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12.23.17

Links 23/12/2017: LibreELEC 8.2.2, Mesa 17.2.8, New SlackEX

Posted in News Roundup at 6:53 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • Give Your Linux Desktop a Festive Feel with these Xmas Tux Wallpapers

      Yup, you don’t need to turn to turn to Google to track down a badly GIMP’d xmas scene featuring a pasted pixelated tux.

      Mark Riedesel, better known by the handle ‘Klowner’, creates a new Christmas Tux wallpaper each and every year – and has done so since 2004! His fully festive backdrops are made using a selection box of open-source graphics apps like Inkscape and Blender.

      His latest design, sat atop of this post like a wobbly tree topper, is one of the best yet. It features Tux and a cat looking out over a christmassy tabletop village featuring festive looking penguins amid snow topped houses.

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux >=4.9: eBPF memory corruption bugs

      A few BPF verifier bugs in the Linux kernel, most of which can be used
      for controlled memory corruption, have been fixed over the last days.
      One of the bugs was introduced in 4.9, the others were only introduced
      in 4.14.

      The fixes are in the net tree of the Linux kernel
      (https://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/davem/net…),
      but not in Linus’ tree yet.

      The following bug was introduced in 4.9…

    • Linux Foundation

      • Automotive Grade Linux Showcases Open Infotainment and Over 20 Member Demonstrations at CES 2018

        Automotive Grade Linux (AGL), a collaborative cross-industry effort developing an open platform for the connected car, today announced that the latest release of the AGL infotainment platform, Unified Code Base (UCB) 5.0, will be available later this month and on display at CES 2018 along with more than 20 other AGL demos by member companies. Automotive Grade Linux is an open source project hosted at The Linux Foundation.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Damage Rectangle Interface Proposed For Atomic DRM Drivers

        DisplayLink developers in cooperation with interest from VMware’s virtual graphics driver team have sent out a draft proposal for adding a damage interface to the Direct Rendering Manager drivers.

        This is a proof-of-concept code for allowing “dirty rectangles” to be sent to the DRM drivers, a.k.a. areas of the screen where the contents have changed and need to be updated. Rather than submitting the entire screen contents each time to the DRM driver for re-processing, the damaged regions could be passed onto the DRM kernel drivers as hints/properties. In the case of DisplayLink where they are focused on their USB-based display adapters, this would be bandwidth savings. Similarly, VMware has been interested in such an interface for their VMWgfx stack for virtual devices in a VM. There’s also obvious savings as well for remote desktops.

      • Intel Posts Experimental Patches For Wayland/Weston/Mesa HDR

        While NVIDIA has been working on HDR display support for the X.Org Server environment via a new “DeepColor” extension, Intel developers have begun working on High Dynamic Range support for Wayland/Weston and the associated changes needed to Mesa.

      • AMDGPU Queues Up “More Stuff” For Linux 4.16

        AMD has sent in another round of AMDGPU Direct Rendering Manager driver updates to DRM-Next for staging until the Linux 4.16 kernel merge window next month.

        Two weeks back was the first batch of AMDGPU updates targeting Linux 4.16 that brought multi-display synchronization, continued Vega and Raven Ridge fixes, TTM operation context support, and other improvements.

      • Keith Packard Sends Out Latest Patches For RandR 1.6, Linux VR Improvements

        Keith Packard working under contract for Valve on improving the VR HMD / SteamVR support for the Linux display stack has sent out his latest – near final – patches for the RandR 1.6 additions.

        Keith sent out early Friday the latest Resize and Rotate (RandR) X extension updates for dealing with DRM leases and non-desktop output code. The DRM leases is about allowing a “lease” on VR HMD outputs to a VR (SteamVR) compositor.

        The non-desktop output code is about ensuring the VR HMD HDMI/DP interface isn’t treated as a normal “desktop” output, as is currently the case when using the open-source Radeon driver with the HTC Vive, and ends up becoming part of an extended desktop.

      • Nouveau Developer Working On NIR For SPIR-V Compute, Step Towards Vulkan In The Future

        There’s some exciting news for open-source NVIDIA “Nouveau” driver users this holiday season!

        Karol Herbst, a longtime community developer who for years has been working on Nouveau, has sent out a series of patches working on NIR support for the NVC0 Gallium3D driver!

      • NVIDIA Sends Out Signed Firmware Images For GP108 Pascal GPUs
      • mesa 17.2.8

        Mesa 17.2.8 is now available.

        In this release we have:

        The SPIR-V compiler has seen corrected a possible SEGFAULT.

        The Intel i965 driver includes a correction for Haswell involving
        doubles management.

        The AMD drivers have also received some fixes. A couple have gone for
        radv and radeon’s VCE while r600 has seen corrected some glitches
        detected with This War of Mine.

        Gallium has also received a patch fixing a problem affecting the VMware
        driver and the st/nine state tracker.

        The endianness detection in Windows platform has been corrected to
        default to little endian.

        Finally, the X11 driver has been improved to notify properly a mesa
        warning rather than using fprintf.

      • Mesa 17.2.8 Released With Just Over One Dozen Fixes

        For those still riding the older Mesa 17.2 series rather than the current Mesa 17.3 series that saw its v17.3.1 update this week, v17.2.8 is now available.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Ready to edit ?

        Following the recent Kdenlive 17.12 release, a few annoying issues were reported in the AppImage. So we decided to focus on these and you can now download an updated AppImage with these 2 nice changes:

        Translations are now included in the AppImage, for easy editing in your native language!
        Fixed a high CPU usage on idle due to the sound pipeline

  • Distributions

    • Best Xfce distro of 2017

      One more. After exploring the ups and downs of the Gnome and KDE/Plasma crop of this year, we now focus on what Xfce can deliver us. Arguably, this is the third largest, most important desktop environment in the open-source universe, straddling the chasm between the two opposing philosophies of the G and K worlds.

      Back in 2016, I found Xfce to be a very vibrant, healthy, innovative technology, with a good string of successes, and a range of balanced, practical distributions. There were no cardinal revolutions, but then also, there were no wild swings in quality, either. It was all rather stolid. Now, let’s see what 2017 can tell us.

    • Reviews

      • Quick Look to PureOS GNU/Linux, A New 100% Free Distro

        PureOS GNU/Linux is a new Debian-based and user-friendly distro that just certified by the FSF as 100% free distro (along with Trisquel). PureOS is developed mainly for Purism Librem computers but it’s publicly available, so we can download PureOS and install it on our own computers & laptops (currently 64 bit only). This article shows how PureOS looks at inside starting from the Desktop (GNOME 3.26) until the System Installer (Calamares). As summary, I can say for now (December 2017) that if you’re looking for the most user-friendly 100% free distro, you should try PureOS. Enjoy!

    • New Releases

      • LibreELEC (Krypton) 8.2.2 MR

        LibreELEC 8.2.2 is a minor maintenance release to resolve an ffmpeg issue that allows the legions of 3D movie fans (both of you) to watch them again. It also fixes an issue with the WeTek Core after recent WeOS updates have been installed, adds support for the 2nd generation of RF remote from OSMC, and disables the flashing blue ‘activity’ LED on the Odroid C2 that most users find annoying. That’s all it contains. No package bumps or driver or kernel changes are included, because at this late stage of the release cycle we have no desire to go fix things that might add new bugs.

      • Embedded Linux OS LibreELEC 8.2.2 “Krypton” Released with Fix for 3D Movies

        LibreELEC (Libre Embedded Linux Entertainment Center) team released today a new maintenance update to their LibreELEC 8.2 “Krypton” operating system series to fix a critical bug.

        LibreELEC 8.2.2 is the second maintenance release for the LibreELEC 8.2 “Krypton” series, which is based on the Kodi 17 “Krypton” open-source media center, and it’s here one month after version 8.2.1 to fix a critical bug in the FFMpeg multimedia backend that prevented users from enjoying 3D movies.

        Users who want to watch 3D movies are recommended to manually update to LibreELEC 8.2.2 using the manual update function in the LibreELEC settings add-on, as there won’t be any automatic updates available until after the Christmas holidays. If you don’t want to update manually, you’ll have to wait until December 27 or 28.

      • Christmas comes early! LibreELEC (Krypton) 8.2.2 Kodi Linux distro is here

        Christmas is almost here, and I don’t know about y’all, but I am thrilled. While I am looking forward to spending time with family and thinking about the birth of Jesus, I am not ashamed to say I am excited about presents too!

        Today, Christmas comes a bit early thanks to a new LibreELEC (Krypton) release. Version 8.2.2 of the Kodi-focused Linux-based operating system is being called a minor release, but it is still a very special gift for users of the media center. After all, version 8.2.1 was previously called the final Krypton version, but as we now know, it wasn’t.

    • PCLinuxOS/Mageia/Mandriva Family

      • Mandrake Linux founder creating Google-free Android OS

        The original creator of Mandrake Linux (which evolved into Mandriva and subsequently Mageia and OpenMandriva), Gaël Duval, has decided to create a new fork of Android which is restricted to the use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS); the new creation is called eelo.

      • Open mobile OS eelo by Mandrake Linux creator on Kickstarter

        The creator of Mandrake Linux runs a campaign for the open, free mobile operating system eelo on the crowd funding site Kickstarter right now.

        Designed to break the dominance of Apple’s and Google’s walled systems, eelo is based on LineageOS but takes it a step further than that.

        At its core, eelo is more than just an operating system as plans are underway to establish free, open and secure web services next to it. Services like email, cloud storage and online office tools are mentioned explicitly on the Kickstarter project page.

      • Leaving Apple and Google : my “eelo odyssey” — Introduction

        In 1998, I created Mandrake Linux, because I was both a Linux fan and didn’t like Windows on the desktop. It’s been a long time, and I’m very happy I’ve been one of the actors who contributed to make the Linux desktop possible, even though it didn’t completely succeed. Since then, the smartphone has emerged. And it’s now a “companion of life” for many of us. On my side, I’ve been using Apple iPhones exclusively, since 2007. The main reason behind this choice is that I like iOS. It covers my needs, it looks great and elegant, and I find it very intuitive to use.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • openSUSE Tumbleweed Users Get KDE Applications 17.12, LLVM 5, and Other Goodies

        It would appear that a total of four snapshots were released between December 15 and December 21, snapshot 20171220 being the last one available for OpenSuSE Tumbleweed. And they include a few interesting things, such as the massive KDE Application 17.12.0 software suite for KDE Plasma 5 users.

        When the KDE Applications 17.12.0 packages arrived in the Tumbleweed repositories, they included a bug for the KMail email client that couldn’t send out email over secure SMTP connections. However, the openSUSE Tumbleweed was quick to release a fix for this issue in the update channel.

