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02.04.18

PTAB Watch: Paul Hastings’ Naveen Modi, Worlds Inc. and RPX on Trolls in Semiconductors Market (Rambus/Hardware Patents)

Posted in Hardware, Patents at 5:35 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Chipset

Summary: The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) increasingly gets involved even in cases where trolls tread on patent pools; Rambus appears to be on the rise again, but only as a patent parasite

THE PTAB is today’s focus because it’s probably the most common facilitator the USPTO will ever have for invalidating software patents. Courts do not get involved as often as PTAB, at least not in the context of patents on software. The anti-PTAB lobby, which defends patent trolls and seems to be Koch-backed (at least in part), isn’t particularly happy to say the least…

Top parties in US district courts and at the PTAB were named a few days ago by Managing IP, but sadly that’s behind a paywall. All we can see is this:

Managing IP analyses the most important trends and cases that will impact US patent disputes in 2018, both in district courts and at the PTAB. We also reveal the top entities and law firms for lawsuits and petitions filed in both forums last year

“Most Active Attorneys in IPR” were also named/published some days ago and an IAM writer said that “Paul Hastings’ Naveen Modi most active IPR lawyer with 240. Say he has charged an average of $100k per review (which is on the low end) then that’s a $24m book of IPR biz over last 5 years.”

This is one of those cases where patent lawyers profit from bogus patents, ripping people off when the USPTO is overgranting.

Some days ago we became aware of this Worlds Inc. press release. They’re going after PTAB IPRs in an effort to deal with questionable patents. From the press release:

Worlds Inc. (OTCQB:WDDD) investors have chosen to exercise their warrants per the terms of the funding of the Inter Partes Review (IPR) appeal as reported in January 2017. The exercise of the warrants will provide Worlds with $875,000 to the balance sheet.

[...]

Worlds is obligated under the terms of the funding agreement to convert these warrants when its investors/shareholders elect to convert. By adding these funds to its balance sheet, Worlds is now in a financially stronger position to pursue potential infringers of its patents. Once a definitive determination on potential infringers is reached, Worlds intends to begin additional enforcement actions.

RPX was mentioned over a week ago by Reuters. RPX is collapsing and its sale seems likely. RPX sought to challenge trolls, but eventually it might be owned by trolls.

RPX has just mentioned the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) in this article about hardware (generically titled “Semiconductors”). To quote: “In December 2017, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) saw a new petition for IPR, institution decisions, and final decisions, in multiple NPE campaigns in the Semiconductors market sector.”

We’re assuming that RPX is attempting to untangle the maze which is semiconductor patents (companies like Intel have plenty of those).

Rambus, a hardware company notorious for its troll-like activities, turns out to be little more than a pile patents now. Rambus, based on its accounting, is little more than a patent parasite if not a troll because almost all of its money comes purely from patents. As IAM put it, “Rambus reported revenues for the quarter of $101.9 million, up by a little more than $4 million year-on-year, and full year results of $393.1 million, an increase of just under $60 million from 2016. Royalties, including patent licensing, accounted for almost $78 million in Q4 and $289.5 million for the year overall.”

If about three quarters of the income comes from patents alone (rather than the production of something), what can one conclude? Maybe that’s the kind of “NPE” RPX was alluding to above. There are several of these, most notably Qualcomm.

The So-called ‘Big Pharma’ Industry is Hoping to Weaken If Not Eliminate PTAB

Posted in America, Patents at 5:16 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Not generics

Pharma

Summary: After the saga of Kyle Bass, who was filing many IPR petitions, companies like Allergan resort to “scams” in an effort to dodge scrutiny of their patents

TECHRIGHTS rarely deals with any patents other than software patents. Having said that, there’s plenty at stake in PTAB, which invalidates many software patents. This is why we write about Allergan; in some cases, PTAB is put at risk by drugs. Lots of monopoly money is at stake. The giants are afraid of genetics.

John Cravero’s overview of PTAB cases regarding medicine (or chemistry or life sciences more broadly/for the most part) was published some days ago. So was this post from the Pharma Patents Blog, which said that the “Federal Circuit Emphasizes Need For Reasonable Expectation Of Success” in relation to the following:

The patent at issue was Genzyme’s U.S. Patent 7,897,590, directed to methods of promoting the flow of stem cells into blood for transfusion using a specific combination of drugs. The stem cells are used to treat non-Hodgkins lymphoma and other blood cancers.

Over the weekend IAM also remarked on hype and speculations about “a pharma patent deal-making surge” — a hype which it generally rejected, noting: “A flurry of pharmaceuticals transactions in January has led several observers to describe the past month as the best start to M&A in recent years, and has further encouraged predictions of a surge in patent-driven acquisitions in 2018.”

Arthrex, a medical device company, was recently mentioned in relation to estoppel and it’s mentioned again today (Sunday is busy at Watchtroll). It was also alluded to some days ago by Finnegan. It involves PTAB:

During the early stages of an IPR proceeding initiated by Smith & Nephew, patent owner Arthrex disclaimed all patent claims challenged in the petition. Arthrex then filed a preliminary response contending that institution should be denied due to the disclaimer. To avoid the estoppel effects of 37 C.F.R. § 42.73(d), Arthrex also argued that an adverse judgment should not be entered. The PTAB, however, issued an adverse judgment against Arthrex, and the Federal Circuit affirmed.

Yes, the Federal Circuit (CAFC) typically agrees with PTAB. In some cases CAFC is even tougher than PTAB on patent quality, as Watchtroll cared to admit yesterday. To quote:

In an appeal from an IPR in which the Board upheld the patentability of several patent claims, the Federal Circuit vacated the decision and remanded to the Board with instructions to consider the patentability of certain dependent claims.

We are watching these things closely even when it isn’t software that’s at stake because there are many vicious attacks on PTAB and sometimes CAFC as well these days. The goal is to eliminate every IPR and shield software patents, among other bad/abstract patents. We cannot just let that happen.

Links 4/2/2018: Plans for Linux 4.17, FOSDEM Ends

Posted in News Roundup at 4:41 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Worth Saving?

    A friend the other day casually called Linux Journal “the journal of record for the Open Source community”. I think that’s a good description of what we were for 23 years—because one sign of our “of record” status is how many people have told us that they have a collection of LJ issues going back many years.

    So I asked myself, what other magazines do people tend to keep, that might be models for Linux Journal as it grows into something much bigger in the world—while doing a better job than ever tending its Linux roots?

  • Desktop

    • Poll: Best Linux Distribution

      e’re working on 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards. First poll… which do you consider to be the best distribution?

    • Linux Desktop Success – Unleaded Hangout

      Linux Desktop Success. What’s it going to take to get us there? Have we already hit the tipping point with ChromeOS? Perhaps instead, it’s a matter of greater OEM adoption? We discuss.

  • Server

    • Portworx Delivers STORK as an Open Source Stateful Storage Project

      Acronym fans rejoice! Just weeks after releasing a wonderfully acronym-free reference configuration with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), Portworx unveiled an avian-based tag for a new open source stateful storage project.

      The Storage Orchestrator Runtime for Kubernetes, more fluidly known as STORK, uses the extensibility of Kubernetes to support stateful applications. This allows DevOps teams to run stateful applications – think databases, queues, and key-value stores – on Kubernetes.

  • Kernel Space

    • EXT4 Is Mostly Fixes With Linux 4.16

      Ted Ts’o sent in the pull request today of EXT4 file-system driver changes for the Linux 4.16 kernel.

      Among the many Linux 4.16 changes so far is a major reworking to XFS, Btrfs RAID 5/6 fixes, and other F2FS improvements. But on EXT4 for Linux 4.16 it’s a bit less exciting.

    • i.MX8 SoC Support Might Be Introduced In Linux 4.17

      With this week’s ARM SoC/platform updates for Linux 4.16 it was revealed the next kernel cycle might introduce i.MX8 SoC support.

      ARM SoC/platform maintainer Arnd Bergmann wrote in this week’s pull request, “the 64-bit i.MX8 has finally seen the light of day and will likely get added in the next merge window.” In other words, potentially seeing the initial NXP i.MX8 SoC support in the mainline Linux 4.17 kernel.

    • Spectre V1 Mitigation, IBPB Support Sent In For Linux 4.16

      Last week Meltdown/Spectre patch wrangler Thomas Gleixner sent in various code clean-ups for Retpolines and KPTI with Linux 4.16 while today more feature work has been submitted. This includes initial mitigation work for Spectre v1 as well as IBPB support.

      First up with this latest round of “melted spectrum” patches as Gleixner is now calling them are Spectre v1 mitigations. Spectre Variant One is the “Bounds Check Bypass” (2017-5753) and the initial mitigation work going mainline is user pointer sanitization.

    • LKRG: Linux to Get a Loadable Kernel Module for Runtime Integrity Checking

      Members of the open source community are working on a new security-focused project for the Linux kernel. Named Linux Kernel Runtime Guard (LKRG), this is a loadable kernel module that will perform runtime integrity checking of the Linux kernel.

      Its purpose is to detect exploitation attempts for known security vulnerabilities against the Linux kernel and attempt to block attacks.

      LKRG will also detect privilege escalation for running processes, and kill the running process before the exploit code runs.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Nouveau Hopes For Basic Vulkan Driver This Year, NVIDIA To Release Some New Docs Soon

        Open-source NVIDIA “Nouveau” driver developers Martin Peres, Pierre Moreau, and Karol Herbst took to the FOSDEM 2018 conference today to share a status update on their reverse-engineering and open-source driver writing work around this unofficial NVIDIA Linux driver.

      • GLXVND Server Module / Server-Side GLVND Updated For X.Org Server

        For the better part of a year NVIDIA developers and Adam Jackson at Red Hat have been working on “server-side GLVND” and this new X.Org Server feature might finally be close to landing.

        After spearheading GLVND as the OpenGL Vendor Neutral Dispatch library for allowing multiple OpenGL drivers to co-exist happily on the same system, developers have been working on a similar implementation for the X.Org Server. This is for allowing different drivers to support different X screens within the same running X.Org Server.

      • Keith Packard Exploring “Semi-Automatic Compositing” For The X.Org Server

        Keith Packard’s latest work for Valve on improving the Linux display stack is on what he’s exploring around “semi-automatic compositing” but at this point it’s still a risky bet with the new protocol yet to be written.

        Keith is broadly working on trying to improve composite acceleration within the X.Org Server to reduce the number of copies needed to get an application’s contents to the screen, being able to get the screen contents delivered on time and for the application to know that, and to improve this overall process.

      • Composite acceleration in the X server

        One of the persistent problems with the modern X desktop is the number of moving parts required to display application content.

      • RadeonSI NIR Gets Compute Shader Support

        Timothy Arceri of Valve’s Linux GPU driver team continues getting the RadeonSI NIR support up to scratch.

        Timothy spearheaded the work on tessellation shaders for RadeonSI’s NIR back-end and also took this experimental code path to GLSL 4.50 support, among other improvements to the open-source Radeon Linux graphics driver.

      • Radeon Linux Graphics Stack, RadeonSI Shaders Update From FOSDEM 2018

        In addition to the Nouveau driver crew talking about their Vulkan plans and other open-source work, Nicolai Hähnle of AMD represented the company’s work on their Radeon Linux graphics driver stack(s) and the work they have going on for improving their GPU driver support.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Kraft Moving to KDE Frameworks: Beta Release!

        Kraft is KDE/Qt based desktop software to manage documents like quotes and invoices in the small business. It focuses on ease of use through an intuitive GUI, a well chosen feature set and ensures privacy by keeping data local.

        Kraft is around for more than twelve years, but it has been a little quiet recently. However, Kraft is alive and kicking!

        I am very happy to announce the first public beta version of Kraft V. 0.80, the first Kraft version that is based on KDE Frameworks 5 and Qt 5.x.

      • The future, the past and FOSDEM

        Writing these lines I’m sitting in a train to Brussels. So if you want to meet up and talk about anything, you will presumably often find me the next two days at the KDE booth or on Saturday in the graphics devroom. But this is my first time at FOSDEM, so maybe I’ll just stand somewhere in between and am not able to orientate myself anymore. In this case please lead me back to the KDE booth. Thanks in advance and I look forward to meeting you and other interesting people in the next two days at FOSDEM.

      • Plasma Vault: Update on CryFS

        Just a short update on the CryFS situation I mentioned a few days ago.

        I was contacted by Sebastian (the maintainer of CryFS) and he said he has been actively working on the solution to the upgrading problem.

        He has already implemented quite a few things that will be useful for Plasma Vault, and I will make the CryFS backend default again in Plasma 5.13 (after the LTS release) if these updates get released and packaged by the most popular distributions.

      • KDE’s Elisa Music Player Reaches Its Second Alpha

        There is no shortage of different KDE music/media player projects over the years but one of the most promising in recent times is Elisa. This week marks the second alpha release for the Elisa music player.

        Elisa was only announced last year as a new music player initiative building atop Qt5 and KDE Frameworks 5 while following the KDE VDG style guidelines, etc. Back in December marked the first alpha release while coming out yesterday was the second alpha for Elisa.

      • This week in Usability & Productivity, part 4

        This was a big week for Usability & Productivity. Before I get to the list of improvements we landed, I’d like to make an exciting announcement: we’re scoping out the work to add FUSE support to KIO for remote locations like Samba shares. This should vastly improve the experience of interacting with files on Samba and FTP locations (among others) when using non-KDE software with KDE Plasma. No timelines or promises yet, but it’s now on our radar screens.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • rsvg-bench – a benchmark for librsvg

        Librsvg 2.42.0 came out with a rather major performance regression compared to 2.40.20: SVGs with many transform attributes would slow it down. It was fixed in 2.42.1. We changed from using a parser that would recompile regexes each time it was called, to one that does simple string-based matching and parsing.

        When I rewrote librsvg’s parser for the transform attribute from C to Rust, I was just learning about writing parsers in Rust. I chose lalrpop, an excellent, Yacc-like parser generator for Rust. It generates big, fast parsers, like what you would need for a compiler — but it compiles the tokenizer’s regexes each time you call the parser. This is not a problem for a compiler, where you basically call the parser only once, but in librsvg, we may call it thousands of times for an SVG file with thousands of objects with transform attributes.

        So, for 2.42.1 I rewrote that parser using rust-cssparser. This is what Servo uses to parse CSS data; it’s a simple tokenizer with an API that knows about CSS’s particular constructs. This is exactly the kind of data that librsvg cares about. Today all of librsvg’s internal parsers work using rust-cssparser, or they are so simple that they can be done with Rust’s normal functions to split strings and such.

