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09.09.18

Links 9/9/2018: New Mesa and Nitrux 1.0.15

Posted in News Roundup at 6:39 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • 10 Reasons to Buy Google Pixelbook Over a MacBook

      With a touchscreen display, cornered Gorilla glass, backlit keyboard, 4 in 1 design that enables a more convenient use, 7th Gen Intel Core processor, fast charging battery that lasts 10 hours, and a premium aluminium build, the Google Pixelbook is the slickest and thinnest Chromebook yet.

      Just recently, I had the opportunity to purchase either the Google Pixelbook or a MacBook and I went for the Google Pixelbook.

    • Offline software updates in Endless OS

      A lot of the software most of us use day-to-day is built with the assumption that Internet access is fast, cheap, unlimited*, and ubiquitous.

      For a lot of Endless’ current and target users, most of those assumptions are not true. Internet connectivity is often capped to low throughput and monthly quotas and may be relatively expensive or unreliable. Or it may be inaccessible entirely due to cost or lack of infrastructure.

      When these assumptions fail, a lot of modern software fails.

      This includes software updates.

  • Kernel Space

    • Another Minor Optimization Queued For Systems Mitigated Against Spectre / Meltdown

      On Intel systems affected by the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, another minor optimization is on its way to the Linux kernel to ever so slightly lower the impact of the kernel-based page table isolation (PTI) mitigation.

      The minor optimization is removing the SYSCALL64 entry trampoline. On an Intel Skylake system with Retpolines and KPTI enabled, the syscall overhead dropped from about 237 ns down to 228 ns. It wouldn’t be noticeable by itself, but for months already and likely for the foreseeable future until corrected CPUs are on the market, kernel engineers will continue to pursue every micro-optimization possible to help offset the performance losses introduced by the Spectre and Meltdown mitigation techniques. They have certainly made improvements to the performance since the original KPTI and Retpoline work since January, but in I/O heavy syscall heavy workloads there remains a generally noticeable overhead.

    • Amazon Implementing CFS Co-Scheduling For The Linux Kernel

      An Amazon developer working on the Linux kernel has posted perhaps their largest feature patch-set for the kernel: implementing co-scheduling support for the Completely Fair Scheduler (CFS).

      Over a set of sixty patches, Jan H. Schoenherr of Amazon Germany has posted these patches to allow CFS to support coscheduling. The use-cases they had in mind while developing this kernel co-scheduling support includes possible virtual machine (VM) performance benefits, executing parallel applications with architecture-specific optimizations concurrently with other applications, reducing resource contention between independent applications, and supporting the management of multiple parallel applications. One of the important side benefits of this code is that it can close some side channel attack vulnerabilities or at least make them harder to exploit.

    • Linux 4.20~5.0 Bringing More Intel Icelake Graphics Enablement

      This week Intel developers sent in their first batch of drm-intel-next feature changes to DRM-Next of new material that will be merged for the next kernel cycle whether it ends up being called Linux 4.20 or likely Linux 5.0.

      This first of several feature pull requests for this next kernel cycle is fairly basic and mostly is made up of continued work on Icelake support. Due to summer holidays drawing to an end, there isn’t too much feature work part of this week’s pull request but more features are expected to be queued in the weeks ahead.

    • NSA-Designed Speck Algorithm to Be Removed From Linux 4.20

      The NSA-designed Speck encryption algorithm will be removed from version 4.20 of the Linux kernel, after just recently being added to the Linux kernel version 4.17 in June. The move comes after the International Standards Organization (ISO) rejected two of NSA’s cryptographic designs, Simon and Speck, on the basis of not being trustworthy.

      [...]

      Both of the NSA-designed Speck and Simon algorithms were rejected by ISO because the NSA refused to provide certain technical details about their designs or answer certain questions about them. This is what ultimately led ISO to reject them as untrustworthy.

      This wouldn’t be the first time the NSA had attempted to get software or hardware providers to include weakened or backdoored cryptographic algorithms in their products. In the 1990’s the NSA tried to get all device makers to adopt the “Clipper Chip,” a crypto processor with a backdoor for the NSA, as well as forced browser vendors and other software providers to use weak encryption protocols via export restrictions and other government rules. Dan Bernstein, the inventor of the ChaCha algorithm that Google has now chosen for its low-end devices, was actually the one to sue the government and get those export restrictions on encryption invalidated.

      Even though the Speck algorithm will be removed from the next version of the Linux kernel (4.20), it will continue to live within kernel versions 4.17, 4.18, and 4.19. Those who run systems using these kernels will need to check whether or not their default storage encryption uses the Speck algorithm or not to be sure.

    • Linux Foundation

      • ConsenSys, Linux Foundation Introduce Blockchain Courses

        The New York-headquartered blockchain startup ConsenSys that builds decentralized applications (dApps) and tools for Ethereum, has partnered with online education platform Coursera to offer a course ‘Blockchain: Foundations And Use Cases’, including topics such as foundational concepts of blockchain and decentralization as well as cryptography and consensus mechanisms.

      • The Linux Foundation Adds Blockchain Training and Certifications

        The Linux Foundation, in anticipation of much broader adoption of blockchain technologies in the enterprise, announced this week that a training course, dubbed LFD271 – Hyperledger Fabric Fundamentals, is now open for enrollment. That course complements an existing Professional Certificate Program – Blockchain for Business, launched earlier this year, that is tied to a free course entitled Blockchain: Understanding Its Uses and Implications.

        In addition, The Linux Foundation plans to add Certified Hyperledger Fabric Administrator and Certified Hyperledger Sawtooth Administrator exams later in the year.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Mesa 18.1.8 and Mesa 18.2.0 have been released, pushing Linux open source GPU drivers further

        Released yesterday, both Mesa 18.1.8 as a bug-fix release and Mesa 18.2.0 as the latest full release of the open source graphics drivers are now out. As usual, the Mesa team are suggesting you wait for Mesa Mesa 18.2.1 if you plan to upgrade, at least if you want a fully stable experience.

        For the RadeonSI (AMD) driver, it now has compatibility profile support up to OpenGL 4.4. This is quite important for historic reasons, since there will be applications and games that rely on it that won’t be updated (including for us in Steam Play/Wine). Personally, I think that’s one of the more important features of this release, since it will give users a better experience. RadeonSI also now has compute shader support in the Mesa shader cache.

      • Mesa 18.2 Brings Radeon EQAA Anti-Aliasing, Improved SteamVR Support, and Tons of Bug Fixes

        The Mesa 18.2 driver for Linux has finally been released today after a few minor setbacks occurring in August. This latest driver update features Vega 20 support, OpenGL 4.4 compatibible profile, notable improvements to the RadeonSI OpenGL and RADV Vulkan driver support, OpenGL ES 3.2 support for RadeonSI, and really just a huge handful of other significant improvements.

        The smallest amount of updates is for the Intel front, which received mainly NIR optimizations – development is still working on OpenGL 4.6 support with SPIR-V ingestion, and some new Vulkan driver extensions for ANV, plus general optimizations across the board for the latest hardware support.

      • A multi-vendor extension for transform feedback in Vulkan is being worked on to help DXVK and others

        Commenting on an issue on the Vulkan-Ecosystem GitHub page, an NVIDIA developer has mentioned how transform feedback support will come to Vulkan.

        From what I understand, some DirectX games use it and Vulkan currently has no support for anything like it unless developers write their own workarounds. This is especially important for projects like DXVK which Valve’s Steam Play uses, because it’s translating DirectX calls into Vulkan and so it can’t exactly ignore it.

      • VC4 Gallium3D Gets Much Faster Texture Upload/Download Performance, Helping GLAMOR

        It’s been a while since last having major progress to report on the Broadcom VideoCore 4 (VC4) open-source driver stack most notably used by the Raspberry Pi boards or the next-generation Broadcom VideoCore “V3D” driver stack. The lack of recent progress has been due to lead developer Eric Anholt being away on paternity leave, but he is back now with another update on this open-source ARM graphics undertaking.

        While in his limited time working he has been addressing some OpenGL ES conformance test suite failures with the VC4 Gallium3D driver, he did manage to score a big win for the texture upload/download performance.

      • The RadeonSI Performance Tuning For AMD Zen CPUs Has Landed In Mesa

        Earlier this week I reported on the RadeonSI Gallium3D code being tuned for AMD Zen CPUs in an attempt to deliver greater gaming performance for Ryzen processors. That work has now been merged into Mesa 18.3.

        As explained when the patches surfaced for tuning RadeonSI/Gallium3D for Ryzen CPUs, the work by AMD’s Marek Olsak is due to the CCX (core complexes) design of Zen, it will try to pin the application thread and driver execution threads to the same CCX so that they can share the same L3 cache. With these patches, Marek found in some OpenGL benchmarks that there was an increase by 25~32% in some micro-benchmarks, but real-world gaming performance has yet to be analyzed — I’ll be running some benchmarks shortly.

      • Vulkan 1.1.84 Brings KHR Memory Model, ASTC Decode Mode Extensions

        There’s nothing like a new Vulkan spec update to help waking up on a Sunday morning. Vulkan 1.1.84 is out today and is the first since the minor 1.1.83 revision last month at SIGGRAPH.

        With Vulkan 1.1.84 there is the usual documentation churn with a variety of issues being rectified, mostly clearing up confusing elements of the specification. Given it’s been a few weeks since the last revision to the Vulkan documentation, it’s no surprise there are a few new extensions too. These newest additions include VK_KHR_vulkan_memory_model, VK_EXT_astc_decode_mode, and VK_EXT_inline_uniform_block.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • The Slimbook Pro2 is here – Very, VERY nice

        The Slimbook started just fine. Everything seems to be in perfect order. The system firmware was up to date, and the BIOS/UEFI was already configured for VT-d. Furthermore, both TPM and Secure Boot were disabled, which actually suits me well. The internal disk is labeled ubuntu, though. And the reason is …

        The Slimbook team also installed Ubuntu on the disk (they mentioned it alongside hardware upgrades), to make sure everything worked fine. I had the option to use their installation with a generic root/slimbook account combo, or wipe everything and start fresh. I had ordered the machine without any OS, and intended to do the setup myself, primarily because I also wanted to use full-disk encryption. Another downside of having a preinstalled system is that there’s no two-part OEM setup for Ubuntu, so the vendor must configure the user side for you too. No matter, it’s going away anyway.

        Now, the actual operating system choice – Linux. As I mentioned in the past, ever since my love-at-first-sight encounter with Kubuntu 17.04, I wanted to deploy Kubuntu in my production setup, and this purchase finally allowed me to do so. I grabbed the ISO, etched it to a thumb drive, and let the system boot. There were no issues. All the hardware was correctly initialized, including the Wireless.

        I did a bunch of speed tests, and I get a full, flat 80 Mbps rate that matches the test line, in both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. No issues whatsoever, and this is important. In comparison, my significantly cheaper, older and driver-problematic Lenovo G50 with the Realtek card only does about 40 Mbps under the same conditions.

        I had been worried regarding the Wireless – but then I thought, the Slimbook guys wouldn’t be selling this hardware if there were problems, now would they? Of course, if you type any which Wireless card into a search engine, and then add the string linux, you will get tons of forum posts, bug threads and whatnot detailing a neverending story of problems. With my Slimbook Pro2, it was smooth sailing.

      • KDE Connect on IRC and Matrix.org

        Since a few months KDE Connect has a Telegram group to discuss development. Since the over 100 people joined. I did not expect such an interest in it. Few people asked to have this group bridged to an IRC channel since they prefer IRC over Telegram. I’m happy to announce that we finally made this happen. Let’s celebrate the birth of #kdeconnect on Freenode. You can also access it from matrix.org (#freenode_#kdeconnect:matrix.org).

        The rest is up to you! If you are interested in contributing to KDE Connect go and share your ideas with us and ask any question you have!

