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09.01.17

Links 1/9/2017: PiCluster 2.1, Wine 2.16, LibreOffice 5.4.1

Posted in News Roundup at 5:32 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • INL releases new open-source software projects

    Idaho National Laboratory has released multiple new open-source software projects that are freely available to the public and open to collaboration directly with researchers and engineers outside of the laboratory. Fostering widespread distribution of this software will accelerate the adoption of these technologies within industry and fuel innovation in other research organizations that may build on them.

  • Open source data platform for smart agriculture proposed

    New Delhi, Aug 31 (PTI) A plan to create an open source data platform for “smart agriculture” was mooted by the Department of Biotechnology in a two-day conference that concluded today.

    It has been envisaged that the data platform FarmerZone will help cater to the needs of farmers by providing market intelligence, weather predictions, and information on soil, water and seed requirements.

    The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), under the Ministry of Science and Technology, convened the Smart Agriculture Conclave here in partnership with the UKs Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Research Councils UK (RCUK), India.

  • Dharma wants to let anyone borrow a small amount of cryptocurrency

    dApps, or decentralized apps, are open-source applications built on top of a blockchain. But here’s the thing – users usually can’t interact with these dApps unless they have tokens issued by these projects. For example, both Augur, a decentralized prediction market and REXMLS, a free global listing network for real estate, require tokens to interact with.

  • OpenStack ‘Pike’ Focuses on Basics Instead of Gee-Whiz New Features

    There’s a new release of OpenStack, the open source infrastructure-as-a-service platform for cloud computing. The new release, Pike, isn’t chock-full of new features, as OpenStack’s focus for the next several releases will be on stability, scalability, performance and ease-of-use.

    Actually, this is a good time for the platform’s developers to step away from any mad rush to add new features and concentrate on improving the basics. Back in April, when we reported on Open Stack’s ninth User Survey, we noted that although use of the platform was on the rise, in some cases user satisfaction was declining, most likely over usability issues.

  • Petition Asks the Developers of Phoenix OS to Open Source the Kernel

    Android is mainly considered an open source mobile operating system, but there are a number of closed source elements that hundreds of millions of people use every day. The actual requirements of Android is that the kernel be open sourced for the public. This is enforced by the GPL but sadly this is one of those gray areas where someone actually needs to take legal action to enforce it. Some companies have violated this time and time again, and a new petition is calling for the developers of Phoenix OS to do the right thing.

    For those who are unaware, Phoenix OS is one of the only full desktop versions of Android that is still being maintained. We’ve covered another popular platform, RemixOS, on a number of occasions but even they dropped out recently to focus on being a 2B2 company. This has left a lot of people to look towards Phoenix OS as their desktop Android solution, but there’s one glaring flaw here. The developers have yet to release the source code for the kernel that’s being used.

  • 78 Open Source Replacements for Expensive Applications

    Back when Datamation first started making lists of open source software that could replace expensive proprietary applications, most commercial software came in a box and required a flat fee for purchase. These days, with the advent of cloud computing and software as a service, most applications require a regular monthly or yearly subscription.

    Those subscriptions make it seem like software has become more affordable. After all, $10 or $20 a month doesn’t seem like a lot. But when you add up those repeating fees, users often pay more under the new subscription plans than they did under the old flat-fee arrangements. If you use a lot of different applications, those fees can quickly add up. And it can be particularly hard to justify the expense for a piece of software that you only use once in a while.

  • Six strategies for scaling an open source community

    Lately, I have been revising some of the OpenStack community’s processes to make them more sustainable. As we grew over the last seven years to have more than 2,000 individual contributors to the current release, some practices that worked when they were implemented have begun causing trouble for us now that our community is changing in different ways. My goal in reviewing those practices is to find ways to eliminate the challenges. OpenStack is developed by a collection of project teams, most of which focus on a feature-related area, such as block storage or networking. The areas where we have most needed to change intersect with all of those teams, such as release management and documentation. Although the teams responsible for those tasks have tended to be small, their members have been active and dedicated. At times that dedication has masked the near-heroic level of effort they were making to keep up with the work load. When someone is overloaded in a corporate environment, where tasks are assigned and the performance and workload of team members are reviewed regularly, the employee can appeal to management for help. The solution may be to hire or assign new contributors, change the project schedule, or to make a short term trade-off that incurs technical debt. However, open source projects are largely driven by volunteers, so assigning people to work on a task isn’t an option. Even in a sponsor-driven community such as OpenStack, where many contributors are being paid to work on the project overall, sponsors typically give a relatively narrow mandate for the way their contributors can spend their time. Changing the project schedule is always an option, but if there are no volunteers for a task today, there is no guarantee volunteers will appear tomorrow, so it may not help. We must use a different approach to eliminate the need for heroic effort.

  • Open source or proprietary: how should we secure voting systems?

    The stakes are always high when it comes to software security, which is why the ongoing debate over open-source vs. proprietary tends to be passionate.

    But the stakes rise to a new level when it comes to the security (and integrity) of a nation’s voting systems. Which makes a recent, relatively civil, squabble over the topic – 15 months out from the next national US election – both passionate and significant.

    There isn’t much debate that something needs to be done to make voting systems – more than 8,000 jurisdictions in the 50 states – more secure.

    While the US intelligence community concluded that Russian hackers were “probably unsuccessful” in tampering with votes in last year’s presidential election, that doesn’t mean they didn’t try, or that their chances of future success are low.

  • Events

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Diversity and inclusion: Stop talking and do your homework

        At Mozilla, we believe that to influence positive change in diversity and inclusion (D&I) in our communities, and more broadly in open source, we need to learn, empathize, innovate, and take action. Open source is missing out on diverse perspectives and experiences that can drive change for a better world because we’re stuck in our ways—continually leaning on long-held assumptions about why we lose people. Counting who makes it through the gauntlet of tasks and exclusive cultural norms that leads to a first pull request can’t be enough. Neither can celebrating increased diversity on stage at technical conferences, especially when the audience remains homogeneous and abuse goes unchallenged.

      • Statement on U.S. DACA Program

        We want DREAMers to continue contributing to this country’s future and we do not want people to live in fear. We urge the Administration to keep the DACA program intact. At the same time, we urge leaders in government to enact a bipartisan permanent solution, one that will allow these bright minds to prosper in the country we know and love.

      • Prepare For Firefox +57 With These 10 Web Extensions

        Mozilla Firefox browser is moving to “web extensions” and is dropping support for the legacy XPCOM & XUL add-ons. This means that every single add-on you have on your browser won’t work with Firefox +57 unless it was rewritten using this new technology.

        This is bad news for a lot of us. Thousands of add-ons won’t be used anymore because of this. A lot of developers do not plan to invest more time in porting their add-ons into the new technology. However, things have to move on. Mozilla’s point of view is that it’s time to drop this legacy technology and move into more modern ways of creating add-ons.

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

    • 1st code donation is complete

      Hi all, The 1st NetBeans code donation from Oracle to Apache is complete and http://bits.netbeans.org/download/apache-donation/ApacheNetBeansDonation1.zip is the first code drop. Everyone is welcome to look at the code, which will be imported into the Apache NetBeans repository. The 1st code donation, i.e., the NetBeans Platform + the Java SE tooling, which includes the new Jigsaw and JShell features, comprises around 45,000 files (around 4 million lines of code) to be transferred from Oracle to Apache. Hereby we are at step 5 of the process outlined below. Mentors, can you create the official Apache NetBeans repository so that we can import the code into it. Many thanks, Geertjan

    • The Sounds Of More Oracle Layoffs, SPARC Execution Could Be Near

      America this weekend by reportedly doing a fresh round of layoffs and it’s sounding like it could affect a number of heads.

      Thelayoff.com/Oracle is once again a vibrant discussion board today with word that massive layoffs are set for Friday, 1 September, and sound squarely aimed at their hardware division, SPARC. There are many reported Oracle employees stating notification of a FedEx shipment tomorrow from Oracle headquarters, widely expected to be their termination papers, etc.

    • The Document Foundation announces LibreOffice 5.4.1 “fresh” and LibreOffice 5.3.6 “still”

      The Document Foundation (TDF) announces LibreOffice 5.4.1, the first minor release of the new LibreOffice 5.4 family, which was announced in early August, and LibreOffice 5.3.6, the sixth release of the mature LibreOffice 5.3 family, which was announced in January 2017.

      LibreOffice 5.4.1 represents the bleeding edge in term of features, and as such is targeted at technology enthusiasts and early adopters, while LibreOffice 5.3.6 is targeted at conservative users and enterprise deployments.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • GhostBSD 11.1 BETA1 is ready!

