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02.12.17

Links 12/2/2017: Microsoft-Connected ‘Study’ on Munich, Chromebooks are Spreading

Posted in News Roundup at 4:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • How I became a project team leader in open source

    As an idealistic young university undergraduate I hung around with the nerds in the computer science department. I was studying arts and, later, business, but somehow I recognized even then that these were my people. I’m forever grateful to a young man (his name was Michael, as so many people in my story are) who introduced me first to IRC and, gradually, to Linux, Google (the lesser known search engine at the time), HTML, and the wonders of open source. He and I were the first people I knew to use USB storage drives, and oh how we loved explaining what they were to the curious in the campus computer lab.

  • Sandstorm is returning to its community roots

    Most people know Sandstorm as an open source, community-driven project aiming to enable self-hosting of cloud services and to make it possible for open source web apps to compete with today’s cloud services.

  • AT&T open sourced the heart of their network
  • OPNFV Nearing Commercial Deployment

    It also signals a stage where the OPNFV Project’s software platform could be ready for commercial deployment — dates for which the organization is not setting directly. “We’ll defer to the vendors on that,” says Heather Kirksey, OPNFV director. But she expects to start collecting deployment data this year. Queries to a couple of the involved vendors have not yet produced responses, but stay tuned.

  • ‘Night in the Woods’ Improving Games by Open Sourcing Code

    Game software developer Jon Manning has created a very well-done 60-second promo for his upcoming talk at the Games Developer Conference in San Francisco, Feb 27-March 3, 2017 – Making Night-in-the-Woods Better with Open Source.

  • Lessons from a brief career in open source

    I wasn’t making much headway in the cybersecurity field or in computer forensics. However, I did notice that many postings used words like “Linux” and “open source.” I thought that might be a better path to take. So, I enrolled in several free, online courses to improve my skills and to build my credentials. You can find free courses at Cybrary.it, edX.org, and others. I have since been certified in Linux, Java, HTML, e-marketing, Google Analytics, and even FEMA emergency response.

  • FOSS February: A month to celebrate open source

    Open source remains a competitive means of distribution—one that delivers exceptional software to new and devoted users. Despite this, open source, its methodologies, practices, code, and the communities behind them, can be overlooked or misunderstood if they are inadequately communicated. As a professional in tech marketing in the open source space, I often find that my conversations begin by highlighting the key takeaways of open source before I can begin to graze the surface of product-specific impact.

    Open source software has come a long way over the past several years, primarily due to the contributions of active open source communities. Still, convincing an enterprise’s influencers, IT leaders, and developers of the merits of open source remains a challenge in certain spaces. While it is important that organizations take an honest, objective look at the total cost of ownership of any solution, open source or commercial, it became clear to me that impressions of open source were not always reflective of the extraordinary work and talent that can be found in the space.

  • Intel open sources deep learning with BigDL for Apache Spark
  • Intel, Cloudera open source tech unleashes power of artificial intelligence workloads

    Intel and data management company Cloudera have jointly launched a solution aimed at speeding up the process of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) workloads.

  • Wyatt Emmerich: State should lean on open source software to save money, reduce brain drain
  • Open source code could save money, spur tech growth [Ed: as above]

    Mississippi spends $250 million a year on software to run its government. Much of this software is proprietary code with big national companies. We get locked in to the software. Switching becomes impossible. Steep price increases follow. Taxpayers lose.

    Garrett proposes a better way. Working with our university computer departments, the Legislature should create a Center for Collaborative Software Development. A portion of our state IT spending should be set aside to support this. Student teams could design and compete for state software contracts using open source under university supervision. The winners could go on to found successful software companies based in Mississippi.

  • Inclusive Development gets open source tools from IBM

    IBM is embarking on a new era of open source accessibility by releasing tooling, samples and design patterns to help streamline the development of inclusive web and mobile applications.

    They have recently released two new projects on the developerWorks/open community, AccProbe and Va11yS, to help alleviate accessibility roadblocks during the agile development process, strengthen the user experience by adhering to industry standards, and reduce costs by ensuring accessibility is done right from the beginning.

  • Business applications: the next hurdle for open source adoption

    Is open source finally overcoming the long-held reservations that still persist among some non-technical executives, and even a sizeable number of business technology professionals?

    According to Matthew Lee, regional manager for Africa at SUSE, the German-based, multinational, open-source software company, the answer is both yes – and no.

    “There is no question that open source has become mainstream in many areas. It has more than proven itself in the infrastructure space after hanging around on the periphery of the enterprise providing non-critical functions such as firewalls and Web servers. Now it is starting to move up the enterprise stack but it still faces a significant challenge when it comes to business applications,” he said.

