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12.01.17

Links 1/12/2017: Qt 3D Studio 1.0, KDE’s Goals for 2018 and Beyond, Alpine Linux 3.7

Posted in News Roundup at 5:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • System76 will disable Intel Management engine on its Linux laptops

      System76 is one a handful of companies that sells computers that run Linux software out of the box. But like most PCs that have shipped with Intel’s Core processors in the past few years, System76 laptops include Intel’s Management Engine firmware.

      Intel recently confirmed a major security vulnerability affecting those chips and it’s working with PC makers to patch that vulnerability.

      But System76 is taking another approach: it’s going to roll out a firmware update for its recent laptops that disables the Intel Management Engine altogether.

    • System76 Will Begin Disabling Intel ME In Their Linux Laptops

      Following the recent Intel Management Engine (ME) vulnerabilities combined with some engineering work the past few months on their end, System76 will begin disabling ME on their laptops.

    • Linux hardware vendor outlines Intel Management Engine firmware plan

      The Linux-equipped computer maker, System76, has detailed plans to update the Intel Management Engine (ME) firmware on its computers in line with Intel’s November 20th vulnerability announcement. In July, System76 began work on a project to automatically deliver firmware to System76 laptops which works in a similar fashion to how software is usually delivered through the operating system.

    • System76 to disable Intel Management Engine on its notebooks

      Intel has recently confirmed the earlier findings of third parties who revealed that its Management Engine firmware has some serious security issues. Since we talked about this recently, we should now move to System76′s approach in handling this situation.

  • Server

    • Docker for Data Science

      Docker is a tool that simplifies the installation process for software engineers. Coming from a statistics background I used to care very little about how to install software and would occasionally spend a few days trying to resolve system configuration issues. Enter the god-send Docker almighty.

      Think of Docker as a light virtual machine (I apologise to the Docker gurus for using that term). Generally someone writes a *Dockerfile* that builds a *Docker Image* which contains most of the tools and libraries that you need for a project. You can use this as a base and add any other dependencies that are required for your project. Its underlying philosophy is that if it works on my machine it will work on yours.

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux 4.14.3
    • Linux 4.9.66
    • Linux 4.4.103
    • Linux 3.18.85
    • Four new stable kernels

      Greg Kroah-Hartman has announced the release of the 4.14.3, 4.9.66, 4.4.103, and 3.18.85 stable kernels. As usual, they contain fixes throughout the tree; users of those series should upgrade.

    • A Closed-Source Apple File-System APFS Driver For Linux Announced

      With macOS High Sierra finally ditching the HFS+ file-system and switching all macOS users over to Apple’s new file-system, APFS, you may find the need to read a APFS file-system from another non-macOS device. Now it’s possible with an APFS Linux file-system driver, but it’s closed-source and doesn’t yet have write capabilities.

      Paragon Software who has also developed a commercial Microsoft ReFS Linux file-system driver as well as an EXT4 driver for Windows has now developed an Apple File-System (APFS) driver for Linux systems.

    • Linux Foundation

      • What OPNFV Makes Possible in Open Source

        OPNFV provides both tangible and intangible benefits to end users. Tangible benefits include those that directly impact business metrics, whereas the intangibles include benefits that speed up the overall NFV transformation journey but are harder to measure. The nature of the OPNFV project, where it primarily focuses on integration and testing of upstream projects and adds carrier-grade features to these upstream projects, can make it difficult to understand these benefits.

        To understand this more clearly, let’s go back to the era before OPNFV. Open source projects do not, as a matter of routine, perform integration and testing with other open source projects. So, the burden of taking multiple disparate projects and making the stack work for NFV primarily fell on Communications Service Providers (CSPs), although in some cases vendors shouldered part of the burden. For CSPs or vendors to do the same integration and testing didn’t make sense.

      • The Evolving Developer Advocate Role — A Conversation with Google’s Kim Bannerman

        At this year’s Cloud Foundry Summit Europe, the story was about developers as the heroes. They’re the ones who make the platforms. They are akin to the engineers who played such a pivotal role in designing the railroads, or in modern times made the smartphone possible. This means a more important role for developer advocates who, at organizations such as Google, are spending a lot more time with customers. These are the subject matter experts helping developers build out their platforms. They are gathering data to develop feedback loops that flow back into open source communities for ongoing development.

    • Graphics Stack

      • NVIDIA Confirms Linux Driver Performance Regression, To Be Fixed In 390 Series

        If you think recent NVIDIA Linux driver releases have been slowing down your games, you are not alone, especially if you are running with a GeForce graphics card having a more conservative vRAM capacity by today’s standards.

        Long time ago Nouveau contributor turned NVIDIA Linux engineer Arthur Huillet confirmed there is a bug in their memory management introduced since their 378 driver series that is still present in the latest 387 releases.

      • NVIDIA has confirmed a driver bug resulting in a loss of performance on Linux

        It seems there’s a performance bug in recent NVIDIA drivers that has been causing a loss of performance across likely all GPUs. Not only that, but it seems to end up using more VRAM than previous drivers too.

        User HeavyHDx started a thread on the official NVIDIA forum, to describe quite a big drop in performance since the 375 driver series. So all driver updates since then would have been affected by this.

      • NVIDIA’s New Memory Allocator Project To Be Standalone, Undecided On Name

        Following NVIDIA’s call for feedback on their effort to create a new device memory allocator API that would be of equal use to the upstream open-source drivers and potentially replace (or indirectly used by) the Wayland compositors in place of the existing GBM API and NVIDIA’s failed EGLStreams Wayland push, their next steps continue to be formulated.

      • NVIDIA’s Current Linux Driver Is Hungry For vRAM This Holiday

        With a NVIDIA Linux developer having confirmed a current driver performance regression affecting driver releases since the 378 series and not being worked around until the yet-to-be-released 390.xx beta driver, I decided to carry out some tests.

      • Nvidia Driver Problems: Bug Causes Performance Loss For Linux Users

        Graphics card maker Nvidia confirmed what gamers have suspected for some time: the company’s products experience a significant loss in performance on Linux operating systems, and Nvidia drivers appear to be the culprit.

      • AMD Announces The Radeon Software Adrenalin Driver

        AMD’s embargo has just expired over the name of their new driver.

        This shouldn’t come as a big surprise, but AMD has been pushing out big annual updates to their “Radeon Software” graphics driver the past few years. In December they will be shipping the successor to Radeon Software Crimson ReLive Edition.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Qt 3D Studio 1.0 Released

        We are happy to announce that Qt 3D Studio 1.0 has now been released. Qt 3D Studio provides a 3D user interface authoring system that caters for both software developers and graphic designers.

      • Qt 3D Studio 1.0 Released, Powered By NVIDIA’s Open-Source Code

        The Qt Company is today shipping Qt 3D Studio, its new 3D user-interface authoring system for both developers and designers.

        Qt 3D Studio 1.0 has a Studio Editor for creating interactive 3D presentations and applications, the Qt 3D Studio Viewer for testing new 3D designs in action, and is supported across Windows / macOS / Linux.

        Of course, this new 3D Studio is powered by the Qt5 tool-kit. This new software package is made possible and based upon NVIDIA’s huge code contribution to Qt earlier this year of opening the NVIDIA DRIVE Design Studio that became the basis for Qt 3D Studio.

      • KDE’s Goals for 2018 and Beyond
      • KDE’s Goals for 2018 and Beyond

        The KDE community has spoken and it has chosen the proposals which will define the general direction of the KDE project over the next three or four years.

        How does the KDE community decide where it wants to take the project? Well, every once in a while, we hold a Request for Proposals, if you will. All members of the community are encouraged to submit their grand ideas which will lay out long-term targets. Proposals are voted on democratically, again, by the community. This ensures it is truly the community that guides the KDE project to wherever the community wants it to go.

      • Last Weeks Activity in Elisa

        Elisa project has now an official mailing list hosted by kde (Elisa mailing list). Alexander Stippich is now a regular KDE developer and we felt a list was good to coordinate work on Elisa. I am also very happy, to nine years after I joined KDE, to have the honor to recommend somebody. I still remember how excited I was at that time.