      • BuildStream Hackfest and FOSDEM

        I also wanted to sum up a last minute BuildStream hackfest which occurred in Manchester just a week ago. Bloomberg sent some of their Developer Experience engineering team members over to the Codethink office in Manchester where the whole BuildStream team was present, and we split up into groups to plan upcoming coding sprints, land some outstanding work and fix some bugs.

      • builders

        An idiom that has shown up in GTK4 development is the idea of immutable objects and builders. The idea behind an immutable object is that you can be sure that it doesn’t change under you, so you don’t need to track changes, you can expose it in your API without having to fear users of the API are gonna change that object under you, you can use it as a key when caching and last but not least you can pass it into multiple threads without requiring synchronization.
        Examples of immutable objects in GTK4 are GdkCursor, GdkTexture, GdkContentFormats or GskRenderNode.

      • GTK+ hackfest, day 2

        The second day of the GTK+ hackfest in Brussels started with an hour of patch review. We then went through scattered items from the agenda and collected answers to some questions.

      • GTK+ 4.0 Targeted For Its Initial Release This Fall, GTK+ 5.0 Development To Follow

        A few days back I wrote about how GTK+ 4.0 is being talked about for release this year and now a bit more specific timeline is in place.

        The past few days prior to FOSDEM in Brussels was a GTK+ hackfest. Among the items discussed when not banging on code was a GTK+ 4.0 road-map and coming out of this event in Belgium is a more solid understanding now that the initial GTK+ 4.0 release will be targeted for the fall of this year. There isn’t any firm release plan at this time but at GUADEC (taking place in Spain this summer) they will revisit their plans to verify they can still ship this fall.

      • GStreamer has grown a WebRTC implementation

        Late last year, we at Centricular announced a new implementation of WebRTC in GStreamer. Today we’re happy to announce that after community review, that work has been merged into GStreamer itself! The plugin is called webrtcbin, and the library is, naturally, called gstwebrtc.

        The implementation has all the basic features, is transparently compatible with other WebRTC stacks (particularly in browsers), and has been well-tested with both Firefox and Chrome.

      • GStreamer Lands A WebRTC Plugin

        The GStreamer multimedia framework now has mainline support for WebRTC.

        WebRTC is the set of protocols/APIs for real-time audio/video communication over peer-to-peer connections. WebRTC is supported by all major web browsers and more while now there is support within GStreamer too.

  • Distributions

    • PCLinuxOS/Mageia/Mandriva Family

      • The February 2018 Issue of the PCLinuxOS Magazine

        The PCLinuxOS Magazine staff is pleased to announce the release of the February 2018 issue. With the exception of a brief period in 2009, The PCLinuxOS Magazine has been published on a monthly basis since September, 2006. The PCLinuxOS Magazine is a product of the PCLinuxOS community, published by volunteers from the community. The magazine is lead by Paul Arnote, Chief Editor, and Assistant Editor Meemaw. The PCLinuxOS Magazine is released under the Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 Unported license, and some rights are reserved. All articles may be freely reproduced via any and all means following first publication by The PCLinuxOS Magazine, provided that attribution to both The PCLinuxOS Magazine and the original author are maintained, and a link is provided to the originally published article.

        In the February 2018 issue:

        * ms_meme’s Nook: If I Could Talk To Texstar
        * Tip Top Tips: Qt5 Settings In Trinity
        * Inkscape Tutorial: Create A Rose
        * PCLinuxOS Family Member Spotlight: timj_bsgcgoty2003
        * Two Ways To Protect Your Files
        * PCLinuxOS Recipe Corner
        * DigiKam: The Other GIMP For Photographers
        * LibreOffice Calc Hacks
        * And much more inside!

        This month’s magazine cover image was designed by parnote and Meemaw.

        Download the PDF (8.0 MB)

        https://pclosmag.com/download.php?f=2018-02.pdf

        Download the EPUB Version (5.9 MB)

        https://pclosmag.com/download.php?f=201802epub.epub

        Download the MOBI Version (6.5 MB)

        https://pclosmag.com/download.php?f=201802mobi.mobi

        Visit the HTML Version

        https://pclosmag.com/html/enter.html

    • Red Hat Family

    • Debian Family

      • Free software log (January 2018)

        The only sofware releases I got out this month were both for work: versions 0.4.0 and 0.4.1 of groupy, the client library for Merou, the authorization management system we use. We’re not doing formal releases of the latter yet, just building from Git, and probably need to settle on a final public project name before we do.

        At some point I’ll build proper software release pages for both of these, since I seem to be doing most of the release management for groupy.

      • January 2018 report: LTS

        I have already published a yearly report which covers all of 2017 but also some of my January 2018 work, so I’ll try to keep this short.

      • Derivatives

        • January 2018 is gone

          It is not that there were not interesting topics to write about. I could have posted, for example, about the release of the Elive beta 2.9.22, which promised Korean and Japanese support. However, I could not even get the release.

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Ubuntu Desktop weekly update – February 2, 2018

            As you might have already read, we’ve taken the decision to ship Xorg by default in Bionic 18.04 LTS. The Wayland session will still be available as an option at login. You can read more about that here.

            The Ubuntu Dock extension has been rebased on the latest upstream master and we’ve added some bug fixes. This has now been uploaded to Bionic.

            We’ve made some good progress in reducing GNOME Shell’s CPU usage where we discovered that Shell is repainting unchanged panel and dock every time an application windows repaints. We’ve proposed some upstream fixes.
            There’s another fix upstream for helping menus fade out cleanly on close. We have a checklist of issues which are making GNOME Shell stutter and we’re starting with the multi-monitor issues.

          • Ubuntu Insights: Snapcraft Summit summary – day 5

            It was amazing to see the kind of collaboration that snapcraft brings to the Linux world. The engineering, advocacy, desktop and design teams of snapcraft spent every day working next to developers from Microsoft, Skype, Slack, Electron, CircleCI, Plex and ROSHub on improving the experience to deliver their applications continuously, in a way that fits perfectly into their release process and that will make their users feel secure and confident. It was great to see the mix of languages, cultures and operating systems, all working together to solve this common delivery problem, now with a tool that is very open and welcoming, and that evolves quickly as new applications bring new requirements.

          • Skype Comes to Linux in a Snap
          • Skype now available as a snap app for Linux users
          • Installing Skype On Linux Is Much Easier Now!
          • Spectre/Meltdown Updates, Skype Snap, Red Hat’s Open Brand Project and Happy Birthday to the Open Source Initiative!
          • Flavours and Variants

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Open Source’s Twentieth Anniversary: And Where the Next Twenty Years Will Take Us

    Open source projects of the first decade were predominantly replacements for off-the-shelf products, while in the second decade they were increasingly components of larger solutions. So what is going to happen in the third decade of open source? To find out we contacted many open source developers and companies that describe themselves as open source and asked them what they think will happen in the next 20 years.

  • Open Source Celebrates 20 Years

    After Christine Peterson came up with “open source software” Todd Anderson, who liked it, used in during a strategy meeting and it was repeated by another attendee. It was at the end of this meeting that terminology was discussed and “open source”, which was one of three options suggested by Eric Raymond emerged as the consensus choice. With the formation of Opensource.org, the promotion of the term by Tim O’Reilly who changed the name of the April 1998 “Freeware Summit” to “Open Source Summit” and its use in the official release of Netscape Navigator, the term open source spread very quickly.

  • Open source turns 20 years old, looks to attract normal people

    Tim Burke, veep of Linux infrastructure engineering at Red Hat, told The Register in a phone interview that while he expects proprietary software will continue to exist, particularly with regard to problems not large enough to attract a developer community, open source has become the center of innovation.

    Initially, he said, open source projects represented attempts to reproduce or provide alternatives to popularly proprietary applications and operating systems. OpenOffice, for example, followed in the footsteps of Microsoft Office.

    “Today,” Burke said, “open source is leading innovation. We’re not cloning anymore.”

  • Open Source Software Turns 20-Something

    Saturday marks the 20th Anniversary of open source, sort of.

    Open source led to a new software development and distribution model that offered an alternative to proprietary software. No single event takes the prize for starting the technology revolution. However, Feb. 3, 1998, is one of the more significant dates.

    On that day, Christine Peterson, a futurist and lecturer in the field of nanotechnology, coined the “open source” term at a strategy session in Palo Alto, California, shortly after the release of the Netscape browser source code.

    Later that month, Eric Raymond and Bruce Perens formed the Open Source Initiative, an educational and advocacy organization, to lobby for the open source label. Rapid adoption followed, with support from the Free Software Summit that April.

  • Open Source turns 20: Here’s how it all started
  • ‘Open source software’ turns 20, new Firefox Quantum privacy features, and more news
  • Open source turns 20: How Linux, Raspberry Pi, Chromium and more are influencing PCs

    Open-source software runs something in your life even if you don’t realize it. Raspberry Pi fans take advantage of open-source software. Linux and BSD open-source servers run our websites and corporate networks, as well as in-flight entertainment units and computer kiosks. Open-source software sits at the core of Android phones. Even popular browsers are open-source, including Mozilla’s Firefox, Opera, and the Chromium project, which feeds into the not-so-open-source Chrome browser. Open-source software like Linux is so critical to developers that Microsoft even integrated it into Windows 10 with Bash on Ubuntu on Windows.

  • Happy Anniversary—The Next 20 Years of Open Source Begins Today

    Thirty-five years ago when Richard Stallman decided that he could no longer tolerate proprietary software, and started the free software movement, software freedom was misunderstood and dismissed. Twenty years ago a group of free software advocates gathered in California and decided that software freedom needed to be brought to the business world. The result was a marketing program called “open source”. That same month, February 1998, the Open Source Initiative (OSI) was founded as a general educational and advocacy organization to raise awareness and adoption for the superiority of an open development process.

    It is said, whenever you start a revolution first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then they join you.

    People did laugh at the idea of free software, they questioned the quality of the software, the feasibility of the development model, and the commitment of the community. English-speaking people only heard the word “free” as in no money, and they laughed at the idea of software being created without cost or payment.

    With the launch of the open source marketing program people fought us. SCO fought very strongly. It tried to kill off Linux. Microsoft tried to kill open source, conspiring in something called the Halloween documents.

  • A Cloud/Hosting Provider Is Using Coreboot On Thousands Of Servers

    A European cloud and dedicated server provider that designs their own servers is now designing their own BIOS using Coreboot and using this in production on thousands of servers.

    The Online.net dedicated server provider and their Scaleway cloud division have taken to using Coreboot paired with the Intel FSP and TianoCore and using it on their thousands of servers. Online.net/Scaleway is owned by France’s Iliad Group and the company is big enough that they design their own x86/ARM server hardware and have now taken to designing their own BIOS by building off Coreboot.

  • Events

    • WordPress.com tracking pictures and a minidebconf in Pune

      I had mentally prepared myself for newbie questions but refreshingly, even though there were lot of amateurs, most of them had used Debian for sometime. So instead of talking about why we need to have Debian as a choice or why X disto is better than Y we had more pointed topical questions. There were questions about privacy as well where Debian is strong and looking to set the bar even higher. I came to know much later than Kali people are interested in porting most of their packages and maintain it in main, more eyes to see the code, a larger superset of people would use the work they do than those who would only use kali and in time higher quality of packages which is win-win to all the people concerned.

    • Talk Scheduling At Conferences

      I’m at FOSDEM this weekend; it’s a large conference. They seem to find one or two new rooms to use every year, and it now sprawls across most of the ULB campus in Brussels.

      It has rather surprised me that several otherwise experienced and excellent devroom organizers (naming no names) have organized their rooms on the mistaken belief that switching between speakers, and having people exit and enter the room, happens instantaneously. It doesn’t.

    • Ubucon Europe 2018: Last call for papers & current status event

      You’re on time for submit a conference, workshop, stand or podcast for the next Ubucon!!

    • Ceph Day Germany 2018 – Update

      The German Ceph Day 2018 in Darmstadt is finally only a few days away (07. February 2018).

      The agenda is now complete. There are 13 talks and a short Q&A session planed during the day.

      Already 150 attendees signed up and due to the support of our latest sponsor Intel we now are able to host for up to 175 interested members of the big Ceph community. There are only a limited number of tickets left, be quick to register for one while they are still available.

  • Web Browsers

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

    • Microsoft confirms Office 2019 will be for Windows 10 only

      But with online offerings like those from Google and Box and open source alternatives like LibreOffice, which has just released its latest version, Microsoft could be about to learn another lesson in the “you’re not the only game in town, lads” department. All these offerings give options at least equal to Microsoft Office and will work across everything from Linux and Mac and even Chrome OS via the web.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • GRUB 2.04 Should Be Released Later This Year

      It’s been nine months since the release of GRUB 2.02 while the GRUB 2.04 stable release should be out by year’s end.

      GRUB developer and one of the upstream maintainers Daniel Kiper who works for Oracle provided an update on GRUB2 development at this weekend’s FOSDEM event in Brussels.

    • Intel Icelake Support Lands In GCC 8

      Back in November I wrote about a GCC patch for the Intel Icelake CPU target and now that code has finally been merged for the GNU Compiler Collection ahead of the upcoming GCC 8.1 release.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Raspberry-Pi DVB transmitter: The benefits of open-source hardware

        I was first alerted to the benefits of open-source some years ago while talking to a couple of very experienced engineers. These guys, who worked for a multi-billion-dollar company with a global footprint, had been asked by their manager to complete a project in a ridiculously short time frame.

        They concluded that their only hope was to use open-source, which was an unusual decision for a company of that size and a bit of a culture shock. Open-source software has a long pedigree, of course, but most companies do not open up their hardware designs.

      • AFRL, NextFlex leverage open-source community to create flexible circuit system

        An Air Force Research Laboratory-led project in conjunction with NextFlex, America’s Flexible Hybrid Electronics Institute, has resulted in the first ever, functional samples of flexible Arduino circuit board systems made by using a flexible hybrid electronics manufacturing process, setting the stage for smart technologies for the internet of things (IoT) and sensor applications like wearable devices.

      • Pics from the FOSDEM SiFive talk
      • SiFive unleashed board
      • SiFive Introduces RISC-V Linux-Capable Multicore Processor

        Slowly but surely, RISC-V, the Open Source architecture for everything from microcontrollers to server CPUs is making inroads in the community. Now SiFive, the major company behind putting RISC-V chips into actual silicon, is releasing a chip that’s even more powerful. At FOSDEM this weekend, SiFive announced the release of a Linux-capable Single Board Computer built around the RISC-V ISA. It’s called the HiFive Unleashed, and it’s the first piece of silicon capable or running Linux on a RISC-V core.

