluted waterway, bordered by slums built on stilts and a few old colonial buildings.
      Vessels of all types use the Musi, hauling everything that can be sold abroad or to the rest of Indonesia. The river is jammed with enormous barges filled with coal, oil tankers, makeshift boats carrying palm oil fruit bunches, as well as countless ships carrying timber.

      Plunder is done openly; there is no attempt to conceal it.

      Ms. Isna Wijayani, a Professor at Bina Darma University in Palembang, laments on the situation.

      “There is no primary forest left in a wide area around Palembang,” she says. “However, illegal logging doesn’t get reported in the local media. It is because powerful forces, including police and the army (TNI) are involved or directly behind much of the illegal logging and other profitable commercial activities in South Sumatra.”

    • Saudi Aramco

      The world’s most valuable company isn’t Apple or Google’s owner, Alphabet. It’s an outfit in a league of its own: Aramco, as Saudi Arabian Oil Co. is better known. This sprawling state-owned producer, sitting atop one-fifth of the globe’s petroleum reserves, pumps more crude than the top four publicly traded oil companies combined. It’s valued at more than $2 trillion — or about four times the biggest technology giants — though no one really knows what it’s worth because its profits are shrouded in secrecy. The veil could soon be lifted as the Saudi government is planning a partial privatization of Aramco to create a war chest and prepare the country for the post-hydrocarbon age.

    • There are now twice as many solar jobs as coal jobs in the US

      Putting solar panels on rooftops and arrays is a labor-intensive process. You need people to design and manufacture the panels. Then people to market the panels to homes, businesses, and utilities. Then people to come and install them.

      It all adds up to a lot of jobs. Even though solar power still provides just a fraction of America’s electricity — about 1.3 percent — the industry now employs more than 260,000 people, according to a new survey from the nonprofit Solar Foundation. And it’s growing fast: Last year, the solar industry accounted for one of every 50 new jobs nationwide.

  • Finance

    • Government to tweak planning laws to solve housing crisis

      The Government is to outline a series of tweaks to planning laws it says will help solve the housing shortage.

      Ministers want to require councils to come with a local plan to meet housing demand in an area, give them more powers to speed up developments, and require developers to use land more efficiently.

      Crucially, the Government’s long awaited housing white paper includes measures that would effectively scrap the Coalition 2010 housebuilding planning framework and return to a system that bears stronger similarities to the one they inherited from Labour in 2010.

    • Universities minister announces sale of student loan book

      The government has begun its controversial sale of the student loan book, which it expects to recoup £12bn in the long run for the exchequer, and assured graduates that they will not have to pay more.

      The universities minister, Jo Johnson, said the move would have “no impact” on student borrowers paying off loans, as terms and conditions would remain the same after the sale was completed.

      Critics, however, were sceptical of the minister’s assurances, noting that the government had already moved the goalposts once on student loan repayments. Others raised doubts that the sale would result in value for money for taxpayers.

    • After I Lived in Norway, America Felt Backward. Here’s Why.

      One night I tuned in to the Democrats’ presidential debate to see if they had any plans to restore the America I used to know. To my amazement, I heard the name of my peaceful mountain hideaway: Norway. Bernie Sanders was denouncing America’s crooked version of “casino capitalism” that floats the already-rich ever higher and flushes the working class. He said that we ought to “look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.”

    • Betsy DeVos likely to get education post despite all-night Democratic protest

      Betsy DeVos, the education secretary in waiting who has emerged as Donald Trump’s most controversial cabinet nominee, is likely to be confirmed in a dramatic vote on Tuesday. But opponents of the Republican megadonor insist the fight has only just begun.

      Democrats mounted a marathon 24-hour takeover of the Senate floor that was still continuing on Tuesday morning, marking a show of overnight resistance against Trump’s divisive choice to head the Department of Education. With the chamber currently split 50-50, mostly along party lines, on DeVos’s nomination, Vice-President Mike Pence is expected to cast a rare tie-breaking vote in her favor on Tuesday after two Republicans came out against her confirmation last week.

    • Betsy DeVos confirmed Education secretary; Pence casts deciding vote

      The Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as the nation’s 11th Education secretary Tuesday in a historic vote, ending a tumultuous battle over her nomination.

      DeVos, 59, has long been a polarizing figure in Michigan’s political and education circles for her support of school vouchers and charter schools. In the weeks since a rocky confirmation hearing, she became a cause celebre for opponents who say she is unfit and unqualified to serve. Congressional offices were inundated with angry calls urging her to be rejected, she was the subject of angry teacher protests nationwide, and her performance as a nominee was ridiculed on Saturday Night Live.

    • May to put Brexit deal to MPs’ vote before it goes to European parliament

      Theresa May will allow MPs to vote on any proposed Brexit deal before it is put to the European parliament, in a move designed to see off the threat of a Conservative backbench rebellion.

      David Jones, a Brexit minister, made the announcement on Tuesday in the House of Commons at the start of a four-hour debate on how MPs will be asked to approve the final form of a deal with the EU, after two years of talks.

    • Government-Financed R&D Declining; Private Sector, Tax Incentives Rise, OECD Finds

      A new set of science and technology indicators shows that the business sector is expected to remain the driving force behind research and development growth, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The OECD released its main science and technology indicators today and found that government-financed research and development expenditures have been declining for some years.