    • Slackware Family

      • SlackEX Build 171223 (Slackware 14.2) live dvd/usb with KDE 4.14.38, kernel 4.14.8-x86_64-efi-exton, Nvidia 384.98 and VirtualBox 5.2.4

        New features in version 171223 of SlackEX
        I have replaced kernel 4.12.9-x86_64-exton with kernel 4.14.8-x86_64-efi-exton with support for “everything”. Kernel 4.14.8 was released 171220. KDE is upgraded to version 4.14.38 (latest KDE version). All other component software is also upgraded to the latest Slackware Current version by now. I may also mention in particular GParted 0.29.0, VirtualBox 5.2.4 (latest, not in Slackware’s repositories), Google Chrome 60.0.3112 (not in Slackware’s repositories – you can download my build at SourceForge.net), Gimp 2.8.10 (installed from source), GSlapt 0.5.4b, Slackpkg 2.82.1, Firefox 57.0.2, Thunderbird 52.5.0, Samba 4.7.3 and GCC 7.2.0. Furthermore I have installed Grub2, which can be used as boot loader (if you want) after a hard drive install. Study the full package LIST. Note: I have replaced Wicd with NetworkManager. It works better in SlackEX.

      • Slackware-Based SlackEX Distro Released with Linux Kernel 4.14.8 and KDE 4.14.38

        GNU/Linux developer Arne Exton released today a new build of his Slackware-based SlackEX distro, bringing various updated applications and core components.

        The sole purpose of SlackEX is to make Slackware Linux more accessible to those who want to install a GNU/Linux distribution on their personal computers. SlackEX promises to be as easy to install and use like popular Linux Mint and Ubuntu distros.

        Based on Slackware 14.2, SlackEX Build 171223 is here with both the Slackpkg and GSlapt package management systems pre-installed to make installation of additional programs a breeze. It also includes developer’s 4.14.8-x86_64-efi-exton kernel with extra hardware support.

        “Any novice can quickly learn to use Ubuntu they say. My remaster of Slackware Current (14.2), which I call SlackEX 14.2/Current 64-bit Linux Live DVD/USB, is however just as easy to use as Ubuntu and/or Linux Mint,” said Arne Exton in the release announcement.

      • December packages for Slackware’s Plasma 5 – focus shift

        Jingle Bells galore! I have some goodies for you, right before Christmas. If your winter holiday starts today, there’s some nice new stuff to play with – especially if you have not dared touch slackware-current until now. Perhaps it’s time to free up a partition on your hard drive now?

        The KDE Applications 17.12 have been released by the KDE community. This set of KDE applications is completely free of the legacy KDE4 stuff (kdelibs4). The KDE developers have removed everything from their regular release cycles that is still based on kdelibs4 and/or unmaintained or broken anyway.

    • Red Hat Family

    • Debian Family

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Canonical Releases Snapcraft 2.38 Tool to Improve Support for Classic Snaps

            Announced just a few minutes ago by Sergio Schvezov, Snapcraft 2.38 will soon make its way into the stable software repositories of supported Ubuntu Linux releases, as well as other GNU/Linux distributions. The biggest change that landed in this new version is better support for classic Snaps, which will allow for true isolation for host’s dynamically linked executables.

            “Snapcraft now has a better architecture overall to handle classic Snaps, not only for those coming from parts that are built, but also for the case where prebuilt binaries are dumped into the Snap,” writes Sergio Schvezov. “Prior to this version of Snapcraft, true isolation for a dynamically linked executable from the host was not possible. The work here makes sure that the correct interpreter is set and also sets up valid rpaths for the binary.”

          • Flavours and Variants

            • System76 Says Ubuntu-Based Pop!_OS Linux Won’t Break Lenovo or Acer Laptops

              A System76 engineer working on Pop!_OS Linux, the company’s Ubuntu-based operating system shipping pre-installed on all of their computers, writes about the recently discovered Ubuntu bug affecting some Lenovo laptops.

              As you probably are aware, Canonical is currently discouraging users to download the latest Ubuntu release due to an issue that corrupts the BIOS of some Lenovo laptops, as well as other brands like Acer and Toshiba. The bug is related to the intel-spi-* drivers in the Linux 4.13 kernel packages shipping with Ubuntu 17.10 (Artful Aardvark), and should also affect other Ubuntu 17.10-based distro like Pop!_OS.

            • Pop!_OS Community Update and Happy Holidays Edition Post!

              I want to start off wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season from the System76 family to yours! We at System76 hope that you spend it in the company of those who love and care for you. On the off chance you’re alone, we hope you got some awesome video games queued up or have a favorite hobby that you can indulge in. :-)

Free Software/Open Source

  • Kubeflow Brings Machine Learning to Kubernetes

    Kubernetes at its’ core is a container orchestration system. But simply running containers for their own sake has little purpose, at the end of the day what really matters are applications.

    Among the most interesting and often challenges types of application workloads are machine learning, which can often be difficult to deploy and operate. On Dec. 21 the Kubeflow project was officially announced by Google engineers as a new stack to easily deploy and run machine learning workloads.

    “The Kubeflow project is dedicated to making Machine Learning on Kubernetes easy, portable and scalable,” the Kubeflow GitHub project pagestates. “Our goal is not to recreate other services, but to provide a straightforward way for spinning up best of breed OSS solutions.”

  • Coreboot Picks Up Support For Some Older ThinkPads

    Coreboot is now able to replace the proprietary BIOS on some older Lenovo ThinkPads.

    Coreboot has already offered pretty good coverage of older Intel-powered ThinkPads while two more models were added this week.

    The ThinkPad X131e is now supported by upstream Coreboot. This laptop shipped with SandyBridge and IvyBridge CPU options and under Coreboot most of the laptop should be working except for Fn keys and ACPI S4 hibernation and potentially wireless.

  • Apache Hadoop 3.0.0 Boosts Big Data App Ecosystem

    Fours years after Hadoop 2 became generally available, the open-source Big Data platform takes a giant step forward, with new capabilities to support containers.

    In the world of Big Data, one project has long loomed larger than all the rest – Hadoop. The open-source Apache Hadoop project provides the core framework on which dozens of other Big Data efforts rely.

    The Apache Hadoop v.3.0.0 milestone became generally available on Dec. 14, marking the first major version change for the project since Hadoop 2 debuted in 2013.

    “Hadoop 3 is a major milestone for the project, and our biggest release ever,” Andrew Wang, Apache Hadoop 3 release manager stated.

  • Events

    • LinuXatUNI held last meeting of the year

      The local Linux community in Lima, Peru held the last meeting today sharing a breakfast. Peruvians usually take “chocolatada” (made with chocolate and milk) with paneton for Christmass holidays, and we are not the exception.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Mozilla Announces Firefox 60 as Next ESR (Extended Support Release) Branch

        Mozilla recently announced that the next ESR (Extended Support Release) branch of its open-source and cross-platform web browser would be Firefox 60, due for release next year in early May.

        Since their initial launch, Firefox ESR releases have become more and more popular among various organizations that aim to offer customers a stable, long-term supported, and reliable browsing experience. Firefox ESR is known to be used in schools, universities, as well as small and medium-sized businesses.

        The current Firefox ESR branch is based on Firefox 52, but it’s nearing its end of life in six months, so Mozilla now plans to promote the upcoming Firefox 60 release to the ESR channel, along with a new policy engine that promises to make Firefox deployments and integration into existing infrastructures a lot simpler for sysadmins.

  • BSD

    • FreeBSD Looks At Making Wayland Support Available By Default

      There’s an active discussion this week about making Wayland support available by default on FreeBSD.

      FreeBSD has working Wayland support — well, assuming you have working Intel / Radeon graphics — and do have Weston and some other Wayland components available via FreeBSD Ports. FreeBSD has offered working Wayland support that is “quite usable” for more than one year. But, it’s not too easy to get going with Wayland on FreeBSD.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Mitigating Cyber Security Risks Arising From Open Source Software

      A recent report indicated that Linux and other open source software (OSS) are emerging as serious malware targets. The report is a helpful reminder of the need to carefully consider the terms and conditions of OSS licenses and the resulting risks assumed by both software developers and end users in using OSS, including as it relates to cyber security. The increasing occurrence of cyber attacks should be a significant concern for most organizations. Understanding how OSS is licensed, and developing appropriate open source policies, is an important part of an organization’s overall solution for managing cyber security risks.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

  • Programming/Development

    • The power of open source: Why GitLab’s move to a Developer Certificate of Origin benefits the developer community

      After being approached by Debian developers, GitLab decided to ditch the industry standard Contributor License Agreement in favor of adopting a license that is developer friendly — the Developer Certificate of Origin.

      We’re grateful to Debian for bringing their objection to the CLA to our attention, inspiring us to reconsider what we’re asking of our contributors. It’s now one of the reasons both Debian and GNOME plan to migrate their communities to GitLab. We want to be an option for everyone, and hopefully, this change is another step in that direction.

Leftovers

  • In 1977, the Sex Pistols played their last UK gig: a Christmas show for children
  • Health/Nutrition

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • 17-Year-Old YouTuber Shot to Death After Reportedly Insulting a Cartel Boss
    • A 17-year-old YouTube star insulted a notorious drug lord. The teen was found with at least 15 bullet wounds.

      Prosecutors have not determined the identities or motives of those responsible. But they confirmed to news outlets that they are investigating a possible link to the recent videotaped insult toward El Mencho.

    • Rashid Khalidi: U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital Means It Cannot Be a Peace Broker

      At the United Nations, over 120 countries defied President Trump Thursday by voting in favor of a resolution calling for the United States to drop its recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The final vote was 128 to 9, while 35 nations abstained and 21 countries casted no vote. Control of Jerusalem is one of the most contested issues: Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. Sustained protests continue in the Israel-occupied Palestinian territories, despite a brutal Israeli military crackdown. We speak with Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University and author of “Brokers of Deceit: How the U.S. Has Undermined Peace in the Middle East.”

    • Gulf leaders buy caviar, Rolexes and other gifts for UK ministers

      Gulf monarchies have continued to shower UK foreign ministers with lavish gifts, according to newly released government data.

      The data reveals that Omani Foreign Minister Yousuf Bin Alawi gave Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson six tins of Caspian Caviar, worth more than $1,000 in total, when they met in July. In the same month, the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry gave Minister of State for the Middle East Alistair Burt a Rolex watch worth nearly $8,000.

      These are the latest in a long line of gifts which UK ministers have received from Gulf governments. These include luxury christmas hampers, rugs and a $2,600 designer briefcase given to defence minister Tobias Ellwood by the United Arab Emirates.

      Responding to these revelations, campaigners told Middle East Eye they are concerned that undemocratic Gulf monarchies with poor human rights records have too much influence on the UK’s foreign policy.

    • Former US attorneys, GOP officials come to Mueller’s defense

      More than 40 former U.S. attorneys and Republican and conservative officials are pushing back against efforts to discredit the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

      In a pair of letters, the groups say Robert Mueller and his team must be allowed to continue their work, unimpeded.

      The 22 former U.S. attorneys, who served under presidents from Richard Nixon through Barack Obama, say it is “critical” to the “interests of justice and public trust to ensure that those charged with conducting complex investigations are allowed to do their jobs free from interference or fear of reprisal.”

