The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) Revisits ‘Divided Infringement’

Posted in America, Courtroom, Patents at 11:44 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Judge O’Malley on Travel Sentry v Tropp

Divided infringement
Reference: Divided infringement

Summary: Alluding again to the Akamai case (a famous GNU/Linux user), the Federal Circuit debates the practice of working around patents in creative ways

IN a recent case which is not about patent scope, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) ruled on divided infringement.

While more radical sites such as Watchtroll wrote about it, so did more moderate sites. “This recent interpretation of the Akamai test may at the very least make it more difficult for accused infringers to have divided infringement cases dismissed at the summary judgement stage,” said a blog a couple of weeks ago.

Divided infringement is explained below:

Enforcing a patent with claims that raise the specter of divided infringement can be a difficult plight for patent owners. Even under the more liberal standard set forth in the Federal Circuit’s en banc decision in Akamai v. Limelight, it has proven difficult for patent owners to establish the necessary levels of control or cooperation between two or more parties who together perform the steps of a method claim. However, the Federal Circuit decision in Travel Sentry, Inc. v. Tropp suggests that the requisite level of cooperation or control should be considered broadly. This recent interpretation of the Akamai test may at the very least make it more difficult for accused infringers to have divided infringement cases dismissed at the summary judgement stage.


The Federal Circuit was authored by Judge O’Malley and joined by Judges Lourie and Taranto.

Divided infringement was also mentioned by Peter Keros earlier this month. He wrote:

For divided patent infringement under 35 U.S.C. § 271(b), a patent owner must show that a single party has directly infringed the patented claims under 35 U.S.C. § 271(a).

We typically write about 35 U.S.C. § 101, but in this particular case we deal with a decision that can soon be cited again. Hence we take note of it, for future reference.

The Anti-PTAB (Patent Trial and Appeal Board) Lobby is Partly Funded by the Koch Brothers and the Right Wing

Posted in America, Patents at 11:15 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

All fees ought to be paid/accommodated for by the party that pursued bogus patents

Inside How the Federalist Society & Koch Brothers Are Pushing for Trump to Reshape Federal Judiciary
Reference: Inside How the Federalist Society & Koch Brothers Are Pushing for Trump to Reshape Federal Judiciary

Summary: The Conservative effort to bypass the legal process (e.g. by exploiting Native Americans for their immunity) and defend terrible patents; more examples of awful attempts to simply dodge justice — like those defended by the ‘blowhards’ of the patent microcosm (Watchtroll et al)

THE Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) is a wonderful thing. To oppose PTAB is to oppose patent quality itself.

Who would oppose PTAB? Check out this upcoming event from a right-wing think tank. In it, Microsoft’s front group the Business Software Alliance (BSA) is trying to change policy so as to enable a “scam” around PTAB (Michael Shore the "scammer" is there also, not just the Vice President of Global Policy at BSA). It’s a stacked panel.

Who promotes this thing? Mr. Mossoff, a Koch-funded scholar best known for defending patent trolls and other predatory behaviour. He speaks of “abuses of PTAB” as if PTAB itself is abusive. It’s like these people come from another planet.

Patently-O, which has engaged in endless PTAB bashing for a very long time, spoke about “patent games” the other day. A patent was deemed unpatentable, whereupon came not an objection but games:

In an ex parte reexamination of U.S. Patent No. 6,284,471, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board affirmed the examiner’s conclusions that NYU’s claims unpatentable under the judicial doctrine of obviousness-type double patenting. NYU and J&J have played a few games with this particular patent family of 30+ patents. The claims relate to antibodies and assay methods associated with a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and is said to cover J&J’s blockbuster drug Remicade used to treat so-called autoimmune diseases.


The precedent above is not new and was well known to the patentee here by the time of this dispute. Thus, during the reexamination the patentee attempted to retroactively amend its filing to transform the application from a continuation-in-part into a divisional application.

On another day, NantKwest v Matal was brought up by sites of dedicated PTAB bashers. This was referred to as an “attorney fee” (as Patently-O put it) or “lawyer fees” (as Watchtroll put it) case. This is what it’s about:

Under patent law, an applicant dissatisfied with the decision of the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board can seek review by filing an action against the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in U.S. District Court, but under Section 145 of the law “all expenses of the proceedings shall be paid by the applicant.” The USPTO recently re-interpreted “all expenses” to include payment for its lawyers.

If someone gets granted a bogus patent, it’s probably that someone who should pay for all the resultant mess. The petitioner (a sort of appellant) does a public service, especially if PTAB deems a granted patent to be invalid at the end. That really ought to be common sense.

It’s not hard to understand why some circles fear the Rule of Law, including the Kochs themselves. Not to mention patent trolls, who often operate extrajudicially.

“It’s No Longer Simply About Patent Quantity. It’s About Quality.”

Posted in America, Patents at 10:28 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Says the patent microcosm

Writing a check

Summary: Quality assessment of US patents is becoming a hotter topic now that PTAB cleans up the mess and courts oftentimes reject asserted patents (which are, on average, considered to be better)

THE truth of the matter is, many patents are of low quality, but those that end up in court are typically the better ones. A few days ago we stumbled upon this post from Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP. It tracks PTAB’s progress reassessing particularly bad US patents:

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board issued 61 IPR and CBM Final Written Decisions in December, including decisions following remands from the Federal Circuit, cancelling 852 (73.83%) instituted claims while declining to cancel 301 (26.08%) instituted claims. Patent owners conceded only 1 claim (0.09%) through motions to amend or disclaimer in cases reaching a final decision. For comparison, the cumulative average rate of instituted claims cancelled in IPR and CBM Final Written Decisions is about 75%.

“investors have become much more sophisticated. It’s no longer simply about patent quantity. It’s about quality,” Finnegan wrote in another new article. Here’s the relevant part:

Not so long ago, during investment rounds, the IP due diligence typically conducted by a VC or CVC involved little more than asking, “How many patents does your company have?” A satisfactory number provided in response often ended the inquiry.

Today however, investors have become much more sophisticated. It’s no longer simply about patent quantity. It’s about quality. Now, investors often spend the time between the term sheet and the closing carefully assessing the blocking power of the investment’s patent portfolio. They examine the IP with a magnifying glass. If investors are not satisfied with the strength of a patent portfolio, they walk away from the deal or lower the valuation.

It’s difficult to say exactly or even roughly just what proportion of patents at the USPTO can actually survive a court’s test, but we are guessing that number is not high. 5 days ago the PTAB-hostile Anticipat took note of PTAB’s reassessment of (often throwing away) obvious patent applications. Here are some interesting numbers:

Obviousness is by far the most common rejection that gets appealed to the Board. This particular ground of rejection does not draw attention for being reversed at the low end or on the high end. Over the past year and a half, the 12,000 obviousness decisions were wholly reversed about a third (34%) of the time. 43% of the time are at least partially reversed. One might expect these rates to be uniform across tech centers. They are not.

Alice and software patents are of most interest to us. Many patents are just software patents disguised as “AI”, “cloud”, “on a device”, or “over the Internet” etc.

“Anecdotally, I’ve found cross-examiner citing of the same prior art to be rare,” wrote this patent attorney a few days ago. “Exception: In internet art units certain examiners definitely have their “everything under the sun on the internet” patent that is 1000 paragraphs long that they cite all the time.”

This class of patents is unfortunately far too common. Why are such patents still being granted?

Several days ago Professor Michael Risch wrote about why many terrible patents get granted. Risch is worth reading because he is not part of the patent microcosm and at the same time he’s familiar with the subject at hand. Here’s his latest: [via]

Michael Frakes and Melissa Wasserman have gotten a lot of mileage out of their micro data set on patent examiner behavior over time. Prior work includes examination of grant incentives, agency funding, time availability, and user fees.

Examiners at the Office would be wise to reject by default (if merit cannot be found), but the way things are set up, they get more money and credit when they grant questionable patents. This, suffice to say, is a problem.

In the United States, Software Patents Are Still Consistently Invalidated Under 35 U.S.C. § 101

Posted in America, Patents at 12:11 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

No entry sign

Summary: A look at some of the latest decisions, rants, and frustration expressed by the patent microcosm over the elimination of many software patents in the United States (US)

PATENT certainty matters. Consistency across judgments matters. Predictability matters. If all those software patents perish in courts, will their holders bother asserting anymore (i.e. suing)? The patent litigation numbers are already down and they go down every year. Ever since Alice we are seeing an encouraging pattern; the US Supreme Court objects to revisiting the matter and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) gets more hostile towards software patents each year. This shapes so-called ‘caselaw’ in a favourable fashion because software patents are ebbing away.

Most of the articles and tweets we find are rants about Alice and/or promotion of software patents, courtesy of people who never developed any software in their entire lifetime. It’s almost amusing to watch their agony; they try to attribute this loss to “software”, but in reality people who actually develop software are pleased to see the demise of software patents.

“Challenges to patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101 have become so routine in patent litigation,” says the patent microcosm, expressing the usual concern over Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v CLS Bank Int’l. To quote this new example:

Challenges to patent eligibility under 35 U.S.C. § 101 have become so routine in patent litigation that it is easy to overlook the opinions that seem to issue almost daily from the district courts and, less frequently, from the Federal Circuit. If one were to judge solely by the tenor of recent cert petitions filed with the Supreme Court, however, one would likely conclude that the lower courts are still fundamentally confused as to how to properly apply the Supreme Court’s two-step analysis for ineligible “abstract ideas” set forth in Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int’l, 134 S. Ct. 2347 (2014). For example, an amicus brief in support of a cert petition in Recognicorp, LLC v. Nintendo, No. 17-645 (denied, Jan. 8, 2018) argues that, at least in the context of data processing patents, “[t]he lower courts and the PTO have misunderstood the Mayo-Alice test and have created indeterminate and overly restrictive patent eligibility doctrine under Section 101.” Other recent petitions in which cert was denied have taken the lower courts to task for either improperly looking beyond the claims to assess patent eligibility or, to the other extreme, looking only at the claims. This is not to mention the argument that eligibility is not a cognizable defense at all in patent litigation, an issue also denied certiorari by the Supreme Court last year.

That last sentence is correct. The US Supreme Court isn’t interested in throwing a lifeline to patent lawyers. The Justices at the US Supreme Court, at least as far as patents are concerned, have been doing the right thing. That cannot be said about all sorts of other domains (copyright law for example), but recently we have been feeling like we have an ‘ally’ in the highest US court. The Justices often rule unanimously against the maximalists. They overturn CAFC almost every time.

Looking at the reactions from self-described advocates of software patents, we still find words such as “kill” (war narrative); it’s almost as if, at least to these people, strict judges or examiners are murderers. How about this: “Cleveland Clinic’s Petition for Cert. Challenging 101/Mayo Kill of Cardiovascular Disease Detection Tests…”

It’s quite likely that this so-called ‘kill’ will actually help save lives by denying a monopoly on detection of heart problems. Here’s another one: “Search Engine Optimization Patents Held Patent Ineligible under 101/Alice…”

So another one bites the dust, as usual. We aren’t even skipping any of the decisions that are inconvenient to us! Alice and Mayo are having the intended effect.

It certainly sounds like Nike now uses a bogus software patent to taunt small rivals. To quote a report about a lawsuit filed last Saturday:

Sports brand Nike is being sued for patent infringement over an app that tracks users’ fitness.

US-based Personal Beasties Group (PDG) alleged that Nike infringes on US patent number 6,769,915, in a case filed at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on Saturday, January 20.

The patent, known as the “Interactive system for personal life patterns”, covers an app developed by PDG that helps track the fitness goals and achievements of the user.

Just use 35 U.S.C. § 101. That might eliminate this patent altogether. Without looking at the pertinent details, it sounds like a software-only surveillance patent. Many such patents have already been invalidated; we can recall some.

There are obvious cases where § 101 is brought up inappropriately — cases where Alice and Mayo are simply inapplicable. But just because the § 101 challenge does not pass muster doesn’t necessarily mean it has been defeated; it may simply mean poor defense strategy. Consider this coverage of a district court case: (Free Stream Media Corp. v Alphonso Inc.)

In a recent decision from the U.S. District Court Northern District of California, involving Free Stream Media Corp. v. Alphonso Inc., claims of a television system patent survived a motion to dismiss under 35 U.S.C. § 101.


Samba relied heavily on Enfish, LLC v. Microsoft Corp., 822 F.3d 1327 (Fed. Cir. 2016), which supports the notion that a dividing line can be drawn between patents which merely describe using a computer and/or the internet to carry out pre-existing and well-known tasks and techniques, and those that relate to the functioning of computers themselves (e.g., specific asserted improvement in computer capabilities). The former will virtually always fail under Alice unless some “inventive concept” can be found in the second step of the analysis; the latter are substantially less easily characterized as merely abstract ideas.

So Alice was attempted unsuccessfully; the case can probably be appealed/brought to CAFC. Maybe try another legal strategy this time around. We were dumbfounded to see this other new case where § 101 did not work. It’s just hard to understand why § 101 was even invoked in this context (against patents on night vision):

The court denied defendant’s motion to dismiss on the ground that plaintiff’s night vision patents encompassed unpatentable subject matter because the asserted claims were not directed toward an abstract idea.

Seems to make sense.