Leftovers

  • Finland first to unveil a digital driver’s license

    There are no plans to replace the traditional driving license card with the digital app. Rather it will serve as a supplement for now.

    Police Inspector Timo Ajaste of the National Police Board notes that replacing traditional cards with digital ones would require a legislative change.

  • The incredibly shrinking Italian population: By 2080, Italians will be a minority in their own country [Ed: I have seen similarly alarmist headlines in India]

    If the official Eurostat forecast is correct, then within 60 years or, taking into consideration the current pace of migration even sooner, 50% of Italy’s inhabitants will be of African or Asian descent. The figures found by our demographic-research team are by far not unique and government statisticians have the same numbers. Not only are the Italian and European authorities fully aware of this, but they seem to be executing a re-population program on such a monumental scale that will dwarf the Swedish mass migration experiment.

  • The messy biological basis of culture

    In attempts to define what makes us uniquely human, emotions and feelings are often marginalized. These deeply ingrained, often irrational aspects of our behaviour seem destined to be the poor cousins of the rational cognitive functions that enable the formulation of mathematical theorems or operatic scores. In his bold and important book The Strange Order of Things, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio argues that in underestimating the contributions of such ‘lower-level’ brain phenomena to ‘higher-level’ cognitive functions, science might have been missing out on some important biology. Similarly, neuroscience’s emphasis on the origins of language as a shaper of culture might have eclipsed the role of feelings.

  • Science

    • It’s Perpetual Backwards Day At Universities

      Students — in a number of university courses — are now regularly encouraged not to think; not to question; just to lap up the material like dogs.

    • 3-D printing of living cells

      Using a new technique they call “in-air microfluidics,” University of Twente scientists succeed in printing 3-D structures with living cells. This special technique enable the fast and ‘on-the-fly’ production of micro building blocks that are viable and can be used for repairing damaged tissue, for example. The work is presented in Science Advances.

      Microfluidics is all about manipulating tiny drops of fluid with sizes between a micrometer and a millimeter. Most often, chips with tiny fluidic channels, reactors and other components are used for this: lab-on-a-chip systems. Although these chips offer a broad range of possibilities, in producing emulsions for example—droplets carrying another substance – the speed at which droplets leave the chip is typically in the microliter per minute range. For clinical and industrial applications, this is not fast enough: filling a volume of a cubic centimeter would take about 1000 minutes or 17 hours. The technique that is presented now, does this in a couple of minutes.

    • How GE Went From American Icon to Astonishing Mess

      In the century following the Civil War, a handful of technologies revolutionized daily existence. The lightbulb extended the day, electric appliances eased domestic drudgery, and power stations made them all run. The jet engine collapsed distance, as, in other ways, did radio and television. X-ray machines allowed doctors to peer inside the body, vacuum tubes became the brains of early computers, and industrial plastics found their way into everything. All those technologies were either invented or commercialized by General Electric Co.

    • A search for insomnia genes involving 1.3 million people is the largest genetic study ever

      In a genetic study of unprecedented size, scientists have searched for inherited causes of insomnia in the DNA 1,310,010 people.

      They found 956 different genes linked to the sleep disorder, drawing closer to an explanation of what causes it and, perhaps, to new ways to treat it.

      The study appears to be the first gene search to involve DNA collected from more than one million people.

    • UK doctors select first women to have ‘three-person babies’

      The women will be the first in Britain to have so-called mitochondrial donation therapy, a radical IVF procedure that was made legal by parliamentary vote in 2015. The Newcastle centre was granted a licence to perform the treatment, also known as mitochondrial replacement therapy, in March last year.

      While doctors at Newcastle Fertility Centre said they could not to talk about the cases, citing patient confidentiality, minutes from the HFEA’s approval committee reveal that the two women carry mutations in a gene that causes a rare condition known as myoclonic epilepsy with ragged red fibres, or Merrf syndrome. No more details are given on the women because both wish to remain anonymous.

    • First Evidence That Night Owls Have Bigger Social Networks than Early Risers

      The pattern of human life is profoundly influenced by the rotation of the Earth and the resulting day-night cycle. This circadian rhythm influences our biochemical and physiological states as well as our psychological and social behavior.

      Our relationship with the day-night cycle can vary widely. Some people—night owls—prefer to get up and stay up late. Others—larks—are morning people who are most active early in the day. Others do not fit either “chronotype.”

  • Hardware

    • A small-scale demonstration shows how quantum computing could revolutionize data analysis

      Over the past few decades, topology—a branch of mathematics dealing with shapes that can be turned into other shapes by processes like bending and stretching—has evolved from an arcane pursuit into an increasingly powerful tool for analyzing the real world. The role of symmetry in the topological world has turned out to be particularly important.

      A symmetry is any property that stays the same as the viewpoint changes. A square looks the same as it rotates through 90 degrees, for example. That form of invariance is called rotational symmetry.

    • Quantum ‘hack’ to unleash computing power

      Physicists at the University of Sydney have found a ‘quantum hack’ that should allow for enormous efficiency gains in quantum computing technologies.

      As scientists at IBM, Google, Microsoft and universities across the world seek to scale-up quantum technology to make a practical quantum computer, finding ways to do computations within an acceptable error threshold is a big technological problem.

    • Quantum Algorithms Struggle Against Old Foe: Clever Computers

      For Cristian Calude, doubt began with a puzzle so simple, he said, that “even a child can understand it.” Here it is: Suppose you have a mysterious box that takes one of two possible inputs — you can press a red button or a blue button, say — and gives back one of two possible outputs — a red ball or a blue ball. If the box always returns the same color ball no matter what, it’s said to be constant; if the color of the ball changes with the color of the button, it’s balanced. Your assignment is to determine which type of box you’ve got by asking it to perform its secret act only once.

    • New quantum repeater paves the way for long-distance big quantum data transmission

      Physicists have designed a new method for transmitting big quantum data across long distances that requires far fewer resources than previous methods, bringing the implementation of long-distance big quantum data transmission closer to reality. The results may lead to the development of future quantum networks, such as a global-scale quantum internet.

    • Cloud based quantum computing used to calculate nuclear binding energy

      A team of researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory has demonstrated that it is possible to use cloud-based quantum computers to conduct quantum simulations and calculations. The team has written a paper describing their efforts and results and uploaded it to the arXiv preprint server.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Online Vendors Try to Make a Quick Buck as Cape Town Runs Out of Water

      Are these actually solutions? It depends. Even if someone purchases a tanker, getting the water from bottling plants can be illegal, as is distributing it to other people. “It is illegal to sell water,” Cape Town’s water and sanitation department spokesperson told the Sunday Times. “Even the department does not sell water…The only case in which water is sold legally is as bottled water.”

    • BBC journalist told to leave Papua over tweets about health crisis

      Despite President Joko Widodo’s decision on May 2015 to open foreign media access to Papua, authorities have reportedly continued to restrict foreign journalists from working in Indonesia’s easternmost province on spurious “security” grounds, according to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).

    • 5 Heartbreaking Side Effects Of The Opioid Crisis In America

      The sheer volume of autopsies is pushing several medical examiner offices into losing their accreditation. There is a national caseload standard that limits the number of autopsies a single pathologist can do in a year, because that’s not really something you want to rush. But with the bodies literally piling up on their doorsteps, some offices are skirting those limits. Ironically, they’re also not completing enough autopsies, because they’re supposed to autopsy a certain percentage of their bodies each month. Even if they’re doing more than the legally allowed number of autopsies, the percentage will never be high enough, because the sheer number of the dead is overwhelming them.

    • The Health-Care Industry Is Sick

      Millions of Americans are denied care every year. Few of them have megaphones to intimidate large companies into quick action. And so they suffer and spend their precious hours fighting with profit-seeking, opaque bureaucracies.

    • Why it is critical to involve people in solving water woes

      According to a World Bank report, about 245 billion cubic metre of groundwater is abstracted each year in the country. This figure represents about 25% of the total global groundwater abstraction. In the past four to five decades, 80% of the rural and urban domestic water supplies in the country have been dependent on groundwater, the report added.

    • Hurricane Maria Hit Puerto Rico

      On January 31, FEMA will “officially shut off” food and water aid to Puerto Rico that started in the wake of Hurricane Maria, according to NPR. The move reportedly signals that the emergency management agency thinks the immediate humanitarian crisis has ended.

    • FEMA To End Food And Water Aid For Puerto Rico

      Some on the island believe it’s too soon to end these deliveries given that a third of residents still lack electricity and, in some places, running water, but FEMA says its internal analytics suggest only about 1 percent of islanders still need emergency food and water. The agency believes that is a small enough number for the Puerto Rican government and nonprofit groups to handle.

    • Trump’s Infrastructure Plan Could Destroy Our Nation’s Water Systems

      Privatization and deregulation could damage city water supplies and lead to pollution of our natural environment.

    • Flint, Michigan court hearings highlight widespread collusion in water crisis cover-up

      High-placed Michigan state environmental and health officials obstructed the investigation into Flint’s water supply and the connection with the catastrophic outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, according to the environmental engineering expert tasked with the study.

    • Pelosi says Flint water crisis ‘far from over’ 2 years after emergency declared

      “Thousands of children are still required to drink bottled water, and countless families continue to live under a cloud of fear and uncertainty about the impacts of years of lead exposure,” her statement says. “The Americans caught in this unconscionable, man-made catastrophe continue to need critical services such as high-quality health care and educational services, as well as resources to continue monitoring the safety of their water supply and the health of their children.”

    • Here are the next six steps in the Flint water crisis prosecutions

      Lyon is among public health officials at the state who were aware of Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks in the Flint area as well as the potential that the Flint River was the root cause months before the public was told.

    • Kentucky residents told it may take a decade to get clean, safe water

      Working class residents of the former coal mining area have had no water or only intermittent service for weeks after the county’s antiquated and understaffed treatment plant, which was built in the 1960s, and its poorly maintained pumps and pipe system failed due to freezing and bursting lines. The district is currently losing half of its clean water due to leaks.

    • Polar bears are wasting away in a changing climate

      Polar bears have become the poster child for climate change, but their situation might be worse than researchers thought, according to a recent study. These Arctic mammals need a lot more calories than scientists previously estimated — but with sea ice melting under their feet, the bears often struggle to get enough to eat.

      The study’s results, published on 1 February in Science1, have captured the best picture yet of how much energy it takes to be a polar bear (Ursus maritimus) — and ecologists are looking to incorporate the findings into their own work on the Arctic. The study also supports scientists’ concerns that receding sea ice harms the bears by hindering their hunts of fat-rich seals.

  • Security

    • The Internet of Connected Sex Toys is every bit as horrifyingly insecure and poorly thought out as you imagine

      The rush to put networked sensors and controllers into sex toys is grounded in foolish, convenient untruths, like the idea that the incredibly sensitive data generated by these systems can be anonymized and then analyzed for insights without exposing users to risk.

      The sex tech industry has been a top-to-bottom series of farces and catastrophes. [...]

    • These app-controlled sex toys can be ‘remotely taken over by hackers’

      In an advisory published Thursday (1 January), researchers said bugs in a customer database meant that attackers could have easily accessed user details, including “names, cleartext passwords and explicit image galleries” being stored by the company.

    • Flaws in Gas Station Software Let Hackers Change Prices, Steal Fuel, Erase Evidence

      Gas stations lose millions of dollars annually to gas fraud. Most of this fraud occurs when thieves use stolen credit and debit cards to fuel vehicles, resulting in chargebacks to service stations.

      But gas station owners in the US and elsewhere may have to worry about a new kind of fraud after two security researchers in Israel discovered multiple vulnerabilities in one automated system used to control fuel prices and other information at thousands of gas stations around the world.

      The vulnerabilities would allow an attacker to shut down fuel pumps, hijack credit card payments, and steal card numbers or access backend networks to take control of surveillance cameras and other systems connected to a gas station or convenience store’s network. An attacker could also simply alter fuel prices and steal petrol.

    • Healthcare IT Systems: Tempting Targets for Ransomware

      Well, there’s no use in waiting, I suppose. Two Thursdays ago, Chicago-based electronic health records provider Allscripts Healthcare Solutions suffered a ransomware attack that paralyzed some of its services. This past Friday, the company announced it had completely recovered from the cyberattack. But not before a class action lawsuit [pdf] was filed against it by an orthopedic non-surgery practice for failing to secure its systems and data from a well-known cybersecurity threat, i.e., a strain of SamSam.

      The ransomware attack impaired Allscripts’ data centers in Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina, affecting a number of applications, such as its Professional EHR and Electronic Prescriptions for Controlled Substances (EPCS) hosted services, which were mostly restored within five days, according to the company. Other services, like clinical decision support, analytics, data extraction, and regulatory reporting, took the longest to make operational again.

    • Pwn2Own 2018 Expands Targets and Raises Prize Pool to $2M

      The annual Pwn2own hacking competition run by Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) is set to return for 2018, along with a longer list of targets and more money for security researchers, than ever before.

      Pwn2own is a security researcher contest that typically has two events a year, with the primary event focused on browser and server technologies and a second event just for mobile technologies. The first event of 2018 is set for March 14-16 and will have five targets: virtualization, web browsers, enterprise applications, servers and a new Windows Insider Preview Challenge category.

    • Disable Flash Player!! Critical Vulnerability Gives Away Your System Controls
  • Defence/Aggression

    • The bureaucracy of evil: how Islamic State ran a city

      The trade of weapons, looted archeological artefacts, and enslaved women and girls flourished. War profiteers ensured that food products and fuel came from as far as Damascus, crossing multiple frontlines; modern equipment and medical supplies were smuggled from Turkey.

    • China says ‘terror’ risks in Xinjiang remains serious despite security push

      China blames the violence in Xinjiang on Islamist extremists and separatists, some of whom it says have links to groups outside the country.

    • Decide if you want to vote for Allah or Rama: BJP MLA’s controversial statement in Karnataka
    • Court Records: Mall of America Stabbing Suspect Pleads Guilty, Calls it Act of Jihad

      “This is a widespread sentiment with Somali youth,” he said.

    • Stockholm Truck Attacker Wanted to ‘Run Over Unbelievers’: Prosecutors
    • Police kept tabs on Stockholm terrorist until three months before attack

      “One must remember that it is not uncommon for people on social media and chats connected to militant Islamism to propose exalted throught and plans for attacks in order to boost their statuses.”