        Following blog post from Kevin Funk on binary-factory service (KDE binary factory), Elisa windows installers are regularly built. Thanks a lot to the KDE windows contributors. They do a lot of work to help projects like mine.
        2017-11-30 14_28_43-

  • Distributions

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Announcing FreeRTOS Kernel Version 10

    The number of connected IoT devices worldwide is in the billions and growing rapidly. Many of these edge devices – from fitness trackers to sensors to washing machines to automotive transmissions – use low-cost, low-powered microcontrollers with extremely limited memory and compute capability. For some IoT use cases, very predictable response times can also be critical (think: automotive). A standard operating system won’t work here: you need a real-time operating system (RTOS) that works in very constrained systems.

  • Release notes for the Genode OS Framework 17.11

    In contrast to most releases, which are focused on one or two major themes, the development during the release cycle of version 17.11 was almost entirely driven by the practical use of Genode as a day-to-day OS by the entire staff of Genode Labs. The basis of this endeavor is an evolving general-purpose system scenario – dubbed “sculpt” – that is planned as an official feature for the next release 18.02. The name “sculpt” hints at the approach to start with a minimalistic generic live system that can be interactively shaped into a desktop scenario by the user without any reboot. This is made possible by combining Genode’s unique dynamic reconfiguration concept with the recently introduced package management, our custom GUI stack, and the many ready-to-use device-driver components that we developed over the past years.

  • Genode OS 17.11 Reworks Its “Nitpicker” GUI Server

    Genode is the open-source operating system framework designed for “highly secure” special-purpose operating systems from embedded platforms to desktops while subscribing to a Unix philosophy and going for an L4 micro-kernel approach. The Genode OS 17.11 represents another quarter’s worth of changes.

    A lot of the work represented by Genode OS 17.11 is on beating the operating system platform into shape to be a day-to-day OS. Among the changes to find is its GUI stack being reworked, scroll-wheel emulation and pointer acceleration finally, other input handling improvements, all x86 micro-kernels now using the GRUB2 boot-loader, Nim programming language usage, and more.

  • How Open Source Will Enable Smart Cities

    Go back a hundred years and services like electricity and running water — let alone phones — would have all been considered luxuries. Now, we see these services as critical infrastructure that could cause a serious threat to life and societal order if they were to break down.

    As the Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming a bigger part of our world, creating a marriage of software and hardware that ranges from the exceedingly useful to the overly creepy, it is also finding its way into many of the utilities that we depend on for modern living.

    What we define as infrastructure is being rapidly altered by the growth of IoT and the move towards smart cities. We depend on traffic lights, security cameras and garbage removal to keep our cities livable, and we would quickly take notice if these services faltered.

    As these devices and systems start to get brains, they become vulnerable to attacks like Mirai or the one that targeted the Ukrainian power grid. There is the added challenge of how to protect smart infrastructure, recognizing that it has major differences from the way that we defend power plants.

    Historically, critical infrastructure projects have been tougher targets for hackers as their operational technologies (OT) relied on legacy systems that were not widely connected to the internet. As cases such as Stuxnet and more recent cyberattacks on electrical power systems have shown, these systems are vulnerable to external hackers, despite their supposedly high level of security and regulation.

  • Giving the gift of a pull request to an open source project in need

    On December 1st, 24 Pull Requests will be opening its virtual doors once again, asking you to give the gift of a pull request to an open source project in need. Six years ago, inspired by 24 Ways (an advent calendar for web geeks), I decided an advent calendar was a great way to motivate people to contribute to projects. Last year more than 16,000 pull requests were made by nearly 3,000 contributors through the site. And they’re not all by programmers.

    Often the contribution with the most impact might be an improvement to technical documentation, some tests, or even better—guidance for other contributors. The 24 Pull Requests website, for example, started off as a single html page and has received almost 900 pull requests over the years to turn it into the site it is today.

  • NCSA SPIN Intern Daniel Johnson Develops Open Source HPC Python Package

    At the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), undergraduate SPIN (Students Pushing INnovation) intern Daniel Johnson joined NCSA’s Gravity Group to study Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity, specifically numerical relativity. Daniel has used the open source, numerical relativity software, the Einstein Toolkit on the Blue Waters supercomputer to numerically solve Einstein’s general relativity equations to study the collision of black holes, and the emission of gravitational waves from these astrophysical events. During his SPIN internship, Daniel developed an open source, Python package to streamline these numerical analyses in high performance computing (HPC) environments.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Mozilla releases dataset and model to lower voice-recognition barriers

        Mozilla has released its Common Voice collection, which contains almost 400,000 recordings from 20,000 people, and is claimed to be the second-largest voice dataset publicly available.

        The voice samples in the collection were obtained from Mozilla’s Common Voice project, which allowed users via an iOS app or website to donate their utterances. It is hoped that creating a large public dataset will allow for better voice-enabled applications.

      • Mozilla’s open source voice recognition tool nears human-like accuracy

        Mozilla has released an open source voice recognition tool that it says is “close to human level performance,” and free for developers to plug into their projects.

        The free-software company also on Wednesday released a first set of crowdsourced recordings under its Common Voice project, designed to let anyone train and test machine learning algorithms to recognize speech. The dataset includes almost 400,000 downloadable samples, adding up to 500 hours of speech. More than 20,000 people from around the world have contributed to a call for recordings, which Mozilla hopes will help future voice-powered systems fluently understand a wide variety of accents and types of speech. “We at Mozilla believe technology should be open and accessible to all, and that includes voice,” Mozilla chief executive Sean White wrote in a blog post.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Huge tech leaders come together for open source licensing initiative

      Red Hat, Facebook, Google and IBM have announced efforts to promote additional predictability in open source licensing, by committing to extend additional rights to cure open source license compliance errors and mistakes.

      Red Hat says the move reflects a commitment to providing a fair cure period to correct license compliance issues for GPLv2 software.

      Michael Cunningham, Red Hat executive vice president and general counsel says, “We believe in promoting greater fairness and predictability in license enforcement and the growth of participation in the open source community.

      “We encourage other GPLv2 copyright holders to follow our lead.”

    • Major Players Roll Up Sleeves to Solve Open Source Licensing Problems

      Four big tech players this week moved to improve their handling of open source software licensing violations.

      Red Hat, Google, Facebook and IBM said they would apply error standards in the most recent GNU General Public License agreement, GPLv3, to all of their open source licensing, even licenses granted under older GPL agreements.

      “There is no procedure in the older GPLs that allowed a licensee to correct his mistakes,” said Lawrence Rosen, an intellectual property attorney at Rosenlaw & Einschlag and former general counsel for the Open Source Initiative.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Managing the Global Commons: Open Source Tools to Support Sustainable Agriculture and Use of the World’s Land and Water Resources in the 21st Century

      Eight of the 17 SDGs are closely tied to food, land and water. Yet these natural resources are already under intense pressure from growing population and rising per capita incomes. Can the future demands for food, fuel, clean water, biodiversity, climate change mitigation and poverty reduction be reconciled? Are we counting on the same hectare of land to satisfy conflicting SDGs? What are the trade-offs of favoring one goal over others? Are there win-win scenarios under which attainment of one SDG will also benefit others? The sustainable development challenge is a particularly ‘wicked’ problem since sustainability is fundamentally a local concept, requiring fine-scale analysis, yet sustainability stresses are often driven by global forces. Furthermore, aggressive pursuit of the SDGs will itself have consequences for global markets.

    • Researchers release open-source dataset offering instructions to build smartphone microscope

      Add one more thing to the list of tasks your smartphone can perform. University of Houston researchers have released an open-source dataset offering instructions to people interested in building their own smartphone microscope.

      [...]

      The work was partially funded with a $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation’s citizen science initiative, which encourages scientists to find ways to expand knowledge of and access to research.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Mathieu Stephan : The Making of a Secure Open Source Hardware Password Keeper

        Mathieu Stephan is an open source hardware developer, a Tindie seller who always has inventory, a former Hackaday writer, and an awesome all-around guy. One of his biggest projects for the last few years has been the Mooltipass, an offline password keeper built around smart cards and a USB interface. It’s the solution to Post-It notes stuck to your monitor and using the same password for all your accounts around the Internet.

