The USPTO Report on Section 101 is Somewhat Farcical as Input Comes From the Patent Microcosm, Not Producing Companies

Posted in America, Deception, Patents at 6:22 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Soda industry

Summary: The USPTO is reaching convenient but erroneous conclusions by drawing input from just a tiny minority that’s niche interest groups (profiting from a torrent of litigation and low-quality patents)

THE occasional public events that discuss patents tend to be a sham. We wrote about several such bogus panels last year. These are echo chambers. Not a single engineer or technical person attended such events (or spoke in them). Lawyers, attorneys and managers were everywhere; public officials too. But nobody who actually applies for a patents or whose work is affected by patents. The intention of such events is to mislead the public by exclusion of voices.

“The intention of such events is to mislead the public by exclusion of voices.”Such was the report on Section 101, which was the outcome of lobbying, as we noted yesterday and earlier this week. The USPTO continues to grant patents that courts very often reject because the examiners, pressured from above, are too eager to grant and increase the numbers irrespective of merit (prior art, complexity of said invention and so on). It’s similar to what is happening at the EPO, but the US has PTAB (appeal board/s), whereas these systematically get marginalised in Europe and Oppositions/Appeals too (another division) sees windows narrowed to further impede/suppress much-needed gchallenges.

“Well, “these participants” are the patent microcosm, which does no innovation at all.”To make a long story short (or a 60-page document more concise), front groups of the microcosm want not only to eliminate PTAB but also to broaden patent scope, as usual. IAM has just named those notably involved as “the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO), the American Intellectual Property Lawyers Association (AIPLA) and the IP section of the American Bar Association (ABA),” adding that they “have all put forward proposed 101 revisions” (to water down Alice effects).

This is very much expected and this is why we need to watch this carefully. The writer too is a patent maximalist (longtime proponent of trolls and software patents) and he said:

The report is not an advocacy document [yeah right!] and is therefore not designed to influence the patent reform debate in one direction or another. But it does conclude that a majority of those who took part in the consultation process favour legislative change to 101. “A call for legislation was particularly strong from the life sciences industry but also had many supporters from computer-related industries,” the PTO wrote. “According to these participants, the [Supreme] Court’s precedent is having such a harmful impact on innovation and business development that a legislative solution is critical.”

Well, “these participants” are the patent microcosm, which does no innovation at all.

IPO has in fact worked hand in glove with IBM on this, in order to facilitate IBM's ruinous patent bullying.

“Sites like IAM must be very pleased, for they are directly funded by the patent microcosm and effectively act as a front/influence group.”We have to confess that we have not yet read the entire report (it’s too long), but the impression we get from those who have is that it amplifies the positions of the patent microcosm. Sites like IAM must be very pleased, for they are directly funded by the patent microcosm and effectively act as a front/influence group. That’s just their business model.

Earlier today another writer from IAM wrote in order to protest Japan’s likely/imminent decision to do the right thing, having already toughened the courts (to make frivolous patent lawsuits harder). Those who use standards as Trojan horses to tax a lot of companies (the way MPEG-LA does) might lose their power, so the exploiters of such schemes panic a little. IAM responded with this:

The Prime Minister’s Office included the ADR proposal in its 2017 IP Promotion Plan. The document calls for the necessary amendments to the Patent Law to be submitted at the next ordinary session of the Diet, which is in January 2018. The plan states that the legal structure of the new system, which it maintains will not ‘abuse patent owner rights’, should be determined by March 2018.

As is usual and ever so typical from IAM, which already protested the Japanese courts’ hostility towards bad patent, it then veers off and turns into a megaphone of the abusers.

“As is usual and ever so typical from IAM, which already protested the Japanese courts’ hostility towards bad patent, it then veers off and turns into a megaphone of the abusers.”It ought to be clear by now that there’s an information war between “parasitic” elements in the patent world (trolls and law firms) and everybody else, namely companies that produce things and the public (which buys these things). If the USPTO fails to recognise and take this into account, it will be treated as nothing more than an extension of the “parasite”.

In Anthony Levandowski’s Case, Google Demonstrates It Would Leverage Patent Lawsuits as a Surrogate Weapon

Posted in Courtroom, Google, Patents at 5:36 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Related: Google’s Stewardship of GNU/Linux (Android, Chromebooks and More) in Doubt After Company Resorts to Patent ‘First Strikes’

Anthony Levandowski
Reference: Anthony Levandowski. Credit: shinnygogo, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licence.

Summary: Another look at cases where patents are used as a sort of revenge/leverage over completely unrelated disputes, or matters pertaining to alleged copying rather than patent infringement per se

THE LATEST in Google v Uber (Google by another name) was covered earlier this month. What’s noteworthy about this case is that it’s Google first time (as far as anyone is aware, based on public action) resorting to patent aggression — no matter the excuses/justifications for it — after nearly two decades on the scene. The USPTO had granted patents that Google essentially bought and a popular magazine has just expressed concerns that patent wars like these may “Kill the Self-Driving Car” (alluding directly to this case):

Google vs. Uber is just the first salvo in what could be a nasty legal tug-of-war over who makes the biggest stack of money on the future of moving people around.

The case has generally been reduced by about 75% (little of it left in terms of the number of patents involved/asserted) and the judge says “Waymo may be in “a world of trouble” if it can’t prove actual harm by Uber”.

“Google’s division sued Uber back in February,” it said, “alleging that one of its own former engineers, Anthony Levandowski, stole 14,000 proprietary files and took them to his new startup, Otto (which was quickly acquired by Uber). However, Uber says it never received them and so it couldn’t have and didn’t implement them into its own products, services, or prototypes.”

Whatever the case may be, resorting to patent warfare was a big mistake from Google and we hope the lawsuit will be withdrawn entirely. What Google did shows that it’s willing to use patents offensively and therefore Google cannot be trusted with any patents under its belt.

Incidentally, there is this similar case in Florida where Axon (Taser rebranded to dodge the bad publicly) wants a monopoly on deadly weapons and uses patents to enforce this monopoly. To quote:

Axon, the company formerly known as Taser, said Monday that it has successfully defeated a Florida company in a patent lawsuit over its electrical stun gun design. For Axon, the victory is the third against knockoff rival firms in the last seven years.

Last Friday, a federal judge in Florida found that a company called “Phazzer” (yes, like “phaser”) “engaged in a pattern of bad faith behavior” as the case has unfolded. Phazzer made a product strikingly similar to the Taser. And the case involving Axon was first filed in 2016, shortly after a Florida county sheriff decided to switch from Taser weapons to Phazzer (largely over cost reasons).

The term “Phazzer” probably predates Axon/Taser (science fiction movies) and the retreat to patents over potentially different gripes (like in the above-mentioned Levandowski dispute) shows that patents became more like a weapon of revenge. This oughtn’t happen. If almost anyone is infringing someone’s patent (or patents), then it’s just a tool of mass coercion.

Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures and Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation Turn Public Money Into a Tax on the Public

Posted in America, Patents at 4:59 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Full paper [PDF]

Summary: The University of Wisconsin System, or the public state university system of Wisconsin (funded partly by taxpayers), turns into additional tax on taxpayers in an act of “crony capitalism” as it’s sometimes dubbed; Johns Hopkins has this potential too

TECHRIGHTS has, over the years, published many articles about US universities that use USPTO-granted patents to either feed patent trolls (through sales, i.e. de facto ‘armament’) or use separate entities to wage legal wars.

“Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures seems like another one of those entities using taxpayers money for privatisation with patents, under the familiar guise of “Technology Transfer”.”There’s an angle of gross abuse, waste and injustice to all this. It has become common knowledge in patent circles because the media occasionally writes about it and we don’t wish to repeat all the same arguments again. Instead, let’s focus on this press release that resurfaced earlier today (it was apparently first published 10 days ago).

Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures seems like another one of those entities using taxpayers money for privatisation with patents, under the familiar guise of “Technology Transfer”. The patents are now being passed to some company called CardioWise™, which may or may not use these patents (some of which pertaining to software) in litigation or threats thereof.