      This first beta of the development of GhostBSD 11.1 release is ready for testing. All MATE and XFCE image is available with i386 and amd64 architectures. We hope to see a lot of people helping to test this next release.

    • Trying Out AMD’s Ryzen Threadripper On TrueOS, DragonFlyBSD

      Following the AMD Threadripper Linux tests of this week today I finally had a chance to try out some of the BSDs with this 16 core / 32 thread system.

      With the AMD Threadripper 1950X with Gigabyte X399 AORUS Gaming 7 is how I was running these tests. Initial targets were with TrueOS (formerly known as PC-BSD, the desktop-oriented branch of FreeBSD) and DragonFlyBSD.

    • August 2017 Development Projects Update
    • My first patch to OpenBSD

      I followed Preparing a diff and Making your first patch (OpenBSD) to submit my first OpenBSD patch. Guess what? just few hours later, dmesg source file was changed base on my code. Although the final modification is not my code, it is still a great pleasure that I contribute my own effort to help make OpenBSD better!

  • Public Services/Government

    • Estonia considering Ethereum-based cryptocoin

      Estonia is considering the issue of crypto-tokens, which would make it (almost) the first country to attract investment through an Initial Coin Offering (ICO). The scheme would let buyers of the new estcoin hold a stake in the Estonian economy.

      The estcoin would be based on the Ethereum infrastructure, a public open-source blockchain specifically developed to facilitate smart contracts.

    • Bundestag elections: parties support free software

      The Digital Agency of Belgium’s Walloon Region is promoting smart farming. At the Libramont agriculture, forestry and agri-food fair and exhibition this week, the agency co-organised a section showcasing nine companies that have developed innovative ICT uses for farming.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Artifex v. Hancom: Open Source is Now an Enforceable Contract

      The U.S. District Court recently ruled in favor of Artifex – developer of Ghostscript which is an open-source PDF interpreter and against Hancom Office – a South Korean developer of ”office” apps. The Northern District of California said that General Public License (GPL) can be treated like a legal contract, and developers can sue if the obligations of these licenses are not followed. This ruling provides strong legal support to the enforceability of open source licenses.

    • An economically efficient model for open source software license compliance

      “The Compliance Industrial Complex” is a term that evokes dystopian imagery of organizations engaging in elaborate and highly expensive processes to comply with open source license terms. As life often imitates art, many organizations engage in this practice, sadly robbing them of the many benefits of the open source model. This article presents an economically efficient approach to open source software license compliance.

      Open source licenses generally impose three requirements on a distributor of code licensed from a third party:

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open-source genomic platform could aid plant breeding in developing nations

      The Genomic Open-source Breeding Informatics Initiative (GOBII), a global project funded by an $18.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is helping bridge the gap [between crop breeders and the growing populations they feed in developing countries]. The project – a partnership between an Ithaca-based hub of researchers at The Institute of Biotechnology, Cornell and the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) and other hubs in agricultural research centers in Mexico, India and Philippines – is making state-of-the-art genomic breeding techniques available to everyone. In May, GOBII released its first products, which include a data management system to organize and access huge amounts of genomic information, and user interface tools for efficient breeding.

      “The purpose of the project is to help transform breeding programs in the developing world by implementing the most current methods being used by all major ag-tech companies around the world,” said Liz Jones, GOBII director. “

    • Big Ag Gets Ag-Gag Envy, Helps Bring In ‘Seed-Preemption’ Laws Across The US

      Supporters of the move claim that a system of local seed rules would be complicated to navigate. That’s a fair point, but it’s hard to believe Big Ag really cares about farmers that much.

  • Programming/Development

    • Introducing Fastify, a Speedy Node.js Web Framework

      Why have we written yet another web framework for Node.js? I am committed to making the Node.js platform faster, more stable and more scalable. In 2016, myself and David Mark Clements started Pino, which was designed to be the fastest logger for Node.js, and it now has four active maintainers and an ecosystem of hundreds of modules.

      Fastify is a new web framework inspired by Hapi, Restify and Express. Fastify is built as a general-purpose web framework, but it shines when building extremely fast HTTP APIs that use JSON as the data format. These are extremely common in both web and mobile software architectures, so Fastify could improve the throughput of the majority of applications.

    • The evolution of DevOps [Ed: DevOps is just a buzzword]

      A few years ago, I wrote that DevOps is the movement that doesn’t want to be defined.

    • Why Python is a crucial part of the DevOps toolchain

      DevOps is built for agility and handling change. In this year’s Skill Up survey, Packt found that Python is one of the primary languages used by DevOps engineers. In this article, Richard Gall explores why Python is such a popular part of the DevOps toolchain.

      DevOps is a way of thinking; it’s an approach, not a specific set of tools. And that’s all well and good – but it only gives you half the picture. If we overstate DevOps as a philosophy or a methodology, then it becomes too easy to forget that the toolchain is everything when it comes to DevOps. In fact, DevOps thinking forces you to think about your toolchain more than ever – when infrastructure becomes code, the way in which you manage it, change it is constantly.

    • Updated AMD Zen Scheduler Model Lands For LLVM 6.0

      With the soon-to-be-released LLVM 5.0 there is the initial AMD Zen scheduler model for the compiler to benefit Ryzen / EPYC processors. But now already hitting the LLVM development code for LLVM 6.0 is a revised scheduler model.

    • [Fedora/Red Hat] PHP version 7.0.23 and 7.1.9
    • RcppAnnoy 0.0.9

Leftovers

  • Heading Back to School? Brazzers Has Some Free Porn for You [Ed: bizarre publicity stunt promoted by IDG as if it's "news"]

    A new promotion from the porn site offers 5,000 US university students of legal age a free, four-month membership to Brazzers.com.

  • Pope reveals he had weekly psychoanalysis sessions at age 42

    Pope Francis has revealed that he sought the help of a psychoanalyst for six months when he was 42 and the leader of the Jesuit order in Argentina during the country’s military dictatorship.

    The pope’s disclosure was made in a book based on 12 in-depth interviews with the French sociologist Dominique Wolton, to be published next week.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • California moves to become the first US state to legalise magic mushrooms

      California could become the first US state to legalise magic mushrooms, as early as next year if proposed legislation is passed. The move, known as a ballot measure in the US, was filed last week with the state Attorney General’s office.

    • No action on opioid emergency three weeks after Trump declaration

      President Trump on Aug. 10 said the nation’s opioid epidemic was officially a national emergency.

      More than three weeks later, Trump is dealing with a natural disaster.

      Hurricane Harvey has displaced tens of thousands, leading Trump to declare federal emergencies in Texas and Louisiana. The decisions have freed up funding to help people who have lost their homes to rising waters.

      In contrast, nothing has happened yet since Trump’s declaration on opioids. No paperwork has been issued formally declaring an emergency, and no new policies have been announced.

      One reason is that there’s no established procedure for an emergency related to opioid abuse, which is new territory for the federal government.

      The opioid epidemic is a chronic problem, and national emergencies are usually only intended to provide short-term relief.

    • “Reckless” Tories have no solution for the crisis in the NHS

      It’s not just Tory MPs alarmed by this week’s news that Theresa May believes she’s “in this for the long-term”, anyone who cares about the future of the NHS is desperately worried that this Prime Minister intends to go on and on.

      What have we seen this summer in our NHS?

      A huge increase in the number of occasions expectant mums are being turned away from over stretched, under staffed maternity units; almost 40,000 patients left stranded on trolleys in overcrowded A&E departments and shockingly over four million now on the waiting list for operations.

    • Galveston Bio-Lab Declared Safe

      The Galveston National Laboratory in Texas, which contains samples of some of the most deadly and incurable diseases, has issued a statement reporting itself safe five days after Hurricane Harvey struck on Friday amid safety concerns for a lab built in one of America’s most active hurricane zones.

    • Pioneering cancer drug, just approved, to cost $475,000 — and analysts say it’s a bargain

      T

      he Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved a futuristic new approach to treating cancer, clearing a Novartis therapy that has produced unprecedented results in patients with a rare and deadly cancer. The price tag: $475,000 for a course of treatment.

      That sounds staggering to many patients — but it’s far less than analysts expected.

      The therapy, called a CAR-T, is made by harvesting patients’ white blood cells and rewiring them to home in on tumors. Novartis’s product is the first CAR-T therapy to come before the FDA, leading a pack of novel treatments that promise to change the standard of care for certain aggressive blood cancers.