        The Mooltipass is an extremely successful product, and last year Mathieu launched the Mooltipass Mini. No, it doesn’t have the sweet illuminated touch-sensitive buttons, but it is a bit cheaper than its big brother and a bit more resistant to physical attacks — something you want in a device that keeps all your passwords secure.

  • Programming/Development

    • Kotlin 1.2 Released: Sharing Code between Platforms

      Today we’re releasing Kotlin 1.2. This is a major new release and a big step on our road towards enabling the use of Kotlin across all components of a modern application.

      In Kotlin 1.1, we officially released the JavaScript target, allowing you to compile Kotlin code to JS and to run it in your browser. In Kotlin 1.2, we’re adding the possibility to reuse code between the JVM and JavaScript. Now you can write the business logic of your application once, and reuse it across all tiers of your application – the backend, the browser frontend and the Android mobile app. We’re also working on libraries to help you reuse more of the code, such as a cross-platform serialization library.

    • PHP 7.2 And Kotlin 1.2 Programming Languages Released

      Kotlin 1.2 Moving to Kotlin–the latest programming language to get official Android support. JetBrains announced Kotlin 1.2 and called it a major release which will let the devs reuse code between JVM and JS.

    • Rcpp now used by 1250 CRAN packages

Leftovers

  • Microsoft is killing off its Office Viewer apps next Spring

    The services, which allow users to read Excel and Powerpoint documents without buying the Office suite, were last updated for the 2007 edition, but are still available now from the Microsoft website.

  • Science

    • Researchers find oddities in high-profile gender studies

      Psychologist Nicolas Guéguen publishes studies that create irresistible headlines. His research investigating the effects of wearing high heels made it into Time: “Science Proves It: Men Really Do Find High Heels Sexier.” The Atlantic has cited his finding that men consider women wearing red to be more attractive. Even The New York Times has covered his work.

      Guéguen’s large body of research is the kind of social psychology that demonstrates, and likely fuels, the Mars vs. Venus model of gender interactions. But it seems that at least some of his conclusions are resting on shaky ground. Since 2015, a pair of scientists, James Heathers and Nick Brown, has been looking closely at the results in Guéguen’s work. What they’ve found raises a litany of questions about statistical and ethical problems. In some cases, the data is too perfectly regular or full of oddities, making it difficult to understand how it could have been generated by the experiment described by Guéguen.

    • This week’s failed Russian rocket had a pretty bad programming error

      On Tuesday morning, a Russian rocket failed to properly deploy the 19 satellites it was carrying into orbit. Instead of boosting its payload, the Soyuz 2.1b rocket’s Fregat upper stage fired in the wrong direction, sending the statellites on a suborbital trajectory instead, burning them up in Earth’s atmosphere.

    • Prehistoric women worked so much their arms were stronger than today’s female rowers

      If you’re a hard-working lady, you probably already suspected what scientists have confirmed today: prehistoric women worked their butts off.

      The bones of 94 women who lived in farming communities in Central Europe from 5300 BCE to around 850 AD reveal that prehistoric women had stronger arms than living women, including semi-elite female rowers. That’s likely because these farming women from the past worked incredibly hard — tilling soil, harvesting, and grinding grain by hand. And they probably started at a very young age, according to a study published today in Science Advances.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Transgenerational Trauma Passed Down from WWII Evacuees

      The daughters of Finnish women separated from their parents as children during World War II have higher rates of psychiatric hospitalization than those born to women who had not been evacuated.

    • WTO General Council Agrees To 2-Year Extension For TRIPS Health Amendment Acceptance

      The World Trade Organization General Council today agreed to a two-year extension for countries to adopt an amendment to the agency’s intellectual property agreement intended to help small economies get affordable medical products. But a decision on non-violation complaints will be left to the December WTO ministerial in Buenos Aires.

    • EU-MERCOSUR FTA Puts At Risk Access To Medicines In Brazil, New Impact Assessment Study Finds

      The European Union (EU) is currently negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) with the four founding members of Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay), which comprises a chapter on intellectual property rights (IPR). A new round of negotiations is taking place from November 29th to December 8th in Brussels[1]. Word is that they aim to announce the closure of the agreement at the next World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference that will be held from 10-13 of December in Buenos Aires and the clock is ticking to close all the chapters before that. As usual, the negotiations are taking place in secrecy, but the EU released a draft proposal of the IPR chapter in September last year, which has provided the general public some knowledge about what is been negotiated.

    • Trump’s $100K Salary Donation to Opioid Crisis Denounced As ‘Meaningless Gesture’

      At a White House press briefing on Thursday, officials praised President Donald Trump’s “extreme generosity” as they announced that he would be donating his third-quarter salary to help combat the opioid crisis—but critics raised questions about the gesture amid the scope of the epidemic as well as the president’s agenda which has shown little concern for generosity towards Americans who are most in need.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • What’s Wrong with Talking to North Korea?

      Anyone who says talk is cheap hasn’t tried getting President Trump to talk with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong Un. Not even the specter of a war that could kill millions of people on the Korean peninsula, Japan and now even the continental United States seems sufficient to push the two leaders into negotiations. Both sides insist on unacceptable preconditions before they will even consider holding formal talks to reach a peaceful settlement.

    • Reporting Recipe: Bombs in Your Backyard

      For the past year, ProPublica has been documenting the state of toxic pollution left behind by the military across the U.S. As part of this investigation, we acquired a dataset of all facilities that the Department of Defense considers contaminated. Today we used the data to publish an interactive news application called Bombs in Your Backyard. Here’s how you can use it to find hazardous sites near you — and what, if anything, is being done to remedy the pollution.

      The data, which has never been released before, comes from the Defense Environmental Restoration Program, which the DOD administers to measure and document cleanup efforts at current and former military locations.

      There are a lot of great local investigative stories waiting to be done with the data. This reporting recipe is meant to help you find and report ones near you.

    • The Trump wars era

      A recent, low-profile Pentagon document gives a hint of the US’s current projection of military power:

      “The U.S. has 8,892 forces in Iraq, 15,298 troops in Afghanistan and 1,720 in Syria, for a total of 25,910 troops serving in the three war zones as of Sept. 30, according to DoD. The figures were released to the public Nov. 17 as part of DoD’s quarterly count of active duty, Reserve, Guard and civilian personnel assigned by country by the Defense Manpower Data Center” (see Tara Copp, “26,000 troops total..”, Military Times, 27 November 2017).

      The total figure alone is much higher than previous numbers. But by itself it is misleading in that the United States defense department normally excludes two further categories of troops: those rotating for short periods and, of far greater significance, many of the special forces. These are waging much of the combat in all three theatres – Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. That means the true number is probably close to, or even over, 30,000. To this could be added troops involved in operations across the Sahel, Somalia or Yemen.

    • North Korea Tests Its Third ICBM: What’s Next?

      After 74 days of silence, North Korea test-fired its third and most successful intercontinental ballistic missile to date on Tuesday night, triggering another frenzied response from the US media and the usual bluster from Washington hawks pining for another pre-emptive war.

      Initially, the North’s explanation that its test marked the final completion of its plan to become a “rocket power” and a “full-fledged nuclear force,” combined with the subdued reaction from President Trump (“we will take care of it”), seemed to suggest that something may be afoot on the diplomatic front.

      “There is a considerable likelihood that North Korea will propose dialogue with the US while promising to do its duty in the international community as a nuclear power,” Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University, told the liberal Hankyoreh in Seoul. He predicted a shift in Pyongyang “toward a peace offensive.”

    • Guns tend to empower white, financially unstable men—who oppose gun control

      In the wake of a mass shooting or fresh data on gun violence, pundits and the media often blame the US’ high rate of gun ownership and deaths on a deeply rooted “gun culture.” For many—particularly advertisers—this culture conjures ideas of morally strong, empowered, self-reliant, American patriots bearing arms. And it grazes notions of masculine heroes, protectors, and providers.