“Apple is just the latest among many victims, but the media seems to care only when Apple is on the receiving end…”More relevant to our case though is the lawsuit mentioned the other day for its effect on Apple (which corporate media absolutely loves writing about). The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), essentially one of those loopholes for universities to act not like universities (which are conveniently funded by taxpayers, akin to corporate welfare), decided to attack these taxpayers with taxpayers-funded patents (e.g. by raising the price of products). Apple is just the latest among many victims, but the media seems to care only when Apple is on the receiving end and headlines that say “half a BEEELLION dollars” become possible. Shaun Nichols, who is based in San Francisco, explains the patent at hand as follows (there are diagrams too): “That patent is impenetrable if you’re not au fait with modern processor design but it’s pretty interesting. It basically describe a speculative execution system that predicts memory dependencies within a CPU pipeline. It uses a table to track potential dependencies to avoid misspeculations, which are costly to execution speed. Specifically, it looks out for load-store pairs that can cause a misspeculation.”

“If there is any technology transfer that merits advocating here, it’s a transfer from academic/scientific institutions back to the public that financially sustains them.”Joe Mullin, a trolls expert, wrote about this too, noting that “WARF was one of the first university institutions to dive heavily into patent litigation. In a stream of lawsuits, WARF has demanded that it be paid royalties on a vast number of semiconductors.”

We unfortunately need to continue to name and shame those who do this in very much the same way/reason we criticise the NSA for amassing patents and NASA selling patents to trolls [1, 2]. This, in our view, is misuse of public funds. If there is any technology transfer that merits advocating here, it’s a transfer from academic/scientific institutions back to the public that financially sustains them.

Value of European Patents (EPs) is Diminishing, EPs Get Invalidated, and EPO Insiders Bemoan the Management’s Lies About Patent Quality

Posted in Europe, Patents at 4:01 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: EPO insiders (or affiliates nearby) explain just how bad patent quality has become — due to the management’s policies — and why it poses a threat to the attractiveness of the EPO (where the number of patent applications is already declining)

THIS is precisely what we’ve warned about. For nearly a decade of covering the EPO. The bar has been lowered so much that, according to IP Watch (earlier today), “Companies Prefer Trade Secrets To Patents To Protect Innovation, EUIPO Finds” (interpretation/analysis of the cause notwithstanding).

“In some people’s minds, the EPO is a failed institution whose remaining momentum is owed to its past glory.”They’re not wrong. Based on people whom I speak to regularly, the image of the EPO and the prestige — so to speak — of EPs just isn’t there anymore. In some people’s minds, the EPO is a failed institution whose remaining momentum is owed to its past glory. A lot of technical people in the UK read The Register and what they see there about strikes and tyranny not only repels them; it also harms the image of the EU. Such is the legacy of Battistelli…

A sister site of WIPR weighed in by mentioning a decision from Monday, albeit not directly noting that EPO grants of weak/bogus patents finally result in mass invalidations. It inevitably causes a reduction in the certainty of EPs and hence their overall value (real or perceived) — something that no stakeholder should be pleased with.

To quote:

A European Patent Office (EPO) Board of Appeal has published its decision that invalidated a patent owned by Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) which covered a blockbuster anti-cancer drug.

Published on Monday, July 24, the decision invalidated European Patent number 1169038, a composition-of-matter patent covering dasatinib.

Dasatinib is a targeted therapy used to treat leukaemia sold under the brand name Sprycel. In 2016, the drug obtained worldwide revenues of $1.8 billion.

So another EP bites the dust. It should never have been granted and we can expect a lot more of that now that examiners are pressured to 'produce' more.

As mentioned here yesterday (we still hope that someone will leak the full text to us), EPO management now conflates time with quality. People were rather shocked to learn this. As the following comment put it:

That last comment from Anonymous made my jaw drop. Assessing “quality” on the basis of what one can measure? Seriously?

Amongst the things one can measure is the gap in time between paying the search fee and getting the search report.

Amongst the things one cannot measure is the “quality” of the search.

But nevertheless, EPO management announces that quality has increased, purely because the search reports are issuing faster.

What a joke!

Referring to the Croatian/German scandal we are covering (there's a lot more on the way), someone then wrote this:

Apparently, the content of the search or examination is of little interest to the department responsible for quality control, important is that they are out fast!

This sounds like the pioneering approach adopted by some smaller national IPOs a few years ago. Nice to see such techniques being successfully exported to the EPO.

“The acceleration of the administrative part of the proceedings, and thus the overall decision-making process on the merits of the matter, is in the interest of both the requester and the holder of the trademark.

In other words, upon receipt of a request for cancellation of a trademark, if it is in order, as required by Article 47 of the Trademark Act (Official Gazette 173/03, 76/07 and 30/09), the Office is required to forward the request to the holder of the trademark without any examination of the substantive merits, which was also done in this case.”


Since this whole threat is so old and marginalised (the ‘Kats’ give no newer opportunity to comment on EPO scandals without going off topic), we wish to reproduce today’s remaining comments as well (all 3 of them). Alison Brimelow (Battistelli’s predecessor) was mentioned below:

I see now that I was too quick to express my disgust, how the EPO measures “quality” of assessing patentability.

If I gather it right, the EPO does not claim that search quality has improved. Rather, the assertion is that it has “never been higher”. The difference is crucial. For any assessment that requires more than bean-counting or number crunching, the “never been higher” mantra is a safe one to utter, regardless how much it flies in the face of what we all know. Still, once BB defines “quality” as “timeliness”, he can of course get the answer he craves.

Thus, Donald Trump can safely assert that there has never been a US President of higher “quality” than himself, because never has a President spent fewer working days in The White House. He must be the greatest Decider of all time, right?

Or the NHS can safely assert that the “quality” of orthopaedic (or brain) surgery in English hospitals has “never been higher” because each patient today spends fewer days in a hospital ward than used to be the case.

As Alison Brimelow urged, getting EPO search reports out on time is important. But the core quality of the search is something entirely different. Just suppose that, even as we speak, “core quality” is going down, just as fast as “timeliness” is going up. If the EPO President defines “QQuality” as the aggregate of core quality and timeliness, then “QQuality has never been higher” than it is today, even while core quality is worse today than it has ever been.

Then an explanation of why quick decisions are not necessarily desirable — a point made recently by Thorsten Bausch (Hoffmann Eitle):

It is quite ironical that at the time when the EPO pushes for quick grant, the UK IPO has published a blog warning about the deleterious effects a quick prosecution might have.


The most relevant part:
Can this [the grant procedure]be sped up?

Yes, but you should think carefully about whether a fast grant is in your best interests. For example, the earlier your patent application is published, the earlier the technology is in the public domain [at least quick publication can be avoided, as eventually all applications are published at 18 months].

Many applicants are happy to proceed to grant at a slower pace. This enables them to develop and plan the commercialisation and marketing of their invention, whilst the patent application process continues. It also gives them time to determine whether their invention is commercially viable before committing to a greater financial outlay.

I doubt that anything more can be said, but that the communication between the EPO and some of the national patent offices appears to be sub-optimal, to say the least!

Finally, some figures from someone who knows things from the inside (on the face of it):

What people should know is that examiners do not have the time to do their job. Let me explain:
-examiners have an objective at the beginning of the year, let us say 100 files.
-these 100 files should be examination and search, e.g. 50 searches and 50 examinations or 60/40, etc…
-only end actions count in examination, so the 50 examinations can be 50 grants or 40 grants and 10 refusals, etc…
-if you don’t get your objective, you have a problem.

Basically, a few years ago the objective was reasonable. Say, you got 100 files to do and you could end up with 60 searches, 35 grants and 5 refusals.