      • KDE Plasma should be a heaven for modders

        At the previous aKademy, one of the unformal discussions we had were about Plasma mods.

        One thing I always liked about the mobile platforms like Meego (Nokia N9) and Sailfish that were/are based on Qt/QML, is that there are many available mods for them created by the community.

        With QML, you basically have a lot of source files for an application (or shell) UI that get compiled when the application is run. This means that changing the look and behaviour of an application on your system is often as easy as editing a file with your favourite text editor like Kate or Vim.

        Sometimes modding gets so popular that some brave community member decides to create an application that allows automatic application of these mods. This was one of my favourite things about Sailfish OS.

      • This week in Usability & Productivity, part 35

        For this week’s Usability & Productivity report, we’ve got oodles of goodies, including some new features, a whole bunch of visual improvements related thumbnail previews in Dolphin, the open/save panels, and desktop icons (i.e. Folder View), icon improvements throughout KDE apps when using a High DPI screen, and lots of other miscellaneous goodies! We haven’t forgotten about Samba, and another very important fix landed.

      • KDE Itinerary – Writing Custom Extractors

        Following the look at how KDE Itinerary does data extraction, this post will cover custom data extractors in a bit more detail. Custom extractors are needed where we are unable to obtain the information we are interested in from structured annotations, or add information to incomplete structured data (such as boarding pass barcodes).

      • KDE Plasma5 Sep’18 release for Slackware

        The September release of KDE Plasma5 for Slackware contains the KDE Frameworks 5.50.0 (just released today), Plasma 5.13.5 and Applications 18.08.1. All this on top of Qt 5.11.1. Many bugs fixed and stability increased with these updates, but there’s no real new functionality on board compared to last month.

        My updates in the ‘extras’ section for Applications are new versions for ‘krusader’, ‘kstars’, ‘ktorrent’, ‘okteta’ and the KDE Development packages ‘kdevelop’, ‘kdev-python’ and ‘kdev-php’.

      • KDE Plasma 5.14 Offers A Hibernate Option From The Logout, HiDPI Dolphin Improvements

        It’s been another busy week for the crew polishing up the Plasma desktop and other KDE components. Say “hi” to HiDPI and hibernation work this week.

        First up, the KDE Plasma 5.14 logout screen will now show a “hibernate” option on systems that support it… There’s long been the suspend button there and there has been a hibernate option from the application launcher, but this simple button was finally added this week.

      • My first Akademy in retrospect

        Last month KDE Akademy was held in Vienna. It was the first Akademy I visited and there wasn’t yet time to write a bit about the impression I got from it, judging what was nice and what could be improved from the point of view of someone new to it. Time to catch up on that.

        Akademy came at a bad point in time for me. I was right in the middle of writing code for a larger feature in KWin’s Wayland session: drag-and-drop support between Wayland native and Xwayland windows. When I began the work on this feature back in July I hoped that I could finish it until Akademy. Not being able to do so felt demotivating, but I have to admit my plan was way too optimistic anyways. Only now, several weeks after Akademy, I feel comfortable enough about my code to use it on my work system without constant anxiety for fatal session crashes. But anyway, I went to my first Akademy with a bit less enthusiasm, as I otherwise probably would have shown. On the other side this gives me maybe also a more neutral take on it.

        Akademy is basically split into two phases: the talks at the beginning on Saturday and Sunday and the BoFs for the rest of the time from Monday till Friday.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • GNOME 3.30 Released – Here’s What’s New

        GNOME team delivers again with 6 months of developments and improvements.

        GNOME 3.30, the latest installment in GNOME 3 series released. This release comes after 6 months of development efforts contributed by developers, testers across the globe. This release boasts about major performance improvements that means GNOME 3.30 uses fewer system resources and can run more apps in parallel without performance drops.

      • GNOME 3.32 Scheduled to be Released Early Next Year with Expected Wayland Improvements and UI and UX-related changes

        The 35th stable update for the free and open-sourced GNOME 3.30 desktop environment was released on 5th September, as announced by Gnome News. The release came just after the six months of the release of GNOME 3.28. GNOME 3.30 offered introduction of some major latest features, new applications and included small improvements here and there. All of these features were aimed at helping improve the way users use their desktop. Some of the main features in GNOME 3.30 included a faster GNOME Shell Desktop, new look to GNOME file manager Nautilus, a new desktop app known as Podcasts, automatic Flatpak Updates and a new ‘reader mode’ feature.

        Now it looks like development at GNOME is not going to stop any time soon as the release schedule for GNOME 3.32 has already been announced by GNOME Wiki. According to this release news, GNOME 3.32 is set to be released on Wednesday, 13th March 2019. The news stated, “GNOME 3.31.x is an unstable development series intended for testing and hacking purposes. GNOME uses odd minor version numbers to indicate development status, so this unstable 3.31.x series will become the official 3.32 stable release.”

  • Distributions

    • Quest For The Perfect Linux Distro – Unleaded Hangouts

      Quest For The Perfect Linux Distro. Today the gang and I discuss what we’d like to see in the perfect Linux distro or any OS for that matter. Additionally, we also discuss what we really would love to see improved and can’t believe in 2018 remains a problem even to this day.

    • New Releases

      • Linux From Scratch & Beyond Linux From Scratch 8.3 Release uses Linux Kernel 4.18.5

        Linux From Scratch version 8.3 has been announced by its renowned editor, Bruce Dubbs, along with Beyond Linux From Scratch on the 2nd of September, 2018. Linux From Scratch is a community oriented project that serves as an essential handbook and guide to creating one’s own Linux System from scratch. It’s for those who don’t want to simply lean into the already existing Linux distributions such as Debian and Rehat. Those who want to truly internalize how a Linux system ticks and want to install it on their own with full customizability can use this publication as a basic how-to for going about the whole process.

        In the release announcement for the book, Dubbs states: “”The Linux From Scratch community is pleased to announce the release of LFS version 8.3, LFS version 8.3 (systemd), BLFS version 8.3, and BLFS version 8.3 (systemd). This release is a major update to both LFS and BLFS. The LFS release includes updates to glibc 2.28, Binutils 2.31.1 and GCC 8.2.0.”

      • LFS and BLFS Version 8.3 are released
      • Q4OS v2.6 updates Trinity to version 14.0.5

        The Debain-based Linux distribution Q4OS has just released its version 2.6. Still a part of the version 2.x branch, this update doesn’t introduce anything substantially noteworthy. The Q4OS distribution comes with either the Trinity desktop or the KDE Plasma 5 as seen in several recent Linux distributions. In that context, the release does, however, update its version of the Trinity desktop which is a continuation of the KDE 3 desktop environment. On the other end of this spectrum, the distribution also comes with the KDE Plasma version 5.8.6 which is seen in the Debian 9.

      • Nitrux 1.0.15 brings Kernel 4.18.5 and Plasma 5.13.4 for Most Secure and Integrated Performance Yet

        Nitrux 1.0.15 has just hit the shelves following a release statement last week. Nitrux is an Ubuntu-based desktop Linux distribution operating system. Its most prominent feature is its Nomad desktop which integrates the K Desktop Environment (KDE)’s plasma desktop with enhanced and specialized graphics and display design.

        When this distribution was initially released, it came with several design and security flaws that pushed it down from its potential. Since then, its developers have worked hard to rewire the distribution to resolve the bugs, vulnerabilities, and inconveniences that come out of its fundamental design. With the release of the Nitrux version 1.0.15, the developers boast a far more stable and secure operating system for users.

        The official release statement for the product reads: “We are pleased to announce the launch of Nitrux 1.0.15. This new version brings together the latest software updates, bug fixes, performance improvements and ready-to-use hardware support. Nitrux 1.0.15 presents an updated hardware stack, among other things.”

    • Red Hat Family

    • Debian Family

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Ultimate Dark, Ultimate Maia Themes and Ultimate Maia Icons for Ubuntu 18.04/Linux Mint 19

            If you want to skin your desktop with something else then you are on the right page. There is no doubt the default themes of Ubuntu looks great but if you want to switch to something else then nobody is going to stop you from doing that. Let us introduce you to two themes Ultimate Dark and Ultimate Maia, both themes are created by same person. Both themes packs are material design and dark version is easy on eyes. There are several variants for both themes, you can choose whatever you like on you desktop. These themes are compatible with Gnome 3.28 and compatible with other desktops as well such as Xfce and so on. You can find Gnome shell and Cinnamon themes in this pack.

          • Mir Is Back To Running On Phones, Thanks To UBports

            While Canonical divested from their Linux smartphone plans, they continue maintaining the Mir display server as any regular Phoronix reader should know. Mir continues to be developed with Wayland functionality for IoT and desktop use-cases but the Mir news, Alan Griffiths shared they have been working on a new Mir website, bug fixing, progress on improved Snap integration, and a new edge branch for the EGMDE desktop. But what was most interesting is seeing Mir back to running on phones.

          • Flavours and Variants

            • Xubuntu Development Update September 2018

              A week later than expected, it’s the September development update! The theme for August (and early September) has been visual improvements, with a few bug fixes tossed in for good measure.

            • Linux Mint 19.1 codenamed ‘Tessa’

              The second release in the Linux Mint 19.x series will be named “Tessa”.

              Linux Mint 19.1 is estimated to be released around November/December 2018 and will be supported until 2023.

              Linux Mint 19 users will have the ability to upgrade. This upgrade will be both easy and safe and it will be performed via the Update Manager.

            • Linux Mint 19.1 named ‘Tessa’

              Linux Mint is a rather great operating system. The distribution is based on the fabulous Ubuntu, so it is very stable and has plenty of compatible packages. Not to mention, the Mint developers focus heavily on the user experience. Linux Mint isn’t just designed for Linux experts (although they can totally use it), but beginners too — it is easy to start using straight away.

              The developers have a long history of using female names as the code name for each version of the operating system. For instance, in the past, they have used “Tara,” “Sylvia,” and “Sonya,” to name a few. Today, we learn the female name assigned to the upcoming Linux Mint 19.1 — “Tessa.”

            • Linux Mint 19.1, due in November or December, is codenamed ‘Tessa’

              With just a few more months to go until the Linux Mint team releases the next major update of its operating system, it has announced that the upcoming release has been dubbed ‘Tessa’. All of the codenames in the 19.x series should begin with ‘T’, while the second letter should progress further through the alphabet. Linux Mint 19.0, for example, is called ‘Tara’.

              Wrapping up August, Clem Lefebvre, head of the Mint project, outlined some work the team has been doing to their software. The first improvement is to the Software Sources tool which has been given a new look similar to the welcome screen, it now uses an Xapp sidebar and a headbar. In addition, the optional sources section has been simplified and a new option is being planned to add debugging repositories.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • The Long-Awaited Haiku Operating System Beta Should Be Days Away

    The Haiku operating system has been in development since 2002 as an open-source BeOS-inspired platform and nearly a decade since they reached the alpha stage for their first release, they are nearly ready to deliver the beta.

    While they have delivered a few Haiku R1 alpha releases since 2009, the beta release has remained elusive but over the next week that should finally materialize. Last month we were elated to hear the beta should come in September with their release schedule putting that R1 Beta 1 milestone between 10 and 18 September. That appears to remain on track for likely seeing the official beta release over roughly the next week.

  • Web Browsers

    • Chrome

      • Chrome 69 Released for Linux, Mac and Windows. Here’s What’s New.

        Google Chrome team released latest installment of Chrome version 69 for Linux, Windows and Mac. Here are the updates.

        Google Chrome completed 10 years this month and with the anniversary, Chrome team presented users with new changes, updates. It has been a decade when Chrome first version released and since then it has been quite a journey with incremental updates which leads to this day.

