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04.09.18

Links 9/4/2018: Linux 4.16.1, phpMyAdmin 4.8.0, GNU Mcron 1.1.1

Posted in News Roundup at 11:27 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • ​How many Linux users are there anyway?

    Perhaps the most unbiased numbers are from the federal government’s Digital Analytics Program (DAP). DAP’s numbers come from the billion visits over the past 90 days to over 400 US executive branch government domains. That’s about 5,000 total websites. These visitors appear to be largely US citizens. You can see this from the most popular websites: The US Postal Service, the IRS, and Medline Plus.

    By DAP’s count, Linux is bundled in with 0.6 percent other. Chrome OS, according to DAP, has more users: 1.3 percent.

    Still, while desktop Linux is a minority desktop operating system, it still has millions of users, and that’s a lot more than a mere fraction of 1 percent.

    And, when it comes to overall end-user operating system, Linux-based Android has 70.96 percent of the mobile market by NetMarketShare’s count. By DAP’s reckoning, Android has 19.9 percent of all end-user systems, while StatCounter shows Android as even more popular than Windows by 39.49 percent to 36.62 percent.

  • Desktop

    • Linux all-in-one: Slimbook Curve comes with your distro of choice pre-installed

      Spanish computer maker Slimbook has unveiled the Slimbook Curve, an all-in-one with a 24-inch curved screen made for GNU/Linux.

    • Slimbook Curve All-In-One Linux PC

      Spanish hardware and PC manufacturer Slimbook has created a new all-in-one Linux PC in the form of the aptly named Slimbook Curve, that features a curved 24 inch IPS display offering users a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels as well as a matte, anti-glare finish. The Slimbook Curve can by installed with a wide variety of different Linux operating systems including No OS, Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Ubuntu Mate, Debian, Elementary OS, Linux Mint, OpenSUSE, Antergos, Fedora and KDE Neon.

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux 4.16.1

      I’m announcing the release of the 4.16.1 kernel.

      All users of the 4.16 kernel series must upgrade.

    • Linux 4.16 Reaches Its First Point Release With Over 30 Fixes

      Greg Kroah-Hartman today released the first stable point update to the Linux 4.16 kernel that debuted one week ago.

      There are just under three dozen changes in Linux 4.16.1, including some crypto fixes seeming to represent a bulk of the work along with some USB, staging, serial, Bluetooth, and other updates. One hardware item sticking out is fixed TrackStick detection for Lenovo ThinkPad L570 and Dell Latitude 7370 notebooks.

    • The Big Changes Merged This Week For The Linux 4.17 Kernel

      We are now through the first week of the two week long Linux 4.17 kernel merge window process for introducing the new features/functionality to this next big kernel release.

    • Linux 4.16.1
    • Linux 4.14.33
    • Linux 4.9.93
    • Linux 4.4.127
    • Linux 3.18.103
    • Linux Foundation

      • Making cloud-native computing universal and sustainable

        I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to build an open source foundation from scratch the last couple of years by serving as the founding executive director of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). Since late 2015, the foundation has grown to comprise more than 200 members worldwide and 18 innovative cloud-native projects. Also, for the first time, we recently published an annual report representing what our community accomplished in 2017.

        What has been interesting about this experience is that more people know about our projects, such as Kubernetes, Envoy, and Prometheus, than know about the open source foundation behind them. The goal of this article is to explain exactly what the purpose of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) is and how we support our community of cloud-native open infrastructure projects.

    • Graphics Stack

      • VK_AMD_shader_core_properties Now Supported By RADV

        Thanks to Samuel Pitoiset of Valve’s Linux driver team, the RADV open-source Radeon Vulkan driver supports the new VK_AMD_shader_core_properties extension.

        A few days back Vulkan 1.1.72 was released and one of three new extensions was VK_AMD_shader_core_properties. This AMD shader core properties extension to Vulkan exposes physical device characteristics like the number of shader engines, SIMDs per compute unit, threads per wavefront, and other shader related hardware details.

      • Making Use Of Intel vGPU Support On Linux 4.16 & QEMU 2.12

        As of the Linux 4.16 kernel that was released one week ago, the kernel-side bits are in place for Intel Virtual GPU support and in user-space the upcoming QEMU 2.12 has the necessary code for the GTK and SPICE code-paths.

      • Libinput 1.10.4 Makes Touchpads A Bit Snappier

        Libinput 1.10.14 is now available and while it’s just a point release, there is at least one change sure to catch your attention.

      • Etnaviv Performance Counter Support Merged Into Mesa 18.1

        Landing in Linux 4.15 was performance counters support in the Etnaviv DRM driver as the low-level bits for exposing the hardware counters with this reverse-engineered, open-source Vivante graphics driver. The user-space/Mesa side code has now landed too.

        With Mesa 18.1 paired with Linux 4.15 or newer will now be support for exposing the hardware performance counters for seeing more characteristics about the GPU’s performance in working to optimize your game/application or the driver itself for efficient usage on Vivante GC hardware.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • Nomad Desktop – An Open Source Desktop With a Fresh Experience

      If you’re a Linux fan with the desire to check it its vast customization options then you must have toyed diverse desktop environments and settings including Gnome, Xfce, Unity, Cinnamon, and Plasma, to mention a few.

      Today, we have yet another intriguing desktop that I think you will definitely enjoy and it goes by the name of Nomad Desktop.

      Nomad Desktop is the face of one of the latest distros on the block, Nitrux, and it aims to provide users with simplicity and the same experience Plasma offers without compromising its flexibility and power for professionals.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • This week in Usability & Productivity, part 13

        Another week in Usability & Productivity, another wish that I could make more announcements about all the cool stuff we have in progress! The wheels of software sometimes turn more slowly than we might wish, but in the end, the better result will be worth it. KDE’s patch review process is there to ensure that code quality is high as possible before making it in!

        Nevertheless, we landed some great improvements this week, including a few long-standing requests. Come and see:

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • GNOME 3.28 uses clickfinger behaviour by default on touchpads

        To reduce the number of bugs filed against libinput consider this a PSA: as of GNOME 3.28, the default click method on touchpads is the ‘clickfinger’ method (see the libinput documentation, it even has pictures). In short, rather than having a separate left/right button area on the bottom edge of the touchpad, right or middle clicks are now triggered by clicking with 2 or 3 fingers on the touchpad. This is the method macOS has been using for a decade or so.

  • Distributions

    • Reviews

      • Review: Sortix 1.0

        Sortix is a relatively new project, less than a third the age of Linux, and appears to be mostly a one-person development project. To me, this makes the progress made so far amazing. The system has a working installer and partition manager, it works with multiple file systems, has a working collection of ported GNU tools and can run graphical games. It’s quite a feat of coding to get all of this working in so short a time. What really impressed me though was that the operating system’s documentation (exploring what it does, what it does not yet do and how the pieces work) is clear and up to date. In that regard a lot of other open source projects could follow Sortix’s example.

        Unfortunately, at this time, Sortix is not a practical operating system for most scenarios. We can test it, develop code on the platform and learn from its design, but Sortix lacks networking, multi-user security and a working desktop environment. This makes the project more of a developer playground than a system for end users to run. Still, in the realm of a personal hobby project, Sortix is one of the coolest creations I have seen in a while.

    • Gentoo Family

      • [Old] Distributions are becoming irrelevant: difference was our strength and our liability

        For someone that has spent the past thirteen years defining himself as a developer of a Linux distribution (whether I really am still a Gentoo Linux developer or not is up for debate I’m sure), having to write a title like this is obviously hard. But from the day I started working on open source software to now I have grown a lot, and I have realized I have been wrong about many things in the past.

        One thing that I realized recently is that nowadays, distributions lost the war. As the title of this post says, difference is our strength, but at the same time, it is also the seed of our ruin. Take distributions: Gentoo, Fedora, Debian, SuSE, Archlinux, Ubuntu. They all look and act differently, focusing on different target users, and because of this they differ significantly in which software they make available, which versions are made available, and how much effort is spent on testing, both the package itself and the system integration.

    • Red Hat Family

      • Fedora

        • Fedora Local Repo

          Let’s suppose that you want to test a package not yet landed in the Fedora repos, include it in the installation process or in a Live CD (more on a future post).

        • Rawhide notes from the trail: more rocky trail

          I am looking forward to next week when we hope to get things setup for some gating in rawhide. I know it couldn’t handle all these issues, but it’s a start and we can add things as we know how to detect them in advance.

        • Installing go1.10.1 (Fedora 27)
        • Justin W. Flory: Stepping out of Fedora: May to August 2018

          Similar to last year, I am putting forward a note of planned absence from the Fedora Project community from May to August 2018.

          Transparency is important to me. I wanted to make this announcement ahead of time to set clear expectations for the upcoming months. I am returning to Chicago, IL to work another internship at Jump Trading, LLC. From June to August, I am working at their Chicago office. I am excited to return and learn more from an amazing team of people.

          I am not blocked by company policy from contributing to open source, so I won’t disappear completely. However, while I am still able to contribute to Fedora, I do not expect to keep up the level of activity that I contribute at now during my internship.

        • A Cloud Lab Environment in a Backpack
        • Fedora 28 Add-on Modularity Test Day 2018-04-10
        • Fedora rawhide – fixed bugs March 2018
    • Debian Family

      • Build system changes in debhelper

        Since debhelper/11.2.1[1], we now support using cmake for configure and ninja for build + test as an alternative to cmake for configure and make for build + test. This change was proposed by Kyle Edwards in Debian bug #895044. You can try this new combination by specifying “cmake+ninja” as build system.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Run Ubuntu 18.04 From USB Stick

            Ubuntu 18.04 is a great operating system. It is in beta at the time of this writing. Everyone is so excited and eagerly waiting for its release even as we speak. If you’re one of them, you may wish to carry your favorite Linux distribution with you all the time. Have you ever thought about running Ubuntu 18.04 from a USB stick? Well it is possible. You can run Ubuntu 18.04 from a USB stick. That way your workstation is with you wherever you go. You don’t have to use other people’s setup, you can use your own comfortable setup, also your favorite softwares.

          • Ubuntu Developer Floats The Idea Of “Test Weeks” To Replace Early Alpha/Beta Releases

            Prominent Ubuntu community developer Simon Quigley has sparked a discussion about Ubuntu’s release milestones and the possibility of moving away with their alpha and beta one milestones moving forward.

            Quigley’s proposal after consulting with the Xubuntu / Ubuntu MATE / Kubuntu / Ubuntu Budgie teams was using “testing weeks” to replace the previous formal alpha / beta releases. During testing weeks, users would be encouraged to use the latest daily ISOs rather than a blessed “alpha” or “beta” image.

          • Announcing the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS Free Culture Showcase winners

            In just under 3 weeks, Ubuntu 18.04 LTS launches. This exciting new release is a new Long Term Support release and will introduce many Ubuntu users to GNOME Shell and a closer upstream experience. In addition, Ubuntu developers have been working long and hard to ensure that 18.04 is a big, brilliant release that builds a bridge from 16.04 LTS to a better, bigger platform that can be built upon, without becoming unnecessarily boisterous.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • From MPEG to open source: will telcos get the video codec they need?

    As the NAB broadcast show gets into full swing in Las Vegas, expect to hear plenty of news about the continued convergence of telecoms and broadcast (the longest engagement of all time, with still no marriage date set…) in terms of back-end IP production pipelines, online delivery and mobile consumption. One of the more interesting announcements pre-show concerned the development of online video players.

    For many years, we have been using the tried and tested MPEG standards for online video delivery. Yes, it works, but at a price. For a start, the codec is subject to IPR royalty payments, plus it has arguably not evolved rapidly enough to support the new needs of the telecoms industry – with video consumption showing no sign of slowing down, telcos need a far more efficient pipeline.

  • Top 5 open-source frameworks for AI development

    Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are the two terms that are trending these days and sometimes even used interchangeably. However, both the terms are not the same. While AI involves machines that can perform tasks that are characteristic of human intelligence, ML enables modern computers to learn without being explicitly programmed. Basically, ML has evolved from AI via pattern recognition and computational learning theory.

  • Vendor Lock-in: Now in the Cloud!

    Vendor lock-in has moved from corporate infrastructure into the cloud, only this time many are all too happy to embrace it.

    I started my professional career as a general-purpose “computer guy” for a small office. I wore many hats in this job including desktop help desk, server administrator, webmaster, network administrator, security engineer, and in general, if it plugged in, I was probably responsible for it. This was back in the era where, although Linux was making some inroads in the web server market, Microsoft absolutely dominated both the desktop and the corporate server markets. It was expected back then that offices of any size from ten to a thousand people would not only be running Windows on the desktop, but also that the back office would be running Windows servers.

    Those Microsoft services weren’t necessarily better than the alternatives, but they won out anyway because of vendor lock-in. The domination of the desktop market meant that Microsoft could develop proprietary protocols like SMB (file sharing) and MAPI (email client syncing), and add them to Windows and Microsoft Office. Once SMB was baked in to Windows, it became easy for the boss of a small office to turn his or her desktop into the office file server without adding any extra software. As the company grew, that desktop was replaced by a standalone Windows server, and when you found out that your ISP (which you were using for corporate email up to this point) didn’t support the shared calendar feature you saw in Outlook, you found out that Exchange and its MAPI protocol did.