  • Circulate on Fridays: Farming from shipping containers and open source

    Get all your circular economy relevant reading and viewing in one place every weekend with Circulate on Fridays. Today, we’re focusing on open source, the potential impact of a new EU circular economy finance platform, and why the future of farming is in shipping containers!

  • Events

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Struggling for Relevance: Is Mozilla Really Killing Off Firefox? [Ed: Misleading and inane headline; does not say FirefoxOS]

        Mozilla has announced that it is abandoning its efforts to develop a new operating system for smartphones and other connected devices. The decision to shut down the connected devices division will affect about 50 Firefox employees, including Ari Jaaksi, the senior vice president who had headed the initiative.

  • SaaS/Back End

    • New Benchmarks Show Big Increases in Spark Graph Processing

      Companies focused on Big Data have remained very focused on Apache Spark, an open source data analytics cluster computing framework originally developed in the AMPLab at UC Berkeley. According to Apache, Spark can run programs up to 100 times faster than Hadoop MapReduce in memory, and ten times faster on disk. When crunching large data sets, those are big performance differences.

      The race is also on to speed up Spark-driven workloads. Now, Diablo Technologies and Inspur Systems have announced the release of benchmark data showcasing the benefits of the Memory1 solution for Apache Spark workloads. By increasing the cluster memory size with Memory1, Diablo and Inspur claim they were able to cut processing times for graph analytics by half or more.

  • Databases

    • MariaDB North American Roadshow Supports Accelerating Adoption of Open Source Relational Databases in the Enterprise
    • Leaders in Data Management and Open Source Innovation to Gather in Boston for Postgres Vision 2017
    • RethinkDB joins The Linux Foundation

      When the company behind RethinkDB shut down last year, a group of former employees and members of the community formed an interim leadership team and began devising a plan to perpetuate the RethinkDB open-source software project by transitioning it to a community-driven endeavor. Today’s announcement by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) marks the culmination of that effort. The CNCF purchased the rights to the RethinkDB source code and contributed it to The Linux Foundation under the permissive ASLv2 license.

    • The liberation of RethinkDB

      There was just one small hiccup with RethinkDB, though it felt forgivable at the time: RethinkDB is open source, but licensed under the AGPL. Whatever your own feelings for the AGPL, it is indisputable that its vagueness coupled with its rarity and its total lack of judicial precedent makes risk-averse lawyers very nervous (especially in companies that have substantial intellectual property to protect) — to the point that it’s not uncommon for companies to ban the use of AGPL-licensed software entirely. This makes the AGPL anti-collaborative, and worse, it’s often the point: when companies license software under the AGPL that they also make available commercially (that is, under a license palatable to the enterprise), they are exhibiting the corporate open source anti-pattern of dual-licensing for profit. (Viz.: Oracle’s infamous relicensing of BerkeleyDB as AGPL.)

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • Funding

    • HackerOne Professional, Free for Open Source Projects

      For some time now I have been working with HackerOne to help them shape and grow their hacker community. It has been a pleasure working with the team: they are doing great work, have fantastic leadership (including my friend, Mårten Mickos), are seeing consistent growth, and recently closed a $40 million round of funding. It is all systems go.

  • BSD

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • grep-3.0 released [stable]
    • grep-2.28 released

      This is to announce grep-2.28, a stable release. Thank you especially to Paul Eggert and Norihiro Tanaka for all of their improvements, both in the grep repository and via gnulib.

    • The GNU C Library version 2.25 is now available
    • Meet the GNU Health team at SCALE15x !
    • Looking for Work after 25 Years of Octave

      TL;DR: Reflecting on the last 25 of Octave, it’s been a great experience. I would love to continue as the Octave BDFL but I also need to find a way to pay the bills.

      It’s hard to believe that almost 25 years have passed since I started the Octave project. It’s been a great experience. I’ve met many interesting and talented people along the way. I’m grateful for everyone[1] who has made Octave the successful project that it is today. There is no way that the project would be as successful as it is without their many contributions.

      As I’ve said many times, I thought the project would last a year or two. I never intended for it to be a career, but now it is hard to imagine doing anything else. There are still many projects I would like to tackle. I want to continue refactoring the interpreter so that it is easier to understand, simpler to work with, and more reliable. I want to improve the performance of the interpreter and make the GUI more useful. I’d love to be able to devote my full attention and energy to these projects for as long as I am able.

  • Public Services/Government

    • Luxembourg University sponsors open source developers

      “We have been using Debian in our HPC infrastructure since 2007 which has grown to 100 servers and more than 500 computing nodes”, says HPC staff member Hyacinthe Cartiaux. The department is part of the Grid5000 initiative which is also mainly based on Debian.