    • Mozilla

      • A Round Up of Firefox Updates: v62.0 Brings CSS Shape and Font Support

        Mozilla has pushed out a whole round of updates to its web browsing products over the last few days. Mozilla Firefox’s Version 62.0 was released just a few days ago on the 5th of September for the desktop using mass public. Version 62.0.1 was just released on the 7th of September for Android devices as well. Other simultaneous releases from Mozilla include the latest Firefox Nightly version 64.0a1 released on the 4th of September, the latest beta & developer’s edition version 63.0beta released on the 5th of September, and the latest beta version 63.0beta for Android released on the 5th of September as well.

        According to the release notes available on Mozilla’s website, version 62.0 ties in a long list of fixes, new inclusions, and modifications. The first new feature is that the Firefox Home tab now shows upto four rows of frequently visited sites, pocket stories, and important highlights. In addition to this, users with Containers can use the “Reopen in Container” tab menu to reopen tabs in different containers.

      • Tor Browser 8.0 Released, EU Votes Next Week on Copyright Directive, Indico Launches Open-Source Project Finetune, Linux Mint 19.1 Release to Come Late Fall, KDE’s Akademy 2018 Videos Now Available

        Tor Browser version 8.0 was released this week. This is the first stable release based on Firefox 60 ESR, and it includes “a new user onboarding experience; an updated landing page that follows our styleguide; additional language support; and new behaviors for bridge fetching, displaying a circuit, and visiting .onion sites.” You can download it from here.

      • The WebExtocalypse

        Mozilla recently dropped support for Firefox XUL extensions.

        The initial threat of this prompted me to discover how to re-enable XUL extensions by modifying Firefox’s omni.ja file. That clearly is not going to last very long since Mozilla is also deleting XPCOM interfaces but I note the Tor Browser is temporarily still using XUL extensions.

        Since I have some extensions I wrote for myself, I will need to rewrite them as WebExtension add-ons.

        The first thing to do is check how to install WebExtension add-ons. My local XUL extensions are run from the corresponding git trees. Using an example extension I discovered that this no longer works. The normal way to install add-ons is to use the web-ext tool, upload to the Mozilla app store and then install from there. This seems like overkill for an unpolished local add-on. One way to workaround this is to disable signing but that seems suboptimal if one has installed Mozilla-signed add-ons, which I will probably have to do until Debian packages more add-ons. Luckily Mozilla offers alternative “sideloading” distribution mechanisms and Debian enables these by default for the Debian webext-* packages. Installing a symlink to the git repository into the extensions directory and adding a gecko identifier to the add-on manifest.json file works.

      • libcurl gets a URL API

        libcurl has done internet transfers specified as URLs for a long time, but the URLs you’d tell libcurl to use would always just get parsed and used internally.

        Applications that pass in URLs to libcurl would of course still very often need to parse URLs, create URLs or otherwise handle them, but libcurl has not been helping with that.

        At the same time, the under-specification of URLs has led to a situation where there’s really no stable document anywhere describing how URLs are supposed to work and basically every implementer is left to handle the WHATWG URL spec, RFC 3986 and the world in between all by themselves. Understanding how their URL parsing libraries, libcurl, other tools and their favorite browsers differ is complicated.

      • Firefox Extensions and Other Tragedies

        Several months ago a Google employee told me not to panic about the removal of XUL because Firefox had probably mainlined the functionality I need from my ossified xul-ext packages. This appears to have been wildly inaccurate.

        [...]

        It appears that Waterfox is not in Debian so I cannot try that out.

  • CMS

    • WordPress Gutenberg will be the end of WordPress

      WordPress is the most popular Content Management System (CMS) and blogging platform in the world. There are a lot of good reasons for that. It is accessible, simple and intuitive to use, and highly flexible, with a bewildering range of professional plugins and themes. Over the years, it has asserted itself as the dominant choice for those looking to create dynamic, responsive websites. I am a happy user, too. I’ve been using it myself since 2012, on my book writing blog. Unfortunately, all this goodness is poised to go down the drain.

      WordPress 5.0, the next major release, is going to feature a revised UI (the backend) using a framework called Gutenberg. This new UI looks like it’s going to take away all the good things that made WordPress so cool, and destroy the beautiful elegance, efficiency and simplicity with something that feels like an abstract, touch-optimized experiment. Let’s discuss.

      [...]

      Unholy Crusade against the desktop

      Ever since mobile (touch) became the prevalent consumer platform, there’s been a lot of focus on developing mobile solutions. This is fine. Except these mobile solutions are also pushed onto the desktop, where they utterly fail. Touch software does not work on the desktop. It just does not.

      Moreover, there’s a bigger problem here. While most of the content is consumed on the mobile, most of the content is created on the desktop. It makes sense. The desktop is an infinitely superior platform for writing and image processing. The full keyboard + mouse combo and the multi-application usability beat all and any touch solution.

      I do not consider social media “updates” content. I consider content to be meaningful articles that provide new and unique information, of which there is less and less every day. I am extremely confident than the vast majority of actually valuable articles and posts are made using the classic desktop formula. Just imagine writing 500 words on a keyboard versus touch.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • NetBSD 7.2 comes with Security & Stability Enhancements as well as USB 3.0 Support

      NetBSD has come out with a new release for the 7.x series. The second feature update of NetBSD 7, NetBSD version 7.2, comes with a few new features and enhancements including, most prominently, the support of the USB 3.0 device as well as improvements for the Linux emulation. The latest release also supports the Raspberry Pi 3 computer range, adapting the release to be compatible for running on those devices, and the release ramps up updates for several drivers to make all of this possible.

      The release announcement for the NetBSD 7.2 states that this update incorporates substantial bug fixes and enhancements for overall improvement of the stability and security of NetBSD. The update also introduces new features such as the few mentioned above and other fixes in binary compatibility for ancient NetBSD executables. The iwm(4) driver for Intel Wireless 726x, 316x, 826x, and 416x has also been incorporated and a legacy network adapter has been improved to resolve a setup interruption found in the Hyper-V VMs.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • Who are/were the FSFE Fellowship? Starting Fellowship 2.0?

      Since the FSFE Fellowship elected me as representative in April 2017, I’ve received a lot of questions from fellows and the wider community about what the Fellowship actually is. As representative, it is part of my role to help ensure that fellows are adequately informed and I hope to work towards that with this blog.

      The FSFE Fellowship was started in 2005 and has grown over the years.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Commons Clause stops open-source abuse [Ed: Salil Deshpande trying to rationalise his attack on Free as in freedom software]

      There are two key reasons to not use AGPL in this scenario, an open-source license that says that you must release to the public any modifications you make when you run AGPL-licensed code as a service.

      First, AGPL makes it inconvenient but does not prevent cloud infrastructure providers from engaging in the abusive behavior described above. It simply says that they must release any modifications they make while engaging in such behavior. Second, AGPL contains language about software patents that is unnecessary and disliked by a number of enterprises.

      Many of our portfolio companies with AGPL projects have received requests from large enterprises to move to a more permissive license, since the use of AGPL is against their company’s policy.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • FOSSCON 2018: Where Open Source and LEGO Collide

        During the recent FOSSCON 2018 in Philadelphia, Daniel Pikora gave attendees a comprehensive look at the intersection of open source development and the world’s most popular brand of construction toys. A software developer with a penchant for open source code by trade, he’s also an avid member of what’s known as the Adult Fan of LEGO (AFOL) community who’s exhibited his creations at shows across the United States and Canada. Such a unique perspective, with a foot in both the FOSS and LEGO camps, makes Daniel an ideal tour guide for this particular microcosm of toys and tech.

        In a whirlwind presentation that took attendees through 49 slides in about as many minutes, Daniel covered LEGO’s beginnings in the 1930s to the rise of 3D printed custom bricks, and everything in between. Some of the engineering-centric product lines, such as Technic and Mindstorms, were already fairly well known to the types of folk who spent a beautiful Saturday in Philadelphia at an open source conference. But Daniel’s deep-dive into the long history of open source LEGO projects brought to light the work of so many dedicated developers that everyone walked away with a newfound respect for the amount of work the AFOL community has put into elevating LEGO from a child’s toy to a legitimate tool. Join me below for a look at the particulars of that deep dive.

      • Libre Computer’s Tritium Is A Line Of Low-Cost Allwinner ARM Boards

        In addition to Le Potato and Renegade, another line-up of ARM boards being offered by Libre Computer is Tritium. The Libre Computer Tritium boards are Allwinner-based boards with options from the H2+ for IoT use-cases, the H3 as a mid-range offering, or H5 for a better-performing ARM board that is well supported by the open-source Linux community.

      • See Binary On Your Breadboard

        When you’re debugging a board which has an ESP32, Raspberry Pi, or Arduino, it’s easy to slap on a small LCD display or connect via WiFi to see what’s wrong. At least, that’s what the kids are doing. But what if you’re old-school or you don’t have one of those pimped-out, steroid-filled boards? A resistor and an LED will often suffice. Powering the LED means one thing and not powering it means another. And with seven more LEDs you can even display 0-256 in binary.

        [Miguel] is clearly in the latter camp. To make debugging-with-LEDs easy, he’s come up with an 8-LED board complete with resistors. He’s even included the Gerber files needed for you to make your own. One row of pins are all connected together and the other row are not. So whether you’re using common cathode or common anode depends on how you orient the LEDs when you solder them in place. You might perhaps have one board of each type at the ready.

  • Programming/Development

    • Ancient Hardware I Have Hacked: Back to Basics!

      My return to the IBM mainframe was delayed by my high school’s acquisition of a a teletype connected via a 110-baud serial line to a timesharing system featuring the BASIC language. I was quite impressed with this teletype because it could type quite a bit faster than I could. But this is not as good as it might sound, given that I came in dead last in every test of manual dexterity that the school ever ran us through. In fact, on a good day, I might have been able to type 20 words a minute, and it took decades of constant practice to eventually get above 70 words a minute. In contrast, one of the teachers could type 160 words a minute, more than half again faster than the teletype could!

      Aside from output speed, I remained unimpressed with computers compared to paper and pencil, let alone compared to my pocket calculator. And given that this was old-school BASIC, there was much to be unimpressed about. You could name your arrays anything you wanted, as long as that name was a single upper-case character. Similarly, you could name your scalar variables anything you wanted, as long as that name was either a single upper-case character or a single upper-case character followed by a single digit. This allowed you to use up to 286 variables, up to 26 of which could be arrays. If you felt that GOTO was harmful, too bad. If you wanted a while loop, you could make one out of IF statements. Not only did IF statements have no else clause, the only thing that could be in the THEN clause was the number of the line to which control would transfer when the IF condition evaluated to true. And each line had to be numbered, and the numbers had to be monotonically increasing, that is, in the absence of control-flow statements, the program would execute the lines of code in numerical order, regardless of the order in which you typed those lines of code. Definitely a step down, even from FORTRAN.

    • Guile-CV version 0.2.0

      This is a ‘milestone’ release, which introduces image texture measures. In addition (a) the default installation locations have changed; (b) there is a new configure option; (c) some new interfaces; (d) matrix multiplication performances have been greatly improved; (d) a few interface (name) have changed.

      For a list of changes since the previous version, visit the NEWS file. For a complete description, consult the git summary and git log

Leftovers

  • Cory Doctorow: Big Tech: We Can Do Better Than Constitutional Monarchies

    Which brings me to the techlash: the post-Brexit, post-Trump, post-Equifax turning point where suddenly a lot of people start to pay attention to the rules we set for technology users, companies, and practitioners.

    I’m genuinely delighted that this moment has arrived. Tech policy is like climate change: every year we fail to fix it is a year that we accumulate more bad tech debt (insecure systems full of sensitive data and attached to machines, sensors and actuators that can harm or kill us). We are in a race between the point of no return, when it’s too late to fix things, and the point of “peak indifference,” when the number of people who care starts to rise of its own accord, thanks to the gaudy disasters detonating all around us.

    But it’s not enough to do something: we have to do something good. And we’re getting it really wrong.