  • Events

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Verbosio is dead… but I have a new code name, Aluminium, with the same ambition

        All of the above means that Verbosio, as a Mozilla Firefox-based XML editor with specific XML languages as add-ons to the editor, is truly and finally dead, and there’s no point trying to believe otherwise. Similarly, the need for a XUL IDE is dead as well. (Daniel Glazman and I need to get together to cry over a beer sometime.)

      • Know your limits

        When building software systems, we usually deal with data from external sources. This can be user input, data coming from other systems, etc. My basic assumption on any external data is: don’t trust it!

  • Databases

    • phpMyAdmin 4.8.0 is released

      Welcome to phpMyAdmin version 4.8.0. We are excited to bring you this updated version with many new features and bug fixes. There are no changes to system requirements.

      A complete list of new features and bugs that have been fixed is available in the ChangeLog file or changelog.php included with this release.

    • phpMyAdmin 4.8 Brings Mobile Interface, 2FA & More

      Over the weekend marked the release of phpMyAdmin 4.8.0 as the latest major update to this widely-used MySQL web-based administration interface.

      The phpMyAdmin 4.8 release brings several security improvements, including support for Google Invisible Captcha, better reCAPTCHA handling, two factor authentication (2FA) and U2F support, removal of PHP eval() usage, and other changes in the name of better security.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • FreeCAD 0.17 Released With Various Workbench Improvements

      For fans of the FreeCAD open-source 3D CAD modeling software, a new major release is now available — the first update in almost two years.

      FreeCAD 0.17 is now available to succeed FreeCAD 0.16 from April of 2016. While it may not be nearly as well off as AutoCAD or other alternatives, FreeCAD does continue getting better while being free and open-source software.

    • [FreeCAD] Release notes 0.17
    • GNU Mcron 1.1.1 released

      We are pleased to announce the release of GNU Mcron 1.1.1,
      representing 48 commits, by 1 person over 3 weeks.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

Leftovers

  • Science

    • Manifesto on algorithmic humanitarianism

      The nature of machine learning operations mean they will actually deepen some humanitarian problematics and introduce new ones of their own. This banality of machine learning is also its power.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Fukushima Jitters

      Fukushima is full of nasty surprises, similar to John Carpenter’s classic film The Thing (1982), which held audiences to the edge of their seats in anticipation of creepy monsters leaping out from “somebody, anybody, nobody knows for sure,” but unlike Hollywood films, Fukushima’s consequences are real and dire and deathly. It’s an on-going horror show that just won’t quit.

      Only recently, a team of international researchers, including a group of scientists from the University of Manchester/UK and Kyushu University/Japan made a startling discovery. Within the nuclear exclusion zone in paddy soils and at an aquaculture center located several miles from the nuclear plant, the research team found cesium-rich micro-particles.

      Evidently, the radioactive debris was blown into the environment during the initial meltdowns and accompanying hydrogen blasts. Accordingly, the environmental impact of radiation fallout may last much longer than previously expected. (Source: New Evidence of Nuclear Fuel Releases Found at Fukushima, University of Manchester, Phys.org, Feb. 28, 2018)

      According to Dr. Gareth Law, senior lecturer in Analytical Radiochemistry at the University of Manchester: “Our research strongly suggests there is a need for further detailed investigation on Fukushima fuel debris, inside, and potentially outside the nuclear exclusion zone. Whilst it is extremely difficult to get samples from such an inhospitable environment, further work will enhance our understanding….” Ibid.

      Their discovery dispels the long-held view that the initial explosion only emitted gaseous radionuclides. Now, it is clear that solid particles with very long-lived radionuclides were emitted. The research team did not discuss the likely impact, as more analysis is necessary before drawing conclusions.

      Decidedly, they’d best hurry up, as the Olympics are scheduled for 2020.

    • ICE Ends Policy Of Presuming Release For Pregnant Detainees

      The Trump administration has abandoned a policy of generally releasing pregnant women from immigrant detention, according to a directive publicly shared by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Thursday.

      Under the new policy, pregnant women will be released from immigrant detention only on a case-by-case basis.

    • How the Wireless Industry Convinced the Public Cellphones Are Safe & Cherry-Picked Research on Risks

      Ninety-five out of every 100 American adults owns a cellphone today. And worldwide, three out of four adults now have cellphone access. The wireless industry is one of the fastest-growing on Earth, raking in annual sales of $440 billion in 2016.

      But are cellphones safe? Well, a new investigation by The Nation suggests that’s a question that cellphone giants prefer you don’t ask. The article, by journalists Mark Hertsgaard and Mark Dowie, is headlined “How Big Wireless Made Us Think That Cell Phones Are Safe.”

      The article notes that cellphones were first marketed to U.S. consumers in the 1980s without any government safety testing. Then, a decade later, one of the industry’s own hand-picked researchers, George Carlo, reportedly told top company officials, including leaders of Apple, AT&T and Motorola, that some industry-commissioned studies raised serious questions about cellphone safety. On October 7th, 1999, Carlo sent letters to industry CEOs urging them to give consumers, quote, “the information they need to make an informed judgment about how much of this unknown risk they wish to assume.” Instead, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association reportedly tried to discredit Carlo’s findings, and had him physically removed from its premises during its annual conference in February 2000.

    • Special Feature: Blocking Taiwan From Joining WHO Affects Global Health Security, Officials Say

      Two years after the victory of Taiwan Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and President Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan is feeling the effects of the DPP’s position against the “One China principle.” At the World Health Organization, China is allegedly successfully blocking Taiwan from participating in the annual World Health Assembly, and in a number of WHO technical meetings, officials say. Beyond the political dimension of the dissent between China and Taiwan, the situation may hurt the Taiwanese and global health security, Taiwanese officials said.

  • Security

    • Global cyberattack targets 200,000 network switches (updated)
    • ‘Don’t mess with our elections’: Hackers stuff US flag into Cisco security hole worldwide

      Unknown hackers have exploited a loophole in the Cisco protocol to strike internet service providers worldwide, in a coordinated attack against data centers, leaving a US flag and a message reading “Don’t mess with our elections.”

      Iranian data centers became some of the latest victims of the global bot attack late on Friday. Disabling router switches for internet service providers at data centers, the hackers, in a malign stunt, cut off web access for subscribers in their respective countries. “Don’t mess with our elections,” the message on the compromised systems read, next to US flag, Iran’s IT Minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi revealed in a Twitter picture message.

    • 21 percent of Open Source Serverless Applications have Critical Vulnerabilities [Ed: They are reposting a press release which is a self-promotional FUD with a buzzword]

      The core concept of FaaS, or serverless functions, is to define an API for consumption

    • Linux Beep bug joke backfires as branded fix falls short

      Retro programmers may need to reconsider using the Linux beep command as an activity or progress alert.

      One of the silliest bugs on record emerged late last week, when Debian project leader Chris Lamb took to the distro’s security to post an advisory that the little utility had a local privilege escalation vulnerability.

    • Android April Security Bulletin Fixes Nine Critical Vulnerabilities
    • The dots do matter: how to scam a Gmail user

      And even in the rare case that a Gmail user is aware of their infinite set of addresses, and they’re aware of the phishing attacks that this can expose them to, this user is unlikely to pick up on it, because the user interfaces of Gmail and Inbox don’t hint anything about a possible scam. In fact it barely even acknowledges that the email was to a non-standard address. The only clue in the screenshot above is that the interface says “to james.hfisher”, instead of “to me”.

    • Episode 91 – Security lessons from a 7 year old

      Josh and Kurt talk to a 7 year old about security. We cover Minecraft security, passwords, hacking, and many many other nuggets of wisdom.

    • Update for Ubuntu 16.04 LTS patches security vulnerabilities

      Canonical has released a kernel update for Ubuntu 16.04 LTS.

      The “important update” patches 39 security vulnerabilities, according to a report by Softpedia.

      The update covers Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and its official derivatives, including Kubuntu, Lubuntu, and Xubuntu.

      Security fixes contained in the update cover a wide range of issues, such as vulnerabilities in the Linux kernel’s USB over IP implementation – which allowed remote attacks.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • ISIS, in eleven shades of black

      An Indonesian version is significant too, given Islamist affiliates in the country and security concerns in the Celebes and Sulu Seas between Indonesia, Malaysia and the southern Philippines.

    • Israeli Sniper Targets, Kills Journalist in “PRESS” Vest

      Yaser Murtaja, a cameraman for Palestinian Ain Media, was wearing a “PRESS” flak jacket as he was shot by an Israeli sniper Friday. He died of his injuries in a hospital on Saturday.

      The 30-year-old journalist was one of nine people killed and more than 1,000 injured by Israeli troops Friday on the Gaza border.

      Thousands of Palestinians continued “The Great March of Return,” the week-long protest on Friday, demanding the right of return of Palestinian refugees to towns and villages from which their families were driven out when Israel was created.

      UK’s Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned Israel’s killing of at least 27 Palestinians on the Gaza border as an “outrage” and attacked Western “silence” about the deaths.

    • How Do You Tell the Kids that Grandma is in Jail for Resisting Nuclear Weapons?

      “Our grandma is in jail,” Madeline tells a woman wrestling a shopping cart at Target.

      “She went over a war fence and tried to make peace,” Seamus adds helpfully. “They arrested her, and she is in jail now.”

      “Where?” the woman asks, looking from them to me in disbelief and maybe pity.

      “We don’t remember,” the kids say, suddenly done with their story and ready to make passionate pleas for the colorful items in the dollar section over the woman’s shoulder.

      “Georgia,” I say, but I don’t have a lot of energy to add detail to my kids’ story. They hit all the high points.

      “There’s a lot going on these days,” she says. I agree, and we move on into the store and our separate errands.

    • Shelter From the Storm: the Tunnels of Eastern Ghouta

      All battles and bombardments share their secrets one by one. Eastern Ghouta is no different. Why the sudden, savage bombardment of these Syrian towns and villages more than three weeks ago? Why the wasteland of homes and streets—and how did so many of the civilians survive along with hundreds of Islamist gunmen?

      You can do no better than start your enquiry in a front line dug-out near Arbeen, on the old and now war-smashed international highway between Damascus and Aleppo. It is protected by oil barrels of solid concrete, an iron roof, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, a couple of rifles and a rusting motor-bike, presumably to carry messages when the lines are cut. “Twenty mortars a day,” one of the Syrian soldiers says, rolling his eyes.

      [...]

      These great stoneworks – for they were carved through the living rock, supposedly by Palestinians on loan from Hamas, men who had spent their years hacking tunnels between Gaza and the Egyptian desert to the south – have become a familiar part of the Syrian war. I have walked through them in Homs, where the makers carved their names on the walls like Victorian railway builders, and in eastern Aleppo. These tunnels somehow carry inside them the necrology of ideas, the ideological martyrs’ cemetery of their makers’minds. They are deep and dank and glisten with moisture. But they are safe.

    • The Coming Crisis with Iran

      With the appointments of Mike Pompeo as secretary of state and John Bolton as national security adviser, Donald Trump has signaled his preparedness by the May 12deadline to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and ramp up pressure on North Korea if it refuses to denuclearize. The two moves would have interactive consequences: casting aside the Iran nuclear deal is likely to be read in Pyongyang as indicating that the US cannot be trusted to keep its commitments. It might also be read as a signal that should nuclear talks with Trump fail, a US attack on North Korea’s missile and nuclear sites could be in the offing.

    • Could the Cold War Return With a Vengeance?

      This renewed emphasis on China and Russia in U.S. military planning reflects the way top military officials are now reassessing the global strategic equation, a process that began long before Donald Trump entered the White House. Although after 9/11, senior commanders fully embraced the “long war against terror” approach to the world, their enthusiasm for endless counterterror operations leading essentially nowhere in remote and sometimes strategically unimportant places began to wane in recent years as they watched China and Russia modernizing their military forces and using them to intimidate neighbors.

      While the long war against terror did fuel a vast, ongoing expansion of the Pentagon’s Special Operations Forces (SOF) — now a secretive army of 70,000 nestled inside the larger military establishment — it provided surprisingly little purpose or real work for the military’s “heavy metal” units: the Army’s tank brigades, the Navy’s carrier battle groups, the Air Force’s bomber squadrons, and so forth. Yes, the Air Force in particular has played a major supporting role in recent operations in Iraq and Syria, but the regular military has largely been sidelined there and elsewhere by lightly equipped SOF forces and drones. Planning for a “real war” against a “peer competitor” (one with forces and weaponry resembling our own) was until recently given far lower priority than the country’s never-ending conflicts across the Greater Middle East and Africa. This alarmed and even angered those in the regular military whose moment, it seems, has now finally arrived.

    • In Display of ‘Actual Sociopathy,’ Trump Reportedly Asked CIA Why Drone Didn’t Also Kill Target’s Family

      Reacting to footage of a drone strike in Syria in which the CIA waited until the target was separated from his family before firing, Trump reportedly asked, “Why did you wait?”

      While Trump’s question was immediately denounced as a display of “actual sociopathy,” it was perfectly in line with his campaign rhetoric insisting that the best way to combat terrorism is to “take out” the alleged perpetrators’ families.

    • B’Tselem calls on Israeli soldiers to defy shooting orders, lest they commit war crimes

      B’Tselem, the respected Israeli human rights NGO, began a media campaign today urging Israel Defense Forces soldiers posted on the Gaza border to disobey “patently illegal” shoot-to-kill orders against unarmed protesters. Last week, the IDF gunned down 17 such protesters and wounded more than 700 of them. Another wounded protester later died of his wounds. Fresh protests are expected on Friday and the IDF already announced it will keep its Rules of Engagement (ROE) as they are.