      But it’s difficult to define a single culture behind gun ownership and the opposition to gun control legislation that sometimes accompanies that. More importantly, blaming something as vague as “culture” isn’t exactly helpful for identifying ways to reduce the US’ high death toll.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Maine Government Agency Tries To Charge Public Records Requester $750 For Opening A PDF

      We’ve seen lots of ridiculous amounts tossed around by government agencies in response to public records requests. Most of the ridiculous amounts we’ve covered give the appearance that the agency making the demand feels requesters are also spending other people’s money. Like a Texas agency demanding $1 million for prison sexual assault records or the FBI wanting $270,000 to hand over files on defense contractor Booz Allen.

      Other demands are smaller, but no less of a deterrent to government transparency. In one infamous example, the Massachusetts State Police erected a $180 paywall around documents related to the agency’s marijuana enforcement efforts. Once the agency had the money in hand, it turned around and asked the state supervisor of public records to declare the requested records exempt from release. That was back in July. The MSP still has yet to release the records the requester paid for.

  • Finance

    • Bitcoin breaks the $10,000 barrier for first time

      The currency has experienced a great deal of growth in the last few months. Just a few days ago, it reached the $9,000 mark, despite being worth less than $1,000 at the start of 2017.

    • Bitcoin Recovers From Sudden Selloff as Large Swings Persist

      The digital currency climbed as high as $10,787.99 in Asian trading hours Thursday, after touching a nadir of $9,009.15, according to prices compiled by Bloomberg. The 21 percent slump on Wednesday, triggered in part by intermittent outages at cryptocurrency exchanges, came just hours after bitcoin had soared to a record.

    • Bitcoin bubble balloons to $11,000 – and even Katy Perry’s on board now

      Bitcoin has surged to $11,000 just 12 hours after passing the symbolic $10,000 mark, making one unit of the digital currency worth more than £8,200.

    • Bitcoin price soars above $11,000 as central bankers seek to calm fears
    • Sammy Wilson warns Brexit talks may jeopardise DUP-Tory deal

      DUP MP Sammy Wilson has warned that his party’s deal to support the Conservative government could be jeopardised by the Brexit negotiations.

      He said any attempt to “placate Dublin and the EU” could mean a withdrawal of DUP support at Westminster.

      He was responding to a Times newspaper report about a possible Brexit deal.

      It would involve devolving powers to Northern Ireland to enable customs convergence with the EU/Irish Republic on areas like agriculture and energy.

    • Uber’s crisis deepens with record quarterly loss

      Uber has logged another quarter of record-breaking losses, losing $1.5 billion in the third quarter of 2017. For comparison, Uber lost $2.8 billion in all of 2016 and lost $1.1 billion in the second quarter of 2017.

      The worsening financial picture is not a surprise. Founder and ex-CEO Travis Kalanick resigned in June, leaving the company leaderless for much of the third quarter. Uber’s legal battle with Waymo has not been going well for Uber, and Uber is facing up to three federal investigations into the company’s practices.

      Uber’s money-losing business continues to grow, with gross bookings rising from $8.7 billion in the second quarter to $9.7 billion in the third quarter.

    • Don’t Say ‘Lowering Taxes’ When You Mean ‘Lowering Taxes for the Rich’

      The problem with this assertion is that the Republican plans actually raise taxes for close to half of middle-income families, as the New York Times has reported. Given the structure of this tax cut and prior Republican tax cuts, it would seem more accurate to say that cutting taxes for rich people is what makes a Republican a Republican.

    • The Best Way to Spur Growth? Help the Poor, Not the Rich

      To be sure, Mnuchin is gaffe-prone. He was last spotted on Nov. 15 happily gripping a big sheet of uncut dollar bills while his wife, actress Louise Linton, struck a Cruella de Vil pose beside him. As the journalist Michael Kinsley once said, a gaffe is when a politician tells the truth. And the truth is that Republicans have gone all in on the notion that if they pour tax cuts onto the very rich, the benefits will flow down to the mere rich, and from them to the middle class, and finally to the poor. Like a Champagne tower at a swanky wedding reception.

    • Millions of Households Face Tax Increase or No Tax Benefit Under Senate GOP Bill

      Millions of households would face tax increases or get little from the Senate tax bill – even before most of its individual income tax provisions would sunset in 2025, new Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimates released yesterday show. Nevertheless, in expressing his support for the bill today, Senator John McCain claimed that the Senate bill “would directly benefit all Americans.” The JCT figures show that’s not the case.

    • Astonishing 197 NatWest and 62 RBS branches to close – the full list of branches shutting and your options if yours goes

      A total of 62 RBS branches and 197 NatWest outlets will be closed by the middle of next year costing 680 jobs.

      RBS told Mirror Money it was writing to customers of affected branches to highlight the alternative ways to bank in their area.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Anti-Populism, Smug Centrism and the Defense of Elitism

      Both the leadership of the Democratic Party and the “moderate” wing of the Republican Party seem obsessed with challenging Trumpism by calling for a return to a mythical political “center” and by elevating “elitism” as an antidote to “populism.” This while the political “center” under Trump means scapegoating our nation’s problems to Muslims, Mexicans and liberals while prosecuting leftists for confrontations against a rising tide of neo-fascism.

      I am an absolutist on free speech issues, and don’t support violence by anyone at any political demonstrations, but centrist elitism is encouraging a wave of political repression against so-called “extremists” by the federal government under Trump. So far the targets are anti-fascist anarchists and political leftists.

    • The man who deactivated Trump’s Twitter account has revealed himself
    • Meet the man who deactivated Trump’s Twitter account

      In fact, it appeared that Trump’s account was essentially protected from being deactivated over Terms of Service violations. In June, Twitter explained why: Some tweets that seemingly violate its terms of service are nevertheless “newsworthy” and therefore in the public interest to keep up.

      One takeaway from Twitter’s exemption for newsworthy tweets is that news and information trump judgment calls on the relative toxicity of the content, which is probably apt in our age of toxicity dressed up as “news.”

    • Former Twitter Worker Who Shut Down Trump’s Account: ‘It Was Just Random’

      “I didn’t hack anyone. I didn’t do anything which I wasn’t authorized to do,” he said.

    • AT&T says it should be allowed to buy Time Warner because Comcast bought NBC

      AT&T is fighting back against the Trump administration’s attempt to block its proposed purchase of Time Warner Inc. One week after the Department of Justice (DOJ) sued to block the deal, AT&T filed its first answer to the lawsuit yesterday.

    • All Governments Lie: Truth, Deception and the Spirit of I.F. Stone

      FAIR has kept fundraising at bay with only occasional pleas for help this year. Now the bank account is low and showing serious signs of stress. So FAIR is now officially launching its year-end fundraising campaign with a much-needed $50,000 goal.

      It’s been a tough year of beating back supposed “news” that distracts from the concrete concerns in our lives. With healthcare and Social Security under attack, EPA rules purged, voting rights eliminated, these real news stories, and more, need telling. FAIR breaks it down in our newsletter Extra!, our online articles and our weekly radio show CounterSpin.

    • Dasvidaniya, Donna Brazile, the Dismal Dollar Democrat

      You can’t tell a book by its advance press. Take Donna Brazile’s new 2016 campaign memoir Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House (released three weeks ago).

      To say that Brazile brings an insiders’ view to the 2016 election is an understatement. She was named interim Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair to replace the noxious Clintonite hack Debbie Wasserman-Schultz as the Democratic Party held its national convention two summers ago. Brazile stayed in that position through the Electoral College triumph of Boss Tweet, which left her “depressed” but determined to” heal [the nation’s] partisan divide” and “fight for my country.”

    • The Collapse of Media and What You Can Do About It

      When a system enters into the final stage of its deterioration – whether that is an institutional system, a state, an empire, or the human body – all the important information flows that support coherent communication breakdown. In this final stage, if this situation is not corrected the system will collapse and die.

      It has become obvious to nearly everyone that we have reached this stage on the planet and in our democratic institutions. We see how the absolute dysfunction of the global information architecture — represented in the intersection of mainstream media outlets, social technology platforms and giant digital aggregators — is generating widespread apathy, despair, insanity and madness at a scale that is terrifying.

      And we are right to be terrified, because this situation is paralyzing us from taking the action required to solve global and local challenges. While liberals fight conservatives and conservatives fight liberals we lose precious time.

