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11.13.17

Microsoft: Sheltering Oneself From Patent Litigation While Passing Patents for Trolls to Attack GNU/Linux

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 12:19 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Not a novel concept [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12]

Viking shield

Summary: Another closer look at Provenance Asset Holdings and what exactly it is (connection to AST, part of the cartel Microsoft subsidises to shield itself)

THE latest anti-GNU/Linux (or anti-Android) strategy of Microsoft is to pass patents to trolls and tax OEMs that do not stock/ship/bundle Windows. We warned about such a strategy as far back as 11 years ago. When it comes to Nokia, Microsoft has already instructed Nokia to spread its patents, moving these to shells like MOSAID (now known as Conversant). Recently, thousands of Nokia’s patents also landed on the lap of a mysterious new entity known as Provenance Asset Holdings [1, 2].

“…Microsoft has already instructed Nokia to spread its patents, moving these to shells like MOSAID (now known as Conversant).”According to today’s blog post from IAM, there’s a connection to AST (Linda Biel) and Yahoo, another firm that Microsoft effectively hijacked just less than a decade ago. To quote: “AST has appointed former Yahoo! IP executive Ray Strimaitis as vice president, corporate development and global strategy. Although Strimaitis’s role looks like it will be broader, he is effectively replacing Linda Biel who left the defensive aggregator last month and has joined Provenance Asset Holdings, the new platform created by former AST head Dan McCurdy.

“They’re a form of “big boys’ cartel” which provides few companies shelter that small companies do not enjoy.”“Strimaitis will be responsible for recruiting members both in new industry verticals and new geographies. Although AST’s membership includes a range of major tech businesses, such as Google, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle, it remains relatively small when compared with defensive rival RPX and it has not been able to recruit many new members from emerging markets such as China or in the small to medium sized corporate market.”

We wrote about AST and RPX many times before. They’re a form of “big boys’ cartel” which provides few companies shelter that small companies do not enjoy. All in all, it acts just like a pyramid scheme which benefits only those at the very top. And speaking of shelters, The New Yorker is the latest to write about Allergan’s patent “scam” that made the Mohawks too look like scammers. This was published a few hours ago (ahead of next week’s edition) and to quote the writer’s conclusion:

Maneuvers like Shore’s rarely go unchallenged. Last month, a federal judge in Texas ruled that some of Allergan’s Restasis patents were invalid. (The company has said that it will appeal.) The judge also commented that “sovereign immunity should not be treated as a monetizable commodity.” On the same basis, some members of Congress, led by Senator Claire McCaskill, are so annoyed that they’re calling for the abrogation of Native American sovereign immunity in patent-claims cases. This is theoretically possible, because the sovereign immunity of tribes, unlike that of states, isn’t enshrined in the Eleventh Amendment. But Shore points out that such a measure would penalize Native Americans without actually closing the loophole. If Congress limits tribal immunity, he could easily shift the patent portfolios to state universities. Shore says that he’s in talks with several underfunded state-run historically black colleges and universities. As long as there’s money to be made gaming the system, he figures it’s desirable (and good P.R.) for some of that money to go to those who need it most.

Here is another key statement: “Soon, tribal leaders say, they will have a small portfolio of patents, covering other medicines and also computer software and hardware. No tribe members were involved in designing these products.”

“There’s lots of money allocated these days to the “Microsoft loves Linux” PR campaign.”This relates to Microsoft in the sense that it’s passing patents to entities which cannot be sued. They’re classic trolls whose sole purpose is to “monetise” (to use their euphemism) these patents. How can Microsoft get away with all this and still be called a company that “loves Linux”? Even when it’s corrupting officials in Munich in order for them to dump GNU/Linux? Well, there are corruptible journalists everywhere looking for easy cash (the publishers can offer that, Microsoft pays for ads). There’s lots of money allocated these days to the “Microsoft loves Linux” PR campaign.

The Patent Trolls’ Lobby is Losing the Battle for Europe

Posted in Europe, Patents at 11:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

UPC boat sinks

Summary: The situation in Europe is looking grim for patent trolls, for their policies and the envisioned system (which they lobbied for) isn’t coming to fruition and their main casualty is the old (and functioning) EPO

THE European patent framework had worked for decades; it worked a lot better before a “disruptive” Battistelli came in and decided to break the EPO, violate the EPC, and promote the UPC in Paris. It’s almost as though Battistelli was assigned/delegated the task of making Europe more attractive to patent trolls.

IAM’s editor, supported by the EPO and funded by patent trolls such as this, gave a helping hand and platform to the patent trolls' lobby (most latterly on SEP policy in Europe). We wrote about this on Friday. He was apparently speaking to the trolls’ lobby over the weekend; he was looking for information about the outcome and came up with a slanted headline that spins a non-decision. This is what he says happened on Friday:

A meeting held last Friday inside the European Commission between various directorates-general that was supposed to finalise the wording of a keenly-anticipated Communication on the licensing of standard essential patents broke up without resolution, IAM has learned.

[...]

The Communication was due to be made public on 29th November, but this latest development must put that date at risk. Although not a legally-binding document, a paper from the Commission outlining its views on SEP licensing for the age of 5G and the Internet of Things would be extremely influential, not only at the negotiating level, but also in courts hearing SEP-related disputes. This is even more the case given that, up to now, Europe has been seen as taking a much more balanced approach to SEP and FRAND issues than the US and many Asian jurisdictions, where the needs of technology implementers have gained the upper hand over those of the entities that created the technology in the first place.

We wrote about this lobby last month as it’s about software patents too. They just use buzzwords like “5G” and euphemisms such as “FRAND” (which means the very opposite of what this acronym stands for).

Why are software patents even being entertained at all in Europe? The matter was supposed to have been settled and dusted a dozen years ago. Well, when dealing with a patent office which is effectively above the law (immunity) and routinely breaks the law, then it seems abundantly clear that no rules apply. It’s a lawless affair.

At the moment, the EPO delivers crappy “products” due to Battistelli (he treats public services as though it’s a business) and now, with decreasing demand for these services, fees go down too. Watch AA Thornton & Co’s Alex Hughes sucking up to Battistelli and boosting his blog post. This is from a few hours ago: “There are also plans to extend the agreement providing cost reductions for SMEs and universities, and to reduce the fee that the EPO charges to national offices who outsource search work to the EPO. Additionally, the EPO proposes not to apply inflation-based fee increases in 2018-2020. We congratulate the EPO for these proposals and await confirmation in December.”

The EPO has been trying to associate itself with academia and SMEs lately. It’s merely a publicity stunt — one that AA Thornton & Co is keen enough to perpetuate.

EPO insiders have been speaking for quite some time about declining patent quality and substitution of domain experts with ‘machine operators’ that are rushed to rely on automated scans of applications (like a registration office, a la INPI almost).

One such program we already wrote about earlier today. Comments have begun to appear, starting with:

Shocking that the EPO don’t reply instantly. Luckily the Kats have access to a broad community for obtaining information for their work.

Here is a translation of the pseudo-jargon/marketing:

“The purpose of (semi)automatic search is to automate as far as possible the search process and eliminate all non-value added steps for examiners at the beginning of the search workflow.”

Or rather, the purpose of semi-automatic search is to de-skill the task of patent searching so as to enable the highly skilled and experienced examiners to be replaced by unskilled workers on short term contracts.

“Sounds like it should be re-named “NO ANSERA”,” said the next comment.

Like “Early Certainty” it’s just cheapening of what used to be a decent workflow involving several domain experts and a long window for oppositions, appeals, etc.

That old system is no more. Battistelli threw some of that system at Haar.

Will any of that be fixed next year? Don’t count on it. As we explained a few days ago, Battistelli's 'heir' will continue along similar lines. Don’t pay too much attention to spammy sites (primarily advertisements disguised as articles). One of them said today that the “New EPO president looking to cooperate with USF,” but that’s not the same as cooperating with SUEPO or giving dismissed SUEPO heads their jobs back. The article is mostly quoting the letters again (nothing new there). For instance:

In October, SUEPO said it was willing to embark on a road of “fruitful cooperation” with Campinos, provid there was “respect by top management for the rule of law”.

In his reply to the USF, Campinos—while not referring directly to SUEPO—said he had “always prioritised human resources matters” and “developed an open and fruitful relationship with the representatives of the staff and their associations” during his tenure at the EUIPO.

He added: “In this sense, I look forward to continuing the cooperation between the EPO and the USF once I take up my duties as president of the EPO next year.”

What about SUEPO? Or as this comment put it 3 days ago, what about the stakeholders (emphasis below)? To quote:

The words are nice, but facts matter. If no real improvement of the staff situation at the EPO follow soon, then the new president will not get staff behind him, and the struggle will continue. The EPO does not need a manager, but a leader!

It is also in the interest of the IP world as a whole, that changes have to come, and especially the run for production/productivity has to stop.

If the new president wants to improve the situation, he will also have to listen to the users of the EP system. The EPO is there to help its users, not to decide what is good for them without consultation. The various publications of Mr Bausch on this blog (I-IV) are worth reading again.