      [...]

      B’Tselem has toughened its position towards the army and government in recent years. Two years ago, the NGO decided to stop cooperating with the IDF and its notoriously inept Military Police Criminal Investigation Division, citing the fact that the military justice system serves only “to cover up unlawful acts and protect perpetrators.” B’Tselem CEO Hagai El-Ad appeared in the UN Security Council in October 2016, calling upon the world to protect Palestinians from Israel.

      Those decisions caused controversy not just in the general Israeli public, but also within the Israeli human rights NGOs sphere: Most NGOs rejected B’Tselem’s position regarding non-cooperation with the IDF, arguing that by so doing they would lose whatever shred of ability to change the system they still had.

    • Sick Temper Tyrannis

      Tyranny… What is it? Does the word mean anything any more? Like so many terms it has been distorted to serve the ends of powerful interests until its meaning has been blurred. In its dictionary definitions the common element is the exercise of power without accountability to the ruled.

      High-powered academic research has established beyond debate that Americans have nothing to say about what is done in their name by the State. Their opus wasn’t needed. It’s painfully clear by now that we are ruled tyrannically and if you’re not flaming furious about that, you’re dead.

    • Mass Deception and the Prelude to World War

      In Syria, the US, Turkey, France, Britain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been helping to arm militants. The Daily Telegraph’s March 2013 article “US and Europe in ‘major airlift of arms to Syrian rebels through Zagreb’” reported that 3,000 tons of weapons dating back to the former Yugoslavia had been sent in 75 planeloads from Zagreb airport to the rebels. The New York Times March 2013 article “Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With CIA Aid” stated that Arab governments and Turkey had sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters. This aid included more than 160 military cargo flights.

    • Tomgram: Danny Sjursen, Cleaning House, Enabling War

      Lieutenant General McMaster was no prince either. He helped craft a National Defense Strategy that all but declared a new Cold War on Russia and China. He was also to the right of reasonable on Iran and North Korea. Nevertheless, he is an intelligent man with genuine academic bona fides. I’ve met the guy and, even though we disagree on almost everything, he’s certainly preferable to a zealot like Bolton. McMaster thinks critically and wasn’t always reflexively pro-war. However, Trump, a man who likes his information in tiny doses (and preferably on Fox News), reportedly found H.R.’s detailed briefings insufferable. And McMaster’s recent suggestion that Russia played an “incontrovertible” role in the 2016 U.S. election evidently didn’t help him one bit either.

    • Portonblimp Down Episode 2 – A Tale By Boris Johnson

      “Comrade Putin, we have successfully stockpiled novichoks in secret for ten years, and kept them hidden from the OPCW inspectors. We have also trained our agents in secret novichok assassination techniques. The programme has cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but now we are ready. Naturally, the first time we use it we will expose our secret and suffer massive international blowback. So who should be our first target? The head of a foreign intelligence agency? A leading jihadist rebel in Syria? A key nuclear scientist? Even a Head of State?”

      “No, Tovarich. There is this old retired guy I know living in Salisbury. We released him from jail years ago…”

      [...]

      That is, genuinely, in every detail the official British government version of what happened in Salisbury, including the ten year programme and the secret assassination manual.

      Despite this story being one of the most improbably wild conspiracy theories in human history, it is those who express any doubt at all as to its veracity who are smeared as “conspiracy theorists” or even “traitors”.

    • Conclusive evidence of the Russian state’s guilt in the Skripal case is lacking — and that’s important

      It is difficult to obtain 100% proof in cases such as the Sergey Skripal poisoning. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t demand as much evidence — from our politicians and law enforcement — as possible.

    • Where Every Bullet Landed

      Last weekend’s murder and mass wounding of scores of Palestinians – at least 17 dead, from 770 to 1,400 injured – as they marched, prayed and peacefully commemorated Land Day in the occupied Gaza Strip was abhorrent enough in and of itself. Now comes proof the carnage by what Ha’aretz columnist Gideon Levy calls Israeli “massacre forces” was premeditated. Israel had already announced plans to use “a lot of force,” including the deployment of 100 snipers, against thousands of unarmed Palestinians gathering for the annual event, which marks the start of a six-week-mobilization culminating in this year’s 70th anniversary of the disastrous Nakba. In the end, they opened fire with live ammunition, rubber-coated bullets and tear gas; almost half of those killed or injured were kids or young people.

    • REVEALED: The bombshell Russian message intercepted on DAY of Skripal poisonings

      AN ELECTRONIC message to Moscow sent on the day former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with a nerve agent in Salisbury included the phrase “the package has been delivered”.

    • Government Propaganda Now Totally Bizarre

      The increasing desperation of government attempts to “prove” the Russians responsible for the Skripal attack has become increasingly bizarre. They now claim GCHQ picked up from Troodos a message from Syria to Moscow that “the package has been delivered”, and a further one that “two people have made their egress”.

      Because of course, if you were sending a cryptic message back from Salisbury to Moscow, you would naturally route it back via Syria, in the certain knowledge that all such calls from Syria are picked up from Troodos. I am sure the Russians already knew that, even before I published it in detail five years ago.

    • Saudi ‘Julian Assange’ Claims Crown Prince to Ascend to Throne by July

      Saudi whistleblower Mujtahid, who is so well-informed that some believe he’s a member of the royal family, has once again used Twitter to reveal another portion of secrets about the kingdom.

      Twitter has become a crucial platform for Mujtahid, dubbed the Saudi “Julian Assange,” who has over 2 million followers: the whistleblower has recently revealed, citing a source familiar with the matter, that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman might be preparing to take over the throne within three months.

    • Azerbaijani mafia in the heart of Europe?

      The Azerbaijani mafia, little known in western Europe previously, arrived in France with a loud bang. Seven bangs, to be precise. The usual serenity of the picturesque town of Colomiers, a dozen kilometres outside of Toulouse, was disrupted by gunshots in the early morning of Friday 30 March. These were aimed at the car in which Rahim Namazov, an Azerbaijani national, was traveling together with his wife, Aida. She died in the attack, and Namazov’s condition is described as grave as he clings to life in a local hospital.

      [...]

      The problem is, no one in Azerbaijan has heard of a journalist by the name of Rahim Namazov. While Namazov arrived in France and was granted political asylum there in 2010, claiming persecution in his native Azerbaijan due to journalistic work, observers in his native country have been unsuccessfully searching for evidence supporting his connection with the profession.

    • The Dolls of Militarism: From War Hawks to Chickenhawks

      Donald Trump’s continual cabinet reshuffling — otherwise the stuff of reality-TV drama — has become genuinely frightening. Like so many Russian matryoshki or nesting dolls, the president has been removing one war hawk after another, only to reveal yet more extreme versions of the same creature. And rumor has it that such personnel moves have yet to reach their end point.

    • Nonviolence or Nonexistence? The Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

      Despite the vastly more perilous state of our planet, many people and organizations around the world are following in the footsteps of Gandhi, King and other nonviolent luminaries like Silo, and are engaged in what is effectively a last ditch stand to end the violence and put humanity on a path to peace, justice and sustainability.

      Let me tell you about some of these people and organizations and invite you to join them.

      In Bolivia, Nora Cabero works with the Movimient Humanista. The Movement has many programs including the Convergence of Cultures which aims to facilitate and stimulate true dialogue – oriented towards the search for common points present in the hearts of different peoples and individuals – to promote the relationship between different cultures and to resist discrimination and violence. Another program, World Without Wars and Violence emerged in 1994 and was presented for the first time internationally in 1995 at the Open Meeting of Humanism held in Chile at the University of Santiago. It is active in about 40 countries. It carries out activities in the social base and also promotes international campaigns such as Education for Nonviolence and the World March for Peace and Nonviolence.

    • MSNBC’s Chris Hayes Applauded for Doing What Few Prominent US Journalists Do: Report Honestly About Israeli Massacre

      In addition to cozy and sycophantic relationship President Donald Trump has forged with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Hayes also condemned the deafening silence of American lawmakers over the behavior of the Israeli military—which the U.S. government supplies with billions of dollars in annual aid—and argued that such silence on human rights abuses and violence is a permission slip for allies like Israel to do “whatever they want.” In turn, Israel is now running with that permission, said Hayes, “and that video—of teenagers being shot in an open field—that’s what it looks like when they do.”

    • The Courage to Uncover the Politics and Lies Behind the Carnage in Colombia

      Throughout the decade, the paramilitary groups had slowly been gaining in strength, but now they were engaged in a coordinated and terrifying campaign to seize control of key regions of the country. Moving beyond Antioquia and Córdoba, where Carlos Castaño’s ACCU had first started its expansion in the 1990s, they were now spreading out over most of the country’s northern states, and even venturing into the center and south of the country. The ACCU had also joined forces with other paramilitary groups, organized under a single umbrella as the AUC (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, or United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia), which had multiple “blocks,” each under separate leadership.

      [...]

      Meanwhile, the FARC and the ELN, too, were engaging in ever more ruthless tactics. They had taken people hostage for ransom or political gain for years, but now kidnappings were a daily occurrence. Travel by road throughout Colombia had become so hazardous that many people gave it up entirely. The guerrillas took advantage of the absence of law enforcement on many lonely roads to conduct pescas milagrosas (miraculous fishing), where they stopped drivers and kidnapped those they thought might be worth something. The kidnappings affected Colombians of all stripes and backgrounds, wealthy and poor alike, and by paralyzing travel, damaged the economy and frustrated city residents, for whom going to the countryside was a common pastime. To secure their territory, the guerrillas had also deployed antipersonnel landmines, which maimed not only soldiers, but also peasants, children, and animals that walked in the wrong place.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Punishment of Julian Assange is political, not legal

      Recent reports that the Ecuadoran government has blocked internet / phone access and disallowed visitors to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange – who has been holed up in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London for five and a half years – point to the latest in a series of moves apparently generated by US pressure, in what seems to be a concerted attempt, along with its allies, to subject the controversial whistle-blower to punishment outside of any legal process. Assange has been confined to the embassy building since he was granted political asylum by Ecuador in 2012. His physical and mental health have reportedly suffered on account of his isolation, which has now been intensified by jamming his electronic communications.

      [...]

      In Ecuador’s 2017 presidential election in which current President Lenin Moreno took office, it was his conservative opponent who threatened to evict Assange, while Moreno had said he could stay, reports say. It was Moreno’s government that granted Assange Ecuadorean citizenship in December, to provide him with ‘another layer of protection,’ and sought to give him diplomatic immunity. All of this would suggest that there has been recent outside pressure on Ecuador on this issue.
      With Swedish prosecutors having last year formally dropped their investigation into rape allegations in Sweden, all that the UK authorities are left with to justify Assange’s arrest is the argument that he ‘skipped bail’ when he took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy. Now, recent revelations of email correspondence between Sweden’s prosecutors and Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have added credence to the view that Assange’s plight has more to do with mala fide intentions of those who wish to see him punished, than any pursuit of justice. It appears that the last four years of Assange’s imprisonment in the embassy have been entirely unnecessary. “In fact, they depended on a legal charade” wrote Jonathan Cook in Counterpunch in February.

      [...]

      “His only ‘crime’ is that of a true journalist — telling the world the truths that people have a right to know” said a group that included American linguist and political theorist Noam Chomsky, Australian journalist/ film-maker John Pilger, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek and many other high profile figures.In an open letter published online they called on president Moreno to end the isolation of Assange, saying Ecuador’s government was justifying the gagging of Wikileaks’ publisher “under extreme pressure from Washington and its collaborators.”

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • ‘Live Luxuriously for Cheap – Like Scott!’: Green Group Trolls EPA Chief Pruitt With Fake Rental Ads

      Though President Donald Trump on Friday declared that his EPA chief is “doing great job but is totally under siege,” Friends of the Earth was trolling the embattled EPA chief by posting signs around Washington, D.C. offering discounted rental deals like the one Pruitt received from a fossil fuel lobbyist.

      “LUXURY CONDO ON CAPITOL HILL: $50 A NIGHT!!!*” the signs, which popped up overnight, declare. “LIVE LUXURIOUSLY FOR CHEAP—JUST LIKE SCOTT!”

      The small print on the poster reads: “*Special rate void if not a Trump administration able to provide special favors. Property may be used to host GOP fundraisers.”

    • ‘Callously Indifferent’ BP Argued Oil Spills Would Provide ‘Welcome Boost’ to Coastal Economy

      When pitching a proposal to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight of the southern coast of Australia in 2016, according to newly revealed documents, oil giant BP attempted to allay regulators’ concerns by claiming that any future oil spill would actually be a ‘welcome boost’ to the local economy.

    • Documents shed light on BP’s failures in the Great Australian Bight

      A major oil spill in the region would have covered up to 750km of beaches and disrupted whale migration, reveal government documents BP tried to suppress

      [...]

      For the first time, Climate Home News can reveal why. Government documents have been released under freedom of information laws, nearly two years after they were requested. BP had tried to suppress the information.

      A major oil spill in the sensitive seascape would pollute up to 750km of beaches and shoreline, according to BP’s own modelling, and the company thought drilling may disrupt migration of the endangered southern right whale.