      “We want to extend the lifespan of the Debian releases to at least 5 years in order to provide a stable and safe environment for our researchers”, system administrator Cartiaux says. In February 2016, the department began sponsoring Freexian, a French company that partners with well-known contributors in the free software community to offer long term support. This includes both individual developers and companies specialised in free and open source.

    • France updates IT project evaluation tool Mareva

      The IT project management solution was first made available in 2005, by ADAE, the precursor to DINSIC. Support for free and open source software was added sometime after August 2007, when Mareva supported its use in OpenOffice. In 2014, it switched to support LibreOffice, a much more rapidly developing open source office suite.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Three new FOSS umbrella organizations in Europe

      Last year, three new umbrella organizations for free and open-source software (and hardware) projects emerged in Europe. Their aim is to cater to the needs of the community by providing a legal entity for projects to join, leaving the projects free to focus on technical and community tasks. These organizations (Public Software CIC, [The Commons Conservancy], and the Center for the Cultivation of Technology) will take on the overhead of actually running a legal entity themselves.

      Among other services, they offer to handle donations, accounting, grants, legal compliance, or even complex governance for the projects that join them. In my opinion (and, seemingly, theirs) such services are useful to these kinds of projects; some of the options that these three organizations bring to the table are quite interesting and inventive.

    • The Linux Foundation Offers Free Open Source Licensing Course: “Compliance Basics for Developers”

      Open Source has grown from a mere idea to a philosophy that drives some of the most crucial innovations around the world. The concept of reviewing code made by others, introducing your own changes, and then distributing the code back to the community creates a feedback loop that helps individual developers accomplish much more as a community than what they can do alone.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Data

      • A new open source dataset links human motion and language

        Researchers have created a large, open source database to support the development of robot activities based on natural language input. The new KIT Motion-Language Dataset will help to unify and standardize research linking human motion and natural language, as presented in an article in Big Data, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the Big Data website until March 9, 2017.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • AtCore: Printing with threads

        When connect to a 3d printer with your compuer you are really just connecting to a serial device. There are some commads you can send it in the form G# and M# commands . These commands do all kinds of stuff every thing from homing the axises to feeding filment and moving the head around. When you slice your model and generate that gcode file you are making generating basicly a long list of comamnds for the printer to follow. The gcode files are plain text and have to be sent out thru a serial device to the printer. Its not complicated to parse the file you just send a command and wait for the printer to return a message indicated its finished the comamnd and then send the next command. We have had this working for some time using a QEventLoop and a while to keep the loop going until the printer is ready for a new command. This was working wonderfully Untill we realized that we were having some blocking problems when printing. After some discussion tomaz , patrick and I decided the best way to fix this is for us to split the printing to its own thread so it can no longer block other parts by hyjacking the main event loop while printing.

  • Programming/Development

    • RSPIRV: Google’s Rust Implementation Of SPIR-V

      Google developers have been working on a number of open-source projects in the Vulkan space and one of their latest is SPIR-V processing with Rust.

      RSPIRV is another project under the Google umbrella on GitHub. RSPIRV is a Rust implementation of SPIR-V module processing functionalities. SPIR-V, of course, being the intermediate representation/language used by Vulkan as well as OpenCL 2.1+ and can also be used in OpenGL.

    • Optimize PHP with finely tuned IT resources and settings

      More than 90% of PHP-based websites still use PHP version 5. Of those websites, less than one quarter run the latest supported version, PHP 5.6. Despite the release of PHP 7 in December 2015, which has been documented and benchmarked as up to two times faster than PHP 5.6, the adoption rate is only around 3% among websites that use the language. The first step — before optimizing PHP using the following tips — is to upgrade to version 7.

    • Node for Java Developers

      The biggest audience for my Node.js workshops, courses and books (especially when I’m teaching live) is Java developers. You see, it used to be that Java was the only language professional software developers/engineers had to know. Not anymore. Node.js as well as other languages like Go, Elixir, Python, Clojure, dictate a polyglot environment in which the best tool for the job is picked.

    • Morocco’s First Open Source ERP Uses Java EE 7!
    • Hazelcast’s Parallel Streaming Engine Targets Java/Big Data Programmers

      In-memory data grid (IMDG) specialist Hazelcast Inc. yesterday launched a new distributed processing engine for Big Data streams. The open-source, Apache 2-licenced Hazelcast Jet is designed to process data in parallel across nodes, enabling data-intensive applications to operate in near real-time.

    • On new zlib breaking perl
    • anytime 0.2.1

Leftovers

  • Private Eye hits highest circulation in 55-year history ‘which is quite something given that print is meant to be dead’

    Private Eye hit its biggest ever print circulation in the second half of 2016 – up 9 per cent year on year, according to ABC.

    The title has also revealed that the 2016 Christmas issue achieved the biggest sale in the title’s 55-year history, 287,334 copies.

