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08.04.17

Links 4/8/2017: Wine 2.14, Antergos 17.8, Ubuntu 16.04.3 LTS, VirtualBox 5.2 Beta 1

Posted in News Roundup at 1:39 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Opposing net neutrality threatens the viability of open source communities

    Such things could change the open source landscape drastically. Although open source software powers much of the modern world, with 78% of companies running open source software in 2015, that doesn’t mean projects won’t feel the effects of a more restricted internet. While larger organizations such as the Apache Foundation or Mozilla might fare okay in a world without net neutrality, smaller projects could be drowned out by ISP restrictions.

    Even those larger open source communities might find themselves becoming niche if they’re overshadowed by larger companies that can afford to sponsor data or exist in faster tiers. This could cause companies or individuals that would be otherwise willing to support free and open source software (FOSS) to choose a proprietary option due to better access.

  • eLife Commits to Open Source Content Editing Project

    eLife joined the Substance Consortium, which provides support for Substance, a JavaScript library for web-based content editing. This open source project supplies custom text editors and other systems that enable knowledge creation and dissemination.

  • Bitnami Releases Cabin Mobile Kubernetes Dashboard as Open Source

    Bitnami announced on August 1 that it is open sourcing the first mobile app for managing Kubernetes, with the public release of Cabin.

    Bitnami originally acquired the Cabin technology through the acquisition of privately-held Kubernetes startup Skippbox Ltd in March of this year.

  • To Protect Voting, Use Open-Source Software [Ed: no more Microsoft, at long last?]

    Although Russian hackers are reported to have tried to disrupt the November election with attacks on the voting systems of 39 states, the consensus of the intelligence community is that they were probably unsuccessful in their efforts to delete and alter voter data. But another national election is just 15 months away, and the risk that those working on behalf of President Vladimir Putin of Russia could do real damage — and even manage to mark your ballot for you or altering your vote — remains.

    Since the debacle of the 2000 election (remember hanging chads?) American election machinery has been improved to reduce the chances of mis-tallying votes, outright fraud and attacks by hackers. These improvements brought with them a new concern: lack of software security. Most voting machines’ software can now be easily hacked. This is in large part because the current voting systems use proprietary software based on Microsoft’s operating system.

    One post-2000 change — a useful one — was to move away from all-electronic touch-screen balloting, with no paper record indicating how someone voted. Nearly half of voters are registered in jurisdictions that use optical-scan systems that read marked paper ballots and tally the results. But one-quarter of voters still use direct-recording electronic voting machines, which produce no paper trail.

    At polling places where voting machines don’t provide this backup record, there’s no way for election officials to run an effective recount if the electronics are hacked.

  • Former Vuze Developers Launch BiglyBT, a ‘New’ Open Source Torrent Client

    Two long-time developers of the Vuze BitTorrent client, formerly known as Azureus, have launched a new client. BiglyBT emerges at a time when Vuze development has stalled. The developers promise to take the project forward while removing all advertising and other annoyances.

  • How The Token Model Is Changing Coding For The Better

    The open source model allows these companies to learn from each other, benefit from one another’s success and further drive innovation. Aragon, for example is built on the Ethereum blockchain, meaning that what is good for Ethereum is good for us and vice versa.

  • Heptio launches two new open source projects that make using Kubernetes easier

    Heptio, the Seattle-based company recently launched by Kubernetes co-founders Craig McLuckie and Joe Beda, wants to make it easier for businesses to use Kubernetes in production. Since its launch in late 2016, the well-funded company has remained pretty quiet about its products, but today, the team released two open source projects into the wild: Ark and Sonobuoy.

  • BNO Technology Solutions Starts the LiberateOS Open Source Project [Ed: Turning Android into a Microsoft platform will not "Liberate" it at all!]

    BNO Technology Solutions has created the LiberateOS project. The project aim is to create a fork of the Android open source mobile operating system that no longer relies on the programming language Java. The technology shall be replaced with C# and the Mono framework.

    In order to achieve this the project uses another research project executed by the company Xamarin in 2011/2012. That former project was called XobotOS which in May of 2012 has been released as open source on GitHub.

  • Events

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Mozilla’s New File Sharing Feature is Fast & Secure

        Do you want to send files quickly and securely using your browser? If so, Firefox Send lets you do precisely that.

        ‘Firefox Send’ is an experimental new feature launched by Mozilla this week. It lets you safely send file(s) (up to 1GB) to someone else without the effort of using email, setting up a sync service like Dropbox, or using a CLI tool like Wormhole.

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

    • VirtualBox 5.2 Beta 1 released

      Please do NOT use this VirtualBox Beta release on production machines. A VirtualBox Beta release should be considered a bleeding-edge release meant for early evaluation and testing purposes.

    • Oracle Pushes VirtualBox 5.2 Into Public Beta

      Oracle has pushed into public beta their first snapshot of the upcoming VirtualBox 5.2 virtualization software.

      VirtualBox 5.2 is considered a minor update over the existing VirtualBox 5. New features of VirtualBox 5.2 Beta 1 include allowing virtual machines to be exported to the Oracle Cloud, support for unattended guest installations, and overhauling the VM selector user-interface.

  • CMS

    • WordPress 4.8.1 Maintenance Release

      After over 13 million downloads of WordPress 4.8, we are pleased to announce the immediate availability of WordPress 4.8.1, a maintenance release.

      This release contains 29 maintenance fixes and enhancements, chief among them are fixes to the rich Text widget and the introduction of the Custom HTML widget. For a full list of changes, consult the release notes, the tickets closed, and the list of changes.

    • August Open Source CMS Forecast: Drupal, Liferay, SilverStripe

      With summer reaching its peak (or winter, for those in the southern hemisphere), open source CMS vendors are keeping their cool by continuing to tweak their products and engage with their communities.

      In July, we heard news from Enonic, Liferay, Jahia and Magnolia about new websites, Slack channels and even an office gaming app.

      Let’s take a look what August holds for the open source CMS space.

  • Education

    • 5 ways to use Raspberry Pi in the classroom

      I recently finished reading Your Starter Guide to Maker Spaces by Nick Provenzano, a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator. In the book, Nick describes a Raspberry Pi competition at the school where he teaches.