      While progressives fight government, the corporations and the super-rich we drown in despair. While philanthropists, fueled by their own certainty and wealth, fight for justice or equality or for some poor hamlet in Africa we become apathetic and distracted from the real source of the problem. And while the president fights everyone and everyone fights the president, the collective goes mad.

    • Google Accused of Pushing Think Tank to Squash Critic of Corporate Power

      Zephyr Teachout, an Open Markets fellow and critic of money in politics, wrote in response to reports of New America’s move: “Google has too much power.”

      The organization’s decision to push out Lynn and the entire Open Markets team was a result of Google’s realization “that anti-monopoly critics are gaining popular support and must be squashed,” Teachout concluded. “Time for a national anti-monopoly movement! Time to start enforcing antitrust again!”

      Others similarly argued that the New America story is part of a much broader problem of excessive corporate concentration and influence.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Kansas Doesn’t Even Try to Defend Its Israel Anti-Boycott Law

      The state’s response to the ACLU’s First Amendment challenge doesn’t mention the First Amendment once.

      Kansas officials are scheduled to appear in court tomorrow to defend a state law designed to suppress boycotts of Israel. There’s just one problem: The state quite literally has no defense for the law’s First Amendment violations.

      The ACLU filed a lawsuit in October against a law requiring anyone contracting with the state to sign a statement affirming that they don’t boycott Israel or its settlements. We represent Esther Koontz, a math teacher who was hired by the state to train other teachers. Together with members of her Mennonite church, Esther boycotts Israel to protest its treatment of Palestinians. After she explained that she could not in good conscience sign the statement, the state refused to let her participate in the training program.

      The law violates the First Amendment, which protects the right to participate in political boycotts. That right was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 1982, when it ruled that an NAACP boycott of white-owned businesses in Mississippi during the civil rights movement was a protected form of free expression and free association. But despite long-held consensus around the right to boycott, we were still pretty surprised when Kansas didn’t even try to argue the law is constitutional.

    • Portugal fire report in ‘censorship’ row

      The author of an official report into Portugal’s worst-ever forest fire has accused the authorities of “censorship” for ruling that an important chapter cannot be made public.

      Xavier Viegas, of Coimbra University’s Centre for the Study of Forest Fires, says “nothing can justify the decision to censor” the report into the June fires, according to Publico newspaper.

    • When Tweets Are Governmental Business, Officials Don’t Get to Pick and Choose Who Gets To Receive, Comment On, And Reply to Them. That Goes For the President, Too

      We’ve taken a stand for the First Amendment rights of individuals to receive and comment on social media posts from governmental officials and agencies. We’ve received a lot of good questions about why we believe that public servants—mayors, sheriffs, senators, even President Donald Trump—can’t block people whose views they dislike on Twitter without violating those persons’ free speech rights. Some question why citizens have a right to receive an official’s private Twitter account—@realdonaldtrump, for example. Others point out that Twitter isn’t a government forum with an obligation to allow users access to Trump’s messages, and others say users can still use workarounds to see the tweets of those who have blocked them.

      We’re taking a deep dive into the First Amendment here to explain our thinking and our reading of the law that supports our position. As you read, bear this in mind: the First Amendment doesn’t just protect your right to speak your mind. It also protects your right to receive, read, hear, see, and obtain information and ideas.

      We filed a “friend of the court” brief in a lawsuit brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute and several Twitter users who have been blocked by President Trump from the @realdonaldtrump account. The president has admitted in the lawsuit that he blocked them because he objected to the viewpoints they expressed in replying to his tweets or in their own tweets. The lawsuit names President Trump, acting White House communications director Hope Hicks, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Daniel Scavino, White House deputy director of social media, as defendants. The case is Knight First Amendment Institute v. Trump.

      The government was not allowed to pick and choose who gets to receive official statements in the predigital age, and that’s still true in the digital age when public servants are increasingly relying on social media to communicate with the public

      Although that case is specifically about President Trump’s Twitter feed, we see this as a much broader issue. We frequently receive reports from community activists and other social media users who were blocked from commenting on an agency’s Facebook page, or prevented from contributing to a community discussion prompted by an officials’ tweet, or have faced similar barriers to participation in public debate. We receive reports about how governmental officials manipulate social media comments to exclude opposing views to create the impression that hotly contested policies are not contested at all. And we realize, in seeing how agencies use social media to quickly disseminate emergency information during the recent spate of natural disasters, that the ability to receive such messages can be a matter of life and death.

    • House Internet Censorship Bill Is Just Like The Senate Bill, Except Worse

      There are two bills racing through Congress that would undermine your right to free expression online and threaten the online communities that we all rely on. The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA, S. 1693) and the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA, H.R. 1865) might sound noble, but they would do nothing to fight sex traffickers. What they would do is force online web platforms to police their users’ activity much more stringently than ever before, silencing a lot of innocent voices in the process.

    • SINGAPORE: TEEN BLOGGER AMOS YEE GRANTED ASYLUM IN THE U.S.

      Amos Yee, a teen blogger who fled Singapore, has been granted asylum in the United States. Yee was released from U.S. detention after 9 months of being detained. Yee first received asylum in March, but was quickly rejected by the Department of Homeland Security. However, the Board of Immigration Appeals agreed with Judge Samuel Cole’s findings; claiming that, “The evidence presented at the hearing demonstrates Singapore’s prosecution of Yee was a pretext to silence his political opinions critical of the Singapore Government.”

    • Self-censorship: the modern scourge

      There should be a national outrage at the escalating demands of the wilder fringe of the trans movement, who I like to believe are only a vocal minority, but there isn’t, and we all know why. People are scared of losing face, fearful of appearing bad and uncaring among their liberal friends. To criticise the trans movement is the equivalent of announcing at a posh party that you voted Brexit: it puts you on the side of stupid, evil reactionaries.

      [...]

      Cowardice, silence and self-censorship are all-too-common features of ground-level politics today. People are also afraid to speak out against Islamism for fear of being denounced as racist. Any criticism of Islam is frequently labelled a ‘hate crime’, which is why many fear to criticise the religion, lest they get an unexpected visit from the police. This fear of being called racist is one reason why rape gangs in the north of England could go unpunished for years.

    • Censor Board Stops Screening of S Durga, Objects to ‘Boxes’ in New Title
    • Sexy Durga’s screening: When censorship gets sexy
    • The futility of censorship; S Durga grew bigger in the public imagination after I&B ministry blocked it
    • India’s filmmakers complain about censorship
    • Nude art and censorship laid bare
    • Censorship Comes To Google

      Why did Google do this? Perhaps they were concerned about Russia meddling in American elections or they thought their customers wished to see less of Russia Today. It matters not. Generally, Google has broad power to police its platform. We might not like the decision, but it is not ours to make.

    • Death Threats, Intimidation, Censorship: Inside the Far Right’s Assault on Brazil’s Art Scene

      Last week, curator Gaudêncio Fidélis appeared before the senate in Brazil’s capital to face allegations of “mistreatment of children and teenagers.” His offense: Organizing “Queermuseum: Cartographies of Difference in Brazilian Art,” an exhibition of more than 200 works of Modern and contemporary art that explored queerness and gender at the Santander Cultural Center in Porto Alegre. The venue closed the exhibition a month early, on September 10, following violent protests and pressure from conservative political groups.

      The furor surrounding the show is just one example of the mounting challenges to artistic freedom in Brazil, which hangs in the balance as right-wing groups work to shut down exhibitions and intimidate artists whose work they consider immoral. Dealers, curators, and artists say they have received death threats. And many are unsure of what to do in the face of a particularly 21st century kind of violence: One that begins online, but often has real-world consequences.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • ORG Responds to Government’s proposed changes to the Investigatory Powers Act

      Investigatory Powers Act 2016 Consultation on the Government’s proposed response to the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union

      [...]

      “The government has evaded the main point of the Watson judgment: they cannot keep data on a blanket basis.

      “Without narrowing what they keep to specific places, incidents or investigations, these changes will not meet the standards set by the courts.

    • Home Office concedes independent authorisation

      This is major victory for ORG, although one with dangers. The government has conceded that independent authorisation is necessary for communications data requests, but refused to budge on retained data and is pushing ahead with the “Request Filter”.

    • American startups need surveillance reform

      There’s an ongoing debate on the Hill over government surveillance that will impact companies with users abroad, especially startups.