      Seeking Mueller’s removal “would have severe repercussions for Americans’ sense of justice here at home and for our reputation for fairness around the world,” they wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump on Friday that was coordinated by Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Aardvark dead, four meerkats missing and eight people hurt in devastating blaze at London Zoo

      An animal has died as a result of a huge blaze at London Zoo, with four meerkats also reportedly missing.

      Bosses at London Zoo have confirmed that an aardvark named Mischa perished as a result of this morning’s fire.

      Eight staff were treated for smoke inhalation and shock after desperately carrying animals to safety as the flames spread.

      Mischa, aged nine, was initially reported missing as staff assessed the damage suffered in the early morning fire.

  • Finance

    • Economically speaking, gift-giving can be a waste of money
    • How to Get Away With Bankruptcy Fraud

      The boxy building that houses JC Foreclosure Service doesn’t look like much. Drive past, and you might miss it among the gas stations and body shops and small homes here in Bell, a working class, Hispanic enclave in the south part of Los Angeles County. The only thing that might catch your attention is the bold red writing on the front window that says, in Spanish, “WE MODIFY YOUR LOAN. EVICTIONS. BANKRUPTCIES.”

      But inside, a kind of magic happens. The owner of the business, Carlos Baez, is a master of a Los Angeles art: contorting bankruptcy into a tool for profit. When his clients come to him, desperate to stay in their homes, he can promise help — as long as they keep paying him — by harnessing the power of bankruptcy to stop foreclosure. Baez is not a lawyer and records show the hundreds of cases he’s filed are often shoddily prepared and thrown out within a few months. But actually winning lasting debt relief for his clients isn’t the point. The goal is to buy time — which he does again and again.

    • The blue passport is taking back control? No, it was first imposed on us from abroad

      On Thursday the Home Office announced the return of the blue British passport, to a chorus of approval from Brexiter newspapers and politicians. The irony is that the UK could have had a blue passport while an EU member. EU member state Croatia currently has a blue passport, after all. In any case – the “iconic” blue passport was imposed from abroad back in 1920 – thanks to the the League of Nations.

      The EU never mandated burgundy passports: it simply produced a standard format that many member states chose to use for the sake of convenience. I imagine that the then UK government assumed that nobody cared that much about the colour of passports. It’s now clear that apparently trivial symbols of national identity are very meaningful for a lot of people. We’ll never know whether, had the government reintroduced blue passports when complaints first arose, the expense and disruption of Brexit could have been avoided.

    • Blue passports could have been re-introduced without Brexit, Government admit

      The Government could have changed the colour of British passports back to blue at any time regardless of Brexit, it has emerged.

      Theresa May described the decision to revert to the “iconic” colour as an “expression of our independence and sovereignty” away from the EU.

      But the Home Office confirmed that the UK voluntarily adopted common passport criteria from the European Economic Community (EEC) and was not obliged to keep it.

    • Journalists Who Relayed GOP’s Deficit Moaning Owe Us Apologies

      Now that the Republicans’ brazen tax bill that the CBO predicts will add $1.4 trillion to the deficit has passed, yet again exposing “deficit concerns” by congressional Republicans as an empty marketing ploy, will those in the media who pushed the Deficit Doom narrative during the early Obama years admit they were wrong?

      Suddenly deficits—something Every Serious Person cared about—are a total nonissue. The Beltway orthodoxy for decades—especially in the years following the 2008 economic crash—that deficits would crush our economy and render the United States insolvent is mysteriously absent from the Republicans’ plan to increase the deficit by equivalent of the GDP of Russia. (To say nothing of September’s budget-busting Defense bill—FAIR.org, 9/21/17.)

      During the early Obama years, nominally straight reporting frequently trafficked in deeply ideological assumptions about deficits and debt; echoing “deficit hawk” Paul Ryan and the “populist” Tea Party movement, they painted an image of apocalyptic doom…

    • EU dismisses May’s claim blue passports are sovereignty statement

      Britain could have chosen to have blue passports while remaining a member of the EU, the European parliament’s chief Brexit coordinator has said, dismissing Theresa May’s claim that the move is a victory for British sovereignty.

      The government has said blue passports will mean enhanced freedom for Britons, but EU officials have said they could spell travel delays and extra paperwork because of diminished travel rights post-Brexit.

      Guy Verhofstadt emphasised that there was no Brussels regulation stating that EU countries’ passports had to be a certain colour. There is a legally non-binding European council resolution from 1981 which recommends burgundy.

    • How Inequality Kills

      Contrary to the assumptions of left-liberal commentators, neoliberalism is not merely a bad policy adopted by “greedy” elites. It is in fact a fundamental systemic rejection of the post-laissez-faire settlement put in place in just about all of the developed capitalist countries after the Second World War. Out with the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society and forward with what is essentially a resurrection of 1920s capitalism. Because capitalism is a globally integrated system, if neoliberalism exists on a significant scale anywhere, it must exist everywhere. It is thus a “New World Order,” a phrase deployed by G. H. W. Bush and Adolf Hitler.

      Neoliberalism is an eminently rational arrangement for the capitalists and their political cronies who instituted it. The system is called capitalism, not laborism, because it was forged for centuries and is presided over by those whose overarching objective is to maintain a settlement that serves the interests of owners of capital. Adam Smith’s tome is called The Wealth of Nations, not The Income of Nations or The Wages of Nations. The bottom-line priority of those who own society’s most valuable asset, its means of production, is that society be organized around the continuous increase of wealth, especially the wealth and income of its wealthiest. The welfare state foils that project. The evidence is unambiguous: after the Depression and during the great expansion of the Golden Age, we witnessed the unprecedented: the share of national income flowing to the one percent continued to fall by an increasing percentage each decade during the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s and early ‘70s. (1) These were the only years in American history when an essential feature of State policy was to increase social services benefitting the working class and redistribute income from the wealthiest to those who do society’s work. And these were also the only years in the history of the republic that featured ongoing and increasing downward redistribution. This was the result of New Deal and Great Society social legislation, and the power of labor unions. Hence, from the perspective of the enlightened capitalist, the legacy of these policies must be reversed.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Misinformer of the Year: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

      Intentional fabrications packaged as legitimate news have become just another way for hyperpartisan websites to generate Facebook user engagement and cash in, launching outlandish lies into the mainstream. Users seem generally unable to differentiate between real and fake news, and as they see more and more conspiracy theories in their news feed, they become more willing to accept them.

    • MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski apologizes for remarks about Mark Halperin victims

      MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski apologized Friday evening after she angered some of the women who had accused veteran journalist Mark Halperin of sexual harassment or assault with comments she made earlier in the day on “Morning Joe.”

      “We have been trying our best on Morning Joe to have an honest conversation about sexual harassment and sexual assault,” Brzezinski said in a statement. “The issue has hit close to home given that Mark Halperin was on our show. I have spent a lot of time talking to some of his accusers and to Mark himself. Often I bring up the issue on our show because I think it would be less than genuine to talk about the growing number of cases without recognizing that a former member of our team acted very badly.”

    • Donald Trump redesigned the Presidential Challenge Coin, replacing “E pluribus unum” with “Make America Great Again”

      E pluribus unum (“Out of many, one”) has been an American national motto since 1782. It embodies two things trumpists hate: a highbrow phrase in a dead language deployed by early American aristos in the service of classing things up by excluding people who don’t read Latin; and a message of strength through unity and diversity.

      Trump’s agenda includes a constant, seemingly instinctive program to demoralize his opponents by trolling them with stupid shit that makes them embarrassed to share a nation, a political system, and (in the case of the whites who voted against him) a skin-color with him. This move makes his supporters happy — even if they’re not getting coal back or forcing all the Muslims and Mexicans into concentration camps, they still know that those fucking libs are as miserable as Fox News made them over the past twenty years of lies about impending Sharia law and Soros-funded Maoist guerrillas training for the Final Conflict — and it makes his opponents want to die. If he gets it just right, he makes those opponents so miserable they stay home and get drunk instead of putting on pussy hats and marching in the streets.

    • Trump Embodies the Crisis of Capitalism: A Conversation With Naomi Klein

      After the spate of disastrous floods, fires and quakes that have shocked us this year, this is a good time to revisit Naomi Klein, whose work continues to dig deep into the way that the global capitalists use shock and chaos to advance their agenda, regardless of the impact on the vulnerable. It’s hard to think of a national or global emergency that Donald Trump hasn’t tried to exploit for his own purposes, but still, a year after his election, roughly 30 percent of Americans polled continue to support his presidency. What is Trump selling? Who’s buying? And why? And what do those who consider themselves part of the resistance need to say “yes” to, after so many months and years of saying “no” to Trump and Trumpism?

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • War Propaganda, Media Censorship and the “Conspiracy Theory” Meme. Project Censored 2016

      In recent years, as documented on this site and on the Global Research News Hour radio program, we have seen an acceleration in the level of propaganda and its ability to shape common narratives around war.

      The Assad government is blamed for virtually all the blood being spilt in Syria in recent years, in spite of evidence to the contrary. Russia, not NATO, is being blamed for an imperialist agenda for Ukraine and Eastern Europe. And a McCarthyist narrative accusing President Putin of interference in the 2016 US Presidential elections has taken hold in spite of an almost complete lack of evidence upholding that narrative.

      More to the point, reporters risk being tagged ‘conspiracy theorists’ or ‘Russian agents’ if they dare to challenge these and other official narratives.

      Billions of dollars of investment, not to mention political careers are dependent on maintaining these narratives, so it is understandable that dissident perspectives will sooner or later come under attack if the body politic begins to be influenced by them.

    • In Break From Past Leadership Role, US Gov Largely Missing From Internet Governance Forum

      The United States has been a steadfast supporter of the UN-led Internet Governance Forum since its inception over a decade ago, regularly bringing large and high-level delegations to the Forum. The US must have seen the forum as the lesser evil when governments from many continents pounded the desks during the 2005 World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) conference in Tunis over the US special role in overseeing the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and thereby the heart of the domain name system, the root zone. But IGF 2017, held this week, saw a dramatic change in that regard.

    • Saudi-Egyptian broadcast deal raises issue of censorship

      Saudi TV has signed a contract for the exclusive broadcast of two Egyptian drama series across the Arab world beginning during Ramadan 2018. On Dec. 8, Khaled Madkhali, director of state-owned Saudi TV, tweeted that he had signed a contract with Magnum Productions to broadcast “Hidden Worlds,” starring the legendary Egyptian actor Adel Imam, and “Tayeh,” starring the popular Amr Youssef. In a separate tweet, Madkhali added that the move is supported by Saudi Culture Minister Awad al-Awad, noting that it represents a quantum leap for Saudi TV. The cost of this deal has not been disclosed.