Here, by contrast, is a new district court case (VOIT) which shows software patents crushed; they are hard to get and then also defend in US courts. Alice is cited:

Patent claims directed to “buying and selling an item relating to unique subjects” were held patent-ineligible under the Alice abstract idea test and 35 USC § 101 in VOIT Technologies, LLC v. Del-Ton, Inc., No. 5:17-CV-259-BO, (E.D. N.C. Jan. 10, 2018). The court therefore granted a motion to dismiss under FRCP 12(b)(6). Among the interesting aspects of this case are that U.S. Patent No. 6,226,412 includes a 330 word independent claim, and that claim includes a lot of technical terminology relating to storing and processing text and image data. Neither of these things saved the claim from Alice.

The ’412 patent is directed to “secure interactive communication of text and image information between a central server computer and one or more client computers located at remote sites for the purpose of storing and retrieving files describing unique products, services or individuals.” Claim 1, reproduced at the bottom of this post, recites numerous steps for achieving this secure interactive communication relating to unique products.

No matter how hard they try to defend software patents (or abstract patents), they almost always fail. Why would they even assure clients that such patents are worth pursuing in the first place? Or such lawsuits?

Charles Bieneman, like many in his profession, looks for new ways to bamboozle software developers with advocacy of post-Alice software patents. Here is what he wrote some days ago:

Perhaps the single most useful resource summarizing the law of patent-eligibility under the Alice abstract idea test is this chart of Federal Circuit cases under 35 U.S.C. § 101, found on the USPTO’s very helpful web page providing guidance on analyzing claims for patent-eligible subject matter. This blog has previously covered the USPTO’s guidance on patent-eligibility; I am discussing it again to note that the afore-mentioned chart of patent-eligibility case was updated on January 4. If you are responding to – and especially if you are appealing – a rejection under the Alice abstract idea test, this chart is the place to start.


A recent post on the PatentlyO blog, quoting a PTAB decision to the effect that the USPTO is not required to provide facts supporting patent-eligibility rejections, further drives home the reality. As the Federal Circuit has explained in many cases (see, e.g. OIP Techs., Inc. v. Amazon.com, a 2015 case holding claims directed to price optimization patent-ineligible), patent-eligibility is a question of law. In practice, this means that it is like interpreting or construing claims – every adjudicator, from patent examiners up to the US Supreme Court, gets to look at it anew. Every adjudicator can apply his or her own gloss, a nightmare for patent applicants, patent owners, and potential infringers alike.

Watch how they resort to PTAB-bashing — a subject we shall cover later in the weekend. PTAB too is enforcing § 101, so even patent holders that sue nobody may see their already-granted patents invalidated.

Is the following good news? “PTAB Reversed Examiner on 101 Rejection of SAP Claims for Modeling Service Endpoints of Process Based on BPMN,” wrote a patent maximalist. So basically, this is not a granted patent, there is no lawsuit, and PTAB basically said OK to one single patent (for now, it can be squashed even in the lowest of patent courts later on).

A patent troll from Dominion Harbor responded with: “A good day, but a little sad that this is what we’re reduced to celebrating…”

It’s actually somewhat hilarious.

The maximalist then responded: “So true. I bit more good news with the PTAB reversing an examiner on 101 in an SAP application. This does not happen very often.”

In other words, PTAB very often rejects patents that examiners decided to accept.

In a sense, anyone can sense the frustration there. They really struggle to find any “good news” (for them).

Here comes § 103 to invalidate a Microsoft patent (well, application that nearly got granted). “PTAB Reversed Examiner on 101/Alice Rejection of Microsoft Patent Application but Affirmed Examiner on 103 Rejection,” he wrote.

Then came more PTAB bashing from a person connected to the above patent troll (Dominion Harbor). “Patent practitioners BEWARE,” he shouted, then taking note of someone who lost a rehearing at PTAB (on § 101). Here’s another rant (with ALL CAPS) about § 101 invalidations (“crazy rejections under §101 continue,” he later added). Here’s another ALL CAPS and a rant about PTAB invalidation. He said that “the definition of the “abstract” idea takes up almost a whole paragraph” as if the length of that somehow voids the decision.

The above are just some among many tweets that highlight the tough time trolls and law firms are having (they’re connected to each other). § 101 in particular drives them crazy. Then there’s also § 102, which was mentioned in another context 5 days ago.

Rule 130 declarations are the mechanism by which applicants can invoke many of the prior art exceptions embodied in the AIA version of 35 USC § 102(b)…

So we’ve seen how § 101, § 102 and § 103 generally raise the bar, if not at the patent office, then at PTAB or the courts. No wonder the number of lawsuits in the US has nosedived. In Texas it fell by more than half.

Counting Patents is Not Measuring Innovation and Checking Patents is Often Assessing Vapourware

Posted in America, Patents at 9:48 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

More patents mean patent maximalism, not necessarily innovation (an old myth like griffins)

Mythological creature

Summary: The tough reality about patents, which are basically pieces of paper with some text and drawings, not what corporate media wants us to think of them (“innovation”)

FIVE DAYS AGO we saw the headline “South Dakotans got more patents in 2017 than any previous year” (sounds great, doesn’t it?).

As patent numbers generally increase at a growing pace (now at an all-time high at the USPTO), this is a pretty meaningless thing to note; it’s probably true in most US states, not just South Dakota. The subtle implication is a corny assertion that more patents directly lead to more “innovation” — however one actually defines the term (some have made it synonymous with patents).

“The subtle implication is a corny assertion that more patents directly lead to more “innovation” — however one actually defines the term (some have made it synonymous with patents).”There’s still this tendency in local media to glorify newly-granted patents in the area (here are a couple of new examples [1, 2]). There’s also the assumption that patents imply ongoing/imminent implementation of some product (here is a new example of Samsung [1, 2] and of Sony). In practice, as latest news from China serves to show [1, 2], these patents are often just a path to litigation or taxation. Nothing else. Blockchain patents, as we noted here recently, are being stockpiled not only by trolls but also large companies such as IBM. A reader has just sent us this article about ‘the’ Bank of America stockpiling these as well, probably as means of protectionism.

“The lion’s share of patents will get granted to just hundreds of very large firms; individuals named on these patents are just employees and they have no control over these patents.”Let’s accept that many poor nations innovate without publication and without patents. Farming and agriculture techniques are few among many examples. Patents often suggest that one had sufficient spare funds to write up a few pages of text, typically with help from a highly expensive law firm, whereupon some examiner thought it looked decent enough and granted a patent. Millions of patents have already been granted, so this achievement is not particularly unique. The lion’s share of patents will get granted to just hundreds of very large firms; individuals named on these patents are just employees and they have no control over these patents. If the company gets sold or sells these patents to trolls, the employees (who may have already left this employer) have no say. So what kind of a ‘trophy’ is this anyway?

Links 28/1/2018: New Fedora 27 ISO, New Release of Netrunner Rolling

Posted in News Roundup at 8:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



  • Desktop

    • Maxim Burgerhout: “User-friendly” Windows

      So for some app my kids want to use, I needed to setup Windows. And a printer. I have a Samsung M2070W, and I have had it for years. It has not always been easy to use (hell no!), but it generally works after a few kicks in the groin.

      I’ve used it with my iPad, with various Android devices, and various Linux distributions. And now, I needed to set it up in Windows.


      I guess. Unless you count the fact that many devices need vendor drivers to begin with, because Windows doesn’t ship with them.

      Well anyway, luckily, Linux seems to identify and use my printer just fine.

    • The Best Apps and Tools for Chromebooks

      We’re going to break this down into different categories to help make it easier to find what you’re looking for. The one thing to note here is that Android apps are placed throughout the various categories where they make the most sense, but we also include a section at the end for Android apps that don’t fall into any one specific category. Pretty simple, really.

  • Server

    • Dockah! Dockah! Dockah!

      I have been dabbling with docker for quite sometime, to be honest when it was introduced to me I didn’t understand it much but as time passed and I started experimenting with it I got to know the technology better and better. This made me understand various concepts better. I understood virtualization, containerization, sandboxing and got to appreciate how docker solves the problem of works on my machine.

      When I started using docker I use to just run few commands and I could get the server running, this I could access through browser that was more than enough for me. When I use to make changes to the code I could see it getting reflected in the way I am running the application and I was a happy man.

  • Kernel Space

    • Active state management of power domains

      The Linux kernel’s generic power domain (genpd) subsystem has been extended to support active state management of the power domains in the 4.15 development cycle. Power domains were traditionally used to enable or disable power to a region of a system on chip (SoC) but, with the recent updates, they can control the clock rate or amount of power supplied to that region as well. These changes improve the kernel’s ability to run the system’s hardware at the optimal power level for the current workload.

      SoCs have become increasingly complex and power-efficient over the years. Most of the IP blocks in an SoC have independent power-control logic that can be turned on or off to reduce the power they consume. But there is also a significant amount of static current leakage that can’t be controlled using the IP-block-specific power logic. SoCs are normally divided into several regions depending on which IP blocks are generally used together, so that an unused region can be completely powered off to eliminate this leakage. These regions of the chip, called “power domains”, can be present in a hierarchy and thus can be nested; a nested domain is called a subdomain of the master domain. Powering down a power domain results in disabling all the IP blocks and subdomains controlled by the domain and also stopping any static leakage in that region of the chip.

    • Deadline scheduling part 1 — overview and theory

      Realtime systems are computing systems that must react within precise time constraints to events. In such systems, the correct behavior does not depend only on the logical behavior, but also in the timing behavior. In other words, the response for a request is only correct if the logical result is correct and produced within a deadline. If the system fails to provide the response within the deadline, the system is showing a defect. In a multitasking operating system, such as Linux, a realtime scheduler is responsible for coordinating the access to the CPU, to ensure that all realtime tasks in the system accomplish their job within the deadline.

      The deadline scheduler enables the user to specify the tasks’ requirements using well-defined realtime abstractions, allowing the system to make the best scheduling decisions, guaranteeing the scheduling of realtime tasks even in higher-load systems.

      This article provides an introduction to realtime scheduling and some of the theory behind it. The second installment will be dedicated to the Linux deadline scheduler in particular.

    • Meltdown/Spectre mitigation for 4.15 and beyond

      While some aspects of the kernel’s defenses against the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities were more-or-less in place when the problems were disclosed on January 3, others were less fully formed. Additionally, many of the mitigations (especially for the two Spectre variants) had not been seen in public prior to the disclosure, meaning that there was a lot of scope for discussion once they came out. Many of those discussions are slowing down, and the kernel’s initial response has mostly come into focus. The 4.15 kernel will include a broad set of mitigations, while some others will have to wait for later; read on for details on where things stand.

      This article from January 5 gives an overview of the defenses for all three vulnerability variants. That material will not be repeated here, so those who have not read it may want to take a quick look before proceeding.

    • Linux Foundation

      • LinuxBoot: a new Linux Foundation project for boot firmware

        The Linux Foundation has announced a new project, called LinuxBoot, that is working on replacements for much of the firmware used to boot our systems. The project is based on work by Google and others to use Linux (and Go programs) to replace most of the UEFI boot firmware.

    • Graphics Stack

      • GPUVM Discrete GPU Code For AMDKFD, Radeon Compute Could Be Ready For Linux 4.17

        Sent out Friday night were the latest patches for getting the discrete GPU support within the AMDKFD HSA kernel driver up to scratch for allowing the ROCm compute stack working off a mainline kernel.

        Earlier this month AMD sent out a large dGPU patch-set for AMDKFD, short for the AMD Kernel Fusion Driver. AMD’s Felix Kuehling confirmed that a prerequisite PCI-E atomics patch is currently queued up for landing into Linux 4.16, which is fine since this AMDKFD material is already too late for hitting the 4.16 tree.

      • The State Of VR HMDs On Linux With DRM Leasing, Etc

        Keith Packard who has been doing contract work for Valve the past year on improving the support for virtual reality head-mounted displays (VR HMDs) shares a status update on his work at this week’s Linux.Conf.Au in Sydney.

        A large portion of Keith’s Linux VR work this past year has been on DRM leasing and as such that was a bulk of his conversation. With Linux 4.15, the DRM leasing code is in place along with other improvements around treating “non-desktop” displays, etc. But there still remains X.Org Server and Mesa patches for working along with tidying up other bits for this code to better the integration of VM HMDs with the Linux desktop while ensuring consistent and optimal performance.

    • Benchmarks

      • Linux 3.17 To 4.15 Kernel Benchmarks On Intel Gulftown & Haswell

        Here is a look at how the Linux kernel performance has evolved since the release of Linux 3.17 in October 2014. With all the major kernel releases over the past 3+ years, here is how the performance compares using two very different Intel Gulftown and Haswell systems.

      • Intel SSD 760p 256GB NVMe SSD For $99 USD On Linux

        If the extremely fast Intel Optane SSD 900p is out of your budget with its 3D XPoint memory, this week Intel rolled out the SSD 760p series with 64-layer TLC 3D NAND memory. For less than $100 USD you can get the 256GB capacity Intel 760p SSD, which is what we are benchmarking today under Ubuntu Linux.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • How do I test Plasma Mobile? (part 1)

        Last week we asked the Free Software community what they wanted to do to help us move forward with Plasma Mobile.

      • How To Test Plasma Mobile OS On Your Computer

        Howdy KDE users! I’ve got a good news for you to spend your weekend with an interesting project. As you may already know, the team behind KDE has announced a new open source smartphone OS named “Plasma Mobile” last year. Since it is a collaborative project, they haven’t set any timeline to the availability of final release. Last week, KDE team has hosted a poll on their Twitter and Google+ pages and requested the community members to help the KDE developers move forward with Plasma Mobile. As a result, 44% poll participants wanted to test the OS. After a lot of users’ request, KDE development team has released x86_64 based Plasma Mobile ISO images, so that anyone can now download and test it on their system or spin up a VM. This is really a great news for KDE fans and for those who wanted to get a glimpse of how it looks like in real time.