      With a good idea and a connection to the open internet, a small startup anywhere in the U.S. can reach users all over the world, expanding their business and contributing to economic and job growth back home.

    • House Intelligence Committee’s NSA Surveillance Bill Includes New Threats and Old

      Thrown last-minute into a torrent of competing legislation, a new bill meant to expand the NSA’s broad surveillance powers is the most recent threat to American privacy. It increases who is subject to surveillance, allows warrantless search of American communications, expands how collected data can be used, and treats constitutional protections as voluntary.

      The bill must be stopped immediately. There is little time: despite the bill’s evening release yesterday, November 29, a committee is scheduled to markup the bill tomorrow, December 1.

      The bill is called the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017, and it was introduced by Rep. Nunes (R-CA), the Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. It shares the same name as another bill introduced in the Senate in October.

      Both bills are attempts to reauthorize Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, a powerful surveillance authority that allows the NSA to target and collect communications of non-U.S. persons living outside the United States. Section 702 predictably causes the incidental collection of American communications that are swept up during foreign intelligence surveillance, too.

      These are some of the most glaring problems with this House bill.

    • New Surveillance Bill Would Dramatically Expand NSA Powers

      The House Intelligence Committee is rushing a surveillance bill through Congress that violates American privacy rights.

      The USA Patriot Act, passed hurriedly after 9/11, taught us that rushing a surveillance bill through Congress is a bad idea, producing complicated statutes ripe for abuse. Yet the leadership of the House Intelligence Committee is taking a page out of President George W. Bush’s playbook and trying to do just that.

      Tomorrow, the committee will debate a bill that dramatically expands NSA surveillance authorities, including one that is scheduled to expire at the end of the year. The bill was publicly released just last night, giving members of the committee and other legislators less than 48 hours to try to understand the complex proposal.

      Perhaps hoping no one has time to closely read the “FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017,” sponsors have pitched the measure as one that makes key changes to intelligence authorities to “protect Americans’ privacy rights.” The truth, however, is that it does the exact opposite.

      This is why the ACLU, joined by over 30 organizations from across the political spectrum, is urging members of Congress to oppose the bill. Here are some of the reasons we’re fighting this legislation.

    • Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Section 702: Mend It, Don’t End It
    • NSA Secretly Helped Convict Defendants in US Courts, Classified Documents Reveal

      Fazliddin Kurbanov is a barrel-chested man from Uzbekistan who came to the United States in 2009, when he was in his late 20s. A Christian who had converted from Islam, Kurbanov arrived as a refugee and spoke little English. Resettled in Boise, Idaho, he rented an apartment, worked odd jobs, and was studying to be a truck driver.

      But about three years after entering the U.S., around the time he converted back to Islam, Kurbanov was placed under FBI surveillance. According to emails and internet chat logs obtained by the government, Kurbanov was disgusted by having seen Americans burn the Quran and by reports that an American soldier had tried to rape a Muslim girl. “My entire life, everything, changed,” Kurbanov wrote in a July 31, 2012 email.

    • NSA accidentally leaks more secrets after ‘Red Disk’ was left on unsecured AWS server

      More US security secrets have been leaked online after the virtual image of a disk drive containing sensitive information was found, unsecured, on an Amazon Web Services (AWS) server.

      Chris Vickery, director of cybersecurity research firm UpGuard, claims that he found the unlisted image on a publicly accessible server with no password needed to access it.

      “Critical data belonging to the United States Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), a joint US Army and National Security Agency (NSA) Defence Department command tasked with gathering intelligence for US military and political leaders, leaked onto the public internet, exposing internal data and virtual systems used for classified communications to anyone with an internet connection,” said Dan O’Sullivan Dan O’Sullivan, cyber resilience analyst at UpGuard.

    • EFF Demands Information About Secretive Government Tattoo Recognition Technology

      The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit against the Department of Justice, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Homeland Security today, demanding records about the agencies’ work on the federal Tattoo Recognition Technology program.

      This secretive program involves a coalition of government, academia, and private industry working to develop a series of algorithms that would rapidly detect tattoos, identify people via their tattoos, and match people with others who have similar body art—as well as flagging tattoos believed to be connected to religious and ethnic symbols. This type of surveillance raises profound religious, speech, and privacy concerns. Moreover, the limited information that EFF has been able to obtain about the program has already revealed a range of potentially unethical behavior, including conducting research on prisoners without approval, adequate oversight, or safeguards.

      EFF filed a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for more information about the Tattoo Recognition Technology program, which is a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) project sponsored by the FBI, beginning in January of 2016. Although the agencies released some records, they withheld others, and heavily redacted some of the documents they released. As a result, EFF is going to court today against DHS, DOJ, and NIST’s parent agency, the Commerce Department, to make sure this important information is released to the public.

    • Tenta Browser Now Includes HTTPS Everywhere

      Securely browsing the Internet—even when you know what you’re doing—is tough. That’s partly why, nearly seven years ago, EFF worked together with The Tor Project to develop a privacy tool called HTTPS Everywhere, which automatically provides users with secure, encrypted connections to websites when available.

      While HTTPS Everywhere can be installed on a number of desktop browsers, there are fewer options for mobile devices. One mobile browser app has fixed that.

      Starting today, HTTPS Everywhere is now included by default, with no extra installation, in the mobile browser Tenta Browser, available on the Google Play Store. The integration of HTTPS Everywhere helps declutter the landscape of current mobile browser apps, many of which advertise themselves as security-focused, with promises of incognito mode, private browsing, secure tunnels, auto proxy abilities, VPN services, and more.

      EFF appreciates this move and the effort taken by Tenta’s developers. It is a welcome inclusion that works through some of the trickier problems with online secure connections.

    • Australian man uses snack bags as Faraday cage to block tracking by employer

      A 60-year-old electrician in Perth, Western Australia had his termination upheld by a labor grievance commission when it was determined he had been abusing his position and technical knowledge to squeeze in some recreation during working hours. Tom Colella used mylar snack bags to block GPS tracking via his employer-assigned personal digital assistant to go out to play a round of golf—more than 140 times—while he reported he was offsite performing repairs.

    • Justices hear case that could reshape location privacy in the cellular age

      Supreme Court justices on Wednesday wrestled with how to apply Fourth Amendment privacy protections to cell phone location records.

      Cell phones produce a “minute-by-minute account of a person’s locations and movements and associations over a long period regardless of what the person is doing at any given moment,” the ACLU’s Nathan Freed Wessler pointed out in an argument before the Supreme Court. The ACLU is urging the Supreme Court to rule that the government can’t access these records without a warrant.

      But the government pointed to a 1979 Supreme Court ruling called Smith v. Maryland. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that the government doesn’t need to get a warrant to obtain a customer’s dialing history because they are merely the business records of the phone company. The government argues that the same principle, known as the third-party doctrine, applies here: data about which cell phone towers a customer’s phone has talked to are merely the cell phone company’s business records and should be available to the government without a warrant.

    • Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Cell Site Location Info Case

      The Supreme Court’s review of the Carpenter case — dealing with the warrantless collection of cell site location info — kicked off yesterday. Oral arguments featured Nate Wessler of the ACLU facing off against the DOJ’s Michael Dreeben in a case that could drastically alter the Third Party Doctrine.
      From the early going, it sounds a bit like the court is leaning towards a drastic alteration. There’s a lot that can be read from the arguments presented by the justices — especially those by Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch. After some of the expected arguments — the Third Party Doctrine, the post-facto privacy invasion that is 100+ days of location tracking, etc. — Gorsuch wades into pretty novel theory based on the property… um… properties of location data gathered by service providers.
      Referencing the privacy protections statutorily mandated by 47 USC § 222 (and the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision on GPS tracking devices), Gorsuch goes after the DOJ’s lawyer, asking him why records considered by law to be the property of carrier customers aren’t afforded the same protection as the Fourth Amendment “papers and effects” they keep in their houses.