    • Letter: Censorship at the CDC is troubling

      It surprises me that there isn’t more concern about the censorship imposed at the CDC. At first, I thought it was “fake news.” Censorship is a way to limit thinking. Most fascist governments use it. North Korea, Nazi Germany, etc. If a government or cult, such as Scientology, limits words or books or any source of free thought, it encourages adherence to an ideology and doesn’t allow for open minded thinking. How can we let this happen in this country?

    • There Is No Ban on Words at the CDC

      HHS staffers have been telling those at CDC and other agencies that it would be better to avoid any phrases that might attract extra notice from the budget-slashers higher up the chain. This is tactical advice: They want to bolster the CDC’s position during these negotiations. Levin suggests that words like vulnerable, entitlement, or diversity might annoy Republicans in Congress and make them less inclined to grant requested funds. But it seems more likely that the same advice is meant to ward off cuts from OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and his team of budget hawks; after all, they’ve been more tight-fisted than even congressional Republicans. (The latter rejected the Trump administration’s most dramatic cuts to science spending earlier this year.)

    • Censoring Science at the CDC
    • HHS defends withholding comments critical of abortion, transgender policy
    • Parker: Some words and phrases deserve censorship

      Other, more intriguing words were mentioned in a meeting as possible “trigger” words that might so upset congressional Republicans that they’d slash funding. These were fetus, science-based, evidence-based and transgender. In some cases, alternatives were suggested, such as “unborn child” for “fetus.” In other words, if you want those people — congressional Republicans — to fund us, don’t use language they don’t like.

      One could call this either, “Oh, my God, they’re trying to ban words!” Or, you could call it common sense. I’m not sure which is more discomfiting, however: CDC guys worried that “science-based” would so frighten Republicans that they’d kill their budget, or, that this could possibly be true.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Report shows GCHQ has more offensive cyber-weapons but

      GCHQ, the UK’s cyber-intelligence agency, has substantially increased its ability to hack into devices, but its project to crack encryption has so far failed, according to a report by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC).

      The committee, which oversees the work of all the UK intelligence agencies, has snuck out its annual report just as Parliament breaks up for Christmas. But amongst the various revelations it contains is the news that GCHQ has “over-achieved” in its programme to enhance its own cyber-attack capabilities.

    • Surveillance Battles: 2017 in Review

      If you’ve been following EFF’s work, you’ll know that we’ve been fighting against the creeping surveillance state for over 20 years. Often, this means pushing back against the National Security Agency’s dragnet surveillance programs, but as new technology becomes available, new threats emerge.

    • Facebook allows users to view past interaction with Kremlin-linked content [iophk: “every click is saved forever…”

      Facebook on Friday released a tool that allows users to see what Russian propaganda content they may have liked or followed on Facebook and Instagram.

    • Man in China sentenced to five years’ jail for running VPN

      “Anonymizers such as VPNs are a key enabler of human rights online,” said William Nee, a researcher at Amnesty International in Hong Kong. “The fact that this man got such a long sentence for selling VPNs is a very worrying sign, and it reflects how the Chinese government is determined to punish those that try to jump over the Great Firewall and access information that isn’t subjected to the world’s most intense censorship regime”.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • At Google, Eric Schmidt Wrote the Book on Adult Supervision

      A good example of this give and take came over the issue of whether Google should create its own internet browser, which Page and Brin began urging in 2001. Schmidt considered the browser wars of the 1990s (where Microsoft used market power to vanquish rival Netscape) to be one of the defining experiences of his career. He urged them to hold off, fearing Microsoft’s wrath. Eventually, the founders convinced him that Google was in a position to create a superior product no matter what Microsoft did.

    • What Is Fascism? An Excerpt From “Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It”

      Shane Burley’s Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It looks at the rise of fascist politics in the US, how the different strands work, and the different, intersecting movements that have arrived to confront fascist violence. In the below excerpt, Burley discusses what exactly fascism is beyond the hype and misinformation.

      Building on a wealth of scholarship and research, Burley analyzes the foundational principles of fascism that tie together the battles of World War II to the neo-fascist “alt-right” insurgency.

      The search for what is called “generic fascism” has been ongoing since the Second World War. Does the Third Reich serve as a model even though it gave in to suicidal imperialism and a genocidal flurry of ethnic rage? Is the Iron Guard the perfect example even though it suppressed all other points to their prime enemy, “the international Jew?” Does Mussolini define the term since he invented it, though his racial policies were less pronounced than most? Does National Shinto in Japan provide a proper model even though its religious nature and distinct cultural landscape makes it unique?

      The journey, instead, has been to find a clean definition that would encompass all historical instances and, by virtue of its descriptive qualities, begin to rope in more recent movements, putting small insurrectionary movements on the same ideological footing as those that terrorized Europe. Many want to define fascism as a specifically interwar project, describing it in terms of its state policies, aesthetics, and particular aims — a definition that presumably leaves it in the past as no movements of any consequence match the NSDAP) or Italian Fascist Party directly. For many far-right philosophers, like Alt Right co-founder and former paleoconservative professor Paul Gottfried, fascism was merely a brief political project that attempted to reclaim the “True Right.” That right, he asserts, is in opposition to the “false right” that makes up much of American conservatism. Gottfried would agree with Hawley that American conservatism has been made up, primarily, of three elements: hawkish foreign policy, free market economics, and conservative social ideas defined, largely, by Christianity. But how does conservatism relate to human equality?

      Roger Griffin presents a concise, intensely ideological term to define fascism: “palingenetic ultranationalism.” His definition, which was taken up broadly by what is referred to as the “new consensus,” rejected the view popular in academia that fascism is defined by its structural qualities, those unique to World War II, instead of its ideological core. Instead of having a perfect generic example, Griffin identified the ideological types that are shared across cultures and time periods, using the theory of “ideological morphology.” Originally proposed by Michael Freeman, ideological morphology looks at what defining features a broad set of specific ideologies needs to be “recognizable.” This means the aesthetics, style, and organizational form does not define it, but rather the ideological qualities that can be shared broadly, in entirely different contexts. Fascism then is a form of extreme nationalism, broadly defined, that bases itself on a mythological past that a group intends to return to. This term does not reflect state policies, whether authoritarian or libertarian, because all of those are subservient to its meta-politics. The fascist project is not about achieving totalitarianism, it is about reclaiming the mythological identity and order, and if totalitarian means are the way to get there then so be it. The fascist projects of the past have used authoritarian political parties as their avenue to power as well as command economies to see a vision through, but all of that was due to their situation and political climate. In the modern fascist movement, a whole range of political possibilities are welcome, as long as they share a (somewhat) agreed-upon vision of the essentials.

    • Suman Raghunathan on Muslim Ban Return, Bruce Stanley on Don Blankenship

      Also on the show: Don Blankenship is the kind of guy who, when the mining company he runs is polluting the local water, will run a private pipeline over to the next town for his own home. And the kind of guy who, having been convicted with conspiring to break mine safety laws, leading to an explosion that killed 29 men, emerges from prison and announces a run for Senate. You might chuckle, but Blankenship’s confident recourse to Big Lie politics—he alleges his conviction was a state conspiracy—stands a better chance with an establishment press corps whose fears of “partisanship” make it hesitate to check lies with adequate force. We have a reminder of Don Blankenship’s record in a 2016 interview on the subject with attorney Bruce Stanley.

    • When Police Shoot a Man Who Was Stabbing Himself

      The Minneapolis police put Marcus Fischer in an interview room. He started to cut himself, so they shot him.

      A suspect in an armed robbery is sitting alone in a police department’s interview room. He takes out a knife and begins cutting himself with it, including his neck.

      You would think that the police would recognize this as a mental health crisis, a potential suicide, a situation that demands careful, nonviolent de-escalation techniques to keep everyone safe.

      But on Dec. 18 in Minneapolis, officers took another approach, with disastrous results. They tried to use a Taser on 18-year-old Marcus Fischer and then they shot at him. At least one bullet hit and wounded him, leaving Marcus in critical condition.

    • Dreamers Shouldn’t Lose DACA Status When They Follow the Rules

      We’re in court to make sure the Trump administration keeps its promises to Dreamers.

      This fall, the Trump administration announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers young undocumented people who came to this country as children temporary permission to work and live here. The decision threw the lives of hundreds of thousands of young immigrants into crisis. The president has repeatedly insisted that there’s “nothing to worry about” and that Dreamers can rest easy while Congress works on a legislative fix.

      But that’s proven to be false.

      By Christmas, about 13,500 young people will have lost their DACA status since the administration began letting DACA permits expire on Sept. 5. On average, another 122 young people are now losing DACA every day. If Congress doesn’t come up with a solution immediately, a thousand more will start losing their status each day starting in March.

      We’re also seeing the Trump administration target Dreamers who haven’t broken the program’s rules by revoking their DACA status even before their permits expire. Dreamers have lost their jobs, their driver’s licenses, and their ability to support themselves and their loved ones. They’ve been locked up in immigration jails and threatened with deportation.

    • The Trump Administration Might Be Trying to Strip the Citizenship of an American Detainee Held in Secret

      The Supreme Court has made clear that U.S. citizenship can only be voluntarily relinquished.

      Update (12/22/17): In its latest filing with the court, the government won’t say whether it is considering requiring the detainee to relinquish his American citizenship in exchange for his release from U.S. detention. The filing also states that the government does not believe it is legally required to allow him to consult an attorney before renouncing his citizenship.

      The Supreme Court has long held that American citizenship can only be voluntarily relinquished and the government can’t just take it away. But in a chilling new development, the Trump administration may be trying to coerce an American who has been secretly imprisoned without a lawyer to “voluntarily” give up his citizenship.

      For more than three months, the Trump administration has held the American citizen in a secret jail in Iraq, refusing even to release his name and depriving him of his liberty without charges or any opportunity to contest the government’s allegations before a judge. After a hearing last month in the ACLU’s motion for access to the detainee, the government admitted that it is also ignoring his request for a lawyer, in a brazen violation of his constitutional rights. “That kind of unchecked power is, quite frankly, frightening,” Judge Tanya S. Chutkan noted in response to the government’s insistence that it can continue to hold him without allowing him to consult an attorney.

      Now, according to a report in The New York Times, the government may be trying to deprive the prisoner of his citizenship as well. The report states that the Trump administration originally wanted to prosecute the man — but it has no evidence that would hold up in court. So, according to the Times, the government might offer the prisoner a bargain: If he “voluntarily” gives up his U.S. citizenship, the government could let him out of military detention and transfer him to Saudi Arabia, where he is reportedly a dual citizen.

    • What It Means to Fight for Technology Users in 2017

      EFF fights for technology users. We believe that empowering and protecting users should be baked into laws, policies, and court decisions, as well as into the technologies themselves. Since our founding in 1990, we have paired this goal with the common-sense recognition that in order to properly consider these questions, you need to listen to the voices of those who understand, deeply, how the technology works.