      • This week in Usability & Productivity, part 3

        Howdy folks! Here’s your weekly update on our long-term Usability & productivity goal.

      • Server side decorations and Wayland

        I heard that GNOME is currently trying to lobby for all applications implementing CSD. One of the arguments seems to be that CSD is a must on Wayland. That’s of course not the case. Nothing in Wayland enforces CSD. Wayland itself is as ignorant about this as X11.

        The situation is that GNOME Shell and Weston require CSD, but KDE Plasma and Sway do not. In fact we created a protocol (supported by GTK) that allows to negotiate with the Wayland compositor whether to use CSD or SSD.

      • KWin Developer’s Response To The GNOME CSD Initiative

        KDE KWin window manager / compositor maintainer Martin Flöser has penned a brief response to the recent GNOME developer’s CSD Initiative in trying to get all applications to pursue client-side decorations and abandon title bars in favor of header bars.

        GNOME’s Wayland strategy has been all about using client-side decorations (CSD) rather than server-side decorations (SSD) although Wayland does not force applications to use CSDs. GNOME and the Weston reference compositor notably use client-side decorations while KDE has been all about server-side decorations.

      • Plasma 5.12 – Long Term Sweetness?

        This article may sound like a healthy tornado of criticism against Plasma, but no. Far from it. I really like Plasma, and I’m amazed by the amount of quality, consistency and innovation that has been invested in the desktop. It’s also maturing nicely. Plasma 5.12 LTS brings in a range of goodies, topped by a solid layer of eye candy. I also exposed a bunch of bugs, but they are only expected in the beta release, and you will hopefully never see them in the official version.

        Plasma looks the part, it’s visually engaging, and it works well. But it still fails in a few big categories, including smartphone and network connectivity, and the package manager is really weak. The decoration side of things requires some thorough housekeeping. This sounds horrid, but when you compare this to some other desktop environments, it’s not that bad. However, you should never compare down – always up. The idea is for Plasma not to be better than its competition, but excellent for its users, regardless of what the competition does. All in all, apart from Unity (which is sort of gone), it’s the nearest thing to a pro desktop that we have in the Linux world. And it can get there. But there’s still more work to be done. However, you should definitely dabble and test. Kubuntu and Neon are both stable and mature enough for games, just be ready to weather the occasional squall of bad QA and regressions. I shall follow up. Stay tuned.

      • Last Weeks Activity in Elisa

        Elisa is a music player designed to be simple and nice to use. It allows to browse music by album, artist or all tracks. You can build and play your own playlist. We aim to build a fluid interface that is easy to use.

        Alexander did several changes to ease on boarding for new developers. For example, he renamed files that have difficult to understand names (this project started as a pure UPnP/DLNA client). This is really important if we want to be able to grow the number of developers working on Elisa. Kudos to him.

  • Distributions

    • New Releases

      • Netrunner Rolling 2018.01 KDE-focused Manjaro Linux-based operating system is here

        There are many Linux-based operating systems out there, but not many I would call great. My absolute favorite is Fedora, as I am a GNOME fan that likes using a distro that focuses on truly free and open source software. Not to mention, it quickly gets many updated packages while also retaining stability. So yeah, Fedora is great.

        Another great Linux distro? Netrunner Rolling. This Manjaro-based operating system uses KDE Plasma for its desktop environment. As the name implies, it follows a rolling release, meaning it is constantly being updated to fresh packages — no major upgrades needed. It has a lot of polish and many quality pre-installed programs which indicates the developers truly care about the overall user experience. Quite frankly, it reminds me of Windows 7 — in a good way — which also makes it a wise choice for those unhappy with the much-maligned Windows 10. Today, Netrunner Rolling gets its first ISO refresh of 2018.

      • Netrunner Rolling 2018.01 released

        The Netrunner Team is happy to announce the release of Netrunner Rolling 2018.01 – 64bit ISO.

      • KDE-Focused Netrunner Rolling 2018.01 Released

        For those still in search of a KDE-focused Linux distribution that’s rolling-release and desktop-friendly, Netrunner Rolling 2018.01 has been released.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • openSUSE Leap 42.2 Linux Operating System Reached End of Life, Upgrade Now

        The openSUSE Leap 42.2 Linux-based operating system has reached end of life on January 26, 2018, and it is no longer supported by the openSUSE Project with software and security updates.

        A minor release of openSUSE Leap 42 operating system series, openSUSE Leap 42.2 was released on November 16, 2016, and was based on the SUSE Linux Enterprise 12 Service Pack 2 operating system. The release was powered by the long-term supported Linux 4.4 kernel and KDE Plasma 5.8 desktop environment, besides numerous other new GNU/Linux and Open Source technologies.

      • OpenSUSE Rolling Out Retpoline Support, Xen Spectre/Meltdown Mitigation

        SUSE’s Richard Brown has issued a status update around openSUSE’s ongoing mitigation of the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities.

        The big piece of news is openSUSE is rolling out Spectre V2 mitigation soon using Retpoliens rather than their current microcode approach where they ended up pulling that anyhow in light of the Intel CPU microcode troubles recently reported of reboots, etc.

      • The future of openSUSE-Education

        The openSUSE-Education project tries to support schools using openSUSE. We create and describe additional software-repositories for educational projects and we created Add-on medias and finally a live DVD from the regular openSUSE distribution.

        As you can see in our timeline, we achieved quite a lot in the past years, had fun and meet a couple of very nice people out there in our spare time. But the main team members moved on to new projects, with the hope that we would one day find some time to work more on openSUSE-Education again. This does not seem to happen – at least not for the foreseeable future.

    • Slackware Family

      • What’s New in 2018

        Back to Slackware development, Patrick has just pushed a new GCC release (7.3.0) which has support for -mindirect-branch=thunk-extern flag which is needed to provide full mitigation of Spectre variant 2 and also push a new kernel built with CONFIG_RETPOLINE=y.Fixes to Meltdown has been pushed earlier when he delivered Linux Kernel 4.14.14 with KPTI enabled. As for Spectre variant 1, it all depends on microcode update. If you are AMD users, you can easily get it by updating to the latest kernel-firmware package found in -current. Intel users will have to install intel-microcode from SBo repository (it’s best to be installed alongside with iucode_tool).

    • Red Hat Family

    • Debian Family

      • A summary of my 2017 work

        New years are strange things: for most arbitrary reasons, around January 1st we reset a bunch of stuff, change calendars and forget about work for a while. This is also when I forget to do my monthly report and then procrastinate until I figure out I might as well do a year report while I’m at it, and then do nothing at all for a while.

        So this is my humble attempt at fixing this, about a month late. I’ll try to cover December as well, but since not much has happened then, I figured I could also review the last year and think back on the trends there. Oh, and you’ll get chocolate cookies of course. Hang on to your eyeballs, this won’t hurt a bit.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • ucaresystem core 4.4.0 : Pkexec, check for reboot and minor fix

            The new release 4.4.0 of ucaresystem core introduces two internal but important features and a minor bug fix for Debian Jessie. Let’s check them out…Thanks to an idea of Mark Drone on launchpad, I added in ucaresystem core the feature to recognize and inform the user in case they need to restart the system after installing upgrades that require it.

          • 16.04.4 point release delayed; new date TBD

            Due to the ongoing evolution of the fixes for the recently announced
            Meltdown and Spectre security vulnerabilities [1], we are delaying the
            16.04.4 point release, originally scheduled for the week of February
            15. We intend that, when it is released, 16.04.4 will include kernels
            which mitigate these severe vulnerabilities. We also recognize that,
            because updates for these security vulnerabilities are currently
            monopolizing the SRU queue for kernels, there is no opportunity for
            any other point-release-critical fixes to be included, and we need to
            allow the dust to settle a bit before putting the finishing touches on
            the point release.

          • Ubuntu 16.04.4 LTS Delayed Due To Spectre & Meltdown

            Ubuntu 16.04.4 LTS had been scheduled to ship mid-February as the latest point release for this Long Term Support release, but unfortunately that is not going to happen as planned due to the Canonical kernel developers being overloaded by Spectre and Meltdown mitigation work.

            Ubuntu 16.04.4 is now being delayed by an unknown length of time, but they believe it shouldn’t be more than “a few weeks” past the original 15 February ship date. They are waiting for the Spectre/Meltdown mitigation work to settle, for ensuring they are shipping qualified patches in this point release. Additionally, they have been busy with that mitigation work that they have neglected other kernel patches that may need to make it into this point release too.

          • Ubuntu 16.04.4 LTS Delayed Due to Meltdown and Spectre Security Vulnerabilities

            Canonical announced today that it decided to delay the upcoming 16.04.4 point release of the long-term supported Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus) operating system due to the Spectre and Meltdown security vulnerabilities.

            Originally scheduled for release next month on February 15, 2018, Ubuntu 16.04.4 LTS is the fourth of five scheduled maintenance updates for Xenial Xerus, and it was supposed to ship with up-to-date kernel and graphics stacks based on those from the last stable release, Ubuntu 17.10 (Artful Aardvark).

          • Ubuntu 18.04 will revert to long-in-the-tooth Xorg

            Canonical has announced that it’ll be reverting back to the Xorg graphics stack as the default option in Ubuntu 18.04 LTS “Bionic Beaver”. While Wayland will still be available as an option, the testing that Canonical carried out by making Wayland default in Ubuntu 17.10 has found that Xorg is still more advantageous to use over Wayland, especially for a release which needs to be rock solid as it gets picked up by educational institutions and businesses.

          • Flavours and Variants

            • Linux Mint Monthly News – January 2018

              Things are very exciting for us at the moment. This is the start of a new year, we’re working on two new bases (Ubuntu 18.04 for Linux Mint 19 and Debian 9 for LMDE 3) and rather than diving straight into the development cycle, and working on fixing bugs and developing new features, we’ve taken some time off to improve our infrastructure, our documentation and the way we work.

              Before we dive into that, we’d like to thank all the people who donated to us: Neil V. in particular for donating $4,000, and the 653 other people who donated to us this December. We’ve never received as much in a single month, we’ve never received as much from a single donation, and we’ve never received donations from as many people in a single month before. So we’re extremely humbled, and extremely proud of us, and of you, and happy to see your enjoyment and your response to what we do. This is really amazing.

            • How to put icons on the desktop in elementary OS

              Ever tried elementary OS? If so you’ll know that you can’t put icons on the desktop by default.

              It’s a frustrating experience, particularly if you’re used to being able to use the desktop space as a literal ‘desktop space’. Sadly, elementary (sic) says it has ‘no plans’ to rethink its approach.

              But there is good news. An app called Desktop Folder lets you enable a desktop on elementary (of sorts) so that you can layer icons, files and app shortcuts all over your desktop wallpaper.

            • System76 Eyeing Disk Encryption By Default

              Ubuntu-focused Linux PC vendor System76 who has also been working on their own Pop!_OS distribution is looking at enabling disk encryption by default.

              System76 has shared another blog post highlighting their work on Pop!_OS. The latest is on their design work and installer. But what got me excited about this post is the mention of “Full disk encryption is seen as an important part of security and privacy and should be a default option…A hurdle for a privacy and security focused OEM like System76 is how to deliver a computer with the encryption provided by default.”

            • Installer, elementary and Pop!_OS collaboration

              Welcome back, Pop! Fans – time for an update on the week! We have some great stuff going on.

              This week has been primarily been dominated by installer work. Daniel Foré from elementary flew in to work with us on what the new installer is going to be like. Last week, we shared quite a bit of the styling around Pop!_Shop and the installer with the visual designs. The work with elementary was focused on user experience around installation, drive partitioning, dual booting, and full disk encryption.

              At the kick off, we discussed what the various screens should look like and how they should be organized., as well as full disk encryption. Full disk encryption is seen as an important part of security and privacy and should be a default option. We worked around the challenges of incorporating full disk in the UI and what it means for the backend and identifying the various scenarios that exist. A hurdle for a privacy and security focused OEM like System76 is how to deliver a computer with the encryption provided by default. Pre-encrypting would require a unique key for that user that can’t be guaranteed. If a user wanted to have encryption they would have to encrypt and re-install the whole OS which is also not ideal.

  • Devices/Embedded

    • Opening up the GnuBee open NAS system

      GnuBee is the brand name for a line of open hardware boards designed to provide Linux-based network-attached storage. Given the success of the crowdfunding campaigns for the first two products, the GB-PC1 and GB-PC2 (which support 2.5 and 3.5 inch drives respectively), there appears to be a market for these devices. Given that Linux is quite good at attaching storage to a network, it seems likely they will perform their core function more than adequately. My initial focus when exploring my GB-PC1 is not the performance but the openness: just how open is it really? The best analogy I can come up with is that of a door with rusty hinges: it can be opened, but doing so requires determination.

    • Mycroft Mark II: Smart Speaker with an open source voice assistant (crowdfunding)

      And then there’s Mycroft. It’s a voice assistant platform that’s designed to work just like the others… but it’s an open source project that places an emphasis on privacy.

    • Android

      • Why every entrepreneur should experiment a crowdfunding campaign

        Of course, the money is mandatory to fuel eelo’s early developments. But the biggest benefits are:

        I had to define better the eelo project at the begining
        I know that eelo is addressing a real and growing concern / pain point (user data privacy)
        I know that eelo is potentially addressing a global market (the incoming traffic is from most countries in the world)
        I know better than earlier who are eelo supporters, and what they expect
        eelo have more than 3000 supporters if I count people who registered on the website so far, who will help a lot to get more exposure
        I have a growing list of press contacts that I use later when I have significant news about eelo
        I’m becoming a crowdfunding expert 😉 More seriously: my skills have improved a lot on this!

