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12.04.17

Links 4/12/2017: Linux 4.15 RC2, 4MLinux 23.1, Rocks 7.0 Released

Posted in News Roundup at 6:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • ‘Linux Journal’ Sails Into the Sunset

    Linux Journal is no more. On Friday, publisher Carlie Fairchild wrote that unless “a savior” rides in to save the day, the magazine born in 1994, just two years after Linus Torvalds posted that he was working on an operating system, has already released its last issue.

    This is a publication that’s been with us since before the data center discovered the little operating system that can and before the internet forever changed the publishing industry. Linux Journal started its life printed on dead trees, and until relatively recently was delivered to subscribers’ homes by mail or purchased by non-subscribers at the local newsstand.

  • On the Demise of Linux Journal

    I think it’s probably hard for younger people to imagine what the Linux world was like 20 years ago. Today, it’s really not an exaggeration to say that the Internet as we know it wouldn’t exist at all without Linux. Almost every major Internet company you can think of runs almost completely on Linux. Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc, etc. All Linux. In 1997, though, the idea of running a production workload on Linux was pretty far out there.

  • Desktop

    • Linux Computer Vendor System76 To Disable Intel ME Firmware

      System76, a vendor of Linux-based laptops, PCs, and servers, will join another Linux laptop maker, Purism, as well as Google and the NSA in disabling the Intel Management Engine (ME) firmware, which has recently been found to contain multiple vulnerabilities. Intel ME provides few to no benefits to consumer laptops, but Intel has been integrating it into all all of its chips since 2008 nonetheless.

      [...]

      We’ve only recently discovered, through Positive Technologies, a Russian security firm that has been working on disabling ME, that the NSA was the only one that could disable the ME via an undocumented High Assurance Platform (HAP) mode. This undocumented mode can now also be used to disable ME by Google, Purism, and System76.

    • Linux laptop-flinger says bye-bye to buggy Intel Management Engine

      In a slap to Intel, custom Linux computer seller System76 has said it will be disabling the Intel Management Engine in its laptops.

      Last month, Chipzilla admitted the existence of firmware-level bugs in many of its processors that would allow hackers to spy on and meddle with computers.

      One of the most important vulnerabilities is in the black box coprocessor – the Management Engine – which has its own CPU and operating system that has complete machine control. It’s meant for letting network admins remotely log into servers and workstations to fix any problems (such as not being able to boot).

  • Server

    • There’s cloud, and it can even be YOURS on YOUR computer

      The openstack.org market place lists 23 public cloud providers using OpenStack, so there is now no excuse to use any other type of cloud: for sure, there’s one where you need it. If you use a free software solution like OpenStack, then the question if you’re running on your own hardware, on some rented hardware (on which you deployed OpenStack yourself), or on someone else’s OpenStack deployment is just a practical one, on which you can always back-up quickly. That’s one of the very reason why one should deploy on the cloud: so that it’s possible to redeploy quickly on another cloud provider, or even on your own private cloud. This gives you more freedom than you ever had, because it makes you not dependent anymore on the hosting company you’ve selected: switching provider is just the mater of launching a script. The reality is that neither the FSFE or RMS understand all of this. Please don’t dive into the FSFE very wrong message.

    • Hacking with posters and stickers

      The FIXME.ch hackerspace in Lausanne, Switzerland has started this weekend’s VR Hackathon with a somewhat low-tech 2D hack: using the FSFE’s Public Money Public Code stickers in lieu of sticky tape to place the NO CLOUD poster behind the bar.

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux 4.15-rc2

      It’s Sunday, but a few hours earlier than usual, since I’m on the east
      coast, three hours ahead of my normal release schedule.

      It’s a slightly bigger rc2 than I would have wished for, but this
      early in the release process I don’t worry about it. The appended
      shortlog gives the details, it’s fixes all over the place -
      architectures, drivers, filesystems, networking, core kernel.

      One thing I’ll point out is that I’m trying to get some kernel ASLR
      leaks plugged, and as part of that we now hash any pointers printed by
      “%p’ by default. That won’t affect a lot of people, but where it is a
      debugging problem (rather than leaking interesting kernel pointers),
      we will have to fix things up.

      It can be a small annoyance, but the alternatives (trying to actually
      find all the cases where we might be leaking) were worse. But let’s
      see if anybody even notices – a lot of the pointer printouts are stale
      debug information from when some driver was originally written, and
      aren’t actually really interesting.

      There will probably be some more leak fixes during this rc process,
      we’ll see how that all sorts out.

    • Linux 4.15-rc2 Kernel Released
    • Graphics Stack

      • Valve’s Timothy Arceri Lands Gallium3D NIR Optimizations

        Timothy Arceri who has been for the past year working on Linux GPU driver optimizations for Valve has just merged his latest patch series providing optimizations for the Gallium3D NIR linking phase.

        Arceri has been spending the past few weeks on NIR linking optimizations for Gallium3D drivers. While Freedreno and VC4 currently make use of the NIR intermediate repres

    • Benchmarks

      • Radeon vs. NVIDIA With Windows 10 & Ubuntu Linux

        Complementing the Windows vs. Ubuntu Linux gaming performance numbers of the Radeon RX 580 and RX Vega 64 are now the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 and GTX 1080 graphics cards. As a reminder, the Radeon tests were done when using the Linux 4.15 kernel paired with Mesa 17.4-dev built against LLVM 6.0 SVN for the AMDGPU back-end, provided by the Padoka PPA. On the Windows side, the Radeon driver was Radeon Software Crimson ReLive 17.11.3.

      • Phoronix Test Suite 7.6 M4 Available For Last Minute Testing

        The fourth and final development release of Phoronix Test Suite 7.4 is now available ahead of its stable release expected next week.

        Phoronix Test Suite 7.6 M4 is the last step ahead of Phoronix Test Suite 7.6.0-Alvdal that will be released in the next few days.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Syntax Highlighting Checker

        The KTextEditor Framework uses the syntax highlighting files provided by the KSyntaxHighlighting Framework since the KDE Frameworks release 5.28.

        The KSyntaxHighlighting Framework implements Kate’s highlighting system and meanwhile is used in quite some applications (e.g. LabPlot, KDE PIM). What is quite nice is that the KSyntaxHighlighting framework is nicely unit tested. And while we do not have tests for all highlighting files, we still provide some quality assurance through a compile time checker.

  • Distributions

    • New Releases

      • 4MLinux 23.1 released.

        This is a minor (point) release in the 4MLinux STABLE channel, which comes with the Linux kernel 4.9.61. The 4MLinux Server now includes Apache 2.4.29, MariaDB 10.2.10, and PHP 7.0.25 (see this post for more details). Additionally, some popular programs (Audacity, PeaZip, UNetbootin) have been updated, too.

        You can update your 4MLinux by executing the “zk update” command in your terminal (fully automatic process).

    • Red Hat Family

    • Debian Family

      • My Free Software Activities in November 2017

        My monthly report covers a large part of what I have been doing in the free software world. I write it for my donors (thanks to them!) but also for the wider Debian community because it can give ideas to newcomers and it’s one of the best ways to find volunteers to work with me on projects that matter to me.

      • My Debian Activities in November 2017
      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Ubuntu 18.04 “Bionic Beaver”
          • Flavours and Variants

            • Review: Pop!_OS 17.10

              Pop!_OS is a new Linux distribution from System76, a company that has been in the Linux hardware business for twelve years. Until recently, System76 computers shipped with Ubuntu as the only pre-installed operating system option, but now System76 is taking more control over the user experience offered on their computers by releasing their own Ubuntu-based distribution. I was recently at All Things Open, a technology conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, where System76 had a booth. At their booth, they had Pop!_OS 17.10 running on a laptop for people to try. Their booth was very busy, but during one of their brief lulls, I went over to their booth and had a brief chat, and I got one of the USB flash drives they were giving out with the Pop!_OS installation image on it.

              For this review, I installed Pop!_OS 17.10 using the flash drive I got at All Things Open, but Pop!_OS ISOs are available to download on the System76 website. They have an image for computers with Intel and AMD graphics and a separate image for computers with NVIDIA graphics. The NVIDIA image comes with the proprietary NVIDIA drivers pre-installed. The Intel/AMD image is 1.75GB and the NVIDIA image is 1.91GB.

              I should note that while System76 does sell hardware, a System76 computer is not required to run Pop!_OS. The testing for this review was done using the Lenovo Ideapad that I currently use for all of my reviews. There were no compatibility issues beyond a problem with my laptop’s webcam that is consistent across every Linux distribution I have tried.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Startups stand to benefit most from open source technologies by understanding it before embracing it

    The essential point is that open source is not here to just stay, it is here to rule! If it is adopted correctly, it will work like a charm. You need to adopt open source with the will to invest your time and effort to ensure the support and progress. You need to contribute back to open source if you want it to survive! If businesses learn to not just embrace open source but also support and contribute back, they will be able to unleash the true power of open source.