      Each student received a Raspberry Pi kit and was told to identify a problem, come up with a solution using the Pi, and not spend more than $75 on their project. The students’ solutions varied, but the common result was that the students taught themselves to code. This is what happens when you give students a broad assignment and ample opportunity to explore learning on their own.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • Contributing to FreeBSD

      The FreeBSD Testing Project is building an automated test suite for the entire operating system. They have a whole mess of work to do. There’s only four people on the team, so each additional person that contributes can have a serious impact. They have tutorials on how to write tests, and sample tests.

    • DragonFlyBSD 4.8.1 Released, Updates Intel DRM Against Linux 4.7.10

      DragonFlyBSD 4.8.1 has been released by Justin Sherrill with various minor updates — particularly for Intel DRM graphics and other kernel improvements — over the recent v4.8 milestone.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • Tunables story continued – glibc 2.26

      Those of you tuned in to the wonderful world of system programming may have noticed that glibc 2.26 was released last night (or daytime if you live west of me or middle of the night/dawn if you live east of me, well you get the drift) and it came out with a host of new improvements, including the much awaited thread cache for malloc. The thread cache for malloc is truly a great step forward – it brings down latency of a bulk of allocations from hundreds of cycles to tens of cycles. The other major improvement that a bulk of users and developers will notice is the fact that glibc now detects when resolv.conf has changed and reloads the lookup configuration. Yes, this was long overdue but hey, it’s not like we were refusing patches for the past half a decade, so thank the nice soul (Florian Weimer) who actually got it done in the end.

      [...]

      Tunables allow you to take this idea further because there are two ways to get performance benefits, (1) by utilizing all of the CPU features that help and (2) by catering to the workload. For example, you could have a workload that performs better with a supposedly sub-optimal memcpy variant for the CPU purely because of the way your data is structured or laid out. Tunables allow you to select that routine by pretending that the CPU has a different set of capabilities than it actually reports, by setting the glibc.tune.hwcaps tunable on x86 processors. Not only that, you can even tune cache sizes and non-temporal thresholds (i.e. threshold beyond which some routines use non-temporal instructions for loads and stores to optimize cache usage) to suit your workload. I won’t be surprised if some years down the line we see specialized implementations of these routines that cater to specific workloads, like memcpy_db for databases or memset_paranoid for a time invariant (or mostly invariant) implementation of memset.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Access/Content

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • UK research team 3D prints open source microscope prototype for only £30

        Just days ago we wrote about an open source 3D printed microscope that could be made for as little as €100 ($118). Now, another project, undertaken by researchers from the University of Bath in the UK, has even higher aspirations than that as it has made a prototype of a 3D printed microscope for only £30 ($40).

      • 3D Robotics open-sources its Solo drone control software
      • Introducing OpenSolo: 3DR Open-Sources Solo Drone Code
      • OpenSolo Initiative – by the ArduPilot Team

        The benefits to existing Solo users are many; the community is now free to maintain and improve upon an established codebase containing many innovative technologies, and developers will be able to “hack” or improve nearly every part of their Solo from now on, including the Controller! The Open Source community in general will also benefit from more generally applicable technologies such as SmartShots and the Artoo controller.

      • Arduino announces developer workshop following Musto ouster

        Arduino opened registration for an Arduino Core Developers Workshop following a shakeup in which controversial CEO Federico Musto left the company.

        Arduino developers who are wondering what the new Arduino will look like after last week’s shakeup can now sign up for an Arduino Core Developers Workshop to be held in Turin, Italy, from Sep. 29 through Oct. 1 (see farther below). Will the company shift entirely to RISC-V? Will Linux remain part off Arduino’s future? And can it compete both with Espressif’s ESP32 and the Raspberry Pi? Hardware aside, what happened to that open source Arduino Foundation? Maybe we’ll even solve the latest Shroud of Turin mystery.

  • Programming/Development

    • HHVM 3.21

      HHVM 3.21 is released! As this is an LTS release, it will be supported until HHVM 3.27, expected in 48 weeks. This release improves PHP7 compatibility, and adds several new features. Packages have been published in the usual places; see the installation instructions for more information.

    • HHVM 3.21 Released With Better PHP7 Compatibility, Sodium Support

      Facebook developers have released HHVM 3.21 as their alternate PHP implementation that also powers their Hack programming language. HHVM 3.21 is a long-term support release that will make it maintained for nearly one year.

Leftovers

  • Science

    • Alcohol as a study tool? Drinking after learning boosts memory

      Drinking alcohol after learning information appears to aid the brain’s ability to store and remember that information later, according to a study of at-home boozing in Scientific Reports. The memory-boosting effect—which has been seen in earlier lab-based studies—linked up with how much a person drank: the more alcohol, the better the memory the next day.

      The study authors, led by psychopharmacologist Celia Morgan of University of Exeter, aren’t sure why alcohol improves memory in this way, though. They went into the experiment hypothesizing that alcohol blocks the brain’s ability to lay down new memories, thus freeing up noggin power to carefully encode and store the fresh batch of memories that just came in. In other words, after you start drinking, your ability to remember new things gets wobbly, but your memory of events and information leading up to that drink might be sturdier than normal.

    • Evidence that humans had farms 30,000 years earlier than previously thought

      It’s an idea that could transform our understanding of how humans went from small bands of hunter-gatherers to farmers and urbanites. Until recently, anthropologists believed cities and farms emerged about 9,000 years ago in the Mediterranean and Middle East. But now a team of interdisciplinary researchers has gathered evidence showing how civilization as we know it may have emerged at the equator, in tropical forests. Not only that, but people started farming about 30,000 years earlier than we thought.

      For centuries, archaeologists believed that ancient people couldn’t live in tropical jungles. The environment was simply too harsh and challenging, they thought. As a result, scientists simply didn’t look for clues of ancient civilizations in the tropics. Instead, they turned their attention to the Middle East, where we have ample evidence that hunter-gatherers settled down in farming villages 9,000 years ago during a period dubbed the “Neolithic revolution.” Eventually, these farmers’ offspring built the ziggurats of Mesopotamia and the great pyramids of Egypt. It seemed certain that city life came from these places and spread from there around the world.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • The war on drugs ‘killed my sons’

      The knock on the door came at 3am: a police officer telling Rose Humphries that a young man had been found dead of a heroin overdose at a house in town.