  • Science

    • Hijacking bacteria to kill cancer

      Scientists have recruited modified bacteria to help fight cancer, which successfully infiltrated tumors and activated the immune system to kill malignant cells, a new study reports. Tumors size decreased below detectable limits in 11 out of 20 mice that received injections of a strain of bacteria designed to be innocuous, yet able to effectively suppress the growth of cancerous masses. Despite the fact that Salmonella strains have been harnessed to deliver different types of therapeutic agents, these strategies often require multiple injections of microbes, and relapse is common. In search of a better method, Jin Hai Zheng and colleagues used attenuated Salmonella typhimurium bacteria as “Trojan horses,” which infiltrated the low-oxygen environments found within tumors and secreted an immune response-triggering signal – from a protein named FlaB, involved in the locomotion of the marine microbe Vibrio vulnificus — that stimulated the cancer-eliminating activities of protective macrophages. The FlaB-expressing bacteria was proven to be nontoxic, and importantly, didn’t invade non-cancerous tissue in rodents. After three days post-administration, the numbers of bacteria inside tumors were 10,000-fold greater than those found in vital organs. What’s more, the combination of Salmonella and FlaB synergistically shrank tumors, prolonged survival and also prevented metastasis in a mouse model of human colon cancer. While mice receiving non-FlaB producing microorganisms displayed some reductions in cancer burden, their tumor masses tended to regrow. The authors speculate that its good safety profile makes the engineered bacteria a promising potential anticancer strategy.

  • Security

    • Newly discovered flaw undermines HTTPS connections for almost 1,000 sites

      Encrypted connections established by at least 949 of the top 1 million websites are leaking potentially sensitive data because of a recently discovered software vulnerability in appliances that stabilize and secure Internet traffic, a security researcher said Thursday.

    • Introducing Capsule8: Container-Aware, Real-time Threat Protection for Linux
    • Docker Secures Container Secrets in Datacenter Update

      Docker releases updated versions of its open-source and commercial container platforms, adding new security features to help safeguard privileged access information.

      Docker is advancing its open-source container engine as well as its commercially supported Docker Datacenter platform with enhanced capabilities designed to help safeguard container secrets.

    • After Linux; Mirai Botnet is Available for Windows

      Antivirus firms Dr.Web’s researchers have identified a new variant of Mirai bot, the infamous IoT malware. This new variant is capable of targeting Windows systems and can take on more ports than its Linux version. Dr.Web researchers have dubbed the new version as Trojan.Mirai.1.

    • Windows Trojan hacks into embedded devices to install Mirai
    • ​Google Project Zero: How we cracked Samsung’s DoD- and NSA-certified Knox

      Google’s Project Zero hackers have detailed several high-severity flaws that undermined a core defense in Samsung’s Knox platform that protects Galaxy handsets in the enterprise.

      Since launching Knox in 2013, the platform has been certified for internal use by UK and US government departments, including the US DoD and NSA. Given these certifications, defense-in-depth mechanisms should be rock solid.

    • Mirai Botnet Spreads With Help From Infected Windows Computers
    • Lovely. Now someone’s ported IoT-menacing Mirai to Windows boxes

      The Mirai malware that hijacked hundreds of thousands of IoT gadgets, routers and other devices is now capable of infecting Windows systems.

    • Finding Ticketbleed

      Ticketbleed (CVE-2016-9244) is a software vulnerability in the TLS stack of certain F5 products that allows a remote attacker to extract up to 31 bytes of uninitialized memory at a time, which can contain any kind of random sensitive information, like in Heartbleed.

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

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

    • Wire’s independent security review

      Ever since Wire launched end-to-end encryption and open sourced its apps one question has consistently popped up: “Is there an independent security review available?” Well, there is now!

      Kudelski Security and X41 D-Sec published a joint review of Wire’s encrypted messaging protocol implementation. They found it to have “high security, thanks to state-of-the-art cryptographic protocols and algorithms, and software engineering practices mitigating the risk of software bugs.”

    • Practical Steps for Protecting IoT Devices

      The security of IoT devices is a high priority these days, as attackers can use Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks to target them and wreak havoc on a system.

      “Due to the sheer volume of unconnected devices, it can take hours and often days to mitigate such an attack,” says Adam Englander, who is a Senior Engineer of the LaunchKey product at iovation.

    • IoT Cybersecurity Alliance Will Collaborate on Standards, Education

      A new IoT Cybersecurity Alliance formed by AT&T, IBM, Palo Alto Networks, Symantec, and Trustonic promises to help solve one of the most critical elements of the Internet of Things (IoT) — security. The group says its goal is to work on IoT security standards as well as raise awareness about the topic.