    • Security Intelligence Service: Finnish combatants abroad may number more than thought

      Special researcher Pekka Hiltunen from the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) says that the number of combatants who have left Finland in order to fight in the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts may be 10-20 percent larger than presumed.

    • Exclusive: Looted cash, gold help Islamic State recruit in Philippines

      Since then, Najib, also known as Abu Dar, has used the booty looted from bank vaults, shops and homes in Marawi to win over boys and young men in the impoverished southern province of Lanao del Sur, military officers in the area said. Hardened mercenaries are also joining, lured by the promise of money.

    • ISIS Looted Gold And Jewellery To Recruit New Fighters In The Philippines

      The money they accumulated is now being used by a man known as Humam Abdul Najib or Abu Dar, one of the most senior ISIS-affiliated jihadis in the country, to recruit hundreds of fighters to his radical Islamist cause, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

    • Muslim convert pleads guilty to encouraging terrorism through online posts
    • Pakistani Doctor Who Aided Hunt for bin Laden Languishes in Jail

      Afridi hasn’t seen his lawyer since 2012 and his wife and children are his only visitors. For two years his file “disappeared,” delaying a court appeal that still hasn’t proceeded. The courts now say a prosecutor is unavailable, his lawyer, Qamar Nadeem Afridi, told the Associated Press.

    • Utah man who runs popular YouTube science channel is charged with possessing explosives during backyard experiments

      According to a probable cause statement written by a South Jordan police officer, the first count resulted from a citizen complaint via Facebook Messenger on June 15 about Thompson exploding a dry ice bomb.

    • Army Major: “We’re Killing These Kids, We’re Breaking The Army!”

      He was genuinely concerned about the physical and emotional toll on the active-duty force, pushed to its limits by 17 years of perpetual combat. After all, with high military suicide rates now labeled the “new normal,” and a recent succession of accidental training deaths, it seems reasonable to wonder whether we are, indeed, “killing [our] kids.”

    • Somalia’s Shabaab forcing civilians to hand over children: HRW

      Somalia’s Al-Qaeda linked Shabaab insurgents are increasingly threatening civilians to force them to hand over young children for “indoctrination and military training”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday.

    • Somalia: Al-Shabab Demanding Children

      Since late September 2017, Al-Shabab has ordered elders, teachers in Islamic religious schools, and communities in rural areas to provide hundreds of children as young as 8 or face attack. The armed group’s increasingly aggressive child recruitment campaign started in mid-2017 with reprisals against communities that refused. In recent months, hundreds of children, many unaccompanied, have fled their homes to escape forced recruitment.

    • Somalia’s Shabaab forcing civilians to hand over children: HRW
    • Minor Raped and Killed in Purnea, Bihar – 3 Muslim Perpetrators Caught
    • Rape, murder and misogyny: The real victims of the migrant crisis are Europe’s women

      The reaction of the media, which professes to care about women’s rights and well-being, was censorship and burying the news. This is the same reaction most Western media has in the face of migrant crime waves: Witnesses were silenced or ignored and the media didn’t take its responsibility to report the truth seriously.

      It took a long time before the world was informed and word got out.

    • Bring in the military to fight gangs, Sweden’s PM told at debate

      Wednesday marked the first Riksdag debate of 2018 between Sweden’s party leaders, and crime was one of the main discussion points. It followed headlines in recent weeks about shootings in Malmö and Stockholm, as well as the death of a man in the capital who picked up a grenade.

    • Sweden Is Preparing For A “Civil War”: PM Wants To Deploy Army In No-Go Zones
    • Swedish politician compares country to war zone after spate of shootings and bombings
    • Does Islam preach Pluralism? Ayatollah Khamenei explains

      Islam does not preach pluralism. Those who promote this idea that pluralism exists in Islam, because it praises Prophet Moses and Prophet Jesus (pbut), should refer to the Holy Quran and other Islamic texts.

    • France’s War against Firefighters and Police
    • We don’t need mass incarceration to keep people safe. This chart proves it.

      Gelb pointed to one particularly telling statistic: “The average crime decline across the 10 states with the greatest declines in imprisonment was 19 percent, and across the 10 states with the largest imprisonment growth it was 11 percent.” In other words, the 10 states with the largest declines in imprisonment actually saw bigger drops in crime than the 10 states with the largest increases in imprisonment.

    • Bride-to-be publicly whipped in Indonesia for getting ‘too close’ to boyfriend just days before wedding

      An Indonesian Christian was also whipped for selling alcohol in the conservative province of Aceh.

    • Great Tension As Buhari’s Men Swing Into Action, Arrest A Popular Nigerian Pastor, For Daring To Interfere With Islam

      There are reports that a popular Nigerian Pastor, Simput Eagles Dafup, has been arrested and whisked away to an unknown destination, by men of the Department of State Security Services, DSS, for allegedly converting a Muslim girl to a Christian, in Plateau State.

    • Radicalized inmate stabs 2 guards in French prison

      Fleury-Mérogis, home to 4,300 inmates, is notorious as a center of Islamic radicalization. Among its infamous inmates is Salah Abdeslam, the only living jihadist behind the deadly Paris attacks of November 2015. Two Islamists later killed by police – Amedy Coulibaly, one of the Islamists who attacked a kosher store in Paris in January 2015, and Chérif Kouachi, who was behind the Charlie Hebro assaults – were also imprisoned there.

    • ‘Duck and Cover’ Drills Exacerbate Fears of N. Korea War

      Are you ready for nuclear attack warning sirens in your community? I live in the State of Hawaii, which decided in December 2107 to begin monthly nuclear attack warning siren drills, similar to the monthly tsunami warning sirens that are tested each month.

      You know what happened – an employee of the State of Hawaii Emergency Management Department pushed the wrong button, setting off the siren, and no one alerted the public for nearly 49 minutes that it was a drill. Cell phone alerts to everyone in the 808 area code flashed “Nuclear attack warning-take cover,” with residents and tourists alike going into crisis mode.

      Three days prior to the false alarm, 20 of us attempted to call to the attention of the state government that the sirens are being used for political advancement of a hysteria for war with North Korea, or DPRK – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. We do not believe the North Korean government is going to attack the United States and suspect that the nuclear sirens and “duck and cover” drills are purposeful and dangerous fear-mongering.

    • Recipe Concocted for Perpetual War Is a Bitter One

      Last October marked the 16th anniversary of our unending war – or military occupation – in Afghanistan, the longest conflict on foreign soil in U.S. history. The cost to human lives in our current cycle of U.S.-initiated “perpetual wars” throughout the Middle East and Africa is unthinkably high. It runs well into millions of deaths if one counts – as do the Nuremberg principles of international law – victims of spinoff fighting and sectarian violence that erupt after we destroy governance structures.

      Also to be counted are other forms of human loss, suffering, illness and early mortality that result from national sanctions, destruction of physical, social and medical infrastructure, loss of homeland, refugee flight, ethnic cleansing, and their psychological after-effects. One has to witness these to grasp their extent in trauma, and they all arise from the Nuremberg-defined “supreme crime” of initiating war. Waging aggressive war is something America is practiced in and does well, with justifications like “fighting terrorism,” “securing our interests,” “protecting innocents,” “spreading democracy,” etc. – as has every aggressor in history that felt the need to explain its aggressions.

    • The Opposition in Venezuela: Terrorists or “Rebels”?

      Imagine if a former Canadian pilot gathering around himself a motley group, had stolen an Armed Forces helicopter, violently raided an army base to get hold of guns and explosives. Then, thus armed, from the air, dropped grenades at the Ministry of Justice where there was an event for dozens of journalists celebrating Journalism Day. Then, imagine if they flew over the Supreme Court of Canada and dropped grenades at the building where all the judges were present, and where there was nursery day care full of little children. Imagine that this terrorist then made extensive use of media and social media to brag about his attacks and these rants were extensively publicized. Imagine that the authorities managed to surround them outside the capital. And, following a negotiation, the shooter declared they were ready to give themselves up. When the senior detective comes forward to receive his rendition, he is gunned down in cold blood and another detective also killed. In the gunfight that ensued, the pilot and several of his men end up dead.

      Do you think that if these events actually happened in Canada that there would be one single person who would laud these criminals as heroes, as freedom fighters, as rebels against an unfair government? Do you think there would be anyone in Canada who would accuse the authorities, let alone the Prime Minster himself, of abusing human rights, of assassination, of massacre?

    • Ministry of Defence not fit for purpose

      The National Audit Office said the MoD seriously underestimated the likely rise in house prices when it made the sale and leaseback deal with the company managed by Guy Hands’ Guernsey-based Terra Firma group. It added that the MoD was paying rent on more than 7,000 empty houses at a cost of more than £30m a year and some homes had been receiving “the minimum acceptable level of maintenance”.

      The MoD has an appalling record of “outsourcing” work to private companies. On Wednesday, it emerged that one of those companies, Capita, was in serious trouble and its share price plummeted.

      The MoD hired Capita to manage recruitment to the army. It has repeatedly failed to meet savings targets and its performance has been sharply criticised by senior army officers worried about the shortfall in the number of recruits. After a damning report by the audit office, at least the MoD last year ended its contract with Capita to manage the country’s defence infrastructure, including airfields and training bases.

    • Yemen’s Crisis Belongs to All of Us

      What’s a little cholera — excuse me, the worst outbreak of this preventable disease in modern history — compared to the needs of a smoothly functioning economy?

      A week before he was kicked out of British Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet for allegedly having watched pornography on his government computer, former First Secretary of State Damian Green was quoted in the Guardian as saying that British weapons sales to Saudi Arabia were necessary because: “Our defense industry is an extremely important creator of jobs and prosperity.”

      That statement is not the scandal — just business as usual. And of course Great Britain only supplies a quarter of the weaponry Saudi Arabia imports to wage its devastating war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The United States supplies more than half, with 17 other countries also cashing in on this market.

    • Stop using term ‘Islamist terrorism’ – government watchdog

      Labour MP Karen Buck said that Hill’s recent report on the operation of terrorism legislation had acknowledged that “Daesh and Daesh-inspired terrorism is the greatest threat,” also using the Arabic pejorative term for Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).

    • WMD Claims in Syria Raise Concerns over U.S. Escalation

      Not unlike the spurious claims that paved the way to war with Iraq 15 years ago, anonymous “U.S. officials” are once again accusing a targeted “regime” of using “weapons of mass destruction” and issuing threats that the U.S. military may have to “hold it accountable.” Once again, Western media is broadcasting these accusations and threats without skepticism or investigation.

      The Washington Post story is titled “Trump administration: Syria probably continuing to make, use chemical weapons.” The Reuters story, which was carried by the New York Times, says, “U.S. officials have said the Syrian government may be developing new types of chemical weapons, and President Donald Trump is prepared to consider further military action. President Bashar al Assad is believed to have secretly kept part of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.”

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Western Media Hail Ecuador’s Cynical President Moreno

      What Lenín Moreno actually pledged during his election campaign several months ago was to continue the “Citizens Revolution” of Rafael Correa, whose left-wing government Moreno was part of for 10 years. Moreno called Correa the greatest president Ecuador ever had during the campaign. And here is a video of Moreno leading a crowd in cheers of “Rafael! Rafael!” at a campaign rally.

      Moreno is now, through a referendum that he never proposed on the campaign trail—it was actually proposed by his right-wing opponent—asking voters to (retroactively) re-impose term limits, handpick a body with “transitional” powers to fire 150 authorities (judges, prosecutors, regulators etc.…) and drastically reduce taxes on wealthy land-speculators. Moreno did not campaign for any of those things.

      He is now also talking about a “free trade” deal with the United States—another policy he would never have dared to propose while he needed Correa’s support to get elected. Further, Moreno has given Ecuador’s private banks exclusive control over electronic money—which he never would have proposed while he needed Correa. In 1999, the private banks, after years of corruption and deregulation, totally crashed Ecuador’s economy. Reining them in, including their media power, was key to the economic success Ecuador had under Correa.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Ecologist rates Thai coral reef decay rate as alarming

      Asst Prof Thon, deputy dean of the Faculty of Fisheries at Kasetsart University, said 77% or 140,000 out of total 107,800 rai of coral reef area in the Thai seas is in a sorry state, with unhealthy coral reefs expanding at an alarming rate.

    • How Engineering Earth’s Climate Could Seriously Imperil Life

      It’s called solar geoengineering, and while it’s not happening yet, it’s a real strategy that scientists are exploring to head off climate disaster. The upside is obvious. But so too are the potential perils—not just for humanity, but for the whole natural world.

    • A capsized oil tanker is releasing invisible toxins into the sea
    • Could biodiversity destruction lead to a global tipping point?

      In 2009, a group of researchers identified nine global boundaries for the planet that if passed could theoretically push the Earth into an uninhabitable state for our species. These global boundaries include climate change, freshwater use, ocean acidification and, yes, biodiversity loss (among others). The group has since updated the terminology surrounding biodiversity, now calling it “biosphere integrity,” but that hasn’t spared it from critique.

    • Global temperature targets likely to be missed within decades

      Researchers found that Earth’s global average temperature is likely to rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the period before the industrial revolution within the next 17-18 years, and to 2 degrees Celsius in 35-41 years respectively.

    • Is a Transition to Renewable Energy on the Verge of Being Unstoppable?

      A fair amount of confusion was recently created when Rick Perry, secretary of the Department of Energy, filed a notice of proposed rulemaking (NOPR) that claimed the “base load” generation provided by coal and nuclear was essential for a reliable and resilient power grid.

      Perry’s proposal has been defeated, quite correctly in our view, but it raises issues and teaches lessons that are important in moving forward with the all too necessary transition to large-scale use of renewable energy.

    • White House seeks 72 percent cut to clean energy research, underscoring administration’s preference for fossil fuels

      The Trump administration is poised to ask Congress for deep budget cuts to the Energy Department’s renewable energy and energy efficiency programs, slashing them by 72 percent overall in fiscal 2019, according to draft budget documents obtained by The Washington Post.

      Many of the sharp cuts would probably be restored by Congress, but President Trump’s budget, due out in February, will mark a starting point for negotiations and offer a statement of intent and policy priorities.

    • Five-year forecast indicates further warming

      A new forecast published by scientists at the Met Office indicates the annual global average temperature is likely to exceed 1 °C and could reach 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels during the next five years (2018-2022).