    • The Sinister Side Effect of Amazing New Cancer Drug: One Dose Costs Nearly $500K

      On Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved a new cancer therapy developed by the pharmaceutical company Novartis that experts hope may revolutionize the way doctors treat cancer—but the half-million dollar price tag has sparked a national conversation the costs of life-saving treatments.

  • Security

    • FDA, Homeland Security Issue First Ever Recall, Warnings About Flimsy Pacemaker Security

      We’ve well established that the internet of things (IOT) market is a large, stinky dumpster fire when it comes to privacy and security. But the same problems that plague your easily hacked thermostat or e-mail password leaking refrigerator take on a decidedly darker tone when we’re talking about your health. The health industry’s outdated IT systems are a major reason for a startling rise in ransomware attacks at many hospitals, but this same level of security and privacy apathy also extends to medical and surgical equipment — and integral medical implants like pacemakers.

      After a decade of warnings about dubious pacemaker security, researchers at Medsec earlier this year discovered that a line of pacemakers manufactured by St. Jude Medical were vulnerable to attacks that could kill the owner. The researchers claimed that St. Jude had a history of doing the bare minimum to secure their products, and did little to nothing in response to previous warnings about device security. St. Jude Medical’s first response was an outright denial, followed by a lawsuit against MedSec for “trying to frighten patients and caregivers.”

    • What Being a Female Hacker {sic} Is Really Like
    • Even encrypted data streams from the Internet of Things are leaking sensitive information; here’s what we can do

      As the Internet of Things (IoT) begins to enter the mainstream, concerns about the impact such “smart” devices will have on users’ privacy are growing. Many of the problems are obvious, but so far largely anecdotal. That makes a new paper from four researchers at Princeton University particularly valuable, because they analyze in detail how IoT devices leak private information to anyone with access to Internet traffic flows, and what might be done about it. Now that basic privacy protections for Internet users have been removed in the US, allowing ISPs to monitor traffic and sell data about their customers’s online habits to third parties, it’s an issue with heightened importance.

    • The Epic Crime Spree Unleashed By Onity’s Ambivalence To Its Easily Hacked Hotel Locks

      Back in 2012, we wrote about Onity, the company that makes a huge percentage of the keycard hotel door locks on the market, and how laughably easy it was to hack its locks with roughly $50 of equipment. Surprisingly, Onity responded to the media coverage and complaints from its hotel customers with offers of fixes that ranged from insufficient (a piece of plastic that covered the port used to hack the door locks) to cumbersome (replacing the circuit boards on the locks entirely) and asked many of these customers to pay for these fixes to its broken product. Many of these customers wanted to sue Onity for obvious reasons, but a judge ruled against allowing a class action suit to proceed. That was our last story on the subject.

    • Site sells Instagram users’ phone and e-mail details, $10 a search

      At first glance, the Instagram security bug that was exploited to obtain celebrities’ phone numbers and e-mail addresses appeared to be limited, possibly to a small number of celebrity accounts. Now a database of 10,000 credentials published online Thursday night suggests the breach is much bigger.

    • Celebs’ phone numbers and e-mail addresses exposed in active Instagram hack
    • Intel kill switch code indicates connection to NSA

      Dmitry Sklyarov, Mark Ermolov and Maxim Goryachy, security researchers for Positive Technologies, based in Framingham, Mass., found the Intel kill switch that has the ability to disable the controversial Intel Management Engine (ME).

      Experts have been wary of the Intel ME because it is an embedded subsystem on every chip that essentially functions as a separate CPU with deep access to system processes and could be active even if the system were hibernating or shut off.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • How Media Obscure US/Saudi Responsibility for Killing Yemeni Civilians

      A coalition of Saudi Arabia, the United States, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, with minor support from several other Middle Eastern nations, has relentlessly bombed Yemen since March 2015. This August, the coalition ramped up the ferocity of its airstrikes, killing dozens of civilians.

      On August 23, the US/Saudi coalition bombed a hotel near Yemen’s capital Sanaa, killing 41 people, 33 of whom—80 percent—were civilians, according to the United Nations.

      Then on August 25, the coalition bombed homes in Sanaa, massacring a dozen civilians, including eight members of the same family.

      Major Western media outlets have, however, obscured the responsibility Saudi Arabia, and its US and European supporters, bear for launching these airstrikes.

    • The Last of the Mad Pirates?

      There is clear evidence of a world increasingly steeped in conflict and violence: The degradation of U.S.-Russian relations, territorial tensions in the South China Sea, the hostile rhetoric between North Korea and the United States, an escalation of the border conflict between China and India, growing tension between Israel and Iran, and the continuing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Ukraine; among other hostilities around the globe yielding death and destruction.

    • Pentagon Dumps Tons of Hazardous Waste Yearly Without Disclosing Pollution Harm
    • Iran, and a diplomacy deficit

      A key point to grasp is that the US-Iran relationship has been problematic for many decades. Its strains long predate 9/11 to the coup against Mohammad Mosaddegh’s elected leadership in 1953, decades of support for the subsequent Shah’s regime, and the multiple upheavals of the late 1970s which culminated in the Iranian revolution of 1979. The sudden collapse of the Shah’s order, seen by Washington as a vital and irreplaceable ally in the intense cold-war rivalry with the Soviet Union, was a heavy geopolitical blow. A seminal event in the aftermath made it even more traumatic: the detention by young revolutionaries of fifty-two American diplomats and their family members in Tehran, a hostage incident which lasted 444 days.

      The US’s frustrated impotence in a key security dispute left a bitter residue, which makes the nuclear deal negotiated during Barack Obama’s second term of office all the more remarkable. That helped avert a dangerous confrontation over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Nothing is settled, however. For the moment, Trump’s Washington is focusing most security attention on North Korea. But Iran remains a potent background concern, and recent developments could well spark a sudden crisis.

    • If Hillary Had Won

      The Clinton 45 administration would be loaded with top globalist ruling-class and imperial operatives from Wall Street and the Council on Foreign Relations. A dangerous Russophobic war hawk and a dedicated enemy of left popular nationalism in Latin America, Mrs. Clinton might well have initiated significant direct and dangerous military conflict with Russia in Syria or Ukraine and already orchestrated a U.S overthrow of the Maduro regime in Venezuela. She would be doing this to the measured applause of CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.

      Just how much a President Hillary’s likely mass-murderous militarism would reflect her strong ideological commitment to the American Empire Project (never forget her U.S. Senate vote to let George W. Bush criminally invade Iraq if he wanted to [he did]) and how much it would reflect a “wag the dog” need to deflect attention from domestic political chaos is an interesting question.

    • Retired Police Major: Police Militarization Endangers Public Safety

      This week, the Trump administration revoked President Obama’s Executive Order 13688, which limited the scope of a federal program that allows state and local police departments to obtain military equipment free of charge – and without oversight or training in how to use it. After spending 34 years as a police officer, I’m convinced that the 1033 Program has been one of the single greatest contributors to the public losing trust in law enforcement.

      Scrapping Executive Order 13688 means police departments will again have unfettered access to high caliber guns, grenade launchers, and armored vehicles, among other forms of military equipment. During a time when criminal justice and police reform have bipartisan support, this decision shows a clear misunderstanding both of what Americans want and, more perilously, of what’s truly effective at improving public safety.

    • The Reasons for Netanyahu’s Panic

      A very senior Israeli intelligence delegation, a week ago, visited Washington. Then, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke into President Putin’s summer holiday to meet him in Sochi, where, according to a senior Israeli government official (as cited in the Jerusalem Post), Netanyahu threatened to bomb the Presidential Palace in Damascus, and to disrupt and nullify the Astana cease-fire process, should Iran continue to “extend its reach in Syria.”

      [...]

      Belatedly, Israel has understood that it backed the wrong side in Syria – and it has lost. It is not really in a position to demand anything. It will not get an American enforced buffer zone beyond the Golan armistice line, nor will the Iraqi-Syrian border be closed, or somehow “supervised” on Israel’s behalf.

    • The government must come clean about its secret wars

      When David Cameron made his case for airstrikes in Syria in 2015, he explicitly ruled out sending in UK ground forces to fight Islamic State. Yet the following year British soldiers were photographed on the ground, reportedly fighting alongside Syrian rebels. All without any disclosure to parliament.

      How is this possible?

      The answer comes through the use of special forces. As far as the government is concerned, the operations of any units that come under the command of the Director of Special Forces are exempt from public disclosure and scrutiny. In theory, this means British troops can operate anywhere in the world without the public or parliament ever knowing about it, let alone getting the chance to debate or vote.