  • Science

    • Book Review: Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley (As Told by the Hackers, Founders, and Freaks Who Made It Boom) by Adam Fisher

      Valley of Genius details how following the release of the Macintosh, Steve Jobs would be driven from the company he founded and started a new computer company, NeXT, and even gambled on a new and exciting digital animation company called Pixar. A struggling Apple eventually invited Jobs back, acquiring NeXT in the process. The book describes how by leveraging the NeXT ecosystem, the iMac, in all its colors, was conceived. Apple was back.

      The book also explores how Napster went away as quickly as it arrived and how its legacy changed the shape of the internet. Next it follows the Dot-com bubble (ca. 2001) and how the internet was becoming more than just a source of research and information, and was turning into a channel for commerce and communication—a hub for sharing, opening the door for average individuals to experience a more personalized web.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Top Cancer Researcher Fails to Disclose Corporate Financial Ties in Major Research Journals

      One of the world’s top breast cancer doctors failed to disclose millions of dollars in payments from drug and health care companies in recent years, omitting his financial ties from dozens of research articles in prestigious publications like The New England Journal of Medicine and the Lancet.

      The researcher, Dr. José Baselga, a towering figure in the cancer world, is the chief medical officer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He has held board memberships or advisory roles with Roche and Bristol-Myers Squibb, among other corporations; has had a stake in start-ups testing cancer therapies; and played a key role in the development of breakthrough drugs that have revolutionized treatments for breast cancer.

      According to an analysis by ProPublica and The New York Times, Baselga did not follow financial disclosure rules set by the American Association for Cancer Research when he was president of the group. He also left out payments he received from companies connected to cancer research in his articles published in the group’s journal, Cancer Discovery. At the same time, he has been one of the journal’s two editors in chief.

    • Twenty-One Thoughts On Psychedelics

      The Institute of Psychiatry in London has begun recruiting volunteers for a study on depression treatment using psilocybin, the psychedelic component in magic mushrooms. Late last month the Food and Drug Administration authorized a similar study in the US. About once a week, give or take, we are now seeing new studies, academic reports, books and mainstream media articles about psychedelics and their potential effects on human wellbeing.

      They’re calling it the psychedelic renaissance, the first resurgence of mainstream scientific interest in the benefits of psychedelic substances since the government slammed that door and threw away the key in the 1960s. More and more studies are showing that ingesting psychedelics can be a powerful tool for treating disorders ranging from anxiety to depression to addiction to fear of death in hospice patients. These studies are always new and surprising revelations to people who have never tripped.

  • Security

    • hard state soft state confusion

      A few thoughts after reading The History of a Security Hole about a series of bugs in the OpenBSD kernel. It’s a good explanation of an instance of a problem I’ll call hard state soft state confusion, which can lead to some serious bugs, occurs with some regularity, but doesn’t seem to be often discussed.

    • Network Manager VPNC is Infected with Username Privilege Escalation Vulnerability

      A username privilege escalation vulnerability has been found in the network manager VPNC plugin. This injection vulnerability is exploited by the Metaspoilt module of the program to gain root privilege access.

      This was discovered by Denis Adnzakovic who found that the network-manager-vpnc plugin for VPNC support in NetworkManager could be exploited with a privilege escalation vulnerability using a newline character to inject a password helper parameter into the configuration scheme that is responsible for conveying information to the vpnc. This vulnerability poses a risk because it allows a local user exploiting it to get the access desired to change the system’s settings as well as execute arbitrary commands with root privilege.

    • User Impersonation Vulnerability found in ownCloud v0.1.2

      ownCloud is a client-server software which grants administrators several privileges such as carrying out commands by acting as the intended user, essentially impersonating another user to carry out desired tasks. For security reasons, group administrators are only able to do things under the umbrella of fellow group member users. Despite this measure being put in place, the exploitation of a crucial user impersonation authorization bypass attack.

      The vulnerability was first discovered by Thierry Viaccoz on the 15th of March. The first vendor notification was sent on the 16th of March and the vendor responded back with a message of acknowledgement the very same day. Just over a month later, the corrected version of the software version 0.2.0 was released on the 17th of March and a public disclosure date for the matter was set to the 29th of August which was just a few days ago.

    • Google and Certbot (Letsencrypt)

      It turns out that Google Safebrowsing had listed those two sites. Visit https://listen.gw90.de/ or https://mail.gw90.de/ today (and maybe for some weeks or months in the future) using Google Chrome (or any other browser that uses the Google Safebrowsing database) and it will tell you the site is “Dangerous” and probably refuse to let you in.

      One thing to note is that neither of those sites has any real content, I only set them up in Apache to get SSL certificates that are used for other purposes (like mail transfer as the name suggests). If Google had listed my blog as a “Dangerous” site I wouldn’t be so surprised, WordPress has had more than a few security issues in the past and it’s not implausible that someone could have compromised it and made it serve up hostile content without me noticing. But the two sites in question have a DocumentRoot that is owned by root and was (until a few days ago) entirely empty, now they have a index.html that just says “This site is empty”. It’s theoretically possible that someone could have exploited a RCE bug in Apache to make it serve up content that isn’t in the DocumentRoot, but that seems unlikely (why waste an Apache 0day on one of the less important of my personal sites). It is possible that the virtual machine in question was compromised (a VM on that server has been compromised before [1]) but it seems unlikely that they would host bad things on those web sites if they did.

      Now it could be that some other hostname under that domain had something inappropriate (I haven’t yet investigated all possibilities). But if so Google’s algorithm has a couple of significant problems, firstly if they are blacklisting sites related to one that had an issue then it would probably make more sense to blacklist by IP address (which means including some coker.com.au entries on the same IP). In the case of a compromised server it seems more likely to have multiple bad sites on one IP than multiple bad subdomains on different IPs (given that none of the hostnames in question have changed IP address recently and Google of course knows this). The next issue is that extending blacklisting doesn’t make sense unless there is evidence of hostile intent. I’m pretty sure that Google won’t blacklist all of ibm.com when (not if) a server in that domain gets compromised. I guess they have different policies for sites of different scale.

    • Google Chrome’s New Password Manager: All You Need To Know & How To Use It [Ed: Google wants you to give it all of your passwords. Foolishly forgetting that, according to Snowden's leaks, the US government too gets access to those]

      Google Chrome Password suggestion

      Similar to other Password managers out there, Chrome has added native support for password suggestions. In other words, when you will type in a new password, Chrome browser will automatically generate a password suggestion for you.

      This undoubtedly leaves out the question of using those puppy names and including your first name in your passwords. Now, don’t ask me why they are considered weak passwords.

    • Tesla Launches Bounty Program; Allows Good Faith Hackers To Inspect Firmware
    • Dell EMC VPlex GeoSynchrony Users Requested to Upgrade to v6.1 to Avoid Insecure File Permissions Vulnerability
    • Fail2ban

      Fail2ban has some good features. I don’t think it will do much good at stopping account compromise as anything that is easily guessed could be guessed using many IP addresses and anything that has a good password can’t be guessed without taking many years of brute-force attacks while also causing enough noise in the logs to be noticed. What it does do is get rid of some of the noise in log files which makes it easier to find and fix problems. To me the main benefit is to improve the signal to noise ratio of my log files.

    • UK security researcher Hutchins claims he once persuaded attacker to stop DDoS

      British security researcher Marcus Hutchins, who is awaiting trial in the US over allegations that he created and help distribute a banking trojan, has claimed that on one occasion in the past he located and contacted an attacker who had launched a massive DDoS attack in the UK, and asked the individual who was behind it to desist from doing so, a request that was ultimately heeded.

    • BA site breach through XSS flaw, says tech firm chief

      The British Airways website breach appears to have been done through a cross-site scripting flaw, according to the chief executive of a Web automation company in the UK.

    • Researcher says BA changed site JavaScript code a day before hack

      A well-known security researcher claims that, between 20 July and 20 August, British Airways changed the third-party JavaScript code it loads on its website as a result of a privacy complaint he had made.

    • N. Korean alleged to be behind WannaCry, no mention of NSA exploit

      The US Department of Justice has filed a criminal complaint against a North Korean cracker named Park Jin Hyok for allegedly being behind a 2104 hack of Sony Pictures and the May 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack.

      An affidavit filed by FBI special agent Nathan Shields also alleged that Park was behind the theft of $81 million from Bangladesh Bank, the central bank of that country, in February 2016. One glaring omission was the fact that an NSA exploit used to craft WannaCry had been leaked on the Web by a group known as the Shadow Brokers in April 2017.

      He was also accused of being behind numerous other unspecified break-ins at various private and government institutions.

      Park was alleged to have worked for a North Korean front company known as Chosun Expo; some of the employees in branches of the firm abroad also did private work for clients. Park was said to have worked with a group in Dalian, China.

      Web Analytics

  • Defence/Aggression

    • The US is fighting a drone war in Africa that many don’t know about — and it’s about to get bigger

      The US military will begin flying armed drones out of a remote base in Niger in the coming months, marking a significant escalation of the Defense Department’s little-noticed war against violent extremists in Africa.

      The MQ-9 Reapers will operate from new facilities the US Air Force is building at an existing Nigerien base in Agadez for nearly $100 million. Until recently, the drones have been based in Niger’s capital and used solely to collect intelligence on militant groups operating in the region.

      But last November, following an attack that killed five Nigerien and four American troops near the village of Tongo Tongo, the government of Niger requested that the United States begin deploying armed drones against jihadi groups.

    • West Africa: U.S. to Begin Drone Attacks on Sahel Militants – Report

      American forces in Africa will soon escalate their war against militants in the Sahel by using armed drones to attack them, reports an American news website on global affairs.

      The attacks will be launched in the coming months from new facilities which the United States Air Force is building at Agadez in central Niger, says the Washington-based Foreign Policy news service.

      The U.S. military has killed al Shabaab militants in drone strikes in Somalia for some time. But Foreign Policy reports that in the Sahel, the drones have until recently been based in the Nigerien capital, Niamey, and used only to collect intelligence.

    • The Pentagon plans to spend $2 billion to put more artificial intelligence into its weaponry

      The Defense Department’s cutting-edge research arm has promised to make the military’s largest investment to date in artificial intelligence (AI) systems for U.S. weaponry, committing to spend up to $2 billion over the next five years in what it depicted as a new effort to make such systems more trusted and accepted by military commanders.

    • Detailing America’s role in the world’s worst crisis with Shireen Al-Adeimi: podcast & transcript

      The people of Yemen are experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet, according to the United Nations. They are devastated by a war that the United States supports. Why is the U.S. involved in a conflict that has left an estimated tens of thousands dead and millions more displaced? Why is the U.S. providing weapons to a coalition that launched an airstrike killing dozens of children? How did Yemen get to this point? Shireen Al-Adeimi has the answers for us, having worked tireless to raise awareness of the civil war in the country she calls home.

    • Game Of Drones

      The attempted assassination of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro last month using a pair of drones armed with explosives made international headlines and is a harbinger of future high-profile attacks using common drones.

      [...]

      Drones are an example of how technology is created for one purpose and then is “redomained” for another. Sometimes this process can be for the common good, other times it’s a disaster. Most of the time the creators of these technologies don’t think about those possible future consequences beforehand. It’s not that they don’t care, but that it’s really difficult to do that, especially with emerging technologies that have to precedents to analyze. Technology is created and released into the wild, then it follows its own course. It evolves. This is the nature of technology. We like to think that we humans fully control technology because we are the ones who created it, but we do not.

    • Whose Side Is the CIA On?

      What does it say about the state of the nation that many on both the left and right are banking their hopes for the future of American democracy on the patriotism and competence of cloak-and-dagger spooks?