    The whole open source movement across the globe has made it into a giant, and startups using open source are already in the league of giants.

  • What’s the difference between a fork and clone?

    The concept of forking a project has existed for decades in free and open source software. To “fork” means to take a copy of the project, rename it, and start a new project and community around the copy. Those who fork a project rarely, if ever, contribute to the parent project again. It’s the software equivalent of the Robert Frost poem: Two paths diverged in a codebase and I, I took the one less traveled by…and that has made all the difference.

    There can be many reasons for a project fork. Perhaps the project has lain fallow for a while and someone wants to revive it. Perhaps the company that has underwritten the project has been acquired and the community is afraid that the new parent company may close the project. Or perhaps there’s a schism within the community itself, where a portion of the community has decided to go a different direction with the project. Often a project fork is accompanied by a great deal of discussion and possibly also community strife. Whatever the reason, a project fork is the copying of a project with the purpose of creating a new and separate community around it. While the fork does require some technical work, it is primarily a social action.

    There have been many forks throughout the history of free and open source software. Some notable ones are MariaDB forking from MySQL, NextCloud forking from OwnCloud, and Jenkins forking from Hudson.

  • Orange announces the Open Source release of its OCast software technology

    OCast is a software technology that allows you to use a smartphone to play videos on devices including TV set-top boxes, TV Sticks or TVs and control playback of the video (pause, fast forward and rewind, for example). Beyond video, OCast can also play and control slideshows, playlists and web apps.

  • Orange announces release of OCast as open source video software

    Orange announced the open source release of OCast, a multi-screen video software that enables smartphone users to play content on the TV. Orange Labs Services has been working with content management specialist Viaccess-Orca, an Orange subsidiary, to integrate OCast in Viaccess-Orca’s portfolio of products for TV operators, and has also collaborated with Deutsche Telekom Innovation Laboratories, which has tested the software in the early stages.

  • transcosmos joins the open-source Blockchain Community, “Enterprise Ethereum Alliance”

    transcosmos America Inc., a U.S. subsidiary of transcosmos inc. joined the “Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA)”, a community of industry experts which promotes the adoption of Ethereum blockchain to enterprises and organizations, as of November 20, 2017.

  • Events

    • Talking at GI Tracking Workshop in Darmstadt, Germany

      I consider “workshop” a bit of a misnomer for this event, because it was mainly talks with a panel at the end. I was an invited panellist for representing the Free Software movement contrasting a guy from affili.net, someone from eTracker.com, a lady from eyeo (the AdBlock Plus people), and professors representing academia. During the panel discussion I tried to focus on Free Software being the only tool to enable the user to exercise control over what data is being sent in order to control tracking. Nobody really disagreed, which made the discussion a bit boring for me. Maybe I should have tried to find another more controversial argument to make people say more interesting things. Then again, it’s probably more the job of the moderator to make the participants discuss heatedly. Anyway, we had a nice hour or so of talking about the future of tracking, not only the Web, but in our lives.

  • Web Browsers

    • Chrome

      • Chrome to stop third-party software injections because they make it crash

        To boost the stability of Chrome, Google has announced that it’s going to start blocking third-party software from being injected into the browser.

        Third-party software such as anti-virus scanners and video driver utilities often injects libraries into running processes to do things like inspect network traffic, or add custom menu options to menus. Malicious software can also do the same to spy on users, steal passwords, and similar. Google has found that people who have such injected code are 15 percent more likely to see their browser crash. As such, it’s going to start blocking such injections.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • Public Services/Government

    • Pakistan has missed many opportunities regarding software development but ‘open source’ is too big to miss out on

      The software industry took off in the 80’s. Individuals made fortunes and national economies grew stronger because of their software exports. The focus on developing resources and building capacity around software development has created thousands of new jobs in countries that are ahead in the technology arena.

      Pakistan, despite its vast human capital, could not benefit from the humongous growth of the software sector and didn’t capitalise on the potential. Many factors have contributed to the current situation; lack of vision, proper leadership or will to move forward ­– but the fact of the matter is that while the situation has improved in the last few years, software exports only make less than 5% of the total exports.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Access/Content

      • Fundraising from the heart: Crafting powerful, authentic messages that move millions to support Wikipedia

        The Online Fundraising team at the Wikimedia Foundation relies heavily on A/B testing to understand what types of messages resonate with our readers. While the process behind the testing can be complicated, one lesson is simple: our messages must come from real people with a real love for Wikipedia. Here’s a window into how our messages come into being.

      • Scientific Search Engines Are Getting More Powerful

        ANURAG ACHARYA’S PROBLEM was that the Google search bar is very smart, but also kind of dumb. As a Googler working on search 13 years ago, Acharya wanted to make search results encompass scholarly journal articles. A laudable goal, because unlike the open web, most of the raw output of scientific research was invisible—hidden behind paywalls. People might not even know it existed. “I grew up in India, and most of the time you didn’t even know if something existed. If you knew it existed, you could try to get it,” Acharya says. “‘How do I get access?’ is a second problem. If I don’t know about it, I won’t even try.”

        [...] A laudable goal, because unlike the open web, most of the raw output of scientific research was invisible—hidden behind paywalls. People might not even know it existed. “I grew up in India, and most of the time you didn’t even know if something existed. If you knew it existed, you could try to get it,” Acharya says. “‘How do I get access?’ is a second problem. If I don’t know about it, I won’t even try.”

  • Programming/Development

    • Django 2.0 release notes

      These release notes cover the new features, as well as some backwards incompatible changes you’ll want to be aware of when upgrading from Django 1.11 or earlier. We’ve dropped some features that have reached the end of their deprecation cycle, and we’ve begun the deprecation process for some features.

      This release starts Django’s use of a loose form of semantic versioning, but there aren’t any major backwards incompatible changes that might be expected of a 2.0 release. Upgrading should be a similar amount of effort as past feature releases.

    • What’s new in PHP 7.2: better security, code handling

      PHP 7.2, the latest version of the popular server-side web development language, has numerous features and fixes.

      The November 30, 2017, release is the second feature update to the PHP 7 series. PHP 7.0 debuted in December 2015 to much fanfare, with the upgrade offering double the performance of previous PHP iterations.

Leftovers

  • Sacred fell to be world’s biggest light show – Sámi people left out, says researcher

    The Saana fell, held sacred by many Sámi people, will be illuminated on Monday as part of Finland’s centenary celebrations. Neither the indigenous population nor their relationship to the fell are mentioned in the project.

  • Science

    • Home Office putting UK’s research reputation at risk, says Jeremy Corbyn

      Jeremy Corbyn has accused the Home Office of putting the UK’s global reputation for higher education and research at risk by refusing visas to foreign academics married to British citizens.

      Academics engaged in overseas research must frequently travel abroad to work. The Home Office, however, uses the time spent out of the country by foreign academics while they are working to deny their applications for settlement visas.

      Jennifer Wexler is a US citizen who is married to a British man. She has had continuous residence in the UK for the past 11 years and has been studying or in employment at some of the UK’s best universities and museums for all that time.

      An archeologist with a masters and PhD from University College London, Wexler has been working for the British Museum in London for the past four years, but her recent application for indefinite leave to remain in the UK has been refused. She has launched an appeal.

    • NASA has never gone this long without a formal administrator

      Four-time astronaut Charles Bolden resigned as NASA administrator on January 20, 2017, leaving the space agency after more than seven years on the job. Since then, a former director of the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, Robert Lightfoot, has served as interim director. He has held this post now for 315 days, or nearly 11 months.

      According to an analysis of the gaps between administrators at the space agency, NASA has never gone this long without a formal administrator. Beginning with T. Keith Glennan in 1958 and running through the term of Charles Bolden six decades later, there have been ten transitions between NASA administrators. The average gap between administrators has been 3.7 months.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Empire Files: Death & Biostitutes – The US Opioid Crisis

      A new phenomenon has emerged in the United States: 64,000 people died in 2016 of a drug overdose—with 80% from opioids—with levels of addiction nearly 500% higher over the last six years.

    • Big Ag + Big Pharma = Big Problems

      If you enjoy a good roasted chicken and would like to continue to do so, you might want to stop reading now.

      Because chicken as we know it—breasts cut up on onto a Caesar salad, nuggets fried in pieces in a bucket, drumsticks wrapped in plastic in the supermarket—is hardly the Little Red Hen of the children’s tale, free to peck around the farmyard as she goes through the steps of baking her own bread. Chicken is now a commodity, protein to be delivered in the form of white meat as cheaply as possible to consumers. And the cost of that system is considerable, as Maryn McKenna outlines in her book Big Chicken.