      It was her youngest son Roland, dead at the age of 23.

      He had been trying to get off the drug. That morning, a few hours after the police officer left, a letter arrived at the family home stating that Roland had been accepted on a methadone programme to wean him off heroin.

  • Security

    • Following security breach, Sweden shores up outsourcing rules

      The Swedish government is restricting outsourcing of privacy sensitive data, following the possible leak of all of its vehicle data, outsourced to IBM in 2015 without the proper security checks. The stricter limits on what may be outsourced, were announced at a press conference on 24 July by Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.

    • 12 signs you’ve been hacked — and how to fight back [Ed: Microsoft employee describes the symptoms of knowing your PC is hijacked by someone (other than Microsoft)]

      In today’s threatscape, anti-malware software provides little peace of mind. In fact, anti-malware scanners on the whole are horrifically inaccurate, especially with exploits less than 24 hours old. After all, malicious hackers and malware can change their tactics at will. Swap a few bytes around, and a previously recognized malware program becomes unrecognizable.

      To combat this, many antimalware programs monitor program behaviors, often called heuristics, to catch previously unrecognized malware. Other programs use virtualized environments, system monitoring, network traffic detection and all of the above at once in order to be more accurate. Still they fail us on a regular basis.

    • Security This Week: The Very Best Hacks From Black Hat and Defcon

      As they do every year, hackers descended on Las Vegas this week to show off the many ways they can decimate the internet’s security systems. Here’s a collection of some of our favorite talks from this week’s Black Hat conference, including some we didn’t get the chance to cover in depth.

    • Dumbo

      Today, August 3rd 2017 WikiLeaks publishes documents from the Dumbo project of the CIA. Dumbo is a capability to suspend processes utilizing webcams and corrupt any video recordings that could compromise a PAG deployment. The PAG (Physical Access Group) is a special branch within the CCI (Center for Cyber Intelligence); its task is to gain and exploit physical access to target computers in CIA field operations.

      Dumbo can identify, control and manipulate monitoring and detection systems on a target computer running the Microsoft Windows operating sytem. It identifies installed devices like webcams and microphones, either locally or connected by wireless (Bluetooth, WiFi) or wired networks. All processes related to the detected devices (usually recording, monitoring or detection of video/audio/network streams) are also identified and can be stopped by the operator. By deleting or manipulating recordings the operator is aided in creating fake or destroying actual evidence of the intrusion operation.

      Dumbo is run by the field agent directly from an USB stick; it requires administrator privileges to perform its task. It supports 32bit Windows XP, Windows Vista, and newer versions of Windows operating system. 64bit Windows XP, or Windows versions prior to XP are not supported.

    • Security updates for Thursday
    • How to use a single download to remotely steal proprietary files from MacOS

      At this time, as a Safari user, you can’t do anything about it. Apparently, Apple does not consider this issue a security breach. We have not heard of any planned patches to address it.

    • AI quickly cooks malware that AV software can’t spot
    • Container Developers Viewed as New Security Attack Targets

      Developers are often viewed as the aggressors when it comes to online security. But participants at a Black Hat USA session argued that developers were actually the new targets of attacks. This is increasingly coming to light as container developers become a bigger part of enterprise operations.

      Sagie Dulce, senior security researcher at Aqua Security, said developers in charge of microservices and container deployments have become a prime target by their peers of security attacks.

    • How the Federal Government Wants to Improve IoT Security
    • Should the Internet be Secure by Default? Facebook CSO Says No

      The internet today is an open network using often insecure protocols and transport mechanisms. One path to improving security could be to embed security into the fabric of the internet, but that’s not the path that Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos wants to take.

      In a press Q&A at the Black Hat security conference on July 26, Stamos responded to a question from eSecurityPlanet about making the internet secure by default. In his view, that’s not the right approach.

    • Amazon Bans BLU Android Smartphones Due to Spyware Concerns
    • ShieldFS Stops Ransomware Attacks With 97% Success And Recovers Your Lost Files [Ed: Windows popularised ransomware]
    • WannaCry operator empties Bitcoin wallets connected to ransomware

      Whoever was behind the WannaCry cryptoransomware worm that ravaged networks worldwide in May has finally collected the ransom paid by some of the worm’s victims. The value of bitcoins had grown to about $140,000, but the currency’s value got about a 20 percent boost on August 1 triggered by a split in the Bitcoin market, as Quartz reports.

    • WannaCry hackers finally empty ransom wallets following bitcoin split

      The hackers {sic} behind WannaCry have cashed out more than $140,000 (£105,000) worth of bitcoins paid by victims of the ransomware bastard.

    • Bitcoin’s split gave the WannaCry hackers an instant boost to their profits

      In reality, the WannaCry hackers will have a tough time liquidating any of their holdings. It has become far more difficult for hackers to cash out because a major bitcoin exchange called btc-e, which allegedly is responsible for laundering 95% of ransomware funds, has gone offline.

    • WannaCry: hackers withdraw £108,000 of bitcoin ransom

      More than £108,000 in bitcoin paid by victims of the WannaCry ransomware attack, which crippled parts of the NHS as well as businesses in 150 countries worldwide, has been withdrawn from the digital wallets the funds were being held in.

    • Open-source advocate sued over comments on kernel hardening group

      A group that supplies a hardening patch for the Linux kernel has sued a well-known free and open-source practitioner for claiming that the patches in question violate the licence under which the kernel is distributed.

      The group, Grsecurity which has filed the lawsuit under its trading name Open Source Security, sells its patch to subscribers and has taken offence at Bruce Perens’ characterisation of their efforts as presenting “a contributory infringement and breach of contract risk”.

      Perens issued a statement on 28 June, detailing his reasons why users should avoid using the Grsecurity patch. “It (the patch) is a derivative work of the Linux kernel which touches the kernel internals in many different places. It is inseparable from Linux and cannot work without it,” he wrote.