    • A new type of solar cell is coming to market

      SOMETIMES it takes a while for the importance of a scientific discovery to become clear. When the first perovskite, a compound of calcium, titanium and oxygen, was discovered in the Ural mountains in 1839, and named after Count Lev Perovski, a Russian mineralogist, not much happened. The name, however, has come to be used as a plural to describe a range of other compounds that share the crystal structure of the original. In 2006 interest perked up when Tsutomu Miyasaka of Toin University in Japan discovered that some perovskites are semiconductors and showed particular promise as the basis of a new type of solar cell.

    • The Breakneck Rise of China’s Colossus of Electric-Car Batteries

      The next global powerhouse in the auto industry comes from a small city in a tea-growing province of southeast China, where an unheralded maker of electric-vehicle batteries is planning a $1.3 billion factory with enough capacity to surpass the output of Tesla and dwarf the suppliers for battery-powered cars by GM, Nissan and Audi.

    • Plastic pollution is making corals sick

      Between 2011 and 2014, researchers looked at more than 124,000 corals in 159 reefs across the Asia-Pacific region, which hosts over 55 percent of all the world’s reefs. They estimated that over 11 billion plastic items — from Q-tips to bags — are found on coral reefs in the area. And where there’s plastic, disease outbreaks are more likely, according to a study published today in Science.

    • 3 Strategies to Get to a Fossil-Free America

      But the fossil-fuel industry doesn’t hold all the high cards. We’ll start playing our own aces for a Fossil-Free United States on January 31, when Bernie Sanders and an all-star lineup brought together by 350.org that includes everyone from indigenous activist Dallas Goldtooth to NAACP organizer Jacqui Patterson to star youth climate organizer Varshini Prakash lay out a coordinated plan for the year ahead.

  • Finance

    • FCA officials paid to sway UAW negotiations, feds say

      Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV officials paid more than $1.5 million to United Auto Workers officers and employees to sway union contract negotiations, federal prosecutors said, part of a $4.5 million corruption scandal involving Detroit’s No. 3 automaker.

    • Uber and Lyft Have a Hot New Idea for Screwing Over City-Dwellers

      Translation: These companies want to make it illegal for individuals to use privately owned self-driving cars in big cities, effectively giving the signatories control of our autonomous streets.

      [...]

      And after reading principle #10, suddenly other items like #7 (“We support fair users fees across all modes”), don’t sound so nice. These companies wouldn’t have to support fair user fees if they weren’t planning on eliminating competition and forcing people to rely on these corporations to move around within cities.

    • Banks ban credit purchase of cryptocurrency due to risks
    • Bitcoin Ban Expands Across Credit Cards as Big U.S. Banks Recoil

      Bank of America started declining credit card transactions with known crypto exchanges on Friday. The policy applies to all personal and business credit cards, according to a memo. It doesn’t affect debit cards, said company spokeswoman Betty Riess.

    • India has a hole where its middle class should be

      Hold your elephants. The Indian middle class conjured up by the marketers and consultants scarcely exists. Firms peddling anything much beyond soap, matches and phone-credit are targeting a minuscule slice of the population (see article). The top 1% of Indian adults, a rich enclave of 8m inhabitants making at least $20,000 a year, equates to roughly Hong Kong in terms of population and average income. The next 9% is akin to central Europe, in the middle of the global wealth pack. The next 40% of India’s population neatly mirrors its combined South Asian poor neighbours, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The remaining half-billion or so are on a par with the most destitute bits of Africa. To be sure, global companies take the markets of central Europe seriously. Plenty of fortunes have been made there. But they are no China.

    • In a landslide vote, the LA Times just unionized, upending a long anti-labor history

      On Friday, January 19, the News Guild announced that Los Angeles Times journalists had voted overwhelmingly in favor of a union, 248-44. The victory will lead to the paper’s first staff union, after 136 years in operation.

    • Is this the end of civilisation? We could take a different path

      Defunding departments, disbanding the teams and dismissing the experts they rely on, shutting down research programmes, maligning the civil servants who remain in post, the self-hating state is ripping down the very apparatus of government. At the same time, it is destroying public protections that defend us from disaster.

    • Why Amazon Go should be a no-go: We will drown in a sea of plastic

      Even the fruits and vegetables are wrapped in plastic so that the sensors can read them, inculcating a culture of convenience and waste.

      The whole pitch of Amazon Go is that it is so convenient and quick, so easy to buy more than you need, so useful to give Amazon ever more detail about your most personal habits. Manoj Thomas, a professor of marketing at Cornell University, tells the Star: “We know that when people use any abstract form of payment, they spend more. And the type of products they choose changes too.”

    • 2018 Prediction #5 — The H-1B visa problem will NOT go away

      For those of you who aren’t already asleep I’ll start with the Cliff Notes version of the H-1B issue, which I have written about ad nauseam as you can read here (notice there are three pages of columns, so dig deep). H-1B is a U.S. immigration program to allow 65,000 foreign workers into the USA each year for up to six years, which means that at any moment there are almost 400,000 of these folks working at the desk next to yours. Some people claim that H-1Bs take jobs better filled by U.S. citizens and some feel that H-1Bs are essential for the functioning of technology industries that would otherwise be devoid of needed talent. I am clearly on the side of the former folks who see H-1Bs as a scam intended to take jobs away from, well, me.

    • EBay Rises to Record High on Shift to Adyen; PayPal Tumbles

      EBay Inc. rose to a record high after giving an optimistic revenue forecast and unveiling plans to shift its payments business from long-time partner PayPal Holdings Inc. to Adyen BV, a global payments company based in the Netherlands. Shares of PayPal tumbled.

      PayPal is currently EBay’s payments processor, meaning merchants selling on the marketplace have to have PayPal accounts to accept funds, and it will remain a checkout option for EBay shoppers at least until July 2023. But Adyen will gradually take over processing EBay payments, beginning in North America this year and will handle a majority of transactions in 2021.

    • Ericsson cuts 10,000 jobs amid costly turnaround

      Ericsson AB’s turnaround effort further took its toll Wednesday, as the Swedish telecommunications-equipment giant said it cut 10,000 jobs in the fourth quarter and said two top executives would leave.

      The company, battling fierce competition and weak spending, announced the job cuts — made up of staff and contractors — as it reported its fifth straight quarterly loss. Its shares were down 7% in midday trading in Europe.

    • When Robots Take Human Jobs, Republicans Won’t Care

      Robots are most certainly taking jobs. In the U.S., they’ve taken about half a million jobs already–mostly replacing assembly line workers with predictable machinery. But some economists agree that the next wave of AI will only accelerate this trend: Researchers estimate that by 2030, we could lose 800 million human jobs globally. By 2040, we could lose half. By 2060, we could lose them all.

    • What the Coincheck hack means for the future of blockchain security

      The plunder of more than $500 million worth of digital coins from the Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck last week has added to a growing perception that cryptocurrencies are particularly vulnerable to hackers.

      It’s an expensive reminder that like many things in the cryptocurrency world, security technologies—and the norms, best practices, and rules for using them—are still emerging. Not least because of its enormous size, the Coincheck hack could go down as a seminal moment in that process.

    • Worries Grow That the Price of Bitcoin Is Being Propped Up

      A growing number of virtual currency investors are worried that the prices of Bitcoin and other digital tokens have been artificially propped up by a widely used exchange called Bitfinex, which has a checkered history of hacks and opaque business practices.

    • Large Jump in Black Unemployment Rate Brings it Almost Back to Year-Ago Level

      The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the black unemployment rate jumped 0.9 percentage points in January to 7.7 percent, putting it just a hair under the 7.8 percent rate of January 2017. This was associated with a 0.6 percentage point drop in the employment rate. Typically, the black unemployment rate is twice the white unemployment rate. However, with the white rate dropping to 3.5 percent, it is now substantially higher.

      This is disappointing since the 6.8 percent rate in December was the lowest on record. The increase for men was 0.9 percentage points to 7.5 percent. For women, the increase was 0.8 percentage points to 6.6 percent, and for teens, the rise was 1.4 percentage points to 24.3 percent.

    • The U.S. government is set to borrow nearly $1 trillion this year, an 84 percent jump from last year

      It was another crazy news week, so it’s understandable if you missed a small but important announcement from the Treasury Department: The federal government is on track to borrow nearly $1 trillion this fiscal year — Trump’s first full year in charge of the budget.

    • Aiming at China’s Armpits: When Foreign Brands Misfire

      But cultural differences and simple biology — scientists have shown that many East Asian people don’t have Westerners’ body odor issues — scotched those plans. Sales totaled only a fraction of the Chinese marketing budget for Rexona, Mr. Braeken said. Today, by some estimates, less than 10 percent of China’s population uses deodorant, and it can be hard to find outside major cities.

    • The search for Jackie Wallace

      He reached for his copy of the newspaper. “Do you see this series y’all are doing, ‘The Real Life — Surviving after the NFL?’ You ought to do a story about me,” he said again.
      Looking back, as surprised as I was, I was probably even more skeptical. “So what’s your name?”
      He carefully unfolded a plastic bag from some hidden spot and produced a ragged ID card. Jackie Wallace, it read.
      The name meant nothing to me, but I didn’t tell him that. We talked a little and I shot a few more frames, then thanked him for his time. I headed back to the newspaper office. More specifically, I rushed over to the sports department.
      There were probably two dozen sports writers pounding out daily stories when I walked up. “Has anyone ever heard of a guy named Jackie Wallace?” I said.
      Every head turned. An editor spoke first. “Of course,” he said. “He was a star at St. Aug, played for University of Arizona, and played for the Vikings, Colts and the Rams.”

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Scott Walker Is Literally Preventing Wisconsinites From Voting

      The governor is deliberately denying Wisconsinites representation in the legislature by refusing to call special elections to fill open seats in the State Assembly and the State Senate.

    • YouTube announces plan to combat propaganda

      YouTube announced Friday it will start flagging videos published by organizations that receive government funding.

    • YouTube’s new attempt to limit propaganda draws fire from PBS

      But PBS, a U.S. public broadcaster, says YouTube’s decision is misguided. “Labeling PBS a ‘publicly funded broadcaster’ is both vague and misleading,” a spokesman told The Washington Post is a statement. “PBS and its member stations receive a small percentage of funding from the federal government; the majority of funding comes from private donations. More importantly, PBS is an independent, private, not-for-profit corporation, not a state broadcaster. YouTube’s proposed labeling could wrongly imply that the government has influence over PBS content, which is prohibited by statute. If YouTube’s intent is to create clarity and better understanding, this is a step in the wrong direction.”

    • How Facebook stole the news business

      Big news outlets stupidly sold their soul to Facebook. Desperate for the referral traffic Facebook dangled, they spent the past few years jumping through its hoops only to be cut out of the equation. Instead of developing an owned audience of homepage visitors and newsletter subscribers, they let Facebook brainwash readers into thinking it was their source of information.

    • How the GOP Rigs Elections
    • Under Cover of the Nunes Memo, Russian Spooks Sneak Openly into Meetings with Trump’s Administration

      Meanwhile, both before and after the visit, our allies have found ways to raise concerns about sharing intelligence with the US in light of Trump’s coziness with Russia. A key subtext of the stories revealing that Netherlands’ AIVD saw Russian hackers targeting the Democrats via a hacked security camera was that Rick Ledgett’s disclosure of that operation last year had raised concerns about sharing with the US.

    • Biggest Nunes Memo Revelations Have Little To Do With Its Content

      It’s fitting that the ever-tightening repetitive loops of America’s increasingly schizophrenic partisan warfare finally hit peak shrillness and skyrocketed into a white noise singularity on Groundhog Day. Right now, we’re right about at the part of the movie where Bill Murray is driving over a cliff in a pickup truck with a large rodent behind the wheel.

    • Donald Trump’s Long History of Paying for Silence

      Breaking up is hard to do. A pile of money and some crack legal help can’t heal a broken heart, but they can go a long way to guaranteeing that whatever bad feelings emerge from the relationship don’t make it to the public. At various times in the past, Donald Trump has struck deals with women in his life, or formerly in his life, exchanging money for silence.

      It’s not a perfect solution. Over the last week, a series of stories have focused on Trump’s 2006 interactions with Stephanie Clifford, an adult actress who performed under the nom de porn Stormy Daniels. Trump and Daniels reportedly met at a golf tournament in July 2006, more than a year after he married Melania, his third wife. At various points in the past, Daniels has given interviews to various outlets alleging that she had a sexual relationship with him.

      A story saying that a presidential candidate had an affair with a porn star would have been explosive during the campaign, and several outlets chased the story prior to the election. But Daniels wanted to be paid for her story, something most mainstream outlets will not do. Slate’s Jacob Weisberg talked to Daniels but never got a signoff to do the story and decided not to write it (until this week). CNN reports that Fox News also had the story but killed it. In 2011, Daniels told InTouch magazine about the affair, including some suitably lurid details.

    • Australia put an algorithm in charge of its benefits fraud detection and plunged the nation into chaos

      In a textbook example of the use of big data to create a digital poorhouse, as described in Virginia Eubanks’s excellent new book Automating Inequality, the Australian government created an algorithmic, semi-privatised system to mine the financial records of people receiving means-tested benefits and accuse them of fraud on the basis of its findings, bringing in private contractors to build and maintain the system and collect the penalties it ascribed, paying them a commission on the basis of how much money they extracted from poor Australians.

      The result was a predictable kafkaesque nightmare in which an unaccountable black box accused poor people, students, pensioners, disabled people and others receiving benefits of owing huge sums, sending abusive, threatening debt collectors after them, and placing all information about the accusations of fraud at the other end of a bureaucratic nightmare system of overseas phone-bank operators with insane wait-times.

    • The Amazon worker: paid £18,000 a year to shift 250 items an hour

      I live with my parents, and pay them £50 a week for rent and food. I also spend £50 a week travelling to work. Apart from that, I don’t spend much on anything. That means two-thirds of the money I take home every month – about £1,000 – just sits in my bank account.

      It’s weird, but it’s like money’s become almost meaningless. Before I took this job, I used to spend money doing things with friends, but now I work such anti-social hours, it’s difficult to meet up. I feel like I’ve lost who I was.

      I end up spending most of my time off trying to sleep. The shifts I have to work never change, so I don’t like to reset my sleeping pattern when I’m not working.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Malaysia’s Home Ministry confirms ban on Bollywood film Padmaavat

      But in Muslim-majority Malaysia, authorities have instead rejected the portrayal of Sultan Alauddin Khilji and banned the film.