The Boards of Appeal have to obtain a level of staffing commensurate with their duty.

Last, but not least, the idea of giving renewable 5 years contracts to examiners and legal staff dealing with procedural aspects, should be dropped instantaneously. If the new president endorses this policy, then it will be a sign of how little he values these functions, and he will stay as a mere manager, but not show that he can be a leader.

The outgoing president has not even be a manager, but for his own benefit and that of his cronies.

In summary, no SEP trap, no UPC, and thus less of a litigation mess. Unfortunately, however, there is also no patent quality, no safety for the career of sophisticated patent examiners, and no prospects for an important office which helps determine Europe’s competitiveness.

Unitary Patent (UPC) is Dead to the EPO and ANSERA is Not the Answer as Patent Quality Declines and Talented Staff Leaves

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Of questions

Summary: EPOPIC comes to an end and the EPO does not mention the UPC ‘content’ in it; ANSERA, in the meantime, raises more questions than it answers and IP Kat makes a formal query

THE quality of patents at the EPO and the USPTO goes in opposite directions. It’s almost as though the EPO is mimicking the old (and notorious) USPTO, whereas the USPTO mimics the old (and reputable) EPO. It’s bizarre, but we have been pointing this out for about four years now.

Has the EPO run out of competent staff? This morning their official news feed linked to http://localhost:8080/ (geeks will understand why it’s funny and how it reinforces stereotypes about marketing people) although it was supposed to link to this page (warning: epo.org link) about EPOPIC. This focuses a lot on search, e.g.:

Those attending heard how the EPO is increasingly focusing on usability to enable more users to search data efficiently and easily, while ensuring the reliability and correctness of the data.

It’s worth noting that even though the UPC was mentioned by the EPO at EPOPIC it was altogether omitted from the summary of it. Curious omission! Perhaps the EPO too knows that unitary/unified/community/EU patent is dead. We’re not even too sure what to call it anymore. Too many renames over the years — an effort to dodge negative publicity associated with failures. The Unitary Patent aka UP aka UPC (Unified Patent Court) aka UPCA formerly “harmonisation” or “EU patent” or “Community patent” is a great example of names being morphed and new euphemisms being added. That still wasn’t enough. Call it whatever, it’s still a steaming pile of dung and no sane European would want it, except perhaps the few who are patent prosecutors. The dangers associated with the UPC are further increased considering the lousy patents and lousy searches associated with European Patents these days. It’s like all the burden of examination is being passed to European courts, where proceedings are not only expensive but are also conducted in languages one does not understand. It’s laughable! This too gets mentioned in the constitutional complaint in Germany.

But facts don’t get in the way of politicians who now run the EPO. They don’t care if automated translations are worse than nothing and whether automated prior art searches rely on consistent terminology and delusions about the supposed power of so-called “AI”. Facts just don’t matter. Today’s EPO has plenty of “alternative facts”.

Benoît Battistelli does not mention the UPC either (warning: epo.org link). He wrote about it today (or maybe ghostwrote it a while back) and UPC is not mentioned, possibly because he too knows that UPC is off the agenda. Here is what he said:

The EPO has always been held in high regard in this field and is one of the leading providers of patent information.

The next sentence should say what he himself has done. The EPO has become a farce thanks to him. He is speeding things up by sheer lenience and shoddy automation, not to mention elimination of holidays.

Remember ANSERA? It was already mentioned by staff representatives and an anonymous comment that said “new examiners are only trained in our new system called ansera. It finds prior art mostly automatically, you saw the results.” (mentioned here about a month ago).

The staff representatives said that for Team Battistelli etc. “the search tool “Ansera” may be the Answer – but this software appears to be useful only in certain technical fields…”

“Merpel” made a sort of comeback this morning and revealed that he/she/they made an inquiry about it:

The enquiry received the number 542532. Merpel was promised her questions would be forwarded to the “department in charge”. Not having heard from the “department in charge” (or anybody else at the EPO), Merpel sent a follow-up enquiry on 1 November 2017 (Enquiry no. 544546). Merpel was informed that “[a] reminder has now been sent to the department dealing with your enquiry”.

It now being the 13 November 2017 – more than three weeks after the initial enquiry – and not having heard from the EPO, Merpel puts the above questions to the readership of IPKat. She is particularly interested in hearing about your experiences using ANSERA if you are an examiner with the EPO.

Whatever goes on at the EPO right now does not seem too promising because the next President is a Battistelli ‘pick’, the UPC is going nowhere (while the appeal boards are grossly understaffed), and quality of issued patents — we’re supposed to think — is assured by some silly computer program that examiners themselves are complaining about. But hey, who cares anyway? “Production” is up!

Why Honest Journalism on Patent Matters Barely Exists

Posted in Deception, Patents at 3:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

One month ago: Patent Microcosm, Patent Media and Patent Office: “It’s a Big Club and You Ain’t in It”

George Carlin

Summary: Media coverage in the area of patent law is still appalling as it’s dominated if not monopolised by those who benefit from patent maximalism

THE NEWS regarding patents remains dominated by a lot of articles that are composed — either directly or indirectly — by the patent microcosm. People try to sell services or promote their commercial agenda. It’s not journalism. See this new example, which looks like a typical puff piece (advertisement), not reporting.

“People try to sell services or promote their commercial agenda.”Not only corporate media is the issue; some blogs too are in it (sites like IAM or Patently-O, where the author some days ago was an Oracle employee). Even IP Watch, which is typically okay, published a “sponsored” (fake/advertisement) ‘article’ which would have us believe that startups need patents (waste of money/time). It’s hard to see the reason for publishing this in a readers-supported site. Days ago, behind paywall, it wrote about Google’s patent aggression (there’s no lack of stories about patent aggression in the news).

It has become hard to find a source for patent news which we can consistently trust. Some sites actively and consciously push patent propaganda (on the payroll of patent trolls), some are literally run and/or funded by rich corporations, and even some antagonists are occasionally selling out to advertisers in pursuit of quick cash.

Patent Maximalism Around the World

Posted in America, Asia, Australia, Patents at 2:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“It is common to argue that intellectual property in the form of copyright and patent is necessary for the innovation and creation of ideas and inventions such as machines, drugs, computer software, books, music, literature and movies. In fact intellectual property is not like ordinary property at all, but constitutes a government grant of a costly and dangerous private monopoly over ideas. We show through theory and example that intellectual monopoly is not neccesary for innovation and as a practical matter is damaging to growth, prosperity and liberty.”Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine

Summary: A roundup of stories or spin observed over the past week, mostly favouring those who profit from patents rather than creation of anything

“Patentism” can be a lot like theism. It can be the blind faith in the ludicrous idea that patents in their own right — not anything else — are “innovation” or something along those lines. In reality, patents may grant incentives for original works to made where investment (time, money, material) is needed for these works. In the case of software, copyrights provide such an incentive. When someone writes code, unless it is marked as “Public Domain”, that code is attributed to or gets assigned to the author (coder).

India

“When someone writes code, unless it is marked as “Public Domain”, that code is attributed to or gets assigned to the author (coder).”It’s not hard to see why the patent ‘industry’ distorts the history and purpose of patents. These people just try to defend their own job, which involves no production or innovation at all. A few days ago, revisiting the debate about abstract patents in India, LexOrbis was once again pushing banned patents (out of scope). It’s far from the first time and LexOrbis typically uses IAM as the platform. It’s trying to advocate/legitimise patents on “financial methods” (similar to business methods, which are similar also to software patents) and it doesn’t seem to matter to these people that India neither wants nor needs such patents.

China

“It’s trying to advocate/legitimise patents on “financial methods” (similar to business methods, which are similar also to software patents) and it doesn’t seem to matter to these people that India neither wants nor needs such patents.”Speaking of IAM, watch how it becomes a megaphone to Qualcomm, repeating the "China!" panic and alarming the US as if patent trolls moving to China is a bad thing. “The Qualcomm licensing chief predicted that China would be a huge player in 5G technology at a time when the country is developing an increasingly sophisticated IP system,” IAM wrote. China probably will become a major player in everything that involves electronics and telecommunications, but that has nothing to do with patents. As Qualcomm does little but derive money from patent licences (including software patents), it is not hard to see why it worries about trends in US patent litigation.

Australia

Australia, as we noted earlier this year, is moving away from software patents. It seems crystal clear to the government that patent maximalism is not desirable, yet this same government seems to have allocated so much tax money to CSIRO, which is, according to IAM, suing again:

Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed two months ago by BASF Plant Science points toward another IP licensing initiative in a very different sector that CSIRO and its partners have been pursuing for several years. The organisation is working with Australian company Nuseed and the Australian Grains Research and Development Corporation to commercialise canola that contains long chain, omega-3 fatty acids – health-friendly fish oil. BASF has teamed with Dow AgroSciences and Cargill on a similar effort.