      Two letters from the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (Nopsema) to BP in 2015 and 2016 show BP had failed to address the regulator’s concerns about managing these risks. The details suggest it will be costly for any oil company to drill the area in an environmentally responsible way.

      BP withdrew its plans to drill in October 2016, citing better options for investment. But the company said the Bight remained a prospect and still owns two of the four offshore leases that were subject to the original plans.

    • HOW THE TOKYO 2020 GAMES ARE KILLING RAINFORESTS IN MALAYSIA AND INDONESIA

      The Japanese have a word to convey a sense of regret concerning waste: mottainai. It can be used as an exclamation – as in “What a waste of food!” – or a slogan for local environmentalists to encourage environmental sustainability.

      So it came as no surprise that Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games organisers and Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike made a commitment to making sustainability an integral part of the Games.

      But as construction begins on facilities to support the mammoth undertaking that comes with hosting the Olympics, environmental groups are already up in arms about its effect on mother nature, specifically rainforests in the region.

    • As Antarctic Melting Accelerates, Worst-Case Scenarios May Come True

      Some of the world’s most profound melting of glaciers is happening in the Antarctic; and is invisible from above.

      According to a study recently published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the underwater melting of Antarctic glaciers is now occurring at a rate that is doubling every 20 years. This means that melting in the ice continent of Antarctica could soon outpace that occurring across Greenland, which would make Antarctica the single largest source of sea level rise.

      The new study was the first complete underwater mapping of Antarctica, by far the world’s largest body of ice.

      The study shows that warming ocean waters have caused the base of the ice near the ocean floor around the south pole to shrink by 1,463 kilometers from 2010 to 2016. This development will likely force worst-case projections of sea level rise to be revised upwards.

  • Finance

    • Does the “Article 50 Challenge” have any merit?

      Some Remainers are hopeful. The hope – a high hope – is that this legal challenge could stop or substantially delay Brexit.

    • More Than One-Third of College Students Struggle with Food and Housing Insecurity, Study Finds

      While higher education has historically been promoted as a “great equalizer,” new research offers the latest evidence that poverty and economic inequality continue to inhibit the realization of that promise.

      A study by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab and Temple University found that about 36 percent of students struggle with food insecurity, or inadequate access to nutritious food, while more than a third also face housing insecurity—defined as the inability to pay rent or utilities or the need to move frequently.

      The researchers documented the experiences of 43,000 college students at more than 60 public and private universities as well as community colleges—the largest-ever national survey assessing whether the basic needs of students are being met.

    • President Trump Keeps Attacking Amazon. See How His Tweets Have Hurt Other Companies
    • Is the U.S. at Full Employment? Should They Put the Brakes on Job Growth to Avoid Inflation Down the Road?

      In the late 60s and the 1970s, anti-inflation concerns often replaced anti-poverty and employment concerns. Reducing demand for goods and workers was used to limit wage and price increases.

    • ‘We are the 99%’: But Richest 1% Will Soon Own Two-Thirds Of World’s Wealth

      More than two-thirds of the world’s entire wealth will be owned by the richest 1% of people by 2030, new research warns.

      The shocking findings of the new report produced by the UK’s House of Commons Library claims that if trends which began after the 2008 financial crisis continue, the 1% will control 64% of world’s money in just 12 years’ time.

      The widening gap between the 1% and everyone else was first highlighted by the Occupy Wall Street movement, which started in 2011 and famously used the slogan: “We are the 99%.”

      The study claims that the wealth of the richest one percent grows at six percent annually, outstripping the three percent annual growth of everyone else, causing a continual movement of money to the top.

    • Outrage Follows Puerto Rico’s Announcement It’s Closing Nearly a Third of Its Public Schools

      Teachers unions and outraged citizens in Puerto Rico are vowing to fight the government’s newly-announced plan to close nearly a third of its public schools.

      Puerto Rico’s Education Department said Thursday that 283 schools would close by the start of the new school year, leaving open just 828.

      “I don’t even know where the schools they’re being located to are,” said Haydee Del Valle, a parent of a 12-year-old who attends one of the schools slated for closure. “I don’t know if they’re too far away from us or if the school bus they take now will be able to take them there,” she told NBC News. “This makes me sad because this is a great school.”

      “We know it’s a difficult and painful process,” said Education Secretary Julia Keleher, a charter school proponent. She added, “Our children deserve the best education that we are capable of giving them taking into account Puerto Rico’s fiscal reality.”

    • Arizona Teachers Strike Is the Answer to Years of Tax Cuts and Neglect of Education

      Arizona teachers are considering a strike, following the recent West Virginia and now Oklahoma and Kentucky examples, if they don’t receive their requested 20 percent pay raise.

      An official strike date hasn’t been set, but the teachers, following the playbooks from West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky, have staged multiple protests in individual districts and at the state capitol in Phoenix for the last five weeks, using the #RedforEd hashtag on Twitter to announce and document their protests. At the capitol this Wednesday, one group of teachers gave the legislature a progress report, and there are more “walk-ins,” with teachers marching into their school buildings to demand better pay.

      [...]

      “We have the worst pay in the nation for our teachers,” he continued, but pay is just the tip of the iceberg. Arizona teachers have been struggling with years of divestment from Republican governors who slashed education funding to pay for tax cuts.

      Thomas dates the worst of Arizona’s tax cuts back to the reaction to the 2008 Great Recession. “Before the recession, we were spending $1,000 more a student on supplies, teacher salaries and staff hirings and building repair, all of the money that goes into that.”

    • The Oklahoma Teachers’ Strike Is a Mutiny Against Austerity

      Oklahoma teachers proudly marked themselves absent from school since Monday, and they had an excellent excuse: They made themselves present in politics instead, with a historic march on the Capitol in hopes of finally capturing the legislature’s undivided attention

      Lawmakers thought they could eke through another austerity budget with the last-minute addition of a $6,100 wage hike. But an estimated 30,000 educators stopped work starting Monday to force some 200 schools to shutter, in order to send the message to elected representatives that their gesture is insufficient. The planned raise paled against teachers’ demands for a fully funded school budget, as part of a $3.3 billion package to restore massive cutbacks across state agencies, as well as the basic dignity of a living wage for all state workers.

    • ‘We’re Still Here’: Oklahoma Teachers Show No Sign of Ending Strike Without Sufficient Funding

      About 100 teachers from Tulsa also continued a 110-mile walk to the capitol on Thursday after beginning the trek the day before.

    • Amid Massive Teacher Revolt Over Starving Schools, Kentucky GOP Passes ‘Huge Tax Cut for the 1%’

      Although both bills still need a signature from Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, he seemed to signal his support for the pension bill on Twitter, and while he has expressed concerns about the tax measure, the legislature could override a veto. If the tax plan takes effect, experts warn that the states’ poorest residents will be hardest hit.

      “The whole plan is a big tax shift from the wealthy and corporations to the middle class and poor,” Jason Bailey, executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy (KCEP), told the Lexington Herald-Leader. Bailey highlighted analysis from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) that found those in the state’s top one percent will save, on average, more than $7,000.

    • Trump and His Tariffs

      A year into his presidency, there is little evidence of any improvement. Inequality continues to define the American economic landscape—CEOs, new government data show, can make up to a thousand times more in their salaries than their employees.

    • Uncertainty is the Root of the Current Market Craziness

      For months after his inauguration, US president Donald Trump bragged that he was single-handedly producing an economic boom, citing a rising stock market as evidence.

      Recently, however, he’s stopped that line of self-promotion. The market has seemingly gone nuts. Sudden one-day drops pare back weeks of gains, followed by a cautious recovery of the lost ground. There’s a strong correlation between those swings and Trump’s mouth, whether he’s making formal policy announcements or just tweetstorming his latest obsession.

      To understand the problem, let’s look to the seemingly unrelated fields of economics and physics.

    • [Older] Puerto Ricans and Ultrarich “Puertopians” Are Locked in a Pitched Struggle Over How to Remake the Island

      Just off the main square, a large, pink colonial-style house had light shining through every window. It glowed like a beacon in the terrifying darkness.

      The pink house was Casa Pueblo, a community and ecology center with deep roots in this part of the island. Twenty years ago, its founders, a family of scientists and engineers, installed solar panels on the center’s roof, a move that seemed rather hippy-dippy at the time. Somehow, those panels (upgraded over the years) managed to survive Maria’s hurricane-force winds and falling debris. Which meant that in a sea of post-storm darkness, Casa Pueblo had the only sustained power for miles around.

      And like moths to a flame, people from all over the hills of Adjuntas made their way to the warm and welcoming light.

      Already a community hub before the storm, the pink house rapidly transformed into a nerve center for self-organized relief efforts. It would be weeks before the Federal Emergency Management Agency or any other agency would arrive with significant aid, so people flocked to Casa Pueblo to collect food, water, tarps, and chainsaws — and draw on its priceless power supply to charge up their electronics. Most critically, Casa Pueblo became a kind of makeshift field hospital, its airy rooms crowded with elderly people who needed to plug in oxygen machines.

    • A Modest Neoliberal Proposal

      It’s often repeated old news that U.S. public education is being undermined by corporate interests and elitist ideologues. Yet, this sinister trend continues at a quickening pace. How else explain our billionaire U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, and her agenda? How else explain the school-to-prison pipeline and arming teachers? Who doesn’t know by now that we have a man-boy sociopath in the White House who doesn’t care about the millions of young people his politicking harms? Then you have those who spend countless hours digesting Fox News, Breitbart, or the Wall Street Journal, loving the direction the country has taken: why concern oneself with education? Be concerned: don’t be deceived by corporate-backed politicians and pundits who know little about the wholesome education of a young person; listen to verifiable educators in the field. Stay concerned.

      Please share the following, especially the shout-outs at the end for Teaching Agency for Equity: A Framework for Conscientious Engagement, released by Routledge. I am happy to report my poem, “North American Education” appears in the closing chapter. Also, if you haven’t taken a peek yet, please visit The Teacher’s Voice (2004-2014 archived online). It’s a poetry journal I founded for teachers to express themselves. I like thinking TTV did some good for its time.

    • Roger Lowenstein, F**k Your Stock Portfolio

      I realize it would be too much to ask that people who write on economics for major news outlets have any clue about how the economy works. I say that seriously; I have been commenting on economic reporting for more than two decades. Being a writer on economics is not like being a custodian or bus driver where you have to meet certain standards. The right family or friends can get you the job and there is virtually no risk of losing it as a result of inadequate performance.

      But Roger Lowenstein performs a valuable service for us in the Washington Post this morning when he unambiguously equates the value of the stock market with the country’s economic well-being. It seems that Mr. Lowenstein is unhappy that Donald Trump’s recent tariff proposals sent the market plummeting. The piece is titled, “when the president tanks your stock portfolio.” It holds up Trump’s tariff plans as a uniquely irresponsible act because of its impact on stock prices.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Trump is Still the Most Unpopular President Since Polls Have Been Kept; But It May Not Matter in 2018 or 2020

      Trump recently bragged that his approval ratings were higher than “Cheatin Obama” at this point in his Presidency. As it turns out, only Rasmussen – a right wing polling organization that has consistently put Trump’s approval ratings above those of other polling organizations – had Trump approaching a 50 percent approval. The rest put him somewhere well below that, with two placing his rating below 40 percent.

      But to anyone who navigates through the world using facts, reason, and critical thinking skills, the real questions have to be, 1) just who the hell are the 40 percent or so who do approve of this idiot? 2) how does a guy with just 40 percent approval win the Presidency?

    • Ex-ambassador to Vietnam says Trump wanted him to push for refugees to be taken back

      Former U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius said he resigned from his post last year after the Trump administration asked him to pressure the Vietnamese government to receive more than 8,000 Vietnamese refugees marked in the U.S. for deportation.

      The vast majority of the people targeted for deportation — sometimes for minor crimes — were war refugees who had established lives in the U.S. after fleeing the Vietnam War more than 40 years ago, Osius wrote in an essay this month for the American Foreign Service Association.

      “And they were to be ‘returned’ decades later to a nation ruled by a communist regime with which they had never reconciled. I feared many would become human rights cases, and our government would be culpable,” he wrote.

    • EXCLUSIVE: Robert Mercer backed a secretive group that worked with Facebook, Google to target anti-Muslim ads at swing voters

      As the final weeks of the 2016 elections ticked down, voters in swing states like Nevada and North Carolina began seeing eerie promotional travel ads as they scrolled through their Facebook feeds or clicked through Google sites.

      In one, a woman with a French accent cheerfully welcomes visitors to the “Islamic State of France,” where “under Sharia law, you can enjoy everything the Islamic State of France has to offer, as long as you follow the rules.”

      The video has a Man in the High Tower feel. Iconic French tourist sites are both familiar and transformed — the Eiffel Tower is capped with a star and crescent and the spires of the Notre Dame are replaced with the domed qubba of a mosque.

      The Mona Lisa is shown looking, the ad says, “as a woman should,” covered in a burka.

    • Economics Lessons for Thomas Friedman: Putin Brought Russia Out of Poverty

      As a long-term columnist at the NYT, Thomas Friedman apparently never feels the need to know anything about the topics on which he writes. This explains his sarcastic speculation that Putin could be a CIA agent since he has done so much to hurt Russia.

      For all his authoritarian tendencies, it is likely that most Russians think primarily about Putin’s impact on the economy, just as is typically the case among voters in the United States. On that front, Putin has a very good record.