      There are numerous IoT-related associations working to promote different segments of IoT and streamline the fragmentation that exists in the industry. However, this is the first group to focus solely on security. AT&T, which was an early advocate for IoT, said it has seen a 3,198 percent increase in attackers scanning for vulnerabilities in IoT devices.

    • Security updates for Friday
    • Capsule8 Launches Linux-Based Container Security Platform

      Cybersecurity startup Capsule8 this week announced that it has raised US$2.5 million to launch the industry’s first container-aware, real-time threat protection platform designed to protect legacy and next-generation Linux infrastructures from existing and potential attacks.

      CEO John Viega, CTO Dino Dai Zovi and Chief Scientist Brandon Edwards, all veteran hackers, cofounded the firm. They raised seed funding from Bessemer Venture Partners, as well as individual investors Shandul Shah of Index Ventures and ClearSky’s Jay Leek.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • NYT: Unlike Russian Wars, US Wars ‘Promote Freedom and Democracy’

      A rough look at the actions in question since Putin has been in office reveals this outrage to be, at best, misplaced. One tally by Airwars, a Western nonprofit, puts the total number of Syrian civilians killed by Russia since it entered the war in September 2015 at just over 4,000, or 0.8–0.4 percent of the 500,000 to 1 million civilians who died due to George W. Bush’s unilateral invasion of Iraq in 2003. Add to this the thousands of other civilians killed in other theaters of the “War on Terror” under the Bush and Obama administrations, including Afghanistan, Libya and Syria itself, and the idea of pointing to respect for civilian lives as something that elevates the United States above Russia seems a little absurd.

      But the addition of stifling dissent and allegedly killing journalists takes Russia over the line into Bad Guy territory, the Times suggests—ignoring the US’s own harsh punishment for whistleblowers, infiltration of dissident groups and bombing of foreign journalists. Not to mention the US’s sprawling, unprecedented incarceration system, or its unmatched institutional racism–all human right abuses leveled at home.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Planned Espionage Act could jail journos and whistleblowers as spies

      Proposals for a swingeing new Espionage Act that could jail journalists as spies have been developed in haste by legal officials, The Register has learned.

      The proposed Act is an attempt to ban reporting of future big data leaks.

      The government has received recommendations for a “future-proofed” new Espionage Act that would put leaking and whistleblowing in the same category as spying for foreign powers.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Welcome to the Madhouse: Scientist says Trump could destroy the world

      A WORLD-leading scientist has warned Donald Trump may signal the end of the world — and Australia could be first to face the catastrophic consequences.

      Michael Mann claims Mr Trump’s relationship to “post-truth” politics and “alternative facts” is much more than just embarrassing for the US and has the potential to destroy civilisation.

      Sitting in an office at the University of Sydney Business School ahead of his sold-out talk this week, the Penn State professor says one only has to look at the city’s record January temperatures for proof of how dangerous the President’s attitude is.

    • Huw Parkinson: Trumpocalypse Now (with Malcolm Turnbull)

      Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is sent deep into the jungle of the United States of America to try and smooth things over with newly elected President Donald Trump and quickly discovers how things get… “confused out there”. Huw Parkinson explores this harrowing tale.

  • Finance

    • May’s Brexit Law Faces Lords Challenge After Passing Lower House

      U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May faces a fresh challenge to a law allowing her to trigger Brexit after the opposition Labour Party said it’ll propose eight amendments when the legislation is debated in the House of Lords later this month.

      Labour peers will seek to enshrine in the law a parliamentary vote on May’s final deal with her European counterparts on the terms of the country’s departure from the EU, the party said in an e-mailed statement on Thursday. While the government pledged to grant such a vote during the bill’s passage through the House of Commons, it hasn’t detailed it in the bill. Seven other amendments would cover a range of other matters, from Britain’s membership of Euratom, a nuclear cooperation agreement, to the rights of EU citizens resident in Britain.

    • Donald Trump calls NSA at 3am to clear doubt on US economy

      The US President called National Security Advisor Mike Flynn at 3am seeking clarity on what a rising or falling currency actually means for the US economy.

    • Let’s dump CETA once and for all!

      On 15 February, the European Parliament will decide whether to ratify the Canada-EU Trade Agreement (CETA). In choosing to back this agreement, MEPs would allow its partial implementation and would open the door for the next steps of the legislative process, which could lead to its complete and definitive implementation. On the other hand, rejecting it would be a death-blow for the agreement, just as it was for ACTA in July 2012. Beyond the unacceptable procedure of its elaboration, CETA is a grave threat to our liberties and fundamental rights. Therefore, La Quadrature du Net calls upon MEPs to oppose it strongly.