Free Software/Open Source

  • Having fun contributing to open source

    Contributing to open source can be very rewarding, and it’s a fun way to do something different outside of your normal, everyday routine :)

  • Libvpx 1.7.0 Released With AVX Optimizations & More

    Google’s WebM folks quietly released libvpx 1.7.0 earlier this week as the latest version of their VP8/VP9 encoder/decoder library.

  • Funding

    • Cumulus Networks Funding Tops $129M

      The early promise of Cumulus Networks was the company’s Cumulus Linux network operating system…


      Over the last four and a half years, Cumulus has lived up to the promise that Rivers made and has played a pivotal role in enabling the whitebox networking revolution, both with its own products as well as with its participation in the Open Compute Project (OCP).

      While Cumulus started off as a software-only vendor, In June 2017 the company added its first hardware products, including multiple top-of-rack switches. In 2017, Cumulus also added its NetQ telemetry product as well as the Cumulus in the Cloud offering for testing network design, to its product offerings.


  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Meet Thomas Baden, Channel Editor for the PLOS Open Source Toolkit

      I think it is very important and increasingly so. Let’s look at data alone. Many modern experimental techniques generate data at staggering rates now, much quicker than any one individual or lab can handle. Genome sequences, imaging data, or EM-resolution anatomy of entire brains—This type of data provides a fantastic opportunity for researchers anywhere to contribute to state-of-the-art science without having to invest in the typically extremely costly hardware required to generate the data.

    • Open Access/Content

      • Here’s how college students can get some textbooks for free

        Students and parents complain about tuition being high, but what’s even more astronomical is the price of textbooks. Since 1977, the cost of textbooks has gone up over one thousand percent and students are fed up.

        Matthew Charnin is a third-year student at the University of Colorado and says he pays about $1,200 a year on textbooks.

        Charnin says, “It’s detrimental to students’ success. It needs to change.”

      • “Would you be prepared to review the proposal for us?”

        Here is the text of an email I have just sent in reply to one of Elsevier’s publishers, who asked whether I would be prepared to review a book proposal for them.


  • Finland to lobby EU for abolition of daylight saving time

    Due to an EU-wide directive on daylight saving, Finland — or any other EU member states, for that matter — cannot independently stop the practice but must move together with the other 27 EU states.

  • My Little Features: Deprecation is Magic

    I’m still hammering out what features I want to see land in BMO this year but one thing I’ve come to realize is that often the way forward on an old code base is through careful deprecation.

    Adding new features, or even fixing existing bugs is often blocked by the immense weight of past decisions.

    Recently we deprecated support for IE 11.
    This was magic: We can use more modern javascript features. async/await, arrow functions, and so on make the frontend code much nicer to work with. It puts us on a good footing to remove our use of legacy JS frameworks and (I believe) makes contributions more attractive.

  • Why Tesla’s Autopilot Can’t See a Stopped Firetruck

    On Monday, a Tesla Model S slammed into the back of a stopped firetruck on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles County. The driver apparently told the fire department the car was in Autopilot mode at the time. The crash highlighted the shortcomings of the increasingly common semi-autonomous systems that let cars drive themselves in limited conditions.

    This surprisingly non-deadly debacle also raises a technical question: How is it possible that one of the most advanced driving systems on the planet doesn’t see a freaking fire truck, dead ahead?

  • Science

    • The Trump Administration’s War on Science Agencies Threatens the Nation’s Health and Safety

      We are seeing three troublesome developments unfold: the loss of senior scientists in public service, the dwindling of new scientific and technical talent coming into public service, and the chilling effect on the work of scientists who decide to stay. These issues have come up over and over again in many conversations with our colleagues who have experience as scientists and managers in the federal agencies.

    • Modern Universities Are An Exercise in Insanity

      I know where the objections to this logic will come. University education is really about signaling; universities provide lots of other goods you cannot get from being privately tutored, and so on and so forth. Fine. Those objections are all correct. But are any of those goods worth $180,000 more than the $18,000 education I have outline above?

      A liberal education could be affordable, if we wanted it to be. But we don’t much care, and are now reaping the consequences.

    • Exploring minimax polynomials with Sollya

      Following Fabian Giesen’s advice, I took a look at Sollya—I’m not really that much into numerics (and Sollya, like the other stuff that comes out of the same group, is really written by hardcode numerics nerds), but approximation is often useful.

      A simple example: When converting linear light values to sRGB, you need to be able to compute the formula f(x) = (x + ɑ – 1) / ɑ)^ɣ for a given (non-integer) ɑ and ɣ. (Movit frequently needs this. For the specific case of sRGB, GPUs often have hard-coded lookup tables, but they are not always applicable, for instance if the data comes from Y’CbCr.) However, even after simplifications, the exponentiation is rather expensive to run for every pixel, so we’d like some sort of approximation.

      If you’ve done any calculus, you may have heard of Taylor series, which looks at the derivatives in a certain point and creates a polynomial from that. One of the perhaps most famous is arctan(x) = x – 1/3 x³ + 1/5 x⁵ – 1/7 x⁷ + …, which gives rise to a simple formula for approximating pi if you set x=1 (since arctan(1) = pi/4). However, for practical approximation, Taylor series are fairly useless; they’re accurate near the origin point of the expansion, but don’t care at all about what happens far from it. Minimax polynomials are better; they minimize the maximum error over the range of interest.

    • Scientists find oxidized iron deep within the Earth’s interior (Update)

      Scientists studying the Earth’s mantle recently made an unexpected discovery. Five hundred and fifty kilometres below the Earth’s surface, they found highly oxidized iron, similar to the rust we see on our planet’s surface, within garnets found within diamonds.

      The result surprised geoscientists around the globe because there is little opportunity for iron to become so highly oxidized deep below the Earth’s surface.

    • You should be listening to video game soundtracks at work

      Productivity studies suggest you can boost your output with the right music.

    • Do our mitochondria run at 50 degrees C?

      Our body temperature is held at a fairly steady 37.5°C, and the assumption has always been that most of our physiological processes take place at this temperature. The heat needed to maintain this temperature in the face of a colder environment is generated by tiny subcellular structures called mitochondria. But a new study publishing January 25 in the open access journal PLOS Biology by INSERM and CNRS researchers at Hôpital Robert Debré in Paris led by Dr Pierre Rustin (and their international collaborators from Finland, South Korea, Lebanon and Germany) presents surprising evidence that mitochondria can run more than 10°C hotter than the body’s bulk temperature, and indeed are optimized to do so. Because of the extraordinary nature of these claims, PLOS Biology has commissioned a cautionary accompanying article by Professor Nick Lane from University College, London, an expert on evolutionary bioenergetics.

    • New device brings us closer to coin-sized medical labs

      The idea—shrinking a medical lab onto a chip the size of a small coin—is known as “lab on a chip.” It’s closer to reality than you might think, but obstacles remain; among them is finding an efficient and reliable way to mix and move blood and other fluids through the chip’s tiny valves and pumps.

      A new study, appearing on the cover of the Jan. 21 edition of the journal Lab on a Chip, moves the scientific community closer to solving the problem.

      The study describes how a multidisciplinary research team at the University at Buffalo fabricated a chip that uses two different types of force—capillary- and vacuum-driven—to manipulate how fluids travel in micro- and nano-sized channels.

    • Company shoots shiny orb into orbit and angers astronomers over ‘space graffiti.’

      Earlier this month, the New Zealand-based private spaceflight company Rocket Lab successfully delivered its first orbital payload. Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket released, along with three commercial satellites, an art installation-as-satellite called the Humanity Star.

      The satellite, a highly reflective 65-faced ball crafted of carbon fiber, will orbit Earth for nine months. Around October, its orbit will decay, and the satellite will disintegrate as it descends in the atmosphere. Until its destruction, the Humanity Star will twinkle so brilliantly it can be witnessed by observers below. It will be most visible at dawn or dusk, creating an effect Rocket Lab likened on its website to a “bright flashing shooting star.”

  • Health/Nutrition

    • How NAFTA is making our food and water much less healthy

      ISDS is now part of most multilateral or bilateral investment agreements. As a recent report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) shows, ISDS gives foreign investors the right to demand compensation for environmental, public interest and other laws that undermine their anticipated profits. This provision, initially put in place to protect investors’ rights against nationalizations or expropriations, has evolved to become a tool for corporations to tie up governments in long and expensive legal cases, with chilling effects on public interest rules around the world. Cases are decided by unaccountable panels of trade lawyers, who might have conflicts of interest.

    • Botulinum-type toxins jump to a new kind of bacteria

      Enterococci are hardy microbes that thrive in the gastrointestinal tracts of nearly all land animals, including our own, and generally cause no harm. But their ruggedness has lately made them leading causes of multi-drug-resistant infections, especially in settings like hospitals where antibiotic use disrupts the natural balance of intestinal microbes.

      So the discovery of a new toxin in a strain of Enterococcus is raising scientific eyebrows. Isolated from cow feces sampled at a South Carolina farm, the bug was unexpectedly found to carry a toxin resembling the toxin that causes botulism. The finding was reported January 25 in the journal Cell Host and Microbe.

    • Chocolate Bunnies, Slave Labor, and Water Theft: The Horrible Nestle Story
  • Security

    • Security updates for Friday
    • Senate IT Tells Staffers They’re On Their Own When It Comes To Personal Devices And State-Sponsored Hackers

      Notification of state-sponsored hacking attempts has revealed another weak spot in the US government’s defenses. The security of the government’s systems is an ongoing concern, but the Senate has revealed it’s not doing much to ensure sensitive documents and communications don’t end up in the hands of foreign hackers.

      The news of the hacking attempt was greeted with assurances that nothing of value was taken.

    • Beware! Undetectable CrossRAT malware targets Windows, MacOS, and Linux systems

      According to researchers, Dark Caracal hackers do not rely on any “zero-day exploits” to distribute its malware; instead, it uses basic social engineering via posts on Facebook groups and WhatsApp messages, encouraging users to visit hackers-controlled fake websites and download malicious applications.

    • Vulnerable industrial controls directly connected to Internet? Why not?

      As Beaumont said, “It’s an open own goal.” And this particular advisory doesn’t stop with the PLCs. Some PLC manufacturers haven’t even responded to inquiries from the DHS’ National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) about recently-discovered vulnerabilities, such as one in the Nari PCS-9611 Feeder Relay, a control system used to manage some electrical grids. The vulnerability, reported by two Kaspersky Labs researchers, “could allow a remote attacker arbitrary read/write abilities on the system.”

    • Free Linux Tool Monitors Systems for Meltdown Attacks

      SentinelOne this week released Blacksmith, a free Linux tool that can detect Meltdown vulnerability exploitation attempts, so system administrators can stop attacks before they take root.

      The company has been working on a similar tool to detect Spectre vulnerability attacks.

    • Welsh NHS systems back up after computer ‘chaos’

      The National Cyber Security Centre said the problems were caused by technical issues and were not the result of a cyber attack.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • America’s Syria Trap

      Before Donald Trump, “Russiagate” and the mainstream media’s apparent obligation to cover every presidential tweet, Turkish planes bombing—and tanks rumbling through—Syria might’ve been real news. These days hardly anyone has the energy to care. No, Washington pols have been too busy misappropriating the poor, underpaid military to bolster their own narrative around the three-day government shutdown. Neither side comes up for air long enough to ask real questions about the mission and status of all those American soldiers and Marines still deployed in Syria—not all that far from the Turkish military incursion.

    • Regime change agents aren’t patriots

      It is also important to remind the African world that when Mr Tsvangirai survived a fatal car crash in 2009 that resulted in the loss of his wife Susan, former President and liberation icon Comrade R.G. Mugabe visited him in hospital, and his party was rather casual in refuting cowardly attempts of the US-EU imperialist media apparatus that called the tragic accident a botched assassination attempt.

    • Truth or Treason? Dirty Secrets of the Korean War

      The cessation of military operations also marked the beginning of a new war: the propaganda war. As the first armed conflict of the Cold War ended in a draw, it was essential for the US-led coalition, flying the UN flag, to claim a moral victory for the “Free World”. The Red-Yellow hordes had been stopped at the 38th parallel in Korea. The next battle would be in Indochina, where the French – supported by the US – were fighting a “communist” insurgency, led by Ho Chi Minh and Vo Nguyen Giap. The Indochina War would become the Vietnam War, or the American War as they call it in Viet Nam.

    • Doomsday and the Apocalyptic Trump Nuclear War Fighting Doctrine

      Warning that the danger of nuclear war has become more “dire” than at any time since the Cold War, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists just moved the hands of its iconic Doomsday Clock to two minutes before midnight. This is the closest the hands have been to an apocalyptic assault on human survival and civilization in the clock’s 71-year history.

      Since 1947, the clock has sought to awaken humanity to the imminent danger of catastrophic nuclear war. The additional existential dangers of climate change, new developments in the life sciences and technology were more recently added to their calculus.

    • More Warfare, Bombing, Deaths in Trump’s First Year

      The greatest impact of Donald Trump’s first year as president has been kept out of sight from most Americans. The wars the U.S. waged during Barack Obama’s tenure have sharply escalated under Trump. The result has been a predictable and massive spike in civilian deaths.