      This may not seem unreasonable at first glance. After all, aren’t we talking about a very small number of elite troops carrying out a similarly small number of ‘quick-in, quick out’ operations? We could hardly equate missions like ending the Iranian embassy siege in 1980 or the rescue of British soldiers captured by the ‘West Side Boys’ in Sierra Leone in 2000 with full-blown military interventions. And secrecy has arguably been understandable to avoid compromising these missions and endangering the personnel involved.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Media Largely ‘Blind’ to Harvey’s Devastating Impact on Poor Communities
    • Disaster Coverage Still Has Blind Spot for Low-Income Victims

      Numerous media outlets (e.g., CNN’s Reliable Sources, 9/18/05) vowed to do better in the future—though within months, reports on poverty and the poor had retreated to background levels, and CNN (2/27/06) was approvingly reporting on how New Orleans had ripped out the carpet at the convention center to “[bring] it back ahead of schedule,” even as at least half of the city’s actual residents remained displaced.

      Twelve years later, as Hurricane Harvey has wreaked devastating flooding across southeast Texas, reporters’ ability to notice the nearly one-third of Americans living in or near poverty has again been put to the test. And though direct comparisons with Katrina are tough—Harvey is a different storm, playing out over days of rising waters instead of mere hours, and Houston chose not to call for residents to evacuate as New Orleans did in 2005—news coverage has revealed some of the same blind spots that have plagued reporting on previous natural disasters.

    • A woman tried to shame Michelle Obama. It backfired, badly

      In 2005 when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Louisiana, Rice was photographed shoe shopping in New York City.

      At the time, the story that she had spent thousands of dollars in an expensive Manhattan retailer was broken by the New York Daily News.

      In her 2011 memoir, ‘No Higher Honor’, Rice admitted she should not have done that.

      The memoir confirmed she had travelled to New York to see a play on Broadway, and then done some shoe shopping Ferragamo.

    • Harvey: Fierce Climate Change at Work

      Clearly, Harvey is a natural disaster of monstrous proportions. Its destructiveness is the hottest topic on TV coast-to-coast and around the world. Still, cynics of climate change say natural disasters, like hurricanes, are normal and nothing more than nature’s way. The evidence, however, points in another direction; climate change is no longer simply nature doing its thing. It’s lost purity of the force of nature, only nature.

      Similar to the record setting massive meltdown of Arctic ice in a flash of geologic time, fierce storms and zany weather patterns are setting all-time records, hyper-speeding nature’s time clock. In point of fact, bigger/faster all-time records have become the norm, racing ahead of nature, prompting the question: Why is this happening?

      The likely answer is: The human footprint is driving climate change to hyper speed; in some instances 10xs faster than climate change over the past millennia.

    • Can the Politicians Heed the Lessons of Hurricane Harvey?

      Hovering Hurricane Harvey, loaded and reloading with trillions of gallons of water raining down on the greater Houston region—ironically the hub of the petroleum refining industry—is an unfolding, off the charts tragedy for millions of people. Many of those most affected are minorities and low-income families with no homes, health care or jobs to look forward to once the waters recede.

      [...]

      While Trump tweets and hopefully reconsiders his earlier cruel budget cuts for FEMA and other life-saving federal agencies – such as the Centers for Disease Control and the EPA – the people are swinging into action on the ground. May they swing into wise and just action in the next elections – both as new candidates and, high horizon, informed voters. For there is a much better America to be had.

    • Before Harvey, Houston Sought Funding to Mitigate Floods — But Congress Refused

      The rains were going to come eventually. It was only a matter of when, and how bad.

      With flooding from Tropical Storm Harvey still inundating Houston — exacting a toll of 31 deaths and incalculable damage so far — the city is left asking what could have been done to prevent the extent of the catastrophe, or at least diminish its effects. One of the questions is why federal funding that should have been in place to help Houston deal with flood mitigation never arrived.

      Houston and surrounding Harris County, in Texas, had many ambitious proposals for flood mitigation projects lined up, but couldn’t afford them. And, despite the efforts of one of the city’s congressional representatives, Capitol Hill declined to fund the cash-strapped local governments.

    • Harvey Victims Face Toxic Pollution as Hurricane Recovery Begins

      Texas communities that have long experienced health problems from nearby oil refineries and chemical plants are now facing the fossil fuel industry’s longer-term impacts: storms made more severe by climate change and the painful recovery process that follows their landfall — a recovery made far worse by industrial contamination.

      A number of low-income communities that sit on the fence-lines of the Gulf Coast petrochemical industry have been hit particularly hard by Hurricane Harvey. On Thursday morning, Hilton Kelley stood at a makeshift first responders headquarters in Port Arthur, Texas, directing out-of-state rescue professionals to parts of his neighborhood where he knew people were probably still trapped. A curfew put in place from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. was just ending and the streets were eery and barren, with a few alarms going off in nearby buildings. Kelley’s home had filled with a foot and a half of water, and his wife and granddaughter had taken shelter at his soul food restaurant, Kelley’s Kitchen.

    • How forests balance the books in a changing climate
    • Crosby, Texas, Chemical Plant Explodes Twice, Arkema Group Says

      Two explosions shook a flooded chemical plant near Houston early Thursday, sending a plume of black smoke into the air and triggering an intense fire that continued to burn.

      Authorities warned that further blasts were likely to occur on site since chemicals weren’t being stored at the appropriate temperatures after the facility lost power following Hurricane Harvey.

    • The Chemical Plant Explosion in Texas Is Not an Accident. It’s the Result of Specific Choices.

      So, conservative ideas have triumphed in Texas. A business-friendly environment has been created, based on free-market principles, deregulation, and a return to 10th amendment freedoms just as the Founders designed them, because the best government is the one that is closest to the people.

    • Engine maker Cummins shows off all-electric truck, high-efficiency diesels

      This week, diesel truck engine company Cummins made an unusual announcement. In addition to several new high-efficiency diesel engines, it also showed off an all-electric truck called the Concept Class 7 Urban Hauler EV. The truck is just a concept at the moment, but it’s coming in the nick of time—just as Tesla is about to announce its own semi EV.

  • Finance

    • Job growth slows in August

      Employers added only 156,000 jobs in August as the pace of hiring slowed, according to the Labor Department report Friday.
      The unemployment rate crept up to 4.4% from the 16-year low of 4.3% reached last month, as fewer adults reported that they had a job during the month.
      The Labor Department also revised down earlier estimates for job growth in both June and July by a total of 41,000 jobs, suggesting that the labor market is not quite as strong as it appeared to be a month ago.

    • Illinois Democrat Picks Democratic Socialist as Running Mate for Gubernatorial Run

      But Biss is countering his capitalist opponent by picking as his running mate someone who is Pritzker’s direct opposite: a democratic socialist.

      At a rally Thursday night, Biss announced that Chicago Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, would be his running mate.

    • ‘Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves’: From fishing patriotism to pragmatism

      Pop quiz: which UK industry is approximately equal in size to sewing machine manufacturing, yet claims to have swung the Brexit vote?

      You may have guessed it – it’s the fishing industry. The vociferous complaints of loss of control, sovereignty and access to our waters and fish have become the symbolic talisman of the Brexiteers. But would people have felt the same way seeing Nigel Farage aboard a sewing machine, or a lawnmower – another economic equal?

    • Brexit: UK ‘must not allow itself to be blackmailed’

      The UK must not be “blackmailed” into agreeing a Brexit “divorce” bill before trade talks begin, Liam Fox has said.

      Talks should begin soon “because that’s good for business”, the international trade secretary added.

      EU negotiator Michel Barnier has said trade talks are still a way off, due to slow progress on other key issues.

    • The EU Sails Serenely Past the Wreck of the United Kingdom

      The disgraced former Defence Secretary Liam Fox has accused the EU of “blackmail” in the Brexit talks. This puzzles me. The disgraced former Defence Secretary has repeatedly asserted that the EU is desperate for a trade deal with the UK, and that German manufacturers of Mercedes and BMWs will insist that the UK leaving the EU brings no interruption in free trade, with no concomitant requirements for the UK to comply with EU practice.

      But if the UK’s hand is so strong, and the EU’s hand is so weak, then the EU surely is in no position to “blackmail” the UK?

      The disgraced former Defence Secretary has never struck me as a man of great intellect. It is perhaps unsurprising that it has not occurred to him, that to accuse your negotiating partner, in the most public manner possible, of blackmail, is not a tactic designed to inculcate the cooperative spirit necessary in any complex negotiation. Worse than that, “Blackmail” is a cry of “please don’t hurt me, I am weak on this one”. Fox contrives to be both insulting and inept all at the same time. It really is quite astonishing that a man who is both entirely incompetent, and has the corruption and inanity of the Werritty affair permanently inscribed on his record, is in office.