    • Sadiq Khan plans network of London water fountains to reduce plastic waste

      London’s mayor Sadiq Khan wants to roll out a new network of water fountains and bottle-refill stations across the capital to help reduce the use of single-use packaging, such as plastic water bottles, the Guardian has learned.

      The mayor also wants to experiment with getting businesses to make their tap water available to the public, building on a scheme launched two years ago in Bristol.

      A million plastic bottles are bought worldwide every minute, and annual consumption is expected to surpass half a trillion bottles by 2021. A large proportion wind up buried in landfill sites or littering the ocean, with figures revealing that more than half of the plastic bottles bought in 2016 were not collected for recycling.

  • Security

    • Updating macOS can bring back the nasty “root” security bug

      The serious and surprising root security bug in macOS High Sierra is back for some users, shortly after Apple declared it fixed. Users who had not installed macOS 10.13.1 (and thus were running a prior version of the OS when they received the security update) found that installing 10.13.1 resurfaced the bug, according to a report from Wired.

    • MacOS Update Accidentally Undoes Apple’s “Root” Bug Patch

      But now multiple Mac users have confirmed to WIRED that Apple’s fix for that problem has a serious glitch of its own. Those who had not yet upgraded their operating system from the original version of High Sierra, 10.13.0, to the most recent version, 10.13.1, but had downloaded the patch, say the “root” bug reappears when they install the most recent macOS system update. And worse, two of those Mac users say they’ve also tried re-installing Apple’s security patch after that upgrade, only to find that the “root” problem still persists until they reboot their computer, with no warning that a reboot is necessary.

    • Former Sysadmin Caught Hacking His Ex-Employer by His Replacement

      On Wednesday, November 29, a Kansas City court sentenced a Missouri man to six years in federal prison without parole for hacking his former employer, stealing trade secrets, and for accessing child pornography.

      The man is Jacob Raines, 38, of Parkville, Missouri, who worked as IT manager for American Crane & Tractor Parts (AC&TP) in Kansas City from July 2004 until March 28, 2014, when he resigned his position.

    • Security News This Week: A New Bill Wants Jail Time for Execs Who Hide Data Breaches

      Failure to report within 30 days could come with imprisonment of up to five years for the execs who decided to cover it up.

    • Flaw Found In Dirty COW Patch
    • Researchers dissect open-source ransomware programs Bugware and Vortex
    • Dell also sells laptops with Intel Management Engine disabled

      Linux computer vendor System76 announced this week that it will roll out a firmware update to disable Intel Management Engine on laptops sold in the past few years. Purism will also disable Intel Management Engine on computers it sells moving forward.

      Those two computer companies are pretty small players in the multi-billion dollar PC industry. But it turns out one of the world’s largest PC companies is also offering customers the option of buying a computer with Intel Management Engine disabled.

      At least three Dell computers can be configured with an “Intel vPro™ – ME Inoperable, Custom Order” option, although you’ll have to pay a little extra for those configurations.

    • Notes on Linux/BillGates

      This post will include some notes on Linux/BillGates, hereafter referred to as just ‘BillGates’, and rather than being very in-depth as the previous blog, I will mostly list high-level notes and remediation or disinfection steps. Additionally, after the conclusion, you will find other resources if necessary.

    • Dirty COW redux: Linux devs patch botched patch for 2016 mess

      Linus Torvalds last week rushed a patch into the Linux kernel, after researchers discovered the patch for 2016′s Dirty COW bug had a bug of its own.

      Dirty COW is a privilege escalation vulnerability in Linux’s “copy-on-write” mechanism, first documented in October 2016 and affecting both Linux and Android systems.

    • New web browsing security tool arrives: DNS over TLS

      Net neutrality is on its death bed. With it gone, ISPs will be able to strip-data-mine your every move on the web. There are answers. One is Tenta’s new secure Domain Name System (DNS) resolver, Tenta DNS. This receives and sends the directions to the websites you visit using the secure Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol.

      DNS is the internet’s master phone book. When you type in a website address or click on a link, it turns human-readable domain names into machine-usable IP addresses. If you use your ISP’s DNS server, which is the default, the ISP can watch your every move. Even if you use an ordinary third-party DNS server, such as Google Public DNS servers, 8.8.8.8 or 8.8.4.4, and one of Cisco’s OpenDNS servers, 208.67.222.222 or 208.67.220.220, your DNS requests are still made in the clear and your ISP can see where you’re going.

    • 17 must-watch TED Talks on cyber security
    • Barclays axes free anti-virus software over fears it could be used to spy on Britons for the Russian government -despite assuring existing customers it is safe
    • Barclays axes free Kaspersky product as a ‘precaution’
    • Kaspersky Labs: Warning over Russian anti-virus software
    • British Spies Warn About Russian Antivirus
  • Defence/Aggression

    • Trump recognition of Jerusalem as Israeli capital would fuel violence: Arab League

      Any move by the United States to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would fuel extremism and violence, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Saturday.

    • Cherry-picking Toward War with Iran

      Although nobody knows exactly where Donald Trump intends to go with his campaign of seeking confrontation with Iran, his administration already has provided disconcerting parallels with the techniques an earlier U.S. administration used in selling its launching of a war against Iraq. Among these techniques is the cherry-picking of intelligence not to inform policy-making or to enlighten the public but instead to inculcate false perceptions among the public and thereby to muster support for a policy already chosen.

    • If Tillerson’s Out, is Iran War In?

      The Trump administration will reportedly oust Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and install CIA Director Mike Pompeo in his place, with Republican Sen. Tom Cotton replacing Pompeo. Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council says that’s a recipe for a US war on Iran

    • White House Might Share Nuclear Power Technology With Saudis

      The Trump administration is holding talks on providing nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia — a move that critics say could upend decades of U.S. policy and lead to an arms race in the Middle East.

      The Saudi government wants nuclear power to free up more oil for export, but current and former American officials suspect the country’s leaders also want to keep up with the enrichment capabilities of their rival, Iran.

      Saudi Arabia needs approval from the U.S. in order to receive sensitive American technology. Past negotiations broke down because the Saudi government wouldn’t commit to certain safeguards against eventually using the technology for weapons.

    • Mehdi Hasan Rips Thomas Friedman’s “Nauseating” Column in NYT Praising Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince

      We get response from Al Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan to New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s recent controversial column, “Saudi Arabia’s Arab Spring, at Last.” Hasan argues the piece is absurdly sympathetic to Saudi Arabia, and that Trump’s friendly relations with the country mean he “is not just a liar and a conspiracy theorist, he’s a hypocrite. He goes on about ‘radical islamic terrorism’ but cozies up to Saudi Arabia, which many would argue has done more to promote ideologically and financially radical Islamic terrorism than any other country on earth.”

    • New Investigation Finds U.S. Special Forces Massacred Somali Civilians & Orchestrated a Cover-Up

      The Pentagon is on the defensive after a new investigation revealed evidence that U.S. special operations forces massacred civilians in Somalia earlier this year, allegedly firing on unarmed farmers and their families, then planting weapons beside the bodies to appear as though the people were armed members of al-Shabab. On Wednesday they released a statement that said, “After a thorough assessment of the Somali National Army-led operation near Bariire, Somalia, on Aug. 25, 2017 and the associated allegations of civilian casualties, U.S. Special Operations Command Africa has concluded that the only casualties were those of armed enemy combatants.” This came after The Daily Beast published an investigation Wednesday on the operation and its aftermath and reported what eyewitnesses have said since the attack—the victims were farmers, and they were killed by American soldiers. All of this comes as the U.S. recently revealed it has some 500 troops in Somalia, up from a reported 50 earlier this year. We speak with Christina Goldbaum, an independent journalist based in Mogadishu, Somalia. Her new article for The Daily Beast is the investigation headlined, “Strong Evidence that U.S. Special Operations Forces Massacred Civilians in Somalia.”

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Les Whitten, investigative reporter arrested by FBI and spied on by CIA, dies at 89

      Les Whitten, an investigative reporter whose skill at cultivating government sources and securing secret documents — sometimes through threats or the use of a paid private investigator — made him a top legman of muckraker Jack Anderson and an enemy of President Richard M. Nixon, died Dec. 2 at an assisted-living community in Adelphi, Md. He was 89.

      He had recently been hospitalized for sepsis, said a son, Les Whitten III.