Today, we have the combination of several factors at the same time:
-it is not 100, it was increased to 120 or 140 or more (examiners have no say in that, they can object an unreasonable increase but the complain will not lead anywhere). Let us say 120.
-the office is hiring plenty of new examiners, they get a high proportion of the searches (because they are starting, they have no stock).
-consequently, experience examiners get less searches. For example, for the 120 files objective, you would normally need 75 searches, but your director has only 30 in stock for you for the whole year. Suddenly, you need to do 120-30=90 examination files.
-now for the good part: only final actions count, but refusals take at least 6 months more. You need to summon for oral proceedings. You can either do your job correctly (and then you end up with 30 searches, 50 grants and 40 summons and are 40 files short or your objective as the summons do not count) or grant a few more “borderline” files to get to your objective.

I think that the only way out would be if the industry (applicants, representatives) would start to file oppositions massively. We still take the time to do a proper job on opposition files, while we don’t on pure examination files.

Very interesting and important comments have been relegated to a thread from about four months ago, buried deep in pagination (due to the number of comments posted there since). It probably won’t be the end of this thread about how quality of patents at the EPO went downhill. We’ll continue to keep an eye on followups because therein exist opportunities to pull anonymous insights from inside the Office.

Links 27/7/2017: Wine Staging 2.13, Fedora 27 Schedule, FreeBSD 11.1

Posted in News Roundup at 12:22 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • New GitHub features focus on open source community

    GitHub is adding new features and improvements to help build and grow open source communities. According to the organization, open source thrives on teamwork, and members need to be able to easily contribute and give back. The new features are centered around contributing, open source licensing, blocking, and privacy.

    New contributor badges are designed to welcome new contributors, and it helps to identify the type of users within a project. For instance, maintainers will now be able to see a “first-time contributor” badge to new members. In addition, maintainers will also be able to distinguish lengthy and heated discussions, according to GitHub.

  • How an open source framework will help AI reach the masses
  • Teradata Acquires San Diego-based Start-up StackIQ

    The deal will leverage StackIQ’s expertise in open source software and large cluster provisioning to simplify and automate the deployment of Teradata Everywhere.

  • Giants of the Open Source Community

    This feature pays homage to individuals which, in our opinion, have made the most important contribution to the world of open source.

    It’s true that open source is collective power in action. The most important open source projects are frequently coded by a collection of experts, that build, share, and improve the software together, then make it available to everyone. But this does not diminish the importance of an individual’s contribution to the popularity of open source software.

    Without open source, many of the systems and applications we take for granted simply would not be around. All the key players in computing come from, or owe a huge creative debt to, the open-source community, and continue to rely on its talent and expertise when developing new products.

    The availability of free open source software has huge potential benefits, allowing users to share their collective experience to improve the software as its developed, as well as giving access to essential software to those who couldn’t otherwise afford it.

    Obviously limiting the selection to only 10 open source giants made for some really difficult decisions. There are so many others who play key contributions to the development of open source. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

  • Is Wall Street Ready for Open Source Software?

    Open source software and the open collaboration practices that it engenders are quietly gaining ground among software vendors, securities firms and maybe across Wall Street.

    One of the biggest proponents of OSS movement, the Symphony Software Foundation, based in Palo Alto, Calif., has been consistently pulling market participants into its camp.

  • GigaSpaces Spins Off Cloudify, Its Open Source Cloud Orchestration Unit

    GigaSpaces Technologies announced today that its business unit for Cloudify, the open source orchestration and cloud management platform, will be spun off into a new company focused on its core markets — cloud and telecoms. GigaSpaces’ core product is its in-memory computing platform XAP. It also sells an in-memory analytics solution called InsightEdge.

  • Start-up accused of undermining popular open-source tools

    Kite, a San Francisco based startup that develops tools for IDEs and text editors used by programmers, has apologized to the open-source community after its code was found to include what many considered to be ads for the company.

    Sharp-eyed developers noticed that an update pushed to Kite’s Minimap for Atom Github page seemed to inject links in the code Minimap was looking at to Kite’s own website, and to upload scripts to Kite’s own servers. Uploading a programmer’s work to an untrusted third-party server is a security concern.

    Was Kite being unethical? The open-source community certainly thought so.

    Kite, founded in 2014 by CEO Adam Smith, makes tools that use machine learning to acquire data from GitHub with the stated intention of making a programmer’s work easier and better.

  • Experts: Open source entrepreneurship the next big thing

    Anyone can be an entrepreneur, if you have the right guidance. With a body of knowledge that is open sourced and publicly available, you can be your best mentor in learning what it takes to launch your own venture.

    That was the message from Boulder Venture Capitalist Brad Feld and Bill Aulet, managing director of Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship on Wednesday. The duo spoke as part of program promoting Catalyze CU, summer startup accelerator designed for CU students and faculty.

    Aulet said entrepreneurs must have four characteristics: heart, head, hands and home.

  • Open Source Tool Emerges For Cyber Defense

    As banks, hospitals and retailers continue to lose ground to hackers, the open source community has stepped into the fray with a cyber security project designed to bring advanced analytics to IT monitoring data. The incubating Apache Spot 1.0 project also seeks to leverage machine learning to scale cyber defenses.

    As Spot moves toward “graduation” from the Apache Software Foundation, member companies are attempting to scale the cyber tool to accelerate real-time threat detection. Cloudera (NYSE: CLDR), for one, announced a cyber security framework this week based on the open source project.

  • An Open-Source Toolkit To Help Patch Cell Networks’ Critical Flaw

    In May, a well-known but long-ignored cell network flaw let cybercriminals drain bank accounts across Germany. The process of patching up the holes in Signaling System 7 has proven slow, and mostly reserved for large telecoms who can afford to invest in experimenting with defenses. But now, a team of researchers has created a set of open-source SS7 solutions, making fixes to one of the world’s most persistent vulnerabilities available to all.

  • Events

    • Open Source Mentoring: Your Path to Immortality

      Rich Bowen is omnipresent at any Open Source conference. He wears many hats. He has been doing Open Source for 20+ years, and has worked on dozens of different projects during that time. He’s a board member of the Apache Software Foundation, and is active on the Apache HTTPd project. He works at Red Hat, where he’s a community manager on the OpenStack and CentOS projects.

      At Open Source Summit North America, Bowen will be delivering a talk titled “Mentoring: Your Path to Immortality.” We talked to Bowen to know more about the secret of immortality and successful open source projects.

    • Activities for All at OS Summit in Los Angeles: Mentoring, Yoga, Puppies, and More!

      Open Source Summit North America is less than two months away! Join 2,000+ open source professionals Sept. 11-14 in Los Angeles, CA, for exciting keynotes and technical talks covering all things Linux, cloud, containers, networking, emerging open source technologies, and more.

  • Web Browsers

  • CMS

    • Best Self-hosted eCommerce Software

      Starting a new eCommerce business? Great! The first thing you need to do is find an eCommerce app that’s going to fit your requirements. There are many eCommerce apps out there, which may be overwhelming. That’s why we decided to do this self-hosted eCommerce software list.

      We have years of experience with eCommerce hosting. So we’ve tested and have worked on most eCommerce apps you can find. After our thorough research and testing, we narrowed down the list to the top 5 best self-hosted eCommerce apps.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • Funding

    • Gratipay – Help Companies and Others Pay for Open Source Projects

      I don’t know if you have heard of Patreon before because we are about to introduce you to a Patreon-type service for open source projects – Gratipay.

      Gratipay is an open source startup founded with the purpose of providing project supporters with an avenue to financially help open source projects.

      You can find a long list of open source projects to choose to support using a variety of payment options and of course, you are free to donate as much as you want to.

  • BSD

  • Licensing/Legal

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • These 3 practices revolutionized Penn Manor’s school culture

      Free and open source software is the catalyst for Penn Manor School District’s award-winning student learning programs. For one, they save the school district more than a million dollars on its technology budget. Besides fiscal savings are the open leadership principles that foster innovation among teachers and students, help to better engage the community, and create a more vibrant and inclusive learning community.

      As school leaders prepare to launch a new academic year, here are three open leadership ideas that create a more open, transparent, and collaborative culture in the Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, school district—please take, use, and modify for your own.

  • Programming/Development

    • Node.js Emerging as the Universal Development Framework for a Diversity of Applications

      Last year and at the beginning of this year, we asked you, Node.js users, to help us understand where, how and why you are using Node.js. We wanted to see what technologies you are using alongside Node.js, how you are learning Node.js, what Node.js versions you are using, and how these answers differ across the globe.