      But the most incredible thing of all is that, standing in Japan next to Theresa May, the disgraced former Defence Secretary looks competent and assured by comparison. The collapse of the UK is not a pretty sight.

    • Green MEP makes freedom of information request for government to release secret Brexit study on NHS

      Having exposed that the government has undertaken secret studies into the impacts of Brexit on at least 50 sectors of the economy, Molly has put in a freedom of information request for further details. She wrote to the Brexit Secretary, David Davis, requesting he release the findings of any studies the government have carried out into the potential impacts of Brexit. In a response, the Department of Health or the Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) revealed they had “conducted analysis of over 50 sectors” but did not offer to share any findings.

    • House flippers triggered the US housing market crash, not poor subprime borrowers

      The grim tale of America’s “subprime mortgage crisis” delivers one of those stinging moral slaps that Americans seem to favor in their histories. Poor people were reckless and stupid, banks got greedy. Layer in some Wall Street dark arts, and there you have it: a global financial crisis.

      Dark arts notwithstanding, that’s not what really happened, though.

    • France demands €600 million in tax from Microsoft

      France’s tax authority is seeking 600 million euros ($715 million) from Microsoft’s local subsidiary for billing French customers from Ireland, the weekly L’Express reported on Wednesday.
      The magazine reported that the bills concerned internet advertising and keywords for internet searches.

      Despite a considerable presence in France, Microsoft paid only 32.2 million euros in corporate tax there last year, according to L’Express.

    • Neil deMause on Hurricane Harvey, Sarah Anderson on Corporate Tax Cuts

      Trump’s talking about changes to tax policy and, unsurprisingly, he’s found a way to present cuts to corporate taxes as being good for everyone: New jobs! Higher wages! What won’t cutting the social contributions of wealthy corporations bring us! Will the press see through it? We’ll talk about myths about corporate taxes with Sarah Anderson. She directs the Global Economy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies, co-edits the IPS web site Inequality.org, and is lead author of now 24 annual reports on CEO pay.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Robert Mueller Eliminates Trump’s Trump Card

      Donald Trump’s ability to issue presidential pardons has been the ultimate weapon looming over Robert Mueller’s investigation. Trump could potentially pardon himself of any crimes. More important, he could dangle a pardon to his former staffers to encourage them not to supply Mueller with any incriminating information on Trump. Mueller is apparently handling his investigating like the prosecution of a mob boss, pressuring underlings to flip on the boss. Trump’s advantage is that, unlike a mob boss, he can give out an unlimited number of get-out-of-jail-free cards. Trump has reportedly mused in public about using the pardon — and his pardon of Joe Arpaio flaunted his willingness to use it on behalf of a political ally, even in outrageous fashion.

    • Three Californias? Calexit effort joined by new state-splitting plan

      California secession efforts are plentiful this year, but tech billionaire Tim Draper wants to go old school: Just split the Golden State into three.

      Draper spent more than $5 million in 2014 on an unsuccessful effort to qualify a ballot measure asking voters to divide California into six states. He never gave up on the idea, though.

      His newest measure, filed Friday, says the “political representation of California’s diverse population and economies has rendered the state nearly ungovernable.”

      “The citizens of the whole state would be better served by three smaller state governments while preserving the historical boundaries of the various counties, cities and towns,” Draper wrote in the proposed measure’s statement of findings.

    • Tony Blair in Wonderland

      Tony Blair is clearly a piece of work. Incidentally, I’ve known about him for decades before he became well-known.

      Blair went to Fettes, the Scottish equivalent of the elite English private school Eton (the former’s alumni include the composer Michael Tippett, the winner of the Nobel Prize in economics Angus Deaton, Churchill’s foreign secretary John Simon, the actress Tilda Swinton, the golfer Tommy Armour, the gay climber and child psychiatrist Menlove Edwards (who committed suicide after living a difficult personal life), and numerous legal figures and army generals). Blair was at Fettes from 1966 to 1971.

      A good friend of mine during my undergrad days in the late 60s/early 70s had the misfortune (his term) to attend Fettes the same time as Blair.

      My Old Fettesian undergraduate friend, like me a future university teacher, moved in very different circles from Blair at Fettes (admittedly my friend was a couple of years older), who at that point had seeming thespian aspirations and gloried in the nickname “Emma”.

      [...]

      Why put up with this Tory Little Englander pantomime, just to get votes from a xenophobic, and largely elderly and less educated, base, when you can have the option of voting for a flat-out neoliberal party, now unburdened by having jettisoned both Little Englanderism– Conservatives belonging to the 1% view this confining xenophobia as a drag on wealth that has been parked offshore in places like Panama and on lucrative deals to be made with dictators from balmier climes), and also Corbyn’s Labour (which, dear oh dear, wants a return to all that outdated socialist stuff)?

    • Google is losing allies across the political spectrum

      Eight years ago, Google was on top of the world. People across the political spectrum saw the search giant as a symbol of high-tech innovation. During the just-completed 2008 presidential campaign cycle, candidates as diverse as Ron Paul, John McCain, and Barack Obama had all made pilgrimages to Google’s Mountain View headquarters to burnish their reputations for tech savvy.

    • Making America White Again

      If we are willing to be honest, there was no ambiguity in Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” The word “again” says we aren’t great any more but we used to be. It is an aspiration to go back to the past, to the time when we were great. When was that? Trump has never said. But we all know what he meant – again, if we’re willing to be honest.

      If you began last weekend early, you may have missed Trump’s Friday afternoon pardon of former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. The man Trump affectionately calls “Sheriff Joe” had been convicted of criminal contempt in July for ignoring a court order to stop racial profiling Hispanics. The president, thus making his condoning of racial profiling official, had foreshadowed the pardon a few days before at a campaign-style rally in which he shamelessly exhorted his hero-worshippers to join him in condemning Democrats, unsupportive Republicans, the media and just about everyone else except Sheriff Joe, white nationals and Vladimir Putin.

    • Alleging national security ignorance, Trump’s cybersecurity advisors resign

      Seven members of Donald Trump’s cybersecurity team, including an Indian-origin data scientist, have resigned, accusing the United States (US) president of ignoring the pressing national security matters.

      In a group resignation letter, the members of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC), whose purview includes national cybersecurity, cited both specific shortfalls in the administration’s approach to cybersecurity, and broader concerns that have undermined the “moral infrastructure” of the US, Fortune reported.

      “You have given insufficient attention to the growing threats to the cybersecurity of the critical systems upon which all Americans depend, including those impacting the systems supporting our democratic election process,” the letter reads.

    • In Berkeley, Attacks by Antifa Turn ‘Alt-Right’ Trolls into Fox News Heroes

      Still, a segment broadcast on Fox Wednesday night deserves some of our attention. That’s because it was an interview with a far-right video blogger from California, Keith Campbell, whose work, which consists mainly of stalking left-wing activists, had attracted almost no attention until Sunday, when he was beaten by anti-fascist activists in Berkeley.

      [...]

      As a result, a 54-year-old fringe activist who spends his days crashing far-left events for the benefit of his 878 YouTube subscribers has become a hero to millions of Fox News viewers. Images of Campbell being thrashed are now also Exhibit A for supporters of Donald Trump who argue that the president was right to condemn “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” after the killing of an antiracist protester by a white supremacist in Charlottesville, Virginia, this month.

      [...]

      Shane Bauer, who shot the most widely shared video of Campbell’s beating, observed in Mother Jones that images of violence carried out by a small number of anti-fascists drew press attention almost entirely away from the fact that the vast majority of the thousands of antiracist demonstrators were peaceful.

    • The Real ‘Fake News’ Crisis

      Everything you need to know about “fake news” happened on July 19, 2017. That was the day the media stopped in its tracks and turned like well-coiffed, bronzer-addicted lemmings to collectively hurtle themselves into the abyss of infotainment. It was a truly telling moment because they actually had to hit the pause button on the morphine drip of TrumpTV to carry the live feed of O.J. Simpson’s piddling parole hearing in a Nevada conference room.

      Amazingly — or, perhaps, predictably — this utterly inconsequential event was carried by CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, FOX News and ESPN. That’s right, this scandalous ghost of obsessions past received the same treatment as a spectacular terrorist attack or a deadly hurricane or a political assassination.

      But, no … it was just O.J. pandering to a parole board. As expected, he was granted his release for a crime unrelated to the famous murders, troubled investigation and showy trial that made him America’s first news-cycle superstar. And it provided a strangely poetic full-circle moment for the media.