    • Three quarters of Android apps track users with third party tools – study

      Other less widely-used trackers can go much further. One cited by Yale is FidZup, a French tracking provider with technology that can “detect the presence of mobile phones and therefore their owners” using ultrasonic tones. FidZup says it no-longer uses that technology, however, since tracking users through simple wifi networks works just as well.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Trump Set to Nominate Torture-Supporting Senator Tom Cotton as CIA Director, Report Claims

      The CIA could soon be led by a man who’s expressed support for torture, according to a bombshell report from The New York Times.

      Trump is planning to fire Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and nominate Senator Tom Cotton to head the intelligence agency in the next few weeks, the report claims. Cotton has reportedly indicated he’d accept the position.

    • Federal Judge Slams Trump Administration’s ‘Circular Reasoning’ For Imprisoning U.S. Citizen Without Access To Lawyer

      A visibly frustrated federal judge ordered the Trump administration to tell her — by 5 p.m. Thursday — whether an American citizen the government has detained incommunicado for months has been advised of his constitutional rights or has asked for legal representation.

      The U.S. government accuses the man of fighting for the Islamic State, but so far has refused to release his name or charge him with any crime. Instead, the military has imprisoned him in Iraq, without access to a lawyer, since mid-September. The man has asked for a lawyer at least twice, the Washington Post reported last month.

      The American Civil Liberties Union filed a habeas corpus petition — a formal way to challenge an individual’s imprisonment — on the man’s behalf on Oct. 5, after he had already been in prison for several weeks. If the group prevails, it could force the government to allow its lawyers to represent the detainee and to meet with him privately.

    • Cherokee Writer: Trump Pocahontas Slur Reflects Centuries of Colonial Violence Against Native Women

      As Native American Heritage Month winds down, President Donald Trump is opening the door to new drilling and mining on land considered sacred by tribal nations. On Monday, Trump plans to travel to Utah to announce plans to shrink the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments to make way for more industrial activity on the land. The Hopi, Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni and the Ute Indian Tribe all say they will sue to stop the plan. This comes after Trump attempted to insult Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren by referring to her as “Pocahontas” during a White House ceremony honoring Navajo code talkers, Native Americans who served in the Marines during WWII and used the Navajo language in order to transmit encoded information. Warren says her family is part Cherokee. We speak with Mary Kathryn Nagle, a citizen of Cherokee Nation and a partner at Pipestem Law, P.C., a law firm dedicated to the restoration of tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction.

    • Trump’s Lawyers Say the Muslim Ban Has No Bias, But His Tweets Show Otherwise

      Despite his lawyers’ attempts to recast the Muslim ban, Trump cannot stop revealing the bigotry behind it.

      Yesterday morning, President Trump shared three videos on Twitter that purport to show Muslims committing graphic acts of violence. He retweeted all three from the account of Jayda Fransen, deputy leader of the ultranationalist party Britain First, who was convicted of religious aggravated harassment in November 2016 after abusing a woman wearing a hijab. The president’s move prompted public outcry and a rebuke from Prime Minister Theresa May, whose spokesman underlined that Britain First is a source of “hateful narratives which peddle lies and stoke tensions.”

      We should all be outraged that the president of the United States is promoting and endorsing videos that are plainly designed to fan the flames of anti-Muslim hatred. The decision to do that is reckless, dangerous, and contrary to fundamental American values that protect all of us from religious discrimination. It is not, however, surprising.

      Trump’s prejudice against Muslims reveals itself at every turn — because he is the one revealing it. He showed his bias with Wednesday’s tweets, with pronouncements like “Islam hates us,” and with every version of the Muslim ban, the latest of which the ACLU and partners will challenge in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Dec. 8.

    • Behind the Push for Catalonian Independence

      Before embarking for a visit to Barcelona, the hotbed of Catalonian independence, I was disappointed to find little historical analysis about the enigma of Catalan independence in the major U.S. news media. The U.S. news agencies that I follow presented little more than a daily chronicle of street demonstrations and the conflict between the supporters of Catalonian independence and the political leadership in the Spanish capital of Madrid. If there was much else, I missed it.

    • How Three Generations Experienced Segregated American Education

      I am the child and grandchild of educators on both sides of my family. My mother was born in Texarkana, Texas. Her great-aunt, a woman I grew up calling Grandma Isabelle, was raising my mother when she and her husband, Bill, decided to join the flow out of the South during the great migration. They settled in San Francisco in the late 1950s, my teenage mother along with them.

      My Grandma Isabelle did what she termed “maid’s work,” sometimes for white families, sometimes in hospitals, up until her death in the 1980s. Her husband, my “Uncle Bill,” worked a variety of odd jobs. However, more than what he did to earn a living, what I most recall about him was how he was able to impose his will on the hard, rocky ground in the back of their small, two- bedroom, one-bath home in the Hunters Point area of San Francisco. In defiance of the sky that was often gray and the chill of the fog-kissed wind, he made a garden grow tomatoes and okra and collard greens and cabbage.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Scrapping FCC net neutrality rules would be a mistake

      Repealing net neutrality would result in the de facto concentration of internet control of revenue from accessible services into the hands of certain gatekeepers, undermining the open architecture that allows the free exchange of ideas.

    • Absent Facts To Support Repealing Net Neutrality, Ajit Pai Wildly Attacking Hollywood Tweeters

      As the old lawyer saying goes: “When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When the law is on your side, pound the law. When neither is on your side, pound the table.” It appears that FCC chair Ajit Pai has taken that to heart. Neither the law, nor the facts are on his side with regards to his attempt to gut net neutrality, so he’s done the modern equivalent of pounding the table: blame Hollywood and the internet companies for the fact that almost everyone disagrees with his plan to kill net neutrality.
      The law is against him, because in order to reverse the order from the previous FCC, Pai needs to show that this change is not “arbitrary and capricious.” Many people falsely assume that the FCC can just make whatever rule it wants, and thus with every change of the FCC the rules can flip flop. But that’s not how it works. While the courts give strong deference to administrative agencies in their decision-making capabilities, one area where the courts will push back is if a regulatory change is found to be “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law.” The courts have already upheld the 2015 Open Internet Order by Tom Wheeler as legitimate, where that FCC showed that reclassifying broadband as a Title II service was perfectly reasonable based on the changes to the market conditions since broadband was declared a Title I information service a decade or so earlier. So, for Pai’s plan to actually pass judicial scrutiny, he has to prove that the market has changed so much in the past two years, that an obvious correction is necessary. So far, the only thing he’s been able to rely on are clearly bogus studies that are easily debunked by the companies themselves in their statements to Wall Street about the impact of the 2015 rules. Thus, both the rules and the law are against him.
      Of course, rather than face up to the fact that the vast majority of Americans (Democrats, Republicans, everyone) support keeping net neutrality rules in place, Pai has spent the last week or so only retweeting his supporters and ignoring detractors entirely. And, now, apparently, his “pounding the table” is to lash out at famous Hollywood stars… and internet companies (note: not internet access companies), as if they’re the problem.

    • Everything That’s Wrong With Social Media And Big Internet Companies: Part 1

      Some of today’s anxiety about social-media platforms is driven by the concern that Russian operatives somehow used Facebook and Twitter to affect our electoral process. Some of it’s due a general perception that big American social-media companies, amorally or immorally driven by the profit motive, are eroding our privacy and selling our data to other companies or turning it over to the government—or both. Some of it’s due to the perception that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms are bad for us—that maybe even Google’s or Microsoft’s search engines are bad for us—and that they make us worse people or debase public discourse. Taken together, it’s more than enough fodder for politicians or would-be pundits to stir up generalized anxiety about big tech.

      But regardless of where this moral panic came from, the current wave of anxiety about internet intermediaries and social-media platforms has its own momentum now. So we can expect many more calls for regulation of these internet tools and platforms in the coming months and years. Which is why it’s a good idea to itemize the criticisms we’ve already seen, or are likely to see, in current and future public-policy debates about regulating the internet. We need to chart the kinds of arguments for new internet regulation that are going to confront us, so I’ve been compiling a list of them. It’s a work in progress, but here are three major claims that are driving recent expressions of concern about social media and internet companies generally.

    • Charter is using net neutrality repeal to fight lawsuit over slow speeds

      The impending repeal of net neutrality rules is being used by Charter Communications to fight a lawsuit that alleges the company made false promises of fast Internet service.