    • Linux kernel hardeners Grsecurity sue open source’s Bruce Perens

      “As a customer, it’s my opinion that you would be subject to both contributory infringement and breach of contract by employing this product in conjunction with the Linux kernel under the no-redistribution policy currently employed by Grsecurity,” Perens wrote on his blog.

      The following month, Perens was invited to court. Grsecurity sued the open-source doyen, his web host, and as-yet-unidentified defendants who may helped him draft that post, for defamation and business interference.

      [...]

      Linus Torvalds, who oversees the Linux kernel, has called Grsecurity’s patches “garbage.”

      Grsecurity used to allow others to redistribute its patches, but the biz ended that practice for stable releases two years ago and for test patches in April this year. It offers its GPLv2 licensed software through a subscription agreement. The agreement says that customers who redistribute the code – a right under the GPLv2 license – will no longer be customers and will lose the right to distribute subsequent versions of the software.

    • Slayer of WCry worm charged with creating unrelated banking malware

      Marcus Hutchins, the 23-year-old security professional who accidentally stopped the spread of the virulent WCry ransomware worm in May, has been named in a federal indictment that alleges he was part of a conspiracy that created and distributed a piece of unrelated malware that steals banking credentials from unsuspecting computer users.

      According to the eight-page indictment, the conspiracy involved Hutchins and two other individuals whose names still have not been made public. After Hutchins allegedly created the banking trojan dubbed “Kronos,” a video circulated in July 2014 on a publicly available website that demonstrated how the malware worked. A month later, one of the unnamed co-conspirators put the malware up for sale at a price of $3,000. Hutchins and one of the co-conspirators allegedly updated Kronos around February 2015.

    • Researcher Who Stopped WannaCry Ransomware Detained in US After Def Con

      Motherboard verified that a detainee called Marcus Hutchins, 23, was being held at the Henderson Detention Center in Nevada early on Thursday. A few hours after, Hutchins was moved to another facility, according to a close personal friend.

    • WannaCry researcher arrested by FBI for his role in Kronos malware campaign

      According to friends, the first clues came when Hutchins failed to text from the airport. “He was radio-silent before his flight which is very unusual,” one friend told The Verge, “and he wasn’t on the Wi-Fi on the plane.”

    • Briton who stopped WannaCry attack arrested over separate malware claims

      According to an indictment released by the US Department of Justice on Thursday, Hutchins is accused of having helped to create, spread and maintain the banking trojan Kronos between 2014 and 2015.

    • Hacker Who Stopped WannaCry Charged With Writing Banking Malware

      Hutchins isn’t the only member of the malware “conspiracy” named in the indictment against him. It accuses another person, whose name is redacted from the document, of doing what seems to be the majority of the legwork to distribute Kronos, including listing the malware for sale on criminal forums, creating a video advertisement that showed how it worked, and offering so-called “crypting” services meant to hide the malware from detection. The indictment also accuses Hutchins of helping update the malware in February 2015, at least six months after it first went on sale—the only hint that he may have worked on it after it was being actively used for criminal actions.

    • WannaCry ‘hero’ arrested for creating other malware

      According to an indictment provided to CNN Tech, Hutchins created the malware and shared it online. The Eastern District of Wisconsin returned a six-count indictment against Hutchins on July 12, 2017. It was unsealed at the time of his arrest.

    • WannaCry hero Hutchins arrested in US by FBI

      British security researcher Marcus Hutchins, who accidentally stopped the spread of the WannaCry ransomware that was affecting Windows machines in May, has been arrested by the FBI in Las Vegas.

    • After Defcon, the FBI arrested the UK national who stopped Wannacry

      According to a US Marshals spokesman, Hutchins was arrested by the FBI shortly after the Defcon/Blackhat conference in Las Vegas, though no one has disclosed the charge. His friends cannot locate him.

    • FBI arrests WannaCry hero Marcus Hutchins in Las Vegas over malware claims

      A young cyber expert who stopped the WannaCry global cyber attack has been arrested in the US for allegedly conspiring to advertise and sell a malicious software that targeted bank accounts.

    • Guy Who Accidentally Stopped WannaCry Ransomware Detained After Defcon

      As you may recall, earlier this year, when the WannaCry ransomware was spreading like wildfire, it was accidentally stopped by a security researcher in the UK who was (mostly) known only by the pseudonym MalwareTech. He wrote about the whole experience after having tweeted about it earlier. Basically he spotted the domain that WannaCry was pinging and saw that it wasn’t registered — so he registered it, if just to track the spread of the malware. But, that process actually stopped WannaCry from spreading due to the way the ransomware was designed. The story of someone accidentally stopping a massive malware breakout was a good one and it was widely covered by the press. MalwareTech got lots of good press out of it… and as a thank you, at least one UK publication doxxed him and revealed his name, his age, some of his social media photos and even what he liked to eat. That wasn’t very nice. Still, now it’s known that Marcus Hutchens is MalwareTech, and people should be thanking him.

    • Convicted Fraudster Uses DDoS Attack To Clean Up Search Results, Fails Spectacularly

      Nice work, Andrew. Generating a federal indictment is a surefire way to ensure your vanity search results remain unmarred by “offending court decisions.” But this DDoS wasn’t Rakhshan’s only attempt to scrub the web of negative info. Searching through the Lumen (formerly Chilling Effects) database reveals post-alleged attack efforts Rakhshan made to clean up unflattering search results.

    • Scottish government whacked by two ransomware attacks in the past year

      The government noted that the actual number of attacks may be higher than it recorded, but added that it is ‘not always possible to identify or record unsuccessful incidents that could be defined as attacks, such as phising emails or those with potential malware that can be filtered before ever reaching the Scottish government.’

    • BA suffers yet more IT borkage causing ‘chaos’ at London airports

      The IT glitch, which was resolved at around 9am UK time, caused ‘carnage’ at check-in desks at the three London airports, according to pissed off holidaymakers.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Today is Earth Overshoot Day: We have officially run out of natural resources for this year

      This is the earliest, since 1969, the occasion has been marked. The date every year is calculated by comparing the total yearly consumption by humans — also known as our ecological footprint — with Earth’s ability to regenerate natural resources in the same year.