      The Main Science and Technology Indicators (MSTI) database “provides a set of indicators that reflect the level and structure of efforts in the field of science and technology undertaken from 1981 onwards by OECD Member countries and seven non-member economies: Argentina, China, Romania, Russian Federation, Singapore, South Africa, Chinese Taipei [Taiwan],” according to the OECD website. The OECD consists of 35 wealthier countries.

    • ‘If trade stops, war starts,’ warns Alibaba founder Jack Ma

      “Everybody is concerned about trade wars. If trade stops, war starts,” he said in Melbourne, where the e-commerce giant Alibaba opened its Australia and New Zealand headquarters.

      “But worry doesn’t solve the problem. The only thing you can do is get involved and actively prove that trade helps people to communicate,” said Alibaba’s CEO, as quoted by Business Insider Australia.

      The globalized economy is more than just transactions of money and goods, according to Ma.

      “We have to actively prove that trade helps people to communicate. And we should have fair trade, transparent trade, inclusive trade,” he said.

      “Trade is about a trade of values. Trade of culture,” said the billionaire, stressing that he felt a personal responsibility to fly more than a hundred thousand kilometers in the past month to promote global commerce.

    • Uber sues Seattle over law allowing drivers to unionize

      Late last month, Uber sued the city of Seattle, challenging the city’s authority to implement a landmark law allowing drivers in the gig economy to unionize. It was an opening shot in what is likely to be a long and costly legal battle.

      Uber’s legal challenge comes at an awkward time for the ride-hailing juggernaut. The company recently named 2017 “the year of the driver” and has said it will devote energy and resources to improving its relationship with the hundreds of thousands of people who drive on its platform. But the company’s bungled response to a taxi strike during the recent JFK protests led to a grassroots #DeleteUber campaign that saw 200,000 riders canceling their accounts. This latest situation in Seattle may further complicate Uber’s attempts to reverse the negative effects of that campaign.

    • It used to take 3 years for a British family to save for a home down-payment; now it takes 20 years

      The Resolution Foundation’s Living Standards 2017 is an eye-opening look at the current state of the British experiment in allowing wealth inequality to expand without any check, to use a combination of austerity, the elimination of protection for tenants, reckless lending, offshore money-laundering and public subsidies for speculators to turn the human necessity of shelter into the nation’s leading asset-class.

      The result is that normal working people who bought property before hyperinflation in housing prices are now richer than they could have dreamed, and everyone else is much, much poorer. Meanwhile, the offshore investors — including many criminals who are laundering their ill-gotten gains through the London property market — are inflating the bubble to unheard-of size. Combine that with wage stagnation (which is really wage reduction, when your shelter bill is undergoing hyperinflation) and you have a recipe for wealth disparity that makes Dickens look like Karl Marx.

    • Betsy DeVos Confirmed as Education Secretary; Pence Breaks Tie

      “It’s telling that even when Trump had full control of the legislative and executive branches, he could only get DeVos confirmed by an unprecedented tiebreaking vote by his vice president,” Ms. Weingarten said. “That’s because DeVos shows an antipathy for public schools, a full-throttled embrace of private, for-profit alternatives and a lack of basic understanding of what children need to succeed in school.”

    • Betsy DeVos confirmed as Education Secretary thanks to ‘historic tiebreaking vote’ from VP Mike Pence

      Another day, another grim historical first for America. The Senate just confirmed Betsy DeVos as education secretary after a ‘historic tiebreaking vote’ from Vice President Mike Pence.

      Both DeVos and Pence are fans of widely discredited LGBT ‘conversion therapy,’ a damaging and inhumane bullshit practice we’ll probably see a lot more of now, along with guns in schools to protect kids from grizzly bears and jihadists.

      Just two Senate Republicans voted against DeVos: Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, both of whom came out as opposed to the nominee last week. Lawmakers gave continuous speeches on the Senate floor late into the night Monday, arguing that DeVos was unqualified because she knows nothing about public schools or basic laws of our country that protect the rights of students, among many other well-documented reasons that mean nothing anymore because facts don’t matter and there is no God.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • This White House List Contradicts Trump’s Claim The News Media Ignores Terror Attacks

      President Donald Trump on Monday falsely claimed the “dishonest press” has failed to report on terrorist attacks, asserting the media deliberately ignores attacks for unspecified “reasons.”

      “All across Europe you’ve seen what happened in Paris and Nice,” Trump said in a speech to troops at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. “All over Europe it’s happening. It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported. And in many cases the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it.”

      “They have their reasons, and you understand that,” he said without elaborating.

      After questions were raised about his unsubstantiated claim, the White House released a long list of attacks — the majority of which have been extensively covered by major US news organizations.

    • Debbie Wasserman Schultz Continues to Rise in Congress After DNC Flop

      While she’s no longer in charge of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., continues to move up her party’s ranks in Congress.

      Wasserman Schultz took over the DNC in 2011 and helped then President Barack Obama win a second term in 2012. But Democrats suffered some major losses in 2014 and, after Wikileaks released emails indicating Wasserman Schultz and the DNC helped ensure former U.S. Sec. of State Hillary Clinton would defeat U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., for the party’s presidential nomination, she resigned that post back in July. Sanders backed law professor Tim Canova against Wasserman Schultz in a congressional primary at the end of August but she took 57 percent to win renomination and went on to beat Republican Joe Kauffman in November.

    • Mike Pence, a man of the House, becomes Trump’s eyes and ears in the Senate

      During his House tenure Pence wasn’t particularly influential. The former radio talk show host was always known more for communication skills than policy chops. But he was generally well liked and trusted, developing long-standing friendships with rabble rousers who now hold powerful posts, particularly Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.).