      If you tune in to left-leaning mainstream cable news shows on MSNBC or CNN, you’ll see a steady parade of such stalwarts of the intelligence community as former CIA director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Former FBI director James Comey, once the bane of the left for reopening the Clinton email inquiry two weeks before the 2016 election, is now lauded in Democratic circles for his attacks on President Donald Trump.

      The view of many on the left that the president is an existential threat to the safety and security of the country is a sentiment shared with many right-wing #NeverTrumpers.

      Meanwhile, to Trump and his loyal followers, this cabal of current and former intelligence figures represents a usually invisible “Deep State” faction, whose intention is to overturn the democratic will as expressed in the Electoral College.

      But perhaps there’s an upside to this seismic realignment of public opinion: the American people are coming to terms with the notion that the intelligence community — far from being an above-the-fray servant of a popularly elected government — is in fact inherently political, serving long-term shadowy interests, including its own.

    • CAP scholar Makovsky rejects A Haber’s “agent” smear

      A Turkish pro-government news channel has uncovered dramatic footage revealing one American Middle East scholar’s activities in Turkey’s Ottoman archives.

      Shockingly, the footage of Alan Makovsky, the “agent” who went on to work at the U.S. state department and then a prolific career at think tanks including the Center for American Progress, was shot by none other than the Turkish state broadcaster TRT.

      Apparently the credulous producers at TRT did not foresee the danger that the harmlessly bookish looking Makovsky would go on to pose.

      A Haber’s sensationalist headline, which accused Makovsky of being an “agent,” and the implication during the clip that he had played a role in coup attempts, drew condemnation from commentators on social media as well as comment from the scholar himself.

      [...]

      The A Haber has deleted the tweet since then without any apology or explanation.

    • Niger Facing Pressure to Ensure U.S. and French Drone Strikes Comply with Human Rights Law

      The Commission’s recommendation urging Niger to ensure that armed drone use complies with international law comes at a particularly significant moment and foreshadows concerns about the potential expansion of drone use from Niger’s territory. Even before expanding its military footprint to Niger, the U.S. actively operated drones (both armed and unarmed) on and from the African continent to counter suspected terrorist threats for years. The U.S. military is also just one of several foreign militaries that has expanded its military presence in Niger and across the African continent in recent years. (Note, however, that U.S. military policy in the region is in a state of flux: after the Niger raid, the Defense Department considered withdrawing all its special operations forces from Niger and recently submitted a plan that seeks to reduce the number of special operations troops and missions in West and Central Africa, even as it continues construction of a new air base in Niger. With fewer ground forces, it is possible that the United States will rely more heavily on drones to counter presumed threats in the region.)

      Despite this presence, until the Commission’s recommendation to Niger earlier this year, African human rights institutions have not provided explicit guidance to member states on these kinds of consent-based foreign military operations and drone use. The Commission’s timely remarks to Niger mark the first time it has seriously assessed the issue of armed drones on the continent and urged a state to take action.

    • Strict security measures with FBI and CIA agents at Thessaloniki International Fair

      Four anarchists have been detained on Thursday while heading to Thessaloniki two days ahead of the city’s annual international fair. The vehicle of the four was stopped by police officers on the national highway from Athens to Thessaloniki and during the search that followed the police found hammers, gas masks and helmets.

      One of the suspects had been arrested in 2014 for similar offences, while the other three are known members of the anti-establishment movement, with police officers linking their presence in Thessaloniki with the upcoming international fair and the expected protest scheduled for the weekend, when Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will deliver his annual speech during which he will present his government’s financial program for the year ahead.

      The above incident, only a few hours after members of the Rouvikonas anarchist group raided into the headquarters of the Federation of Industries of Northern Greece in downtown Thessaloniki, is indicative of the Greek authorities’ high-security alert ahead of the 83rdThessaloniki International Fair (TIF).

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Associate of WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Missing in Norway
    • Julian Assange is in very poor health, needs treatment, says WikiLeaks lawyer

      WIKILEAKS publisher Julian Assange is in extremely poor health and unless he is released from the Ecuadorean embassy in London, his condition may deteriorate to the point where his life is in jeopardy.

      Australian lawyer Greg Barns, who is a member of Assange’s legal team and also an adviser to WikiLeaks, told iTWire that Assange had not been able to access medical treatment for six years.

    • WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange’s Health Rapidly Deteriorating – Attorney

      “What is remarkable is that Julian remains so mentally alert and is able to function physically given the inevitable impact of six years of detention without natural light or access to fresh air on a constant basis,” the lawyer said.

      It’s not entirely clear what medical ailments Assange is suffering from, though studies show that experiencing less sunlight can be linked to major depression.

      During long winters, for example, the absence of sunlight is believed to contribute to a unique type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Temporary periods of darkness in one’s environment and mood last several months with SAD patients on an annual basis; Assange’s environs have not changed for six years.

      Assange has been sought by US authorities for publishing leaked, classified documents through WikiLeaks. The Australian national has been the subject of intense scrutiny by US officials since the 2010 publication of thousands of secret documents leaked by then-US Army intelligence officer Chelsea Manning, including a video of US helicopter gunning down a pair of Reuters employees.

    • Assange ill, ‘life at risk’
    • Julian Assange is in very poor health, needs treatment, says WikiLeaks lawyer

      This was because the UK Government won’t let him leave the Ecuadorean Embassy to see a doctor, according to Mr Barns — in case he is arrested.

      “This is a cruel and inhumane stance from a government professing to be a liberal democracy,” Barns said.

    • WikiLeaks Lawyer: Julian Assange in Extremely Poor Health, Needs Immediate Treatment

      WikiLeaks founder and Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange is in extremely poor health and requires immediate medical treatment, according to a lawyer for the transparency organization.

      Australian attorney and WikiLeaks advisor Greg Barns says Assange has been denied medical treatment since being granted political asylum in Ecuador’s London embassy in 2012. “What is remarkable is that Julian remains so mentally alert and is able to function physically given the inevitable impact of six years detention without natural light or access to fresh air on a constant basis,” Barns told Australian technology news outlet iTWire. “However if there is not a resolution to his case — in other words, the UK guaranteeing that he will not be extradited to the US — the reality is Julian’s health will deteriorate to the point where his life is in serious danger.”

    • Chelsea Manning interview nixed over question on WikiLeaks, Osama bin Laden

      An interview with Chelsea Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst convicted of espionage for sharing classified documents with WikiLeaks, abruptly ended when she declined to discuss her reaction to hearing that some of that material may have reached Osama bin Laden.

      Triple J, an Australian government-funded radio station, published audio of a brief interview Friday in which Ms. Manning refused to weigh in on a claim raised by prosecutors during her military court-martial, quickly bringing the conversation to an unexpected close.

    • Interview With Chelsea Manning Cut Short After Interviewer Brings Up Osama Bin Laden

      Convicted leaker Chelsea Manning’s interview with the government-funded Australian radio station Triple J was cut short after the interviewer asked Manning about the documents Manning released that were found in Osama Bin Laden’s compound.

      “Some of your leaked documents were found in Osama Bin Laden’s compound though, after his death, that’s information in the hands of one of America’s biggest enemies,” host Tom Tilley said to Manning. “Do you have any regrets about that outcome? What did you think when you heard that?”

      “Ah, look, I can’t really talk about specifics of my court-martial,” said Manning, who leaked over 700,000 documents to WikiLeaks. “The record of the trial is still classified.”

    • READ: Wikileaks Tweets Anonymous OpEd Author ‘Is Likely to Be an Older (58%), Conservative (92%) Male (66-87%)’
    • WikiLeaks mercilessly trolled for this useless Trump chart
    • ‘An Evening with Chelsea Manning’ leaves audience frustrated
    • Damien Grant: Chelsea Manning is on the right side of history
    • Petition to offer Julian Assange asylum in NZ to be presented to parliament

      Wellington protestors say they haven’t forgotten the plight of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, even if the world has.

      They’ve gathered outside the Embassy Theatre where US whistleblower Chelsea Manning is speaking tonight.

      Manning, who spoke in Auckland last night, is in the country for a speaking tour.

      Protestor Alex Hills says New Zealand should offer Mr Assange political asylum.

      Ms Hills says the world has forgotten about him and it’s appalling.

      She says they’ve gathered more than 2,000 signatures on a petition supporting their cause.

    • Protect Assange from US extradition, Amnesty International tells UK

      Amnesty International has backed calls to not extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States, arguing that this would put his human rights at serious risk of abuse.

      The statement, issued Friday by the group’s Australian branch, backed Assange’s lawyers and supporters’ claim that if he is sent to the US, “he would face a real risk of serious human rights violations due to his work with WikiLeaks.”

      Amnesty said that Assange could face several human rights violations in the event that he is extradited to the US, including: violation of his right to freedom of expression; right to liberty; right to life if the death penalty were sought; and being held in conditions that would violate his right to humane treatment.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • As Nelson touts red tide research at Mote, another potential bloom is detected

      A new batch of red tide could be brewing west of Tampa.

      A University of South Florida underwater glider, an autonomous robot that collects subsurface data vital to understanding how the ocean works, discovered elevated levels of chlorophyll in the middle of the West Florida Continental Shelf during a mapping exercise.

      “The indications are it might be” red tide, said Robert Weisberg, a professor of oceanography at the USF College of Marine Science. “If that’s the case, there will be more coming in from offshore.”
      Read more: Complete coverage of red tide in Southwest Florida

  • Finance

    • Fitness YouTuber breaks down just how little he makes

      The Fitness Marshall has over a million subscribers and over 150 videos on his channel. His paltry take after three years of work comes to about $20 a video after record labels and everyone else take their cuts.

    • The YouTube stars heading for burnout: ‘The most fun job imaginable became deeply bleak’

      Every time you log on to YouTube you are presented with videos chosen by the algorithm. The idea is that a clip particularly well suited to your tastes will inspire you to click the Subscribe button – which, hopefully, will bring you back to watch a new episode tomorrow. The viewer feels that YouTube understands what he or she likes, while advertisers are reassured that the video in front of which their five-second commercial will run will reach an appropriately targeted audience.

      When your income is dependent on the number of people who watch your videos each week, this code can decide what, or even whether, you eat. And, 13 years into YouTube’s existence, many believe it has come to sit at the core of a growing mental health crisis among video creators.

    • Litecoin [LTC] releases its new v0.16.2; interesting tweaks observed in the protocol

      On 8th September, a new version of Litecoin called Litecoin Core v0.16.2 was released, as announced by the official Medium blog for the cryptocurrency. The release contains minor tweak with added features, multiple bugfixes and improvement in performance and more. The update was also posted on Twitter by the official Twitter handle of the Litecoin project, as claimed by the party.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Actually, Invoking the 25th Amendment Makes a Lot of Sense

      Trump’s anonymous lieutenant was wrong to reject a constitutional remedy for an erratic and amoral presidency.

    • It Doesn’t Matter Who Wrote the NYT Op-Ed, They’re Still Complicit in Trump’s Actions

      delete

      “What the American people need are people willing to put their names where their faux concern and so-called patriotism is.”

    • Asking the (Improbable?) Ask: Critical Media Literacy Training for Teachers

      Admitting they were a little reluctant to put their faith in the same flawed bureaucracy that, for decades now, has failed to close the ever-widening achievement gap and cannot fix painfully apparent budget inadequacies, the nation’s K through 12 pupils told reporters that what eventually sealed their decision to return to school was a deep, unshakable faith that the richest, most powerful country in the world would be able to meet the highest global standards for education.

      In this era of “fake news” and misinformation, it may be irresponsible to use mockery to make a point about the public school system. However, a kernel of truth is found in satire: Young people have every right to be angry at a school system that touts intellectual strength and academic success while seeming to be on the brink of collapse. Perhaps students are angry because their teachers have not been thoroughly trained or prepared for the dynamic demands of the classroom.