    • Why I’m Learning Perl 6

      I’m not going to review Perl 6 as a language here because it’s a massive spec with a lot of dark corners and weird edge cases, but I do want to share some things I’ve discovered about the language run-time. MoarVM, the Perl 6 virtual machine, is a fantastic piece of technology.

    • Rationalizing Python’s APIs

      CPython is the reference implementation of Python, so it is, unsurprisingly, the target for various language-extension modules. But the API and ABI it provides to those extensions ends up limiting what alternative Python implementations—and even CPython itself—can do, since those interfaces must continue to be supported. Beyond that, though, the interfaces are not clearly delineated, so changes can unexpectedly affect extensions that have come to depend on them. A recent thread on the python-ideas mailing list looks at how to clean that situation up.

      On July 11, Victor Stinner floated a draft of an as yet unnumbered Python Enhancement Proposal (PEP) entitled “Hide implementation details in the C API”. The idea is to remove CPython implementation choices from the API so that different experimental choices can be made while still supporting the C-based extensions (NumPy and SciPy in particular). As he noted, other attempts to provide an alternate Python implementation (e.g. PyPy), which are typically created to enhance the language’s performance, have largely run aground because they cannot directly support these all-important extensions.

    • Ideas versus implementation

      A short sub-thread on the python-ideas mailing list provides some “food for thought” about the purpose and scope of that list, but also some things to perhaps be considered more widely. When discussing new features and ideas, it is common for the conversation to be somewhat hypothetical, but honing in on something that could be implemented takes a fair amount of work for those participating. If the feature is proposed and championed by someone who has no intention of actually implementing it, should the thread come with some kind of warning?

      The thread in question started in mid-June with a query from Thomas Güttler about why the socket module returns plain tuples rather than named tuples. The reception to the idea was mostly positive and there were some discussions of how it might be done; Guido van Rossum indicated that he would be favorable to the change as well. But, apparently Güttler was not actually planning to implement the change, as he currently does not have the time to do so.

    • Tired: Java. Desired: Node.js. Retired: The suggestion a JavaScript runtime is bonkers

      As the Node Summit got underway in San Francisco on Wednesday, Charles Beeler, general partner at Rally Ventures, said the Node community has come a long way since 2012, when everyone was talking about Node.js and no one was using it.

      Initially released in 2009, the JavaScript runtime environment now has enough users and momentum that the nonprofit Node.js Foundation feels comfortable claiming that “Node.js is emerging as a universal development framework for digital transformation with a broad diversity of applications.”

    • [llvm-dev] [5.0.0 Release] Release Candidate 1 tagged

      5.0.0-rc1 has just been tagged.

    • LLVM 5.0-RC1 Up For Testing

      Following the LLVM 5 branching earlier this week, release manager Hans Wennborg has now tagged the first release candidate.

    • Software Development as mathematician in academia – everyone bites the dust

      Is it possible to do software development, mathematical or not, as mathematician in academics? This is a question I was asking myself recently a lot, seeing my own development from logician at a state university getting rid of foreigners to software developer. And then, a friend pointed me to this very depressing document: The origins of SageMath by William Stein, the main developer of SageMath. And I realized that it seems to be a global phenomenon that mathematicians who are interested in software development have to leave academics. What a sad affair.


      My assumption was that this hits only on non-tenured staff, the academic precariat. It is shocking to see that even William Stein with a tenure position is leaving academics.

    • Qualcomm’s neural network SDK made free for all comers [Ed: Proprietary still. Free as in "lockin".]/

      TensorFlow is also name-checked in the announcement, and since the SDK’s page also mentions convolutional neural network support, Vulture South reckons Cuda ConvaNet (part of last year’s announcement) is also in there somewhere.

    • GitHub wants more new contributors, because that’s what GitHub is for

      GitHub has added a chunk of features it says will help new users and projects build better communities.

      Singing the “teamwork” song, the organisation says the features announced here are about making it easier to contribute to projects.

      For project maintainers, new contributors will show a “first time contributor badge” attached to their pull requests. That will become a “contributor” badge when the PR is merged, and there’s an additional flag to help maintainers “separate signal from noise” during flamewars (politely described by GitHub as “lengthy or heated discussions”).


  • Summer of Samsung: A Corruption Scandal, a Political Firestorm—and a Record Profit
  • Uber to charge riders for returning lost phones and wallets

    The $15 (£12) fee has been added to the ride-hailing service in some US cities to reward drivers who return items that have been left behind by passengers.

  • Mexico City Is Killing Parking Spaces. Pay Attention, America
  • Don’t let the sun go down on Snopes – it’s more important than ever

    One of the brightest lights on the internet is in danger of being snuffed out: Snopes, the website that brought fact-checking to the web, is facing the prospect of losing all its advertising revenue due to a painful legal battle that ultimately stems from the co-founders’ divorce two years ago.

  • Who owns Snopes? Fracas over fact-checking site now front and center

    As of Tuesday evening, Snopes.com, one of the Internet’s most longstanding fact-checking websites, successfully raised over $600,000 in less than 48 hours—an effort to stay afloat while an ugly legal battle is underway.

    Snopes’ founder, David Mikkelson, told Ars in a lengthy phone interview that a Web development company, Proper Media, and two of its founders have essentially held the website “hostage” for months, keeping both data and money that should have gone to Snopes’ parent company, Bardav.

  • The Mobile Web

    A recent experience I had with one airline’s booking Web site involved an obvious pandering to “mobile” users. But to the designers this seemed to mean oversized widgets on any non-mobile device coupled with a frustratingly sequential mode of interaction, as if Fisher-Price had an enterprise computing division and had been contracted to do the work. A minimal amount of information was displayed at any given time, and even normal widget navigation failed to function correctly. (Maybe this is completely unfair to Fisher-Price as some of their products appear to encourage far more sophisticated interaction.)

  • Health/Nutrition

    • The Republican Coup to Trash Health Care

      Most likely, if anything passes the Senate at all, it will be larded with amendments designed to buy off both factions, all written behind closed doors, without markups, hearings, or input from Democrats. To repeal (and replace) Obamacare, McConnell still has a narrow path to tread, but he has correctly identified that the only road to victory lies through chaos, secrecy, and panic.

    • Trumpcare Is Dead. “Single Payer Is the Only Real Answer,” Says Medicare Architect.

      Thanks to a pair of defections from more GOP senators late yesterday, the Republican plan to repeal and replace or simply repeal the Affordable Care Act is dead — for now.

      But the health care status quo is far from popular, with 57 percent of Americans telling Gallup pollsters in March that they “personally worry” a “great deal” about health care costs.

      Many health care activists are now pushing to adopt what is called a “single payer” health care system, where one public health insurance program would cover everyone. The U.S. currently has one federal program like that: Medicare. Expanding it polls very well.

      One of the activists pushing for such an expansion is Max Fine, someone who is intimately familiar with the program — because he helped create it. Fine is the last surviving member of President Kennedy’s Medicare Task Force, and he was also President Johnson’s designated debunker against the health insurance industry.

    • Study: US is slipping toward measles being endemic once again

      With firm vaccination campaigns, the US eliminated measles in 2000. The highly infectious virus was no longer constantly present in the country—no longer endemic. Since then, measles has only popped up when travelers carried it in, spurring mostly small outbreaks—ranging from a few dozen to a few hundred cases each year—that then fizzle out.

      But all that may be about to change. With the rise of non-medical vaccine exemptions and delays, the country is backsliding toward endemic measles, Stanford and Baylor College of Medicine researchers warn this week. With extensive disease modeling, the researchers make clear just how close we are to seeing explosive, perhaps unshakeable, outbreaks.

    • Sperm counts continue to plummet in Western nations, study finds

      Sperm counts in Western countries have decreased by half in recent years, suggesting a continuing and significant decline in male reproductive health, a new evidence review reports.