      This guidestar has served us from the very beginning of EFF. EFF helps courts and lawmakers recognize that the speech of Internet users must be protected against government censorship, that technology users should not be subject to overbroad search and seizure, and that strong encryption ensures that users have security and privacy in the digital world. We work to protect against copyright and patent laws that threaten technologies that empower users to co-create our culture—technologies like podcasts, user-created videos, and peer-to-peer filesharing. As users come to rely on the Internet—to find a job, connect with loved ones, speak out on issues of the day and organize for a better tomorrow—EFF’s role in standing up for users becomes increasingly important.

      So what does it mean to stand for the users in 2017 and looking into 2018? It means standing up to protect the fundamentals of democracy online, especially addressing the newly urgent needs of users organizing politically, while keeping up our longstanding role of encrypting the Web and combating mass surveillance.

    • Sheriff’s Office Directs Officers Not to Ticket Pedestrians for Failing to Carry ID

      The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has told its officers not to ticket pedestrians for not carrying a driver’s license and is voiding six such citations it erroneously issued.

      The tickets were identified in mid-November by ProPublica and the Times-Union in their Walking While Black investigation, which documented significant racial disparities in pedestrian citations and unearthed constitutional concerns surrounding how the Sheriff’s Office uses them as a policing tool.

      Lt. Chris Brown of the department’s Professional Oversight Unit wrote in an email that its investigation into the tickets had been sustained, and the citations were in the process of being voided. All but one of the pedestrians who received the false tickets is black.

    • Republican Senator Rand Paul Freezes Trump Nomination Over NSA

      Sen. Rand Paul is holding up the confirmation of a key national security official over concerns about a government surveillance program, an administration official confirmed to The Daily Beast.

      He has temporarily blocked John Demers –– currently Boeing’s assistant general counsel –– from being confirmed as Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s powerful National Security Division, according to that source. Paul’s concern about Demers, per sources, is that he has vocally defended Section 702 surveillance, which lets the NSA collect electronic communications.

      Paul’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story, though they did send out a press release on his “Special ‘Festivus’ Edition of ‘The Waste Report.’”

    • Confederate Statues Removed from Public Parks in Memphis

      In Memphis, Tennessee, statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and former Ku Klux Klan leader Nathan Bedford Forrest have been removed following a campaign led by a group called Take ’Em Down 901. On Wednesday night, the Memphis City Council voted to sell two city parks where the statues were located to a private nonprofit. Soon after, the statues were removed. The sale was done in order to get around a state law barring the removal of memorials from public property. Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said he had wanted the statues removed before April, when the city will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., who was shot dead in the city on April 4, 1968.

    • Arkansas Spurns Warehousing of Floundering Students

      As Leana Torres began high school, family crises — her estrangement from her father, her stepmother’s terminal cancer — shadowed her through the hallways. She experimented with drugs and got C’s, D’s and F’s in class.

      Torres could have become a casualty of her difficult home life — the sort of student school districts may all but write off because circumstances outside the classroom seem to overwhelm teachers’ best efforts. But she didn’t. When her mother and educators enrolled her in a public alternative school in Bentonville, Arkansas, they were opening doors for her, not shutting them.

      “My mom actually sent me here as a punishment,” says Torres, who has long dark hair and big brown eyes, “but it’s actually the best thing that’s happened to me.”

    • Justice Dept memo warns judges against being too sympathetic in child immigrant cases

      A Justice Department memo issued this week contains changes to guidelines for questioning unaccompanied and undocumented immigrant children, as well as directs judges to try such cases fairly despite “sympathetic allegations” that such cases may include.

      The memo issued Dec. 20 by the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) and obtained by Reuters eliminates previously-issued language instructing officials how to conduct “child-sensitive questioning” and requests judges be skeptical of minors who it says may be abusing the system.

      An unaccompanied minor “generally receives more favorable treatment under the law than other categories of illegal aliens,” the memo claims, which creates “an incentive to misrepresent accompaniment status or age in order to attempt to qualify for the benefits.”

    • Poland judiciary reforms: Judge accuses government of coup

      Poland’s most senior judge has published an open letter accusing the conservative government of “staging a coup” against the judiciary.
      It comes after the government passed controversial reforms that critics say threaten the rule of law in Poland.
      Malgorzata Gersdorf said the government was walking “along the abyss” into which the whole nation might fall.

    • Mamie Johnson, Woman Who Pitched in Negro Leagues, Dies at 82

      And in sports news, the pioneering professional baseball player Mamie Johnson has died at the age of 82. She was the only woman known to have pitched in the Negro Leagues. Over three seasons with the Indianapolis Clowns in the early 1950s, she won 33 games, while losing just eight. In 2009, Mamie Johnson spoke to the Visionary Project.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Why Loss of Net Neutrality Hurts Democracy

      The principle of every person having equal access to the Internet represented a strong pillar of modern democracy — and its removal represents another victory for profit-dominated plutocracy, as Dennis J Bernstein explains.

    • Who Can Clean Up the FCC’s Net Neutrality Mess?

      There are three possible paths to the reinstatement of the net neutrality protections stripped away through last week’s vote.

      Last week, the Federal Communications Commission took the long anticipated, widely disparaged step of doing away with net neutrality protections, over the objections of roughly 80 percent of Americans who support a level online playing field. Net neutrality is no more — unless, that is, the right people say that the FCC has gone too far.

      There are three possible paths to the reinstatement of net neutrality protections that were stripped away through last week’s vote.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • “Pirate” Streaming Service Sued by “Legal” Competitor

        This week an alleged pirate streaming service was sued in a Massachusetts federal court. The complaint was not filed by a copyright holder, but by a licensed streaming platform, which accuses the pirate service of civil conspiracy and unfair business practices, among other things.

      • Swedish Police Set to Take Over Pirate Bay Domains

        Police in Sweden have filed a formal request with domain registrar Binero to take ownership of two Pirate Bay-related domains. The move follows a decision from the Supreme Court this morning which determined that domain names constitute property that can be seized by the Swedish state.

Raw: Sylvie Jacobs, President of USF, Warns the Administrative Council of the EPO About Battistelli Nepotism and Other Abuses

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:36 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

La galaxie Battistelli

Summary: Union Syndicale Fédérale (USF), which is no stranger to EPO scandals, wrote a letter to the chinchilla killer nearly four years ago, highlighting serious issues associated with Benoît Battistelli

Brussels, 21 March 2014

Open letter to the President of the Administrative Council of the EPO
Mr. Jesper KONGSTAD

Dear Sir,

Mr. Benoît Battistelli (FR), former Director General of the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI, the French Patent Office) became President of the European Patent Office (EPO) in July 2010.

Since then, Mr. Battistelli, supported by an Administrative Council (AC) of the EPO of which you are the President, has almost systematically appointed to key positions at the European Patent Office persons who were his closest former colleagues at the INPI1.

Such practices are incompatible with the obligation of ensuring a satisfactory degree of representation of all the nationalities within an international organization, with the aim of respecting the institutional balance enshrined in the European Patent Convention (EPC).

More than this, we are witnessing an unprecedented dismantling of the social contract which has been built up over more than thirty years in co-operation with the Administrative Council, the Presidents of the EPO, and the members of the EPO. This social contract has allowed for the development and success of the EPO. To break it in such a brutal manner will undoubtedly prejudice the performance of the organization.

It is not acceptable to see the current President:

1. Ignoring the unanimous opinion of a disciplinary commission attesting to the innocence of an agent of the EPO (January 2014) and imposing one of the most severe sanctions possible. This constitutes an abuse of rights and power which de facto discredits this body, established by the Council;

2. Obtaining from the Council “carte blanche” to define the right to strike, and then to suppress it. This is quite simply illegal (legal proceedings are in hand), and constitutes a double abuse on the part of the Council and the President of the EPO;

3. Introducing “investigation guidelines” contrary to any notion of a state of law, such as defined within the Member States, is scandalous in 2014 in European territory;

4. Simply ignoring the minimum constraints adopted in this matter, by virtue of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, implementing a directive on data protection (March 2014) without involving the Administrative Council or the external users. This constitutes yet another abuse of power;

_________
1 Cf document ‘la galaxie Battistelli’


5. Suppressing a system of designation, consultation, and participation by the personnel of the EPO which is stable and has been undisputed for close on forty years. This bears witness to a deliberate show of contempt towards the members of the EPO who are unanimously opposed to the “social democracy” project.

6. In view of the foregoing it is most regrettable that you, during your mandate as President of the AC, have not only failed to improve the transparency of the organization of which you are the head, but have also shown an assiduous zeal in satisfying the demands of the President without concerning yourself as to their legality or their social impact. You cannot be unaware that such “ultra vires” behaviour on the part of national functionaries incurs action under the penal code in the majority of national legislative structures, and potentially lays the members of the Council open to such proceedings.

The standards in matters of responsibility and transparency within the EPO remain very much on the side of those which govern the institutions of the European Union and the national administrative bodies. The actions of the President of the EPO, which the Council authorises and for which the Council bears responsibility are departing very substantially from the scope of action authorised by Articles 10, 33, and 35 of the EPC.

At a time when Brussels intends to assign the issue of the Unitary Patent to the EPO, it is becoming a matter of urgency to take action in order to harmonize the standards of governance and control within this great organization with those which are in force in the European Union. In view of the deleterious social situation and the points brought to your attention in this letter, we ask that you forthwith:

1) Postpone the vote on the “social democracy” project in order to define with the social partners a text which is acceptable to all parties concerned;

2) As an exceptional circumstance, not to allow the rule of abstentions provided for under Articles 33 and 35 EPC. It is essential that the principles of good governance and transparency are in fact respected at the EPO. The delegations must make it known whether they approve or if they oppose the “social democracy” project. Abstentions are no longer ethically admissible in the current crisis situation at the EPO.

Yours faithfully
Sylvie JACOBS
President USF

CC: Mr. Battistelli

Raw: How to Tell Benoît Battistelli is Lying

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 5:09 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Spoiler: His lips move

Signs of Lying: Here’s What Will and Will Not Help You Detect Lies
Signs of Lying: Here’s What Will and Will Not Help You Detect Lies

SUEPO on EPO excuses
Original/full: SUEPO publication [PDF]

Summary: Some examples of Benoît Battistelli changing the story and giving contradictory answers to blame anybody or anything but his totalitarian regime

Raw: How SUEPO Explained the EPO Situation Three Years Ago

Posted in Europe, Patents at 3:51 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The EPO is connected to the Commission only when it suits Battistelli

EPO and European Commission

Summary: Message to the European Commission, urging for intervention within the EPO; A concise outline of the issues as they stood at the time (before many additional scandals and 0% approval rates for the President)

NEMESIS: SOCIAL CONFLICT AT THE EUROPEAN PATENT OFFICE

The EPO

The European Patent Organisation was created in 1977 through the European Patent Convention (EPC). A diplomatic Conference of the Contracting States is responsible for any amendment to the Articles of EPC. Otherwise, the highest supervisory and legislative body is the Administrative Council, which consists of delegates of the member states who gather several times a year. The delegates are non-elected civil servants, typically from the national patent offices. The European Patent Office (EPO) is the executive body of the Organisation. Led by a President and Vice-Presidents appointed by the Administrative Council, the EPO comprises about 7000 staff members. It is the second-largest intergovernmental organisation in Europe after the European Commission.