    • Trump Minus Narrative Equals Bushbama

      Barack Obama is making headlines today. In a speech at the University of Illinois, Obama called out the “politics of fear” which are used by his successor and criticized an insufficient denunciation of “Nazi sympathizers” by the current administration.

      “How hard can that be?” asked the former president. “Saying Nazis are bad?”

      Also in the news, getting far less attention than the sparkly spectacle of Fauxgressive Jesus wagging his finger at Orange Hitler for being too nice to Nazis, is a report from the Washington Post (open it in a private browser to get around the paywall) that the Trump administration has done a complete 180 degree reversal of its prior position on Syria. And before you jump on me about believing anonymously sourced reports from an establishment outlet that is fully owned by a CIA contractor, this isn’t one of those: the sources are senior State Department officials who are named in the article.

    • Macron Push to Drop CIA Code Quickens as Trump Calls EU Foe

      Just weeks after Emmanuel Macron took office last year, his team went over the French state’s most sensitive activities. What it found provided a wake-up call.

      The team learned that the country’s intelligence agency — which, among other things, tracks French citizens for homegrown terrorism or anarchist activities — uses software from a CIA-backed startup. Its code is provided by Palantir Technologies Inc., a data-mining company that started out working for the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency.

      The use of U.S. technology deep inside the French state isn’t unusual, but for the tech-savvy team of the 40-year-old president, it was a sign that the country needs to make technological independence a top priority — a sentiment that’s become even more urgent after President Donald Trump called the European Union a “foe.”

    • Their new mission? Foil Trump. Ex-intelligence officials run for Congress as Democrats.

      They put their lives on the line in foreign war zones, conducted secret missions to collect valuable intelligence and made enormous sacrifices for their country — only to see their former colleagues disrespected by President Donald Trump.

      Now, driven by the president’s conduct, they’re taking matters into their own hands and gearing up for a different challenge: running for Congress as Democrats.

      Fed up with what they see as Trump’s disdain and distrust of the intelligence community — and his refusal to embrace fully the conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election — an unusually large number of former intelligence officers and operatives are campaigning for office as Democrats in this fall’s midterm elections, according to experts.

    • CIA Democrat complains of political spying by Republicans

      A race for Congress in the Seventh District of Virginia between a CIA Democrat and a far-right Trump supporter has turned into a battlefield in the ongoing conflict within the US ruling class between sections of the military-intelligence apparatus and the Trump administration.

      Democrat Abigail Spanberger, whose main political “credential” is eight years as an undercover CIA operative, is denouncing the Republican Party for obtaining a copy of her full federal security clearance document, known as an SF-86, from when she applied for a job as a postal inspector, prior to joining the CIA. The SF-86 is supposed to be confidential and was released by the US Postal Service (USPS) to the Republicans, allegedly by mistake.

      The irony of a CIA operative complaining of “dirty tricks” on behalf of her political opponent is hard to top. Spanberger was an undercover CIA agent in Europe, during the period that the CIA operated torture prisons in eastern Europe for alleged “terrorists,” and CIA-chartered planes regularly flew prisoners, bound, gagged and blindfolded, between European locations, and other secret prisons in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Guantanamo Bay.

    • Trump Is Turning the Enemies of Civil Liberties Into Liberal Heroes

      or Americans’ civil liberties. But very few could have guessed the strange way this nightmare would manifest itself over the past 18 months. Of course, Trump has used his executive power to implement countless cruel and rights-violating policies. But he has also, with an assist from a frenzied media, turned many of the individuals and agencies responsible for creating our unaccountable national security apparatus into folk heroes at the same time.

      It’s an infuriating and depressing state of affairs for civil liberties advocates, many of whom have fought the CIA, FBI, and Justice Department in the past two presidential administrations as these agencies expanded executive power, restricted privacy rights, and shielded officials from accountability under the guise of “national security” — the same tools Trump now regularly uses for his benefit.

      The nauseating sight this weekend of George W. Bush being deified on social media because he passed a piece of candy to Michelle Obama was only the latest example. The combination of Trump’s relentless and inaccurate Twitter feed and the stampede of pundits who instinctively feel the need take the exact opposite view has created a nonstop cycle that has destroyed our ability to see the truth.

      The examples come so fast that they are almost impossible to enumerate. In just the past couple weeks, Trump has gone after the FISA court, the Justice Department, and the FBI — all due to personal grievances or feuds he has because of their perceived role in the Mueller investigation.

    • Former CIA Chief Warns of ‘Looming Disaster’ Inside Trump White House

      Former CIA Director John Brennan, who had his security clearance revoked by the Trump administration in mid-August, said on NBC’s “The Today Show” that he sees “all the warning signs of a looming disaster” at the White House.

      “Clearly, things are reaching a boiling point” the former director said. “What happens in the days, weeks and months ahead is going to determine just how much damage will be done to this country.”

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Censorship through the millennia. And trying to locate it in the 21st Century

      Once upon a time we all knew what censorship was, who the good and bad guys were, and what could be done to make the world a better place. Look up the noun ‘censor’ in the Oxford English Dictionary and you’ll find an outline of a much-told story under definition 2 (b):

      ‘An official in some countries whose duty it is to inspect all books, journals, dramatic pieces, etc, before publication, to secure that they shall contain nothing immoral, heretical, or offensive to the government.’

      Attributing the first instance of this usage to the English poet John Milton, the lexicographers illustrated it with a quotation from his anti-censorship pamphlet , Areopagitica (1644):

      ‘He (the author) … must appear in print like a punie (i.e. a new schoolboy) with his guardian, and his censors hand on the back of his title, to be his bayl and suretye that he is no idiot, or seducer.’

    • State censorship is corroding democracy

      Premier Daniel Andrews stands rightly and widely condemned for recklessly revealing the private information of members of the community when he took the controversial step of breaking a convention under which successive governments suppress information the public has the right to scrutinise. The stupid error has distracted from the key issue: the suppression of crucial information about government decisions undermines the public interest by reducing transparency and accountability.

      [..]

      The entire cache of documents relates to Opposition Leader Matthew Guy’s astounding decisions several years ago as planning minister to rezone land on Phillip Island against repeated official advice; to then reverse that only days later amid internal and public outrage; to then seek to cover up the incident by engineering an excessive payout of public funds to a litigant indignant at being denied the windfall profit she expected; and to then refuse to comply with a request from the Ombudsman to provide documents to an inquiry into the scandal.

    • ‘Fake news’ v ‘alternative facts’? Libertarian presidential hopeful on Facebook censorship

      Facebook’s strategy to provide “alternative facts” to combat “fake news” will only result in political censorship that will cater for the interests of the Democratic Party, the Libertarians’ presidential hopeful told RT.

      The world’s largest social media platform is now focusing its efforts on serving millions of their users with “alternative facts,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.

      “In the case of misinformation, what we do is we refer it to third-party fact-checkers. We don’t think we should be the arbiter of what’s true, what’s false, and we think that’s really important,” she told the lawmakers examining alleged Russian interference in US elections. “If it’s marked as false, we dramatically decrease the distribution on our site, we warn you if you’re about to share it, we warn you if you have shared it, and importantly we show related articles next to that so people can see alternative facts.”

    • WorldLink: Free speech, not censorship

      Populism and hate speech is on the rise. But is stricter legislation, surveillance and censorship the right policy to counter this trend?

    • How to: beat Chinese social media image-filtering

      They found that the system uses two methods to decide what to censor: any text in images is run through an optical character recognition system and then compared to a list of banned terms; then the whole image is checked to see whether it appears to match a blacklist of banned images.

      Both systems are vulnerable to easy circumvention; the researchers probed them until they were certain of how they were checking user-submissions and then designed and tested successful systems for evading censorship: text that matches the hue of its background is reliably missed by the OCR filter, while the visual filter can be defeated by rotating/flipping images, changing their aspect ratios, adding a variety of borders, or blurring their edges.

    • (Can’t) Picture This: An Analysis of Image Filtering on WeChat Moments

      In this work we present experiments uncovering implementation details of WeChat’s image filter that inform multiple effective evasion strategies. While the focus of this work has been WeChat, due to common implementation details between image filtering implementations, we hope that our methods will serve as a road map for future research studying image censorship on other platforms.

    • How social-media platforms dispense justice

      Seeing how each company moderates content is encouraging. The two firms no longer regard making such decisions as a peripheral activity but as core to their business.

    • People are mad because that Burt Reynolds Cosmo centerfold keeps vanishing from Facebook

      Facebook, though, has standards, and those images of Reynolds sprawled on a bear-skin rug may have passed muster back in 1972 when he appeared in Helen Gurley Brown’s magazine, but they were too much for the pearl-clutching community of today. The image was repeatedly flagged, according to social media reports. The postings were pulled and account holders were notified that they were violating Facebook’s very high standards.

      Twitter (the last refuge for people kicked off Facebook) is currently filled with stories of people who said they tried to pay tribute to Reynolds by posting his not-even-nude centerfolds on Facebook—and then getting booted.

    • Apple bans Infowars app from store: report

      Apple has permanently banned InfoWars’ app from its app store, just weeks after the tech giant announced it was monitoring the right-wing conspiracy newscast app for possible content policy violations.

    • Apple Has Permanently Banned Alex Jones’ Infowars App From The App Store

      Infowars’ app, which allowed users to read Infowars articles, shop, and livestream all of Jones’ programming 24 hours a day, served as a window into the incendiary conspiratorial content that led to the outlet’s ban from Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, and Twitter. While Apple removed Jones and Infowars from its podcast platform in early August, the company took no action against the Infowars app; nor did it explain why it was allowed to remain. It’s worth noting, however, that the Infowars app does not store content, which presumably made violations of Apple’s guidlines more difficult to police.

    • Court Denies Politician’s Attempt To Dismiss Lawsuit Over Banning Critics From His Facebook Page

      Late last year, Maine governor Tom LePage was sued by the ACLU and two of the state’s residents. It wasn’t over his vocalized desire to shoot a local political cartoonist or his tone deaf handling of the Net Neutrality debate. This lawsuit deals with LePage’s moderation of his official Facebook page. LePage (or more likely, his staff) swing the banhammer pretty freely, blocking users and deleting critical comments.

      If LePage is using this Facebook page as an official extension of the governor’s office, he can’t engage in this kind of moderation without doing damage to the First Amendment. LePage has tried to claim the page isn’t official, but it’s been used to deliver official statements from his office. In addition, the page states it’s Lepage’s “official” page, and the page itself has been “verified” as official by Facebook, which requires the input of LePage and his office to make his official page official.

      So, when LePage argues it’s just some sort of unofficial campaign page with no ties to his current position in the government — as he did in his motion to dismiss — it’s a Hail Mary play. The court isn’t going to buy these assertions, not when there’s plenty of evidence pointing to the Facebook page’s officialness. For an official mouthpiece of a government entity, blocks and bans of critics aren’t just a PR black eye, it’s likely a First Amendment violation as well.

    • A new study shows the growing perils for academics researching China

      When Cambridge University Press’s prestigious China Quarterly journal temporarily capitulated to Chinese censors last year and removed hundreds of articles, it was a wake-up call for the global academia community facing Beijing’s increasing attempts to export the stifling of academic freedom overseas.

      A new study conducted by two US academics attempts to find out how pervasive and damaging Chinese repression in academia is. Sheena Greitens and Rory Truex, at the University of Missouri and Princeton University, respectively, found in a survey of over 500 China scholars that “repressive research experiences are a rare but real phenomenon, and collectively present a barrier to the conduct of research in China.”

      Attention over academic censorship in China studies is also growing in light of increasing coverage and awareness worldwide of Beijing’s repressive policies in Xinjiang, resulting in the recent expulsion of American BuzzFeed journalist Megha Rajagopalan from China, likely because of her in-depth reporting of the region. China-focused academics themselves have been discussing to what extent they should risk putting their livelihoods and personal safety at stake in order to conduct research on areas like Xinjiang—and whether that raises questions of potential self-censorship.