    • Degrading Newspapers’ Business Sections

      It’s alarming that there are far fewer media outlets for consumer protection news and features than there were thirty years ago. Recall the huge Phil Donahue Show, the regional radio show and TV news shows, the television networks and syndicated radio shows that would report and interview consumer advocates about the injustice, rip-offs, and harms done to the consumer by unscrupulous corporations. These shows are largely gone now. Shows marked by fluff, narcissism, trivia, and sensationalist, frenetic news bits are their replacements.

      What is disturbing is that the major newspapers – the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal—are cutting back reporting on the revelations and doings of active consumers, and consumer organizations. Sure, they do occasional features that may gain them big journalism prizes. But the regular coverage of very important consumer struggles with Congress, the White House, the courts, and the state legislatures has vastly shrunken. Moreover, the media, especially TV, is dittoheading itself with the daily “big story”, as with the Trumpian escapades.

    • Chris Hedges: “U.S. Citizens Are Living In An Inverted Totalitarian Country”

      The mainstream media deflects attention from where power resides: corporations, not with the leaders of the free world. The arguments posed by Chris Hedges, that the U.S. is neither a democracy nor a republic but a totalitarian state that can now assassinate its citizens at will, are pertinent ones. Scary ones. Especially as consecutive governments seem equally as impotent to invoke any real change for the States. If the media won’t stand up to the marionettes who pull the strings of the conglomerates causing deep, indelible polarisation in the world abound; then so we must act. Together.

      Listen to the full interview in our weekly Newsvoice Think podcast.

      We were delighted to have Chris Hedges on an episode of the Newsvoice Think podcast as we seek to broadcast perspectives from all sides of the political spectrum. Right, left, red, blue and purple.

      In our interview with Chris, we discussed a range of topics facing the U.S. today as the Trump administration looks back at a year in power, and forward to the November ’18 midterms where Democrats will be looking to make gains. Chris was scathing of that party describing them as a “creature of Wall Street, which is choreographed and ceased to be a proper party a long time ago.”

    • Right-Wing Feedback Loop: How Trump and the GOP Are Radicalizing Each Other

      On April 9, John Bolton will become Donald Trump’s new national security advisor, signaling the arrival of perhaps the most dangerous phase yet of the Trump administration. In Bolton, an unrepentant advocate for carrying out wars of aggression, Trump will have his Henry Kissinger, and the world will be less safe for it.

      Most importantly, Bolton’s appointment should put to rest any misguided hopes regarding the future of the Trump administration: It is sure to become more extreme, more chaotic, and more reflexively violent both domestically and abroad. In short, there is a very good chance that the first year of the Trump administration will be seen, in retrospect, as a relatively calm one, and that the worst is yet to come.

    • To Defend Policy of ‘Must-Run’ Commentaries, Sinclair Forces Stations to Use ‘Must-Run’ Commentary by Former Trump Aide

      acing a flood of external criticism and internal dissent over its efforts to force news anchors to recite scripts bashing the media, Sinclair Broadcast Group doubled down on Wednesday by feeding its news stations yet another must-run clip in which the company’s chief political analyst and former Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn defends Sinclair’s attempts to inject right-wing commentary into local news segments.

      “In terms of my analysis playing during your local news, as you see, my segments are very clearly marked as commentary,” Epshteyn notes in a new segment that was internally titled “MEDIA BASHING OF THE SINCLAIR BROADCASTING GROUP.”

      “Here’s the bottom line: I am proud to be the chief political analyst at Sinclair,” Epshteyn adds. “My goal with every segment is to tell you facts which you may not already know, and then my take on those facts. I am thrilled to keep sharing the truth and my perspective with you, day in and day out.”

    • Trump fought legislation requiring sprinklers in NYC buildings

      President Trump has a complicated history with the life-saving sprinklers the Trump Tower residential quarters lacked during a deadly fire Saturday.

      Nearly two decades ago, Trump, then one of the Big Apple’s most prominent real estate moguls, lobbied against Mayor Rudy Giuliani-era legislation that considered whether sprinklers should be installed in all residential buildings after two fatal fires in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

      The 1998 fires, which sparked sweeping building code changes, killed three firefighters at the NYCHA-run housing for seniors and four more died of smoke inhalation at an Upper West Side high-rise where child actor Macaulay Culkin’s family lived.

    • “Neither Washington nor Moscow” – 5 reasons progressives must be wary of playing Putin’s game

      Imagine a far-right government came to power in the UK and immediately set upon arresting or killing anyone that opposed it. The UK immediately moves to bolster its ideological friends across the continent, ordering City banks to grant financing to people like the French far-right leader Marine Le Pen. As part of this nationalist fervour, the UK invades and annexes Britany “to liberate Bretons from the French yoke” and sends in troops to enforce the “peaceful reunification” of the British and Irish peoples. A bombing campaign is begun against Catalonia in support of a similar neo-Francoist government in Spain in which Barcelona is devastated. Domestically, the government reintroduces a stronger version of Section 21 banning ‘gay propaganda’ and concentrates wealth into the hands of kleptocratic elite.

      Outlandish? Yes. But events very similar to this have unfolded in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. So why do some of my friends in the social justice movement appear to accept Kremlin propaganda at face value, or are at least reluctant to criticise his regime – particularly since the poisoning of Russian double agent Sergey Skipral?

    • The truth about Corbyn supporters’ Facebook groups

      On April 1, The Sunday Times published its front page article with the headline ‘Exposed: Jeremy Corbyn’s hate factory’ and stated that ‘The most comprehensive investigation conducted into 20 of the biggest pro-Corbyn Facebook groups — numbering 400,000 members — found routine attacks on Jewish people, including Holocaust denial’.

      Included in that sentence is a link to another article published at the same time in the Times claiming that ‘Anti-semitic and Holocaust-denying posts are rife on Facebook groups cheerleading for Labour’s leader’. The article goes on to say that ‘The dossier was compiled over two months by whistleblowers working with The Sunday Times in the groups, who gained access to restricted membership groups. They uncovered more than 2,000 racist, antisemitic, misogynistic, violent and abusive messages.’

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Is Stormy Daniels being shadowbanned on Twitter?

      It’s true. If you search on her name, and hit the Latest tab, you see lots of Trump-linked tweets and tweets where Ms. Daniels is mentioned, but not a single one of the recent Tweets from Stormy Daniels herself. [Note: her posts don't appear when you click the "Latest" tab, but her posts do appear in the "Top" tab -- Mark]

    • China’s Website and VPN Blocking Hurts Business, US Says

      The US Government sees China’s “Great Firewall” and the associated VPN crackdown as a serious threat to American companies. The censorship efforts are affecting billions of dollars in business, the US Trade Representative writes in its latest Foreign Trade Barriers report. In addition, the new VPN ban causes privacy concerns.

    • Mothers condemn plan to set up ‘censorship zone’ around abortion clinic [Ed: I am not sure I would call that censorship any more than I'd call designating protests to particular places at stated times/programme "censorship". They are menacing and disrupting medical practices.]

      The report proposes the creation of a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) setting up a “safe zone” outside the Marie Stopes clinic on Mattock Lane, Ealing to curtail pray vigils. It states that the Council “is satisfied on reasonable grounds” that certain activities in the area “have had a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality”, and is now restricting these activities within the safe zone.

    • The Federal Attack on Sex Workers’ Rights Is a Threat to Everyone’s Free Speech

      On March 23, Craigslist decided to do away with personal ads. Last week, Microsoft announced plans to make it illegal to get naked on Skype. The company is also out to ban any “offensive language” from Xbox and Office. Reddit has changed its content policy as well: Now the site explicitly forbids users from advertising paid services including “physical sexual contact” on its platform. And it’s not just the big names that are making such urgent amendments. Pounced.org, a dating website for those into Furry Fandom, just shut down.

      While some companies acknowledge it and some don’t, this trend appears to be spreading in anticipation of a sweeping piece of federal legislation that could soon become law. Enter FOSTA, or the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act. The bill intends to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which prevents online intermediaries from being held liable for their users’ actions. The legislation was passed by the House of Representatives in late February. By late March, the Senate had voted to advance the measure (SESTA). It just needs Trump’s signature to be passed. Needless to say, tech companies and Internet freedom activists aren’t pleased.

    • Censorship at Yale: my experience on campus

      “You will regret this in ways you do not understand … I’ve seen students burn for things like this.” In Biblical terms, Jonathan Holloway, then-Dean of Yale College, warned me against following through on a counter-protest. Our school motto is light and truth, but Holloway was preaching fire and brimstone.

      In April 2017, the Yale College Republicans and I organized a counter-protest against graduate students’ symbolic “hunger strike” for unionization. Our counter-protest was a barbecue right next to the grad students, but either a mistake was made or someone regretted sanctioning our event, because a few hours after the event was approved, I received an email from Holloway asking for me to call him. That is when he delivered his admonition to me.

      During the barbecue, participants were actively forbidden by Director of Administrative Affairs Pilar Montalvo from engaging with the graduate student union, lest we be shut down. Montalvo’s office had a view of the protests, and when we disobeyed, she stormed out onto the plaza wildly, reiterating her threats. I later learned that it was Montalvo, who works in the Office of the President, who contacted multiple deans at Yale to pressure me to cancel the barbecue.

    • Prodding private companies into censorship by proxy is a dangerous government tradition

      YouTube is worried you might believe too much of what you see on its website. Amid the clamor for someone, somewhere to do something about “fake news,” the company plans to attach “information cues” — excerpts from Wikipedia — to videos that touch on “a list of well-known internet conspiracies.”

      When YouTube, Facebook or Twitter cracks down on some form of expression — conspiracy theories, radical rants, terrorist propaganda — some of the targets inevitably complain that their freedom of speech is under attack. (This feeling of victimhood may be what sent Nasim Aghdam to YouTube headquarters, gun in hand.) There is a strong retort to this: These are private platforms with a right to decide what they publish. It is no more a violation of the 1st Amendment for YouTube to muzzle a channel it finds offensive than it is for this newspaper to refuse to run a column calling for Minnesota to invade Wisconsin.

      But what if a private platform suppresses speech because it’s afraid the government might otherwise step in?

    • What counts as censorship on officials’ social media? Maryland offers a lesson.

      Gov. Larry Hogan’s office, just one official — a 20-something junior staffer — is in charge of managing and monitoring the boss’s official social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. That (presumably overworked) aide must also figure out when commenters are within their First Amendment rights to scold, blast or zing Mr. Hogan, a Republican, and when they cross the line into what another official called “nastiness” and may be censored or banned altogether.

      Where exactly is that line? “It’s like porn,” said Doug Mayer, the governor’s spokesman. “You know it when you see it.”

    • Censorship on Edinburgh Uni campus drives creation of new website

      A growing “crisis” over campus censorship at Edinburgh University is driving the success of a new free speech ­platform where nothing is off-limits, according to the two students who founded it.

      The Broad website has been launched to counter the emergence of “no platforming” and “safe space” initiatives which have hit university societies and speakers which are deemed unpalatable in controversial areas such as abortion or immigration.

    • Beware Censorship by Proxy

      YouTube is worried you might believe too much of what you see on its website. Amid the clamor for someone, somewhere to do something about “fake news,” the company plans to attach “information cues”—excerpts from Wikipedia—to videos that touch on “a list of well-known internet conspiracies.”

      When YouTube, Facebook or Twitter cracks down on some form of expression—conspiracy theories, radical rants, terrorist propaganda—some of the targets inevitably complain that their freedom of speech is under attack. (This feeling of victimhood may be what sent Nasim Aghdam to YouTube headquarters, gun in hand.) There is a strong retort to this: These are private platforms with a right to decide what they publish. It is no more a violation of the First Amendment for YouTube to muzzle a channel it finds offensive than it is for this newspaper to refuse to run a column calling for Minnesota to invade Wisconsin.

    • Museum censorship in light of the #MeToo movement

      In 1896, John William Waterhouse painted his Hylas and the Nymphs. Taking a story from classical mythology, Waterhouse here explored the classical moment in which the youth and Argonaut warrior Hylas was abducted by water nymphs. The painting is housed at Manchester Art Gallery, and provoked controversy last month when it was removed from the walls for a short period of time.

      Clare Gannaway, the curator of the museum, has claimed that this was not a form of censorship and was only ever intended to be a temporary measure. Its removal was designed to provoke debate with visitors being encouraged to place their opinions on post-it notes in the space previously occupied by the painting. Gannaway confirmed to the Guardian that the MeToo and Time’s Up campaigns influenced this decision.

    • Africa round-up: Internet censorship, Cambridge Analytica ripples and more

      It was an eventful month on the continent with the approval of an amendment in South Africa regulating online content and the consideration of a bill seeking to restrict freedom of expression and media freedom, a disturbing trend of attacks on journalists by political party loyalists, the deportation of a photojournalist from Mauritania, and the spreading tentacles of the Cambridge Analytica scandal in Africa.

      [...]

      The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) immediately condemned the Hawks search allegedly for “secret state security files as part of their investigation”, describing it as a threat to media freedom…

    • Turkey continues to lead in Twitter censorship – report

      Turkey is at the top of the list of third-party takedown requests to one of the world’s most popular social media platforms.

      According to a transparency report published by Twitter, 466 of the total 513 requests made to the online news and social networking site Twitter for content removal and takedowns between June-Dec. 2017, came from Turkey.