      Sperm concentration decreased an average 52 percent between 1973 and 2011, while total sperm count declined by 59 percent during that period, researchers concluded after combining data from 185 studies. The research involved nearly 43,000 men in all.

    • Brains of former football players donated to science are rife with disease

      Signs of a degenerative brain disease were widespread among a sample of donated brains of former football players, researchers reported Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

      The finding bolsters the connection between playing American football and developing Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is linked to repeated blows to the head and was first described in boxers. However, the large study provides little new information about the disease, its progression, or prevalence.

  • Security

    • Imperial

      Today, July 27th 2017, WikiLeaks publishes documents from the Imperial project of the CIA.

      Achilles is a capability that provides an operator the ability to trojan an OS X disk image (.dmg) installer with one or more desired operator specified executables for a one-time execution.

      Aeris is an automated implant written in C that supports a number of POSIX-based systems (Debian, RHEL, Solaris, FreeBSD, CentOS). It supports automated file exfiltration, configurable beacon interval and jitter, standalone and Collide-based HTTPS LP support and SMTP protocol support – all with TLS encrypted communications with mutual authentication. It is compatible with the NOD Cryptographic Specification and provides structured command and control that is similar to that used by several Windows implants.

      SeaPea is an OS X Rootkit that provides stealth and tool launching capabilities. It hides files/directories, socket connections and/or processes. It runs on Mac OSX 10.6 and 10.7.

    • Swedish transport agency breach exposes millions, from spies to confidential informants

      The database is still hosted in IBM’s cloud, and the earliest it could be locked down is this autumn.

    • Reproducible Builds: week 117 in Buster cycle
    • What is the car industry’s problem with over-the-air software updates?
    • Security by Isolating Insecurity

      One issue is that the cameras are not protected from local attack. If WiFi is used the attacker only needs to be nearby. If Ethernet is used an attacker can add another device to the network. This is difficult as you would need to gain access to the network switch and find a live port on the proper network. Attacking the Ethernet cable leaves signs, including network glitches. Physically attacking a camera also leaves signs. All of this can be done, but is more challenging than a network based attack over the Internet and can be managed through physical security and good network monitoring. These are some of the reasons why I strongly prefer wired network connections over wireless network connections.

    • CowerSnail Backdoor Targeting Windows Devices
    • Newly Discovered CowerSnail Backdoor Targets Windows Computers
    • Researchers detect CowerSnail Linux virus during ongoing investigation
    • Polyverse Announces Full Zero-Day Protection for 10,000 Linux Open-Source Applications With a Single Line of Code Download [Ed: Misleading headline, weak marketing]
    • Security updates for Wednesday
    • Swedish Government Scrambles to Contain Damage From Data Breach

      In addition, the identities of people working undercover for the Swedish police and the Swedish security service, known as Sapo, may have been revealed, along with names of people working undercover for the special intelligence unit of the Swedish armed forces.

    • How a Citadel Trojan Developer Got Busted

      Aquabox took the bait, and asked the FBI agents to upload a screen shot of the bug they’d found. As noted in this September 2015 story, the FBI agents uploaded the image to file-sharing giant Sendspace.com and then subpoenaed the logs from Sendspace to learn the Internet address of the user that later viewed and downloaded the file.

    • Anchore Navigator 2.0 beta now available – container analysis and security toolkit
    • Kaspersky Launches Free Antivirus For Everybody — Download It Here [Ed: Or don't. It's proprietary software and may contain secret back doors.]

      With the increasing rise in the intensity and volume of online threats, our computers and smartphones are becoming more prone to attacks. In such situations, it becomes necessary to look for a capable antivirus solution to make sure that your online life is safe and sound. Along the similar lines, Russian cybersecurity giant has released a free version of its antivirus named Kaspersky Free.

    • Teenager Reports Laughable Flaw In Budapest Transit Authority’s Ticketing System And Is Promptly Arrested

      For some reason, this keeps happening and I will never understand why. For years, we have covered incidents where security researchers benignly report security flaws in the technology used by companies and governments, doing what can be characterized as a service to both the public and those entities providing the flawed tools, only to find themselves threatened, bullied, detained, or otherwise dicked with as a result. It’s an incredibly frustrating trend to witness, with law enforcement groups and companies that should want to know about these flaws instead shooting the messenger in what tends to look like a fit of embarrassment.

    • SK Telecom makes light of random numbers for IoT applications

      Quantum random number generators aren’t new, but one small enough to provide practical security for Internet of Things applications is interesting.

      That’s what South Korean telco SK Telecom reckons its boffins have created, embedding a full quantum random number generator (QRNG) in a 5x5mm chip.

      The company’s pitch is that QRNGs are large and (at least compared to IoT requirements) expensive, and it wants a commercial tie-up to make its research into an off-the-shelf device.

    • Post Quantum Cryptography

      Traditional computers are binary digital electronic devices based on transistors. They store information encoded in the form of binary digits each of which could be either 0 or 1. Quantum computers, in contrast, use quantum bits or qubits to store information either as 0, 1 or even both at the same time. Quantum mechanical phenomenons such as entanglement and tunnelling allow these quantum computers to handle a large number of states at the same time.

      Quantum computers are probabilistic rather than deterministic. Large-scale quantum computers would theoretically be able to solve certain problems much quicker than any classical computers that use even the best currently known algorithms. Quantum computers may be able to efficiently solve problems which are not practically feasible to solve on classical computers. Practical quantum computers will have serious implications on existing cryptographic primitives.

    • Rethinking the Stack Clash fix
  • Defence/Aggression

    • Whistleblower calls out problems with military drone accuracy and ethics

      Lisa Ling served almost two decades in the Air National Guard, working on communications technology and drones. After an honorable discharge, she discovered her work had led to the deaths of hundreds of people. On our latest episode of Ars Technica Live, she tells Ars editors Annalee Newitz and Cyrus Farivar how that experience turned her into a whistleblower.

      Civilians know almost nothing about military drone programs, and Lisa told us that it wasn’t much better on the inside. She joined the National Guard to be a nurse, but her technical skills quickly got her moved into a role working with computers and comms equipment. After a few years of that, she was reassigned to work on drones. But she didn’t realize, at first, what she was building.

      Lisa described how she was given parts of the drones to work on without ever being told how her bits would fit into the larger project. She was deployed to Afghanistan multiple times and noticed what she called “traumatized soldiers,” but at the same time she was a good military tech. She didn’t question her orders, and she did her work to the best of her ability.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Britain to ban sale of all diesel and petrol cars and vans from 2040

      The government warned that the move, which will also take in hybrid vehicles, was needed because of the unnecessary and avoidable impact that poor air quality was having on people’s health. Ministers believe it poses the largest environment risk to public health in the UK, costing up to £2.7bn in lost productivity in one recent year.

    • UK government wants to ban sale of gas and diesel cars starting in 2040

      All new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned from UK roads from 2040, the government will announce on Wednesday in a revised “controversial bomb” air pollution plan.

      The Tory government published a draft air pollution plan in May, but it faced criticism from environment lawyers and clean air campaigners for being too floppy at curbing the nitrogen oxides (NOx) pollution that causes thousands of premature deaths in the UK each year. The High Court demanded that a final version of the plan be published by the end of July—and so here we are.

    • Democrats slam EPA head, want to understand his climate inquiry

      “In the face of this overwhelming agreement on the basic fact of human-caused climate change by the world’s scientists, your efforts seem to be divorced from reality and reason,” the Representatives wrote. “This only reinforces our skepticism of your motives in engaging in a clearly unnecessary, and quite possibly unscientific, red-team-blue-team exercise to review climate science.”

    • Earth’s 2017 resource ‘budget’ spent by next week: report

      “By August 2, 2017, we will have used more from Nature than our planet can renew in the whole year,” the groups said in a statement.

      “This means that in seven months, we emitted more carbon than the oceans and forests can absorb in a year, we caught more fish, felled more trees, harvested more, and consumed more water than the Earth was able to produce in the same period.”