Its tasks

The tasks of the EPO consist primarily in processing European patent applications and grant patents on behalf of the contracting states. As a designated authority, it also processes worldwide patent applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty. The European Commission has further entrusted the EPO with the processing and granting of EU unitary patents, as well as keeping the registry and administering the renewal fees.

Its impact

The economic impact of the EPO cannot be underestimated. A study on behalf of the European Commission1 in 2004 estimated the actual and potential market for patents in eight European countries2 between 15 and 24 billion EUR. Moreover, it is estimated that the presence of the EPO in its host states generates about three jobs for each EPO staff member within the jurisdiction3. In contrast, the EPO does not generate any cost to the European taxpayer. It is fully self-financed through the processing fees of the applications and, above all, through the patent renewal fees, notwithstanding the fact that half of the renewal fees are distributed to the member states. The industrial landscape strongly depends on the patents as granted at the EPO.
________
1 ETD/2004/IM/E3/77; http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/indprop/docs/patent/studies/final_report_lot2_en.pdf
2 DE, DK, ES, FR, HU, IT, NL, UK; see Table 1 of ETD/2004/IM/E3/77
3 Louter P, van Eikeren P “The economic importance of the European Patent Office”, Oct. 2009


Its staff

The employees of the EPO are highly educated professionals from all of the 38 member states. They fall into two main categories: administrative and professional. Administrative staff is in charge of the formal side and record keeping. Aside from the necessary qualifications, they have to master at least two of the official languages of the EPO (EN/DE/FR). Aside from HR professionals and lawyers, the majority of the professional category consists of patent examiners. They all hold advanced degrees in science and engineering (MSc level of higher), and must be proficient in all three official languages of the EPO, in addition to their own language. They must be able to understand and report on complex technical and juridical texts in EN/FR/DE. The majority of staff, in particular examiners, have a good understanding of legal principles, since their job involves taking decisions that have legal effects (granting or refusing patents).

The remuneration package4 of the EPO staff is generous but is commensurate with their qualifications and the economic impact of their work. Their remuneration is exempt from national taxation (in order not to give host states and undue advantage over other contracting states) but is subject to an internal taxation, the proceeds of which go to defray the running costs of the EPO. This enables the EPO to use only a portion of the patent renewal fees for its operational costs, and the excess (currently, one half) thereof is distributed to the member states.

Reforms

The European Patent Convention is 40 years old. The EPO is set up according to principles of the international civil service, and some of the principles date back to the early 20th century. As early as 2007, the Administrative Council has mandated the Presidents of the EPO to develop and introduce a number of reforms. So far, most of them concern human resources management and working conditions. None address the issues of transparent governance and accountability of management. (For instance, the remuneration and ancillary benefits of the President is a well-guarded secret, as are the bonuses of the Vice-Presidents.) The working conditions laid down in the Service Regulations are not published; once the Administrative Council adopts new working conditions, they are implemented without any possibility for an independent instance to control thoroughly their compatibility with fundamental rights or with the generally accepted principles of law.

Controversial decisions

Staff is used and expects to be consulted in good faith about the nature and timing of any need to adapt social and technical matters that have an impact on their work. This is recognized by the fact that management is required to consult staff on such matters. In the past, staff representative were normally in a position to cooperate towards possible solutions. However, since 2007 staff has been consistently put before faits accomplis, with questionable reforms allegedly addressing undefined problems. Many of the changes introduced are perceived as being senseless and disruptive, and inconsistent with subsequent changes. This has caused widespread discontent.
________
4 which is comparable to all intergovernmental organisations


Repression of dissent

Even though the outcome was less than satisfactory, the EPO management must be credited for trying, between 2007 and 2010, to allay the concerns of staff by engaging in dialogue with the elected staff representatives, and with the staff union. This has changed dramatically under the current President5. Instead of dialog, he has chosen the path of systematically repressing any expression of dissent, not to speak of opposition.

Thus far, to silence any dissenting voice, the President6 has:

- Changed the rules to make it legally impossible to challenge internally a decision.
- Refused to recognize the staff unions7 as a legitimate social partner, in spite of the fact that the union SUEPO counts as it members nearly 50% of staff.
- Forbidden the staff representation to send mails to more than 50 staff members, thereby severely curtailing the possibility of communicating with staff.
- Inflicted disciplinary measures (reprimands) on staff representatives who defied the prohibition.
- Installed a filter blocking the delivery to staff of any mail originating from the Union (who has its own outside server).
- Refused to distribute Union publications through the internal mail.
- Subjected staff representation publications to censorship.
- Introduced “investigation guidelines”, under which any employee may be investigated without necessarily being told so. The investigation may be started at the instigation of even anonymous accusers. Colleagues may be interrogated and have a duty to cooperate, or they will be accused of professional misconduct. The person investigated is also obliged to “cooperate”, failing which (s)he will be liable to disciplinary measures for misconduct, and this means not being able to keep silent in order not to incriminate oneself. The person investigated cannot be assisted by legal counsel. There is no system in place to monitor the lawfulness and proportionality of the investigation.
- Proposed changes to the structure and functioning of the staff representation and of the statutory consultative bodies, which changes substantially reduce the role of staff
in the decision-making process on issues that affect them directly;
- Proposed changes in the way staff representatives are elected (until now, the electoral process was chosen and supervised by staff itself through general assemblies);
- Blocked an online opinion poll which the staff representation had organized to allow staff to voice an opinion about the proposed changes in staff representation structure and elections, and summarily suspended a colleague who advised the staff representation on how to carry out an online poll efficiently and securely;
- Changed the rules allowing for industrial actions (strikes): calling for a strike now requires a petition to the president, signed by at least 10% of all staff; following which the president himself decides whether the grievance is receivable and if so submits the matter to a vote, where 40% of all staff must participate to have a valid quorum. The Union is no longer authorized to call for industrial action independently, and to submit the matter to its own members only8;
________
5 Benoît Battistelli (FR) took up the position of President of the EPO in July 2010. A graduate of the French National School of Administration (ENA), he is the former General Director of the French Patent Office (INPI). Since taking up his duties in 2010, he has surrounded himself with no less than 5 former INPI colleagues, whom he has appointed to key positions within the EPO.
6 with the apparent complacency of the Administrative Council
7 the largest of which is SUEPO, active in all four establishments of the EPO (Munich, The Hague, Berlin and Vienna). A much smaller union, FFP-EPO, is active in The Hague
8 it has been pointed out that such measures are unprecedented in Europe, apart from Italy’s Carta del Lavoro (B. Mussolini, 1927) and Spain’s Fuero del Trabajo (F. Franco, 1938), of very sinister memory.

Morever, the current President has:

- Refused to carry out an enquiry for the possible causes of the suicide of a colleague in 2013, who took his life at the work place and during working hours.
- Demoted a staff representative for voicing, within the staff representation, concerns about a possible managerial responsibility for the suicide of another colleague in 2012. He demoted the employee in spite of the unanimous recommendation of the Disciplinary Board to stop the procedure for abuse of process and unfounded claims.
- Systematically refused to follow the recommendations of the Internal Appeals Committee (who analyses grievances of individual staff members), even when unanimously finding in favour of the claimant.
- Threatened employees with severe disciplinary sanctions for being prepared to testify, if so ordered by the Court, against the EPO in civil suits by third parties.

No effective access to justice

Staff is particularly aggrieved because it has no reasonable way to seek relief through judicial review:
- The internal dispute resolution process (the Internal Appeals Committee), and the external instance (the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organisation) are reserved for individual grievances, once the alleged damage has occurred. Only in very exceptionally circumstances can a general decision, such as a decision modifying working conditions, be challenged before it is implemented.
- The staff union has no access to either the Internal Appeals Committee or to the ATILO. As a corporate body established under national law, the Union may have access to the domestic court, but the EPO shields itself behind its functional immunity from jurisdiction and execution.
- Even when staff members have access to the statutory dispute resolution process, it takes in average 3-5 years for a grievance to be assessed9 by the Internal Appeals
Committee, and if the grievance proceeds to the ATILO the claimant must count on a minimum of 3-4 years before the grievance is heard. All in all, with the current increasing backlog in the Internal Appeals Committee and at the ATILO, it is expected that grievances lodged after 2011 will not be adjudicated before roughly a decade.

The interest of the European Commission

With Regulation (EU) No 1257/ 2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2012, implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection10, there is an institutional link between the European Commission and the EPO. The European Commission intends to entrust a substantial part of its policy (the unitary patent) to an organisation that is not formally under the Commission’s authority. Thus, as a stakeholder, the Commission has a legitimate interest in monitoring what happens structurally within the EPO.
________
9 There is a backlog of some 700 cases in the Internal Appeals Committee; rather than increasing the manpower to face this backlog, Mr Battistelli has decreased it.
10 http://archive.epo.org/epo/pubs/oj013/02_13/02_1113.pdf


Of the 38 contracting states of the EPC, 25 are members of the European Union and have ratified Regulation (EU) No 1257/ 2012. Thus, the states that will participate in the Unitary Patent system have a clear majority in the Administrative Council of the EPO, yet so far their respective positions have been focused on their national interests rather than on Community ones. With the introduction of the Unitary Patent, the Commission has an interest in overseeing a common policy.

There is a serious problem of governance in the EPO. The opacity of its decision-making processes and the lack of accountability is anachronistic in Europe and in the 21st century, at a time when states require from their institutions and from each other financial transparency and accountability. While the EPO may still be a competitive employer (in terms of remuneration benefits), its internal human resources policies (in terms of interpersonal relationships) are antiquated and brutal.

Generally speaking, European society will not tolerate that some of its citizens are deprived of their fundamental rights only because they are employed by an intergovernmental organisation, or because they are well paid. This is true in particular when the member states of said organisation are, in their overwhelming majority, also members states of the European Union. Yet this is exactly what has happened.

The Administrative Council of the EPO, and thus vicariously the member states, are complacent at best, grossly negligent at worst. The Council has largely given the President carte blanche, without asking what the consequences would be or how he would use his powers. Structurally, the President of the EPO acts as accuser, investigator, judge and final arbiter on all matters; there is no separation of power guaranteeing a healthy system of checks and balances. The nearly absolute power the current President enjoys and the manner in which he uses it has been the source of particular concern and dismay11. Staff and their unions consider the limitations on the freedom of expression and freedom of associations (embodies in the right to strike), and the right to effective access to justice as a breach of their fundamental rights as European Citizens.