Beginning in October 2016, according to court documents accessed using Lex Machina, Nuseed has conducted negotiations with BASF, which it wants to take a licence to a portfolio omega-3 patents; these name CSIRO as the assignee. According to BASF, Nuseed has been clear about its intention to litigate if a deal could not be reached. By April 2017, talks appear to have reached an impasse. “With the numbers you’re talking about, there is no path forward,” a Nuseed representative is quoted as saying. BASF seemingly agreed, suggesting the parties “should be in court” if Nuseed was unwilling to revise its offer.

Lex Machina has helped uncover all sorts of disputes like that. What’s most noteworthy and also notorious about CSIRO is the pursuit of patents on genome (and enforcement of such patents).

America (US/Canada)

This days-old press release speaks of the decision “in which a unanimous High Court invalidated software patents of Alice designed to facilitate the exchange of financial obligations between two parties by using a computer system as a third-party intermediary.”

Based on this press release, it certainly looks like Canada is granting software patents. These are, suffice to say, unlikely to survive a court’s scrutiny, so why grant them in the first place? There’s this actual court case going on right now where the portfolio at stake sounds like software patents, with terms like “recipe app platform”. To quote:

The ongoing court battle between Perfect Company and the maker of the Drop scale took another turn this week when Perfect announced a new patent and an additional patent infringement claim again Adaptics Limited, the maker of the Drop scale.

Perhaps they throw yet more patents into the mix because the original patent/s they sued with would not withstand the court’s scrutiny. Such is the nature of desperate lawsuits where quantity is used to make up for lack of quality.

Links 13/11/2017: Samsung’s DeX Revisited, Linux Kernel 4.14 Released

Posted in News Roundup at 1:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • Samsung’s Linux on Galaxy software will bring full-fledged Ubuntu desktop to your phone (with an external display)

      Samsung’s DeX dock lets you connect one of the company’s recent phones to an external display, mouse, and keyboard to use your phone like a desktop PC… assuming you’re comfortable with a desktop PC that runs Android.

      But soon you may also be able to use your Android phone as a Linux PC. Samsung recently unveiled plans for “Linux on Galaxy,” promising that you’d be able to run a full-fledged Linux environment on a phone hooked up to a DeX dock.

    • GNU/Linux Is Still Cooking

      t’s true that smartphones have taken a huge share of personal computing away from desktops and notebooks but there are still huge limitations around screen-size, computing power, storage etc. where smartphones are not enough. I’ve long recommended using smartphones and desktop equipment together. Every time I find my text runs outside a text-box or some page is viewable only in portrait mode in Android/Linux, I long for some way to get to GNU/Linux. Today, I get up off the sofa and walk to my desk. Perhaps some day, I’ll dock the smartphone and carry on. Now, I have to reopen work from the desktop PC I call Beast.

    • Samsung teases Linux desktops on Galaxy S8 and Note 8 smartphones, thanks to DeX
  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux 4.14

      No surprises this week, although it is probably worth pointing out how
      the 0day robot has been getting even better (it was very useful
      before, but Fengguang has been working on making it even better, and
      reporting the problems it has found).

      Sure, some of the new reports turned out to be just 0day doing things
      that just don’t work (ie KASAN with old gcc versions, but also doing
      things like loading old ISA drivers in situations that just don’t make
      sense – remember when you couldn’t even ask if the hardware existed or
      not, and just had to know), but even then it’s been all good.

    • Linux Kernel 4.14 Released, This is What’s New

      Linus Torvalds has announced the release of a Linux 4.14, the latest stable release of the Linux kernel.

      Linux 4.14 features a number of new features and changes, and is set to become the next long term support (LTS) release backed by several years of ongoing maintainence and support.

    • Linux Kernel 4.14 LTS Officially Released, Supports AMD Secure Memory Encryption
    • Linux 4.14 Kernel Officially Released

      The Linux 4.14 kernel is now official!

      Linus Torvalds has just released the stable Linux 4.14 kernel. And for a bit of bar trivia, the codename remains the stale “Fearless Coyote” that has been this way all year, back to Linux 4.10.

    • The 4.14 kernel has been released

      The 4.14 kernel has been released after a ten-week development cycle. Some of the most prominent features in this release include the ORC unwinder for more reliable tracebacks and live patching, the long-awaited thread mode for control groups, support for AMD’s secure memory encryption, five-level page table support, a new zero-copy networking feature, the heterogeneous memory management subsystem, and more.

    • Linux 4.14 arrives and Linus says it should have fewer 0-days

      Linus Torvalds has given the world version 4.14 of the Linux Kernel.

      Torvalds announced the new release with his usual lack of fanfare, but with a couple of interesting nuggets of news.

      He opened by saying “it is probably worth pointing out how the 0day robot has been getting even better (it was very useful before, but Fengguang has been working on making it even better, and reporting the problems it has found).” Said robot is an automated vulnerability-checker that scours kernel code for issues. With version 4.14 slated to be the next kernel version to receive Long Term Support, and that support now running for six years instead of two, a more secure release will be widely welcome.

    • AMD Zen Temperature Monitoring Queued For Linux 4.15

      We’ve been expecting it to happen for weeks while indeed the hwmon pull request was indeed sent in today exposing AMD Ryzen / Threadripper / EPYC temperature reporting on Linux.

      The patch to the existing k10temp Linux hwmon driver has been floating around since September for AMD Zen / Family 17h temperature reporting finally being in place. It was staged in hwmon-next and is now called for pulling into the just-opened Linux 4.15 merge window.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Mesa Linux Graphics Stack Update Fixes AMD GPU Hang with Vulkan Dota 2 in VR

        Mesa, the open-source graphics stack for Linux-based operating systems, has been updated to this week to version 17.2.5, the fifth stability update to the Mesa 17.2 series.

        While Mesa devs are still working hard on the next major release of the graphics stack, Mesa 17.3, which is expected to arrive next week with numerous exciting new features and enhancements for Intel and AMD Radeon GPUs, they pushed another maintenance update to Mesa 17.2 to fix bugs, memory leaks, hangs, and other issues.

    • Benchmarks

      • The Latest In Our Massive Linux Benchmarking Setup – November 2017

        Two and a half years ago was the start of the continually evolving effort around turning a basement into a big Linux server room and last year having shared a one year redux in the effort but having been late in a second year redux into this effort and how the systems are configured for our Linux/BSD/open-source benchmarking at scale, here is an update.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

  • Distributions

    • Reviews

      • SparkyLinux 5.1

        SparkyLinux is a Debian-based distribution for 32- and 64-bit computers. According to Sparky’s website, the distro aims to “provide a ready to use, out of the box operating system with a set of slightly customised, lightweight desktop environments.” There are no less than 24 desktops to choose from, as well as various “Special” editions. Like Debian, Sparky has three branches, which Sparky refers to as ‘editions’: Stable, Rolling and Development. For each edition there is a “Home” and “Minimal” version and, to make your choice yet more overwhelming, for each version various ISOs are available. Among others, the Home versions include ISOs for four different desktop environments and the Minimal versions include a “Linux Freedom” ISO. I couldn’t find any information about the Linux Freedom version on the Sparky website but I am assuming that it ships with a libre kernel and no non-free packages.

        If the download options sound complicated then that is because they are complicated. It doesn’t help that the download section on the Sparky website is poorly designed. The pages feature long lists with links to dozens of ISOs and virtually no information to help you pick a suitable image. Worse, what little information is available is ambiguous. Various pages on the Sparky website state that the distro uses Debian’s Testing branch while it is in fact built on all three Debian branches. Also, the download page suggests that the Stable editions are recommended – the link to the Stable ISOs is listed first and features an icon of a computer with a green monitor. The Rolling ISOs use the same icon with a red monitor, while the Development branch uses the colour black.

        While trying to decide which version of Sparky to install I made the following table, which might make the available flavours a little easier to digest.

    • Slackware Family

      • LibreOffice 5.4.3 packages available

        The Document Foundation released the third update for LibreOffice 5.4 last week, as you can read on their blog where they write about the new LibreOffice 5.4.3 . My manic-depressive mood-swings are on the manic side at the moment so next to baking sausage rolls (brabantse worstenbroodjes for which I will publish an updated recipe on this blog soon) and a batch of sourdough bread, I finally had the energy to fix the admin interface for the SlackDocs mailing lists, wrestled myself through 14,000+ emails in my administrative mailboxes, wrote a plan to migrate my LAN services from the ageing server to the new server I bought this summer (which involves conversion of several large databases to InnoDB and loads of custom packages), plus I binge-watched almost 2 full seasons of Stranger Things in 3 days’ time. I know I will crash hard in a couple of days but I hope to have a new Plasma ‘ktown’ update before that happens.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Why Australian enterprises are embracing open source

    Cost is another reason. Many organisations are in distress. They’re being digitally disrupted, and can no longer justify spending millions of dollars on software licenses, maintenance fees and infrastructure/support costs. Open source software is a way of reducing their operating costs.

    A recent TechCrunch survey identified the need for speed and control, scalability and developer network power as major drivers of OSS. Companies are also contributing to open source and encouraging their own developers to engage in open source projects. These aren’t just tech firms, but global giants such as Walmart. GE and Goldman Sachs

    The result is that open source can be much safer and more stable, due to being “constantly stretched, pushed, moulded and smoothed by their developer communities”.