    • US Energy Secretary takes 22-minute prank call from “Ukrainian Prime Minister”

      Last week, US Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry took a phone call from two men he thought were the Ukrainian Prime Minister and his translator. But the 22-minute-long phone call was actually two Russian pranksters, Vladimir “Vovan” Kuznetsov and Alexei “Lexus” Stolyarov, otherwise known as the “Jerky Boys of Russia,” in the style of an American prank call duo from the 1990s, according to Bloomberg.

    • Aboard the NS Savannah, America’s first (and last) nuclear merchant ship

      Constructed at a cost of $46.9 million ($386.8 million in 2016 dollars) and launched on July 21, 1959, the Savannah was the world’s first nuclear cargo ship and the second nuclear-powered civilian ship (coming just two years after the Soviet nuclear icebreaker Lenin). Owned by the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) and operated by commercial cargo companies, for nearly a decade she carried cargo and passengers around the world. She also acted as a floating herald for America’s seemingly inevitable, cool Atomic Age future. Savannah boasted all the latest conveniences, including one of the world’s first microwave ovens.

  • Finance

    • 70 top-paid US health industry CEOs raked in $9.8B since Obamacare passed

      Every year since 2011 — when ACA became law — the CEOs of US health companies have averaged an 11% raise. Remember, that’s 11 percent, every year.

    • The sky-high pay of health care CEOs

      Why it matters: The ACA has not hurt the health care industry. Stock prices have boomed, and CEOs took home nearly 11% more money on average every year since 2010 — far outstripping the wage growth of nearly all Americans. But the analysis also reveals that the pay packages for the country’s influential health care executives don’t give them incentives to control health care spending — something that economists, policymakers and even Warren Buffett have said is the most pressing problem in health care.

    • India’s transport minister vows to ban self-driving cars to save jobs

      Companies in the United States, Germany, Japan, and other countries are racing to develop self-driving cars. But India’s top transportation regulator says that those cars won’t be welcome on Indian streets any time soon.

      “We won’t allow driverless cars in India,” said Nitin Gadkari, India’s minister for Road Transport, Highways, and Shipping, according to the Hindustan Times. “I am very clear on this. We won’t allow any technology that takes away jobs.”

      In recent years, new technology has mostly created jobs for drivers. In India, the leading ride-sharing services, Ola and Uber, completed 500 million rides in 2016, creating work for Indian drivers. But Uber’s ultimate goal is to introduce fully self-driving cars that will make these driving jobs obsolete.

    • Netherlands and UK are biggest channels for corporate tax avoidance

      Almost 40% of corporate investments channelled away from authorities and into tax havens travel through the UK or the Netherlands, according to a study of the ownership structures of 98m firms.

    • Using a blockchain doesn’t exempt you from securities regulations

      The DAO, a blockchain-based organization created last year, was supposed to demonstrate the potential of Bitcoin competitor Ethereum. Investors pumped $150 million of virtual currency into the project. But then in June 2016, hackers found a bug in the DAO’s code that allowed them to steal $50 million from the organization, creating a crisis for the Ethereum community.

      A Tuesday ruling from the Securities and Exchange Commission makes clear that security flaws were not the problem with the DAO. The agency says the DAO’s creators broke the law by offering shares to the public without complying with applicable securities laws. Though luckily for the DAO’s creators, the SEC isn’t going to prosecute them.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • ALEC’s scary plan for electing your senators

      As John Nichols, who broke the story for the Nation, wrote: “If successful, they will reverse one of the great strides toward democracy in American history: the 1913 decision to end the corrupt practice of letting state legislators barter off Senate seats in backroom deals with campaign donors and lobbyists.”

    • [Older] ALEC Is Talking About Changing the Way Senators Are Elected and Taking Away Your Vote

      A proposed resolution advocates for overturning the 17th Amendment so Republican-controlled state legislatures could pick senators.

    • Wasserman Schultz staffer arrested trying to leave the country
    • Donald Trump’s Boy Scouts Jamboree Speech Was Weirdly Political, and the Internet Isn’t Happy

      Following Trump’s speech, the Boy Scouts of America issued a statement clarifying that their organization is nonpartisan. The statement reads, “The Boy Scouts of America is wholly non-partisan and does not promote any one position, product, service, political candidate or philosophy. The invitation for the sitting U.S. President to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition and is in no way an endorsement of any political party or specific policies. The sitting U.S. President serves as the BSA’s honorary president. It is our long-standing custom to invite the U.S. President to the National Jamboree.”

    • Supreme Court rules Tory tribunal fees are unlawful – and everyone has to be refunded

      The Supreme Court has ruled that tribunal fees of up to £1,200, introduced by the Tories under David Cameron , are unlawful.

      In a humiliating slapdown the Government will be forced to repay up to £27 million in fees already paid by workers pursuing employers for unfair dismissal, equal pay or discrimination and other issues.

      Trade union Unison took the government to court, arguing the charges are illegal and discriminatory.

      Their case was dismissed by the High Court, but they appealed to the Supreme Court, who today ruled in their favour.

    • Trump Finds Reason for the U.S. to Remain in Afghanistan: Minerals
    • ABC, NBC, And CBS Pretty Much Bury IT Scandal Engulfing Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s Office

      Well, just in case you didn’t hear, an information technology officer has been accused of bank fraud. He tried to flee the country, and now Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s (D-FL) office has finally fired the aide, despite this person being under investigation since last winter. His termination was made official on Tuesday.

      Imran Awan is also the subject of a Capitol Police probe where he’s accused of “serious, potentially illegal, violations on the House IT network.” He provided technical assistance to other Democratic members of Congress. It was a family affair as well. As Jen noted over the weekend, his two brothers, along with two of their wives, also worked for members of Congress. Imran moved out of his house in Virginia when he found out he was under investigation last February. He rented the home to a Marine Corps veteran and his wife, a naval officer, who found hard drives that they tried to destroy. The FBI now has possession of those hard drives. Jen added that Imran tried to enter the home to retrieve the hard drives, though the Marine refused entry.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • CIA Helps National Archive Out By Offering To Trash Its Stash Of Leak-Related Documents

      The National Archives obviously can’t be expected to store every piece of paper generated by the federal government. But it does have an obligation to preserve copies of historically-significant documents. Unfortunately, it’s allowing agencies to make these decisions. While it’s true some agencies may have a better grasp on a document’s significance, other agencies aren’t as interested in archiving historically significant documents — especially ones that might make them look bad.

    • Google Wants Federal Judge To Block Canadian Censorship Order

      Canada’s highest court recently upheld a controversial order requiring Google to remove certain results from its worldwide search listings. Now, Google is asking a federal judge to rule that that the Canadian order is unenforceable in the U.S.

    • Google tells judge: Don’t let Canada force us to alter US search results

      Yesterday, Google filed a lawsuit (PDF) in California, asking a judge to rule that the Canadian order is unenforceable in the US. Google lawyers argue that the order violates both the First Amendment and Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which prevents online platforms from being held responsible for most user behavior.

    • You win some, you lose some! (KPFA Cancellation)

      I am known as a frequent critic of Christianity and have never been de-platformed for that. Why do you give Islam a free pass? Why is it fine to criticise Christianity but not Islam?

    • Facebook Buys Startup to Expand its Anti-Piracy Repertoire

      Social networking giant Facebook has bought a startup that focuses on intellectual property protection and management services. The acquisition will help to expand Facebook’s anti-piracy repertoire, and make sure that copyright issues are properly handled.

    • Patent-holder that sued EFF for defamation won’t show up in court

      Without EFF taking part in the case, the Australian court issued an injunction ordering EFF to remove the article from its website and not to spread it further. Without explaining any of the court’s reasoning, the injunction claims EFF is “restrained from publishing any content with respect to the Plaintiff’s intellectual property {sic}.” If EFF “does not comply with this order its assets may be seized and it [sic] directors and other officers may be liable to be imprisoned for contempt of Court,” according to EFF’s narrative of the matter.