    • The NY Times’s Newest Op-Ed Hire, Bari Weiss, Embodies its Worst Failings — and its Lack of Viewpoint Diversity

      In her short tenure, Weiss (pictured, right) has given the paper exactly what it apparently wanted when it hired her. She has churned out a series of trite, shallow, cheap attacks on already-marginalized left-wing targets that have made her a heroine in the insular neocon and right-wing intelligentsia precincts in which she, Stephens, and so many other NYT op-ed writers reside.

      Exactly as she was doing a decade ago as a “pro-Israel” activist at Columbia and thereafter at various neocon media perches, her formula is as simple as it is predictable: She channels whatever prevailing right-wing grievance exists about colleges, Arabs or Israel critics (ideally, all of those) into a column that’s supposed to be “provocative” because it maligns minority activists or fringe positions that are rarely given platforms on the New York Times op-ed page.

    • The New CEO of Uber Sits on the Board of The New York Times Company

      On Wednesday, the New York Times wrote about a Google-funded think tank terminating an entire team run by an anti-monopoly scholar who was critical of Google’s practices. It is an important story about how corporate interests, by virtue of their position inside key outlets of communication, can influence what information flows to the general public.

      Now, The New York Times Company, the newspaper’s governing body, needs to figure out what to do about a similar problem at its own publication.

      On Tuesday, ride-sharing company Uber announced the hiring of Dara Khosrowshahi as its new CEO, replacing Travis Kalanick. Khosrowshahi, an Iranian immigrant, previously spent 12 years as CEO of travel company Expedia.

    • Sky stops broadcasting Fox News in UK

      Sky is to stop broadcasting Fox News in the UK after low audience figures, the media firm has said.
      21st Century Fox, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, said the channel was being withdrawn as it was not commercially viable.
      The decision was not related to Fox’s takeover bid for Sky, a source told the BBC.
      Culture secretary Karen Bradley has previously said she may refer the bid to competition regulators.
      “[Fox] has decided to cease providing a feed of Fox News Channel in the UK,” a company spokeswoman said.

    • Ed Miliband: evidence against Murdoch bid for Sky is growing

      Ed Miliband has claimed that evidence against the Murdochs being allowed to take full control of Sky is growing, and there is an “overwhelming” case for the government to launch a full investigation into how the proposed deal would affect broadcasting standards in the UK.

    • Britain doesn’t need a Fox News. The regulators must block the Murdochs’ bid

      Imagine a media organisation where senior employees at its biggest-selling Sunday paper were convicted of criminal acts including phone-hacking and perverting the course of justice. Then imagine that the same organisation, having claimed a few years later to have cleaned up its act, is revealed to have its most high-profile TV station rife with claims of sexual harassment by its former chief executive and onscreen star, as well as allegations of widespread racial harassment – both the subject of legal action and US federal investigation.

      Imagine also that the TV station was a byword for bias and slanted coverage and that as recently as May this year it falsely besmirched the name of a murdered Democratic staff member by claiming he, not the Russian government, had leaked thousands of emails from the Democratic party during the presidential campaign. Imagine that it had then withdrawn the story, but three months on taken no action against those responsible nor apologised to the dead man’s parents, who had publicly explained how the claims their son was a traitor had added to their grief. Imagine also that the media organisation was unique among commercial organisations in its combined power over newspapers, radio and TV in the UK.

      In any fair and just world, the notion that this media organisation was fit and proper to be given greater power over the media landscape in the UK would be dead in the water. But, no doubt in part because the relevant media organisation is 21st Century Fox, run by the Murdochs, the idea that it should get 100% control of Sky is not yet dead.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Do We Want Tech Giants as Internet Censors?

      Monopolistic tech giants are increasingly acquiring massive amounts of control over the manner in which the public is obtaining and communicating information.

    • Scholar says Google criticism cost him job: ‘People are waking up to its power’

      “Every day I see people waking up to the power of Google, Facebook and Amazon. We have to do something as a people, we have to do something through our government and address the power of these companies. The number of congressmen and others making statements on Capitol Hill about this is growing very rapidly. The number of businesses who are saying that something must be done about the power of these companies and the way they use their power.”

    • UT fires teacher whose tweet blamed Harvey on Texas GOP vote

      A tweet suggesting that the devastation of Hurricane Harvey was “instant karma” for the red state of Texas has cost a University of Tampa professor his job — making him just the latest academic fired for off-duty speech.

    • Reporter: Google successfully pressured me to take down critical story

      The recent furor over a Google-funded think tank firing an anti-Google scholar has inspired Gizmodo journalist Kashmir Hill to tell a story about the time Google used its power to squash a story that was embarrassing to the company.

      The incident occurred in 2011. Hill was a cub reporter at Forbes, where she covered technology and privacy. At the time, Google was actively promoting Google Plus and was sending representatives to media organizations to encourage them to add “+1″ buttons to their sites. Hill was pulled into one of these meetings, where the Google representative suggested that Forbes would be penalized in Google search results if it didn’t add +1 buttons to the site.

      Hill thought that seemed like a big story, so she contacted Google’s PR shop for confirmation. Google essentially confirmed the story, and so Hill ran with it under the headline: “Stick Google Plus Buttons On Your Pages, Or Your Search Traffic Suffers.”

    • New Think Tank Emails Show “How Google Wields its Power” in Washington

      Barry Lynn, the critic of monopolies fired this week from the New America Foundation, insisted in emails to his superiors that pressure from Google got him and his Open Markets program terminated. Anne-Marie Slaughter, the think tank’s CEO, has denied that Google played any role in Lynn’s termination from the think tank.

      Last night, New America released three emails from Slaughter to Lynn. They reference two separate events: an anti-monopoly conference organized by the Open Markets program in June 2016 that featured Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., as the keynote speaker, and a series of communications in June and July 2017, involving the termination of Lynn and his group.

    • Charlie Hebdo May Now be Criticized Because They Mocked White Texans Rather Than Muslims

      The newfound free speech crusaders borne of the January, 2015 murders of 10 Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in Paris sought to promulgate a new, and quite dangerous, standard. It was no longer enough to defend someone’s right to express their ideas while being free to condemn those ideas themselves: long the central tenet of the free speech movement (I defend their right to free speech even while finding them and their ideas repugnant). In the wake of the Hebdo killings, one had to go much further than that: it was a moral imperative to embrace and celebrate the ideas under attack and to glorify those who were expressing them, even to declare ourselves to be them (#JeSuisCharlie).

      As a result, criticizing the content of Charlie Hebdo’s often-vile cartoons became virtually blasphemous. It became common to demand that one not only defend the right of the cartoonists to publish them but also, to show “solidarity,” one had to re-publish those cartoons no matter how much one objected to their content – thus adopting that speech as one’s own. Opposition to lavishing these cartoonists with honors and prizes was depicted as some sort of moral failure or at least insufficient commitment to free speech rights, as evidenced by the widespread, intense scorn heaped on the writers who spoke out in opposition to bestowing Charlie Hebdo with an award at a PEN America gala.

      A dangerous conflation was thus imposed between the right to express Idea X and one’s opinion of Idea X. Of all the articles I’ve written in the last several years, perhaps the most polarizing and anger-generating were the ones I wrote in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings: one article which rejected the demand that one must celebrate and even re-publish Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons by criticizing those cartoons and illustrating the results of applying this new, dangerous standard (celebrate offensive and blasphemous cartoons by re-publishing them) universally; and then a series of articles defending the PEN America writers who objected to the Charlie Hebdo award on the ground that one could simultaneously defend free speech while refusing to praise, honor and glorify those whose speech rights were under attack.

    • Amnesty International Takes On Cuba’s Censorship on and off the Internet

      his week, Amnesty International had its eyes on Cuba for two reasons. The first involved concern for Internet censorship on the island, and the second focused on the fate of graffiti artist Yulier Rodríguez Pérez, better known as Yulier P.

      AI conducted an investigation using data from the Online Open Interference Observatory between May and June 2017, in which 1,458 websites were surveyed from eight locations in Havana, Santa Clara and Santiago de Cuba. The goal, officials said, was to “increase transparency and raise public debates about the legality and ethics of information control.”

    • Thai junta steps up internet censorship drive

      After being finger printed and charged with sedition by Thailand’s Police Technology Crime Suppression Division in early August, Pravit Rojanaphruk, a Thai journalist, stepped out of its Orwellian confines to make a dramatic point about censorship under military rule. He extended his arms and opened his ink-stained fingers for waiting photographers to snap. “This is the first time I was made to look like a criminal,” he said.