    • A senior EPA official is leaving because of what Donald Trump, Scott Pruitt are doing to it

      [...] adding that the “EPA has always followed a cooperative federalism approach since most environmental programs are delegated to states and tribes who carry out the majority of monitoring, permitting, inspections, and enforcement actions.” She also noted how the Trump administration is defunding environmental initiatives on the state and local level as well as the federal one.

    • Meat industry runoff has created a massive dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico
    • Gulf of Mexico dead zone is largest on record

      Every summer for the last three decades, researchers have cruised the northern Gulf of Mexico during July to study the extent of hypoxia, or low oxygen levels. This summer they found the largest area ever on record: 22,720 square kilometers. This is about the size of New Jersey.

      This year’s “dead zone,” where oxygen levels are so low they threaten fish and other small aquatic life, is about 50 percent larger than normal. The average size of the dead zone over the last 31 years has been 14,037 square kilometers, according to Nancy Rabalais, a researcher at Louisiana State University who has long studied the issue. This year’s dead zone was likely even larger than what the scientists found, but there was insufficient time on board the ship to measure its entire extent.

  • Finance

    • A second Brexit referendum? It’s looking more likely by the day

      Negotiations on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU have now begun in earnest. They are required, according to article 50, to “take account of the framework” for Britain’s “future relationship with the union”. But what is that future relationship to be?

      Economically, the EU comprises three elements: a free trade area; a customs union (an area with a common trade policy and a common tariff); and an internal market in which non-tariff barriers to trade (regulations, standards and the like) are harmonised and, indeed, reduced.

    • Cross-party group of MPs hope to force a vote on UK staying in EEA

      A group of Labour and Conservative MPs are hoping to force a vote on whether the UK should stay in the European Economic Area for at least a few years after Brexit, in the belief that it may be possible to force Theresa May to yield on the issue.

      MPs campaigning for a softer Brexit are increasingly concerned that the government’s EU withdrawal bill will not allow the UK to stay in the European Economic Area even temporarily before the final deal with the EU comes into force in around 2022.

      But Labour MPs such as Stephen Kinnock, Chuka Umunna and Heidi Alexander are considering ways to work with some Tories to keep the UK in EEA, at least for a transitional period, when the bill comes to the House of Commons in early September. One option would be for a backbencher to table an amendment asking the UK to remain in the EEA during the post-Brexit transition.

    • Uber drivers gang up to cause surge pricing, research says

      “Drivers have developed practices to regain control, even gaming the system,” said Dr Mareike Möhlmann, from the University of Warwick Business School. “It shows that the algorithmic management that Uber uses may not only be ethically questionable, but may also hurt the company itself.”

    • Bank of England: Brexit uncertainty is hitting pay rises

      But he cautions that big question is what else comes alongside that deal. For example, agreements could be struck with other non-EU countries that boost the economy.

      But…the uncertainty over this is affecting, to various degrees, businesses, financial markets and households in this country, he insists.

    • Bitcoin Exchange Had Too Many Bitcoins

      But this creates another, funnier problem: That’s so easy to game! Here’s what you do: [...]

    • Bank of England downgrades GDP growth forecasts as Brexit looms

      The Bank of England has downgraded its UK GDP growth forecasts for both this year and next, as it expects the economy to continue to struggle in the run-up to Brexit.

      The rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee also voted, as expected, by six votes to two to keep interest rates on hold at 0.25 per cent.

      However, the central bank also sought to send a hawkish message that a rate rise could still be coming sooner than markets currently expect.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Hill Republicans: Trump is fritzing out

      Him: Remember what I told you at the start of this circus? They planned to use Trump’s antics for cover, to get done what they most wanted – big tax cuts, rollbacks of regulations, especially financial. They’d work with Pence behind the scenes and forget the crazy uncle in the attic.

    • Trump says Boy Scout leader called him about his ‘greatest speech.’ Boy Scouts say there was no call
    • We Need to Stop Using Russia as a Political Football
    • Brazil’s Corrupt Congress Protects its Bribe-Drenched President, Finalizing Elites’ Two-Year Plot

      JUST OVER A YEAR AGO, in Brasília, one of the most nauseating and humiliating political spectacles I’ve ever seen took place over nine hours. In Brazil’s lower House – a body where a majority of members are implicated in corruption investigations – one dirty, shady cretin after the next stood up in front of television cameras and flamboyantly declared that their conscience, their religion, their God, their children, their devotion to Jerusalem, the memory of their mother, their pastor, the purity of their soul demanded that they punish corruption by removing the elected President, Dilma Rousseff, from office.

      Just imagine the most extreme, primitive cartoon version of a gleefully hypocritical moralizer – a preacher who leaves his weekly whorehouse orgy to go directly to Sunday church to rail against hell-bound sinners – and you’ll have a perfect vision of the majority faction that sanctimoniously paraded itself that day. The slime that oozes from their pores is palpable. These are the people who nullified a national election in, and are thus now ruling over, the planet’s fifth most populous country.

    • I Have Become An Old White Straight Male (OWSM)

      I get “privilege” and do not in any way imply our society is not chock-a-block with prejudice. But note more than 19 million whites fall below the poverty line, accounting for more than 41 percent of the nation’s destitute. Also, a bit of history. Before we were a monolithic heap of “white men,” we were Paddys, Kikes, Hillbillies, Wops, Hunkies, Polacks, and all the other forms of prejudice and discrimination.

      A big messy part of all this is Trump, who has been anointed the leader of the OWSM “community.”

      Trump is an OWSM. He does not represent me, and I do not support him or what he stands for or the way he acts. FYI, I also did not support Hillary Clinton, who is by the way an OWSF, three-quarters of what I am. And don’t dismiss my deeply-thought political choice of whom to vote for as misogynistic.

    • The US: A Nation Of Immigrants With a Bad Immigration Policy

      That America is a nation of immigrants is far from a trope; no other nation on earth has been so formed by immigration, from its national myths to the hard core realization of its industrial revolution to its current draw of immigrants, from the most highly-skilled to the most unskilled, from around the globe.