    • Pinkwashing Censorship: How the Chicago Dyke March Won its War on the Media

      Gretchen R. Hammond, a transgender reporter, was personally threatened, subject to sexist and anti-Semitic abuse and Neo-Nazi slurs as retribution against an article she wrote, losing her job as a result – and the National Review is the only major American publication reporting on it. How did this happen? Hammond was the first reporter to write about the Chicago Dyke March removing three Jewish women from the march for having Jewish symbolism on their flags. While the Dyke March holds that there is nothing anti-Semitic about forbidding Jewish symbols while allowing other religious imagery, they were evidently unhappy with anyone reporting on their totally not anti-Semitic actions and letting the public draw its own conclusions. Shortly after the article was published, Hammond and her employer, the LGBT newspaper Windy City Times, began receiving insults and threats, which included anti-Jewish and sexist slurs. Shortly after, Hammond was forced off of reporting and placed into sales, which she blames on harassment from the Dyke March.

    • Decision to withdraw Madiba book is censorship

      The decision by publisher Penguin Random House to withdraw Mandela ’s Last Years from sale is a blow for freedom of expression.

      The publisher’s decision on Monday night to halt further sales of the book was a dramatic about-turn on their position only hours earlier in which they had stood firm in the face of growing criticism over the work by Vejay Ramlakan‚ the principal physician who cared for Nelson Mandela until his death.

    • Winnipeg Man Has Vanity Plate Referencing Star Trek Recalled Over Complaints Of How Racist It Is

      Here in North America, because 2016 just had to become the most infuriatingly stupid and polarizing year in the history of the multiverse, far too much oxygen was spent on debates over both how much racism was okay on one side and exactly what qualified as racist on the other. It’s one of those frustrating contests with nobody to root for, as half of the population proclaimed that racism was dead and everyone was too stuck up about it while the other side managed to find racism everywhere, introducing into the popular lexicon terms like “privilege” that mostly make me want to put my head in a vice and get to rotating that lever.

      Still, this isn’t a debate that should be totally ignored. After all, at its heart is the matter of free speech, not just as a legal framework but also as an ideal that the West tends to claim to hold in high regard. Strangely, one of the beacons of this debate shall now be on the subject of vanity license plates, with a heavy dash of nerd culture thrown in just to make it extra fun. For this story, we go to Winnipeg, where a Star Trek fan received the following vanity plate for his car.

    • Terrible Ruling Allows Untied To Keep Its Domain But Not Its Soul

      Let’s jump back in the wayback machine for a moment and discuss Untied, your primary source for customer and employee complaints about United Airlines. When we last wrote about the site in 2012, we first mentioned that Untied.com has been a thing since 1997 before detailing the lawsuit United Airlines filed in Canada after it found that Untied.com had redesigned its parody site to look more like United.com.

      Untied, if you are not aware, is a site that started with a single person’s complaint about United Airlines customer service before morphing into an aggregator of such complaints from both customers and internal airline staff and former staff. If you want a bible to be written on what United has done wrong in the realm of customer service, you need not worry because Untied.com is that bible. Had this suit been filed in America, it would face a mountain of caselaw suggesting that so-called “sucks sites” are well within the boundaries of protected nominative fair use. It’s worth mentioning that Untied doesn’t actively attempt to mislead visitors to the site into thinking it’s affiliated with the airline. In fact, visitors are shown a popup upon visiting that alerts them to Untied’s status as a parody site. Even a cursory glance at the site’s contents would confirm that status, as the entire site is dedicated to taking a metaphorical dump on United Airlines’ reputation.

    • Silicon Valley Censorship
    • Digital Platform Hasn’t Come Under the Radar of Censorship: Richa Chadha
    • Titleist Tees Up Lawsuit Against Parody Clothier Because Golf Doesn’t Have A Sense Of Humor

      Back in the more innocent era of the early 2010s, you may recall that we discussed a series of delightful trademark disputes between clothier North Face and a couple of guys who started a business first called South Butt (later changed to Butt Face). In those series of posts, we discussed two conflicting facts: trademark lawsuits against parody operators such as this are extremely hard to win in court… except that those same lawsuits are crazy expensive to fight, so the parody operators typically just cave and settle. It’s one of those corners of the law in which the very framework of the legal system virtually ensures that the proper legal conclusion is never reached. Yay.

    • Sex History Educational Site Wants To Know If It’s Going To Be Bricked Up Behind UK’s Porn Wall

      As the UK’s porn filter move from “voluntold” to mandatory, questions are being raised (again) about the potential for overblocking. As is the case with any filtering system, things that should be allowed to go through sometimes end up caught in the netting.

      In addition to the opt-out porn filtering system in place at UK internet service providers, the government is also demanding any site that meets its vague definition of pornographic verify users’ ages before allowing them access. This will apparently be tied to credit cards and/or mobile phones, so the government can strip porn viewers of anonymity it will be slightly more difficult for the under-18 crowd to avail themselves of over-18 web goodies. (But not really.)

    • Censorship and Emergency debates

      In his endeavour to paint an accurate portrayal of the era, Bhandarkar met individuals involved in the infamous mass sterilisation campaigns, people affected by the Turkman Gate demolition, and even those who were held in Tihar jail and prisons in Gujarat under MISA (Maintenance of Internal Security Act). “I interacted with them and learnt of how people joined underground activism,” reveals Bhandarkar. While the director read texts from the Shah Commission Report, to Kuldip Nayar’s Emergency Retold and Coomi Kapoor’s The Emergency: A Personal History , Kulhari admits she was not familiar with the controversial period until Indu Sarkar came her way.

    • Venezuelan Journalism Students Are Fighting Media Censorship. Here’s How You Can Help
    • Professor Criticizes Beijing Censorship At University of Montana’s Confucius Institute

      History Professor Steven Levine is a specialist in East Asian affairs at the University of Montana. Fluent In Chinese, Levine was partly responsible for bringing the Confucius Institute to the state, a decision he now says was a “mistake” that has opened the door to Beijing soft power.

    • Book banning in Academy School District 20: Censorship or diligence?

      An appeal to lift the ban on “Perfect Chemistry,” by Simone Elkeles, from the library at Challenger Middle School was denied, setting a dangerous precedent, said James LaRue, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, a unit of the Chicago-based American Library Association.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • There Is Simply No Scientific Backing For TSA’s Behavioral Detection Program

      The Government Accountability Office has taken a run at the TSA’s Behavioral Detection program in the past. Its findings were far from complimentary. Specially-trained “Behavior Detection Officers” (BDOs) were basically human coin flips. Deciding whether or not someone was a threat came down to a lot of subjective readings of human behavior, rather than proven principles.

      In response to this report, the TSA started trimming back the number of BDOs it deployed, converting about 500 of them back into regular TSA officers. But the TSA still believed there was something to its pseudoscience patchwork, so it’s still sending out 2,600 BDOs to covertly stare at travelers’ throats and eyes (no, really) until terrorism reveals itself.

    • Travelers’ electronics at US airports to get enhanced screening, TSA says

      The development comes amid the heightened scrutiny of electronics coming into the US on international flights, largely on Middle Eastern airlines. In March, US aviation security officials barred electronics larger than cellphones in carry-on bags of direct flights to the US from nine airlines at 10 airports overseas.


      Last year, taxpayers spent about $186 million to deploy 2,393 officers to blend in at 87 airports to help with screening and identify possible terrorists. The GAO report said there was little science behind how it singled out criminals.

    • The TSA will now require separate screenings for all electronics ‘larger than a cell phone’

      The TSA will now require “all electronics larger than a cell phone” to be removed from carry-on bags and placed in their own separate bin for X-ray screening with nothing on top or below, similar to how laptops have been screened for years. So if you’ve ever gone through security and thought, “Gee, just my laptop, shoes, belt, and coat? I wish I had to remove more items for separate screening,” you’re in luck!

    • TSA to require electronics larger than cellphones be X-rayed

      Passengers at domestic airports will now be asked to place their large electronics, such as tablets, e-readers and handheld game consoles, into separate bins for X-ray screening. A similar policy has already applied to laptops for years.

      The policy will not apply to passengers enrolled in TSA’s PreCheck program, and there have not been any changes to what is allowed in carry-on bags.