      A self-described “swashbuckler,” Mr. Whitten was an aspiring novelist who covered wars in the Dominican Republic and Vietnam before joining the staff of the country’s most popular daily news column, the Washington Merry-Go-Round, in 1969.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Tesla beats deadline, switches on gigantic Australian battery array

      On Friday, Tesla switched on the massive 100MW, 129MWh battery installation it built in South Australia, just as the state is about to head into the grid-taxing summer season. The installation was completed last week, ending a bet between Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Australian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes. The bet was made in March, when Musk tweeted to an incredulous Cannon-Brookes that Tesla could build and install a massive lithium-ion battery installation in “100 days or it is free.”

    • Internal documents suggest oil giant Shell was involved in 1990s Nigerian human rights abuses
    • When Trump Guts Two Utah National Monuments Next Week, He’ll Trigger a New Conservation War

      I wrote my first letter pleading for preservation of Utah’s Kaiparowits Plateau as a college student 45 years ago. When President Clinton proclaimed Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in 1996, he ended a 30-year debate about whether we should strip-mine coal on the Kaiparowits, a vast and remote wildland offering rich resources for scientific research. I thought the plateau, one of three key landscapes protected by the monument, was safe.

      Turns out the monument’s canyons, plateaus and riversheds still need defending.

    • Sonnen, Pura Energía build solar systems in Puerto Rico as utility woes continue

      German battery company Sonnen and its Puerto Rican solar-installing partner, Pura Energía, announced that they’ve installed six solar-plus-storage systems around Puerto Rico, and have plans for nine more. The initial six systems were donated, according to a press release from Sonnen, though it’s unclear whether the subsequent nine will be donated or funded by some other entity.

  • Finance

    • AI Has Already Taken Over. It’s Called the Corporation.

      Some of the leading thinkers of our time are unleashing a stream of warnings about the threat of artificial intelligence taking over from humans. Earlier this month, Stephen Hawking predicted it could be “the worst event in the history of our civilization” unless we find a way to control its development. Billionaire Elon Musk has formed a company to try to keep humans one step ahead of what he sees as an existential AI threat.

      The scenario that terrifies them is that, in spite of the best intentions, we might create a force more powerful than all of humanity with a value system that doesn’t necessarily incorporate human welfare. Once it reaches a critical mass, this force could take over the world, control human activity, and essentially suck all life out of the earth while it optimizes for its own ends. Prominent futurist Nick Bostrom gives an example of a superintelligence designed with the goal of manufacturing paperclips that transforms the entire earth into one gigantic paperclip manufacturing facility.

    • Ireland: no go-ahead for Brexit talks to move on

      The Irish government is not immediately ready to approve Brexit talks moving on to the next phase although progress has been made, an Irish minister said at the start of a crucial day for the negotiation process.

      Helen McEntee, Ireland’s Europe minister, said a “huge amount of work” had been done over weekend in trying to iron out issues over a future Irish border, one of the issues that must be addressed before Brexit talks can move on to discussing a future trade relationship.

      The Irish cabinet was meeting on Monday morning before Theresa May’s crunch meeting at lunchtime in Brussels with the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker.

      “Unfortunately I don’t think that we will have an absolute final text that we will be able to approve,” McEntee told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “However, for us there are a number of key issues that we have wanted to see progress on that I know progress has been made over the weekend.”

    • May to take charge of Brexit talks at crucial Brussels meetings

      Theresa May will take personal charge of Brexit negotiations as she visits Brussels for crucial meetings hoping to clinch an agreement on the Northern Ireland border issue, which has so far proved impossible.

      She will be having lunch on Monday with Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European commission, and will later meet Donald Tusk, president of the European council, on a day when all sides had hoped to finalise the UK offer on the border, citizens’ rights and the financial settlement.

      Agreement on these three issues should pave the way for EU leaders to decide at their summit later this month to open talks on a future UK-EU trade deal.

    • Republicans Are Looting the Treasury While They Still Can
    • Senate Republicans Pass Tax Bill in the Middle of the Night

      And according to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, nobody read it.

    • The Senate passes a tax [sic] bill

      Republicans’ claim to be the party of balanced budgets is now laughable

    • Bitcoin investors hoping to make billions may end up with a sack of fool’s gold

      The cryptocurrency may not be a threat to the world economy, but that should not stop regulators from protecting investors from it

    • Bitcoin: Seven questions you were too embarrassed to ask

      Bitcoin’s price hit a new record this week, soaring above $11,000 on Wednesday morning. The price has been a roller coaster since then, with the price briefly dropping to $9,000 later on Wednesday before regaining much of its lost value in recent days.

    • Watershed Ahead

      The latter group is comprised of members in good standing of “the donor class.” Trump’s donors are among the most venal in creation.

      The Donald cares about the bamboozled ones and the ones who hate Hillary above all because they feed his vanity, but only the rich ones really matter.

      Because rational deliberation and debate have come to count for almost nothing in the real world of American politics, it is their money that talks, and therefore their support that he cares about.

      When they finally realize that the man they have been backing is more trouble than he is worth, Trump will be toast. It was their money, more than his own, that put Trump in the White House; and it is their money now that keeps hardcore Trump supporters on board and that helps sustain support for the GOP, the party Trump nominally leads.

    • The University of Puerto Rico: Looming Threats of Privatization After Hurricanes Irma and María

      Long before hurricanes Irma and María utterly devastated Puerto Rico, the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), the most important public higher education institution on the Archipelago, was weathering a storm of its own: austerity.

      Puerto Rico is currently drowning under the weight of a $74 billion debt, and $49 billion in pension obligations, the likes of which is a product of a decades-long recession, illegal bond issuances and trades, and an overly-advertised tax haven. The legal framework that made these practices possible was enacted by the US Congress, implementing a rationale of exceptionality, establishing Puerto Rico as an exception to the tax code of the US. This has lead many to argue that PR’s debt is inherently colonial.

    • Senate passes tax overhaul bill with last-minute changes and hand-written scribbles

      Following weeks of uncertainty and months of legislative setbacks, Senate Republicans mustered up 51 votes in the early hours of Saturday morning to pass the most extensive tax rewrite in recent decades. The bill marks the party’s first major policy achievement under President Donald Trump.

      The legislation was drawn up by Senate Republicans through an almost entirely secretive process, and despite concerns from a few Republicans over the bill’s potential impact, they were swayed with a series of last-minute changes. The massive tax overhaul passed along a 51-49 vote margin with no Democrats voting for the bill, and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., as the lone Republican opposition vote.

      Just hours prior to the vote senators were given the 479-page bill which was filled with changes and differed from the original version that passed through two Senate panels in recent weeks. Democrats sharply criticized the secretive legislative process, as well as the last-minute changes and the fact that they had been expected to vote on a sweeping piece of legislation that impacts the entire country mere hours after seeing the bill for the first time.

    • Ex-Union Buster Turned NLRB Member Divulges 100-plus Additional Former Clients, Including Amazon, Wells Fargo, and CBS

      A Republican member of the National Labor Relations Board revealed the names of more than a hundred more former clients and committed to recusing himself from matters they might have before his agency.

      William Emanuel disclosed a more complete list of firms who employed his legal services in the past two years, after prodding from Democratic Senators. Before his appointment to the NLRB, Emanuel worked as a partner for Littler Mendelson, a law firm that specializes in union-busting consultancy.

      The lawmakers had noted that while the confirmation process merely asks nominees to declare who had recently hired them for $5,000 or more, the Trump administration had asked its nominees to avoid government work that directly involves all past clients.

    • How London’s loss is Dublin’s gain after Brexit

      After the initial shock of the EU referendum subsided last year, Ireland’s political and business leaders began focusing on the opportunities Brexit could deliver, with Dublin touted as a new “Canary dwarf” luring thousands of banking jobs from London.

      Around 18 months on, the thorny issues of the border with Northern Ireland and the potential disruption Brexit will cause to Irish exports are also looming large. On Friday though, Ireland’s deputy prime minister calmed fraying nerves by saying he thought a border deal was “doable”.

    • Nigel Farage admits he will keep his £73,000 EU pension, saying ‘why should my family suffer?’

      Nigel Farage says he intends to keep his £73,000 pension from the European Union, saying: “Why should my family suffer?”

      The former Ukip leader has been accused of staggering hypocrisy after it emerged he was in line for the bumper payout, after decades spent complaining about waste in the EU.

      He said: “All I can say is given the arbitrary way the European Union behaves in terms of money, I’d be very surprised if I get any of it.”

      But challenged by the BBC’s Andrew Marr to stick by his principles he refused to say he would turn it down.

    • Why the UN is investigating extreme poverty … in America, the world’s richest nation

      The United Nations monitor on extreme poverty and human rights has embarked on a coast-to-coast tour of the US to hold the world’s richest nation – and its president – to account for the hardships endured by America’s most vulnerable citizens.