    • Turkey overwhelmingly leads world in Twitter censorship

      Turkish government continues its efforts to censor Twitter, according to the site’s new transparency report. The report has showed that 466 of the total 513 requests made to the online news and social networking site Twitter for content removal and takedowns between June-Dec. 2017, came from Turkey.

      Turkey clinched the same title in the previous year. Under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has called Twitter, “the worst menace to society, Turkey has also formed more than half of court orders for takedown requests. Of the 6,138 non-court order based legal requests for content removal, 3,828 came from Turkey.

    • Motives of censorship can be reasonable, but often debatable

      Obscenity is paradoxical and morality is subjective, with a strong resemblance to entering a cold pool, over the years society has gone from dipping its toes to near submergence. As political and moral censorship change, culture faces the “inconvenient” side of censoring. Artists, liberal leaders and philosophers have experienced a lengthy history of presenting “untimely” or “inconvenient” work and facing extreme consequences. Socrates was executed for refusing censorship of his teachings and Oscar Wilde was imprisoned for not adhering to contemporary virtue in his writings. As a basic human right, freedom of speech is the “freedom to express opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship or sanction,” as outlined by John Stuart Mill, author of On Liberty.

    • The looming danger of social media censorship

      While the Easter weekend offered much-needed rest to many, the reality of April 1 is now upon us.

      We are not talking about April Fool jokes, but the increase of VAT that has kicked in and which will make residents of SA feel the burden of an increase in fuel prices and, for some, an increase in taxes.

      These are the economic times we are living in…. Did you know that Eskom is also asking for a further 30 per cent price increase? Yes, it is true – seriously.

      In the midst of all the ‘fun’ things happening around us, such as the Australians resorting to cheating to beat the Proteas in cricket, we can easily miss noting some of the critical developments that could soon affect all our lives.

      Take the National Assembly for example. Recently its members quietly approved the Film and Publications Amendment Bill. This means the regulation of the distribution of online content could become a reality next year.

    • Two Trump-Supporting Black Women Reportedly Deemed ‘Unsafe to Community’ by Facebook
    • Policy team determines Diamond and Silk’s content is ‘unsafe to the Facebook community’
    • Fox News regulars Diamond & Silk have Twitter meltdown after Facebook labels their videos ‘unsafe to the community’
    • ‘We want ANSWERS!’ Diamond and Silk drop the MIC on Facebook about censorship in must-read thread
    • Facebook Designates ‘Diamond And Silk’ Unsafe — Duo Claims Censorship
    • Facebook Wants A License To Censor
    • Facebook intensifies censorship ahead of congressional testimony by Zuckerberg

      Ahead of scheduled congressional testimony by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook has announced a series of censorship measures that strike a blow against online anonymity and tighten the company’s grip on what users can say on its platform.

      Zuckerberg announced Friday that the company will “require people who manage large pages to be verified,” meaning they will have to provide the company, and by extension the US government, with their real names and locations.

      Zuckerberg declared that the measure “will make it much harder for people to run pages using fake accounts, or to grow virally and spread misinformation or divisive content.” In addition, the company will prohibit ad purchases by individuals whose identities have not been “verified.”

      The move is a major step toward the fulfillment of the demand by the US intelligence agencies that social media companies end online anonymity, making it easier not only to track, but to arrest people for expressing oppositional political opinions.

      Zuckerberg added that the move would involve the hiring of thousands of additional censors and “security” personnel. “In order to require verification for all of these pages and advertisers, we will hire thousands of more people,” he wrote.

    • Say no to Article 13′s censorship machine

      To fight copyright infringement, policymakers want to force internet companies to scan literally everything users attempt to post on their platforms. If Article 13 in the EU’s Copyright Directive passes into law, an algorithm will decide whether the content you upload is seen or blocked.

      Automated filters will struggle to identify the vital legal exceptions to copyright that enable research, commentary, creative works, parody and so much more. From academics and journalists to parents uploading videos of their children, Article 13′s upload filter would impact professional and ordinary content creators alike.

    • Politicians Who Said SESTA Was Needed To Takedown Backpage Claim Victory Over Backpage Takedown… Without SESTA

      Except not a single thing in SESTA holds online sex traffickers accountable. Indeed, it does the exact opposite of that, in that it makes it that much more difficult for law enforcement to track down actual sex traffickers. Prior to SESTA, websites (including Backpage) frequently worked with law enforcement to help them track down those using their platforms for illegal activity. Under SESTA, no site will be willing to assist law enforcement in such a manner, because doing so will provide evidence of “knowledge” and thus, potentially, criminal liability. This sweeps the problem of sex trafficking under the rug, which might make Senator Portman feel better, but does nothing to tackle the actual problem, and makes it that much more difficult to find and prosecute actual traffickers, let alone find and rescue victims held against their will.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Our MPs must account for Cambridge Analytica

      The timing couldn’t be more ironic. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is showing the world the importance of data protection rights just as the House of Commons is considering a new Data Protection Bill. Now is the perfect time to tell MPs our concerns.

    • Another Company Blows Off Breach Notification For Months, Lies About Affected Customers When It’s Exposed

      Another day, another security breach. Another day, another security breach handled badly by the company leaking data. Another day, another security researcher being treated like garbage for attempting to report it. Etc. Etc.

    • Microsoft and Facebook start intervening in private conversations. How long until they beep out unwanted parts in real time?

      The reasons it’s interesting from a legal perspective is because there’s this concept of Common Carrier in the United States, which has a European equivalent in the Mere Conduit principle. It’s a quid-pro-quo between legislators and telecoms companies: As long as, and only as long as the telco companies don’t interfere with the conversations on the line, then they are also completely shielded from any liability for the conversations on the line.

      The minute they start interfering, they are no longer shielded from liability. Therefore, you would think it would be in their interest to never, ever, interfere with the conversations held on the line.

    • Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says he’s leaving Facebook

      “I am in the process of leaving Facebook. It’s brought me more negatives than positives,” Wozniak wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday. “Apple has more secure ways to share things about yourself. I can still deal with old school email and text messages.”

    • Apple Co-Founder Steve Wozniak Quits Facebook Over Data Collection

      Before deactivating his account, he wanted to delete some ad-related stuff and was shocked by the extent of Facebook’s data collection. Wozniak said that he would consider paying for the service rather than giving away his information that fuels the company’s advertisement platform.

    • Why Zuckerberg’s 14-Year Apology Tour Hasn’t Fixed Facebook

      So, here’s the thing. There is indeed a case of Stockholm syndrome here. There are very few other contexts in which a person would be be allowed to make a series of decisions that have obviously enriched them while eroding the privacy and well-being of billions of people; to make basically the same apology for those decisions countless times over the space of just 14 years; and then to profess innocence, idealism, and complete independence from the obvious structural incentives that have shaped the whole process. This should ordinarily cause all the other educated, literate, and smart people in the room to break into howls of protest or laughter. Or maybe tears.

    • Facebook Scandal a ‘Game Changer’ in Data Privacy Regulation

      The ICO has been reviewing the use of data analytics for political purposes since May 2017 and is now investigating 30 organizations, including Facebook, Denham said earlier this month.

    • DHS Seeking Contractors to Spy on Journalists; What Happened to a Free Press?

      As the surveillance state grows bolder in its endeavors, the Department of Homeland security (DHS) has its sights set on keeping track of journalists, bloggers and other “media influencers.” The plan — known as Media Monitoring Services — is designed to give a contractor company “24/7 access to a password protected, media influencer database, including journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc.”

      The insatiable desire of surveillance hawks to vacuum up more and more data about average citizens has — especially since the Snowden revelations — drawn the attention of many in the media. It is not surprising that Big Brother would want to more closely watch those who watch the watchers.

    • Police Scotland in secret phone hack operation

      SCOTTISH police have been secretly hacking phones and harvesting massive amounts of data from members of the public, the Sunday Herald can reveal.

      The hacking operation uses new technology to override passwords and encryption, and can download every piece of data held on a mobile phone without the owner’s knowledge. Calls have now gone out for any future harvesting of data to be obtained only under warrant.

      In a secretive pilot project, 18 officers were trained to use a device known as a ‘kiosk’ – which is similar in size to an iPad and can access text messages, encrypted conversations on apps, passwords, geo-locations, contacts, photos, web browsing history and call records in seconds. Deleted data can also be obtained using the technology. Crucially, data cannot be taken within a specific time frame – if police want to access messages or photographs from a particular date, they must access all photographs and messages.

    • Facebook and the Rise of Anti-Social Media

      It was a bit over four years ago that journalist Glenn Greenwald reportedthat British ‘intelligence,’ GCHQ, had developed a program to spread politically targeted disinformation over the internet. The revelation came from a presentation made to the ‘Five Eyesalliance,’ which includes the NSA and was released by Edward Snowden. In the context of Federal and commercialdata collection, revelations that Facebook data was used for ‘private’ political purposes is both more and less than meets the eye.

      As was widely reportedwith less manufactured outrage at the time, the Obama administration used Facebook data in Mr. Obama’s 2012 presidential bid in approximately the same manner that Cambridge Analytica is now accused of doing. Thanks to Edward Snowden, it has been known since 2013 that the NSA was using Facebook datafor political purposes. And prior still, in 2011 the CIA reportedthat it was ‘using’ social media, some of which it had funded, toward its own ends.

      There is good reason for political pushback here. A wide variety of corporate and state actors have instantiated the internet into the fabric contemporary economic and political life. With a history of bad faith and bad acts, the fantasy that the CIA, NSA and FBI serve national interests begs the question of whose nation? Past targets including the Black Panther Party, Occupy Wall Street and antiwar protestors were as (more) capable of defining American interests as government technocrats.

      The ‘innovation’ of Five Eyes, the consortium of Anglophone intelligence agencies, is to expand the realm of competitive Party politics to that of national agencies working toward their own ends in a hidden supranational realm. The alternative frame of competitive state actors is undermined by the decision of GCHQ to reveal its methods to its ‘external’ partners. Precisely how do national governments ‘manage’ the methods and agendas of supranational agencies when they can evade national restrictions through ‘external’ relationships?

    • Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to testify before House and Senate panels that got Facebook money
    • Police to uphold identity protection

      Chinese police are planning to further strengthen internet security by punishing network services providers that steal or sell users’ information, even if a crime has not been committed.

      “Internet services providers could be fined up to 1 million yuan ($159,000) for stealing, illegally selling or providing users’ personal information, even if no crime occurred or illegal income gained,” read a draft released by the Ministry of Public Security on internet security monitoring, the Beijing Daily reported on Saturday.

      The ministry released the regulation for public opinion Wednesday.

    • Facebook is unfixable. We need a nonprofit, public-spirited replacement.

      The corruption and surveillance culture of Facebook is baked in deep and can never be removed; if you doubt it, just peruse a sampling of their patent filings, which are like Black Mirror fanfic written by lawyers.

      Tim Wu (previously) points out that sites on the scale of Facebook — like Wikipedia — deliver value to titanic, global audiences at a fraction of the cost of Facebook’s operating budget. When you take out the spying, the sleaze, the giant paydays for execs and investors, it’s a tractable proposition to run Facebook without Facebook, Inc.

    • Homeland Security database would track bloggers, social media

      The Department of Homeland Security has put out a call for companies that could create a database tracking over 290,000 “media influencers” around the world, including online news outlets, bloggers and prominent social network accounts. The system would identify contributor details (such as contact info and their employers), and would allow searching for individuals and outlets through categories like their locations, the focuses of their coverage and their sentiment.

    • Homeland Security Wants to Build an Online ‘Media Influence Database’ to Track Journalists

      Posted on April 3rd as a call for “Media Monitoring Services,” the database has a dual purpose: monitoring hundreds of thousands of news sources simultaneously worldwide as well as tracking and categorizing journalists and bloggers. The “Media Intelligence and Benchmarking Platform,” as the proposed database is called, would monitor more than 290,000 “online, print, broadcast, cable, radio, trade and industry” news sources worldwide. DHS wants the database to rank and categorize news sources according to a variety of factors, including content and topics covered, reach, circulation and location, and sentiment.

      [...]

      No value for the bid has been disclosed. Responses are due April 13th.

    • Homeland Security to Compile Database of Journalists, Bloggers

      The DHS wants to track more than 290,000 global news sources, including online, print, broadcast, cable, and radio, as well as trade and industry publications, local, national and international outlets, and social media, according to the documents. It also wants the ability to track media coverage in more than 100 languages including Arabic, Chinese, and Russian, with instant translation of articles into English.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Pro-Torture Super Hawk Mike Pompeo Becoming Secretary of State: No Way

      Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Thursday made clear that her vote to confirm President Donald Trump’s nominee to be secretary of state will be a firm “no.”

      “The State Department needs a leader who will prioritize diplomacy,” she tweeted. “The current nominee, Mike Pompeo, has defended the use of torture, tried to undermine the Iran nuclear deal, and scapegoated Muslim Americans after the Boston Marathon bombing. I won’t vote to confirm him.”

    • Guatemala shows why the CIA must be held accountable for torture

      Gina Haspel’s nomination for CIA chief has reignited debate over accountability for torture. A bi-partisan group of Senators, including John McCain (R-Ariz.), is demanding greater transparency from the CIA on Haspel’s involvement in waterboarding and other acts of torture at the “black site” she ran in Thailand, as well as her role in destroying videotapes of torture sessions.