      Boasting in an interview last year about an apparent retreat by Islamic State, Trump declared, “I totally changed rules of engagement. I totally changed our military.” He also touted the “big, big difference if you look at the military now” compared with what it was under the Obama administration. While Obama shares blame for escalating the use of drones, especially in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia, Trump’s military leadership appears to be a return to a more traditional form of war and a complete unfettering of attempts to minimize civilian casualties.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • British Judge to Decide Next Month on Assange’s Bid for Possible Freedom

      To some, Assange is a cyber hero who exposed government abuses of power. To others, he is a criminal who undermined the security of the West by exposing secrets.

      British police have said the charge of skipping bail is a much less serious offence than rape, but he could still face a one-year prison sentence if convicted, which in effect would mean six months behind bars.

      Ecuador said this month it had given citizenship to Assange, hours after the British government refused a request for him to be given diplomatic status, which could have given Assange immunity from arrest should he try to leave the embassy.

      England Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot said she would make her ruling on the arrest warrant on Feb. 6.

    • Julian Assange: WikiLeaks founder will have to wait until February 6 to see if he can walk free from London embassy

      Swedish prosecutors confirmed they had dropped the investigation against him last year but Assange could still be arrested if he leaves the building in Knightsbridge due to his skipping of the UK bail conditions.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Drowning In Oil: How Trump’s Offshore Drilling Policies Will Impact the U.S. Coastline

      Seven years after the Deepwater Horizon oil platform coated the Gulf Coast in oil, the U.S. government led by Donald Trump has set in motion an apocalyptic fire sale on drilling rights in all our waters. The proposed policies would drastically expand coastal oil and gas drilling by auctioning off leases on public maritime waters. Essentially, our beaches and coastlines are now up for sale by the Trump administration, with the backing of the Republican Party, as they ease the 2010 regulations put in place following the worst oil spill in U.S history. The 11 deaths cased by the Deepwater explosion, and the four million barrels of oil dumped into the Gulf of Mexico, were not enough warning to stop Trump from auctioning off America’s coastline, piece by piece.

      As ever, Trump’s plan is short-sighted. Scientists say the Deepwater Horizon spill caused more than $17 billion in damages to natural resources alone. If you’re under the age of 30, you may not remember the Exxon Valdez oil spill. But if you head to Prince William Sound you need only dig a few inches into the ground to strike oil, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    • Trump’s Offshore Drilling Plan

      It was offshore oil drilling deja vu for me—having broken the story about the oil industry seeking to drill in the offshore Atlantic nearly 50 years ago.

      But this time offshore drilling would be completely unnecessary with the U.S, awash in petroleum (thus $2.50-a-gallon gas) and oil drilling in the sea ten times more costly than drilling on land. Plus, renewable energy, led by solar and wind, is now well-developed and cheaper than fossil fuels.

      And although in 1970, the spill in 1969 from an oil-drilling platform off Santa Barbara, California that blackened miles of coastline and killed birds, fish and marine mammals had just demonstrated the environmental dangers of offshore oil drilling, just eight years ago the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion and consequent oil spill disaster in 2010 was even worse, blackening the coasts of several states along the Gulf of Mexico with oil and killing marine life on an even more massive scale. It was the biggest offshore oil spill ever.

  • Finance

    • Your Sloppy Bitcoin Drug Deals Will Haunt You for Years

      Bitcoin’s privacy paradox has long been understood by its savvier users: Because the cryptocurrency isn’t controlled by any bank or government, it can be very difficult to link anyone’s real-world identity with their bitcoin stash. But the public ledger of bitcoin transactions known as the blockchain also serves as a record of every bitcoin transaction from one address to another. Find out someone’s address, and discovering who they’re sending money to or receiving it from becomes trivial, unless the spender takes pains to route those transactions through intermediary addresses, or laundering services that obscure the payment’s origin and destination.

    • Facebook lets you tip game live streamers $3+

      The amount Facebook will keep from these tips that it calls “fan support” isn’t clear yet, but the company tells me that it’s safe to assume there will be a revenue share. Apparently it’s too early to lock any percentage in, though Facebook has taken a 30 percent cut from game developers in the past, and currently takes a 45 percent share of ad revenue from people who place ad breaks in the videos, so it could be in that ballpark.

    • Why breaking up Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook could save capitalism [iophk: "somehow Microsoft has dropped from the list and should be re-added]

      These companies attempt to mask their problems behind empty rhetoric, such as by claiming they are simply neutral platforms, that they can’t do anything about such issues, or that sometimes innovation can be challenging.

    • What Amazon does to wages

      In the years since Amazon opened its doors in Lexington County, annual earnings for warehouse workers in the area have fallen from $47,000 to $32,000, a decline of over 30% (see chart 1).

    • The Lucky 1 Percent Get Trump’s Speech, CNBC’s Devotion—and Nearly All Global Growth

      As for Quick, she’s only referring to corporate media’s open secret when she says, in response to whether she cares about ratings: “Not at all. I pay attention to our viewers, who are the wealthiest, most influential people in the world.”

      Commercial media is, of course, a system for serving corporate advertisers the audience they want. And wealth and influence aren’t so much condiments as the main ingredient. CNBC‘s function as a journalistic institution, Quick explains, is to bring that particular audience “the stories they care about”: “We can’t lose that focus for a second, or get caught up in the general media noise, or we do our audience a disservice.”

    • China proposes ‘Polar Silk Road’ across Arctic to streamline trade

      China on Friday published its first official policy paper outlining its strategy for the Arctic region, saying it plans to develop trade routes in the region and will expand its ambitious “Belt and Road” initiative to include a “Polar Silk Road.”

      The depletion of ice in the Arctic Circle, largely believed by scientists to be a consequence of climate change, has prompted a race to develop the region, with members of the Arctic Council staking competing claims for large portions of the area.

      Read more: China’s new Silk Road: A lucrative opportunity for Germany?

      However, China is a non-Arctic Circle state. Instead, it enjoys observer status in the Arctic Council, whose core members include Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Russia and the US.

    • Poll: UK voters support second Brexit vote by 16-point margin

      British voters back a second referendum on the eventual Brexit deal by a margin of 16 percentage points, according to an ICM poll commissioned by the Guardian.

      The survey, carried out in mid-January, found that 47 percent of those polled want to have a second say on Brexit when the final terms of the EU deal are known, with 34 percent against the idea. On the question of how they would vote, the poll — which had an unusually large sample size of 5075 people — found a slim majority for Remain with 51 percent of those who expressed a view in favor of staying in the EU.

      Voters in Scotland, as well as the northern and southern parts of the country would vote in favour of remaining in the EU, while voters in the Midlands and Wales would still want to leave, the survey found. Forty-nine percent across the country believed that leaving would hurt the economy, with 36 percent rejecting that proposition.

    • India Is Not ‘Self-Destructing’, It’s Being Destroyed Systematically

      Raman’s analysis is not without its problems. Diamond’s work on Easter Island, for example, has been rejected by experts who have researched the phenomenon, who trace the origins of such interpretations to the West’s colonial imagination. But that’s a quibble; what should really concern us is Raman’s main thesis.

    • Bank of Whose America?

      By eliminating a popular free checking account, Bank of America only reminds us that traditional banking is for everyone—except the poor.

    • The world’s richest 2000 billionaires could wipe out extreme poverty with one seventh of what they gained last year

      Oxfam’s released its annual report on inequality, timed to coincide with the World Economic Forum, and unlike previous reports (which focused on attractive but misleading stats about the relative wealth of poor and rich people), the new one focuses on the growth in the fortunes of the world’s richest people, a stat that is a much more reliable indicator of growing inequality.

      In the new report, Oxfam reveals that the planet’s richest 2,000 billionaires got $762 billion richer in 2017 — an average of $381 million each. One seventh of that gain, if apportioned to the world’s poorest, would eradicate extreme poverty.

    • Davos’s time is up

      Davos 2018 came at a bad time for neoliberalism. In Britain, the preceding week was dominated by the collapse of the outsourcing giant Carillion and the exposure, to a wider audience, of the pervasive extent and expensive failure of the private finance initiative (or PFI). Many PFI schools and hospitals were built to unacceptably (even lethally) low standards, later than promised, and, when firms failed to fulfil their obligations – as they often did – the state socialised the cost while executives walked away with their pay-packets untouched. In all, we will likely pay over £310 billion for assets worth around £55 billion. PFI has been one of the central pillars of recent British political economy. The continued failure of PFI makes it even harder to deny that the status quo is founded on a set of ideas used to justify unfettered profit maximisation and sweep aside any impediments to that end. In their infancy in the fifties and sixties, the development of these neoliberal ideas was encouraged by economic interests whose primacy was threatened by the New Deal and post-war consensus. Money flowed freely to entrepreneurial academics, who, in turn, told corporate leaders what to think and say. The ever lucid Milton Friedman, an economics professor in America and the supplest of intellectual gymnasts, gave them exactly what they needed when proclaiming that the sole social responsibility of business was to increase profits. In doing so, firms must, according to Friedman, stay “within the rules of the game, which is to [engage] in open and free competition without deception or fraud”. Inevitably, lavishly funded lobbying operations ensured the ‘rules of the game’ were changed, while, presumably, successive governments sought to minimise barriers to profit-making in order to maximise social welfare. It is easy to imagine the laughter of those benefiting from this arrangement pealing out over Westminster as they shopped between meetings with one uncritical adherent after another. Needless to say, there is nothing socially responsible about charging an NHS hospital £333 to replace a lightbulb. The wider array of neoliberal ideas justifies policies that have relinquished economically productive state assets, create extraordinary levels of waste through unnecessary marketisation, and, ultimately, captured the state as a means to guarantee revenue streams with little to no risk. In theory, neoliberalism essentially ignores market failure; in practice, it benefits from it, actively promoting it at each turn. The financialisation of the economy is the deeper, inevitable consequence of a dictatorship of ideas that elevates short-term profit maximisation as the driving impulse of modern societies and economies. The cost of this project can no longer be ignored. As is customary, Davos sees the release of the latest, greatest statistics on the failures of the prevailing economic model. Just over 40 people (nearly all men) now likely hold more wealth than half of humanity, with 82% of global wealth generated in 2017 going to the wealthiest 1%. In the UK, FTSE 100 bosses earn, on average, 120 times more than employees. These are the symptoms of a system that relentlessly minimises costs to maximise shareholder returns, eroding workers’ rights and exerting enormous influence on policymaking and political ideas. In 2000, Bill Clinton addressed Davos, the first sitting US president to do so, and expounded the virtues of globalisation as a unifying economic and social force. It is apt that Trump – a president whose position is partly a result of the hatred frothing from the dispossession and corruption bred by neoliberal policies – was the next president to do so. As Trump brings the circus, bullish global markets belie the true global economic picture. Ten years after the Crash, its lessons remain largely unlearnt as optimistic investors commit the oldest sins in the newest ways and stock markets break records. Comfort breeds complacency and the word on the snowy boulevards of Davos was that another serious correction is coming. As younger generations gaze upon this spectacle – many of them from countries were youth unemployment still exceeds 30% – they could be forgiven for concluding that those in power are in charge only inasmuch as it serves them to be.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • It’s time for Facebook’s News Feed to explain itself

      The company can talk about the content of the feed in general terms — mostly posts from friends and family, ranked by how close Facebook believes you to be with them — but were an engineer to browse your feed alongside you, they couldn’t explain why the posts appeared in the exact order they did.

    • After shooting death of 2 Kentucky students, GOP bill wants more guns in schools

      Hours after authorities say a 15-year-old student shot and killed two classmates at a western Kentucky high school, a Republican senator in the state’s Capitol rushed to file a bill intended to prevent future tragedies — by putting more guns in schools.

      The legislation from state Sen. Steve West would let local districts hire armed marshals to patrol public schools, make citizen’s arrests and protect people from “imminent death or serious physical injury.” Marshals wouldn’t have to be police officers, but school district employees in good standing who have a license to carry concealed weapons.

    • Judge: Kushner Company Must Reveal Identities of Real Estate Partners

      A federal judge in Maryland ruled Friday that Jared Kushner’s family real estate company could not keep secret the identities of its partners in Baltimore-area apartment complexes that are the subject of a class-action lawsuit by tenants.

      The class-action lawsuit was filed in September, following a May article co-published by ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine that described how Kushner Companies have used highly aggressive tactics in pursuing payments from tenants and former tenants of 15 large apartment complexes it owns and manages in the Baltimore area.

      The lawsuit, filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, alleges that the Kushner Companies’ real estate management arm and related corporate entities have been improperly inflating payments owned by tenants by charging them late fees that are often baseless and in excess of state limits and court fees that are not actually approved by any court. The suit alleges that the late fees and court fees set in motion a vicious cycle in which rent payments are partly put toward the fees instead of the actual rent owed, thus deeming the tenant once again “late” on his or her rent payment, leading to yet more late fees and court fees. Tenants are pressured to pay the snowballing bills with immediate threat of eviction, the suit alleges.

    • California Murder Suspect Said to Have Trained With Extremist Hate Group

      The California man accused of killing a 19-year-old University of Pennsylvania student earlier this month is an avowed neo-Nazi and a member of one of the most notorious extremist groups in the country, according to three people with knowledge of the man’s recent activities.

      The man, Samuel Woodward, has been charged in Orange County, California, with murdering Blaze Bernstein, who went missing in early January while visiting his family over winter break. Prosecutors allege that Woodward stabbed Bernstein more than 20 times before burying his body in an Orange County park where it was eventually discovered. The two men had attended high school together.