    • From the Economic Survey highlights to ‘Padmaavat’ ban in Malaysia: top stories of the day

      The Sanjay Leela Bhansali-directed Padmaavat has been banned in Malaysia by the country’s censor board as the film touches on the “sensitivities of Islam”.

    • Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat banned in Malaysia

      Malaysia’s National Film Censorship Board (LPF) has barred filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat from getting released in the country. LPF chairman Mohd Zamberi Abdul Aziz said in a statement that the storyline of the film itself is of grave concern as “Malaysia is a Muslim-majority country”, reports variety.com.

    • Malaysia Confirms Ban of India’s ‘Padmaavat’ After Appeal

      Malaysian film fans were unimpressed by the LPF decision. Some asked if the LPF actually watched or understood the film. Others said they will instead watch the film illegally online, explaining that repeated bans of films that are popular worldwide undermines Malaysian government attempts to halt piracy.

    • TV censorship rearing its ugly head again in China

      For mainlanders who are old enough to have a firsthand experience of the Cultural Revolution, they can probably still remember that the only form of mass entertainment to which they had access was the “revolutionary model operas” and the only book they were allowed to read was Chairman Mao’s Quotations, also known as The Little Red Book, plus some other books for practical purposes.

      But they would be dead wrong to think that those days have long been gone. Under President Xi Jinping, China is witnessing a massive return to the leftist track in almost every aspect of society.

    • Indian playwright accuses Royal Court of censorship after his play on Tibet is shelved

      An award-winning Indian playwright accused the Royal Court theatre of censorship after his play about contemporary Tibet was shelved, The Guardian reported on Sunday. Abhishek Majumdar claimed that Pah-la was withdrawn because of fears of negative Chinese reactions.

      Pah-la shows the life in contemporary Tibet. Majumdar worked with Tibetans in India and the play draws on such personal stories. In a Facebook post, Majumdar shared a copy of the poster for the play that said it was due to run for a month from October 4 to November 4, 2017.

    • Police in China’s Guangdong Deny Bail to Detained Anti-Censorship Editor

      Authorities in the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai have denied permission for the lawyer of a prominent anti-censorship campaigner to visit him.

      Zhen Jianghua was taken away from his home in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, on the night of Sept. 1 on suspicion of “incitement to subvert state
      power.”

      Zhen was initially held under criminal detention in the Zhuhai No. 1 Detention Center, but was later taken to an unknown location by state security police, to be held under “residential surveillance,” where he has been for the past five months.

      Ren Quanniu, a lawyer hired by Zhen’s family to represent him, was denied permission this week, on the grounds that the case touches on matters of “national security.”

      “I sent off the application for bail, and for a meeting with my client, to the case management team on Jan. 24,” Ren told RFA on Friday. “They responded that bail would not be granted, and that permission to meet with my client had been refused.”

    • Paris court hears arguments in Facebook censorship case centering on Courbet’s Origin of the World

      The question of Facebook’s power to limit users’ freedom of expression is at the heart of a years-long legal battle that is now being heard by a court in Paris, with arguments starting yesterday (1 February). In 2011, a French teacher sued the social media giant for closing his account after he posted a photograph of Gustave Courbet’s 1866 painting L’Origine du monde (Origin of the World), a realistic depiction of a woman’s genitals.

    • Victorian nymphs painting back on display after censorship row

      A gallery is to put a Victorian painting of naked adolescent girls back on display after a row over censorship.

      Manchester Art Gallery said it took down Hylas and the Nymphs by JW Waterhouse to “encourage debate” about how such images should be displayed.

      But critics accused curators of being puritanical and politically correct. The painting will return on Saturday.

      “It’s been clear that many people feel very strongly about the issues raised,” Manchester City Council said.

      The 1896 painting was removed a week ago in an attempt to rethink the “very old-fashioned” way images of women’s bodies were exhibited as “either as passive beautiful objects or femmes fatales”.

    • China orders microblog companies to ramp up censorship

      BEIJING: China Friday ordered the country’s microblog operators to establish mechanisms to remove false information, in the latest move by authorities to tighten policing of the web.

    • Private censorship is not the best way to fight hate or defend democracy: Here are some better ideas

      This statement was originally published on eff.org on 30 January 2018.

    • Facebook Courbet Censorship Lawsuit Has Its Day In Paris Court
    • Fb Denies ‘Censoring‘ 19th-Century Vagina Portray
    • China Censors Cryptocurrency Ads on Search Engines and Social Media

      Hong Kong-based media have reported that the country’s major search engines and social media networks do not appear to be presenting paid adverts for products or companies associated with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Reports have alleged that the censorship of cryptocurrency ads may date back to the announcement that The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) would ban initial coin offerings (ICOs) during September 2017.

    • A New Generation of Journalists in China Face The Same Censorship, Despite New Technology

      Despite the emergence of a new generation of talented reporters and a radical transformation into the digital age, mass media in China across the board are still firmly controlled and censored by the Chinese regime, according to observers. Investigative journalism, the type of reporting that is often considered the lifeblood of a healthy democracy and open society, remains an extremely risky endeavor in China that is desperately needed but practiced by few.

      “The dominant media policy in China since the Mao era has really remained quite constant,” said Maria Repnikova, an assistant professor of global communication at Georgia State University, “the idea that the media should serve the party’s interest has not really transformed.”

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • California Burger Chain Allowing Customers to Pay Using Their Faces

      CaliBurger announced that starting on January 30th, customers will be able to pay for their meal using facial recognition technology at their Pasadena location. The FacePay program allows customers to store their face, along with meal histories, preferences, and other information in their loyalty accounts.

    • Big Brother is coming: Inside China’s plan to rate its 1.3 billion citizens

      China plans to roll out a comprehensive credit rating system – detailing the ‘trustworthiness’ of its 1.3 billion citizens – by 2020.

    • China using big data to police small details of citizens’ lives

      The social credit system is a hugely ambitious big-data system that will store information of people and use this to monitor and assess and, ultimately, control their actions, using a combination of sticks and carrots.

    • China’s Surveillance State Should Scare Everyone

      Imagine a society in which you are rated by the government on your trustworthiness. Your “citizen score” follows you wherever you go. A high score allows you access to faster internet service or a fast-tracked visa to Europe. If you make political posts online without a permit, or question or contradict the government’s official narrative on current events, however, your score decreases. To calculate the score, private companies working with your government constantly trawl through vast amounts of your social media and online shopping data.

      When you step outside your door, your actions in the physical world are also swept into the dragnet: The government gathers an enormous collection of information through the video cameras placed on your street and all over your city. If you commit a crime—or simply jaywalk—facial recognition algorithms will match video footage of your face to your photo in a national ID database. It won’t be long before the police show up at your door.

    • ‘You Can’t Watchdog Government if Government’s Watching All Your Communication’

      Janine Jackson: “Congress Advances Bill to Renew NSA Surveillance Program After Trump Briefly Upstages Key Vote” was the headline on a Washington Post article. The lead described the bill as reauthorizing “the government’s authority to conduct foreign surveillance on US soil.” The language and focus on Beltway back-and-forth make sound like many another piece of legislative business what our next guest calls “a significant blow against the basic human right to read, write, learn, and associate free of government’s prying eyes.” Cindy Cohn is the executive director of Electronic Frontier Foundation. She recently wrote an open letter to the community on Congress’s vote. She joins us now by phone.

    • When Open Source Info On Fitbit, Twitter Jeopardize US Security

      The U.S. military, formerly an unabashed advocate of Fitbit Inc (NYSE: FIT) devices, is reviewing its policy on the use of fitness trackers at operational sites after a workout app inadvertently exposed the whereabouts of secret army bases.

      Since November, Strava, “the social network for athletes,” has published the static locations, routes and movements of public accounts in a global, interactive “heatmap.”

    • Facebook’s experiment in ad transparency is like playing hide and seek

      The new strategy — which Facebook announced in October, just days before a U.S. Senate hearing on the Russian online manipulation efforts — requires every advertiser to have a Facebook page. Whenever the advertiser is running an ad, the post is automatically placed in a new “Ads” section of the Facebook page, where any users in Canada can view it even if they aren’t part of the intended audience.

    • Leaked Photo Suggests NSA Infiltrated Cryptocurrencies

      Recent news that the National Security Administration (NSA) may have successfully launched investigations into “Tor, I2P, and VPN,” with an additional pending request for projects focused on cryptocurrencies, is likely to go over poorly with the cryptocurrency community.

      For cryptocurrency investors, privacy, security, and anonymity are some of the biggest draws. As decentralized, largely unregulated vehicles, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin were designed to be unencumbered by many of the traditional apparatuses that govern mainstream currencies.

    • Europe’s highest court sides with Facebook in privacy class-action lawsuit

      Despite the partial victory Thursday, Facebook still faces pressure over how it handles Europeans’ personal data ahead of changes to the region’s privacy standards, which take effect in late May. That revamp includes potential fines of up to €20 millionor 4 percent of a company’s global revenue, whichever is greater, if it is found to have mishandled Europeans’ digital information.

    • China to Start Blocking Unauthorized VPN Providers This April

      In a move designed to protect the effectiveness of its ‘Great Firewall’, China has warned it will begin blocking unauthorized VPN services starting April 1, 2018. Despite the strong move, China is playing down its efforts, noting that anyone who wants to operate a VPN can still do so by leasing state-approved services via the government’s telecommunications import and export bureau.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • 7-year-old boy handcuffed in Florida school after allegedly attacking teacher

      On Monday, Miami-Dade Schools Police Fraternal Order of Police president Al Palacio came out in support of the police officer who handcuffed the boy.

      “We stand behind the actions of our officer,” Palacio said in a release, adding that the cop “lawfully restrained” the 7-year-old and “properly transported” him to the hospital.

    • Will Do Everything To Pass “Triple Talaq” Bill In Budget Session: Centre

      Besides the triple talaq legislation, which criminalises instant talaq by Muslim men, the government is also likely to make a pitch for the passage of the OBC bill, which seeks to give a constitutional status to the OBC commission.

    • I’m 14 and Was Cited for Feeding the Homeless

      Ever believes the ban was meant not to contain the outbreak but to rid the parks of homeless people.

    • Muslim women in Colombo demand changes to Islamic marriage law

      The law has no minimum age of marriage, includes unequal provisions and procedures for women to register marriage and divorce, and provides for unconditional polygamy.

    • A girl gets married every 2 seconds somewhere in the world

      In 2018, child marriage remains a problem worldwide. Consider that each year, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18, according to Girls Not Brides, a global partnership committed to ending such marriages.

    • Watching soccer is un-Islamic: Darul Uloom cleric says women shouldn’t watch ‘men playing with bare knees’

      LUCKNOW: A senior Darul Uloom cleric has issued a religious decree saying that Muslim women should not watch men playing soccer.

      Mufti Athar Kasmi said that watching men “playing with bare knees” violated the tenets of Islam and was forbidden for women. Kasmi is cleric at Darul Uloom, Asia’s largest Sunni Muslim seminary in the northern town of Deoband.

      The cleric also lashed out at the men who allow their wives to watch football even on television.

    • Being religious does not make you greener
    • The safest country for women in continental Europe is Poland [Ed: Russian media tries to poison the women against immigration in Europe to cause societal rot]

      Nordic countries like Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark are nowhere to be seen near the top ten.

    • One in eight Swedish women will be raped in their lifetimes and that is a low estimate

      However, if you look even further back, the statistics can get even worse. From 2007 – 2017 there was a 34% increase in rapes. That means if this trend continues, in 20 years’ time there will be 12,982 rapes every year happening in Sweden.

    • Harsher punishments for female mutilation proposed in Harrisburg

      So far, 26 states have illegalized FGM, including Delaware, Maryland and New York.

    • In the Era of #MeToo, FGM Must be Seen as Sexual Violence

      The need to view FGM as an act of sexual violence is largely absent from the debate over FGM. That gap in the conversation between FGM perception and FGM reality is detrimental to the fight against the practice. On January 15, 2018, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman dismissed the charge of a sex crime against defendants in the Detroit FGM trial. The report is a devastating blow for human rights advocates and a win for FGM supporters. A sex crime dismissal was found on the basis that such a charge requires “intent that the minor engage in sexual activity.” While FGM itself does not constitute a sexual activity, the practice is performed specifically toward the aim of controlling future activity by cutting off the sex organ rooted in female desire.

    • Why Does Our Justice System Fight So Hard to Keep Innocent People Behind Bars?

      Perhaps even more troubling is that even when clear, indisputable evidence emerges showing that someone has been imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit, prosecutors, police, and judges will often fight tooth and nail to keep them incarcerated.

    • China: Families of Interpol Targets Harassed

      # see next

      “Chinese authorities have put all kinds of unlawful pressure on relatives of corruption suspects to get them to return to China,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “There is no legal basis for these traumatizing guilt-by-association tactics.”

    • Nigerian Facebook user posts graphic photos of female circumcision

      The man, who calls himself Alhaji Adebayo, posted the images on January 3, along with text offering free female circumcision in Ilorin, Kwara State, central Nigeria.

    • FGM is on the rise again in Sierra Leone

      Following a temporary ban on female genital mutilation during the Ebola crisis, FGM is on the rise again in Sierra Leone. Worldwide, some 200 million girls and women have had their genitals cut, whether by force or by choice.

    • Indonesia’s House speaker ups anti-gay rhetoric

      Currently, homosexuality is only outlawed in Aceh province, which follows Sharia law.

    • World’s eyes on Indonesia as Political Prisoner Yanto Awerkion is tried for ‘Treason’ over Support For West Papua Independence Petition – 9th January 2018

      His crime? Supporting a petition calling for West Papuan independence. Treason carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years. Yanto has been locked away in prison for 8 months awaiting trial. He was unable to see his wife and new born baby at Christmas.

    • The Dark Underside Of Saudi Arabia The Crown Prince Is Loath To Change

      But the old Saudi Arabia was still evident back at home. On Thursday, two human rights activists, Mohammed al-Otaibi and Abdullah al-Attawi, were sentenced to 14 and seven years in prison, respectively, for briefly founding a human rights organization about five years ago. No matter that they heeded the government’s demands to close it; the prosecution painted such things as publishing human rights reports, disseminating information to the news media and retweeting posts on Twitter as criminal acts.

    • Saudi Arabia: Long Prison Terms for Rights Activists

      Since 2014, Saudi authorities have tried a series of peaceful dissidents in the Specialized Criminal Court, Saudi Arabia’s terrorism tribunal.