Now that the European Commission holds a solid majority in the Administrative Council of the EPO, and if it is serious about using and promoting the Unitary Patent as one of its important pillars to exercise its policy, it is high time it took a keen interest in what is happening at the EPO and insist that the house be put in order. By introducing proper policies through consultation and negotiation. Not through repression and intimidation.
____
11 Mr Battistelli has been reported in the press as being perceived as behaving like a “small African dictator” (Die Zeit, 20 March 2014)

Ericsson and Microsoft-Led Nokia Crush Companies That Make Phones With Linux, BlackBerry Becomes Litigation Firm

Posted in Apple, Asia, Courtroom, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 2:20 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Nokia used to make phones, now it’s just doing Microsoft's 'Jihad' in the dark (back room)

Nokia light

Summary: With an abundance of software patents which target ‘apps’ or designs of phones, companies that no longer make phones (or barely sell any) go preying on those who do, Huawei being one of the latest victims (it will hereon pay Nokia ‘protection’ money)

THE MOBILE industry is no fun. It’s not fun anymore. Not for developers anyway. Too many patents, too many lawsuits, too many threats of lawsuits. Over the years we wrote about ‘censorship’ of many so-called ‘apps’ using mere threats of patent litigation; some software developers just pack up and run away. They stop distributing their software due to software patents and aggressive entities (not always patent trolls). A lot of these stories are untold because telling them out in public can lead to retaliation; it’s no secret that patent extortion is often accompanied by/laced with some kind of ‘gag orders’; the same goes for NDAs as it goes for ‘silence money’. Sometimes one party is forced to congratulate the extortionist with a press release (as part of the settlement). It ain’t pretty. I heard stories. Some people phone me. I can’t quite tell all the stories I’ve heard; not without omitting names (people’s and firms’), which would render articles pretty vague and thus worthless.

“Sometimes one party is forced to congratulate the extortionist with a press release (as part of the settlement).”A few days ago the FFII’s President caught this couple of tweets [1, 2] from Matt Larson‏, who is quite knowledgeable in this area. The article is restricted in terms of access, but the gist goes like this: “Judge Selna’s TCL-Ericsson FRAND patent licensing decision is out. Slashes Ericsson’s offered rates, awards $16M for TCL unlicensed sales from 2007-2015. Notes available on @TheTerminal [...] Decision covers Ericsson’s portfolio of patents deemed essential to 2G, 3G, 4G standards. Wild divergence from last week’s $75 million jury verdict for TCL’s infringement of a single Ericsson patent.”

You read that tight. One single patent, $75,000,000 in a jury verdict. There’s also no way around such patents (in standards). One must pay to ‘play’. Where does that leave small and vulnerable companies?

As we have shown here many times before, Ericsson and its various proxies worldwide (it uses several trolls) are running after a lot of companies, demanding ‘protection’ money from several directions at once. It’s patent stacking and it has even come to London. Now that Microsoft has turned Nokia into a patent troll (which typically preys on Linux and Android), we are seeing similar strategies from Nokia. So one ends up paying lots of money to a Swedish company and a Finnish company which barely make any phones anymore. Ain’t that just lovely?

“Mind the date on the press release. Nokia did it last Christmas as well (against Apple); it does the trolling just before or during Christmas in order to dodge negative publicity.”“Nokia-planP is happening,” the FFII’s President wrote the other day, “they have morphed in a patent troll going after Huawei now…”

“PlanP” is a domain name he once registered (it was part of an Internet-wide joke at the time) and the P stands for “patents”. What he (Benjamin Henrion of Belgium) is alluding to is this press release nobody bothers writing about. Mind the date on the press release. Nokia did it last Christmas as well (against Apple); it does the trolling just before or during Christmas in order to dodge negative publicity. Nokia’s press release (control of narrative, as part of the settlement) says this:

While details of the license agreement remain confidential, Nokia will follow its existing practices for disclosing patent licensing revenue in its quarterly financial reports and expects that revenue for the agreement will begin to be recognized in the fourth quarter of 2017, including an element of non-recurring catch-up revenue, with additional revenues expected during the term of the agreement.

From the above it’s implied that Huawei, one of the world’s largest Android OEMs (and also one of China’s largest companies), will pay Nokia ‘protection’ money. Microsoft long pursued this kind of ‘protection’ money from Huawei, but it never quite got it. The media wrote about several years ago. Huawei was one of the very few companies that stood up to Microsoft, but a Microsoft-infiltrated Nokia has just managed to put a ‘tax’ on Android at Huawei. Bad day for Linux enthusiasts (the few who actually noticed this).

Expect Microsoft and its proxies to never rest until they tax all Android OEMs, extracting billions of dollars from them (per annum) without lifting a finger! It will be done from numerous directions simultaneously, hence patent stacking. It’s a legal term, but it’s a potentially illegal practice.

“Expect Microsoft and its proxies to never rest until they tax all Android OEMs, extracting billions of dollars from them (per annum) without lifting a finger!”According to some other news, including this Interview with George Brostoff (SensibleVision), more legal action may be on the way. “OnePlus Could Be Sued For Face Unlock Patent Infringement,” said this headline this weekend and days prior to it there was a lot more coverage [1, 2, 3]. Since then (Thursday/Friday) more reports like these have emerged (almost a dozen, primarily in Android or Indian sites) and it certainly looks like SensibleVision will be choking/trolling Linux/Android. Where does this end? These are software patents. A “face unlock feature” is so basic a concept (pertaining to computer vision, which is software too) that courts are likely to reject a patent on it. So who does SensibleVision want to go after? Little OnePlus. Not a large company like Huawei…

“BlackBerry’s strategy is to shake down real companies that really sell something. It’s a shakedown (some would say “trolling”) strategy. Just like Microsoft, Nokia, and Ericsson.”Speaking of large companies, BlackBerry was a large player before it turned into somewhat of a patent troll. According to Indian media (still active around Christmas time), BlackBerry made $50,000,000 from threatening to sue companies. “Revenue from intellectual property and licensing surged 67 percent to $50 million,” it says. “A jump in that category had provided an unexpected boost to second-quarter earnings…”

BlackBerry used to have a turnover of tens of billions, so how much of a ‘victory’ is this? Does BlackBerry envision itself as a litigation firm? As Forbes put it 2 days ago (in the headline) “IP Licensing Drive BlackBerry’s Q3″.

So they too are a parasite now. BlackBerry’s strategy is to shake down real companies that really sell something. It’s a shakedown (some would say “trolling”) strategy. Just like Microsoft, Nokia, and Ericsson.

Erich Spangenberg’s IPwe and Motivational Health Messaging Are Patent Trolls With Nothing But Bad Patents and Bad Intentions

Posted in America, Patents at 1:19 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Motivational Health Messaging patent

Summary: The plague of patent trolls in the United States — typically trolls who rely on software patents — as outlined in the media over the past week

Prof. James Bessen, who wrote a lot about patent trolls half a decade ago when he researched their impact on the US economy, seems concerned about Erich Spangenberg, a highly notorious patent troll whom we mentioned the other day because of a report from CNBC. Spangenberg spent an extraordinary amount of money buying utterly useless things using money that he extracted by extorting over a thousand businesses, using patents which were later invalidated anyway. Spangenberg symbolises some of the rogue elements of society.

Patent trolls like Erich Spangenberg are not doing so well; not anymore. Some of them shut down their so-called ‘businesses’. Ray Niro, the father of patent trolling, died last year and earlier this year his business died too. His son is now engaged in legal bullying against bloggers/journalists, just like his father (a few days ago his name made it into the media for suing Ars Technica on behalf of a client).

Going back to Bessen, he linked to this article about blockchain and Spangenberg’s imminent threats to it, even if software patents lost their ‘teeth’. To quote:

Patent troll Erich Spangenberg, who is hated in Silicon Valley for challenging the patents on all sorts of technology, is eyeing the cryptocurrency market next.

Citing a recent blog by Spangenberg, CNBC reported news that he has created a new group to unlock the value in blockchain intellectual property, arguing that while the press is focused on bitcoin, another important story that gets less coverage is the technology that underpins it: blockchain.

The patent troll is amassing a treasure trove of blockchain patents that he can enforce as the distributed ledger technology takes off. Spangenberg has started a company dubbed IPwe that has 20 full-time employees and a team of consultants. They are tasked with applying “blockchain, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to improve patents,” Spangenberg wrote in the blog post. “It is a curious path how a collection of misfit trolls, geeks and wonks ended up here — but we are going to crush it and make a fortune.”

This is just a classic patent troll, not a “company” as the above puts it (they create nothing at all). Here in Europe, based on this days-old article, there are cases involving “design protection [sic] for car spare parts, in two cases involving Acacia” (Acacia is a bunch patent trolls with different shells associated with it).

There’s also that silly ‘company’ called Motivational Health Messaging. No homepage, no reference; nothing! It’s yet another LLC, so what can imagine what its ‘operations’ amount to and the EFF explained its supposed asset a few days ago in “Stupid Patent of the Month” (last of the year).

To quote:

Have you ever sent a motivational text to a friend? If you have, perhaps you tailored your message to an activity or location by saying “Good luck in the race!” or “Have fun in New York!” Now, imagine doing this automatically with a computer. What a great invention. Actually, no. That’s not a good invention, it’s our latest Stupid Patent of the Month.

U.S. Patent No. 9,069,648 is titled “Systems and methods for delivering activity based suggestive (ABS) messages.” The patent describes sending “motivational messages,” based “on the current or anticipated activity of the user,” to a “personal electronic device.” The patent provides examples such as sending the message “don’t give up” when the user is running up a hill. The examples aren’t limited to health or exercise. For example, the patent suggests sending messages like “do not fear” and “God is with you” when a “user enters a dangerous neighborhood.”

The patent’s description of its invention is filled with silly, non-standard acronyms like ABS for “activity based suggestive” messages or EBIF for “electronic based intelligence function.” These silly acronyms create an illusion of complexity where plain, descriptive language would reveal the mundane nature of the supposed invention. For example, what the patent grandly calls EBIF appears to be nothing more than standard computer processing.

We are pretty certain that, if properly challenged citing Alice, this patent will vanish pretty quickly, leaving Motivational Health Messaging with nothing but an EFF blog post calling them “Stupid”.

As for Spangenberg and IPwe? Expect them to get some good ‘spanking’ in the courts and lose a lot of patents. To common sense…

Patent Quality Nosedives at EPO, Say Insiders Whose Permanent Contract is About to be Terminated in 8 Days to Increase Pressure to Grant Patents Sparingly

Posted in Europe, Patents at 4:28 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Performance-based means number of grants or “products” as Battistelli calls them

Riding rodent

Summary: Hastened/lenient granting (e.g. PPH) and growing ‘production’ demands give greater/broader grounds for dismissal and worker pressure through fear, assuring that the EPO becomes a low-quality ‘production/assembly line’ of patents rather than a patent office (examination)

The EPO-FLIER team’s latest issue, which is now 12 days old, speaks about patent quality. It repeats a lot of arguments heard before; it has citations, too. This was published just before the meeting of the Administrative Council.