    • Survey reveals overseas China scholars’ self-censorship

      Repressive experiences during the conduct of research on China may be rare but they are a “real phenomenon” and a barrier to doing research in the country, leading some scholars to self-censor and others to change research focus or abandon it altogether, according to a new study. It analyses data from the first ever survey of self-censorship among China scholars overseas.

      The survey of some 562 China scholars in North America, Europe, Australia and Hong Kong found 70% of respondents agreeing that self-censorship is a problem in the field of academic China studies, with only 7% disagreeing, according to the paper by Sheena Chestnut Greitens, assistant professor of political science at the University of Missouri, and Rory Truex, assistant professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University in the United States.

    • Self-Censorship and China

      An article in The New Republic examines the issue of self-censorship among scholars who study China and U.S. universities that want to stay in good standing with Beijing. The article includes allegations that in 2015 Columbia University canceled several talks at its global center in Beijing that were deemed politically sensitive. A Columbia spokesman denied that the university canceled events in Beijing because of their political content.

      The article also says that some graduate students reported censoring themselves. One student, quoted anonymously, said she would not do anything to jeopardize her ability to get a visa to China in the future.

    • The Other Political Correctness

      Why are America’s elite universities censoring themselves on China?

    • Govt discourages censorship on media: Fawad

      Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain Wednesday said the government discourages censorship on media and did not receive any complaint in this regard.

      Talking to a news channel, he said that the Senate Committee for Human Rights had given two days to complain about any censorship in media content but received no complaint there off.

      He said that the entertainment and sports industry should flourish as it shows stability in the country instead of news channels which shows instability. He said constructive criticism should be made on media but there was a difference between sensationalism and criticism.

    • UMN Attempts To Sweep Shapiro Censorship Lawsuit Under The Rug

      The University of Minnesota (UMN) has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against the university that contends top-level administrators actively engaged in “viewpoint-based censorship” of conservative students.

    • University of Minnesota motions to dismiss Shapiro lawsuit

      The University of Minnesota filed a motion in late August to dismiss a lawsuit by Young America’s Foundation and Ben Shapiro which accused UMN of “banishing [a] conservative event to [an] inadequate venue.”

      YAF and Shapiro filed a lawsuit against the school in July after UMN allegedly capped the number of people who could attend the event, which is an action that YAF believes puts UMN in a position where they violated the First Amendment.

      In a motion filed on August 22, UMN calls the Ben Shapiro lecture a “success,” as the university worked with Students for a Conservative Voice, the student group that invited Shapiro, and found a venue that “virtually matched” the capacity of the venue originally requested.

      The university additionally made the argument that although the student group may have requested a room with a larger capacity, the university does not have an obligation to grant the request, also stating that the venue choice was based on security concerns raised by SCV.

    • Government universities minister tells professors to ‘call out’ censorship as students push for controversial visitors to be banned – including Jacob Rees-Mogg
    • “Banned Spotlight” Highlights Stories of Censorship

      The Banned Books Week Coalition website will feature “Banned Spotlight” stories featuring different banned books in the lead-up to Banned Books Week 2018.

      Banned Books Week is the annual celebration of the freedom to read. This year’s September 23–29 celebration will be centered on the theme “Banning Books Silences Stories,” a reminder that everyone needs to speak out against the tide of censorship.

    • Annual Indie Film Festival Raises Competition Standards but Struggles Remain with Censorship

      Myanmar’s first independent competitive film festival, Wathann Film Festival (WFF), is in its eighth year and changing up its style adding a panel discussion with lauded international filmmakers and brand new screening sections as part of this year’s exciting line-up of events.

      The ongoing film festival is taking place at two top venues in Yangon—Waziya Cinema and Goethe-Institut— and it will run from September 5 to 10.

      “In recent years, Wathann has always been held at the same place that is Waziya Cinema. Luckily, we got another venue to screen the films and we are really thankful to Goethe Institut,” said Ko Thaid Dhi, a filmmaker and co-founder of the festival.

    • ‘Battlefield V’ Beta Censors Phrases Like “DLC,” EA DICE Responds
    • Battlefield V Beta is Censoring the Words ‘White Man’
    • Battlefield V Beta has Banned the Term ‘White man’ in Game Chat – EA Say Profanity Filter is a “work-in-progress”
    • ‘Battlefield V’ Censors Words Like ‘Nazi’ ‘Titanfall’ And ‘White Man’
    • EA & DICE Reportedly Censoring DLC Chat in Battlefield V

      This time its censorship. Not just any censorship, because I’m not averse to censorship when it’s reasonable and understandable, but censorship seemingly only in place to benefit the company. In this case, Electronic Arts have censored the word DLC.

    • Congressional Hearings Further Efforts to Combat Foreign Influence and Censorship on Social Media Platforms

      While Facebook and Twitter executives remain under pressure from lawmakers about concerns over misinformation on social media platforms, Virginia Tech expert Mike Horning says Congress showed greater willingness to work together to address the problem of foreign influence in our democratic processes, following tech hearings on Capitol Hill this week.

    • Chinese Activist Who Shared Anti-Censorship Techniques in Secret Trial

      Authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong on Thursday secretly tried a prominent anti-censorship campaigner on subversion charges after holding him for more than a year, RFA has learned.

      Zhen Jianghua was initially detained at his home in Guangdong’s Zhuhai city on the night of Sept. 1, 2017 on suspicion of “incitement to subvert state power.”

      He stood trial in Zhuhai on Aug. 10, according to a brief statement that appeared on the Case Information Disclosure website of China’s state prosecutor, the People’s Procuratorate, but which was later deleted, sources said.

      A cached copy of the statement was still accessible via Google search on Thursday.

      “Defendant Zhen Jianghua stood trial in open court on Aug. 10, 2018 at the Zhuhai Intermediate People’s Court on charges of incitement to subvert state power,” the Aug. 23 statement said.

    • “Five Eyes” summit in Australia ramps up internet censorship

      A meeting of key cabinet members from the US-led Five Eyes global spying network, held in Australia on August 28-29, shed light on the ousting of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull three days earlier, as well as the intensifying social media censorship.

      Despite the high-profile character of the gathering, the event received almost no publicity. Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton hosted the summit. Leading the other delegations were US Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid, along with Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and New Zealand Justice Minister Andrew Little.

      As exposed by ex-US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, the five-country intelligence web conducts bugging, hacking and other forms of mass surveillance over the world’s population, as well as targeted governments. Its cyber warfare operations are dedicated to tracking and suppressing political and social discontent and preparing for wars to reassert US global hegemony.

    • As social opposition mounts, Silicon Valley and Washington step up internet censorship

      As executives from Facebook and Twitter prepare to testify Wednesday on Capitol Hill, the social media monopolies are scrambling to demonstrate how far they have gone to implement censorship measures demanded by the intelligence agencies and dominant sections of the political establishment.

      These actions are inevitably couched in the language of combatting “foreign interference” and “meddling” in “American democracy” via the promotion of “fake news.” However, the real target is the growth of social opposition among millions of workers and young people.

      Throughout the United States, hundreds of thousands of workers are entering into struggle against low wages, the attack on social programs and the decay of social infrastructure. As the school year begins, teachers in the state of Washington have launched strike action, as the unions seek desperately to contain the anger of educators. There is overwhelming opposition among 230,000 US-based UPS workers to a new concessions contract demanded by their employers and the Teamsters union. The ruling class knows that any eruption of class struggle, in any sector, could set off a social explosion.

    • Information and Broadcasting Ministry ‘s advisory on Dalit word is censorship: Congress
    • I&B Ministry advisory on Dalit word is censorship: Congress
    • I&B Ministry diktat on not using word Dalit on TV channels is censorship: Congress
    • Supreme Court Rules Against The Censorship Of S Hareesh’s Malayalam Novel ‘Meesha’
    • ‘Writer’s imagination must be free’: SC dismisses plea against Hareesh’s ‘Meesha’
    • Barbershop: Online Censorship
    • Is Social Media Content Moderation An Impossible Task?
    • Social media censorship
    • Twitter Permanently Bans Alex Jones
    • Big Tech Censors Alex Jones — Who’s Next?
    • Hooray for Censorship: Liberals Wetting Themselves with Delight After Twitter Permanently Bans Alex Jones and Infowars Accounts
    • Who’ll Be Banned Next by Erratic Twitter Is Anyone’s Guess
    • Twitter Bans Alex Jones And InfoWars; Cites Abusive Behavior
    • Rights groups urge release of Chinese anti-censorship activist facing subversion charge
    • Secret Trial of Anti-Censorship Advocate in China Unjustified and Abusive
    • New York Times covers up Google’s censorship

      Last September, the New York Times published an article, appearing on the first page of its business section, reporting allegations by the World Socialist Web Site that the internet search monopoly Google was censoring left-wing, anti-war and socialist web sites.

      The article prominently cited, and linked to, the WSWS’s open letter to Google, “Stop the censorship of the Internet! Stop the political blacklisting of the World Socialist Web Site!” The open letter presented evidence that “Google is manipulating its internet searches” in order to “block news that your company does not want reported and to suppress opinions with which you do not agree.”

      But on Wednesday, the Times posted on its website (and published Thursday on the front page of the business section of its Thursday print edition) an article by the same author, Daisuke Wakabayashi, which is a white-wash of Google’s censorship regime, echoing the company’s self-serving denials without any serious examination of the facts.

      The article is the latest in a series of similar pieces by major US news outlets, which, using as a foil President Trump’s claims that the company is censoring right-wing news sources, uncritically parrot Google’s denials that it is blacklisting sites based on their political views.

    • BIPP: Shedding light to the shadow of censorship: Google plans to return Chinese market with censored app 8 years later

      To the surprise of many, Google plans on re-entering the Chinese market through developing a censored version of its search service, eight years after being deemed illegal by the Chinese government. The project coded under “Dragonfly” has been underway since the spring of 2017 and according to Reuters, “Progress on the project picked up after a December meeting between Google’s Chief Executive Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese government official.” In the censored version of Google, the results will be filtered through certain key search items, such as democracy, religion, and peaceful protest. In the era of rising populism around the world, Google’s decision on returning to China invites criticism from international human rights organizations who argue that Google is supporting the repression of freedom of speech in China. Many people scratch their heads and wonder why Google, whose motto was “Don’t be evil,” makes such a move now.

      In an effort to address some of the concerns related to Google’s relaunch, John L. Hennessy, the president of Alphabet Inc. (which owns Google), shared his view on the decision of returning to China in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “The question to ask yourself is, are the Chinese people better off with a limited version of Google, or are they better off with no access at all? And that’s not so clear to me,” Hennessy said. In his view, Google is not defying their core values by introducing a limited service in China because the total benefits for Chinese consumers to have Google’s limited service will outweigh the cost of compliance with Chinese cyber security laws. Under such utilitarian thinking, a change in viewing ethics from when the company left China, Google is on track to bring more equality in information access to the second largest country in the world in terms of nominal GDP. Google has evolved over the years in recognizing the need to deal with business in societies that have drastically different attitudes toward the internet.

    • Attacks and Censorship of Journalists in Nicaragua

      The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the OAS today condemned the persistent attacks that journalists and media in Nicaragua are going through, which also includes being subject to political pressure and indirect censorship by the government, reported dpa news.

      “The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR condemns the persistence of constant threats against the safety of journalists, surveillance and political pressure on the media in Nicaragua,” said the organization in a press statement.

      The Office of the Special Rapporteur also made an “urgent appeal” to the State of Nicaragua “to stop these actions and guarantee the free and independent functioning of the media in the country,” which since April has experienced its worst political crisis in several decades.

      According to the IACHR, one of the cases that has been verified by its mission in Nicaragua is that of Channel 10, whose reporters and management are “under governmental pressure” since the political crisis began.