    • Please Write to Your MEPs About Next Week’s Critical – and Final – CETA Vote

      Next Wednesday, the European Parliament will have its final vote on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA. If you were hoping to influence your UK MP on this, it’s too late: last week, the government sneaked through a vote on CETA without anyone noticing. It passed, of course, but given the absence of real democracy – or an opposition party – in the UK, that’s no surprise.

    • Labour’s Failure and Institutional Analysis

      Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to oppose Brexit in Parliament is as culpable as Harriet Harman’s failure to oppose welfare cuts. It will haunt Labour just as much. The job of opposition is to oppose. We currently have a more right wing government than I imagined the UK would ever see in my lifetime, and it is riding a tide of racist populism in England and Wales, barked on by a far right media whose ownership and world view is ever more concentrated. This is no time to drop the duty of resistance.

      Corbyn’s view of the EU is ambivalent. Both major English and Welsh parties are led by people who are at least highly sympathetic to Brexit. That is a democratic failure when 47 per cent of the English and Welsh voters supported the EU.

      The problem with the EU as a cause is that it is supported by some extremely unpleasant people. Straw (father and son), Mandelson, Osborne. The EU has nobody given media coverage to speak for it in the UK that is not amongst the most despised members of the political class. And in criticising Corbyn’s failure to oppose Brexit, I find myself echoing Blairites, which is uncomfortable.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Obama’s Lost Army

      The question of why—why the president and his team failed to activate the most powerful political weapon in their arsenal—has long been one of the great mysteries of the Obama era. Now, thanks to previously unpublished emails and memos obtained by the New Republic—some from the John Podesta archive released by WikiLeaks, and others made available by Obama insiders—it’s possible for the first time to see the full contours of why Movement 2.0 failed, and what could have been.

    • Saudis foot tab at Trump hotel

      A lobbying firm working for Saudi Arabia paid for a room at Donald Trump’s Washington hotel after Inauguration Day, marking the first publicly known payment on behalf of a foreign government to a Trump property since he became president.

      Qorvis MSLGroup, a communications firm that lobbies for the Saudis, has been organizing veterans and other activists to come to Washington to urge Congress to repeal the law letting 9/11 victims’ families sue the kingdom. Between 20 and 40 veterans, with the assistance of the advocacy group NMLB, stayed at the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in December and January.

    • Lift A Rock – Find Creepy Crawlies

      Where does Trump find these crackpots? He’s invited a guy who has fought against every reasonable attempt by government to preserve the environment for later generations to take over the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). This isn’t about Free Speech, having an opinion, etc. It’s about propagandizing harm to the environment.

      See also Myron Ebell: Paris Agreement ‘a dead end’ where this guy spouts lies about going to renewable energy being a burden on the economy. He even denies China is busy adopting renewable energy. That’s absolute crap. China is the world’s biggest producer of renewable energy and they are intent on taking a serious dent out of fossil fuel usage.

    • Spread it on Reddit

      On December 23, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was given an unexpected early Christmas present: a conspiracy theory accusing her of deliberately allowing Islamic State terrorists to operate in Europe so that she could unleash an “EU Army” against fellow EU member states.

      The story was a flimsy fake, and failed to penetrate beyond a handful of conspiracy and disinformation sites. It is nonetheless worth studying, as it illustrates the methods which far-right commentators are using to spread disinformation ahead of this year’s German and French elections, especially on Reddit.

    • Trump vexed by challenges, scale of government

      The new president’s allies say he has been surprised that government can’t be run like his business.

    • President Trump’s White House Reaching New Lows In Accountability And Transparency

      It’s still very early in the Trump presidency, but so far, things aren’t looking good. Overt and implicit threats to freedom of speech continue to linger in the air. Recent comments suggest Trump will look to roll back the few measures taken over the last few years to curb asset forfeiture abuse. Wording in one of President Trump’s first presidential statements suggests the administration is going to value “law and order” over citizens’ rights. Then there’s the travel ban, which is being contested in federal courts.

      We’re now seeing a rollback of the few transparency and accountability objectives the supposed-Most Transparent President Ever managed to accomplish over eight years of generally making things worse on both fronts.

      This follows Trump’s secrecy during his presidential campaign, where he shrugged off over four decades of precedent by refusing to release his tax returns. He’s made it clear on multiple occasions — while standing in front of a memorial to dead CIA operatives and during his Black History Month speech — that he does not trust the media. But the actions taken during the first few weeks of his presidency suggest he also does not trust the general public.