      Pravit was back with the police cyber sleuths on Aug. 18 to hear more charges stemming from a clutch of political comments, critical of the junta, posted on his Facebook page, which has 24,500 followers. But the 49-year-old columnist is defiant, despite the threat of a 14-year jail term for violating Article 116 of Thailand’s criminal code, which covers sedition. “This is the price I have to pay for criticizing the junta,” he said.

    • Anti-Corporate Voices On Both Right And Left Claim Google Censorship
    • Zodwa Wabantu will not perform: Censorship Board
    • Google censoring the BIBLE? Censorship by Google and Facebook growing in the US [Ed: not actually true]
    • Google and Facebook Censor Black Conservatives [Ed: as above, rightwing spin]
    • Russian court acquits journalist Sergei Vilkov of defamation charges
    • Tech companies declare war on hate speech—and conservatives are worried

      “One of the greatest strengths of the United States is a belief that speech, particularly political speech, is sacred,” wrote Cloudflare CEO Matthew Prince in a 2013 blog post. Both then and now, the CDN and Web security company has protected websites from denial-of-service attacks that aim to drown out targets with fake traffic. Prince vowed that this service would be available to anyone who wanted it.

      “There will be things on our network that make us uncomfortable,” Prince wrote. But “we will continue to abide by the law, serve all customers, and hold consistently to a belief that our proper role is not that of Internet censor.”

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • ePrivacy: La Quadrature against dangerous MEPs’ propositions

      Radical amendments in favor of lowering the protection of our communications have been tabled on the draft ePRivacy Regulation, mainly by Members of European Parliament (MEPs) from the right wing. Today, La Quadrature du Net publishes its positions against such dangerous shifts.

    • Snoops ‘n’ snitches auditor IPCO gets up and running

      The latest agency that audits state spying in the UK, the Investigatory Powers Commission (IPCO), formally started operating today.

      IPCO is the latest incarnation of the public sector snooping regulator, the body previously having been called the Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office (IOCCO).

      In plain English, IPCO is supposed to ensure that UK state spying, covering everything from covert police operations to GCHQ’s bulk cable-tapping and decryption exercises, is carried out in accordance with the UK’s notably fast and loose laws on this sort of thing.

    • Spying on the spies: State surveillance of Britons now being monitored

      A new watchdog charged with regulating state surveillance has started work, with the aim of keeping in check the state’s ability to spy on its own citizens.

    • UK surveillance and spying watchdog begins work

      An expanded watchdog charged with regulating the intelligence services and surveillance by state agencies has officially begun work.

      The role of the first investigatory powers commissioner, Lord Justice Fulford, combines the work of three former oversight bodies and will provide judicial checks on some investigations. His office, the IPCO, will employ about 70 staff, including 15 serving and retired judges.

      Inspectors will check that the interception of phone calls, and the handling of agents, surveillance and powers permitting bulk collection of communications data are carried out within the law.

    • Post-Snowden surveillance changes begin in UK

      It marks the dawn of a new era of more rigorous oversight which is intended to keep the authorities’ stronger investigatory powers in check.

      Lord Justice Fulford has taken office as the first Investigatory Powers Commissioner (IPC), amalgamating the three watchdog roles which had previously overseen surveillance powers in the UK.

      His role was created by the Investigatory Powers Act, also known by the epithet Snoopers’ Charter, which became law at the end of last year.

    • Electronic Frontier Foundation, ACLU Win Court Ruling That Police Can’t Keep License Plate Data Secret

      The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the ACLU won a decision by the California Supreme Court that the license plate data of millions of law-abiding drivers, collected indiscriminately by police across the state, are not “investigative records” that law enforcement can keep secret.

      California’s highest court ruled that the collection of license plate data isn’t targeted at any particular crime, so the records couldn’t be considered part of a police investigation.

    • NSA enters stage two of its spying revival plan: Getting Trump onboard

      Uncle Sam’s intelligence agencies have embarked on the next stage of their plan to retain spying powers over US citizens: getting Donald Trump onboard.

      Knowing what we do about Donald’s approach to policy issues, it seems unlikely that the American president is aware of what is going on. But somehow he has been persuaded to revive a civil liberties oversight body that was torn apart for criticizing a controversial spying program that requires reauthorization by Congress at the end of the year.

      The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) has been dead for over a year. After it concluded that several of the NSA’s spying programs were unconstitutional back in 2014, the intelligence services set about shutting it down. And they succeeded.

    • Your local supermarket may soon be as scary as Google or Facebook

      What if there were no prices on anything in your local supermarket, because everything in the entire selection was priced individually just for you, and the food prices would vary with your habits, the time of day, and hundreds of other factors? That time may not be as far off as most would expect.

    • Twitter (and Others) Double Down on Advertising and Tracking

      In June, Twitter discontinued its support for Do Not Track (DNT), the privacy-protective browser signal it has honored since 2012. EFF argued that Twitter should reconsider this decision, but that call has gone unheeded. In response, EFF’s Privacy Badger has new features to mitigate user tracking both on twitter.com and when you encounter Twitter content and widgets elsewhere on the web. (More technical details are covered in the accompanying technical post.) How did we get here and what can we do about it?

    • Innovative Police Transparency Measure Dies in California

      We are deeply disappointed to learn that a powerful surveillance transparency reform bill in California has died in the Assembly Appropriations committee today. S.B. 21 sought to hold police departments accountable by giving the public a voice in how law enforcement acquires and deploys new surveillance systems. The bill would have required California sheriffs, district attorneys, and state law enforcement agencies to craft surveillance use policies and hold public meetings before they acquire or use new surveillance equipment and software, as well as to publish such policies online.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Confederate Symbols

      My view, then and now, is that the focus on symbols – mainly flags in 2015, now also statues — is misguided, but that, in matters such as these, since African Americans have the most at stake, they should call the shots.

    • Finding the white supremacists who beat a black man in Charlottesville

      The videos show how the beating unfolded, revealing its brutality and shocking speed from multiple perspectives.

      On Aug. 12, white supremacists at the “Unite the Right” rally in downtown Charlottesville converged on counterprotesters outside the Market Street parking garage — a facility right next to the Charlottesville Police Department.

      First, a white supremacist attempted to spear a counterprotester with the pole of a Confederate flag. Then, DeAndre Harris, a former special-education instructional assistant, swung a flashlight at the man, possibly striking him.

    • Standing Up to Nazism

      Donald Trump’s senior adviser, Steve Bannon, hastily left the White House a few days after the events in Virgina. By all accounts, he had planned to leave in the next few weeks. The Nazi rally in Charlottesville, greatly embarrassing for the Republican Party, hastened his departure. Bannon had come to Trump’s side a year ago from his perch at Breitbart News, a pillar of the Nazi-style American Right. He had shouted about the decline of white power and of the erosion of America’s role in the world. Bannon wanted Trump to withdraw from trade deals and to be more aggressive with U.S. military action abroad. Multilateralism and globalism remain the enemies for Bannon. His close association with the “alt-right”, the Nazi variant of the American Right, meant that Trump was being isolated increasingly from even moderate Republicans. Bannon had to go.

    • Attorney General Jeff Sessions: Hurricane Harvey Is Proof We Need To Militarize Our Police Forces

      Earlier this week, we wrote about Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions bringing back the Defense Department’s 1033 program, which helped militarize local police forces with surplus military equipment. We’ve been covering all sorts of problems with the 1033 program over the years, and people like Radley Balko have written entire books on the problem. And the previous ban on the 1033 only put a fairly narrow limit on the practice of militarizing police — but now even those modest limits are gone.

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      [...]

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  • Intellectual Monopolies

EPO Silencers of the Media – Part III: EPO Vice-President Topić Takes Association of Writers and Journalists to Court

Posted in Europe, Patents at 2:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

EPO civil lawsuits

Summary: Acting at a personal capacity, EPO Vice-President Topić is attacking Croatian media and we have the details

THE general subject dealt with herein was introduced in part 1 and part 2. There has been a clear pattern that can best be described as “war on the media” and there are ongoing cases that make it abundantly clear that the EPO‘s management ‘deals’ with reporting by SLAPPing journalists. We saw similar things in WIPO.

The more the public knows about the EPO, the more can be done about it. And the more the public knows about EPO management, the more things will change, including people. Lots of top-level managers (almost all the top-level ones) have already gotten the boot or stepped down… but some might even get arrested.