    • The FCC is full again, with three Republicans and two Democrats [iophk: "tribalism"]

      The US Senate today confirmed the nominations of Republican Brendan Carr and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel to fill the two empty seats on the Federal Communications Commission.

      FCC Chairman Ajit Pai congratulated the commissioners in a statement. “As I know from working with each of them for years, they have distinguished records of public service and will be valuable assets to the FCC in the years to come,” Pai said. “Their experience at the FCC makes them particularly well-suited to hit the ground running. I’m pleased that the FCC will once again be at full strength and look forward to collaborating to close the digital divide, promote innovation, protect consumers, and improve the agency’s operations.”

    • The U.S. Senate has just confirmed two new FCC commissioners

      A former lawyer for the nation’s top telecom companies — ties that earned him some criticism from liberal-leaning consumer groups — Carr is expected to become a reliable ally to Pai as he proceeds with his plans to undo the government’s net neutrality rules and loosen regulation on the telecom industry.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • China is perfecting a new method for suppressing dissent on the internet

      What’s different about China’s approach is the content of the propaganda. The government doesn’t refute critics or defend policies; instead, it overwhelms the population with positive news (what the researchers call “cheerleading” content) in order to eclipse bad news and divert attention away from actual problems.

      [...]

      But we estimate that the government fabricates and posts 448 million social media comments a year.

    • Psychiatrist Files Lawsuit Over Wordless One-Star Review

      A South Carolina psychiatrist in engaged in what might be one of the all-time great windmill tilts. It’s a libel lawsuit predicated on a single one-star review — a review that contains nothing else but the solitary star.

      [...]

      Beale alleges a lot of things in his suit. He claims the one-star rating — left by a single person with zero additional commentary — has led to “extreme and constant distress.” He points out he has received mostly positive ratings elsewhere and that the person clicking on the single star — “Richard Hill” — is not a patient of his, at least not under that name.

      Of course, Beale’s online ratings have fallen significantly since the filing of this lawsuit. Some have pointed out the “extreme and constant distress” Beale claims to be suffering as a result of this single single-star review isn’t the sort of reaction one would expect from a mental health professional.

      [...]

      So far, the only thing Beale has accomplished is making a fool of himself. His ratings at multiple sites are starting to collapse. At this point, there’s nothing to be gained from pursuing the lawsuit, other than keeping his nonplussed counsel employed. His overreaction to a wordless one-star review has done more damage to his career than ignoring it ever would have.

    • China isn’t the only country censoring the web

      Apple’s craven obedience to Beijing’s autocratic demands typifies the general stance of the West. From the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 to Beijing’s abduction of Hong Kong booksellers today, Stalinist repression in China has never really sparked uproar among Western leaders. Yes, British foreign secretary Boris Johnson greeted the 20th anniversary of Chinese rule over Hong Kong with the limp hope that it would ‘make further progress towards a more democratic and accountable system of government’. But Western IT firms and politicians can hardly pose as guardians of internet freedom.

    • UK urges tech giants to do more to prevent spread of extremism

      In recent months, Facebook has repeatedly come under fire for censoring journalists and activists in the name of combating terrorism, often reversing their decisions in the wake of negative media coverage.

    • Hamilton 68: A New Tool to Track Russian Disinformation on Twitter

      Since Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election, many have warned that Putin will be back in 2018 and 2020. But the reality is that Russian influence operations never left. As former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper recently stated, the Kremlin is already beginning to “prep the battlefield” for the 2018 elections. But what does this mean?

    • Popehat suspended from Twitter for sharing a threat he received

      When you use a “free” service like Twitter and Facebook, you’re buying into the policies and attitudes they pursue, for better or worse.

    • Twitter Suspends Popehat For Writing About Violent Threats He Received From Another Twitter User

      Twitter has gotten a lot of flack over the years for how it responds to threats and abuse online — much of it deserved. The company insists that it’s gotten much better about this, and now responds much more quickly to inappropriate threats or abuse online. But doing so is often difficult and bound to lead to some really bad decisions. Like one that just happened. Ken White’s Popehat account has been temporarily suspended from Twitter. Why? Because he posted a threat he had received from someone else on Twitter to Twitter.

      If you’re a regular Techdirt reader, I’m sure you’re familiar with Ken “Popehat” White, the blogging lawyer who covers a lot of the same stuff we do, mainly in the free speech realm. Ken has also, a few times, represented us in response to silly legal threats we’ve received. If you’re a Twitter user, you may also be aware that Ken is a prolific and masterful user of Twitter often commenting on the news of the day. He also uses Twitter to do some law ‘splaining and to call out bullies and trolls. He’s pretty good at it. One such recent bully was a Texas lawyer named Jason L. Van Dyke. We actually wrote about Jason a few years ago when he tried to sue the Tor Project, because some revenge porn site used Tor. We didn’t hear much about him until a few months ago. It seems that, somehow, Van Dyke was offered a job as an assistant district attorney in Victoria County. For unclear reasons, that job offer was pulled. Van Dyke was not happy. He proceeds to sue the DA for pulling the job offer.

    • Internet Censorship Bill Would Spell Disaster for Speech and Innovation

      Without Section 230, these businesses might have to review every bit of content a user wanted to publish to make sure that the content would not be illegal or create a risk of civil liability. It’s easy to see how such measures would stifle completely lawful speech.

    • Statement On The Introduction Of The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017
    • Senators Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Hold Backpage Accountable, Ensure Justice for Victims of Sex Trafficking
    • The women who sell nudes on Patreon

      When she first launched the account about a year ago, she was hesitant. “I didn’t think anyone would be interested,” she says. “[But] in my first week I made over a thousand dollars.” Now, in a good month, with her current supporters, Michelle says she can make $5,000. Operating the Patreon account is her full-time job.

    • Why are so many Americans okay with corporations bowing to Chinese censorship?
    • Comic Chatbot Errors in China Mask Serious Corporate Caving on Censorship
    • ‘My China Dream is moving to the United States’: Chinese chatbots censored after going off script
    • Deciphering China’s VPN Ban
    • China’s Internet Censors Play a Tougher Game of Cat and Mouse
    • China Holds Drill to Shut Down ‘Harmful’ Websites
  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • If you use a browser extension, your full Internet history may be for sale – and easily de-anonymized

      The German duo found that huge datasets of anonymized private Internet histories were being sold by Web analysis companies and data brokers, with much of the material coming from browser extensions. Since these operate before information is sent over any VPN, they can access full details of your Internet activities, and send browser data anywhere. For VPN users, that’s disappointing. Less surprising, perhaps, is the fact that it was relatively easy to discover the identities of many users found in these supposedly anonymized datasets.