    • Kenyan Teenage Girls Invent App to End Female Genital Mutilation

      I-cut connects girls at risk of FGM with rescue centres and gives legal and medical help to those who have been cut.

    • Fingers crossed! 5 Kenyan girls stand a chance of winning Ksh1.5m for developing anti-FGM app

      Five Kenyan girls have developed an application that helps fight female genital mutilation (FGM), a prevalent but harmful practice in rural parts of Kenya.

    • New distracted driving law in Washington makes it illegal to hold phone while driving

      The state’s new law to discourage distracted driving closes loopholes against making calls by prohibiting even holding a personal electronic device while stopped in traffic. The law also prohibits eating or applying make-up while driving.

    • The science of why eyewitness testimony is often wrong

      The advent of DNA testing has made it uncomfortably clear that our criminal justice system often gets things wrong. Things go wrong for a variety of reasons, but many of them touch on science, or rather the lack of a scientific foundation for a number of forensic techniques. But in 70 percent of the cases where DNA has overturned a conviction, it also contradicted the testimony of one or more eyewitnesses to the events at issue.

    • Prosecutor Incredibly Unhappy He’s Being Forced To Respect That Whole ‘Speedy Trial’ Thing

      here’s general prosecutorial dissatisfaction with the founders’ decision to implement due process rights for accused criminals. Flowing from the “limits” of the Fourth Amendment into the Fifth and Sixth, it seems the system is set up for prosecutorial failure. At least, that’s the impression you get when you hear prosecutors actively arguing against enshrined rights.

      Albuquerque, New Mexico is in the middle of a two-year experiment in case management. Far too often, accused were allowed to languish behind bars until the state decided to begin prosecuting their cases. The right to a speedy trial doesn’t seem to be so much a right as an easily-ignored guideline. People lose parts of their lives and, often, their employment for having done nothing more than be accused of committing a crime.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Senator Wyden Argues FCC Is Either Incompetent Or Lying About Alleged DDoS Attack

      As we noted last week, there are really only two options here. One, the FCC was attacked coincidentally at the same time John Oliver’s program aired, it just failed to do any meaningful written analysis of the attack, and has zero interest in being transparent about it. Two, the FCC made up the attack completely to try to deflate all the talk about the “John Oliver effect” in the press, a misguided continuation of the agency’s clear desire to downplay the massive public opposition to Pai’s plan to kill net neutrality.

      Based on the FCC’s other recent behaviors in regards to ignoring comment fraud to this same purpose, it’s fairly obvious the latter is a very real possibility. But with the FCC refusing to comply to FOIA requests, it’s going to take some notable outside pressure to get to the truth. That’s not going to be easy given that despite broad bipartisan support for the rules, ISPs have successfully convinced the public this is a partisan issue, which helps them stall meaningful discourse by bogging the entire process down in thinking-optional partisan patty cake.

    • Lawsuit seeks Ajit Pai’s net neutrality talks with Internet providers

      On April 26, a nonprofit called American Oversight filed a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request asking the FCC for all records related to communications on net neutrality between Internet service providers and Chairman Ajit Pai or Pai’s staff. The group asked for “correspondence, e-mails, telephone call logs, calendar entries, meeting agendas,” and any other records of such communications.

      The group also asked for similar records related to FCC communications with members of Congress, congressional staff, and members of the media. But American Oversight’s lawsuit against the FCC says the commission hasn’t complied with the requests.

    • Verizon accused of violating net neutrality rules by throttling video

      “Optimization” is just another word for “slowing down, reshaping or degrading your video traffic, over the connection you buy, using the mobile-data plans you pay for,” Free Press also said. (DSLReports has a story on the petition.)

    • Democrat asks FCC chair if anything can stop net neutrality rollback

      US Rep. Michael Doyle (D-Penn.) yesterday accused Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai of pursuing an agenda that harms both consumers and small businesses.

    • Here Comes The Big Push For A Really Shitty New Net Neutrality Law

      So we’ve noted repeatedly how major ISPs aren’t just pushing to have the FCC kill its existing, popular net neutrality rules. They’ve also been spending a lot of time and money pushing loyal politicians to support the crafting of a new net neutrality law as a replacement. Why? They know that if Congress is even capable of shrugging off its dysfunction and corruption to craft one, AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Charter lawyers and lobbyists will be the ones writing it.

    • Senator Doesn’t Buy FCC Justification For Killing Popular Net Neutrality Protections

      So we’ve noted for years now how incumbent ISPs love to breathlessly insist that net neutrality protections “stifled broadband industry investment,” despite the fact that publicly-available SEC filings, earnings reports, and the ISPs’ own public statements on this subject have repeatedly proven this claim false. Traditionally, large ISPs like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Charter have employed industry-friendly economists to massage and cherry pick the data until it looks like a slowdown occurred. But every few months or so a journalist will painstakingly document how this slowdown claim is complete and total bullshit.

  • DRM

    • Adobe Flash Fans Want a Chance to Fix Its One Million Bugs Under an Open Source License

      While Adobe is finally mercy killing Flash, its multimedia software that helped power countless web applications like games and videos faced but widespread criticism for its rapid decline in usefulness and growing number of security vulnerabilities, some fans want to keep it alive as an open-source project for the future.

    • So long, and thanks for all the Flash

      This morning, Adobe announced their plans to end support for Flash in late 2020. For Flash developers this will mean transitioning to HTML, as Chrome will increasingly require explicit permission from users to run Flash content until support is removed completely at the end of 2020.

    • Get ready to finally say goodbye to Flash — in 2020
    • Google: HTML is Faster, Safer, and More Power Efficient Than Adobe’s Flash

      After Adobe’s big announcement this morning that they plan to end support for Flash in late 2020, Google Chrome’s Anthony Laforge published a blog article asking Flash developers to start transitioning to HTML.

      For a long time, Google shipped its Chrome web browser built-in with Flash support, but it now looks like Chrome will slowly start blocking Flash content, require explicit permission from users, until upstream support is terminated three years from now, at the end of 2020. Google, like anyone else on this planet, believe HTML is faster, safer, and more power efficient than Flash, without a doubt.

    • Adobe Flash will die by 2020, Adobe and browser makers say

      For many, though, Flash was simply seen at least as a nuisance, and at worst a serious security risk.

      Flash-based exploits have circulated for years, in a game of cat-and-mouse between hackers and Adobe itself. Apple’s Steve Jobs famously banned Flash from the iPhone, claiming that Flash hurt battery life and also was a security risk. [...]

    • Adobe Flash is dead (well, nearly)

      Tech firms have long been hammering nail’s into its coffin, too, and back in 2010, Steve Jobs famously penned a letter that called for the demise of Adobe Flash in favour of a shift to open web standards.

    • The end of Flash
    • Adobe to kill off Flash plug-in by 2020

      Adobe Systems has said that it plans to phase out its Flash Player plug-in by the end of 2020.

      The technology was once one of the most widely used ways for people to watch video clips and play games online.

      But it also attracted much criticism, particularly as flaws in its code meant it became a popular way for hackers to infect computers.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Patents boost to offset weak networks for Nokia

      In a Reuters poll of analysts, Nokia’s networks sales are seen falling 3 percent in the second quarter from a year ago, while revenues from its technologies unit, including patent royalties, are seen up 40 percent following the deal with Apple.

    • Trademarks

      • Olive Garden apologizes to AllOfGarden blog, offers $50 gift card

        Last week, Malone announced that he had received what appeared to be a legal demand e-mail from Darden, Olive Garden’s parent company, claiming alleged trademark infringement, because he used the phrase “Olive Garden” on his website. Malone ridiculed the demand in a response that he posted publicly, in which he accurately described the concept of “nominative fair use”—the trademark equivalent of fair use in copyright law.

    • Copyrights

      • Surge of Threatening Piracy Letters Concerns Finnish Authorities

        In Finland, tens of thousands of people face demands for cash settlements for alleged copyright infringement. The mass influx of piracy threats has triggered alarm bells at Finnish authorities and organizations, with the Government actively finding ways to defuse the situation.

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