      [...]

      Even Democrats, so far, don’t mind having Pence around so much. Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.) said Trump’s “propensity for alternative facts” might mean Pence has to translate: “Mike Pence could probably come over, clearly as anybody, and say: This is what’s really going on. “

    • What Slobodan Milosevic Taught Me About Donald Trump

      During his inaugural address, Donald Trump deployed rhetoric that was familiar to anyone who spent time in the Balkans in the 1990s. “You will never be ignored again,” Trump thundered, with Congress as his backdrop. He expanded on the idea a few days later, during a visit to the Department of Homeland Security, where he said, “To all of those hurting out there, I repeat to you these words, we hear you, we see you, and you will never, ever be ignored again.”

      Trump’s message was a variation, directed at his largely white constituency, of the you-shall-not-be-beaten-again rhetoric used with malignant effect by Slobodan Milošević during the collapse of Yugoslavia. Trump is not Milošević and the United States is not Yugoslavia, of course, but the echoes between these paragons of national shamelessness reveal the underlying methods and weaknesses of what Trump is trying to pull off.

      In 1987, Milošević was sent to Kosovo to soothe angry Serbs who felt threatened by Albanians who dominated the province. A low-profile communist official at the time, Milošević visited a municipal office and spoke to a crowd of unhappy Serbs who had gathered outside. Milošević was uncertain as he addressed them, but everything changed when he voiced a nationalist message they had never heard before: “No one will be allowed to beat the Serbs again, no one!” he said.

    • White House ramping up search for communications director after Spicer’s rocky start
    • Warren Is Silenced by GOP Senate for Breaking Rule

      Sen. Elizabeth Warren has earned a rare rebuke by the Senate for quoting Coretta Scott King on the Senate floor.

      The Massachusetts Democrat ran afoul of the chamber’s arcane rules by reading a three-decade-old letter from Dr. Martin Luther King’s widow that dated to Sen. Jeff Sessions’ failed judicial nomination three decades ago.

      [NEWS OF THE DAY: Dakota Access Pipeline Protesters Dig In, as Army Halts Construction]

      The chamber is debating the Alabama Republican’s nomination for attorney general, with Democrats dropping senatorial niceties to oppose Sessions and Republicans sticking up for him.

    • Senate GOP votes to silence Warren after speech against Sessions

      The Senate voted to bar Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) from speaking on the floor Tuesday night, after Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said her blistering comments about fellow Sen. Jeff Sessions, President Trump’s pick for attorney general, broke Senate rules.

      Senators rebuked Warren in a 49-43 party-line vote, rejecting Warren’s push to overturn a ruling by Senate Republicans that she had violated the rules during a Senate floor speech.

      Warren needed a simple majority to overturn the ruling by Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who was presiding over the the Senate during the Massachusetts Democrat’s speech.

    • BuzzFeed vs. Trump

      It happened fast. Just like everything else in Trumpland.

      On January 10th, CNN published an explosive story: a dossier alleging President-elect Donald Trump had been embarrassingly compromised by the Russian government had been circulating among high-ranking government officials and journalists for months. But CNN, along with a number of other organizations that had access to the dossier, stopped short of publishing it. Their reasoning? They couldn’t confirm any of the file’s salacious details or damning allegations.

      An hour later, BuzzFeed went ahead and published the documents. BuzzFeed described the dossier’s allegations as “unverified” and pointed out some obvious errors that suggested sloppy work, such as misspellings and easily debunked claims, but didn’t weigh in on the truthfulness of its most damning charges

    • House Republicans Just Voted to Eliminate the Only Federal Agency That Makes Sure Voting Machines Can’t Be Hacked

      In a little-noticed 6-3 vote today, the House Administration Committee voted along party lines to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission, which helps states run elections and is the only federal agency charged with making sure voting machines can’t be hacked. The EAC was created after the disastrous 2000 election in Florida as part of the Help America Vote Act to rectify problems like butterfly ballots and hanging chads. (Republicans have tried to kill the agency for years.) The Committee also voted to eliminate the public-financing system for presidential elections dating back to the 1970s.

      “It is my firm belief that the EAC has outlived its usefulness and purpose,” said Committee chair Gregg Harper (R-MS), explaining why his bill transfers the EAC’s authority to the Federal Election Commission.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Twitter finally moves to ban serial harassers

      Every few months, it seems like Twitter execs swear that the company will do a better job at shutting down abusive trolls. And yet, hate and harassment continue to plague the platform, making it impossible for some high-profile users to remain active. This week, Twitter is making three changes to ramp up its efforts, and they might actually make a huge difference.

      First up: Twitter will now identify repeat offenders—people whose accounts have been permanently banned—and will keep them from creating new accounts. Trolls who churn through accounts to terrorize others will no longer be able to do so. This is major.

      Twitter is also building a “safe search” tool that won’t show potentially offensive tweets, or tweets from accounts you’ve muted or blocked, in your search results anymore.

    • Beware of Self-Censorship

      Such ripple effects, even if unintended, are especially potent when their target belongs to an already vulnerable group. After 9/11, for example, journalists and activists reported extensive fear throughout Arab and Muslim communities in the United States, inspired by the detention of 1,200 to 5,000 Muslim and Arab men. This was a fear not just of detention, deportation, or vigilante violence, but of speaking out on politically controversial issues of American foreign policy, which might—and often does—attract scrutiny, surveillance, or harassment from the federal government and police. “There’s fear in the Arab community,” reported Mino Akhtar. “What I hear Arabs and Muslims saying is, ‘Let’s keep a low profile. Don’t step out there. We need to stay quiet and let this blow over,” a claim confirmed by numerous press reports.