      The tour, which kicked off on Friday morning, will make stops in four states as well as Washington DC and the US territory of Puerto Rico. It will focus on several of the social and economic barriers that render the American dream merely a pipe dream to millions – from homelessness in California to racial discrimination in the Deep South, cumulative neglect in Puerto Rico and the decline of industrial jobs in West Virginia.

      With 41 million Americans officially in poverty according to the US Census Bureau (other estimates put that figure much higher), one aim of the UN mission will be to demonstrate that no country, however wealthy, is immune from human suffering induced by growing inequality. Nor is any nation, however powerful, beyond the reach of human rights law – a message that the US government and Donald Trump might find hard to stomach given their tendency to regard internal affairs as sacrosanct.

    • Brussels may include ‘punishment clause’ in post-Brexit trade deal

      The EU is exploring the inclusion of a “punishment clause” in any future trade deal with the UK to allow Brussels to slap tariffs on key British exports to the bloc if the UK government seeks to gain a commercial advantage by lowering regulatory standards.

      In a move that would torpedo the post-Brexit plans of the British cabinet’s key Brexiters, any significant attempts by Whitehall to lower regulatory costs to British businesses in one part of the economy could be met by tariffs from Brussels on another.

      An attempt to grab a larger share of the world market in aluminium, for example, by loosening regulation and reducing production costs in the UK could provoke a punitive tariff on British beef sales to the EU, a sector on which thousands of jobs rely.

    • Unless You’re Rich, the Economy Is Not Working for You. And the GOP Tax Plan Will Only Make It Worse

      By this point we’ve all heard about the cartoonish immorality of the GOP tax plan—raising taxes on the working poor while cutting taxes for the super-rich.

      But setting aside these moral considerations, the Republican tax reform package is also a catastrophe as economic policy. As designed, it will super-charge trends that have stalled growth and wages in the United States for the last four decades. Neither the House nor the Senate plan will do anything to spur investment and both will bolster a tax code that incentivizes short-term speculation and the squeezing of workers, supply chains and consumers.

      Our economy has plenty of problems, but too little cash at the top is not one of them. Tax cuts for corporations and the rich—along with a suite of policies pushed over 40 years—have shifted how, when and where corporations and individuals decide to invest, spend and save.

    • Trump campaigned as a populist. He’s not delivering as president

      President Trump ran a campaign on lifting up the little guy. He was, in the words of his oldest son, “a blue-collar billionaire,” and it was his plain-spoken promise to be their warrior in Washington that helped win over voters in hollowed-out Midwestern towns.

      But almost a year into his presidency, evidence shows he has governed not as the populist champion he proclaimed himself to be, but instead as a president siding more often with large corporations, special interests, and the wealthiest of Americans.

      In deeds, if not in words, he’s proved a lot more “billionaire” and a lot less “blue-collar.”

      The tax plan Trump is backing in Congress would hurt many in the middle class in the long term, while bestowing greater, permanent benefits on corporations and wealthy people, according to nonpartisan estimates. He is seeking to hamstring the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, which is charged with preventing banks, credit card companies, and unscrupulous lenders from fleecing average consumers.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Trump’s Tweet About Michael Flynn Raises Obstruction of Justice Questions
    • Legal experts: Trump’s tweet could lead to obstruction of justice charges

      Walter Shaub, the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, said Saturday that Trump’s tweet would have been enough to end past administrations.

    • How the private sector is helping China to modernise propaganda

      The private sector has had better luck. In recent years non-state firms have been churning out works that have the kind of impact the party craves. The goal of such businesses is to make money, not to create propaganda for its own sake. But to survive they need to stay in the party’s good books. So they have found ways of producing pro-party entertainment that is popular. A common technique is appealing to youthful patriotism.

    • Marcy Wheeler: Mike Flynn’s Guilty Plea to FBI Will Shape How GOP Handles Russia Investigation

      Update: ABC is reporting Michael Flynn prepared to testify that President-elect Donald Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians during the transition, initially as a way to work together to fight ISIS in Syria.

      Just before news broke that President Trump’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn will plead guilty this morning to lying to the FBI, we spoke with national security reporter Marcy Wheeler, who anticipated the news and said it could “dramatically change how Republicans face the Russian investigation.”

    • Honduras Again in the Balance

      The initial Honduran election returns looked promising for the progressive challenger but the vote count has since stalled and the authoritarian incumbent sent troops into the streets to stop protests, as Dennis J Bernstein reports.

    • One year on from the by-election that changed progressive politics

      Just imagine this: Brexit in any shape leads to a new Tory leader and Prime Minister. Whoever it is, their message will be the same: ‘the future of Britain has been made. Whatever your views on the EU our fate is sealed and delivered. Our new place in the global order can only be secured by a party and a leader who wanted Brexit the first place, who sees and welcomes the opportunities for our nation. Now give me the mandate to lead our liberated nation into its golden new future – whatever you do, don’t hand it back to a divided and weak Labour Party’. In this scenario, are progressives going to fight each other – or the Brexit Buccaneers?

    • NYC Greets Trump: “Lock Him Up! Lock Him Up!”

      President Trump was greeted in New York City on Saturday by thousands loudly chanting “Lock Him Up! Lock Him Up!”, “Shame on You!” and “Traitor!”

    • Koch Latino Front Group Instructs Arizona Moms About School Vouchers

      A full year in advance of a historic showdown on school vouchers in Arizona, the Kochs are already ladling on the cash. Through their Latino front group, Libre Institute, they have launched a six figure ad campaign targeting Arizona moms on one of the Kochs’ favorite topics, school vouchers.

      The TV ads feature a variety of Latino and Anglo “moms” singing the praises of school choice; the mailings feature cookie cutter “happy families” still featuring the “Istock” watermark. The campaign is an early attempt to sway voters who will decide whether or not to expand vouchers statewide in November 2018 when Proposition 305 appears on the ballot.

    • Trump’s contempt illuminates Britain’s fragile place in the world

      Remember the Taming of the Trump? When his election stunned the planet, there were quite a lot of cool voices on both sides of the Atlantic who contended that the 45th president of the United States would be tempered by power. Appearing to mistake him for a fine wine, they argued that he could be “matured”. Encumbered by the great responsibilities of the office, contained by the institutions of the United States and modulated by the American diplomatic establishment, he would evolve into a president traditional allies of the United States could handle. It wouldn’t be easy – few were foolish enough to believe that – but it would be manageable.

    • Narendra Modi and the muzzling of the Indian media

      Generally, the death of a judge in highly mysterious circumstances while presiding over a case against the second most powerful person in the country, and the closest associate of the head of the government, would be the lead story in any democracy. Similarly, the allegations of corruption against the family of the same person would have garnered media attention. Recent events in India have proved otherwise.

      On November 20, and 21, the Indian publication The Caravan broke a chilling story of the suspicious death of 49-year old Justice B. H. Loya, involved in the case (of alleged extra-judicial killing) against the president of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s ruling party. This was after a purported attempt to bribe him by the Chief Justice of a High Court, for a favorable verdict in the case, with an amount of Rs. 100 crore ($ 15.3 million). These allegations were made by the family of the judge.

    • Theresa May’s entire social mobility commission have quit because ‘she’s too busy with Brexit to help the poor’

      Theresa May’s entire social mobility commission dramatically quit last night, accusing the Prime Minister of being too busy with Brexit to help the poor.

      Alan Milburn, the former Labour minister who heads the commission, said he had “little hope” the current Government was capable of making the changes necessary to deliver a more equal society.

      He was joined in walking out by his three fellow commissioners, including the Conservative former cabinet minister Baroness Shephard.

      The resignations are a major setback for Mrs May who entered No 10 promising to tackle the “burning injustices” that hold back poorer people.

    • Donald Trump pulls US out of UN global compact on migration

      The Trump administration has pulled out of the United Nations’ ambitious plans to create a more humane global strategy on migration, saying involvement in the process interferes with American sovereignty, and runs counter to US immigration policies.

      The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Hayley, informed the UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, at the weekend that Donald Trump was not willing to continue with an American commitment to the UN global compact on migration.

    • Trump Trip Canceled After His Anti-Muslim Retweets Offend Britons

      You can’t take him anywhere. And, he is leaving a trail of US diplomatic catastrophes even with close allies.

      In the aftermath of massive and almost unanimous British outrage at Trump’s retweets of anti-Muslim hate videos (one phony and two irrelevant to Muslims in general) posted by the Neo-Nazi group Britain First, American diplomats have dropped plans for a working visit of Trump to the UK in January, when he was supposed to have inaugurated the new US embassy in London.

      Scores of members of parliament and London mayor Sadiq Khan, of Muslim heritage, have said that Trump is not welcome in the country. One MP suggested that if he did step foot on British soil, he should be arrested for hate crimes.