      As discussions around Haspel’s nomination heat up, other contentious legal proceedings — the current genocide trials in Guatemala — remind us that U.S. sanctioning of torture has a long, dark history with which we have yet to reckon.

      Guatemala shows us why amnesia is dangerous and why the Senate must reject Haspel’s nomination.

    • Revisiting the Prison Industrial Complex

      Authoritarian capitalism and the prison industrial complex is a two-tiered tyrannical system designed to enslave through mass incarceration.

    • The Shameful Exploitation of Martin Luther King Jr.

      This context is significant. King was motivated by the strong need for economic equality and social justice and his Poor Peoples Campaign was largely a reflection of his understanding of Jesus’s teachings. The workers suffered from systemic abuses, but were not responding to low wages in that instance, they were outraged about the lack of a response to the death of two workers crushed to death by a malfunctioning truck. The poorly paid workers still needed to use food-stamps to feed their families.

      Fifty years later this reality remains unchanged. Pence serves an administration that wants people on welfare and food-stamps to get jobs, but the majority already work. Meanwhile congressional Republicans (like Loudermilk) want to cut benefits, efforts to kick 8 million people (20 percent of recipients) off of food stamps are underway, and there is speculation that increased spending and tax giveaways are a means to gutting welfare programs and the social safety net as a whole. These actions dishonor King’s legacy.

      Starving the beast—lower corporate taxes, increase Pentagon spending, swell the deficit—to justify cutting the benefit programs that millions require to survive. This is the thrust of the Republican White House and Congress.

      Agape—compassionate love for humankind—is what King promoted. When our leaders practice that, they deserve to publicly associate themselves with Dr. King.

    • Britain Trained a Bahraini Police Chief Who Presided Over Abuse of Political Dissidents

      The day after this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, a less glamorous event will take place on the tiny Gulf island. A female human rights activist is going on trial. Najah Ahmed Yousif faces 15 years imprisonment for campaigning on social media. The prosecution’s case includes evidence that allegedly links her to Facebook posts “promoting and encouraging people to overthrow the political and social systems”. Bahrain is run by King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa – whose reign has been in turmoil ever since Arab Spring protests were crushed in 2011, with help from neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

      Supporters of Ms Yousif say that she is the real victim in this case, that the prosecutor’s case includes social media posts that were peaceful and merely critical of Formula 1, and that the Bahraini authorities themselves should face scrutiny over their treatment of Ms Yousif.

      In particular, they have serious concerns about a British-trained Bahraini police officer, Brigadier Fawaz Hassan Al Hassan. He is the most senior police officer in Muharraq, a city near the country’s only airport – where many F1 fans will pass through this weekend on their way to the Grand Prix circuit.

      Crucially, campaigners say Brigadier Al Hassan is ultimately responsible for the police station where Ms Yousif was taken after her arrest in April of 2017. Although there is no suggestion that the Brigadier was personally involved in abusing her, or sanctioned any such abuse, they claim that it was at this station where Ms Yousif was beaten and sexually assaulted by members of Bahrain’s National Security Agency. “They physically assaulted me, they tried to tear off my clothes, touched my sexual organs, threatened me with rape,” she later told her supporters in a phone call from prison.

    • Spending a Night in the Concord Jail When Martin Luther King, Jr. was Assassinated

      The topic I had chosen was tracing Martin Luther King’s political roots back through the thought and practice of Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi and philosopher and anti-war protester Henry David Thoreau.

    • How Dr. King Lived is Why He Died

      He mobilized mass action to win a public accommodations bill and the right to vote. He led the Montgomery bus boycott and navigated police terror in Birmingham. He got us over the bloodstained bridge in Selma and survived the rocks and bottles and hatred in Chicago. He globalized our struggle to end the war in Vietnam.

    • Against False Conflation: JFK, MLK, and the Triple Evils

      There are good reasons to doubt the official stories and suspect “deep state” conspiracies in both cases. But don’t ask me for any definitive answers. I don’t have any and I doubt I ever will. (Don’t ask me about Bobby Kennedy either).

    • Rappler fights to survive amid rising threats to journalists in the Philippines

      On January 15, the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission ruled that online news group Rappler had violated laws barring foreign ownership and control of local media, and moved to revoke its registration.

      The ruling was based on accusations that Rappler received funds from the Omidyar Network, a fund created by eBay founder and entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar to promote open societies.

      Maria Ressa, Rappler’s founder and editor, has challenged what she and others at Rappler see as a politicized decision aimed at stifling critical coverage of President Rodrigo Duterte’s government and policies, including a lethal “war on drugs” campaign that has resulted in thousands of deaths.

    • The Indigenous Collective Using Tattoos to Rise Above Colonialism

      Thunderbird Woman was the image that caught my eye at the Standing Rock water protector camps. As an Ojibwe woman, I immediately realized that the depiction was an example of my ancestors’ ancient spirit writings, or symbols, recorded on birch bark scrolls and on rock faces along the Great Lakes long before Europeans landed in America. Thunderbird Woman, with her winged arms outstretched, seemed to float on the canvases at Standing Rock, portraying a cosmology in which dynamic spiritual forces are depicted internally, as if through an X-ray. Water rained down from her wings and thunderbolts surrounded her head. Her shape was a simple outline, and her heart anchored her image.

      [...]

      The members of Onaman coordinate a host of Indigenous activities, including language immersion and traditional arts camps. They also coordinate art builds to address social inequality all over the U.S. and Canada. Recently, Collective members joined Greenpeace in protesting Wells Fargo Bank investment in pipelines by painting a giant image of the Thunderbird Woman at the company’s world headquarters in San Francisco.

    • Malaysia Shows How Trump Is Making Journalism a More Dangerous Profession Across the Globe

      When President Donald Trump turned the words “fake news” into an attack on the free press, authoritarians across the world were emboldened by his rejection of democratic norms. As a result, journalists around the world face real dangers from repressive regimes.

      The latest example comes from Malaysia, where the government is on the verge of enacting a law that supposedly criminalizes publication of “fake news,” which could land journalists in jail for up to six years and liable for fines up to $130,000. The Malaysian government will get to decide what is and isn’t “fake news” and who should go to jail for writing it.

    • Tennessee students continue their fight against a discriminatory voter ID law

      “Why is it that a handgun carry permit can be used when casting a ballot, but a student ID card cannot?”

      Tanya Torres, president of the student government at Fisk University, a historically black school in Nashville, Tennessee, asked that question last week in an impromptu press conference outside the office of state Rep. Tim Wirgau, the Republican chair of the Committee on Local Government.

    • U.S. Schools Disproportionately Punish Black Students, GAO Report Confirms

      Heavy-handed racialized punishment starts at an early age, the Government Accountability Office confirmed on Wednesday.

      The federal watchdog released a report finding that Black students are over-represented among severely reprimanded elementary, middle and high school students.

      While Black children and teenagers make up 15.5 percent of all public school students, they’re disproportionately represented among the number of students who have received out-of-school suspensions (38.7 percent), school-related arrests (34.9 percent), and expulsions (30.1 percent).

      And while boys are over-represented among students who receive major punishments, Black girls were reprimanded in US schools at almost twice the rate of White boys (10 percent and 5.2 percent, respectively).

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Ajit Pai’s FCC Doesn’t Want You to Know About the Secret Deliberations That Led to the Worst Video the Internet Has Ever Seen

      Apparently, the FCC doesn’t want the public to know anything about its secretive deliberations with the right-wing Daily Caller that brought this “comedy” sketch into existence.

      Faced with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the non-profit investigative group MuckRock—which asked for the communications between the Daily Caller and the FCC—the Republican-controlled agency this week invoked the so-called b5 exemption, which one analyst described as “an excuse used by government regulators to avoid releasing public documents.”

      “The very basic fact that they’re unwilling to even disclose whether anybody had objections to this internally, or if they were all aboard, is the larger problem,” said J. Pat Brown, the executive editor of Muckrock, which is appealing the FOIA denial and reportedly contemplating filing a lawsuit against the FCC. “You are entitled answers out of your government.”

    • RSS is undead

      Facebook’s scandal over Cambridge Analytica, there is a whole new wave of commentators calling for RSS to be resuscitated. Brian Barrett at Wired said a week ago that “… anyone weary of black-box algorithms controlling what you see online at least has a respite, one that’s been there all along but has often gone ignored. Tired of Twitter? Facebook fatigued? It’s time to head back to RSS.”

  • Intellectual Monopolies

In Just a Few Years China Became the Eastern District of Texas

Posted in Asia, Patents, Samsung at 2:22 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

That’s only acceptable for those who have very deep pockets and many patents (Foxconn has about 80,000)

Foxconn

Summary: The patent creep in China, or the emergence of patent maximalism in the wake of trade war fears, means that operating in China has become very hard both for domestic firms that aren’t already well-established giants (with connections to the Communist Party) and for foreign firms

According to Megan Rourke and Eric Podlogar, the biggest “patent portfolio stakes” in the US are no longer IBM’s but Samsung’s. We don’t know how they measured this (there’s a paywall), but we heard similar things elsewhere (earlier this year). The numbers shared by the USPTO do not agree. Samsung, as is widely known, is not aggressive with patents. It’s usually reactionary or defensive, i.e. if will sue back if sued by somebody else first. Several years ago Samsung was ‘top’ of EPO, but that is no longer the case (even LG, the other Korean giant, outpaces it in the latest annual report).

“Samsung, as is widely known, is not aggressive with patents. It’s usually reactionary or defensive, i.e. if will sue back if sued by somebody else first.”The other day we saw Docket Navigator bringing up Imperium IP Holdings (Cayman), Ltd. v Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. et al.

Patent trolls that are apparently based in the Cayman Islands go to the Eastern District of Texas (TXED/EDTX) to blackmail companies using patents and guess what Texan judges are saying:

The court granted plaintiff’s motion for over $7 million in attorney fees under 35 U.S.C. § 285 and rejected defendants’ argument that the fees should be reduced by 33% on the ground that one of the patents-in-suit was found to be invalid as obvious because the hours billed were inextricably intertwined.

So Samsung is now being ‘burned’ in the US in the same way that it already got ‘burned’ in China. IAM recalls: “Between May and October 2016, Huawei and Samsung filed a total of 42 patent infringement complaints against each other in China (each asserted patent gets its own separate case there). Another separate case deals with “rate-setting and royalty payment” issues. In all Huawei asserted 20 patents against Samsung – 13 standard-essential patents (SEPs) and seven non-SEPs. Samsung responded by asserting 22 patents against Huawei – 14 SEPs and eight non-SEPs.”

“Patent trolls that are apparently based in the Cayman Islands go to the Eastern District of Texas (TXED/EDTX) to blackmail companies using patents…”In many ways, China has become the ‘new’ Eastern District of Texas. Patent trolls enjoy phenomenal growth in China and that’s an issue which bothers everyone, except the likes of IAM, which is a lobbyist for patent trolls. Here is what it wrote some days ago about the gigantic Hon Hai Group (1.3 million members of staff as of 2015, according to Wikipedia):

Last week, this blog reported that litigation activity is heating up in China’s hyper-competitive display industry. Among the signs: Foxconn panel unit Innolux filed 17 patent suits against mainland competitor HKC in February. A look at USPTO assignment records shows that HKC probably saw the writing on the wall, and is moving quickly to shore up a relatively light patent position. The Hon Hai Group, of which Innolux is a part, is one of the world’s biggest patent owners (PatSnap estimates its holdings at around 80,000 rights globally).

Mind these ridiculous numbers. 1.3 million members of staff notwithstanding, there’s a similar number of patent filings in China per year. The scale is insane.

“China’s attitude towards patents is problematic because it also harms small Chinese companies and drives away foreign investors.”China’s patent maximalism continues to fascinate if not excite IAM. Here’s another article IAM has just published about China (“How do foreign parties really fare in Chinese patent litigation?”), noting a few days ago that China also embraced SEP-based injunctions (embargoes against rivals that merely follow industry standards). To quote:

The Beijing Higher Court has handed down its long-awaited decision in what is thought to be China’s first-ever SEP injunction case. In IWNCOMM v Sony, the second instance tribunal rejected the Japanese company’s appeal against the decision of the Beijing IP Court back in March 2017, which saw the award of 9.2 million RMB ($1.3 million) in damages to the Chinese company, and the imposition of an injunction against Sony to halt manufacture and sale of 35 mobile devices.

So Sony (Japan) is another example of a foreign company being screwed by China’s patent maximalism. It’s not just Korean companies like Samsung and LG, which left the Chinese market due to all that litigation. China’s attitude towards patents is problematic because it also harms small Chinese companies and drives away foreign investors. Who benefits? Law firms and massive corporations that are connected to the government.

The ‘Sisvelisation’ of Europe, With or Without the Unified Patent Court (UPC)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 1:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Sisvel

Summary: Patent aggression and confiscation of products at expos (as happened two years ago in Las Vegas after Europe had become notorious for it a decade ago) still a troublesome aspect of the patent system, with firms such as Philips pulling the strings

SEVERAL months ago IAM noted that Philips’ so-called ‘IP’ division had become headless. Several months later (if not the following year) nothing has changed, as IAM wrote just before the weekend:

Very quietly, something of a revolution has taken place at Philips. For the first time this century, the company’s IP function – Philips IP & Standards – is headed up by someone who has no long-term IP background and who is not labelled its chief IP officer. Instead, Clement Revetti is titled “head” of IP&S with, I understand, a direct report into Philips chief legal officer, Marnix van Ginneken. It was van Ginneken who took temporary charge of Philips IP&S when Brian Hinman left the company last autumn.