    • House Oversight Head Still Concerned Surveillance He Approves Of Is Being Used Against His Party

      House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes is at it again. After years of unwavering support for NSA surveillance programs — a one-man booster club operating from inside an oversight committee — Nunes is now starting to find things he doesn’t like about NSA surveillance.

      It escalated a few months ago when he was “shocked” to learn NSA surveillance grabs communications between world governments and may have been used to listen in on short-lived National Security Advisor Mike Flynn’s conversations with Russian officials.

      Nunes’ hypocrisy continued when he demanded answers about surveillance activities under Executive Order 12333 — again in relation to possible surveillance of public officials he liked and supported. Nunes should already have known most of the answers to these questions. After all, he heads a surveillance oversight committee. But he didn’t because he’s spent most of his tenure with the oversight committee arguing there should be less oversight of Section 702/Executive Order 12333 surveillance programs.

      Nunes still won’t let it go. He’s fired off yet another letter demanding answers about surveillance, this time to new Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. This time, he’s looking to pin surveillance of Trump appointees on the outgoing president — as if nothing of the sort continues today.

    • Google Is Matching Your Offline Buying With Its Online Ads, but It Isn’t Sharing How

      The Federal Trade Commission received a complaint Monday from privacy advocates requesting a full investigation into a new advertising scheme from Google that links individuals’ online browsing data and what they buy offline in stores.

      The privacy group that launched the federal complaint, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, alleges that Google is using credit card data to track whether online ads lead to in-store purchases without providing an easy opt-out or clear information about how the system works. The complaint specifically calls out a new advertising program Google unveiled in May that reportedly relies on billions of credit card records, which are matched to data on what ads people click on when logged into Google services.

    • Federal prosecutor struggles to describe stingray use in attempted murder case

      Joseph Alioto, the lead federal prosecutor, initially suggested that the suspect’s mobile phone company, MetroPCS, needed to somehow activate the Oakland Police Department’s stingray immediately following the January 21, 2013 shooting of a police officer. But that’s not how stingrays work—rather, they act as fake mobile phone towers and do not require any affirmative interaction on behalf of any phone company’s network.

    • You’re wrong, Amber Rudd – encryption is for ‘real people
    • We don’t want to ban encryption, but our inability to see what terrorists are plotting undermines our security [Ed: Conservative media]
    • Ex-NSA head: Govts should say why they spy [Ed: Conservative media again]
    • Former National Security Agency Deputy Director John Inglis warns on data collection
    • Who is Ezra Cohen-Watnick, just booted off the NSC?

      The New York Times and other news outlets are reporting that Ezra Cohen-Watnick, 31, the senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council (NSC), has been dismissed from the White House.

      Watnick, described as a “Trump loyalist,” was brought onto the NSC by former director Mike Flynn. Flynn was fired by the administration after he admitted to hiding his links to Russian and other foreign governments.

      Flynn’s successor, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, has tried to dismiss Cohen-Watnick before. According to the Conservative Review web site, he was overruled by President Donald Trump and his senior advisors Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner.

    • It Looks Like H.R. McMaster Is Cleaning House at the NSA

      H.R. McMaster, national security adviser and so-called “adult in the room,” is apparently gaining some ground over the nationalistic forces inside the Trump administration.

      On Wednesday, the White House confirmed that the NSC’s senior director of intelligence, 30-year-old Ezra Cohen-Watnick has “left” the NSC. McMaster had allegedly tried to get rid of Cohen-Watnick – who was brought on by Flynn, and also worked on the Trump transition – soon after taking the NSA job. McMaster reportedly expressed doubts about Cohen-Watnick’s qualifications, but advisers Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon intervened on his behalf, and got Trump to step in and overrule McMaster.

    • In Abusing NSA Intelligence, Did Obama White House Commit A Crime?

      ‘Unmasking’ Scandal: Day by day, the scandal of the Obama administration’s abuse of domestic intelligence gathered by the National Security Agency grows. Forget the phony Russia-Trump collusion charges — the Obama White House looks increasingly to have committed a crime by using U.S. intelligence for political purposes.

      The NSA’s insatiable gathering of data and conversations on Americans make it a potentially highly dangerous enemy of Americans’ freedoms. Who would want to have a federal government spy shop that knows almost everything you do in public, on the phone, by email, or by computer?

      That’s why the super-secret NSA, which is much bigger than the better-known CIA, has always operated under strict guidelines for how its intel could be used. In its reports, Americans who are surveilled without a warrant while speaking to a foreign citizen are routinely “masked” — that is, their identity is kept secret — unless there’s an overwhelming national security interest in that person being “unmasked.”

    • BBC iPlayer prototype uses AI to identify you by your voice

      The BBC Blog explains: “As well as letting a user sign in to BBC services using their unique voice instead of a password, our internal prototype also gives a user the option to select what they want to watch by talking to their device.

    • Microsoft and BBC experiment with an iPlayer TV service that listens to you

      The BBC has been working with Microsoft to develop an experimental version of its popular iPlayer service. British iPlayer users can access a range of on-demand content provided by the BBC — funded by the UK’s TV License — and a new experiment is trying to guess what you’d want to watch by listening to your voice.

    • Skype teams with PayPal to launch ‘Send Money’ feature

      The new ‘Send Money’ feature, which has launched in 22 countries including the UK, brings the ability to send and receive peer-to-peer payments with PayPal to Microsoft’s messaging app.

    • Verizon’s new rewards program lets it track your browsing history

      But, as noted by Brandon Robbins on Twitter, the new program comes with a pretty big catch: you have to enroll in Verizon Selects, a program that allows the company to track a huge chunk of your personal data. That includes web browsing, app usage, device location, service usage, demographic info, postal or email address, and your interests. Furthermore, that data gets shared with Verizon’s newly formed Oath combination (aka AOL and Yahoo), plus with “vendors and partners” who work with Verizon. Which is kind of a long list of people who have access to what feels like a fairly significant amount of your data.