      US ambassador to the court of St. James’s, billionaire Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets, had urged Britons in September to get to know Trump.” “You’ll like him,” Johnson had promised. The ambassador is an heir of the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical company. Johnson appears emblematic of the moral bankruptcy of the 563-strong billionaire class in the United States, many of whom played important roles in giving us Trump, such as Bob Mercer, former CEO of Renaissance Technologies Hedge Fund (from which everyone should disinvest), and all-round funder of causes dear to the heart of any Nazi. Trump is in the process of rewarding the neo-Nazi billionaires by transferring another $1.5 trillion to them and taking it away from people who make less than $1 million a year.

    • There’s an insidious strategy behind Donald Trump’s retweets

      On Nov. 29, President Trump retweeted a series of videos that purported to depict violence committed by Muslims. They had originated from the account of a far-right British ultranationalist who had been convicted for harassing a Muslim. The backlash was swift, with British Prime Minister Theresa May saying “the President is wrong to have done this.”

      But Trump’s retweeting of controversial (sometimes outright false) content is part of a pattern.

      For example, during the 2016 campaign, George Stephanopoulos asked Donald Trump about his retweet of a follower who insisted that both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were ineligible for the presidency.

    • Nigel Farage Lies On Marr

      To the considerable concern of many viewers who do not share his view of the world, former UKIP Oberscheissenführer Nigel “Thirsty” Farage was welcomed on to the official BBC paper review sofa for today’s edition of The Andy Marr Show ™. And once he opened his North and South, Nige proceeded in the only way he knows how – talking well, but lying badly. There was also a less than healthy dose of rank hypocrisy.

    • 5 Key Psychological Traits of Trump Supporters

      Although analyses and studies by psychologists and neuroscientists have provided many thought-provoking explanations for his enduring support, the accounts of different experts often vary greatly, sometimes overlapping and other times conflicting. However insightful these critiques may be, it is apparent that more research and examination is needed to hone in on the exact psychological and social factors underlying this peculiar human behavior.

      In a recent review paper published in the Journal of Social and Political Psychology, Psychologist and UC Santa Cruz professor Thomas Pettigrew argues that five major psychological phenomena can help explain this exceptional political event.

    • MSNBC Host Joy Reid Wrote Numerous Anti-Gay Articles on Her Old Blog

      Recently resurfaced internet archives show political commentator Joy Reid wrote a dozen blog posts in 2007, 2008, and 2009 that contained homophobic conspiracies and anti-gay jokes.

      The MSNBC weekend host ran a blog called The Reid Report — which is the same name as her now-defunct cable news show — a decade ago while she wrote for the Miami Herald. As first resurfaced by Twitter user Jamie_Maz, Reid wrote numerous bigoted blog posts smearing, mocking, and attacking former Florida governor Charlie Crist. These rants included calling Crist “Miss Charlie” and sarcastically using the tags “gay politicians” and “not gay politicians” — despite the fact that the twice-married, heterosexual man has never come-out as gay.

      Reid went on to spread the crackpot conspiracy theory that Crist was actually a closeted gay man who refused to come out for fear that his sexual orientation would hurt his political career. Additionally, the AM Joy host claims Crist’s marriages to women are part of this elaborate cover up.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • How Trolls Locked My Twitter Account For 10 Days, And Welp

      The Monday before Thanksgiving, I awoke to my personal nightmare: I had been reported for abuse on Twitter (my favorite thing to look at while I crap), and my account was frozen.

      I wasn’t totally shocked, but I was surprised the situation had gone this far. More importantly, the experience gave me unique insight into how Twitter’s moderation system actually works, from the inconsistent replies it gave to people who reported my tweets to its complete silence after I filled out an “appeal” to reinstate my account.

      A few days before, I got a flood of replies to an old tweet from 2011 that said “kill all white people”.

      [...]

      The day before my tweet was reported, Twitter had de-verified Richard Spencer and a few other high-profile white nationalist accounts. In response, their supporters wanted to expose Twitter’s supposed hypocrisy for allowing verified users to tweet mean things about white people.

      A few larger white nationalist or alt-right Twitter accounts shared my tweet as well as some similar ones from verified users.

      [...]

      It is not a secret that Twitter has a two-tiered system, where celebrities and verified users can get support in ways that the unwashed masses don’t. This isn’t because there’s some special second technical system for important accounts, just that the more access and influence you have, the greater your ability to talk to a Twitter employee — not just a contractor doing customer support — to get help. When Rose McGowan was briefly suspended, she was reinstated 12 hours later after getting in touch with her team; last weekend, a New York Times account was locked after a tweet about Justin Trudeau was flagged by a moderator as “hateful,” and the account was unfrozen 24 hours later. If this happened to a BuzzFeed official account, we would immediately reach out to Twitter for help. Celebrities and media outlets can reach out for help instead of waiting over a week for customer support. In cases like McGowan’s — she was in the middle of an important critique of harassment in Hollywood when she was suspended — this kind of prioritization is a good thing. But for so many who’re serially abused on the platform, it’s a source of endless frustration.

    • IYSSE mounts campaign against UC Berkeley police censorship

      The International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) at the University of California, Berkeley, is mounting a campaign against the university’s efforts to establish police censorship over student groups. UC Berkeley’s new policy, known as the Major Events Policy, subjects all student group meetings on campus to an eight-week process of police review and requires that clubs pay for any police presence required by the administration.

    • Scandal and innocence in times of film censorship
    • ‘Sexy’ Was Added To Durga To Gain Publicity & I Did Not Understand The Film: Rahul Rawail
    • See ‘Star Wars’ In A Whole New Light Thanks To Jimmy Kimmel’s ‘Unnecessary Censorship’
    • Star Wars Gets An Unnecessary Censorship Trailer
    • Apple, Google CEOs bring star power as China promotes censorship
    • Apple’s Tim Cook and Google’s Sundar Pichai attend Chinese state-run internet conference
    • China defends state control over internet at technology forum
  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Former NSA worker admits to stealing Russian hacked data

      Nghia Pho, a former NSA employee has pleaded guilty to taking home classified information that was soon after linked to a hack from Russian intelligence. Pho will be sentenced on April 6th and has had his maximum penalty capped at 8 years, which would usually be 10 years.

    • NSA employee pleads guilty to taking home classified data accessed by Kaspersky

      In the latest twist on claims leveled against Russian security firm Kaspersky Labs, an employee of the U.S. National Security Agency has admitted to illegally taking classified data home on his personal computer.

      Nghia Hoang Pho, 67, of Ellicott City, Maryland, spent 10 years working for the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations unit, a unit tasked with hacking computer systems. He pleaded guilty as part of the plea deal to one charge of willful retention of national defense information.

    • House Intelligence Committee Lobs Zero-Reform Section 702 Bill Into The Mix At The Last Possible Minute

      With less than a month remaining (factoring in extended Congressional Christmas vacations) before the expiration of certain NSA collection authorities, the House Intelligence Committee has finally offered up its awful clone of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s reform-less renewal bill.

      It’s basically a mirror image of Senator Burr’s bill, right down to the offer to turn back on the “about” email collection the NSA voluntarily shut down because it just couldn’t stop collecting US persons’ communications. All the NSA has to do is notify Congress it wants the program back and hope the next 30 days go by without someone pushing through a bill codifying the voluntary shutdown.

    • Senator Wyden Asks DHS To Look Into Cell Tower Spoofer Use By Foreign Entities In Washington DC

      Certainly the DHS has the tech to do its own cell tower spoofing. A recent FOIA request by Buzzfeed found the DHS has been deploying Stingray devices about once a day for the last three years. A cell tower spoofer isn’t the best tool for detecting other cell tower spoofers, but it could turn into a DC-based Spy vs. Spy operation, with the DHS running its equipment to locate competitors’ foreign-owned equipment, with the inherent escalation that scenario implies.

      The thing about cell tower spoofers is they can be used to intercept communications. That functionality is available, although we have yet to see (acknowledged) use of Stingray devices to eavesdrop here in the US. The tacit agreement to limit Stingray use to locating cell phones is not without its own issues, but there’s no agreement, unspoken or otherwise, limiting foreign entities from intercepting phones calls and text messages with their devices. (Undoubtedly, any cell tower “listening posts” deployed by the US in other countries would be similarly unaffected by voluntary limitations on domestic deployment.)

    • US politicos wake up to danger of black-box algorithms shaping all corners of American life

      In Washington, DC, on Wednesday, academics and policy wonks warned US Congressional representatives about the perils of inscrutable algorithms, a red flag entangled by tangential worries about privacy, data collection, and net neutrality.

      As framed in a letter submitted by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, democracy depends on fairness and transparency, but decisions that affect people’s lives have become increasingly automated and opaque.