      New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in February filed the lawsuit against Charter and its Time Warner Cable (TWC) subsidiary. Meanwhile, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai this month submitted a proposal to roll back the FCC’s net neutrality rules and to preempt state governments from regulating net neutrality on their own.

    • Net neutrality at a crossroads: why India’s policy process has important lessons for the US

      Digital equality demands that access to the internet is seen as indivisible from a democratic internet. Net neutrality is not just about an open architecture, but about genuine egalitarianism – meaning internet access.

    • The FCC’s Attack On Net Neutrality Is Based Entirely On Debunked Lobbyist Garbage Data

      For several years now one of the broadband industry’s biggest criticisms of net neutrality is that it “utterly devastated” investment into broadband networks. But for just as long, we’ve noted how every time a journalist or analyst actually dissects that claim, they find it’s completely unsupportable. What objective analysts do tend to find is that the telecom sector hires an army of economists, consultants, fauxcademics and lobbyists more than happy to manipulate, distort and twist the data until it supports whatever conclusion they’re paid to parrot.

      That net neutrality didn’t harm sector investment isn’t really debatable. Just ask industry executives from Frontier, Comcast, Cablevision, Sprint, AT&T, Sonic and even neutrality public enemy number one, Verizon all of who are on public record telling investors the “net neutrality killed sector investment” claim simply isn’t true. That this concept is a canard is also supported by public SEC filings and earnings reports, as well as the billions being spent on spectrum as these companies rush toward the fifth generation (5G) wireless networks of tomorrow.

    • After Attacking Random Hollywood Supporters Of Net Neutrality, Ajit Pai Attacks Internet Companies

      This is, of course, playing to his political base, who are currently angry at Twitter. But… it’s also… strange. Both of the examples he brings up are misleading or were overblown. We were among those who mocked Twitter for blocking Blackburn’s ad, but as a bunch of people, who chided us in the comments, correctly noted, no one stopped Blackburn from posting the tweet — just from promoting it as an advertisement on Twitter’s ad platform. Which is really different than blocking content — and, not only that, but Twitter backed down within hours of this becoming public, admitting it was a mistake. The story about Twitter “warning users” that “a link to a statement by one company on the topic of Internet regulation ‘may be unsafe’” is also exaggerated. Twitter’s sketchy anti-spam/anti-malware detector for links, very briefly, accidentally warned that AT&T’s blog may be unsafe. Once again, this lasted for a very short time, and was clearly a mistake by the filter.

    • As Net Neutrality Repeal Nears, Comcast’s Promise To Avoid ‘Paid Prioritization’ Disappears

      Despite having spent millions on repealing broadband privacy and soon net neutrality, Comcast’s lobbyists and PR folks have spent the last few weeks claiming that nobody has anything to worry about because Comcast would never do anything to harm consumers or competitors. This glorified pinky swear is likely going to be cold comfort for the millions of consumers, small businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs trying to build something (or god forbid directly compete with Comcast NBC Universal) over the next decade.

      But while Comcast is busy trying to convince everyone that gutting regulatory oversight over an uncompetitive broadband market will only result in wonderful things, they’re simultaneously back peddling on past claims to not violate net neutrality.

    • Comcast flushed its 3 year old net neutrality promise down the memory hole the instant the FCC announced its plan to allow network discrimination

      Comcast fought the last net neutrality regulation in 2015 by making a bunch of promises about how fair it would be, whether or not the FCC regulated its behavior; this week, Comcast has put on charm offensive by repeating all but one of those promises, namely, its promise not to create internet slow lanes and then extort money from web publishers by threatening to put them there unless they paid for “premium access” to the Comcast subscribers who were trying to retrieve data from them.

      That promise was live on Comcast’s website until April 26, 2017, but on that day, it disappeared.

    • FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Blasts Cher and Mark Ruffalo For Supporting Net Neutrality
    • The Credible Hulk: Ajit Pai thinks you only care about Net Neutrality because Mark Ruffalo told you to
    • Study: FCC net neutrality comments rife with fake users, duplicate messages

      According to Pew, the seven most common messages found in the record comprise 38 percent of all comments. Six of those were anti-net neutrality messages, submitted a combined 5.5 million times.

    • Ajit Pai’s Shell Game

      Pai is hoping to use outrage over net neutrality to drive everyone into the mosh pit of special interests that is lobbying on Capitol Hill. There will be strident calls from every side for reworking the existing Telecommunications Act to ensure that net neutrality continues. Just watch: The incumbents will piously say, “We like net neutrality too! We just need a different statute.” That’s a trap. We have a perfectly good statute already, and the Obama-era FCC’s interpretation of that statute so as to ensure an open internet—including its labeling of these giant companies as common carriers, which was necessary in order for open internet rules to be enforceable—has already been found reasonable. On the Hill, the public will be out-lobbied at every turn by the essentially unlimited resources of Comcast, Charter, CenturyLink, Verizon, and AT&T.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • New European Copyright Enforcement Plans Loom Large Even as Users Revolt Against Filter Proposal

        Since we last wrote about these copyright discussions, the LIBE (Civil Liberties) committee of the European Parliament, which was the last remaining committee to deliver its recommendations on the proposals to the lead JURI (Legal Affairs) committee, has taken its long-delayed vote on the draconian proposal to require Internet platforms to install copyright upload filters. Its ultimate recommendation was that the mandate be removed from Article 13 of the Digital Single Market Directive, in favor of softer obligations to take “appropriate and proportionate methods” to limit sharing of infringing content.

        This reflects a growing consensus that there is no way to rely on automatic filtering to sift out copyright-infringing content from legitimate speech. For example, this month the Center for Democracy & Technology has published a paper titled Mixed Messages? The Limits of Automated Social Media Content Analysis which bolsters existing research about the difficulty of automated filtering and the inevitability that it will result in the censorship of some protected speech.

        Yet still, this misguided approach enjoys strong support from copyright industry lobbyists. Switzerland has recently bent to this pressure, with a proposal to mandate automatic filtering to prevent infringing content from being re-uploaded. So the European Parliament’s vote on Article 13 is important to put a nail in the coffin of this bad idea, before more countries consider adopting it into law.

      • No Shit: Groundbreaking Study Shows That Giving People 12% Of The Video Content They Want Doesn’t Magically Stop Piracy

        When it comes to offering good legal alternatives to piracy in the entertainment industry, there are two types of arguments people make. One is that these alternatives, if properly done, will reduce the rate of piracy within a population set. The other is that these streaming options are great revenue sources regardless of the impact on piracy within the population and that increased revenues are all that really matter. What virtually nobody has argued is that if a streaming service barely gives people anything they want, even if that service is free, that piracy will cease to be.

      • Sky’s Pirate Site-Blocking Move is Something For North Korea, ISPs Say

        Sky TV is pioneering ‘pirate’ site-blocking in New Zealand after applying for an injunction against several local ISPs. But the move hasn’t been well received, with one group of ISPs reacting with anger to the move. Vocus Group says Sky is acting like a dinosaur, with an Internet censorship effort more suited to North Korea.

      • Netflix Is Not Going to Kill Piracy, Research Suggests

        Netflix and other on-demand streaming services barely help to curtail piracy, new research shows. While legal streaming services are commonly used nowadays, the limited availability of recent content and the associated price tag are serious hurdles for many pirates.

      • CJEU rules TV programme copies in cloud must be authorised by copyright holder

        In its VCAST v RTI judgement, the CJEU has ruled that copies of television programmes made available by being saved in the cloud must be authorised by the holder of the copyright or related rights because the service constitutes a retransmission

      • EU Court: Cloud-Based TV Recorder Requires Rightsholder Permission

        VCAST advertises itself as a VCR for the cloud, allowing users to record terrestrial TV into online storage to watch at a later point. But is it legal? According to a new ruling from the European Court of Justice, making TV shows available to consumers in this fashion must be authorized by rights holders.

      • Retransmissions Of TV Shows From Cloud Services Need Copyright Owner’s Consent, EU High Court Rules

        VCAST, a UK company that makes available to its customers internet retransmissions of Italian television programmes stored in the cloud, must obtain right holders’ consent first, the Court of Justice of European Union (CJEU) ruled on 29 November.

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