“There has been a clear pattern that can best be described as “war on the media” and there are ongoing cases that make it abundantly clear that the EPO’s management ‘deals’ with reporting by SLAPPing journalists.”The free flow of information is essential for justice. When the media itself gets attacked it’s often indicative of the fact someone is afraid of justice.

“Disgusting” (or even utterly disgusting) is how we can describe the EPO’s (mis)use of money against the media (bribing the media, threatening the media etc.), not only because the money was paid by stakeholders; if it is being wasted on SLAPP actions and payments to journalists, what would stakeholders think? Those are serious questions and big issues that need to be raised with stakeholders. They ought to be aware of how their money is being handled.

The Zagreb SLAPP lawsuit will be the subject of the remainder of this series; it’s not the only SLAPP case attributed to the EPO, but it’s one case we have plenty of information about.

“The Zagreb SLAPP lawsuit will be the subject of the remainder of this series; it’s not the only SLAPP case attributed to the EPO, but it’s one case we have plenty of information about.”Shown above is a filing of court. It’s two years old, but the case is still ongoing. With the help of locals, we have managed to get access to copies of some documents relating to the SLAPP lawsuit currently being conducted by the EPO Vice-President Topić against the portal Tjedno.hr.

A redacted copy of the first page of the civil complaint filed on behalf of Topić is shown above.

A summary of the contents of the complaint follows below. The respondent, “Udruga Pisac i Novinar” which is the publisher of the portal “Tjedno.hr”, submitted its response to the complaint on 20 May 2016. We are still in the process of analysing the response and will publish a further summary of this when we are finished.


The lawsuit was registered at the Municipal Civil Court of Zagreb on 19 January 2015 under the case number Pn-195/15.

The plaintiff is Željko Topić and he is represented by a lawyer from the Zagreb law firm Gajski, Grlić, Prka and Partners.

The respondent is “Udruga Pisac i Novinar” (Association of Writers and Journalists) the publisher of the portal “Tjedno.hr”.

Topić makes a claim for “compensation due to the publication of information” and is seeking damages in the amount of HRK 200 000 (two hundred thousand Croatian Kuna) plus the award of his legal costs.

The substance of the complaint relates to an article entitled Laži  Željka Topića u Munchenu” (“The Lies of Zeljko Topić in Munich”) which was published on 18 October 2014 on the Internet portal Tjedno.hr with the subtitle “Six criminal proceedings against the EPO Vice-President in Croatia” and a photograph of the plaintiff accompanied by lawyer Janjko Grlić.

According to the complaint the Tjedno.hr article refers to a statement made by the EPO President where it was said that neither the Administrative Council nor Battistelli knew of the allegations against Topić at the time of his appointment “but since the charges have been made public they have all been cleared”. Referring to the photograph of “Željko Topić, accompanied by his attorney … taken in front of the Municipal Criminal Court in Zagreb on 29 September 2014 in the morning” the article stated that “it seems that things are not so” (i.e. not as claimed by Battistelli) thereby insinuating that Topić was being prosecuted.

Topić states that on the date in question he was attending a hearing before the Municipal Criminal Court in the capacity of a plaintiff against a person charged with having been producing and disseminating falsehoods against him for the past several years primarily through the portal Tjedno.hr.

[Note: The person referred to here seems to be Vesna Stilin, the former Assistant Director of the DZIV.]

Various other claims made about Topić in the disputed article are challenged.

For example, reference is made to the allegation that “there is a completely justified suspicion expressed in the criminal report at USKOK that Željko Topić has bribed the former Minister Primorac with an Audi 6 Quattro to renew his mandate”.

According to Topić this claim was investigated by the competent institutions which found no misconduct in this regard. Topić was appointed to his previous position (i.e. Director of the DZIV) four times by three different Prime Ministers, which is said to disprove the allegation of bribery in order to obtain a mandate.

Reference is also made to the allegations about the private acquisition of an official car, (i.e. an official DZIV Mercedes which was later privately acquired by Topić). Here it is claimed that Topić bought the vehicle from the leasing company and paid the normal price. He used a bank loan for this purpose, and the vehicle was registered in his name and he acted in a legitimate and transparent manner.

Topić also takes issue with the allegedly “false claim” systematically repeated by Tjedno.hr that he has a bogus master’s degree certificate.

“This systematic defamation has created the need for official validation of the diploma by the EPO, thus completely rejecting all publicly asserted claims of a counterfeit diploma, but the claimant has been subject to irreparable damage.”

The evidence submitted here includes the announcement of the EPO President to EPO Staff on 26 February 2013 and the Communique of 20 June 2013 from the EPO’s Internal Audit Director, Mr. Florian Andres. A request is made for the hearing of John Martin, the current Director of Internal Audit.

The complaint also challenges the following statement which was made in the disputed article:

“As our source in Munich informed us, Topić’s suitability for the position of Vice-President is a “fairly controversial issue” within the EPO. Taking into account the various accusations and obviously controversial news coverage, the general opinion of EPO’s employees is that there are unanswered questions about Topić’s appointment.”

The hearing of the EPO’s Principal Director of Human Resources (Elodie Bergot) is requested in relation to these allegations!

The complaint goes on to claim that the article in question is “conceived as sensationalist news and contains a number of untruthful, defamatory, offensive and compromising allegations, thus causing an extraordinary non-material injury to the plaintiff.”

According to Topić this journalistic “persecution” has been systematically repeated over an extended period of time.

The disputed article is not the only “offensive” article of the Tjedno.hr portal concerning the personal and professional activities of the plaintiff and a list of such articles is presented:

  • “Falsified patents at the Intellectual Property Office” – 7.02.2012
  • “OLAF deals with Topić” – 31.03.2012
  • “Six lawsuits pending against Topić” – 11.04.2012
  • “Is Željko Topić’s master’s certificate fake?” – 20.06.2012
  • “A Billion Kuna ZAMPed” – 4.9.2012
  • “Two different years on Topić’s degree certificate” – 30.03.2013
  • “None of the billions for Croatian patents” – 16.10.2013
  • “Željko Topić’s formerly official and now private Mercedes” – 24.03.2014
  • “In addition to the Touareg, the A6 used by the former Minister is disputed” – 01.04.2014

It is claimed that the article of 18 October 2014 as well as the other articles mentioned above have been systematically translated into the official EPO languages ​​and distributed as anonymous postal items and as electronic publications to the management and employees of the EPO (7000 employees), members of the EPO Administrative Council, governments and parliaments of 38 EPO member states, relevant professional and diplomatic circles around the world. This is said to have caused irreversible damage to the professional reputation of the plaintiff and to have violated his personal rights.

A claim is also made that anonymous people from the EPO were in direct contact with the portal Tjedno.hr and its editor-in-chief Dražen Stjepandić from February 2013 onwards and that they distributed their “defamatory writings” to other portals.

In this context a reference is made to an article published in English on 16 November 2014 by the portal Techrights under the title “Special Report: Many Criminal Charges against EPO Vice President Željko Topić”.

The complaint concludes with a long list of self-serving claims about how extremely successful and appreciated Topić is in his professional field and that this is confirmed by the fact that he has been a longtime director of the Croatian State Intellectual Property Office and has held senior positions in the international Intellectual Property system.

For example: He was the Chairman of one of the standing committees of the World Intellectual Property Organization Geneva (WIPO), Vice-Chair of the Diplomatic Conference on International Trademark Law (STLT), held in Singapore in 2006, and was appointed WIPO expert for the implementation of professional studies of that organization, etc.).

The EPO Administrative Council, composed of representatives of 38 Member States, appointed the plaintiff as a Vice-President of EPO following an open competition and the plaintiff considers his appointment to this position as an international recognition for his work and achievements in regional and European cooperation in the field of Intellectual Property protection, as well as for the development of the Croatian State Intellectual Property Office (DZIV) and the active participation and contribution of the DZIV to the work of EPO.

It is claimed that the publication of the aforementioned articles is likely to cause a negative attitude on the part of his colleagues and immediate superior which could affect his further professional development, especially in view of the persistent insinuation of unlawful conduct on his part.

In conclusion Topić claims that these publications have caused serious disruption to his private life and family stability and that he has had to make great efforts to create a different image to the one presented to the public in the media. The claims made about his allegedly unlawful conduct have caused serious repercussions in the functioning of his family because all members of his immediate family feel the consequences of the published information in the form of discomfort and the need to justify themselves, etc.

The respondent, “Udruga Pisac i Novinar” which is the publisher of the portal “Tjedno.hr”, submitted its response to the complaint on 20 May 2016.

According to available information, the case has been assigned to Judge Sanja Krovinović of the Municipal Civil Court in Zagreb and the procedure is still ongoing.

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