  • PayThink Blockchain’s potential rivals that of Linux and the Internet

    Every 10 years or so, a technology comes along that shows so much promise that it creates boundless opportunities for developers. Everything from Linux in 1991 to the Internet boom in the early 2000s to today’s blockchain.

    Developers who understand blockchain and get curious about all of its potential uses can both support their organization’s digital transformation, as well as forge a new, lucrative career path for themselves.

  • 80,000+ Blockchain Projects, 8 Percent Survive
  • Most Open-Source Blockchain Projects Are Abandoned Within Six Months

    The blockchain industry has seen major growth over the past few years. Virtually everyone and their dog has come up with a new use case for blockchain technology, even though most of these ideas are not viable whatsoever. It turns out just 8% of the 26,000 open-source blockchain projects created back in 2016 are still around today. That’s a worrisome statistic, albeit not entirely surprising either.

  • Events

    • Exam Results and Pass List #PeruRumboGSoC2018

      This early morning, students from different universities of Lima, Peru came to UNI to take an exam to prove knowledge of programming and GNU/Linux.

      [...]

      However, there are interest students that might not have enough skills as intermediate or advance level in programming on Linux. That is why we consider important to have a general view of the new group throughout the exam, so they can compare their academic achievements at the end of the instructional period.

  • Databases

    • MongoDB 3.6 runs at the ‘speed of data’

      MongoDB 3.6 will be generally available in early December.

      The open source (at its core) general purpose database has some noteable changes (its makers would call them enhancements) including a so-called ‘change streams’ feature, which enable developers to build what are being described as more ‘reactive’ web, mobile and IoT applications that can view, filter and act on data changes as they occur in the database.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • Intel Icelake CPU Target Patch Published For GCC

      While it was just days ago Intel got around to posting the patch for introducing -march=cannonlake support for GCC, this weekend they already posted the patch for its successor with the new Icelake target.

      Icelake is Intel’s successor to Cannonlake that likely won’t be released until 2019. These 10nm+ CPUs are expected to feature a “Gen 11″ graphics processor over Gen 10 coming with Cannonlake. But overall details on Icelake are still scarce given it’s a ways out with Cannonlake even not here yet.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Inside the mechanical brain of the world’s first robot citizen

      Experts who have reviewed the robot’s open-source code, which is posted on GitHub, agree that the most apt description of Sophia is probably a chatbot with a face.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Open Source Underwater Glider Wins 2017 Hackaday Prize

        The Open Source Underwater Glider has just been named the Grand Prize winner of the 2017 Hackaday Prize. As the top winner of the Hackaday Prize, the Open Source Underwater Glider will receive $50,000 USD completes the awarding of more than $250,000 in cash prizes during the last eight months of the Hackaday Prize.

        More than one thousand entries answered the call to Build Something That Matters during the 2017 Hackaday Prize. Hardware creators around the globe competed in five challenges during the entry rounds: Build Your Concept, Internet of Useful Things, Wings-Wheels-an-Walkers, Assistive Technologies, and Anything Goes. Below you will find the top five finisher, and the winner of the Best Product award of $30,000.

  • Programming/Development

    • I wrote a Web Component

      I’ve been meaning to play with Web Components for a little while now. After I saw Ben Nadel create a Twitter tweet progress indicator with Angular and Lucas Leandro did the same with Vue.js I thought, here’s a chance to experiment.

      Web Components involve a whole bunch of different dovetailing specs; HTML imports, custom elements, shadow DOM, HTML templates. I didn’t want to have to use the HTML template and import stuff if I could avoid it, and pleasantly you actually don’t need it. Essentially, you can create a custom element named whatever-you-want and then just add whatever-you-want elements to your page, and it all works. This is good.

    • PHP 7.2.0RC6 Released

      The PHP development team announces the immediate availability of PHP 7.2.0 RC6. This release is the sixth Release Candidate for 7.2.0. Barring any surprises, we expect this to be the FINAL release candidate, with Nov 30th’s GA release being not-substantially different. All users of PHP are encouraged to test this version carefully, and report any bugs and incompatibilities in the bug tracking system.

    • PHP 7.2 Is One Step Away From Release

      This week marked the sixth and final planned release candidate for PHP 7.2.

      This release is the final step before the official PHP 7.2 debut that is slated for 30 November unless there are any last minute blockers.

Leftovers

  • It’s time to stop trusting Google search already
  • Health/Nutrition

    • Secrets Are Luxuries We Can’t Afford When Fighting the War on Women

      My body. My blood. My organs. My heart. My birth canal. My earning potential. My ability to provide. My children. My job. My courage. My fear.

      My fear of an angry man who I knew would emotionally and physically abuse his child.

      All the decisions were about me. Except one.

      The one where I knew that the collection of cells inside my body—not viable and non-sentient—might grow and develop into a person that I could not protect.

      Anti-choice activists think that pregnant women who terminate a pregnancy are incapable of hindsight. And here again, on another level, anti-choice activists are wrong.

    • Giving agriculture a global do-over could feed nearly a billion more people

      As the human population grows and the human middle class grows in developing countries, we are going to need more. More food, more meat, more energy. And producing more is going to require more resources. Since we are just about tapped out of the resources required for food production—namely water and land—we are going to have to figure out how to use these limited resources as efficiently as possible.

      A number of suggestions have been made to try to achieve this, from the lower tech—like curbing animal consumption and minimizing food waste—to the higher tech, like planting GMOS that might improve yields, developing better fertilizers, and maximizing irrigation efficiency. A new analysis in Nature Geoscience offers up one more: switching what we grow where.

  • Security

    • New Microsoft Word attacks infect PCs sans macros

      Fancy Bear, the advanced hacking group researchers say is tied to the Russian government, is actively exploiting a newly revived technique that gives attackers a stealthy means of infecting computers using Microsoft Office documents, security researchers said this week.

      Fancy Bear is one of two Russian-sponsored hacking outfits researchers say breached Democratic National Committee networks ahead of last year’s presidential election. The group was recently caught sending a Word document that abuses a feature known as Dynamic Data Exchange. DDE allows a file to execute code stored in another file and allows applications to send updates as new data becomes available.

    • WikiLeaks: CIA impersonated Kaspersky Labs as a cover for its malware operations

      WikiLeaks, under its new Vault 8 series of released documents, has rolled out what it says is the source code to a previously noted CIA tool, called Hive, that is used to help hide espionage actions when the Agency implants malware.
      Hive supposedly allows the CIA to covertly communicate with its software by making it hard or impossible to trace the malware back to the spy organization by utilizing a cover domain. Part of this, WikiLeaks said, is using fake digital certificates that impersonate other legitimate web groups, including Kaspersky Labs.

    • My Younger Brother Can Access My iPhone X: Face ID Is Not Secure

      What this means is family members, who are probably the people you don’t want accessing your device, can now potentially access your iPhone. Especially your younger brother, or Mom… or Grandma.

    • Minix Inside!

      Everything was find but in May a major security flaw was discovered and the fix required an update data to the AMT code. An update that many machines are unlikely to get. Since then various security researchers, mostly Google-based, have been looking into the hardware and the software and have made the discovery that there is an additional layer in the hardware that Intel doesn’t talk about. Ring 3 is user land, Ring 0 is OS land and Ring -1 is for hypervisors. These we know about, but in addition there is Ring -2, used for the secure UEFI kernel and Ring -3, which is where the management OS runs. Guess what the management OS is Minix 3 – or rather a closed commercial version of Minix 3.

    • The Truth About the Intel’s Hidden Minix OS and Security Concerns

      That supplemental unit is part of the chipset and is NOT on the main CPU die. Being independent, that means Intel ME is not affected by the various sleep state of the main CPU and will remain active even when you put your computer in sleep mode or when you shut it down.

    • Security Breach and Spilled Secrets Have Shaken the N.S.A. to Its Core

      Mr. Williams had written on his company blog about the Shadow Brokers, a mysterious group that had somehow obtained many of the hacking tools the United States used to spy on other countries. Now the group had replied in an angry screed on Twitter. It identified him — correctly — as a former member of the National Security Agency’s hacking group, Tailored Access Operations, or T.A.O., a job he had not publicly disclosed. Then the Shadow Brokers astonished him by dropping technical details that made clear they knew about highly classified hacking operations that he had conducted.

    • UK spymasters raise suspicions over Kaspersky software’s Russia links
  • Defence/Aggression

    • Saudi Arabia’s Desperate Gamble

      Furious over defeat in Syria, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince is gambling again, arresting rivals at home and provoking a political crisis in Lebanon, but he may lack the geopolitical chips to pull off his bet, says ex-British diplomat Alastair Crooke.

    • The Saudi Hand in Lebanon’s Crisis

      Facing defeat in its proxy war for “regime change” in Syria, Saudi Arabia undertook some startling moves, including staging the resignation of Lebanon’s prime minister, reports Dennis J Bernstein.