    • Russian filmmakers stand up against Soviet-style censorship
    • Arrested #ThisFlag Zimbabwean pastor Evan Mawarire listed for 2017 Index on Censorship award

      A Zimbabwean pastor arrested after leading an anti-Robert Mugabe campaign which went viral has been shortlisted for the 2017 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards.

      Pastor Evan Mawarire’s #ThisFlag protest movement won widespread support among Zimbabweans on social media last year after he called on President Mugabe’s government to address a failing economy and to respect human rights.

    • Melania Trump Sues Daily Mail for Hurting “Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity” to Monetize Her Brand

      The Maryland suit against Mail Media was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds earlier this month. Trump’s new suit has been filed with the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan. She is seeking at least $150 million in damages. Her lawyer, Charles Harder, successfully represented another high-profile figure in a suit against a media organization: Harder’s client Hulk Hogan won $140 million and bankrupted Gawker Media last year.

    • Court Tells Melania Trump She Can’t Sue The Daily Mail In Maryland, So She Refiles In New York

      Of course, what changed between the first complaint and the second complaint was Melania’s husband becoming President of the United States. Thus, the clear implication — that many in the media are making — is that the “once in a lifetime” opportunity is to somehow cash in on the Presidency. Of course, I do wonder how much damage to her brand could really be attributed to those articles, which have since been deleted, seeing as her reputation — and the fact that she will now be “one of the most photographed women in the world” — certainly seems to have massively boosted her reputation and massively increased her areas of opportunity if she does choose to cash in (i.e., it seems that she might have had a stronger case if she had not become First Lady). Separately, in an era where people like Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton have become massive licensing juggernauts, I’m curious how much damage the Daily Mail reports could actually do to potential brand/licensing deals.

      Either way, Harder and Trump will continue pushing forward in their lawsuit against the Daily Mail, just in New York, rather than Maryland. And, yes, if you were wondering, New York has an unfortunately weak anti-SLAPP law.

    • Uzbekistan: Emboldened Media Shedding Self-Censorship

      As headlines go, this one might not look especially exciting; “What Can We Expect from the Liberalization of the Foreign Currency Market?”

      But the article, by respected economist Yuliy Yusupov, became an instant sensation when it was published January 17 by the Uzbekistan-focused online business news outlet Kommersant.uz.

      Tight official controls over currency and trade — and the flourishing of a black economy in both these areas — had made the subject off-limits for any local media in the days of the late President Islam Karimov. Thus, it is no surprise that the January 17 article touched off a flurry of social media chatter among Uzbek news consumers.

    • Russian Filmmakers Protest Attempts To ‘Censor’ Film About Young Tsar

      An independent group of Russian filmmakers is protesting what it says are efforts by a State Duma deputy from Russia-annexed Crimea to “censor” a controversial film centered on a love affair between the future Tsar Nicholas II and a young ballerina.

      Kino Soyuz (Union of Filmmakers) on February 7 published an open letter protesting Duma Deputy Natalya Poklonskaya’s calls for investigations of the unreleased film, Matilda, by director Aleksei Uchitel.

      The protest letter, signed by more than 40 Russian directors, also charges that nationalists belonging to a group called “Orthodox State — Holy Russia” have been threatening “arson attacks and violent acts against theaters that would dare to show the film.”

    • COMMENT: No censorship at the Compton Herald, no sir!

      Censorship does not trump the First Amendment, not in Compton, not anywhere; mute the voice and this might as well be North Korea

    • Book Review: Trickle-Down Censorship

      A chilling development of recent years has been an effort by Beijing to buy or bully the right to apply its censorship rules or spread propaganda across borders. This can be seen from state media produced “China Watch” pullouts inserted into mainstream newspapers such as The Washington Post and The Telegraph in London, to denying visas to journalists from publications that report on dubious wealth acquisitions at the top of the Chinese Communist Party leadership.

    • Librarians take up arms against fake news

      Librarians are stepping into the breach to help students become smarter evaluators of the information that floods into their lives. That’s increasingly necessary in an era in which fake news is a constant.

    • Georgia police captain got his ex-wife jailed for her Facebook comment about him

      According to a lawsuit, Corey King, a police captain in Washington County, Georgia, conspired with his friends magistrate Ralph O. Todd and Sheriff’s Investigator Trey Burgamy to arrest King’s ex-wife, Anne King, and her friend, Susan Hines, for a Facebook exchange in which they commiserated over Captain King’s refusal to pick up medicine for his sick children.

      Both women were jailed (Ms King was handcuffed!) and then released by a real judge (as opposed to a dipshit, small-town magistrate) who blasted all three for the two women’s arrest (“I don’t even know why we’re here”) and the state’s attorney dropped the charge. Captain King has threatened to re-arrest his ex-wife, saying, “don’t make the mistake of going to Facebook with your little shit you found to fuss about” and suggesting she could face “willful contempt” if she does so.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Lawsuit accuses Justice Department of illegally monitoring political donations

      The Justice Department was sued in federal court Tuesday on behalf of hundreds of donors whose otherwise anonymous political contributions were secretly monitored by the FBI.

      Attorneys filed the class-action complaint in San Francisco federal court this week on behalf of individuals who previously contributed to a now-defunct legal fund established for Barrett Brown, a Texas-based journalist who was arrested in September 2012 and subsequently indicted on more than a dozen counts related to the FBI’s investigation of a 2011 cyber intrusion, among other charges.