    • Saudi Arabia sentences two human rights activists to a total of 21 years in prison

      “The crackdown on members of the human rights community has continued unabated, with almost all the country’s most prominent human rights defenders now behind bars,” she said.

    • Asia Bibi continues to wait in legal limbo

      Almost nine years ago, a woman was arrested after drinking the same water as her co-workers while harvesting berries. Because she is a Christian, the Muslim women working with her became angry and an argument led to them accusing her of blasphemy. Today, Asia Bibi is the poster child of the abuses afforded by Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

      [...]

      Bibi’s case has received great international attention. And it’s probably because the world has tuned in that she is still alive today. Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in 2010, shortly after her arrest. The sentencing for such a verdict is without exception death. However, the Supreme Court agreed to hear her case.

    • Medical student killed for turning down marriage proposal: suspect flees to Saudi Arabia

      Mujahid Afridi and his accomplice, identified as Sadiqullah, shot the woman dead on Saturday after she reportedly turned down a marriage proposal by the former. Rani, a third year MBBS student in Ayub Medical College, had named Afridi as her killer in a statement before her death.

    • Living in Pakistan – A Hell for Non-Muslims

      The author is not aware of even a single instance, in the 71 years since the creation of Pakistan, of someone being punished for killing, burning or raping a non-Muslim man, woman or child, or for burning their places of worship, their homes or their holy books.

    • Pakistani Islamism Flourishes in America

      Despite JI’s violence, its front groups in America have flourished — enjoying partnerships with government, praise from politicians and journalists, and funding from prominent charitable foundations.

    • Radical imams are spewing anti-Semitism in the US with impunity

      Yet these radical preachers inciting anti-Semitic violence aren’t prosecuted or even permanently banished by the leadership of their mosques.

    • “Skin In The Game” And Its Cousin, “Skin On The Line” — Being Among The First To Speak Out Against Larry Nassar

      This, of course, is skin on the line — a thing we’re seeing in the hijab protests in Iran.

      To some degree, this is a cousin of what, in decision-makers, Nassim Taleb calls having “skin in the game” — to have real risk and consequences from some action. To understand what “skin in the game” is, it helps to understand what it is to have NO skin in the game.

    • Iran lawyer raises concern over missing hijab protester
    • Iran lawyer raises concern over missing hijab protester [Ed: as above]

      “What I am certain about is that this lady has been arrested,” she told AFP.

    • Second woman arrested in Tehran for hijab protest

      A second woman has been arrested in Iran for protesting against the country’s compulsory hijab rules after standing on a telecoms box on a Tehran street, taking off her headscarf and holding it aloft on a stick.

    • Case Of Kerala Woman Who Alleged Sexual Exploitation To Be Probed By NIA

      The case of a 25-year-old woman, who alleged that she was forcibly converted and married to a Muslim and taken to Saudi Arabia for sex slavery, will be investigated by the premier counter-terrorism law enforcement agency, the National Investigation Agency. The woman said managed to escape from Saudi Arabia with the help of her father, who was able to send her tickets through WhatsApp.

    • The Women Who Took on the Mafia

      Family loyalty made the Calabrian Mob strong, but its treatment of women was its undoing.

    • S.F. Couple Recounts Harrowing, Mistaken Arrest by Police Investigating iPhone Heist

      After rifling through the apartment Knuth says the officers finally told her what they were looking for: Her husband’s iPhone X.

      According to the warrant, it was stolen but Knuth showed them the receipt which proved her husband bought it.

    • Kalamazoo doctor jailed after ICE arrest

      She said she believes the arrest stemmed from two unrelated misdemeanor convictions when he was in high school, one of destruction of property less than $100 and the other of receiving stolen property. The most recent conviction was in 1992, she said.

    • Muslims must vote for Muslim candidates, says Hadi

      Muslims in Malaysia must vote for Muslim candidates to ensure Islamic rule after the 14th General Election (GE14), PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang said today.

    • Sialvi warns to shut Punjab if Sharia not imposed in seven days

      Cleric Pir Hameeduddin Sialvi has warned Government of Punjab on Saturday to impose sharia law within a period of seven days lest the religious groups would shut down the entire province.

    • Fed up of ‘restrictions’, Muslim girl becomes Hindu, seeks security

      The 22 years old girl has alleged that her family members have been harassing her for a long time and had also placed a lot of restrictions on her. Things were allegedly so bad that the family members were even threatening to poison her. The girl as a result has claimed that she has been in hiding in the recent past. She claimed that she was tired of all the restrictions heaped on her, and after expressing wariness about the practice of triple talaq, she decided to become a Hindu.

      Following her conversion to Hinduism, Sunita has claimed that her family members have threatened to kill her.

    • Time to stop using 9 million children as a bargaining CHIP

      Funding for CHIP ran out at the end of last September, leaving both state governments and families with great uncertainty. So far, congressional Republicans have refused to offer a clean renewal of CHIP, but have consistently raised demands to undermine the ACA in return. Their latest measure offers to fund CHIP in exchange for avoiding a government shutdown and a deal with Democrats over Dreamers.

      Holding 9 million children and their families as bargaining chips has gone on much too long.

    • The ‘Underground Railroad’ To Save Atheists

      The tipping point came when Yaseen’s story caught the attention of the American TV host Dave Rubin, who featured her on his show The Rubin Report in early 2016. After the clip was released online, she faced a torrent of death threats and finally went into hiding. “I disappeared—I left everything. I had to be always on the run, changing places and disguises,” she said. “I couldn’t feel anything except that I would end up being killed.”

      Yaseen would still be at risk if it weren’t for the actions of Secular Rescue, which helped her escape to California, where she is waiting for her asylum claim to be approved. The initiative, launched in 2016, is run by the Center For Inquiry, a U.S.-based non-profit organization that aims to promote secular values, such as scientific rationality and freedom of speech, with the support of Richard Dawkins and other prominent atheists.

    • Florida’s Prison Laborers Are Going On Strike

      Inmates in Florida state prisons plan to begin a work-strike today in protest of prison overcrowding, brutal living conditions, and working for no or little pay. The strike is being coordinated between at least 10 Florida prisons, and may involve thousands of inmates’ participating in the nonviolent “laydown”—vowing, for at least one month, to refuse to show up to work assignments or buy items at their prison’s commissary.

    • Stop calling all cops heroes: Baltimore police corruption case isn’t shocking to me

      The first pile was my brother’s. He was stashing that — as the boss, it was only right that he took first dibs. The second pile went to the lieutenants; they’d take their cut out and use the rest to pay the workers. Pile three was for product re-up, supplies and everything else you need to run a dope shop. And pile four got stuffed into a manila envelope and wrapped tight with rubber bands. They called that the “taxes.” Of course they weren’t actually paying taxes on their income or sales to the government, and they weren’t setting aside contributions to a retirement plan. Their “taxes” went straight to the cops.

    • New York Detective Guilty of Lying About Drug Arrest

      The jury found that the detective, Kevin Desormeau, had concocted a story about witnessing a man deal drugs to two women on a street corner on a summer evening in 2014. In sworn testimony, Detective Desormeau claimed to have intercepted the man after the transactions and arrested him on the sidewalk.

      But videotape from security cameras showed that the man had been playing pool inside a nearby Caribbean restaurant at the time he was said to have been selling drugs outside.

    • Amazon awarded employee-tracking wristband patents

      In the UK, Amazon has gotten some criticism in the past for the way it treats workers in its warehouses who are usually rushed off their feet to get packages ready to send off in a speedy manner. Now, the company has been issued a pair of patents which will let the company develop a wristband that helps guide workers to parcels but can also be used for tracking purposes.

    • Amazon Wins Wristband Tracking Patent
    • Woman fatally shot by San Antonio police officer identified

      When officers arrived, a woman was locked inside a bedroom. McManus said officers asked if the woman was armed and she said she didn’t have a weapon. Police barged in the door and found the woman holding a glock pistol to her head, McManus said. The officers tried to disarm her, but at one point the pistol was pointing at one of their heads, when a female officer with six years experienced fired one shot to the woman’s abdomen.

    • Two Pussy Riot members seek asylum in Sweden

      Lusine Djanyan and Aleksej Knedljakovskji now live in a home for asylum seekers in Lindesberg along with their son while awaiting a decision on their asylum request.

    • Outrage after solicitor suggests woman indecently assaulted in swimming baths would’ve ‘forgotten all about it in 2 or 3 days’

      A defence solicitor caused a courtroom storm after suggesting a woman who was indecently assaulted in a swimming baths would have “forgotten all about it in two or three days.”

    • Rebuked for skipping classes, student kills college principal, accuses him of blasphemy

      In a video acquired by DawnNews, the student, while being arrested, appeared to justify the murder saying he believed the college principal had committed blasphemy.

    • Pope Francis Assails Scourge of Femicides in Latin America

      Pope Francis denounced femicides and other gender-based crimes that have turned Latin America into the most violent place on Earth for women, calling Saturday for legislation to protect them and for a new cultural mindset as he visited one of Peru’s most dangerous parts.

    • Australia heads the list of the 10 safest countries for a woman

      Australia is the world’s safest country for a woman, according to analysis by consultancy New World Wealth in its 2018 Global Wealth Migration Review.

      The report mainly looks at the movement of high net worth individuals (HNWI) across the world.

      However, part of that analysis involves reviewing the safest countries for women.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • “Tax Proposal 17″, Consultation Procedure: Which Tax Incentives Are Still Available?

      Abolition of the privileged regimes (holding, mixed company, domicile company, finance branch and principal rulings):

      These special regimes, which are only applicable at cantonal level, will be abolished.
      Patent box

      Profits from patents and similar rights will be segregated from other profits and taxed at a lower rate at the cantonal level. The cantons can determine the amount of such relief, the maximum relief being 90%. The implementation of the patent box will be in compliance with the patent box as defined by the OECD. Profits stemming from patents and similar rights can be included in the patent box. Software as such cannot be patented according to Swiss laws and accordingly cannot benefit from the relief of the patent box. Computer-implemented inventions including software can however be patented in Switzerland and benefit from the relief. Additionally, software patented in foreign jurisdictions where this is possible may benefit from the relief.

    • Copyrights

      • Popular music is more collaborative than ever
      • BMG v Cox – when does an ISP lose its safe harbour protection?

        The case deals with two difficult and very interesting questions, the first being whether an ISP can be held liable for infringing activities of its subscribers, more precisely the up- and down-loading of copyright-protected musical works in the BitTorrent-Network. The second question was what mental state is required to establish the requisite intent for contributory copyright infringements: actual knowledge, wilful blindness or negligence?

        [...]

        The Court of Appeals first looked at Cox’s argument that it was entitled to the § 512(a) DMCA safe harbour defence. It was undisputed in the first instance that Cox did adopt some sort of repeat infringer policy. However, both the lower court and the Court of Appeals came to the conclusion that Cox did not ‘reasonably implement’ this policy to provide for the termination of repeat infringers in appropriate circumstances.

      • Oracle could prevail in copyright case against Google based on commercial market harm

        The privately held Oracle America Inc., has been fighting an industry-changing copyright infringement case against Google Inc. since 2010 — the same year of the BP Oil Spill, the year Apple unveiled the iPad and the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl. It’s been awhile.

      • Blizzard Targets Fan-Created ‘World of Warcraft’ Legacy Server

        Blizzard Entertainment is taking a stand against a popular World of Warcraft legacy server. The fan-operated project allows gamers to experience how the game was played over a decade ago and to revive old battles. Blizzard, however, sees this as copyright infringement and has asked GitHub to pull the site’s code offline.

Statistics Show That Motions to Amend Patents Are Rarely Successful (No Second Chance for Bad Patents)

Posted in America, Courtroom, Patents at 1:47 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Sign of success and failure

Summary: A look at some curious figures which serve to highlight the role played by the patent appeal board, PTAB, which cleans up the mess left for a number of decades due to lenient examination

THE bashing of PTAB aside, this past week we saw some interesting posts that aren’t pure lobbying.

Scott McKeown, for example, shared some statistics. The headline is a tad misleading because PTAB does not attack. PTAB defends. It defends from bogus patents. But here’s the key part:

Patent reexamination filings have fallen 86% since 2012. With the elimination of the popular inter partes patent reexamination option in 2012, an overall decrease was certainly expected. However, ex parte reexamination filings continue to drop every year. Only 191 ex parte reexamination requests were filed in 2017. This was the lowest number of ex parte reexamination filings since the mid-1990s. While an ex parte patent challenge is far less appealing to a patent challenger than a contested proceeding (AIA trial proceeding), and this factor has undoubtedly contributed to the decreasing numbers, patent reexamination and other post-grant proceedings of the Central Reexamination Unit (CRU) still provide unique rehabilitation opportunities for patent owners.

Andrew Williams also shared some statistics from PTAB. As it turns out, those begging to salvage their bogus patents by editing them have slim chances. As Williams put it: “Tellingly, the third chart shows the outcome of the 170 decided motions to amend in which substitute claims were proposed. In 156 of these cases, or 92%, the Board denied the motion. The four motions to amend that were granted outright represent 2% of all motions to amend with substitute claims that were decided, and represent a much smaller percentage of all motions to amend. The ten motions to amend that were granted-in-part represented 6% of the total decided. The Study included a separate spreadsheet that contained the data from the 275 trials. This spreadsheet explains in which post-issuance proceedings that motions to amend were granted.”

More statistics have, as usual, come from the PTAB-hostile Anticipat. PTAB fights back against patent maximalism, whereas Anticipat keeps speaking of “tricks”, e.g. “second trick is the examiner requiring narrower claims than is required by the law.”

To quote their post:

Patent Examiners are tasked with a daunting task of checking each patent application for compliance with all the patent laws and rules. Most importantly, the Examiner must show that the claims are not unpatentable, including being free and clear of prior art. And they must do all this within the time expectations that the USPTO offers.

Another Anticipat post (from a few days later) advocates tricking patent examiners for software patents. What they might prefer not to say is that even granted patents of this kind, once assessed by PTAB and courts, are pretty much worthless. The odds are high that they will get invalidated (the higher the court, the more likely this outcome).

The bottom line is, PTAB serves to discourage pursuit of bad patents. It should be respected for that, not mocked.

The Latest Attacks on PTAB Are Old News or Smears Recycled by Watchtroll et al.

Posted in America, Courtroom, Patents at 12:59 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

An old newspaper

Summary: The attempts to tarnish the reputation of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), particularly because of Oil States at the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS), have reached pretty pathetic levels and endless repetition with sound bites like “kangaroo court” or “efficient infringement”

THE past week, based on our media survey, showed a rise in attacks on PTAB (compared to the prior week). We are guessing that these attacks will intensify as Oil States (SCOTUS decision) draws near. It’s all about PTAB.