    • WHAT CRAZINESS IS GOING ON IN SAUDI ARABIA?

      What’s going on in Saudi Arabia? Over 200 bigwigs detained and billions of ‘illegal profits’ of some $800 billion confiscated.

      The kingdom is in an uproar. The Saudi regime of King Salman and his ambitious 32-year old son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, claim it was all part of an ‘anti-corruption’ drive that has Washington’s full backing.

      [...]

      Interestingly, there are no reports of senior Saudi military figures being arrested. The Saudi military has always been kept weak and marginalized for fear it could one day stage a military coup like the one led by Colonel Khadaffi who overthrew Libya’s old British stooge ruler, King Idris. For decades the Saudi army was denied ammunition. Mercenary troops from Pakistan were hired to protect the Saudi royals.

      The Saudis still shudder at the memory of British puppets King Feisal of Iraq and his strongman, Nuri as-Said, who were overthrown and murdered by mobs after an Iraqi army colonel, Abd al-Karim Qasim, staged a coup in 1958. Nuri ended up hanging from a Baghdad lamppost, leading Egypt’s fiery strongmen, Abdel Nasser, to aptly call the new Iraqi military junta, ‘the wild men of Baghdad.’

    • The Danger of the Sacred Soldier

      The formula is as old as “Why do you hate the troops?” Donald Trump, surrounded by a series of ever-escalating scandals, pulled a classic “Look over here!” move and made Kaepernick’s protest his hate cause of the week. His core argument: By taking a knee, Kaepernick was spitting not only on the anthem and the flag, but on US soldiers as well. This type of red-meat mob baiting is nothing new for Trump; during his presidential campaign, he declared that anyone caught burning the American flag should be stripped of their citizenship, despite the fact that such an action is expressly forbidden by the Constitution.

    • Nation That Says It Can’t Afford Medicare for All Has Spent $5.6 Trillion on War Since 9/11

      new analysis offers a damning assessment of the United States’ so-called global war on terror, and it includes a “staggering” estimated price tag for wars waged since 9/11—over $5.6 trillion.

      The Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Center says the figure—which covers the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan from 2001 through 2018—is the equivalent of more than $23,386 per taxpayer.

      The “new report,” said Paul Kawika Martin, Peace Action’s senior director for policy and political affairs, “once again shows that the true #costofwar represents a colossal burden to taxpayers on top of the tremendous human loss.”

    • Trump: Putin and I had ‘good discussions’ at Apec summit

      US President Donald Trump said he had “good discussions” with Russian leader Vladimir Putin when they met briefly at an Asia-Pacific summit in Vietnam.

    • “Abdication Is Unthinkable”: Saudis Deny King Salman Will Relinquish Throne To His Son

      Three days ago, we reported that based on various unconfirmed media reports, Saudi King Salman – reeling from a just concluded purge that arrested some of the country’s wealthiest and most powerful royals and officials – was set to elevate his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to the throne in as little as 48 hours. Speculation peaked when Al-Arabiya tweeted, then quickly deleted, details of the allegedly imminent ascension ceremony.

    • Behind the Saudi Troublemaking

      Five months after the diplomatic spat between the so-called Anti-Terror Quartet and Qatar kicked off, the ante is being upped. Bahrain — one of the quartet alongside Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt — has called for Qatar to be frozen out of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). As the council starts to unravel, what will this mean for Qatar and the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region?

      [...]

      The spur to form the GCC was the siege of Mecca by radical Saudi Islamists in November 1979. It shook the kingdom to its core for two weeks and nearly lost the Saudis the much coveted, and much abused, title of the “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.” To deal with the domestic threat, Riyadh encouraged Islamists to go and fight with the Afghan mujahedeen following the Soviet invasion in December 1979. We all know how that ended: Al Qaeda and its offshoots, 9/11, and blowback for the Middle East and much of the world.

    • Remaking Armistice Day into Veterans Day

      The year after the war ended, most of the national leaders that considered themselves victors proclaimed Nov. 11 to be a day of reflection on the horrors of war and for prayers that there never would be another war. All businesses were ordered to stop work for two minutes and stand in silence at exactly 11 a.m., a tradition that continued in the decades that followed. It was called Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom and Armistice Day in the United States.

      Nov. 11 was intended to be a day of mourning and repentance for the satanic carnage that killed about 10 million soldiers, wounded another 20 million and inflicted more than 2 million civilian deaths.

      The senselessness of that war should have resulted in the courts-martial of every gung-ho officer, the demeaning of every war-mongering politician, and the decertifying of every war-profiteering corporation. But it did not. The warmongers and war-profiteers just went into hibernation.

    • Americans Are Stressed About the Future. Here’s Why That’s Promising

      The era of empire, white supremacy, dirty energy, and global capitalism is coming to a close.

    • The Hidden History of How California Was Built on Genocide

      The genocide of California’s Indigenous nations was the foundation upon which settler colonialism built the “Golden State.” In this interview, historian and author Benjamin Madley argues that understanding the 19th century genocide in California will assist scholars in “re-examining the larger, hemispheric Indigenous population catastrophe.”

    • On Armistice Day, Let’s Celebrate Peace

      Now, members of the group Veterans for Peace are working across the U.S. to recover the original purpose of Armistice Day. They are using it to call for adequate psychological and material support for veterans, to help them cope with the terrors they have been forced to endure. Above all, they work to abolish wars.

    • Hand over your weapons

      In the AFTERMATH of the Texas church shooting last week, Democratic lawmakers did what they always do: They skewered their Republican colleagues for offering only “thoughts and prayers,” and demanded swift action on gun control.

      “The time is now,” said Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, “for Congress to shed its cowardly cover and do something.”

      Trouble is, it’s not clear the “something” Democrats typically demand would make a real dent in the nation’s epidemic of gun violence. Congress can ban assault weapons, but they account for just a tiny sliver of the country’s 33,000 annual firearm deaths. And tighter background checks will do nothing to cut down on the 310 million guns already in circulation.

    • After Hearing Accounts of Sexual Violence, UN Official to Bring Rohingya Case to ICC

      After hearing personal accounts of torture and sexual violence from survivors, a senior United Nations official on Sunday vowed to raise the issue of persecution of the Rohingya people in Myanmar with the International Criminal Court (ICC).

      “Sexual violence is being commanded, orchestrated, and perpetrated by the Armed Forces of Myanmar,” said Pramila Patten, special representative of the Secretary-General on sexual violence in conflict. “When I return to New York I will brief and raise the issue with the prosecutor and president of the ICC whether they [Myanmar's military] can be held responsible for these atrocities.”

      Patten, who said about $10 million in immediate aid is needed to provide necessary services for survivors of gender-based violence, spoke to the media in the Bangladeshi capital on Sunday after a three-day trip to camps located near the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. During her trip, as Reuters reports, “she met women and girls who are among hundreds of thousands of Rohingya that have sought refuge in Bangladesh following a crackdown by Myanmar’s military on the predominantly Muslim minority.”

    • Troopaganda Eats Its Own Tail

      If you don’t believe me, check out the hash tag #WhatIFoughtFor, pointed out to me by Coleen Rowley and created by a “human rights” organization. One guy declares that he fought for his family. That’s nice. How much more pleasant for him to love his family than for him to be willing to kill and destroy for a larger salary for the CEO of Lockheed Martin, or for the creation of ISIS, or for turning Libya into a hell on earth, or for the advance of climate change, or for any of the other actual results.

      Others declare that they fought so that one particular collaborator or refugee could flee the hell that their fighting created or contributed to. That’s nice too. Surely veterans’ groups promoting kindness to refugees is better than veterans’ groups promoting hatred toward refugees. But what about the idea of ending the wars that create the refugees? What about the millions killed, wounded, traumatized, and left homeless for every one charismatic refugee whom someone claims after the fact that they were somehow fighting for?

    • North Korea: Trump ‘Begged For a Nuclear War’ During Visit to Korean Peninsula

      As protests continue across the continent while U.S. President Donald Trump travels Asia, North Korea on Saturday called Trump a “destroyer of world peace and stability” who “begged for a nuclear war” during his visit to South Korea earlier this week.

      “Trump, during his visit, laid bare his true nature as destroyer of world peace and stability and begged for a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula,” a North Korean foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement to a state news agency. Reuters reports the spokesman also said that nothing would deter Pyongyang from continuing its nuclear weapons program.

      In Trump’s first major speech in Asia, addressing the South Korean National Assembly in Seoul on Wednesday, he personally attacked North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in an apparent attempt to encourage Kim to discontinue his pursuit of nuclear weapons.

      “The weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer, they are putting your regime in grave danger,” Trump warned. “Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face.”

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Adorable disabled lamb can run around again thanks to her new wheelchair after being abandoned by her mum

      Meet the adorable disabled lamb who can now happily run around thanks to her new wheelchair.

      Alistair Jenkin, 73, found little Lamby in a field when she was only two-days-old, and he has been caring for her ever since.

      Eight-month-old Lamby was thought to have been abandoned by her mother, and one of her legs appeared to have been trodden on.