So what is going on at Philips IP [sic] & Standards [sic]? Are they still going to sic the patent mafia (e.g. Sisvel) at competitors, raiding booths at expos and stealing stuff on behalf of Philips (citing EPO- and USPTO-granted patents)? We hope they have left that strategy behind, but we’re not so optimistic. As we showed some months ago, the UPC threatened to boost such theft/confiscation, putting it on 'steroids'. And as IAM showed yesterday, in Spain you can simply steal products using patent allegations and speedy trials. This is what IAM’s editor wrote:

Barcelona court reveals 40% rise in fact track protocol activity during this year’s Mobile World Congress

If you were to name Europe’s patent litigation hotspots, cities like Dusseldorf, Munich, Mannheim, London and The Hague would spring quickly to mind; perhaps followed by the likes of Paris and Milan. One thing is for sure, though: no Spanish city would make the list. But perhaps it should. Because for the period leading up to his year’s Mobile World Congress – which was held in Barcelona from 26th February to 1st March – there is a good case for saying that the Catalonian capital’s commercial court was among the busiest patent venues on the continent.

Spain has no interest in the UPC, but it already implements some of the most controversial provisions of UPC. What good is patent justice if it’s done hastily, with barely a chance/opportunity for appeal, and products get confiscated en masse before facts are even known?

PTAB and the Federal Circuit (CAFC) Still Rejecting and Removing Dubious Patents

Posted in America, Law, Patents at 1:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Any attempts to obstruct the process have thus far been a spectacular failure

Staple remover

Summary: US patents continue to lose their ‘teeth’ if the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) deems/declares them invalid; a higher court continues to affirm PTAB’s decisions in the great majority of cases

THE Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) of the USPTO is scaring the patent microcosm, which is desperate to put an end to it. Several hours ago a site of the patent microcosm said that PTAB and then CAFC confirmed US “Patent No. 8,018,049 [to be] invalid as anticipated/obvious.”

Here’s the outline:

In a split decision, the Federal Circuit has affirmed a PTAB Inter Partes Reexamination decision against a patentee – finding the claims of Knowles Patent No. 8,018,049 invalid as anticipated/obvious.

The patent here covers a cool microphone on a chip with a special inlaid housing for shielding a transducer the transducer when in use in a hearing aid. The patent claims the microchip “package,” and the construction of that term forms the crux of the appeal. Note here that this is the same debate previously discussed in the Federal Circuit’s March 1 decision in Knowles Electronics v. Cirrus Logic (Fed. Cir. 2018) [Knowles Case]

Here, the PTAB construed “package” as “a structure consisting of a semiconductor device, a first-level interconnect system, a wiring structure, a second-level interconnection platform, and an enclosure that protects the system and provides the mechanical platform for the sublevel.”

CAFC was also mentioned a few days ago in relation to another case:

A jury verdict of nearly $1 million was vacated, creating new legal definitions around DVI’s patent infringement claims.

[...]

Last week, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit threw out a 2016 federal district court jury verdict that had found grid technology provider Alstom guilty of infringing on DVI’s patented technology, on the grounds of an “absence of substantial evidence to support the jury verdict.”

If vacated, this patent infringement case will end up enriching nobody but lawyers. This has become very common.

Speaking of lawyers/attorneys, watch them using the word “kill” again (in relation to patents). “Fourteen Patent Infringement Cases Against FitBit, Nike, etc. Dismissed Because Patents Killed by Alice/101,” this one attorney says. Another attorney then said: “If you’re D Ct Judge, and you don’t like 9 infringement cases involving four patents, what do you do? VOILA, bogus-Alice logic to rescue! dlbjbjzgnk95t.cloudfront.net/1029000/102946… note sleight of hand p.16, where improvement in computer technology gets morphed into “improvement in manual process”…”

There’s also this PTAB rant: “IBM patent rejection again: PTAB thinks compacting data for more efficient storage is just an “abstract idea”…”

These attorneys are connected to (and write for) patent trolls.

Some hours ago Jim Lovsin, writing in a site of the patent microcosm, spoke about the first derivation trial at PTAB — a subject we covered about a week ago. Lovsin offers some background to it:

Derivation proceedings address originality of claimed subject matter — who invented it. The petitioner must have a pending patent application and file the petition within one year of the grant of the patent containing the challenged claim or one year of the publication of the earlier application containing that claim, whichever is earlier.

In the proceeding, the petitioner must show that (1) the respondent derived the invention from the petitioner, and (2) the respondent filed an application without authorization.

Derivation is not a new concept, but rather was an issue that could be raised in the Office’s oldest (and now defunct) contested proceeding, the interference. Interference proceedings addressed priority of claimed subject matter — who first invented it. While the AIA shift to a first-to-file regime did away with interference proceedings for patents with more recent effective filing dates, the Board explained in its first decision denying institution of a derivation trial that it will apply derivation case law as it developed in the interference context to derivation proceedings. Catapult Innovations Pty Ltd. v. adidas AG, DER2014-00002, Paper 19 (PTAB July 18, 2014).

Writing about post-grant procedures, Lionel M Lavenue, R Benjamin Cassady and Nicholas J Doyle say that “[a]n order from the Middle District of Florida may mean that petitioners have to foot the bill for America Invents Act proceedings, even if the prevailing party has a colourable argument for finding the case exceptional,” which basically means that lawyers still receive a lot of money and leave it for the accused and claimant to decide who foots the bill. What’s significant about it though is that, depending on who foots the bill, a lawsuit or a challenge might not be filed at all.

Lawyers ironically profit also from bad patents being challenged. IPRs at PTAB, for example, may mean that lawyers at both sides of a dispute step in for advice if not representation (the latter is more expensive).

Sometimes the IPRs tackle bad actors. Unified Patents, for example, is nowadays disarming a patent troll, Fall Line Patents, with help from PTAB IPRs. Here’s an update from four days ago:

On April 5, 2018, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) instituted trial on all challenged claims in an IPR filed by Unified against U.S. Patent 9,454,748 owned and asserted by Fall Line Patents, LLC, a well-known NPE.

“NPE” is just a euphemism for patent trolls. Many firms with “LLC” turn out to be trolls and here’s a new example, published on the same date (as the above) by TechDirt:

Patent Troll Sues Spotify, SoundCloud And Deezer Over Patent On A ‘Music Organizer And Entertainment Center’

Another day, another story of another patent troll. This one is about MOAEC Technologies LLC, a “patent licensing” company that exists solely around four related patents for a “music organizer and entertainment center.” Last month, MOAEC sued Spotify, SoundCloud and Deezer over these patents. It’s interesting that the lawsuit came just a few weeks before Spotify’s IPO, as we’ve seen a bunch of companies sued for patent infringement right before their IPOs — but it didn’t prevent Spotify’s IPO from happening.

Watchtroll has just released another attack on PTAB (with grammatical errors in the headline). Seems as though they just want to fling lots of crap at PTAB; quality does not matter.

Another new piece about CAFC and PTAB came from Mark St. Amour, who alluded to a case regarding fibre optics:

In affirming the PTAB decision, the Federal Circuit first looked at whether the initial disclosure of a “fibre optics bundle” provided disclosure of a broader “light guide.” The Federal Circuit noted that the parties did not dispute that a “fibre optic bundle” is a type of “light guide,” and that various types of light guides were well known in the art. Next, the Federal Circuit looked to whether a “first channel” was sufficiently disclosed, and found that a person of ordinary skill would understand the “light channel” or “viewing channel,” labeled as element 6 in the ‘184 PCT drawings, as providing such disclosure. Finally, the Federal Circuit looked to whether there was sufficient written description of a “light guide permanently affixed therein.” (emphasis added). To resolve this issue, the Federal Circuit looked to the ‘184 PCT which showed that “viewing channel 6 is bookended by lens 13 and viewing tube 7 is evidence that these components form a unitary part that is not removable.”

[...]

Hologic unsuccessfully argued that the PTAB improperly relied on the prior art to provide disclosure of claim elements. The Federal Circuit disagreed, stating that the PTAB simply considered what the specification reasonably conveys to the skilled artisan who has knowledge of the prior art. To put it another way, the prior art was used by the PTAB to aid in determining what a person of ordinal skill in the art would understand from the ‘184 PCT if that person also had knowledge of such prior art.

This is one among the many cases where CAFC agrees with PTAB and winds up invaliding challenged patents. Thankfully, however, over the past week the opposition to PTAB has been weak. We’re still waiting for Oil States to hopefully reaffirm the role of IPRs. As for the anti-PTAB legislation? The “STRONGER” nonsense? Not a word about it since well before Easter, so it’s probably dead again.

Hype Waves Exploited by the Software Patents Lobby: Blockchain, Autonomous Driving, Artificial Intelligence, Big Data, and Wearables

Posted in America, Law, Patents at 12:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Beach textures

Summary: In an effort to tackle (or work around) 35 U.S.C. § 101 the patent microcosm embraces and overuses a bunch of popular, fashionable, sometimes-revived trends, which nonetheless represent software-implemented concepts and are often not novel at all (except the buzzwords)

THE MOMENT that a buzzword (or a hype wave) gets used to describe a patent (or an invention, whether real or perceived) you just know that someone is trying to bypass 35 U.S.C. § 101 (or a similar section) at the USPTO. It has become so common. Companies disguise software patents as all sorts of things, including “cloud”, “IoT”, and “AI”.

“Companies disguise software patents as all sorts of things, including “cloud”, “IoT”, and “AI”.”There’s an attempt to find new methods to patent software. Over the weekend when Patent Docs did its usual event/broadcast promotions (e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4]) it also revealed this upcoming ‘webinar’ set up by a villainous corporate front group, Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO), funded by IBM and others like it in order to push software patents and try to change the law. This ‘webinar’ is lobbying on § 101 and it covers “patent eligibility grounds on the basis that there are factual disputes that underlie the determination of patent eligibility under § 101.”

“Over the past week we have seen quite a few buzzwords being used as surrogates for software patents.”These software patents are worthless. But if they’re not challenged at PTAB or in a court, then they might still be useful for coercion purposes.

Over the past week we have seen quite a few buzzwords being used as surrogates for software patents. Blockchain patents, for example, are software patents and are therefore worthless, but don’t think that patent lawyers will allow this hype wave to go to waste. Fritz Wetzel/Ratner Prestia wrote an article titled “Blockchain Technology—Patent Eligible Subject Matter or Just a Business Model?”

It’s introduced as a “software-based technology”:

Briefly, blockchain is a software-based technology that allows the transfer of data in certain divided blocks which are all encrypted. The blocks need to be confirmed from different participants in a network and will be stored decentralized. Hence, it is or should not be possible to manipulate the transferred and stored data because if only one block is manipulated, the system would immediately recognize this manipulation and can prevent any claim or request on this data. Not only can this technology be used to transfer funds between market participants, it can also perform the transfer of any kind of data such as music files, literature, smart license contracts and even sensitive confidential data from governments.

Another so-called ‘software-based technology’ is HEVC, which is full of patents that IAM is promoting this month, along with so-called “autonomous vehicles” patents. It has become another one of those hype waves — to the point where two days ago Watchtroll published “Ford Developing Autonomous Systems for Police Cars, Other Emergency Vehicle” (software again).

These patent maximalists/lawyers are, as usual, attempting to patent software under the guise of “Autonomous Driving”. Here’s the new article titled “The Driverless Race Is On: Patenting Autonomous Driving” (we already wrote some articles on this topic).

“This development is, for instance, focused on platforms, software, navigation and infrastructure,” says the article. It boils down to software which does things inside the car.

There are other renewed hype waves in the headline. Samuel Davis, for example, wrote for IAM about “AI” under the heading “Beyond the hype” (ironically), then alluding to “AI for intellectual property” (alluding to patent management, for example, using computer programs).

“There are other renewed hype waves in the headline.”The patent maximalists, i.e. people who profit from patents, are jumping on revived hype waves here. How about “House Bill Would Establish National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence”? Patent Docs published that a few days ago and as we noted here last month, Jones Day (Carl A. Kukkonen III, Douglas H. Pearson Ph.D. and Ognian V. Shentov) came up with a slant on “AI” and “BD” hype (they even gave an acronym to “Big Data”). They’re reposting it:

AI and BD inventions can be effectively and concurrently protected via patents, trade secrets, and copyrights, as well as by means of contractual arrangements. Notwithstanding such variety of protection mechanisms, patents remain an essential part of an overall IP strategy for innovation-oriented companies. Given uncertainties over patent eligibility and validity, careful attention must be heeded to optimally capture the value of AI and BD innovations for both defensive and offensive purposes.

“Wearable” is another one of those hype waves. Todd C. Basile and David J. Dykeman decided that a “Patent Strategy is Crucial for Wearable Innovations,” but all we have here is a couple of patent attorneys trying to sell patents on just about anything, this time in the form of a bogus article which is actually lobbying/marketing:

As wearable innovations continue to enhance and shape healthcare and the way we live, innovators must focus on protecting their inventions. By building a strategic patent portfolio that has worldwide patent protection, innovators can thrive in the growing wearables market.

As we recently saw in a district court in California, even patents on so-called ‘wearables’ are nowadays deemed abstract.

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