    • Canada incentivizes mass surveillance with a mobile app called Carrot Rewards

      Carrot Reward’s founder Andreas Souvaliotis explained to the CTV that he had originally started the company to focus on health but quickly realized, through government partnerships, that his app would also be effective in “modifying behavior in other areas as well.” Now, Carrot Rewards has raised over $1.5 million from several local Canadian governments and have rolled out the app to hundreds of thousands of users.

    • [Older] Much Ado About Nothing? Cyber Command and the NSA

      Last week, word began to spread that the Trump administration was considering granting new powers to U.S. Cyber Command. Lolita Baldor of the Associated Press had the scoop, discussing two related but separate steps under consideration: first, to elevate U.S. Cyber Command to the status of a unified command and second, to break the current “dual-hat” arrangement with the National Security Agency (NSA), whereby the commander of U.S. Cyber Command is the same individual as the director of the NSA.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Misused Espionage Act Targets Governnent Whistleblowers

      This week we celebrated National Whistleblower Appreciation Day—an appropriate time to speak out against the U.S. government’s continued use of the Espionage Act to prosecute government leakers, and in so doing, restrict the flow of important information to the press.

      As we wrote on the 100th anniversary of the Act’s passage, the Espionage Act was designed to prosecute spies who disclosed military secrets to foreign nations, not sources who disclose newsworthy information to the press. Unfortunately, the Espionage Act has been misused throughout its existence, from silencing left-wing speech during the Red Scare days of its origin to the indictments of whistleblowers such as Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden.

    • Body Cam Footage Of A Cop Planting Evidence Leads To Dozens Of Dismissed Cases

      It seems as though a Baltimore police officer forgot about one key feature of his bodycam: the fact that it saves the previous 30 seconds of video recorded before the camera is activated. Most bodycams record and dump constantly. The moment it’s activated, the 30 seconds preceding the activation become part of the recording.

      What was apparently inadvertently captured by the camera was the officer planting drugs in a can and hiding them in an alley. All three officers then retreat to the sidewalk outside the alley before heading back in to “discover” the drug stash.

    • Require Police to Purge Their Databases of Innocent Citizens’ Personal Information, EFF Tells Virginia Supreme Court

      License plates are more than numbers and letters you display on your car. When police photograph your license plate, scan it, record the precise times and locations of the scans, and store all that information indefinitely in a database, they can search this information to piece together your movements and travel patterns. It’s highly personal information that reveals where we go, who we visit, and other details of our private lives.

      Yesterday we filed an amicus brief asking the Virginia Supreme Court to hold that the state’s law enforcement agencies must purge plate information they collect using Automated License Plate Readers (ALPRs) because it’s personal information. A state law called the Government Data Collection & Dissemination Practices Act, enacted in response to concerns over the increasing use of technologies by governments and companies to compile detailed information about citizens’ private lives, requires agencies to delete personal information. We want the court to protect our privacy and establish that the bar is high for the police to retain personal information.

    • Defendant who texted teen to commit suicide sentenced to 15 months in jail

      A Massachusetts woman convicted of involuntary manslaughter because of text messages that cajoled her 18-year-old friend to commit suicide was sentenced Thursday to serve 15 months in jail.

      Michelle Carter, now 20, faced a maximum 20-year prison term. Her unusual prosecution was closely watched, and it occurred in a state that has no law forbidding people from encouraging suicide. But the authorities—including a Bristol County judge—concluded that in 2014 Carter sent Conrad Roy text messages that wantonly and recklessly caused him to poison himself in a car with carbon monoxide. She was 17 years old at the time.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

  • DRM

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Trademarks

      • Canadian Man Somehow Gets Trademark On His Own County’s Name, Govt. Says Legal Action Is The Only Remedy

        It’s stunning how often trademarks that never should have been granted get granted — leading to all sorts of bad outcomes. One area that sees far too many bad trademarks involves trademarking geographic areas, with the holder of the mark often then trying to lock out local businesses from using the name of the locations in which they reside. If ever there were a trademark type that everyone ought to agree should be rejected, it’s one based purely on geography.

      • Would You Confuse ‘Pierogi Fest’ With ‘Edwardsville Pierogi Festival’? Neither Would We

        You write about enough trademark disputes and you come across some real whoppers. And, man, have I seen some doozies. Still, I never stop being suprised by how silly these things can get. Today’s example of this revolves around the Chamber of Commerce for Whiting, Indiana sending out trademark threat letters to the Edwardsville Hometown Committee in Pennsylvania over the latter’s ‘Edwardsville Pierogi Festival.

    • Copyrights

      • Piracy Brings a New Young Audience to Def Leppard, Guitarist Says

        While many artists have stepped up to demonize piracy over the years, Def Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell prefers to see the upside. Describing the effects as “fantastic”, Campbell says there’s a whole new audience coming to the band’s shows, bringing fresh energy to the performance. But how much of this can be attributed to piracy in 2017?

      • Font Maker Sues Universal Music Over ‘Pirated’ The Vamps Logo

        Universal Music Group is being sued by HypeForType, which accuses the record label of using ‘pirated’ copies of its fonts for the logo of The Vamps. The font is widely used for artwork, promotion material and merchandising of the popular British band, and the font creator is looking for a minimum of $1.25 million in damages.

      • TVAddons Returns, But in Ugly War With Canadian Telcos Over Kodi Addons

        Bell Canada, TVA, Videotron, and Rogers are collectively suing Kodi addon repository TVAddons, TorrentFreak can reveal. The lawsuit targets TVAddons’ operator for the alleged unlawful distribution of Kodi software addons. It’s fair to say that thus far, this process has revealed some of the most shocking abuses of power ever seen in an online copyright infringement case.

      • Cable giants step up piracy battle by interrogating Montreal software developer and searching his home

        “I am of the view that its true purpose was to destroy the livelihood of the defendant, deny him the financial resources to finance a defence to the claim made against him,” the judge wrote.

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