      Hundreds of contributors from throughout the United States ultimately donated more than $40,000 towards the journalist’s legal fund through Free Barrett Brown, an online crowdfunding campaign launched shortly following his arrest by Kevin Gallagher, a San Francisco-based systems administrator. According to Tuesday’s lawsuit, however, the Justice Department violated the constitutional rights of those contributors when it secretly obtained information about Mr. Brown’s supporters from the internet company that hosted the fundraising site.

    • reclaiming conversation

      Turkle is an anthropologist who interviews people from different generations about their communication habits. She has observed cross-generational changes thanks to (a) the proliferation of instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger; and (b) fast web searching from smartphones.

      Her main concern is that conversation is being trivialised. Consider six or seven college students eating a meal together. Turkle’s research has shown that the etiquette among such a group has shifted such that so long as at least three people are engaged in conversation, others at the table feel comfortable turning their attention to their smartphones. But then the topics of verbal conversation will tend away from serious issues – you wouldn’t talk about your mother’s recent death if anyone at the table was texting.

    • Girl On The Net: Leading UK sex blogger reveals how maintaining anonymity helped lead to a mental breakdown

      On the face of it, there do not appear to be many parallels between being a sex blogger and a secret service agent. However, there is one key similarity: maintaining anonymity at all times and thus leading a double life.

      For Girl On The Net, remaining anonymous is a constant source of consternation, angst and exhaustion. From using a burner phone which can’t be traced, to fastidiously wiping the internal location data for every photo she uploads, to keeping her job a secret from friends and relatives, there is the always omnipresent, never shakeable fear that someone is going to come along and uncover her identity.

      The 24 hour task of maintaining anonymity has had a knock-on effect on GOTN’s mental health. After her panic attacks became daily occurrences and her anxiety became unmanageable, the stress eventually culminated in a breakdown.

    • Maybe the US does have the right to seize data from the world’s servers

      Can the US government demand that it be able to reach into the world’s servers with the tech sector’s assistance? International relations issues aside, the answer to that legally thorny question depends on which US court is asked.

      Consider that a federal magistrate judge in Philadelphia answered that question Friday in the affirmative, ordering Google to comply with US warrants and transfer e-mail stored overseas to the US so the FBI could examine it as part of a criminal probe. Yet just two weeks ago, a New York-based federal appeals court let stand its highly publicized July decision that allowed Microsoft to quash a US court warrant for e-mail stored on its servers in Dublin, Ireland.

    • NSA rejections hint at lingering secrets surrounding Cold War codebreakers

      VENONA, a Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and decryption program run by the NSA and its predecessor, the U.S. Army’s Signal Intelligence Service, intercepted and ultimately decrypted thousands of Soviet messages, most infamously helping to finger the Rosenbergs. These decrypted messages have been a useful resource to historians, and the NSA boasts that “over the course of five more releases, all of the approximately 3,000 VENONA translations were made public” and put on their website.

    • Congress Tries Once Again To Require Warrants To Search Emails

      The efforts to reform ECPA — the Electronic Communications and Privacy Act — have been going on for basically two decades at this point. The law, which was passed in 1986, has a whole bunch of problems, with the biggest one (as we’ve discussed dozens of times) being that it considers any email that’s been on a server for more than 180 days “abandoned,” and thus freely searchable by law enforcement without a warrant. That’s because there was no concept of cloud computing back in 1986. People who got email “retrieved” those emails off of a server and downloaded them to local storage. Many in Congress have been trying to fix this for so, so, so many years. And it always gets blocked. The IRS and the SEC have both been fairly proactive in trying to block ECPA reform bills that will require a warrant (funny: I thought it was the 4th Amendment that made such a warrant necessary, but, silly me, no one cares about the 4th Amendment any more).

      Last year, a plan to fix ECPA, called the Email Privacy Act, with an astounding 315 co-sponsors, passed the House unanimously. As we noted at the time, this is fairly incredible. In these contentious times — especially on issues related to surveillance and law enforcement — to have a unanimous vote on a law that says “get a warrant” if you want access to emails, is quite incredible. But, of course, even with that much support on that side of Congress, the Senate has a way of killing ECPA reform each and every year. Last year, a few Senators — including Jeff Sessions, who is likely to be our next Attorney General — tried to bury it with ridiculous amendments that would expand surveillance.

    • Cloud and IoT will be big in Thailand this year – but not blockchain, says Microsoft [Ed: Why are people surprised that Microsoft is spying on everyone and gives this data to deadly regime? Microsoft a company of crooks and liars.]

      Disruptive.Asia asked Microsoft to comment on a recent publication on the state of surveillance in Thailand by Privacy International, in which they discovered that Windows 10 was recently updated to include the Thai government’s root CA in its list of trusted certificates. This would allow anyone controlling the certificate to perform a man-in-the-middle attack and intercept SSL encrypted websites and email traffic to spy on Thai citizens.

      The Microsoft country manager shuffled round uncomfortably and said that he had heard about the Privacy International allegations in briefings but he does not know the technical aspects and is not qualified to answer.

      “I dare not answer. I am not the expert. It is too complex. But I am sure that your data with us is secure,” he said.

    • Most smart TVs are tracking you — Vizio just got caught

      Vizio got in trouble with the FTC this week and had to pay $2.2 million to settle charges around having monitored the viewing habits on more than 11 million TVs without consent over the course of two years.