    • Nearly 7 weeks after hurricane, more than 50% of Puerto Rico power generation offline

      Since Puerto Rico was struck by Hurricane Maria in late September, the island has struggled to repair power lines, water pumps, cell phone towers, roads, and bridges. The electrical system has come under the most scrutiny. The commonwealth’s power provider—Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority or PREPA—was bankrupt going into the disaster, and has faced scandal after scandal in recent weeks. After reconnecting more than 40 percent of its generating sources early last week, a major power line failed on Thursday, reducing the grid’s online capacity to 18 percent. Although the line was quickly fixed, currently PREPA’s grid is only working at 47 percent capacity now, according to statistics from the Puerto Rican government.

      With more than 50 percent of the grid offline, previously-connected Puerto Ricans have been living off generators or solar panels for nearly 7 weeks, or they live without power.

      On Thursday, Governor Ricardo Rosselló demanded that his entire cabinet submit undated letters of resignation to his office, according to the New York Times. Rosselló said he hoped to cut cabinet members to form a more nimble government.

    • Wind powered all of Scotland in October & other Renewable Success Stories

      Wind and solar keep falling in price– each fell 6% in 2016. That fall was not as big as the two previous years, but there is every reason to expect price drops much bigger in coming years, as new technology makes the move from basic science to implementation. The Trump strategy of slapping penalties on these technologies and giving fossil fuels subsidies has a very limited shelf life, since there aren’t enough resources in the world to stand against this kind of inexorable progress.

      Wind turbines in Scotland during the month of October , driven by unusually strong gales, generated enough electricity to supply 99% of the country’s power needs, taking into account residential, industrial and business sectors! And if we just looked at the residential market, the wind turbines could have powered 4.5 million homes! One catch: Scotland only has about 2.45 million households!

    • Moyers and McKibben: Time Is Running Out for the Planet

      Bill McKibben’s calling has been a footrace of its own, not to report to Athenians the victory of Greek warriors over the Spartans, but to wake up Americans to the once creeping, now billowing threat of global warming. For 30 years now climate change has been his beat — first as a journalist, then as an environmentalist and now as the leading activist in mobilizing a worldwide movement to win a race against time. In Radio Free Vermont, his latest book, he turns to humor for inspiration as runners go to bottled water for sustenance, and has us laughing all the way to the finish line. Also in the interest of disclosure, you should know Bill McKibben and I are old friends who sometimes conspire in plotting resistance to — well, read on.

      [...]

      Not that we all should secede from the Union. Instead, let’s resist. I really wrote this as a love note to the resistance — the resistance that’s been happening over the last 10 years. I’ve been a part of it with the organization 350.org, fighting global warming, and now in the resistance that’s sprung up in the last year since Donald Trump took over. That’s been the one heartening thing about this year: the antibodies have assembled themselves to try and fight off the fever that America’s now in. I’m no Pollyanna, so I don’t know if it’s going to work or not. Sometimes the antibodies don’t get there in sufficient quantity or in sufficient time, and you end up amputating.

  • Finance

    • Bitcoin rival doubles in price in four days as Bitcoin price slumps

      One bitcoin is now worth less than $5,900, down 25 percent from Wednesday’s high above $7,800. Meanwhile, the currency of a rival, spinoff network called Bitcoin Cash has doubled to more than $1,500 over the same four-day period.

      This is good news for one side in Bitcoin’s ongoing civil war—the side that sees an urgent need to boost the network’s capacity to deal with growing congestion and rising transaction fees. People in this camp have been flocking to Bitcoin Cash after a plan to expand the capacity of the main Bitcoin network fell apart on Wednesday.

    • Uber loses appeal: Will have to treat drivers in UK as workers with full rights

      This means they are entitled to the same rights as employed staff, holiday pay, rest breaks and being paid minimum wage.

    • Here’s the first evidence Russia used Twitter to influence Brexit

      All the accounts seen by WIRED posted using either the Twitter web client of TweetDeck. The @Jenn_Abrams account had the most followers, 54,467, and the data pulled from the Twitter API shows some of the accounts were created as far back as 2013.

    • The Trans-Pacific Partnership has been resurrected — and it’s happening without the US

      About 20 provisions that were once part of the TPP talks have been “suspended,” according to a joint statement by the agreement’s member countries. And there are still four sticking points — including a commitment on coal that affects Brunei — to solve, but experts say a final deal could be announced as early as next year. Each country would still have to sign and ratify the deal to be a member of the agreement.

    • The Tax Plan’s Mega Gift To Some of Trump’s Richest Appointees

      There are times that you run across something that’s so preposterous that it’s hard to believe it’s true. But in this case, it is.

      I’m talking about the multiple — and permanent — set of tax breaks that some of the Trump administration’s mega-wealthy appointees and their heirs stand to get if the estate tax repeal in the House Republicans’ tax bill becomes law.

      The appointees I’m talking about are those with a net worth above $11 million (which is a lot of them) who sold assets that the Office of Government Ethics said would pose conflict-of-interest problems in their new gigs.

    • Did the DUP’s controversial Brexit donors break the law – by refusing to reveal the secret source of their cash?

      Earlier this year, openDemocracy revealed that a mystery donor had given Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party £435,000 to campaign for Brexit.

      The secret donation – a much larger sum than the DUP has ever spent on an electoral campaign in its history – attracted particular interest because almost none of the cash was spent in Northern Ireland. Yet the donor secrecy laws which apply to Northern Ireland, and not the rest of the UK, have allowed the donors(s) to remain anonymous.

      Since then, May’s Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire has announced an end to donor secrecy in Northern Ireland. But, crucially, he has gone back on a prior commitment to backdate transparency to 2014 so that the source of the vast DUP donation could be revealed – despite calls from all the Northern Irish political parties (apart from the DUP) to do so.

      Government and DUP sources have rejected accusations that Brokenshire’s refusal to make donor identities public is ‘protection’ for the DUP, as part of their £1 billion deal to keep the Conservatives in power.

    • Three Richest Americans Now Own More Wealth Than Bottom Half of US Combined: Report

      Those are just several of the striking findings of Billionaire Bonanza 2017, a new report (pdf) published Wednesday by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) that explores in detail the speed with which the U.S. is becoming “a hereditary aristocracy of wealth and power.”

      “Over recent decades, an incredibly disproportionate share of America’s income and wealth gains has flowed to the top of our economic spectrum. At the tip of that top sit the nation’s richest 400 individuals, a group that Forbes magazine has been tracking annually since 1982,” write IPS’s Chuck Collins and Josh Hoxie, the report’s authors. “Americans at the other end of our economic spectrum, meanwhile, watch their wages stagnate and savings dwindle.”

    • The Proselytizers and the Privatizers

      At the Heritage Academy, a publicly funded charter school network in Arizona, according to a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, high school students are required to learn that the Anglo-Saxon population of the United States is descended from one of the lost tribes of Israel. They are asked to memorize a list of 28 “Principles” of “sound government,” among which are that “to protect man’s rights, God has revealed certain Principles of divine law” (the ninth Principle) and that “the husband and wife each have their specific rights appropriate to their role in life” (the 26th Principle). To complete the course, students are further required to teach these principles to at least five individuals outside of school and family.

      [...]

      Vouchers first came to prominence as a way to funnel state money to racially segregated religious academies. In the aftermath of the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954, white Americans in the South organized massive resistance against federal orders to desegregate schools. While some districts shut down public schools altogether, others promoted “segregation academies” for white students, often with religious programming, to be subsidized with tuition grants and voucher schemes. Today, vouchers remain popular with supporters of religious schools, many of whom see public education as inherently secular and corrupt.

      Vouchers are also favored among disciples of the free-market advocate Milton Friedman, who see them as a step on the road to getting government out of the education business altogether. Speaking to an audience at a convention of the American Legislative Exchange Council in 2006, Friedman said, “The ideal would be to have parents control and pay for their school’s education, just as they pay for their food, their clothing, and their housing.” Acknowledging that indigent parents might be unable to afford their children’s education in the same way that they might suffer food or housing insecurity, Friedman added, “Those should be handled as charity problems, not educational problems.”

    • Your $20 Million Loan Went Bust? The Trump Team Has a Job For You

      The tribe was hoping to raise $22.5 million with $20 million of it guaranteed, but Clarkson wasn’t able to gather anything close to that amount. Instead, using a company he helped create for the occasion, he borrowed $3.5 million from private investors and then loaned it to the tribe. But Clarkson still managed to obtain a guarantee for $20 million. (He accomplished this by moving $19 million in debt from the brokerage to his company, according to a report about the episode, and convincing the Interior Department to treat it like a loan.)

      [...]

      Ultimately, things went badly awry. The brokerage went bankrupt a few years later and the loan guarantees had enough problems to generate a report by the inspector general of the Interior Department, as well as ongoing litigation. The inspector general’s report, released in March, criticized both the entity requesting guarantees in this instance and the Interior Department staffer who approved them. (The report was made public in redacted form, with the names of individuals blacked out.)