      “It is becoming increasingly clear that Congress must regulate AI to ensure accountability and transparency,” EPIC’s letter said, with AI here being best understood simply as computer code.

    • Once again: Privacy promises from a company are worth nothing, because companies can’t promise anything

      In the last post, I recalled that the only thing that matter whether data collection is taking place is whether it’s technically possible, and that if you carry an electronic sensor, you must assume it to be active. Here’s why it doesn’t matter one bit if the sensor was made with “good guys” with exemplary and outstanding Terms and Conditions.

    • Schumer says ‘Grinch bots’ are stealing Christmas

      The senator said as soon as a retailer puts a hard-to-get toy — like Barbie’s Dreamhouse or Nintendo game systems — for sale on a website, a bot can snatch it up even before a kid’s parents finish entering their credit card information.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Australian State Wants To Let Tech Companies Ignore Laws And Regulations

      There is one exception to that “unfettered power”: the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006, which protects Aboriginal cultural heritage in the state, may not be ignored by anyone at any time. Although there may be good reasons for that exemption, the Law Society notes that the Bill does not explain why only this law is mentioned, nor why key criminal laws, and legislation relating to environmental protection, health and safety are not excluded from the scope of the Research, Development and Innovation Bill 2017. For her part, a local politician from the Greens party, Tammy Franks, is worried about the lack of public consultations on the new Bill:

    • Karapatan bares 25 new EJK cases

      The killings involved activists, mostly members of local peasant organizations in Mindanao, from April to September, Palabay said.

    • A Simple Checklist Inspires a New Kind of Activism

      Hofmann started Americans of Conscience Action Checklist a year ago as a resource for friends struggling to make sense of the wave of post-election petitions on social media. In those days of outrage and confusion—between near-daily rallies and protests—her checklist became a menu of actions for people seeking to push back against divisive rhetoric and extremism flooding the country.

    • The Blue-Collar Hellscape of the Startup Industry

      Vaughn said he complained in writing to the company’s human resources department and CEO Elon Musk, but Tesla neglected to investigate his claims. In true tech executive fashion, Musk deflected Vaughn’s misgivings, shifting the blame to the assailed worker. “In fairness, if someone is a jerk to you, but sincerely apologizes, it is important to be thick-skinned and accept that apology,” he wrote in a May email. In late October, according to Vaughn’s suit, he was fired for “not having a positive attitude.”

    • A City on a Hill (or the Weinstein Effect)

      The accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault against celebrity (mostly Hollywood) men by women who, mostlty, worked under them in some capacity, or were trying to further their career with acting roles or writing jobs, etc. have created a public response not reached since the *Recovered Memories* epoch of judicial debacles and mob hysteria a couple decades back. But two things have struck me about the rise in fervor, as its experienced on social media and in mass media, and that is that almost none of these celebrities is accused of rape (Weinstein is accused of rape in one case, which he denies). And yet the topic of rape is argued all the time from both genders.

    • ‘Sound policy’ to prosecute hackers in UK, says former DPP in Love case

      The former director of public prosecutions (DPP), Ken Macdonald, said in written evidence in Lauri Love’s extradition case that it is normal practice to prosecute hackers accused of attacking US servers in the UK – rather than extradite them to the US

    • Does Our Belief in Women’s Stories of Sexual Violence Extend to Survivors Behind Bars?

      In 2005, 26-year-old Paris Knox was living in Chicago with her 13-month-old son. Her relationship with her baby’s father, Malteeny Taylor, was characterized by violence and abuse. During their time together, he not only hit her but, even with others present, pulled her by the hair down the street and smacked her to the ground.

      On May 21, 2005, Taylor attacked Knox in her home. She defended herself, an act that ultimately resulted in his death and her arrest. At trial, witnesses testified that Knox and Taylor’s relationship was “tumultuous” and that arguments frequently escalated to verbal and physical abuse. Nonetheless, the jury convicted Knox of first-degree murder and she was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

    • Jeff Sessions’s Constant Lying Is Being Used to Help the Criminal Defense of the White Cop Who Murdered Walter Scott

      The execution of Walter Scott by South Carolina police officer Michael Slager was an unambiguous example of racist police abuse. Cell phone footage clearly shows Slager, who is white, pumping eight bullets into the retreating figure of Scott, who was black, as he fled from the officer. The distance between the two at the moment Slager began firing on the unarmed Scott appears to be anywhere from 18 to 20 feet, much too far for Scott to have been any kind of credible danger to the officer. Yet Slager falsely reported that Scott ran at him and attempted to wrestle away his Taser, causing the officer to feel “threatened” and necessitating use of lethal force.

      Thanks to the emergence of bystander video proving Slager’s story of self-defense was a lie, federal prosecutors have charged the ex-officer with obstruction of justice, which Slager is attempting to beat by relying on the case of another well-known liar: Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Slager’s defense team is pointing to Sessions’ constantly shifting and contradictory congressional testimony to show that their client suffers from the same condition that makes it so hard for the Trump administration official to remember the truth.

    • Has Trump’s Presidency Triggered the Movement Against Sexual Harassment?

      The cascade of sexual harassment accusations over the past month has moved from high-profile men to lesser-known people in sectors such as higher education and the restaurant industry. In an important and fundamental way, the ground beneath us has shifted: Victims everywhere have lost their patience and their fear, and are finding willing listeners.

      A question worth asking is: Why has it shifted now?

    • Why Redneck Revolt Says Deal With Racism First, Then Economics

      Moved by the need for control, for an unchallenged top tier, the power elite in American history has thrived by placating the vulnerable and creating for them a false sense of identification—denying real class differences where possible.
      —Nancy Isenberg, White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

      There is no shortage of media commentary discrediting “identity politics,” particularly the focus on Black, Latinx, LGBTQ, and immigrant communities calling for justice and equity. Economics is our real problem, a counter argument goes, not race, sex, gender, citizenship. But as author Nancy Isenberg points out in White Trash, “identity has always been a part of politics.”

    • Man detained by ICE after speaking with news reporters

      A Mexican man who spoke with reporters about his longtime girlfriend’s immigration arrest has now been detained himself, and he says agents told him it’s because he was in the newspaper.

      Baltazar “Rosas” Aburto Gutierrez spoke with the local Chinook Observer as well as The Seattle Times after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained his girlfriend in June. He was identified by only his nickname in the Observer, and not by name in the Times.

      Aburto Gutierrez, 35, told the Times in a phone interview from the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma that he was arrested last Monday morning in Ocean Shores, where he lives and works as a clamdigger.

      He said an agent told him: “My supervisor asked me to come find you because of what appeared in the newspaper.”

      ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley told the Times that the agency doesn’t retaliate as a rule. But when pressed about Aburto Gutierrez’s case, she declined to comment, the Times reported.

    • ICE tracks down immigrant who spoke to media in SW Washington: ‘You are the one from the newspaper’

      A man who recounted his longtime girlfriend’s arrest in a Seattle Times story about ramped-up immigration enforcement in Pacific County last month has now been detained, and says U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents told him the arrest was because he was in the newspaper.

      Baltazar “Rosas” Aburto Gutierrez, speaking by phone from the Northwest Detention Center, where he is being held, said he got off work about 4 a.m. Monday — he harvests clams around Willapa Bay — went back to his Ocean Park home and, a few hours later, headed to Okie’s Thriftway Market for coffee and eggs.

    • US ‘trying to override British justice’ to extradite hacker: Former top prosecutor says future looks ‘ghastly’ if Lauri Love is tried in America

      The extradition to the US of accused computer hacker Lauri Love is an attempt to ‘override’ the British justice system, the UK’s former most senior prosecutor has said.
      Lord Macdonald, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, said that the request from American prosecutors raises ‘questions of sovereignty’.
      He added that the future looked ‘ghastly’ for the vicar’s son, who has Asperger’s, if he stands trial in the US where he faces a 99-year prison sentence.

      Lord Macdonald, who was in charge of prosecuting policy in England and Wales from 2003-8, told the High Court that the usual practice would be to try Mr Love in the UK.

    • Eight arrested over murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia

      Eight suspects have been arrested in Malta over the murder of the investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Maltese prime minister has said.

      Caruana Galizia, who was a relentless critic of corruption in the country, died in October in a powerful car bomb blast yards from her home.

      Her family are taking legal action against the Maltese police force for allegedly failing to ensure the investigation into her killing is impartial and independent.

      Muscat said in a statement on Monday morning that eight Maltese nationals, most of whom have a criminal record, have been arrested. The police have 48 hours to question the suspects, indict them or release them.

      Caruana Galizia’s family allege her murder was a “targeted killing” of a journalist whose work focused on uncovering “corruption, criminality, conflicts of interest and ethical failures in decision making” by politicians and their associates.