      The main problem was that Vizio TVs had tracking features turned on by default, instead of an opt-in setting like many other manufacturers use (and, as you’ll see, sometimes hide or trick you into accepting). Newer Vizio TVs that run the company’s SmartCast system have the tracking turned off by default.

      It was a bad practice that people had been complaining about for years — a possible class action lawsuit was even filed in 2016 — but the situation is now a relatively good one for Vizio TV owners: the company is specifically prohibited from tracking your viewing habits without explicit permission.

    • Vizio Fined $2.2 Million For Not Telling Customers Their TVs Were Spying On Them

      Security isn’t the only thing being ignored as hardware vendors rush to connect televisions, toasters, and tea kettles to the internet. Consumer privacy and data-collection transparency has also become a distant afterthought as companies rush to cash in on the ocean of data these connected-devices collect. The “smart” television sector has been notably problematic, with Samsung busted a few years back for not only recording customer living room conversations, but transmitting that data unencrypted back to the company mothership.

      These are lessons that hardware vendors appear incapable or unwilling to learn. Case in point: this week the FTC announced that it had struck a $1.2 million settlement with discount TV vendor Vizio. According to the full FTC complaint (pdf), Vizio began using the company’s smart televisions to track user behavior in 2014, without informing customers that this was happening. The FTC notes that Vizio for years heavily advertised a “Smart Interactivity” feature that “enables program offers and suggestions.” But the complaint notes this feature never provided customers with a single suggestion.

    • Surveillance in the Age of Populism

      Surveillance laws should always be written as if the government we most fear is in power. It is one of the most insidious controls authorities can wield and, if unchecked, can corrode democratic institutions and give governments a sinister degree of power over their citizens.

      Yet the exact opposite has happened in Europe since Edward Snowden revealed mass surveillance abuses by the United States. Despite the outrage he sparked, governments across Europe have steadily adopted the US “collect it all” approach. With growing support for populist extremist parties, now is not the time to abandon privacy protections. Doing so risks enabling abusive surveillance by future illiberal governments.

    • The Fight Over Email Privacy Moves to the Senate

      The House passed the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 387) yesterday, bringing us one step closer to requiring a warrant before law enforcement can access private communications and documents stored online with companies such as Google, Facebook, and Dropbox. But the fight is just beginning.

      We’ve long called for pro-privacy reforms to the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), the outdated law that provides little protection for “cloud” content stored by third-party service providers. H.R. 387 would codify the Sixth Circuit’s ruling in U.S. v. Warshak, which held that the Fourth Amendment demands that the government first obtain a warrant based on probable cause before accessing emails stored with cloud service providers. While imperfect—the House-passed bill doesn’t require the government to notify users when it obtains their data from companies like Google—the reforms in the Email Privacy Act are a necessary step in the right direction.

    • Windows DRM: Now An (Unwitting) Ally In Efforts To Expose Anonymous Tor Users

      The $10k price tag for proper licensing is a deterrent to small-time malware purveyors. But it would only be a drop in the bucket for a well-funded government agency and/or any NGOs they employ. It’s basically the Network Investigative Technique the FBI deployed in the Playpen cases — only one able to be buried inside media files which could be scattered around like mini-honeypots.

      The DRM-based attack certainly wouldn’t be limited to law enforcement agencies. It would also be deployed by spy agencies for use against terrorists (who love to share media files) and, unfortunately, by governments every bit as malicious as the software they’re deploying. The exploit could just as easily be deployed to target dissidents, journalists, and other “enemies of the state” through booby-trapped, DRM-laden files that strip away anonymity while delivering information these entities might find intriguing/useful.

      Underneath it all is Microsoft’s apparently misplaced faith in properly-signed media files put together with its development kits. Rather than warn users that the redirect to the codec installer may still be risky despite the proper signature, Windows will automatically open a new browser instance and download the file with no further user interaction.

    • AI, NSA and Facebook

      Fighting ISIS with Facebook. “Sometime today, a teenager in Tunis will check his smartphone for the latest violent video from the Islamic State. But the images that pop up first will be of a different genre: young Muslims questioning the morality of terrorists who slaughter innocents and enslave girls for sex. ‘Don’t you kill our own Muslim brothers?’ a mop-haired youth asks a terrorist recruiter in one animated video showing up on Arabic Facebook accounts in North Africa. ‘So much of this, it doesn’t seem right.’”

    • Will Your Old Emails Finally Get Fourth Amendment Protections?

      Once again, legislation that would give American citizens better privacy protections for their emails has passed the House of Representatives, but we’re going to have to see what happens in the Senate.

      The Email Privacy Act aims to correct a flaw in federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. Passed in the relatively early days of home computer use, it established a policy that private electronic communications held by third parties that were more than 180 days old could be accessed by law enforcement and government investigators without the need for a warrant. A subpoena delivered to the communication provider was enough. A law this old obviously preceded the arrival and dominance of private email communications, and tech privacy activists and tech companies have been pushing for reform. The way the system stands now can result in people having their old private communications searched and read by authorities without the citizen’s knowledge.

    • D.C. police demand Facebook hand over data on Trump protesters

      Police in Washington, D.C. want Facebook to hand over data on protesters.

      The D.C. police department subpoenaed Facebook for information regarding several protesters arrested while demonstrating against the inauguration of President Donald Trump on Jan. 20.

      A document obtained on Monday by CityLab shows the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia issued a subpoena to Facebook on Jan. 27, which was signed by an officer at the police department. The document appears to show D.C. police are looking for the social data of several protesters.