      Woodward, 20, is set to be arraigned on Feb. 2 and has not yet entered a plea. Orange County prosecutors say they are examining the possibility that the killing was a hate crime — Bernstein was Jewish and openly gay — and some recent news reports have suggested that the alleged killer might hold far-right or even white supremacist political beliefs.

    • Trump Isn’t Just Incompetent and His Agenda Isn’t Just Bad. It’s Evil.

      After the largest mass shooting in U.S. history last October in Las Vegas, President Donald Trump called the act “pure evil” (echoing George W. Bush’s description of the 1999 Columbine shootings). Some Republican lawmakers eagerly embraced this kind of language as they dug in their heels on gun control. After all, they argued, evil can’t be legislated away.

      Meanwhile, as he casts his eye overseas, Trump has usually reserved his use of “evil” for actors that just happen to be Muslim, from the Islamic State to Iran, which no doubt thrills his evangelical supporters.

      Most of the reflections on evil in the United States center on people “out there.” Why were Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, and the machete wielders in Rwanda evil? Why did the 9/11 hijackers do the evil things that they did? What motivates the evil acts of the Islamic State? Even when the lens is turned on American society, the focus tends to be on those on the pathological margins, like serial murderers and child abductors.

      Oh, of course, figures on the far right have no problem throwing around the E word more liberally — when talking about Islam (Rev. Robert Jeffress), gay people (failed Alabama politician Roy Moore), abortion providers (the Life Education Council), and the like. Generally, though, evil is a topic for the pulpit, not politics.

      But what happens when evil takes a very different form, not on the margins of society, but at its very center? What happens when evil takes a seat behind the desk of the Oval Office?

    • Holy hypocrisy: Donald Trump, Stormy Daniels and the religious right

      Donald Trump is a man without any discernible redeeming qualities, but nonetheless I’m grateful for one thing he’s done, without really trying: He has exposed the true nature of the Christian right. For more than a decade now, I’ve been diligently writing and researching, trying to build the case that the religious right is not motivated by moral values, but by hatred of women and LGBT people — and that many of them are white supremacists, to boot. And then here comes Trump, bragging about how he likes to “grab them by the pussy” and spreading racist propaganda, and sweeps up 80 percent of the white evangelical vote, more than true-believer George W. Bush got in 2004.

    • Hillary Clinton Chose to Shield a Top Adviser Accused of Harassment in 2008
    • Hillary Clinton Shielded Adviser Accused of Sexual Harassment in ’08

      Hillary Clinton shielded a senior adviser to her 2008 presidential campaign when he was accused of sexually harassing another one of her staff members, a new report by The New York Times reveals. The “faith adviser” to Clinton, Burns Strider, underwent counseling and lost “several weeks” of pay but was not removed from his position despite recommendations that he be fired.

    • The Follower Factory
    • The Dangerous Erosion of U.S. Leadership

      Despite Donald Trump’s speech to the World Economic Forum in which he attempted to reassure global leaders on his “America First” ideology, the damage to U.S. credibility may already be done, as Alon Ben-Meir explains.


      Although Trump tried to qualify his “America First” approach to global affairs at a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week by saying that “America First” doesn’t mean “America Alone,” his general approach has been to abandon U.S. soft power and America’s longstanding leadership role. His tweets and reckless utterances have deeply troubled countries with strong ties to the United States, enraged those who have been maligned by his reprehensible rhetoric, and delighted U.S. adversaries, while leaving America increasingly isolated.

      On the issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and anti-ballistic missiles, instead of engaging Pyongyang in quiet diplomacy to resolve the conflict, he resorted to bellicose rhetoric and threats that only heightened tensions and brought the U.S. and North Korea ever closer to the unthinkable prospect of nuclear war.

    • The Trump Base One Year Out

      Unless the polls are even more off than they were when they predicted a Clinton victory in 2016, distressingly many 2016 Trump voters continue to stand by their man.

      There has been some attrition, but the Trump base still comprises slightly more than a third of the electorate. Consider that — and despair for the human race.

      I am not talking about the true “deplorables” (“detestables” would be a more apt description), the hyper-rich blockheads who think that it is cool to party with the Donald at Mar-a-Lago. Their dollars matter, but their votes not so much – there just aren’t enough dumbass gzillionaires married to trophy brides or jelly-faced women to comprise a voting bloc.

      But there are still plenty of the kinds of people Hillary Clinton called “deplorable.” The voting bloc they comprise, though not quite what it used to be, remains formidable.

    • Trump Launched ‘Smear Campaign’ to Discredit FBI Officials Likely to Testify Against Him: Report

      The “smear campaign”—as one lawmaker termed it—began after Trump was warned by his personal attorney John Dowd that former FBI director James Comey’s claim that Trump pressured him to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn could be corroborated by senior FBI officials.

      “Dowd warned Trump that the potential corroborative testimony of the senior FBI officials in Comey’s account would likely play a central role in the special counsel’s final conclusion, according to people familiar with the matter,” Foreign Policy reported. “In discussions with at least two senior White House officials, Trump repeated what Dowd had told him to emphasize why he and his supporters had to ‘fight back harder,’ in the words of one of these officials.”

    • The Year of Whatevs: Why Trump Fatigue makes 2018 so dangerous

      On some distant future date when historians — if there still are historians — begin sifting through the smoking rubble and ashes of what was once American civilization, they’ll probably pinpoint January 12, 2018, as a kind of turning point, the precise moment it should have become clear that something was fundamentally broken and no one knew how to fix it.

      That was the day the Wall Street Journal published a stunning article about the president of the United States that had the all-too-predicable effect of stunning absolutely no one. The newspaper reported, in convincing detail, that Donald Trump’s lawyer had arranged an $130,000 payment to a woman known as “Stormy Daniels” — star of adult-film classics such as “Good Will Humping” — in the final weeks of the 2016 campaign so she’d keep quiet about her affair with the future president in 2006, while his new wife Melania was expecting their only child. Attorney Michael Cohen even established a Delaware LLC to make the payoff, proof that Team Trump is indeed doing something for the economy.

    • Whitefish spent $150K lobbying Congress after Puerto Rico disaster

      The small Montana energy company that botched the critical rebuilding of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria spent $150,000 lobbying Congress last quarter amid investigations, a disclosure report filed Friday shows.

      The fourth quarter lobbying report shows that Whitefish paid the law firm Foley & Lardner to have five representatives lobby the Senate and House on the company’s behalf.

      What the firm was specifically hired to accomplish is unclear.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Malaysia mulls over new laws to combat fake news

      “Fake news is no longer just about character assassination but is seen by some nations as a security threat. So we too are looking at passing specific laws and adopting models used by other countries to deal with the problem, particularly fake news that could jeopardise our security,” he was quoted by The Star as saying yesterday.

      While laws under the Communications and Multimedia Act could be used to clamp down on fake news, Datuk Seri Salleh said new measures are also needed, citing Britain’s move on Wednesday to set up a new national security communications unit as one example.

    • Duterte Administration Moves to Kill Free Speech in the Philippines

      In a country where press freedom is already under grave threat, the revocation of an independent publication’s license to operate and a proposed amendment to the Bill of Rights are pushing journalists further into the margins. While the Constitution of the Philippines guarantees press freedom and the country’s media landscape is quite diverse, journalists nevertheless face an array of threats. Libel threats and advertising boycotts are common, and the country ranks fifth in the world in terms of impunity for killing journalists.

      And since the election of President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016, press freedom in the Philippines has taken a further blow. Like President Trump, Duterte enjoys going after individual media outlets that criticize his policies, creating an increasingly chilled atmosphere for the country’s independent journalists and free speech.

      In an unprecedented move, the Duterte administration’s Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoked the registration of independent news organization, Rappler, and ordered them to close up shop. Rappler has been a vocal critic of the Duterte regime and appears to be targeted for its criticism of the current administration, especially when contrasted with how other pro-Duterte bloggers and outlets have been rewarded with government positions or hired as consultants using public funds.

      The Duterte administration’s SEC claims its decision to revoke Rappler’s registration was based on an alleged violation of the Foreign Equity Restriction in Mass Media by accepting funds from the Omidyar Network, a fund created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar that has contributed to independent media outlets all over the world, like the Intercept and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

      The SEC had accepted and approved Rappler’s Philippine Depository Receipt (PDR) for contributions from the Omidyar Network back in 2015. A PDR is a financial instrument that does not give the investor voting rights in the board or a say in the management of the organization.

      But when President Duterte went after Rappler (as well as broadcast network ABS-CBN) in his July 2017 State of the Nation address, claiming that the company was owned by foreigners, the pressure began to mount. The president later repeated this claim, stating that the company was violating a Constitutional requirement of domestic ownership. Under this increasing pressure from the Duterte administration, the SEC voided the Omidyar PDR last week and revoked Rappler’s Certificate of Incorporation.

    • Pablo Escobar’s Brother Gives Up His Quest For A Billion Dollar Extortion Of Netflix Over ‘Narcos’

      You will likely know that we’ve been following the absurd threats that Roberto Escobar, brother to and former accountant for noted drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, launched at Netflix and the makers of its hit show Narcos. The threats kicked off as something of a publicity rights challenge, with Roberto Escobar demanding one billion dollars over a show in which he does not appear and is not named. Escobar has appeared to believe that his knowledge of the inner workings of the Escobar cartel somehow granted him authority over the show, while pretty much everyone else has agreed that the First Amendment would ultimately torpedo any lawsuit that might actually get filed.

      But then things got even stranger. Escobar’s lawyers began making noises that indicated the show was about to capitulate to the threats and demands. Meanwhile, the legal team on the other side were at the exact same time pointing out just how absurd and ficticious some of Escobar’s claims were, such as that he had been using the term “Narcos” in conjunction with operating a website and providing computer gaming services on a computer network since 1986. For those of you who are too young to remember a time without a widespread internet, there basically was no such thing as a publicly facing website in 1986. Meanwhile, a location scout for the show was murdered in Mexico while scouting for the series’ fourth season, with Escobar offering cryptic and coy commentary on the matter that bordered on suggesting he was somehow involved.

    • China’s #MeToo movement emerges, but faces gov’t apathy and ‘soft censorship’

      Former doctoral student Luo Qianqian was “amazed” that her sexual assault story went viral in China, inspiring other women to denounce rampant harassment on campuses and unleashing a #MeToo movement in the country despite censorship challenges.

      Before she accused her professor of assaulting her, under the pretence of asking for help watering his plants, #MeToo had been slow to catch on in China.

      Activists say efforts to unmask sexual abuse have faced government apathy or even resistance. This time however, Luo’s New Year’s Day post on the Twitter-like Weibo platform received three million views within hours.

    • Censorship, market access and forced tech transfer: the tricky business in Germany’s trade ties with China

      A trade war between China and the United States would be a “lose-lose” situation but European countries share US concerns about the lack of market access and forced technology transfers to China, according to Germany’s top envoy to Beijing.

      German ambassador to China Michael Clauss said it was in everybody’s interest to support an open global trade system centred on a strong World Trade Organisation.

    • After finding nationwide support, Utah high school journalists are considering the next steps in their censorship battle with administration

      Sure, he’d already been interviewed by local newspaper and television reporters. But for Conor Spahr, news editor of Herriman High School’s now-infamous student newspaper, it was seeing his story told by The Washington Post that brought home what a big deal his situation had become almost overnight.

      “I mean, we’d just seen the movie ‘The Post,’ and then a week later, we were on their home page,” Spahr said incredulously.

    • Lies, collusion and disappearing images: in China, digital censorship is getting sneakier

      Beijing is estimated to pay over a quarter of a million social media operatives, and the government posts up to half a billion self-serving messages annually. It also runs a “Great Firewall” of censorship and restrictions, and here Yuan Ren explains what it feels like to be caught on the wrong side of the fence. Below, we highlight other government efforts—for good, or more often for ill—to get a grip on the web.

    • How Satyajit Ray’s Sikkim documentary became a victim of state-sponsored censorship

      Censorship in the arts is not a new thing. It has always existed and will continue to do so – as long as the powers to be are unable to separate their own vested interests from the creative freedom of our artists. Even the most magnificent painters, the most celebrated writers, the finest poets and the greatest filmmakers of all times have had to bear the brunt of this evil menace. And although he was smart enough to make even the most scathing commentary on the socio-political situation of his times without ruffling those in power, there is at least one known instance when even a legend like Satyajit Ray had had to be a victim of state sponsored censorship. Today, we are going to talk about Ray’s magnificent documentary titled Sikkim, which, over a period of almost 40 years, was cut, chopped and finally banned by not one but two nations.


      For two long decades, the ruler of Sikkim staved off India’s continuous attempts of a formal annexation, until in 1975, he gave in and opted to make Sikkim a state of the Indian Republic. The moment Sikkim became a part of India, the Indian government banned Ray’s documentary. And it was not until September 2010 that the documentary resurfaced, when the ban was finally lifted by the Ministry of External Affairs. The film was screened at the Kolkata film festival later that year, and the large audience gathered to watch the film witnessed what a magnificent work of art Ray had created.

    • Censor board bans controversial Hindi film Padmaavat

      Malaysia’s film censorship authority has banned ‘Padmaavat’, a controversial Hindi movie that features the relationship between a Hindu queen and a Muslim ruler in medieval India.

      The Film Censorship Board (LPF) placed the movie in its “not approved list” yesterday, with a “not relevant” remark placed on its age rating section.