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • In China, Trump Talks Trade & North Korea, Ignoring Climate Change & Crackdown on Human Rights

      We go to Beijing for an update on President Trump’s meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping as part of his five-nation trip to Asia. Trump used the talks to call on China to sever ties with North Korea, and address the U.S. trade deficit with the country he once accused of “raping” the United States. Human rights activists have urged him to use his trip to discuss climate change and challenge China over its crackdown on dissidents and call for the release of political prisoners. We speak with Joanna Chiu, China correspondent for Agence France-Presse, and Rajan Menon, professor of political science at the Powell School at the City University of New York and senior research fellow in the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University.

    • Trump Voter Fraud Commission Is Sued — By One of Its Own Commissioners

      A Democratic member of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity filed suit against the commission in federal court in Washington, D.C. on Thursday morning, alleging that its Republican leadership has intentionally excluded him from deliberations and violated federal transparency laws. The commission has been sued more times (eight, including the new filing) than it has officially convened for meetings (two times).

      The suit, filed by Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, accuses the commission of violating the Federal Advisory Commission Act, which, among other things, requires that advisory committees be bipartisan and sets transparency requirements for them. “Everything we are doing is absolutely perpendicular to that,” Dunlap charged in an interview. “We aren’t inviting the public to participate. We aren’t transparent. And we aren’t even working together at all. My real fear is that this commission will offer policy recommendations that have not been properly vetted by all of the commissioners.”

    • The Trump Effect, One Year Later: Thousands of Women Running for Office

      On election night last November, Nadya Okamoto gathered with friends in the dining hall of her dorm at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Okamoto, then 18, wore a Hillary Clinton T-shirt—earlier that day, she’d voted for Clinton—and felt “pumped that the first woman in history would be elected.” Two years before, she had co-founded a nonprofit, PERIOD, that provided tampons to homeless women and girls. She’d helped launch a movement to destigmatize menstruation and, like many women, was troubled by the way Donald Trump talked about women during his campaign.

      As the results came in that night, her exhilaration drained. “I was so sad, angry, I was crying,” she said. But as she looked around at her devastated classmates, her body kicked into fight mode. She wondered what she could do.

      It was the same story across the United States.

      In Piedmont, California, Gina Scialabba, an attorney who volunteered with Clinton’s campaign, started out the evening celebrating. By the end of the night, she was heartbroken and confused. As the weeks went by, she worried about the future of health care and marriage equality under a Trump administration—and whether her own plans to marry her partner would be threatened. She began to express her opinions more openly.

    • Flynn’s lobbying subject of probe

      Michael Flynn’s failure to disclose to the Justice Department his lobbying on behalf of a Turkish businessman may carry legal consequences for the former national security advisor.

      NBC News reported this week that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team is investigating Flynn for failing to register as a foreign agent in connection with a lucrative lobbying contract with Inovo BV, a Netherlands-based consulting firm owned by a Turkish national.

      In August 2016, Flynn’s firm, Flynn Intel Group, entered into a contract with Inovo but did not notify DOJ of the agreement until March 2017. Flynn received $530,000 for the work.

    • Democracy is dead: long live democracy!

      So social media platforms have transformed the costs and benefits of every kind of political participation. But the key difference that social media have brought to the democratic landscape is the raft of new activities which are characterized by being really small, extending below the bottom rung of the ladder of participation, which stretches from small acts such as signing a petition, through voting, to attending a political meeting, and donating money to a political cause, right up to political violence or armed struggle. Following, liking, tweeting, retweeting, sharing text or images relating to a political issue or signing up to a digital campaign are tiny acts of political participation that have no equivalent in the pre-social media age (there is no precedent, for example, for reading President Trump’s tweets).

    • Why Science Says You Should Be Reading Small Independent Media

      The five-year-long study published this week in Science, directed by Harvard professor Gary King and supported in part by Voqal, shows that even small independent news outlets can have a dramatic effect on the content of national conversation. King, along with his now former graduate students Ben Schneer and Ariel White, found that if just three outlets write about a particular major national policy topic—such as jobs, the environment, or immigration—discussion of that topic across social media rose by as much as 62.7 percent of a day’s volume, distributed over the week.

      Over 60 percent of the participating outlets were members of the Media Consortium, the organization I direct. The Media Consortium outlets that had the highest participation rates in the Science study, in order: Truthout, In These Times, Bitch Media, The Progressive, Earth Island Journal, Feministing, Generation Progress, Ms. Magazine, and YES! Magazine. The median outlet size was The Progressive, with about 50,000 subscribers.

      Individually, none of them is a New York Times or CNN. In fact, too often, philanthropic foundations refuse to support these outlets because they are “too small” and “don’t have enough impact.” What this Science study proves is that when independent news outlets work together to co-publish stories on the same topic in the same week, they can have a mighty effect.

    • One Year Later: The Political Cancer Metastasizes

      Exactly one day short of one year after the election of Donald Trump, the fog finally seemed to lift and the skies brightened. On Tuesday, voters rejected Trumpism in New Jersey and in Virginia, where establishment Republican Ed Gillespie embraced Trump’s racism and nativism, indicating how deeply the president’s poison has penetrated even the precincts of the party that should be vigorously in opposition to it.

      In Maine, voters approved an expansion of Medicaid that their right-wing governor had rejected several times. In Washington state, Democrats won the upper house of the legislature. Meanwhile, GOP members of Congress are deserting the ship, one by one. As Steve Bannon marshals his “alt-right” forces to defeat mainstream Republicans, his primary candidates may be so far off the political spectrum next year that they could derail the Republicans’ Senate hopes. Across the board, Democratic prospects in 2018 look promising, if the Democrats don’t manage to screw things up, which is a very big if.

    • One Year Later: 10 Lessons Learned From the Trump Presidency

      Many of his adherent refuse to believe the negative reports on Trump’s behavior; they dismiss it as “fake news.” Others are focussed on a particular issue and, as long as Trump supports that issue, they stand with him. Based upon the results of the recent Pew Research poll of political typology, Trump’s supporters are those who share one or more of these opinions: Washington politics are fatally flawed and need to be “blown up;” Taxes are too high; Immigrants burden the U.S.; and Washington has taken away “religious liberty.”

    • Democrats, Republicans and Business as Usual

      Hot on the heels of Donna Brazile’s ‘shocking’ new book Hacks, that alleges that the Democratic Party, which is anything but, cooked the books in Hillary Clinton’s favor, come the 2017 elections in various states, including Virginia and New Jersey. Democrats won the State House in both those states, and the wide-eyed pundits who direct what we should think and who we should care about have now proclaimed that the Democrats are on a roll, with control of the House and Senate all but a sure thing in the next elections.

      This writer must pose a question: Who cares? The two parties have been slowly merging for decades, and at this point there are only minor, cosmetic differences between them. Oh, he can concede that there will less bad (‘better’ might be over-stating the case) Supreme Court nominees, and that certainly can’t be discounted. But wars will continue; lobbyists will write legislation that their bought-and-paid-for Congress members will introduce and vote for, the rich will continue to get richer, the poor, poorer, and the middle class will continue to shrink. Please do not think that its numbers are diminishing because some of them are working their way up the ladder of financial success; no they are tumbling into poverty due to high medical bills, college debt, and lack of decent employment.

    • Is Fox News Ditching Roy Moore?

      “You ended his candidacy,” declared Geraldo Rivera, citing Moore’s inability to unequivocally say that he had never dated teenage girls when he was in his 20s and 30s, after he’d left the U.S. Army and turned to law. “I would urge Republicans to postpone the special election,” Rivera said.

      Gregg Jarrett, a Fox News legal analyst, was no more kind. “I found his answers to be unconvincing and implausible, his entire story to be, in a word, unbelievable. Which means he’s lying.” Moore has called the allegations against him “fake news,” suggesting that The Washington Post was motivated by a political agenda.

      Jarrett said Moore “should step aside.” A few congressional Republicans have made similar calls, but Moore has vowed to stay in the race. He will have to continue without funding from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which will no longer support his candidacy.

      The exchange was remarkable because it took place on Fox News, President Trump’s favorite source of insight and information. And no host or anchor on the network is closer to Trump than Hannity. The two men reportedly speak nightly.

    • Bob Davis: In defense of journalism

      We get lots of questions about how The Star operates, particularly when it comes to covering politics.

      The Star is far from perfect, but its writers and editors think long and hard about how we do our jobs. Are we being fair? Is our reporting being put in its proper context? Do the subjects of our stories have an opportunity to give their side of the story? Are there inviting entry points for readers who wish to critique our work?

      Thus, questions about how we do what we do are irresistible.

      We think about these topics a lot, and your faithful correspondent is more than happy to entertain questions.