    • The Internet of Things: 10 types of enterprise deployments

      Once you connect any device to a network, it has the potential to become a valuable tool for data collection and becomes a candidate for easier management. Some of the 451 Research respondents noted that they were utilizing IoT in their security systems.

      “Predominantly, they have cameras and electronic systems like doors and sensors that they are then bringing back into a monitoring scheme,” Renaud said. “Video analytics with the cameras, [and] occasionally we’ll hear facial recognition and more esoteric things like that.”

    • Trump’s FBI doubles down on hostility to transparency, switches to fax and snailmail for FOIA requests

      The FBI has always been hostile to Freedom of Information Act requests: it habitually violates the law by allowing these requests to go more than 30 days without a response, and maintains a lab full of 1980s-vintage computers that it uses to (badly) fulfill public records request, so that it can reject requests on the basis that it lacks the technology to respond to them. But it’s about to get a whole lot worse.

      The FBI has announced that, as of March, it will no longer accept FOIA requests by email. If you want to get FOIA documents, you’ll have to mail or fax them Bureau, or, if you want, you can use their web portal, which will only accept a single request per person, per day, and which makes you sign off on a long set of terms of service through which you surrender your statutory rights.

    • FBI axes FOIA requests by email, so dust off your fax machine

      As tech-savvy government efforts like 18F and the USDS take technological strides forward, other parts of the government are abandoning modern technology altogether.

      Starting next month, the FBI will no longer accept Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests by email. In lieu of its popular email service, the FBI suggests sending a fax or snail mail, a procedural change that has more to do with obstructing the law than a dearth of resources.

    • The FBI Can Engage In All Sorts Of Surveillance And Snooping Without Actually Placing Someone Under Investigation

      It’s unclear how many Americans are under surveillance by the FBI. Not only would the agency be extremely unwilling to even provide a broad estimate, but the underlying basis for a preliminary investigation is so thin it could conceivably cover a majority of US residents.

      A previously-classified document [pdf] obtained by The Intercept gives more insight into the FBI’s use of “assessments” — an investigation the agency doesn’t consider an investigation.

    • NHS urged to share data so patients can be deported

      If an NHS doctor divulged personal information about a patient, they could be struck off. But the government pays the NHS to do just this. A patient’s name, date of birth and address are among the data which are passed on to the Home Office. If you are in the UK illegally, they can find you and force you onto a secret chartered plane before your lawyer has even had breakfast.

      Buried in the recent constitutional uproar over the triggering of Article 50 and President Donald Trump’s flurry of objectionable executive orders, was the news that the NHS has been passing on data to the Home Office so it can track down people who are living in the country illegally and deport them.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • FBI posed as journalists to get evidence on Bundys. Now it could hurt their case

      FBI agents posed as journalists and tricked the Bundy ranching family and their supporters into giving on-camera interviews that prosecutors may use in upcoming trials, according to defense attorneys and court records.

      The FBI’s “fake film production company” and “wide-reaching deceptive undercover operation”, as lawyers described it in a court filing, is one of multiple controversies that some say could derail the government’s prosecution of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, his four sons and a dozen of their followers. A recent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ethics scandal involving tickets for the popular Burning Man festival could further hinder prosecutors in the high-profile trial, which began this week in Las Vegas federal court.

    • Putin approves change to law decriminalising domestic violence

      Vladimir Putin has signed into law a controversial amendment that decriminalises domestic violence.

      The amendment, which sailed through both houses of Russian parliament before Tuesday’s presidential signing, has elicited anger from critics who say that it sends the wrong message in a country where one woman dies every 40 minutes from domestic abuse.

      From now on, beatings of spouses or children that result in bruising or bleeding but not broken bones are punishable by 15 days in prison or a fine, if they do not happen more than once a year. Previously, they carried a maximum jail sentence of two years.

    • David Talbot and Arif Humayun

      Recently, University of California Berkeley officials cancelled a planned speech by right-wing writer Milo Yiannopoulos following vigorous protests, prompting President Trump to suggest withdrawing federal funds from the campus. In light of Trump’s connections to the ultra-right, what will be the nature of political protest in the Trump years? Author and columnist David Talbot examines this issue. Then Arif Humayun summarizes the principles of Islam, and explains why the advocacy of terror has no basis in authentic Islamic doctrine.

    • Court Leaders Nationwide Send Message to Debtors’ Prisons: Courts Are Not ATMs.

      Being poor shouldn’t be a crime. New guidelines direct judges to make sure it isn’t.

      Last week, state court leaders from across the nation took critically important action against debtors’ prisons to ensure that people are not locked up simply because they are poor.

      Following reports of the devastating effects of debtors’ prisons across the country — including in Ferguson, Georgia, Washington, Michigan, Mississippi, and Colorado — the top national organizations of state court leaders formed the National Task Force on Fines, Fees, and Bail Practices in 2016. This task force has now issued a bench card on the Lawful Collection of Legal Financial Obligations — a step-by-step guide for state and local judges to use to protect the rights of poor people who cannot afford to pay court fines and fees.

      The principle of fairness enshrined in the Constitution and the way courts treat the poor are too often separate things in America. The Supreme Court ruled more than 30 years ago that people should never be locked up behind bars solely because they are unable to pay court fines and fees they cannot afford. But we have seen time and again that despite this ruling debtors’ prisons are a reality, with devastating impact on low-income people and their communities.