      The “not relevant” remark is usually given to banned movies deemed to likely incite hatred and uneasiness among the community, a movie producer familiar with the matter told FMT.

    • Why is Instagram censoring a 1992 poem revered by the LGBTQ community?
  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Research into full-body tracking at Facebook hints at broader AR/VR ambitions
    • Being open about data privacy

      That’s a rather sweeping statement, but the fact remains that this is the date on which a piece of legislation called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), enacted by the European Union in 2016, becomes enforceable. The GDPR basically provides a stringent set of rules about how personal data can be stored, what it can be used for, who can see it, and how long it can be kept. It also describes what personal data is—and it’s a pretty broad set of items, from your name and home address to your medical records and on through to your computer’s IP address.

      What is important about the GDPR, though, is that it doesn’t apply just to European companies, but to any organisation processing data about EU citizens. If you’re an Argentinian, Japanese, U.S., or Russian company and you’re collecting data about an EU citizen, you’re subject to it.

    • AT&T lands NSA contract worth billions to outsource IT

      The bid protest has ended and AT&T has officially been awarded an IT contract with the National Security Agency. This is the second of three contracts that the agency will be awarding as part of its classified Groundbreaker program.

      The tech giant won the contract back in Oct. 2017 but DXC Technology — who was one of the bidders — protested it, halting progress. Last week, the Government Accountability Office denied the protest.

    • NSA Data Loss Fits US Intelligence Pattern of Destroying Criminal Evidence

      The National Security Agency’s admission that it destroyed illegally acquired surveillance records in defiance of a court order not to do so conforms to a documented pattern of US intelligence agencies destroying criminal evidence, analysts told Sputnik.

      The NSA destroyed surveillance data it pledged to preserve in connection with pending lawsuits and appeared not to have taken some of the steps it told a US federal court it had taken to make sure the information was not destroyed, Politico reported last week.

      The NSA was under court order to hold on to information that was linked to warrantless wiretapping during the George W Bush administration, but instead the agency got rid of data it had been specifically asked to retain, according to US media reports.

    • NSA updates core values on its website, but deletes references to ‘honesty’ and ‘transparency’

      The National Security Agency deleted a number of references to honesty and transparency from its website in an update, The Intercept reported on Saturday.

      Previously, the agency’s website contained extensive references to honesty, respect for the law, transparency and integrity as its four core values, as stated in the mission statement. However, The Intercept reported that as of January 12, “honesty” has been removed, replaced by phrases like “commitment to service,” “respect for people” and “accountability.”

    • NSA expunges ‘honesty’ and ‘openness’ from its core values

      But it isn’t just these changes that the NSA has made. In fact, the NSA had previously said that it would aim to be deserving of the ‘great trust’ placed in it by US leaders and citizens and that it would ‘honour the public’s need for openness’.

    • Exclusive: ICE is about to start tracking license plates across the US

      The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has officially gained agency-wide access to a nationwide license plate recognition database, according to a contract finalized earlier this month. The system gives the agency access to billions of license plate records and new powers of real-time location tracking, raising significant concerns from civil libertarians.

      The source of the data is not named in the contract, but an ICE representative said the data came from Vigilant Solutions, the leading network for license plate recognition data. “Like most other law enforcement agencies, ICE uses information obtained from license plate readers as one tool in support of its investigations,” spokesperson Dani Bennett said in a statement. “ICE is not seeking to build a license plate reader database, and will not collect nor contribute any data to a national public or private database through this contract.”

    • NYC Police Union Argues Releasing Body Cam Footage Violates Cops’ Civil Rights

      New York City’s largest police union, the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, is suing Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police Commissioner James O’Neill, and the New York Police Department (NYPD) to block the release of body cam footage, arguing that it violates their members’ civil rights.

      The union points to a New York statute, Civil Rights Law Section 50-a, that declares “all personnel records used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion” must be “confidential and not subject to inspection or review,” permitting their release only with the consent of the police officer or a court order. According to the union, body camera footage should be considered such personnel records.

    • New York Police Union Sues NYPD To Block Public Release Of Body Camera Footage

      The route to equipping the NYPD with body cameras ran through a federal courtroom. As part of the remedies handed down in a civil rights lawsuit against the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program, body cameras became required equipment for officers.

      NYPD officials seemed to support the plan. Not so the ostensible representative of the NYPD, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA). The NYPD’s union fought the cameras much as they have fought anything with a hint of accountability. A report by the NYPD’s internal oversight found officers much less concerned about body cameras and access to footage than their supposed union reps.

      A long-delayed camera policy finally rolled out, making it clear cameras would serve officers and prosecutors much more than they would the general public. Now, the PBA is going to court to block the release of camera footage to the public. The PBA hopes the court will read public records laws the way it does, tossing body cam footage into the gaping hole of New York public records exemptions.

    • EFF and ACLU Ask Court to Allow Legal Challenge To Proceed Against Warrantless Searches of Travelers’ Smartphones, Laptops

      Eleven Travelers in Groundbreaking Case Face Substantial Risk of Future Unconstitutional Searches

      Boston, Massachusetts—The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) urged a federal judge today to reject the Department of Homeland Security’s attempt to dismiss an important lawsuit challenging DHS’s policy of searching and confiscating, without suspicion or warrant, travelers’ electronic devices at U.S. borders.

      EFF and ACLU represent 11 travelers—10 U.S. citizens and one lawful permanent resident—whose smartphones and laptops were searched without warrants at the U.S. border in a groundbreaking lawsuit filed in September. The case, Alasaad v. Nielsen, asks the court to rule that the government must have a warrant based on probable cause before conducting searches of electronic devices, which contain highly detailed personal information about people’s lives. The case also argues that the government must have probable cause to confiscate a traveler’s device.

      The plaintiffs in the case include a military veteran, journalists, students, an artist, a NASA engineer, and a business owner. The government seeks dismissal, saying the plaintiffs don’t have the right to bring the lawsuit and the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply to border searches. Both claims are wrong, the EFF and ACLU explain in a brief filed today in federal court in Boston.

    • Round Up of EFF’s Advocacy Against Warrantless Border Device Searches

      EFF has been working on multiple fronts to end a widespread violation of digital liberty—warrantless searches of travelers’ electronic devices at the border. Government policies allow border agents to search and confiscate our cell phones, tablets, and laptops at airports and border crossings for no reason, without explanation or any suspicion of wrongdoing. It’s as if our First and Fourth Amendment rights don’t exist at the border. This is wrong, which is why we’re working to challenge and hopefully end these unconstitutional practices.

      EFF and the ACLU filed a brief today in our Alasaad v. Nielsen lawsuit to oppose the government’s attempt to dismiss our case. Our lawsuit, filed in September 2017 on behalf of 11 Americans whose devices were searched, takes direct aim at the illegal policies enforced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its component agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In our brief we explain that warrantless searches of electronic devices at the border violate the First and Fourth Amendments, and that our 11 clients have every right to bring this case.

      This is just the latest action we’ve taken in the fight for digital rights at the border. EFF is pushing back against the government’s invasive practices on three distinct fronts: litigation, legislation, and public education.

    • Pornhub offers free premium videos to women on their periods

      Female users interested in accessing the online videos are asked a few questions to determine the start and end date of their next period. When this arrives, Pornhub sends reminder emails of their offer – which is available for up to three months.

    • Web Advertising and the Shark, revisited (and updated)

      Right now, all the ad profits flow into the pockets of a few companies like Facebook, Yahoo, and Google. … You’ll notice that the incoming and outgoing arrows in this diagram aren’t equal. There’s more money being made from advertising than consumers are putting in.

      The balance comes out of the pockets of investors, who are all gambling that their pet company or technology will come out a winner. [...]

    • My Pacemaker Is Tracking Me From Inside My Body

      There is a crucial difference between my device and more ubiquitous digital technologies: I never made the choice to implant the pacemaker in my body. I’m grateful to the hardworking doctors who minimized my pain and helped me get better. At the same time, the device they installed raises questions that now haunt me. It’s not clear who might have access to data about my pulse, my health, and possibly my whereabouts—data generated by a device inside me.

    • Herbert Van de Sompel’s Paul Evan Peters Award Lecture

      My questions fall into two groups; questions about how the collaborative nature of today’s research maps onto the decentralized vision, and questions about how the decentralized vision copes with the abuse and fraud that are regrettably so prevalent in today’s scholarly communication.

    • Lyft staff ‘bragged about stealing data of porn stars, actors and Mark Zuckerberg’
    • Exclusive: ICE is about to start tracking license plates across the US

      While it collects few photos itself, Vigilant Solutions has amassed a database of more than 2 billion license plate photos by ingesting data from partners like vehicle repossession agencies and other private groups. Vigilant also partners with local law enforcement agencies, often collecting even more data from camera-equipped police cars. The result is a massive vehicle-tracking network generating as many as 100 million sightings per month, each tagged with a date, time, and GPS coordinates of the sighting.

    • Facebook and Google are doomed, George Soros says

      “Facebook and Google have grown into ever more powerful monopolies, they have become obstacles to innovation, and they have caused a variety of problems of which we are only now beginning to become aware,” he said, according to a transcript of the speech.

    • Tor Exit Node Operator Denies Piracy Allegations and Hits Back

      The operator of a Tor exit-node faces tens of thousands of dollars in potential damages because his connection was allegedly used to download a pirated copy of Dallas Buyers Club. The movie company used the operator’s lack of response as proof, but the defendant is now striking back, questioning whether the company actually owns the proper copyrights.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Children are tech addicts – and schools are the pushers

      And not only is screen technology harmful to children per se, there’s little evidence that it helps them to learn. A 2015 OECD report found that the impact of computers on pupil performance was “mixed, at best”, and in most cases computers were “hurting learning”. The journal Frontiers in Psychology identifies “an absence of research supporting the enthusiastic claims that iPads will ‘revolutionise education’”. Researchers at Durham University found that “technology-based interventions tend to produce just slightly lower levels of improvement” compared with other approaches. Even for the head of the e-Learning Foundation, proving technology improves results remains the “holy grail”.

    • Is Sexual Harassment a Civil Rights Violation? It Should Be.

      Civil rights remedies can be a tool for accountability and redress.

      If the recent wave of sexual harassment and sexual assault revelations has taught us anything, it’s that we have not done enough to end sexual harassment and gender-based violence.

      It has been over 30 years since a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court, in an opinion written by Justice Rehnquist, declared that “without question,” a supervisor’s unwanted sexual advances at work are a form of unlawful sex discrimination. It has been over 25 years since the Clarence Thomas hearings spurred a national conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace. And it has been over 10 years since social activist and community organizer Tarana Burke coined the phrase “Me Too” to promote empowerment, primarily among women of color, who experienced sexual abuse.

      The fact that #MeToo has taken off as a viral hashtag is a stark reminder that gender-based violence and harassment persist despite years of public attention and law reform. This is true even in the workplace, where there is a body of decisions from cases brought over the last 30 years. It’s clear that we need to refocus our public dialogue and use of the law on how to actually stop gender-based violence and harassment, both in and out of the workplace. To that end, we need more meaningful measures of accountability, which include civil rights remedies that shift the focus from punishing the offender to providing redress for the victim while holding the offender accountable.

    • Rethinking Cultural Attitudes Towards Sex and Violence

      In the Freudian scheme, control of the instinctual sexual drive (itself another form of aggression) is supposed to be a bit easier. Eros can be sublimated into the creation of beauty (art) as well as various intellectual achievements. Yet here too, what has been evolved are imperfect controls, especially when encapsulated in cultures that promote male domination.

      If one does not like Freud’s ideas, the whole issue of the activation and control of aggression and sex can be looked at in terms of brain function. In other words, our brains have evolved to promote survival and reproduction – originally in the pre-state, pre-tribal primate bands of distant prehistory. These tasks involve multiple parts of the cortex and amygdala, thalamus and hypothalamus, and so forth. There is one area of the brain that is particularly important in keeping instinct from running amok – the prefrontal cortex. Slow to mature (it is not fully on-line until one’s mid-twenties) it is this part of the brain that exercises “executive function.” It encourages you “to do the right, though perhaps harder, thing.”

    • Wyomingites Say No to For-Profit Prison Looking to Settle in the State

      Seeing a track record of neglect and abuse, Wyoming is mobilizing against private prisons coming to the state.

      It should have been an ordinary December day for Juan Moreno*. He kissed his wife and kids goodbye in Casper, Wyoming, and left for work. But as Moreno turned the corner, several unmarked cars flashed their lights and pulled him over. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents then arrested Juan, and he spent the next 22 days locked up in a private, for-profit detention center in Aurora, Colorado. He had no idea when he’d see his family again.

      The detention center was a nightmare of poor health care. “I got the flu at the for-profit prison,” says Moreno. “I asked for some medicine, anything to help with my fever. I was freezing and shaking and too hot at the same time. I asked the guards if they could turn up the heat. They laughed and instead told me to go use an extra blanket. They know we only get one blanket.”

      Moreno’s family cries every time he comes home now, traumatized by his experiences. In adversity, Moreno has decided to speak out against private-prison companies, like the one that neglected his rights and health. The facility he had been confined in was run by private prison giant CoreCivic, and he did not want to see the inside of another one.

    • Federal Immigration Officials Conspired with New Hampshire Police to Circumvent State Law

      Drivers were ensnared in an unconstitutional dragnet search for drugs.