      The most significant investigations by the murdered journalist stemmed from the Panama Papers, a leak of documents from the archives of the offshore law firm Mossack Fonseca.

      Malta’s government is offering a €1m reward for information relating to the killing, and the inquiry is being assisted by agents from the FBI and forensics experts from the Netherlands.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • FCC Wants to Kill Net Neutrality. Congress Will Pay the Price

      The only crisis looming is the one that Pai’s plan will create for entrepreneurs, free markets, free speech, and for Republican members of Congress running for re-election who didn’t make the choice to stop Pai when they had the chance.

    • FCC’s net neutrality repeal sparks backlash

      As of Sunday afternoon, at least 750,000 people have called Congress since Pai announced his plan, according to battleforthenet.com. And activists are planning hundreds of demonstrations at Verizon stores and congressional offices across the country next week in protest of the planned vote.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • DOJ: We want Martin Shkreli’s Enigma machine, Wu-Tang album, and $7.3 million

        Late Thursday, federal prosecutors submitted a formal notice that they plan to seek civil forfeiture of many of Martin Shkreli’s assets, including the rare Wu-Tang Clan album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, only one of which was ever produced.

        In a 10-page court filing, prosecutors told the judge in the case that they will also try to seize $5 million of his money, his share of Turing Pharmaceuticals, a Lil Wayne album, a Picasso painting, and an Enigma machine.

        In September 2017, Shkreli, who relishes the nickname “Pharma Bro,” was ordered to jail after a federal judge in Brooklyn agreed with prosecutors’ assessments that his online antics justified his incarceration. He previously had been out on bail, awaiting sentencing following his August 2017 conviction on securities fraud charges.

      • What Happens If The DOJ Ends Up With Martin Shkreli’s Sole Copy Of The Wu Tang Clan Album?

        So, this story has been bouncing around the internet quite a bit today, but in case you somehow missed it, the Justice Department is seeking to get its hands on the only copy of the Wu Tang Clan album Once Upon a Time in Shaolin. In case you somehow missed this story, there are a few separate background pieces that are necessary to explain. First up, as a combination business model experiment/publicity stunt, back in 2014, Wu Tang Clan announced that it would be selling just a single copy of their latest album. It was an interesting attempt to bring some sort of scarcity back to music and see how the market would respond.

        A year and a half later, a totally different story dominated the news. A story about a pharmaceutical company most people hadn’t heard of, named Turing Pharmaceutical, buying up the rights to a drug called Daraprim, that many AIDS and cancer patients relied on… and jacking up the price on it from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill. Soon after that, the young CEO of Turing, named Martin Shkreli, had his smirking face plastered all over the news for his trollish “I’m a villain, but so fucking what” response to all the hatred directed his way.

      • Could a Single Copyright Complaint Kill Your Domain?

        Earlier this week we reported how a Canada-based mashup site had its domain suspended following a copyright complaint filed by music group IFPI. Today we can put some meat on the bones, revealing how a single unproven allegation disabled an entire site, without its operators even having a chance to respond.

      • Google Says It Can’t Filter Pirated Content Proactively

        Various music industry groups want Google to implement proactive anti-piracy measures to deal with constantly reappearing links to infringing content in search results. The demand isn’t new, but this week Google’s President of EMEA Business & Operations reiterated that such proactive measures are “just not possible.”

      • Digital Rights Groups Warn Against Copyright “Parking Tickets” Bill

        The recently introduced CASE Act proposes to establish a small claims board for copyright holders, providing them with a cheaper legal option than the Federal Court. While the bill aims to help smaller copyright holders, it poses a threat to legally unsophisticated targets and a potential breeding ground for copyright trolls, digital rights groups warn.

Raw: The EPO’s Pattern of Using “Security” as Pretext for Ban on Protests

Posted in Europe, Patents at 3:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Protests strive to have impact and they need to be seen (visibility) to have impact

EPO banning protest

Summary: EPO banning protests is not a new thing, as the letter above serves to remind and affirm

THE oppressive management of the EPO likes to use “security” as an excuse for banning law-abiding demonstrations. We have already covered numerous examples of that. It’s part of a pattern.

“The EPO is still trying to push the protests off the premises of the EPO and into more dangerous places like roadsides, demonstrating disregard for human life (as if the unprecedented denial of investigation into suicides wasn’t enough evidence of that).”The claim of “security” is directly contradicted by the fact that similar demonstrations were allowed and tolerated when organised by groups other than EPO staff. It’s all about saving face and avoiding embarrassment to the management, it’s not about security. The letter from Mr. Minnoye (left the EPO earlier this year) shows how Battistelli and his cohorts bend backwards to prevent Dutch authorities from receiving information. The following year the EPO paid a large sum of money to a PR firm, in order to specifically target Dutch media.

The EPO is still trying to push the protests off the premises of the EPO and into more dangerous places like roadsides, demonstrating disregard for human life (as if the unprecedented denial of investigation into suicides wasn’t enough evidence of that).

SUEPO on “the Belief of the President That He is Above the Law.”

Posted in Europe, Law, Patents at 2:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

And this is the man who is rumoured to be candidate for head of a Unified Patent Court?

Fair trial

Summary: Battistelli’s track record when it comes to justice (or judges) suggests that he is a toxic individual and a menace to the very foundations of a legal system

SUEPO, the staff union of the EPO (which predates even the EPO itself!), wrote a letter about 3 years ago. With Battistelli due to leave the Office in half a year (putting aside the fact that, as we last noted last night, what we see in the EPO right now may be tandemocracy), we need to look back and understand who and what led to the escalation. We reluctantly accept that Europe might descend into Kremlin standards (like tandemocracy) with ENA in positions of power, not only in the French government but also international institutions like CEIPI in France (to be chaired by Battistelli).

Putting narcissistic people in positions of power is dangerous enough as it is. Before Battistelli became EPO President he was deemed unfit in an assessment; somehow he made it anyway. Nicolas Sarkozy (same party as Battistelli) is said to have intervened, so it was a political decision. Watch how he dealt with courts (a scary thought as he allegedly wishes to preside over UPC):

President refuses mediation proceedings proposed by the Munich Employment Court

Dear colleagues,

We reported on 7 May 2014 on the SUEPO Berlin and SUEPO Central case against the EPO, which has been transferred to Munich. In the first hearing on 17 April 2014, the judge formally requested the parties to consider a judicial mediation according to § 54(6) ArbGG or a conciliation procedure according to § 54a ArbGG.

SUEPO Berlin and SUEPO Central immediately confirmed their agreement to the procedures. The EPO first asked for an extension of the deadline, and finally stated to the Court on 27 May 2014 that:

The EPO is neither interested in a judicial mediation nor in a conciliation procedure.

The EPO pretends in its reply that the following points support its position:
- A judicial mediation would not be possible because of the immunity which cannot be waived.
- Beside the legal issue of the immunity and the judicial proceedings, the President refuses any mediation approach, arguing that SUEPO’s behaviour in advance to their complaints with national Courts was inappropriate.
- The agreement of SUEPO to the procedures should be regarded in the light of further litigation in which SUEPO is engaged, also against the Federal Republic of Germany.
- A conciliation procedure would also not be possible because of the immunity.
- In addition, the EPO considers the “campaign” of SUEPO against the Office and its President as inacceptable and disproportionate. This renders the possibility of reaching a friendly agreement almost impossible.
- The EPO has already reacted on the “unrest” by introducing “social democracy”. This project should improve the internal dialogue between management and staff in the Office.
- The legal status of SUEPO is unclear.
- Furthermore SUEPO has no standing according to the internal legal basis of the EPO.
- A wish for change cannot not be pursued by legal, but by political means only.

You may now assess yourselves Mr Battistelli’s repeated indication that his door remains open. The Administrative Council should also consider in how far the social partners – SUEPO and the President – showed a sense of responsibility in order to achieve a real and fruitful dialogue.

We regret that the President has not accepted our proposal for a new basis of social dialogue, see draft proposal for a “Framework Agreement”. His refusal of mediation proceedings as proposed by the Munich Employment Court and the reasoning given demonstrate a lack of openness for dialogue. It also shows the continued failure to recognise the legitimacy of SUEPO as a social partner, a clear violation of fundamental rights, and a lack of understanding of the concerns of staff. There is also a tone in the reasoning which suggests the belief of the President that he is above the law.

After a further hearing (an exact date has not yet been set), the Munich Court will now have to decide on the claims which are: the official recognition of SUEPO as social partner, the abandonment of the new strike regulations, and the lifting of the email blockage for SUEPO. We will keep you informed.

Later that year Battistelli attacked judges, even though he was not permitted to do this. That says so much about Battistelli’s view of justice. He’s just a Mafioso with political access.

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