    • In a first, Wikipedia has deemed the Daily Mail too “unreliable” to be used as a citation
    • Wikipedia editors ban Daily Mail as source
    • Daily Mail branded “fake news” by Wikipedia
    • Daily Mail Hits Back At Wikipedia After It Bans Tabloid As Source, Calling It Unreliable
    • Wikipedia’s Daily Mail Ban Is a Welcome Rebuke to Terrible Journalism
    • Prepare your popcorn: Wikipedia deems the Daily Mail unreliable
    • Wikipedia bans Daily Mail as ‘unreliable’ source
    • Can’t Judge Fake News in the Dark

      This isn’t about Trump. It’s about judging the media, whoever and whatever they report on. It is about reading critically when so much out there is just simply inaccurate. Not maybe inaccurate, pure dead solid perfect stupid. So don’t call me a nazi.

      Step One is to note if the story you’re reading/seeing is all or mostly unsourced, or anonymously sourced. Red flag.

    • On Iran, SPLC’s ‘Extremist’ Is NPR’s ‘Expert’

      Last week, the Trump administration began ratcheting up hostilities with Iran, nominally in response to a ballistic missile test in late January. NPR (2/2/17) dutifully reported Trump’s announcement of new sanctions on Iran, framing the issue as the Trump White House responding to an Iranian “provocation” in regards to Iran’s agreement with the UN, rather than simply executing long-held plans. A follow-up explainer by international correspondent Peter Kenyon (2/3/17) would muddy the waters further and use an incredibly dodgy source to do so.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Merkel to Testify Before German Parliament Panel Probing NSA

      German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to testify before a German parliamentary panel investigating U.S. intelligence activities in the country.

      The inquiry was launched a year after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed details of secret U.S. eavesdropping programs in 2013. The panel is investigating alleged eavesdropping in Germany by the U.S. National Security Agency and its relationship with German counterparts.

    • Ex-CIA analyst: Pentagon has files that ‘completely vindicate’ NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake

      Former CIA analyst Pat Eddington is suing the Department of Defense over a 2010 case in which a former National Security Agency employee was charged with espionage after speaking to a reporter with the Baltimore Sun. Thomas Drake faced charges in 2010 after speaking with the reporter about an intelligence program that he believed was a violation of Americans’ civil liberties.

    • Former CIA Analyst Sues Defense Department to Vindicate NSA Whistleblowers

      In 2010, Thomas Drake, a former senior employee at the National Security Agency, was charged with espionage for speaking to a reporter from the Baltimore Sun about a bloated, dysfunctional intelligence program he believed would violate Americans’ privacy. The case against him eventually fell apart, and he pled guilty to a single misdemeanor, but his career in the NSA was over.

      Though Drake was largely vindicated, the central question he raised about technology and privacy has never been resolved. Almost seven years have passed now, but Pat Eddington, a former CIA analyst, is still trying to prove that Drake was right.

    • Court Says Microsoft Can Sue Government Over First Amendment-Violating Gag Orders
    • Ohio Arsonist Gets Busted By His Own Pacemaker

      When we talk about pacemakers here at Techdirt, the focus is usually on how the devices have paper-mache grade security, allowing anybody to assassinate the cardiac-challenged with relative ease. In fact we’ve reached the point where the FTC had to recently issue its first ever warning against a pacemaker vendor when it announced that hackers could comprmise pacemakers made by St. Jude Medical, sending “commands to the implanted device, which could result in rapid battery depletion and/or administration of inappropriate pacing or shocks.”

      But your pacemaker may just betray you in other ways, too. In Ohio a man was indicted this week on arson and insurance fraud charges after his Pacemaker data contradicted the story he was telling authorities. When the man’s home burned down on September 19, Middletown resident Ross Compton told authorities he quickly packed some belongings in a suitcase and some bags, broke a window with his cane, and quickly fled through the window before carrying his belongings back to the car. The man also acknowledged at the time that he had a pacemaker.

    • DHS Secretary Says Agency Is Planning On Demanding Foreigners’ Social Media Account Passwords

      Last summer, the DHS started asking visitors to the US to supply their social media handles. It was all on a strictly voluntary basis, of course. But that doesn’t mean some immigrants and visa seekers didn’t do exactly as they were asked, either due to a language barrier or figuring that turning down this request might harm their chances of entering the country.

      Six months later, the DHS made it more official, unofficially. An “optional” section in the DHS’s online visa application process asked for account info for multiple social media platforms, including (strangely) Github and JustPasteIt. Again, officials assured everyone this was optional and the information was to be used to assess the threat levels of incoming foreigners. Again, the DHS probably harvested a fair amount of information despite the optional nature of the request. Like any cop asking if you’d “mind if they look around the car a little bit,” the request carried unspoken threats that things might be a bit more difficult if the request was denied.