    • Violating Terms of Use Isn’t a Crime, EFF Tells Court—Again

      Have you ever violated a website’s terms of use, such as by using something other than your real name on a website that requires one, or by sharing your account password with a family member when doing so is prohibited? Probably. Have you ever clicked “I agree” without actually reading the terms in full? Again, highly likely. Violating corporate terms of use agreements should not be a crime—not only because people rarely read these agreements, but because the bounds of criminal law should not be defined by the preferences of website operators. And criminalizing terms of use violations would turn millions of people—practically all Internet users—into criminals on the basis of innocuous conduct.

      We’ve convinced the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) shouldn’t be read to criminalize corporate computer use restrictions, such as terms of use agreements. But last year, a federal district court in Nevada found a defendant guilty under both the California and Nevada state computer crime statutes for nothing more than that—violating Oracle’s website’s terms of use.

      The case, Oracle v. Rimini Street, is on appeal to the Ninth Circuit, and we just filed an amicus brief explaining to the court why an overbroad interpretation of the state computer crime statutes would have the exact same disastrous outcome as an overbroad interpretation of the CFAA. The Ninth Circuit should listen to its own reasoning and avoid an interpretation of these statutes that turns innocent Internet users into criminals.

    • Flying Home From Abroad, a Border Agent Stopped and Questioned Me … About My Work for the ACLU

      Last week, I was flying home from a work trip and faced Customs and Border Protection questioning unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in over 25 years of travel into and out of this country, including more than 10 years of travel for my work as an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union and other rights groups.

      Compared to the hardship and suffering of the tens of thousands of people impacted by President Trump’s Muslim ban executive order, it was nothing. But it said something personal to me about the tenor of these dark times.

    • Islamist groups: Remove High Court sculpture

      Islamic political parties and Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh are planning to launch a movement demanding the removal of a sculpture of Lady Justice from the High Court premises.

      Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, leaders of several Islamic political parties and Hefazat-e-Islam called the sculpture a “Greek idol” and demanded its immediate removal, claiming it was in violation of Islamic principles.

      They threatened to launch a movement against the government if their demand is not met.

      Secretary General of Islami Oikkaya Jote (IOJ) and the convener of Dhaka city unit of Hefazat Mufi Fayzullah said: “We will go for a strong movement against the government to compel them to remove the Greek idol. We do not know why the government installed that idol there.”

      Three top Islamist leaders were working to unite various Islamist parties and organisations to make the movement a success, the Dhaka Tribune found.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • New FCC Boss Ajit Pai Insists He’s All About Helping The Poor, Gets Right To Work Harming Them Instead

      Not to be outdone, Pai also actually made it harder for poor people to get discounted broadband by unnecessarily disqualifiying nine, already approved small ISPs (Spot On, Boomerang Wireless, KonaTel, FreedomPop, AR Designs, Kajeet, Liberty, Northland Cable, and Wabash Independent Networks) from participating in the FCC’s Lifeline program. That program, founded by Reagan and expanded by Bush, doles out $9.25 per low-income household for them to use on phone or broadband service. Last year the FCC expanded it marginally so low-income homes could use that money to pay for stand-alone broadband, cellular, or fixed-line phone service (Pai, digital divide closer extraordinaire, voted down that effort).

      [...]

      So yes, when your definition of “helping the poor” includes ensuring cable boxes stay expensive and closed, allowing duopolies to abuse net neutrality and drive up service costs, protecting prison monopoly telcos that have price-gouged families for years, and preventing smaller ISPs from actually helping the poor you profess to love — you have to wonder what it looks like when Pai actively wants to harm something.

    • Trump’s F.C.C. Pick Quickly Targets Net Neutrality Rules

      In his first days as President Trump’s pick to lead the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai has aggressively moved to roll back consumer protection regulations created during the Obama presidency.

      Mr. Pai took a first swipe at net neutrality rules designed to ensure equal access to content on the internet. He stopped nine companies from providing discounted high-speed internet service to low-income individuals. He withdrew an effort to keep prison phone rates down, and he scrapped a proposal to break open the cable box market.

      In total, as the chairman of the F.C.C., Mr. Pai released about a dozen actions in the last week, many buried in the agency’s website and not publicly announced, stunning consumer advocacy groups and telecom analysts. They said Mr. Pai’s message was clear: The F.C.C., an independent agency, will mirror the Trump administration’s rapid unwinding of government regulations that businesses fought against during the Obama administration.

    • Trump’s F.C.C. Pick Quickly Targets Net Neutrality Rules

      Mr. Pai took a first swipe at net neutrality rules designed to ensure equal access to content on the internet. He stopped nine companies from providing discounted high-speed internet service to low-income individuals. He withdrew an effort to keep prison phone rates down, and he scrapped a proposal to break open the cable box market.

      In total, as the chairman of the F.C.C., Mr. Pai released about a dozen actions in the last week, many buried in the agency’s website and not publicly announced, stunning consumer advocacy groups and telecom analysts. They said Mr. Pai’s message was clear: The F.C.C., an independent agency, will mirror the Trump administration’s rapid unwinding of government regulations that businesses fought against during the Obama administration.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • Accused File-Sharer Beats ‘Copyright Trolls’ in Finnish Court

        The wave of so-called ‘copyright-trolling’ piracy lawsuits in Finland has resulted in the first win for an accused file-sharer, totaling €28,000 in legal fees. A local court ruled that the copyright holders lacked sufficient evidence to show that the person in question downloaded the files, in part because the Wi-Fi network was open to the public.

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