“One last message before Christmas: we’re going to grant patents even faster!”The issue has become ever more relevant in light of yesterday’s “news” from the EPO’s Web site (warning: epo.org link). One last message before Christmas: we’re going to grant patents even faster! So EPO management is, in effect, throwing to the sharks what’s left of patent quality — the very thing the EPO long took pride in. The EPO will process applications for speed, not accuracy. Terrible. It’s not just PPH but also PACE, Early Certainty etc. The writings are on the wall. Here’s what the EPO wrote yesterday: “With effect from 6 January 2018, the EPO will be extending its PPH pilot programmes with four partners around the globe, namely Canada, Israel, Mexico and Singapore, thus enabling innovators from Europe and these countries to continue obtaining patents more quickly and efficiently.”

“The reality of the matter is, Battistelli crushed the appeals and opposition process. He just wants patents to be granted quickly with minimal scrutiny, i.e. quality control.”Seriously? The words “quickly and efficiently” miss the point; what applicants want is legal certainty irrespective of speed and “efficiency” — whatever this ludicrous concept even means in the context of patents (it’s ‘production line’ terminology, just like “pay grade” or “return on investment”).

The reality of the matter is, Battistelli crushed the appeals and opposition process. He just wants patents to be granted quickly with minimal scrutiny, i.e. quality control. He wants the EPO to become INPI (France) or SIPO (China).

An article by Matthew Fletcher (Abel & Imray) was published yesterday regarding the EPO Enlarged Board’s decision G1/16. It’s increasingly hard to believe that the EPO Enlarged Board will survive long as Battistelli attacks both the Boards and the EPC (he routinely violates the EPC, not just in spirit). Fletcher wrote:

The inclusion of a disclaimer, where subject matter is carved out from the scope of a patent claim by means of a negative feature is not explicitly allowed for in the European Patent Convention (EPC). In most circumstances, the subject matter of amendments to European patent applications must be derivable from the application as filed. However, Enlarged Board decision G1/03 and G2/10 allowed disclaimers in some circumstances. G1/16 confirms that the criteria for the allowability of an undisclosed disclaimer set out in G1/03 remain applicable and it is not also necessary for the subject matter of the disclaimer to be derivable from the application as filed.

These are structural constraints; not pertaining to technicality per se. The matter of fact is — and it’s crucial to remember this — the Boards are grossly understaffed and they’re unable to look at as many cases as they ought to. This is what Battistelli et al must have intended. They just keep the Boards around to maintain the “perception” of adherence to the EPC (without any real “perception” of independence). The whole thing is catastrophic as it lets patent quality slip without the Boards having the capacity (or courage) to publicly point this out. Nobody there wishes to be the ‘next Corcoran’, who now wastes an extraordinary amount of money — probably his and his wife’s personal savings — on legal fees in two countries with proceedings in a language foreign to him (Croatian and German). It’s classic legal bullying.

“They just keep the Boards around to maintain the “perception” of adherence to the EPC (without any real “perception” of independence).”Now is a good time to reproduce the EPO-FLIER team’s latest issue, which was posted at epostaff4rights.org (No. 33) as a PDF that’s not easy to convert to HTML (we are having to do this manually using a text editor). They too worry a great deal about patent quality and supposed speed, the attack on quality control (“opposition divisions”) etc.

The final straw for patent quality?

Proposed fixed-term contracts for examiners

In its October meeting, some delegations to the Budget and Finance Committee (BFC) heavily criticised proposal CA/103/17 for a “modernisation of the employment framework” presented by the Office. It’s status was then reduced from for opinion to for information. The proposal would have allowed the Office to employ 100% of all new examiners on fixed-term contracts, starting from January 20181.

But the proposal is not off the table. During its last Board 28 meeting2, it was agreed that a final proposal would be tabled for the March 2018 Council meeting. The revised proposal as it stands sets down that up to 40% of examiners may be employed on five-year renewable contracts. But permanent employment is a mandatory requirement for the
independence of the examining divisions (Article 18 EPC), which have already suffered many “reforms” since 2013. We must therefore warn in the strongest terms against the implementation of any “reform” which would further deteriorate the working conditions, the working atmosphere, and the independence of the examining and opposition divisions.

Impact of past “reforms” on employees’ commitment to quality

Until few years ago, examiners and formalities officers were committed to delivering high quality services, including search reports and granted patents. This attitude has more and
more given way to feelings of despair and resignation3. For many, the priority has shifted towards satisfying their line manager’s production demands in order to protect themselves from being targeted as “low performers”.

Examiners are finding it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to comply with the still rising production demands whilst maintaining good quality. But the full adverse impact on
the quality of the EPO’s services of the past “reforms” – the new career system CA/D 10/14, the DG1/DG2 reorganisation CA/65/174 and the “reform” of the internal justice system CA/D 7/17 – is yet to materialise.

Following CA/D 7/17, fast track procedures5 are currently being implemented which will make it rather simple to dismiss employees for professional incompetence – starting on 1

_________
1 LAST NAIL IN THE COFFIN? (13.11.2017; su17019hp)
2 B28/10/17 (04.12.2017)
3 DG1: Rat race 2.0 – Part I – How did we get there? What will come next? (04.12.2017; su17022hp)
4 See EPO-FLIER No. 30 DG1-DG2 Reorganisation (www.epostaff4rights.org)
5 A new body called “Joint Committee on Article 52 and 53” is in charge of dealing with professional incompetence


January 2018. In April 2017 the Techrights blog reported 6 on rumours that the Office intended to dismiss a predefined number of examiners (at least 24 office-wide) in order to instill fear and drive examiners to accept and fulfil even higher production targets. PD-HR was requested to rebut the allegations swiftly, if indeed they were unfounded7. But there has apparently not been any reaction up to now.

Due to the excessive level of production forced out of examiners since the introduction of the new career system, examiners will soon run out of search files and will then be forced to generate their production primarily from examination8. It is likely that fear of dismissal for professional incompetence will drive examiners towards further lowering the quality bar for patent grants.

From 1 January 2018 on, opposition work will be increasingly done with a strong focus on “efficiency” and “timeliness”9. With less time given to deal with a case, members of opposition divisions are likely to examine the parties’ requests less thoroughly, with consequences for the legal certainty of their decisions. Users of the patent system should start seeing the effects in the second half of 2018. It will be interesting to see whether the parties to opposition proceedings consider poorly examined cases to constitute “efficiency”.

An independent 2016 patent survey10 found that less than half of the survey’s participants were happy with the quality of the European patent examination process. The situation has not improved since, rather the contrary11.

Potential impact of planned “reform”

In the current situation, hiring examiners on fixed-term contracts is likely to be the final straw, and the examiners’ commitment to provide quality will collapse completely. This will be a road of no return.

The European Public Service Union (EPSU) expressed the following criticism on the
original proposal:

“… introducing such a comprehensive reform just before the new Director Mr. Campinos takes office smells of bad administration, and frankly of cynicism. It makes the work of Mr. Campinos more difficult to have a proper social dialogue almost setting him up for failure.”12

We at the Flier Team fully agree with that statement.

_________
6 http://techrights.org/2017/04/21/wrong-patents-in-bulk/
7 Letter from SUEPO The Hague to Ms Bergot on Alleged HR dismissal policies for EPO examiners (17.05.2017)
8 Open letter from the CSC to the president (08.11.2017; sc17172cl)
9 Opposition & Central Formalities Directorates; VP1 announcement (06.12.2017) and slideshow (05. & 06.10.2017)
10 Conducted by the well-respected German legal magazine JUVE (https://suepo.org/public/ex17003cpe.pdf)
11 EPO – All Problems Solved? (http://patentblog.kluweriplaw.com/2017/10/16/epo-all-problems-solved/)
12 Letter on Employment Framework at EPO (https://www.suepo.org/documents/44455/56843.pdf)

www.epostaff4rights.org

It’s worth noting that the EPO closed the year with the above statement about rushed examination. This is a hallmark of Battistelli’s regime. When we leaked details about PACE a little over 2 years ago the EPO went ballistic and threatened to sue. These leaks demonostrated quite clearly that the EPO was discriminating against SMEs. Nowadays (even as recently as yesterday) the EPO writes every single day some tweets with the hashtag #IPforSMEs, probably in an effort to obscure the fact EPO hates/harms SMEs. The basic idea is, if people attempt to find any information related to this, all that will turn up in search engines is EPO puff pieces or ‘studies’.

“It’s like workers of the EPO not only lack human rights but also labour rights.”Also don’t lose sight of the EPO’s very latest (or last) tweets. One says: “Please note that all our offices will be closed over the holiday period from 23 Dec 2017 & will open again on 2 Jan 2018.”

6 working days off is ridiculously low. Most companies give twice as much! The EPO then tweeted: “Happy holidays & warm wishes for 2018 from all of us at the European Patent Office!”

“Happy holidays” after the EPO canceled three holidays. It’s like workers of the EPO not only lack human rights but also labour rights. And who can they complain to? The EPO certainly continues to demonstrate that it’s above the law and beyond any form of accountability.

Alexander Ramsay is Wrong, Unitary Patent (UPC) Won’t Start Any Time Soon and Probably Never

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 3:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Related: The UPC’s Figurehead, Alexander Ramsay, Admits UPC is Stuck, Bristows LLP Comes Up With ‘Alternative Facts’

Alexander Ramsay, Bristows, and the UPC gold rush

Summary: Alexander Ramsay, Bristows, and Team UPC in general are worse than delusional; they’re actually lying about the UPC’s prospects and it’s a form of marketeering

That joke which is called the Unified Patent Court (UPC) “Preparatory Committee” is so biased that it’s not even funny. We wrote about it many times before.

“Every year they have been telling us “next year” and a week or so from now people are supposed to have the impression that UPC will materialise “later this year”.”Alexander Ramsay, whose entire career depends on UPC boosting, will continue to pretend that the Unitary Patent is not dead. That’s just his job. That’s what he’s paid for. That’s also how firms like Bristows profit; they derive income from misleading clients. Here’s their latest and 5 hours apart from the above (by Myles Jelf) came a similar post at Kluwer Patent Blog. This is probably Bristows staff writing anonymously again in order to mislead the public (without accountability). Well, liars and crooks don’t want to put their names next to what they know to be false. Either way, based on its own blog alone, Bristows seems to be once again spreading the lies late on a Friday in order to avoid harsh responses/corrections; no response for the first 7 or so hours (when we checked last night) and moments ago (we checked again) there was still nothing. So nobody is correcting them. Bristows’ own site does not allow comments at all; neither does this page from Ramsay.

What does that say? We’re supposed to think that UPC is coming next year. How many times have we heard that before? Every year they have been telling us “next year” and a week or so from now people are supposed to have the impression that UPC will materialise “later this year”.

Clever marketing? No. Lies.

As a side note, Techrights will also be covering EPO affairs during Xmas/NYE. It’s an opportunity to publish things we never got around to publishing. We have plenty to publish.

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