    • Trump and Tragedy: From Las Vegas to New York City to Sutherland Springs

      The first attack took place in early October in Las Vegas, Nevada. Six hours after the attack, DJT sent his condolences to “the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting” and described the act, committed by an American citizen, as an “act of pure evil.” In describing the shooter, DJT said the shooter was “a sick demented man” whose “wires are screwed up.” Since the attacker used a variety of firearms, DJT was presented with an opportunity to discuss the role firearms play in the United States where more than 30 people a day are killed by guns. When asked about that, he said that the U.S. would “be talking about gun laws as time goes by.” He did, however, somewhat inexplicably, say of the event: “What happened is, in many ways, a miracle. The police department, they’ve done such an incredible job. And we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes on….” He was less reserved in addressing the attack four weeks later in New York City. Unlike his response to Las Vegas, he saw no reason to wait with taking action with respect to the massacre as “time goes on.” He acted immediately.

    • #BanTrump: On Both Sides of Pacific, Protests Over Trump’s Visit to Philippines

      Accusing President Donald Trump of representing “the worst aspects of U.S. imperialism,” hundreds of Filipinos protested in Manila on Friday ahead of his visit.

      Protesters carried signs emblazoned with #BanTrump and chanting, “Trump, not welcome!” and “Fight U.S. imperialist war!”

      The U.S. currently has 180 military bases in the Philippines, and the coalition of left-wing groups gathered to express concerns that Trump administration could establish more there.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Amos Yee banned from Facebook

      It has been finally revealed that Facebook account of Amos Yee, the controversial 18-year-old Singaporean blogger, has been banned from the social networking site for 30 days. Amos Yee himself revealed this news through a video uploaded on his YouTube channel.

    • Amos Yee is banned from Facebook

      “Lol, I didn’t know saying someone ‘sucked government cock’ was considered ‘harassment’.

      “I highly suspect this is the result of a mass-flagging campaign done by the Singapore Government’s well paid internet brigade.

    • Amos Yee set to give first ever public talk at Harvard

      Singaporean teenager Amos Yee will be giving his first ever public talk at the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts next week.

      Entitled ‘Jailed for Dissent: An Open Conversation with Amos Yee’ the event is to be held on Monday, 13 Nov. It will be free and open to the public.

      The talk is organised by the Harvard College Open Campus Initiative, which seeks to “encourage a diverse discourse on Harvard’s campus, and to push back against ideological forces in academia, and in society more broadly, that hinder open discussion and freedom of speech.”

    • Harvard cancels Amos Yee’s lecture

      An event that was scheduled to take place on Monday 13th of November has been cancelled by the organisers and no reason has been given. The event was entitled “Jailed for Dissent,” and his claim to fame was to upload a rather distasteful video during the mourning period of late Lee Kuan Yew.

      Singapore’s Ambassador-at-large, Mr Bilahari Kausikan once said that “Nobody outside Singapore cares about “obscure” Yee.” Kausikan was proven wrong when Harvard invited Yee. On second thoughts, perhaps not!

    • Letter to the editor: Columnist’s examples of censorship are misplaced

      Irwin Kraus’s recent column (“The age of reason is out to lunch,” The Sun Chronicle, Nov. 2) mistakenly includes the removal of statues and the renaming of buildings as examples of intolerance and censorship. They are not.

      They are laudable reappraisals of what persons, values, ideas and events we wish to honor and affirm publicly and officially.

      The purpose of removing a statue to a museum (or qualifying its presence with additional information) or of renaming a building is not to rewrite or deny history, to change the past, or to prevent people from affirming, discussing, or propagating the ideas and values represented by the memorial.

    • A tale of two publishers: Is censorship the new normal?

      On August 18th of this year, news broke that Cambridge University Press was censoring over 300 articles from China Quarterly on its Chinese website. The deletions were requested by Beijing, based on indiscriminate keyword searches like “Tibet,” “Tiananmen,” and “Taiwan.”

      Media attention rapidly focused in on this censorship, academics penned open letters, and outrage spread quickly, engulfing Facebook, Twitter, and academic mailing lists with calls to boycott Cambridge University Press. Then, on August 21st, as these calls reached a crescendo three very long days later, Cambridge suddenly announced that it was reversing its decision, and would no longer comply with Beijing’s censorship requests.

    • Cambridge University accused of censorship for threatening to cancel BDS event

      The university sought to remove Professor Ruba Salih from her position as chair of the event. Salih, who is a lecturer in the School of African and Oriental Studies, is Palestinian; the university, in calling for her replacement, cited a need for ”open, robust and lawful debate,” suggesting Salih would not be able to facilitate such a dialogue due to her background.

    • New (and Not So New) Trends in China’s Online Censorship

      Scholars who study Internet politics in China have long recognized two important features of the state censorship system. First, it is highly comprehensive and sophisticated. Internet censorship in China builds not only on the state’s tight control over the network infrastructure, the legal and policy systems, as well as institutions and citizens that enable and engage in online expression, but also the state’s administrative and technological capabilities to filter, surveil, and remove online content.

      Second, state censorship in China has evolved over time and is still evolving. Studies show that the Chinese state has gone through a policy learning process. Before 1999, the state focused more on the network security. From 1999 to 2003, the state started to emphasize content control and set up institutional, organizational, technological, and policy foundations for the censorship system that we see today. Since 2004, the state has enriched, refined, and deepened its control over the Internet by fine-tuning control techniques, adjusting policies and regulations to new Internet services, implementing content control more assertively, as well as enhancing division of labor and coordination among state agencies.

    • Access to YouTube channels of news portals blocked on varsity WiFi, say JNU students
    • JNU students protest after administration censors internet
    • JNU Censors WiFi for 24 Hours Barring Access To News Portals
    • JNU students allege censorship by university
  • Privacy/Surveillance

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Mob sets upon Hindu village in Rangpur over rumoured Facebook post

      Before the police intervened, the aggressors had set fire to at least 30 Hindu houses of the village. They also looted and vandalised a good number of houses in that village, according to local sources.

      A rumour shaped and vented the anger of the Muslims in the neighbouring villages against the Hindu community.

    • After fatwa, mob now ransacks house of Muslim yoga teacher from Jharkhand

      She alleged that extremists threatened her on Facebook and later called on her mobile phone. They even pelted stones at her residence. In view of the situation, the police have deployed bodyguards for the yoga teacher.

    • UK woman held in Iran jail ‘angry and in tears’ at Boris Johnson remarks

      Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was brought to tears of shock and anger by Boris Johnson’s inaccurate comments about the reasons for her visit to Tehran and the Iranian authorities’ use of them to justify her imprisonment, her husband said on Sunday.

      In a description of a phone call with his wife, Richard Ratcliffe said that lumps had been found in her breasts that required an ultrasound scan, that her state of mind had deteriorated, and that she was now “on the verge of a nervous breakdown”. He said that she felt violated by the lies the Iranian establishment had told about her activities, but also hit out at Johnson for attempting to avoid addressing the issue. “She expressed anger at the Guards, but also at the foreign secretary, that it had become such a shambles,” Ratcliffe said.

      He added that seeing Johnson’s performance at the foreign affairs select committee, in which he inaccurately said that she was in Tehran to train journalists, had left Zaghari-Ratcliffe “angry at the original comments, angry at the footage of avoiding the question”.

    • ‘Freedom for the Political Prisoners’: Hundreds of Thousands March in Barcelona

      An estimated 750,000 people marched in Barcelona on Saturday to demand that the Spanish government release Catalan separatist leaders who are being held in prison for their roles in the region’s recent independence referendum.

    • So What the Hell Is Doxxing?

      Today, each of the cases could easily be termed a form of doxxing — short for “dropping documents.” In the last few years, doxxing has increasingly been used as an online weapon to attack people. People’s “documents” — records of their addresses, relatives, finances — get posted online with the implicit or explicit invitation for others to shame or hector them.

      But while doxxing may seem both creepy and dangerous, there is no single federal law against the practice. Such behavior has to be part of a wider campaign of harassment or stalking for it to be against the law.

    • Top 5 reasons Roy Moore could still Win, despite Sex Scandals

      Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for senate in Alabama, was rocked by scandal this week, as a woman accused him of initiating sexual contact with her when she was only 14.

      Moore was twice removed as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to follow the constitution, and he has pulled stunts such as showing a six-shooter at one of his rallies.

      The new charges will unseat him, right?

    • Breitbart Goes to Bat for Roy Moore Amid Sex Scandal w/ Teenage Girl

      Minutes before the Washington Post on Thursday published a bombshell report detailing allegations by a woman who claims Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 14, the Steve Bannon-directed outlet Breitbart News ran a story that spotlighted Moore’s denials of the claims against him and attempted to “undermine the Post‘s credibility.”

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • Twitter Sued Over Slow Response to DMCA Takedown Request

        Photographer Kristen Pierson Reilly has filed a lawsuit against Twitter, claiming that the social network failed to promptly remove a copyright-infringing photo. In a complaint filed in a federal court in California, Pierson demands compensation for the damage she suffered, stating that Twitter took 90 days to remove the image.

      • Sci-Hub Won’t Be Blocked by US ISPs Anytime Soon

        A few days ago a US federal court issued a broad injunction against Sci-Hub, ordering the site’s operator to pay millions in damages. On top of that, the court issued a broad injunction granting search engine and ISP blockades under certain conditions. While the order sets a precedent, Google and Comcast won’t be asked to take action anytime soon.

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