      One weekend last August, a woman was heading home after dropping her husband off at work 90 miles away from the United States-Canada border. Then something unexpected happened. She, along with everyone else traveling south on New Hampshire’s Interstate 93 that day, was forced to stop in Woodstock, New Hampshire. U.S. Customs and Border Protection had set up a temporary immigration checkpoint as part of the Trump administration’s nationwide crackdown on undocumented individuals.

      While the woman waited her turn to pass through the checkpoint, several border patrol agents circled the lanes with dogs. CBP claims the canines were searching for concealed humans as part of its immigration function, though none of the agents found a concealed human at a checkpoint. The dogs, however, were also trained to sniff for drugs.

      One of these K9 agents pulled the woman over before she reached the checkpoint, saying that his dog had alerted him to something in her vehicle. The agent asked the woman what was in her car. The woman allegedly told him she had a pipe, but nothing else. The federal agent turned to a local state police officer and asked him, “Are you interested in just a pipe?” The officer said he’d take a look at it. The woman was then removed from her car while the car was searched again.

    • The Struggle Against Honduras’ Stolen Election

      The latest tragedy of misguided U.S. foreign policy in Central America is the tacit support for another stolen presidential election in Honduras. The new right-wing renegade government there is inflicting terrible violence upon people who refuse to accept the election results from Last November’s election between extreme right-wing parliamentary dictator, Juan Orlando Hernandez, the current president, and progressive reformer, Salvador Nasralla.

    • Meet the CIA: Guns, Drugs and Money

      When it comes to what are called “controlled shipments” of drugs into the US, federal law requires that such imports have DEA approval, which the CIA duly sought. This was, however, denied by the DEA attaché in Caracas. The CIA then went to DEA headquarters in Washington, only to be met with a similar refusal, whereupon the CIA went ahead with the shipment anyway. One of the CIA men working with Guillén was Mark McFarlin. In 1989 McFarlin, so he later testified in federal court in Miami, told his CIA station chief in Caracas that the Guillén operation, already under way, had just seen 3,000 pounds of cocaine shipped to the US. When the station chief asked McFarlin if the DEA was aware of this, McFarlin answered no. “Let’s keep it that way,” the station chief instructed him.

    • Sessions Vows to Issue Subpoenas in Immigrant-Demonizing Inquest Against “Sanctuary Cities”

      The Justice Department is threatening to force three states and twenty cities to turn over records related to compliance with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

      Attorney General Jeff Sessions sent letters on Wednesday to officials from California, Oregon, Illinois, New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles, among others. Sessions claimed he was seeking the information in the interest of “public safety.”

    • We’re African women and we’re feminists

      Feminism is not ‘un-African.’ This is a multi-generational, multi-layered movement of women across the continent, including those who resist gender roles in everyday life.

    • In defense of the Women’s Marches

      THE MASSIVE outpouring of opposition to Donald Trump at last weekend’s Women’s Marches was a much-needed boost, with well over a million people hitting the streets in cities across the country.

      A lot has happened since the first Women’s March–the harm that the Trump administration has inflicted, but also important shows of resistance. Not the least of those is the #MeToo campaign, and that was reflected in the big numbers who returned to the streets this year.

      Online afterward, I saw friends and family members proudly talking about protests they took part in, large and small, all across the country.

    • How the Women’s March defied Trump’s populism

      On 21 January 2017, Trump’s first full day in office, millions gathered in Washington DC, and around the world, to join the Women’s March. It was the first mass social movement response to Donald Trump’s election – and it was initiated, organised and led by women.

      What started as a Facebook post from a retired attorney in Hawaii became the largest single-day protest in US history. An estimated 4 million people marched in the United States, according to numbers compiled by researchers at universities in Connecticut and Denver.

      Carmen Perez was one of the four national co-chairs of the Women’s March, and is now a board member of the organisation that grew from it.

    • The War on Dissent

      Just when you thought the corporatocracy couldn’t possibly get more creepily Orwellian, the Twitter Corporation starts sending out emails advising that they “have reason to believe” we have “followed, retweeted,” or “liked the content of” an account “connected to a propaganda effort by a Russia government-linked organization known as the Internet Research Agency.” While it’s not as dramatic as the Thought Police watching you on your telescreen, or posters reminding you “Big Brother Is Watching,” the effect is more or less the same.

      And if that’s not creepily Orwellian enough for you, Facebook has established a Ministry of Counterspeech, manned by “a dedicated counterterrorism team” of “former intelligence and law-enforcement officials,” to “disrupt ideologies underlying extremism” (see Chris Hedges’ recent essay for details). The Google Corporation is systematically disappearing, deranking, and maliciously misrepresenting non-corporate news and opinion sources, and the “thought criminals” who contribute to them. Meanwhile, the corporate media continues to pump out Russia paranoia propaganda like this Maddow segment on MSNBC about “the remarkable number of Russian financiers who’ll be rubbing elbows with the Trump team in Davos.”

    • MLK’s Radical Final Years: Civil Rights Leader Was Isolated After Taking On Capitalism & Vietnam War

      Fifty years ago this April, Rev. Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. He was just 39 years old. Today we look back at the last three years of King’s life, beginning after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Despite passage of the monumental legislation, King set his eyes on new battles by launching a Poor People’s Campaign and campaigning to stop the Vietnam War. King’s decision to publicly oppose the war isolated him from many of his closest supporters. We feature clips from a new HBO documentary about King’s last years, titled “King in the Wilderness,” and speak with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch, who wrote the “America in the King Years” trilogy and is featured in the film, as well as the film’s director Peter Kunhardt and writer Trey Ellis.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Montana to FCC: You can’t stop us from protecting net neutrality

      The Montana governor’s office has a message for the Federal Communications Commission and Internet service providers: the state can’t be stopped from protecting net neutrality, and ISPs that don’t like it don’t have to do business with state agencies.

    • Harvard Study Shows Community-Owned ISPs Offer Lower, More Transparent Prices

      We’ve routinely noted how countless communities have been forced to explore building their own broadband networks thanks to limited competition in the market. As most of you have experienced first hand, this lack of competition routinely results in higher prices, slower speeds, worse customer service, and massive broadband deployment gaps. And thanks to telecom industry regulatory capture (taken to an entirely new level during the Trump administration), countless well-heeled lawmakers make it a personal mission to keep things that way.

      Needless to say, the threat posed by angry users building or supporting their own networks is a major reason ISPs have lobbied (read: literally bought and written) laws in twenty-one states banning towns and cities from pursuing this option. In some states, towns and cities are even banned from striking public/private partnerships, often the only creative solution available to the traditional broadband duopoly logjam.

    • Assange lawyers ask UK court to lift arrest warrant

      Assange entered the embassy in 2012 to dodge a European arrest warrant issued over a Swedish probe into rape allegations, but Stockholm dropped its investigation last year.

      However, British police say they will still arrest Assange if he steps foot outside the embassy for failing to surrender to a court after violating bail terms.

      Assange’s lawyer Mark Summers told a London court that the warrant had “lost its purpose and its function”.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Surprise! This Company Holds the Most Blockchain Patents

      However, sitting at the top of the pack, well ahead of every other company is…Bank of America (NYSE:BAC). Who saw that coming, right?

      According to Envision IP, Bank of America has 43 blockchain patents or applications, although Mark Pipitone, a Bank of America spokesperson, said in an email to Bloomberg that the company had 48 blockchain-related patents and applications. Why the difference?

    • Copyrights

      • Disney Defense in Animation Case Could Shield Studios From Copyright Claims

        A federal judge seemed inclined Thursday to rule that humans play a bigger role than technology in making animated films successful: a finding that could spell trouble for copyright lawsuits against Walt Disney and other major studios.

        “This argument, that the contribution of the actor or director is trivial, trivial is not the standard,” U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar said in court Thursday.

      • ‘We Shall Overcome’ Overcomes Bogus Copyright Claim — Officially In The Public Domain

        The same legal team that helped get the song “Happy Birthday” officially cleared into the public domain has done it again with the song “We Shall Overcome.” As we wrote about, the same team filed a similar lawsuit against The Richmond Organization and Ludlow Music, who claimed a highly questionable copyright in the famous song “We Shall Overcome.” As the lawsuit showed, the song had a lengthy history long before Ludlow’s copyright claim.

        Last September, the judge made it clear that the song’s claimed copyright was on weak grounds, rejecting arguments that key parts of the song were subject to copyright. Apparently, Ludlow Music tried to salvage something out of the wreck by just promising to offer a “covenant not to sue” against the plaintiffs… which the judge said wasn’t good enough earlier this month.

      • Canada Successfully Stands Up For Balanced IP and Canadian Culture in TPP Deal

        The end result is an agreement that still raises concerns – the e-commerce chapter does a poor job of protecting privacy and balancing data localization requirements – but one that is improved from earlier iterations. Taking any deal over a good deal never made any sense and today’s result affirms that caving to foreign pressures is not a viable strategy as Canadian negotiators should not shy away from asserting strong demands in the national interest.

      • Playboy Brands Boing Boing a “Clickbait” Site With No Fair Use Defense

        Playboy has fired back a new volley in response to an assertion by Boing Boing and the EFF that linking to an archive of hundreds of centerfold playmates was fair use. Branding Boing Boing a “clickbait” site, Playboy told a federal court in California that the popular blog profits off the work of others and has no fair use defense.

The Patent Microcosm Maintains the Illusion That Relative US Demise (e.g. in Innovation) is Due to Patent Reform

Posted in America, Asia, Deception at 3:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

China had been rising for quite some time, long before it embraced patent maximalism

A Chinese man in Singapore

Summary: With the emergence of high-tech in Korea, China and Singapore (among other Asian states) it’s simply unreasonable to blame US demise on patent reform; yet this is exactly what the patent maximalists are dishonestly doing this month

THERE is a strand of articles about number of patents, number of scientific papers and general indices that claim to have accurately ranked countries based on innovation, science and technology etc. In pretty much all of them the major takeaway is that the US is down and China is up. That in itself makes a ‘good’ (selling lots of ads through hits) headline.

We mentioned this last week because the patent microcosm is exploiting such reports to its own advantage; the patent extremists want policymakers to think that all this is attributable to changes in patent policy. That is of course nonsense, but it carries on unabated. I’ve already challenged or personally confronted such claims, but patent extremists still see this is a lobbying opportunity. They want politicians to believe that making trolls “great again” will magically restore US leadership.

“But they have an agenda to sell. They’re therefore interjecting their own cause-and-effect or false correlations into figures.”Perhaps a little belatedly, Watchtroll continues its ritualistic attacks on patent reform. It now piggybacks the above delusion, claiming that all US problems are due to or reducible to patent policy. It’s amplified by other patent extremists, who love using “China!” as their excuse for anything bad and somehow believe that all the US has to offer is a pile of patents.

Thankfully, the CCIA’s Josh Landau already wrote a quick rebuttal to that. To quote:

During 2017 we saw the 5 year anniversary of the America Invents Act and 7 years of post-Bilski jurisprudence (including Mayo, Myriad, and Alice). And there are also reports that innovation in the U.S. is falling. That makes it a good time to look at the real world impacts of these changes on innovation. The evidence is in, and the evidence shows that the state of U.S. innovation is strong.


In other words, U.S. industries continue to be leaders in a wide range of technologies. Changes in patent law have not hurt their ability to compete or to innovate.

IAM has taken things further so as to speak about Brexit in the context of these indices. “Note how many EU member states are ranked above the Brits,” it wrote. However, we have not even left the EU (at least not yet), so leaping to the conclusion that it is the fault of “Brexit” is also too superficial a judgment. But they have an agenda to sell. They’re therefore interjecting their own cause-and-effect or false correlations into figures.

On Patent Trolls or Bullies Such as the CAO Group and WiLAN

Posted in America, Patents at 2:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

CAO Group

Summary: CAO Group starts nuisance litigation against BIOLASE and WiLAN, which is the most famous Canadian patent troll, is looking for more victims to extract ‘protection’ money from

The USPTO grants many patents, probably far too many in fact (we’ll write more about that later). It leaves a lot more companies vulnerable to nuisance litigation, often without any merit.

In a defensive press release a few days ago, BIOLASE complained about patent bullying, alleging that “the latest attempt by CAO Group, Inc. to use patent litigation” is “Frivolous” and “Abusive” (those two words were used in the headline). From the opening paragraph:

BIOLASE, Inc. (NASDAQ: BIOL), the world’s leading dental laser company, today released the following statement in response to the latest attempt by CAO Group, Inc. to use patent litigation to try to improve its competitive position in the marketplace.

Without knowing the pertinent details of the underlying patents it is hard to judge the merit of the lawsuit, but what CAO Group hopes to accomplish is removal of products/services from the market (or passage of bucket-loads of money). Who would be served by that other than lawyers?

Speaking of lawyers, WiLAN (sometimes known as Wi-LAN) is effectively a patent troll. It’s just a litigation firm. Patent Troll Tracker wrote about these people moving to Texas more than a decade ago and they sued a lot in the following few years under Chief Executive Jim Skippen (he is just a lawyer who had worked for other patent trolls and he still there, based on Wikipedia, in the same position).

This Canadian patent parasite, WiLAN, is featured by the patent trolls’ lobby (IAM), which days ago said that it got another victim and “plans to offer similar deal structure to other licensees” (by “deal” they mean ‘protection’ money and “other agreements may be on the way,” IAM said). To quote:

We reached out to Michael Vladescu, Chief Operating Officer of WiLAN, who has explained several key elements of the deal in finer detail for the benefit of IAM readers.

The very fact that IAM acts as a mouthpiece for WiLAN says a lot about IAM. WiLAN is one of the bigger patent trolls out there.

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