Watchtroll has been very late to the news this month. It was covering news from almost 3 weeks ago (e.g. Exmark, TiVo, and WesternGeco, which we mentioned before). Must be slow for them… very late to the news. But rest assured, Watchtroll will carry on with PTAB bashing. Not even anything new, just old stuff recycled.

“We are guessing that these attacks will intensify as Oil States (SCOTUS decision) draws near.”There have been fewer attacks on PTAB lately (slowdown for the anti-PTAB lobby), so here comes Dennis Crouch complaining again about lack of opinions (to slow PTAB down). It wasn’t just Crouch/Patently-O. Two anti-PTAB articles were published by Watchtroll on Monday and two more anti-PTAB articles came on on Tuesday, e.g. picking on the bogeyman Google (there are many cases/petitions every single day, so it’s not hard to cherry-pick). Watchtroll carried on the following day (Wednesday). To us that just looks like lobbying at work, so we prefer not to link to all these examples. We’re merely observing.

Another PTAB basher, “Patent Buddy”, carried on with that anti-PTAB narrative, neglecting to note that PTAB is typically petitioned to deal with patents not at random; they take on some of the most problematic ones.

“…rest assured, Watchtroll will carry on with PTAB bashing. Not even anything new, just old stuff recycled.”“On January 24,” he wrote, “the PTAB affirmed Seven 101/Alice Rejections by Examiners and Denied One Request for Reconsideration. No 101 Rejections Were Reversed.”

“On January 25,” he later added, “the PTAB Published 8 Decisions on 101 Issues. 5 Decisions Affirmed Examiner Rejections. 1 Decision Affirmed in Part. 2 Decisions Reversed Examiners.”

Here’s one pertinent example of the exception: “PTAB Reversed 101 Rejection of Philips Patent Application for a Device for Measuring Vital Signs…”

The patent trolls recently joked that this is the sort of thing they deem to be a “win” and are celebrating. Here’s more: “PTAB Reversed Examiner’s Rejection of a Mechanical Device under 101…”

We’re basically talking about a mere patent application here.

“Another PTAB basher, “Patent Buddy”, carried on with that anti-PTAB narrative, neglecting to note that PTAB is typically petitioned to deal with patents not at random; they take on some of the most problematic ones.”Paul Morinville and Watchtroll wrote that “PTAB has a kill [sic] rate of over 90%. Alice v. CLS Bank’s abstract idea is killing [sic] 67%.”

That’s good. It’s not a “killing” or a “kill” (they try to make PTAB seem combative and aggressive).

Here’s the context (more of that sickening drama about “innovation” which we've just rebutted):

Killing the fictitious patent troll has already strangled U.S. innovation in the cradle. All three branches of the government rapidly changed every aspect of the patent system to work against the small for the benefit of the large. Today, the PTAB has a kill rate of over 90%. Alice v. CLS Bank’s abstract idea is killing 67%.

“Paul Morinville and Watchtroll aren’t exactly good with facts,” I told Daniel Nazer (EFF) after he had responded as follows: “IP Watchdog claims that “bad patents” never get litigated. Okay, here are some bad patents that were: 6,368,268 6,415,207 6,529,725 6,612,985 6,633,900 6,763,299 6,795,918 6,817,863 6,904,359 7,064,681 7,113,110 7,119,716 7,400,970 7,899,713 7,986,426 8,788,090 9,013,334″

“There’s a false assumption here that lawyers give the best advice; they often advise so to as to maximise their own profits and sell the most expensive ‘products’, e.g. lawsuits.”See the reply from IAM: “If bad patents get litigated, the patent owner is being stubborn and/or is receiving bad advice. Crucially, by definition he/she/it will lose. The killer issue in the US is the cost of litigating and how costs are (not) allocated. [] It’s worth remembering that for deep pocket, efficient infringers the cost of US patent litigation – with the PTAB now thrown in – is a huge benefit.”

I then responded to IAM: “And who’s to say that bad advice isn’t being given by selfish/greedy lawyers?”

There’s a false assumption here that lawyers give the best advice; they often advise so to as to maximise their own profits and sell the most expensive ‘products’, e.g. lawsuits.

Contrary to Claims From the Litigation ‘Industry’, AIA, PTAB, and the USPTO’s Inter Partes Reviews (IPRs) Make the US Better for Innovation

Posted in America, Deception, FUD, Law, Patents at 11:01 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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

SCSI HD

Summary: In an effort to undermine patent reform, patent extremists now latch onto findings about the relative decline of the US (e.g. in the sciences) and blame that squarely on patent policy, neglecting to mention that patent activity in the US (e.g. filings) is at an all-time high

THE US has changed after the Federal Circuit and Board (PTAB) started invalidating software patents en masse. It changed for the better. As we noted last month, the patent microcosm blames everything negative in the US (decline in rankings pertaining to science) on AIA, which is responsible for PTAB (and thus IPRs). Sometimes they also lump in SCOTUS (with Alice). It’s laughable and we already wrote some rebuttals to their arguments, which are worse than shallow. They rely on no concrete evidence, as we shall explain in a moment.

“…the patent microcosm blames everything negative in the US (decline in rankings pertaining to science) on AIA, which is responsible for PTAB (and thus IPRs).”The High Tech Inventors Alliance, a front group for several large technology companies, defends PTAB. “Data contradicts the claims made by some that #patent reform has harmed innovation,” it wrote a few days ago. “Since the introduction of the IPR review process and the Supreme Courts Alice decision, innovation in the United States is flourishing.”

This is empirically true. Here is the corresponding article from John Thorne, who describes himself as “general counsel of the High Tech Inventors Alliance, a coalition of top technology companies supporting balanced patent policy and collectively holding more than 115,000 patents.”

From the article:

On Friday, a group claiming to represent the nation’s small inventors will demonstrate at the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) building. They will call for an end to the PTO’s Inter Partes Review (IPR) process, a procedure for taking a second look at the validity of patents. Some of the speakers will be genuine small inventors. But behind those little guys will be the big dollars of the biggest big-guy exploiters of the PTO’s missteps and mistakes.

[...]

The IPR was established in the 2011 bipartisan America Invents Act to restore integrity to what had become a too-often-broken patent system. The Act’s goal was to improve patent quality. It established an inexpensive, easy-to-access route for challenging patents that should never have been granted. The cost and slowness of always going to court had made appeal of bad patents too unreliable. The IPR was to fix that. Today, six years later, it is clear that it has worked.

Consider these facts. Almost 70 percent of this year’s challenged patents are in “high tech,” that is software, hardware and networking technologies. High tech is widely acknowledged to suffer from patent quality problems.

Then, too, a majority of those challenged high tech patents are owned by what are called “non-practicing entities,” otherwise known as patent trolls. These are companies that do not actually try to take patented ideas to market. They may acquire unused patents or they may patent general or obvious ideas — like the basic credit card and podcast patents that I mentioned — and use them to shakedown those who inadvertently stumbled into their unjustifiably patented territory, patent traps.

Josh Landau from CCIA (another front group for a lot of technology companies, both large and small) is rebutting the common lie told by the patent microcosm — that lack of patents on software harms investment. Innovation and patents are very different things, so he says that “Innovation Is Alive And Well”. From his post:

Innovation can come from anywhere—large established companies, individuals, and of course, small startup businesses. The innovation from startups can ultimately create new established companies. Many of today’s household names—Amazon, Google, Facebook, Intel—started out as a couple of founders and one innovative idea. So, if we want to see if innovation remains an important part of the American economy, looking at startup activity is a good place to—if you’ll pardon the pun—start.

We too wrote some articles to that effect. Facebook, which is probably the highest-profile member of the High Tech Inventors Alliance, has just been hit by another patent lawsuit (these are software patents and should be thrown out by the courts). Facebook too can be aggressive with patents at times, but it does not rely on litigation to operate. People are better off when technology companies work on various technologies rather than hiring lawyers and arguing in courts.

“They want people to think of everything in the US in terms of patents. They just see “patents” in everything.”Now, linking to Watchtroll, the “Innovation Alliance” (just a front group not for innovation but ‘patentism’) says “AUTM finds 37% of #highered startups are failing. What’s behind this “ominous trend”? The weakening U.S. #patent system.”

This is nonsense. It’s already debunked above. It’s not a study. It’s propaganda and it’s commissioned by those from the religion of ‘patentism’. They want people to think of everything in the US in terms of patents. They just see “patents” in everything. We wrote about it last weekend.

“Biggest surprise from yesterday’s @uspto PPAC meeting,” IAM wrote, “was acting head Matal’s disclosure that #patent filings in the US are up 5.4% y-o-y in first 3 months of current fiscal year. Sounds like no one was expecting it…”

“Where is the actual evidence that it’s declining? Filings are at record highs, technology companies are pleased with the status quo, so who is it that’s complaining? The litigation ‘industry’, including patent trolls.”We wrote about that meeting (Patent Public Advisory Committee) just now in relation to David Ruschke; I responded to IAM by saying: “Where are the maximalists who always moan that AIA damages the US patent system?”

They claim that patents are being crushed, but that clearly isn’t the case, is it? At the same time IAM released this article titled “If we fail to protect intellectual property, we destroy innovation” (again, the same old drama/alarmism about “innovation” being “destroyed”).

So-called ‘IP’ (e.g. patents or trademarks/copyrights etc.) is not about innovation but about protectionism. But let’s pretend it’s really all about innovation. Where is the actual evidence that it’s declining? Filings are at record highs, technology companies are pleased with the status quo, so who is it that’s complaining? The litigation ‘industry’, including patent trolls.

USPTO May Get a New Director Tomorrow, But It’s Not Good News

Posted in America, Patents at 10:01 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Andrei Iancu

Summary: It is expected that Andrei Iancu (above) will become the Director of the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), probably late tomorrow, but why the silence on the likely impact he would have on the Office?

THE USPTO has been headless for a long time, except for its interim leadership (Director). Trump’s nominee is a cause for concern because he's from the patent microcosm, putting aside more personal aspects (such as him being born in the Soviet Union and being picked by Trump's official who is most closely connected to Putin's family); we don’t want to use the McCarthyist tactics, so instead we focus on Andrei Iancu’s professional background.

“The writings are on the wall and Iancu in this position would likely exacerbate things.”Is a private patent law firm about to ‘take over’? According to this, “[t]he USPTO should have a new director within the next few days. President Trump nominated Irell & Manella partner Andrei Iancu for the position last fall. A vote is now scheduled on the Senate Floor for late Monday. So far, no Senators have voiced any direct opposition to the nomination.”

Have any Senators bothered researching this matter? Have any corporations (or their front groups) bothered commenting on the matter? If not, why not? Are they just trying to be diplomatic in case he gets appointed? The writings are on the wall and Iancu in this position would likely exacerbate things. It’s bad enough as it is and it can only get worse after the PTO amassed many patents of questionable quality (reducing legal certainty).

“It’s bad enough as it is and it can only get worse after the PTO amassed many patents of questionable quality (reducing legal certainty).”It is worth noting, based on another new post, that while the EPO is a milking cow for Germany the USPTO is anything but (for the US). It’s cash negative (losses). “Several USPTO fees were modified in January 2018,” it says. “I’ll note here that the America Invents Act (AIA) of 2011 substantially expanded the USPTO’s fee setting authority. However, that authority is set to sunset in September of this year (2018).” In relation to taxes there’s more to be said. What will the USPTO be like for ordinary people unlike massive corporations, some of which use patents merely as a tax evasion mechanism? Vis-à-vis tax evasion, mind the new report below (from Switzerland). It covered Patent Boxes, which are infamous for their utility among very large tax evaders.

  • “Tax Proposal 17″, Consultation Procedure: Which Tax Incentives Are Still Available?

    Abolition of the privileged regimes (holding, mixed company, domicile company, finance branch and principal rulings):

    These special regimes, which are only applicable at cantonal level, will be abolished.
    Patent box

    Profits from patents and similar rights will be segregated from other profits and taxed at a lower rate at the cantonal level. The cantons can determine the amount of such relief, the maximum relief being 90%. The implementation of the patent box will be in compliance with the patent box as defined by the OECD. Profits stemming from patents and similar rights can be included in the patent box. Software as such cannot be patented according to Swiss laws and accordingly cannot benefit from the relief of the patent box. Computer-implemented inventions including software can however be patented in Switzerland and benefit from the relief. Additionally, software patented in foreign jurisdictions where this is possible may benefit from the relief.

PTAB’s Chief Judge David Ruschke Responds to the Smears From the Anti-PTAB Lobby

Posted in America, Patents at 9:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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

David Ruschke

Summary: David Ruschke’s response to the attacks on the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) as covered in the media just before the weekend, based on a meeting of the Patent Public Advisory Committee

WHEN the Chief Judge of the PTAB was appointed 1.5 years ago the USPTO got itself a technical judge with a decent background in charge of an important panel/board. We have not seen any evidence whatsoever of foul play under his watch. We do, however, see patent scammers (like the lawyers of the Mohawk tribe) flinging conspiracy theories at him. The anti-PTAB lobby has resorted to just attacking the judges (e.g. calling them impotent) and their integrity rather than application of the law etc.

“The law is the law and unlike the patent office, these people don’t have an incentive to just grant as many patents as possible.”We can sort of understand why PTAB is hated (we’ll say more about that later today) and especially who it is hated by. As the latest issue of IAM magazine put it some days ago, PTAB’s “Inter partes reviews continue to have a huge impact on patent litigation in the United States” and “patents become far less enticing” (for the litigation ‘industry’).

It’s not uncommon to resort to judge-bashing — something that is rarely done in Europe but is apparently considered acceptable in the US. According to Law 360, David Ruschke has just responded to common accusations:

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s chief judge pushed back Thursday on criticism from U.S. Supreme Court justices and others that the board can “stack the deck” and manipulate outcomes of cases by expanding panels, saying expansions aim to spotlight important issues, not dictate findings.

At a meeting of the Patent Public Advisory Committee, Chief Judge David Ruschke said that the public has “a little bit of a misconception as to what’s actually happening” when the board decides to rehear decisions…

We remain supportive of PTAB, CAFC, SCOTUS etc. The law is the law and unlike the patent office, these people don’t have an incentive to just grant as many patents as possible. Let them do their work; later we’ll show that Watchtroll attacks PTAB’s integrity more than once per day — something that has truly gone out of control.

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