    • Fake Intelligence

      Here’s a recent interview I did for RT UK’s flagship news programme, Going Underground with Afshin Rattansi, about the whole fake news, fake intelligence allegations swirling around President Trump’ administration at the moment…

    • UK Train Operators Plan To Charge Passengers Using Their Biometrics

      At least Bluetooth signals have the virtue of operating quite quickly, and from a certain distance. It’s hard to see how fingerprints or iris scans will be so slick in practice. As we’ve noted before, there are serious problems with getting fingerprint scans for the general public to work on a large scale, and those difficulties are likely to be exacerbated when people are in a hurry to catch a train.

      Iris scans typically require the subject to stand on a certain spot and to keep still while their eye is checked. As anyone who has been through some airports around the world knows, iris scans often take several attempts to recognize someone, and may fail altogether, which requires a manual check elsewhere. In the context of a busy station, this seems a recipe for disaster.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Secretive anti-subversion police units are no way to combat Britain’s far right

      Of course I wanted to cheer when I heard the news that the government is paying M&C Saatchi to combat hate campaigners, along with an anti-subversion unit targeting violent rightwingers as part of a £60m budget to fight extremism. I wanted to cheer but didn’t. Does this sort of advertising work? Has it been tested?

      I have always thought the government and police have a blind spot when it comes to rightwing ideologues and their followers. However, having spent years as an environmental activist and Green party politician – part of a movement that is still on the receiving end of repressive police tactics – I’ve learned the value of being clear about definitions. As a democrat and advocate of civil rights for all, I don’t want people being locked up for having vile opinions, or any kind of thought crime.

    • U.S. Court of Appeals Upholds Suspension of Immigration Executive Order

      We are pleased with today’s decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the District Court of Washington’s suspension of the U.S. Executive Order on immigration.

    • Trump Says There’s ‘No Reason’ To Scale Back Asset Forfeiture; Threatens Career Of Senator Backing Forfeiture Reform

      Here comes some more law and order, courtesy of our new law and order President. President Trump met with a group of sheriffs on Tuesday and offered to start rolling back civil asset forfeiture reforms. Apparently, it’s time to reset the clock on forfeiture, bringing us back to a time when the process wasn’t so heavily-criticized. But Trump’s not offering to curb abuse. He just fails to see why so many people think it’s a bad idea.

    • Confirmed: TSA’s Behavioral Detection Program Is Useless, Biased, And Based On Junk Science

      Thanks to FOIA requests (and lawsuits), the ACLU has gathered enough documents to provide a comprehensive report [PDF] on the worthlessness of the TSA’s “Behavioral Detection” program. Meant to give the agency a better way of proactively thwarting acts of terrorism, the program instead opts for lazy profiling, dubious readings of behavioral cues, and junk science.

    • UK Police Spy On Journalists At Small Town Paper, Gather One Million Minutes Worth Of Call Data

      The UK’s top spy agencies have been known to place journalists under surveillance. Leaked Snowden documents showed GCHQ collected emails from news organizations such as the New York Times, BBC, and Washington Post. More accusations of spying were raised by UK journalists, detailing what appeared to be a clear abuse of the country’s anti-terror laws — laws particularly prone to exploitation thanks to generous loopholes and a minimum of oversight.

      It wasn’t just spy agencies doing the spying. In the case of the UK journalists, it was also local law enforcement digging through their emails and phone calls in hopes of identifying sources and leakers. More evidence of police surveillance of journalists has come to light, as reported by the Associated Press. Once again, it’s law enforcement looking to uncover sources and whistleblowers, rather than terrorists or criminals.

    • Trump Issues Executive Orders To Make A Safe Nation Safe And Protect Cops Who Don’t Need Protection

      More Executive Orders have been issued by Donald Trump. The latest skew heavily in favor of Trump’s recent conversational partners: members of law enforcement.

      Earlier this week in a meeting with several sheriffs, Trump voiced his support for asset forfeiture and made an off-hand comment about ruining the careers of legislators engaged in reform efforts. Great fun was had by all… mostly Trump and perhaps a sheriff or two.

      One order does nothing more than what large bureaucracies do best: institute task forces. Trump’s task force is charged with “crime reduction and public safety.” The DOJ will head this up and ask for cooperation from local law enforcement agencies. The public safety priorities are definitely Trump’s, though.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Trademarks

      • KYLIE trade mark battle spinning around

        The dispute began back in April 2015 when Kylie Jenner (a member of the Kardashian family) attempted to register KYLIE in the USA for advertising and endorsement services.

        Kylie Minogue opposed the application. It is rare for oppositions to be quoted in the press, but the description of Jenner as a “secondary reality television personality” has been repeated in almost every report of the dispute.

    • Copyrights

      • The top US copyright plaintiffs since 2015 revealed

        The Central District of California and Southern District of New York are the top districts for US copyright litigation since 2009, a Lex Machina report reveals. In the past year, textile pattern litigation has increased greatly, while file-sharing cases have dropped

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