    • Resist hate with open debate, not censorship, urges rights advocate

      In the wake of the Chemnitz demonstrations, Germany is facing tough questions. Civil rights lawyer Nadine Strossen tells DW why the best way to deal with hate is free speech, not censorship.

    • How filmmaker Qaushik Mukherjee is bypassing real-world censorship

      If there’s one way to describe Q’s work, it’d be that his film is not likely to come to a theatre near you. But it may have a way of coming closer, through your phone, tablet or laptop, courtesy online streaming services that are soaking up the controversial products of Q’s fervid imagination.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • NSA metadata program “consistent” with Fourth Amendment, Kavanaugh once argued

      On Friday, during the final day of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) had an interesting exchange over recent privacy cases with the Supreme Court judicial nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

      “I’ve talked repeatedly in this hearing about how technology will be one of the huge issues with the Fourth Amendment going forward,” said Kavanaugh, who serves on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

      Opening their six-minute tête-à-tête, Leahy began by asking the appellate court judge about about what Kavanaugh wrote in November 2015 in a case known as Klayman v. Obama. In that case, a well-known conservative activist attorney, Larry Klayman, sued the then-president on June 7, 2013—the day after the Snowden revelations became public. The complaint argued that the National Security Agency’s telephone metadata program (“Section 215″), which gathered records of all incoming and outgoing calls for years on end, was unconstitutional.

    • Kavanaugh abandons approval of NSA phone dragnet, but skeptics aren’t sold

      Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testified Thursday night that “I don’t see how I could” stand by a 2015 opinion he wrote upholding the dragnet collection of domestic call records, citing a recent ruling that limited police access to cellphone location data.

      But Kavanaugh’s disavowal didn’t win over attorneys who challenged the National Security Agency program, who say they remain concerned about his interpretation of the Fourth Amendment and his still-murky role in post-Sept. 11 surveillance programs.

      “I don’t know if that puts him on the pro-privacy side. He’s just recognizing that Carpenter is the law,” said Jameel Jaffer, who led the American Civil Liberties Union’s lawsuit against the NSA program. “In my view, Kavanaugh’s defense of the program was wrong when he wrote it.”

      Conservative legal activist Larry Klayman, whose case was shot down by Kavanaugh, called the late-night testimony “a cop-out.”

    • Nope, the NSA isn’t sitting in front of a supercomputer hooked up to a terrorist’s hard drive

      Not since the days of the US Clipper chip in the early 1990s, have backdoors put there by government decree to bypass encryption been this fashionable with governments.

      Clipper – an encryption chipset with a US-government-accessible backdoor backed by the US National Security Agency (NSA) – foundered on the stubborn resistance of one man in his spare room, Phil Zimmermann, and a modest home-brew application, PGP, that even some experts struggled to use. But the NSA, which at the time had asked private firms to use Clipper in their telephone and modem designs, never gave up hope. Now it looks as if it’s back for another go.

      The US and UK governments have been dropping hints about backdoors for some time, which optimists took as aspiration rather than policy. Last week, backdoors stepped back into the realm of the possible with the publication of an Australian memo issued on behalf of the Five Eyes Alliance, which includes the UK, US Canada and New Zealand.

    • Dozens Of Popular iPhone Apps Caught Selling Your Location Data: Here’s What To Do

      The apps in question include popular ones like ASKfm, Photobucket, Homes.com, Tapatalk, NOAA Weather Radar, etc. The monetization firms buying the data include Cuebiq, Sense360, Teemo, Fysical, etc.

      While the app developers claim that such practice is harmless as they don’t get personally identifiable data, security researchers have told TechCrunch that latitude and longitude coordinates can be easily used to locate a person with high accuracy.

    • Dozens of popular iPhone apps caught sending user location data to monetization firms

      A group of security researchers say dozens of popular iPhone apps are quietly sharing the location data of “tens of millions of mobile devices” with third-party data monetization firms.

      Almost all require access to a user’s location data to work properly, like weather and fitness apps, but share that data often as a way to generate revenue for free-to-download apps.

      In many cases, the apps send precise locations and other sensitive, identifiable data “at all times, constantly,” and often with “little to no mention” that location data will be shared with third-parties, say security researchers at the GuardianApp project.

    • Adware Doctor, a Top Seller on the Mac App Store, Was Grabbing Users’ Web History

      Sadly this is nothing new: Apple often doesn’t react to stuff like this until someone points it out. I wrote that the Mac App Store is full of scams back in 2016, and all the apps I mentioned were taken down or given less vague descriptions a few weeks later. It would be nice if Apple caught stuff like this before someone pointed it out publicly.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Vermont’s Revenge Porn Law Ruled Constitutional… With An Incredibly Confused Ruling

      Revenge porn — or, more accurately, “non-consensual pornography” — is unquestionably bad. We’ve spent plenty of time mocking the jackasses who have been involved in these awful sites, and have been happy to see them flail around as the stench of their association with these sites sticks.

      However, we have not supported the attempts by a small group of legal academics to criminalize running such a site for a variety of reasons. First, such an action would make plenty of protected speech illegal causing massive collateral damage to speech and internet platforms. Second, as we’ve repeatedly documented, these revenge porn sites don’t seem to last very long, and those involved with them have a fairly permanent stain on their reputations. Third, in many cases, the type of people running these sites often seem to have already violated other laws, for which law enforcement is able to go after them.

      In recent years, the Supreme Court has made it pretty clear that it has little interest in expanding the categories of speech that are exempted from the First Amendment. I’ve often pointed to lawyer Mark Bennett’s 2014 blog post entitled First Amendment 101 in which he details out the very short list of speech that is not protected by the First Amendment. That post is actually about attempts to outlaw revenge porn and claims that it’s not protected by the First Amendment, but the list is a useful one to point to any time anyone suggests that this or that speech shouldn’t be subject to the First Amendment.

      Some people insist that revenge porn would clearly be exempt from the First Amendment because it’s so bad. But they ignore that, in recent years, the Supreme Court has made it clear that such awful content as video depictions of cruelty to animals and picketing military funerals with truly hateful signs is protected under the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has it’s very short and narrow list of exceptions, and hasn’t shown any indication that it’s ready to expand that list.

    • ‘Punitive Discipline Policies Have Proven to Be Destructive to Children’

      Nothing says America 2018 like a spate of stories on how back-to-school shopping includes bulletproof backpacks. Arming teachers and gearing kids up like commandos are presented as more-or-less reasonable responses to concerns about school safety.

      Any violence in schools is too much, of course, but a conversation about school safety that’s focused on guns and bullets is a narrow and distorted conversation. Recasting our definition of a “safe school environment” could lead us in some very different directions.

      Karen Dolan is director of the Criminalization of Race and Poverty Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, and co-author, with Ebony Slaughter-Johnson and Myacah Sampson, of the recent report Students Under Siege: How the School-to-Prison Pipeline, Poverty and Racism Endanger Our Schoolchildren. She joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome to CounterSpin, Karen Dolan.

    • Talking Putin, censorship with dissidents

      Yevgeny Popov, a Russian dissident writer, can laugh about it now, but it was a serious matter in 1979 when he was banned by Soviet authorities as part of “the Metropol affair,” a literary scandal involving a ribald collection of fiction and essays published outside the USSR to avoid censorship.

      Popov was an editor of the outlaw underground collection, titled Metropol, which included sexual references and scatological words that government censors labeled an anti-Soviet plot designed to denigrate Soviet literature. Popov deemed it satire of a repressive regime.

      Popov was expelled in 1979 from the state-sanctioned Union of Soviet Writers after just seven months of membership. “I think it was a Guinness Book of World Records for being kicked out of a literary organization,” Popov said with a deep chortle that caused his large belly to quake.

      I met up with Popov and writer Boris Evseev during a summer trip to Russia with my wife Mary, who is a fluent Russian speaker. Galina Evtushenko, a Russian filmmaker and visiting Fulbright scholar in the history department at the University at Albany, made the introduction to her writer friends.

      We were sipping strong black Russian tea and devouring pastries — Popov ate his with crumb-cascading gusto — at a museum adjacent to the apartment of Mikhail Bulgakov, a dissident Russian novelist of an earlier generation. His satirical novel “The Master and Margarita,” which began in 1928, featured a visit to Moscow by Satan and mocked Soviet mores, was banned during Bulgakov’s lifetime by Stalin regime censors. Parts of the heavily redacted manuscript were leaked in 1966, but it was not reconstructed in its original version and published as Bulgakov intended until 1969 in Germany. It became an international sensation and received wide acclaim as a masterpiece of literary satire, but Bulgakov had died long before, of kidney disease in 1940 at age 48.

    • ‘50s CIA report critical of Soviet police techniques has eerie parallels to the modern American criminal justice system

      In the midst of the Cold War, the Central Intelligence Agency routinely collected information about the methods of control employed by the Soviet Union to capture, incarcerate, and punish those opposed to the state. While the CIA used this information to denounce the USSR in reports such as this one available in the CREST archives, a modern reader will note how several of the criticized policies resemble those of the criminal justice system in modern day America.

    • Ministers accused of issuing ‘torture warrants’ to spies

      Ministers are routinely providing legal cover for the intelligence services where there is a possibility of information being extracted through torture abroad, under a so-called “James Bond clause”, a human rights group has alleged.

      Reprieve is planning to launch a judicial review of the practice of repeatedly granting protection – in effect immunity from prosecution – for MI6 or GCHQ officers in cases involving detainees held overseas.

      The legal challenge follows a report by parliament’s intelligence and security committee (ISC) earlier this summer on rendition and mistreatment of terrorist suspects since 9/11.

      The claim will add to pressure on the government to hold a judge-led inquiry into the UK’s involvement in human rights abuses. The Council of Europe’s new commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatović, has sent a letter to the prime minister saying it would send out “a positive signal to other … states” which still have to “provide a full account of their involvement in rendition and secret detention programmes”.

    • Secret law ‘allows UK security services to be involved in torture’

      The government is facing a legal challenge over its use of a secretive law that can authorise the involvement of British intelligence officers in torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

      A section of the Intelligence Services Act 1994 allows ministers to permit British personnel to commit criminal acts abroad.

      In June two reports from parliament’s intelligence and security committee revealed that current and former cabinet ministers including Theresa May, Philip Hammond and Boris Johnson said they could authorise operations even when there was a serious risk of complicity in torture or mistreatment.

    • Things the FBI and CIA Used to Do But, Thank Goodness, Don’t Do Any More

      In the old days, law enforcement and intelligence agencies misbehaved.

      1) CIA officer E. Howard Hunt planted spies in the 1964 Goldwater campaign. “My subordinates volunteered inside, collected advance copies of position papers and other material, and handed them over to CIA personnel,” Hunt confessed in a memoir. A Goldwater secretary provided advance copies of speeches and press releases, and a “journalist” from Continental Press news service—a CIA front—picked them up and delivered to a CIA officer assigned to the National Security Council at the White House.

      “They seemed to know everything I was going to do, everything I was going to say,” Goldwater sighed.

      John Roche, speechwriter for President Johnson, confirmed that “Somehow or other, we used to get advance texts of Senator Goldwater’s key speeches. The consequence of this was that before Goldwater had even opened his mouth, we had five speakers primed to reply. . . . All I know is that when I innocently inquired how we got them, the reply was ‘Don’t ask.’”

      According to Goldwater’s communications director, reporters asked specific questions about travel plans that had been discussed only behind closed doors.

      Goldwater’s plane was bugged. So was Richard Nixon’s plane in 1968; FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover told Nixon after Nixon won.

    • An Insider’s Account of the NFL Players’ Take-a-Knee Movement

      I worked at the NFL. The players were never protesting the military, but racial injustice – police brutality, mass incarceration, and systemic racism.

      I started my professional career in the communications department of the National Football League. It was a dream job right out of college. I grew up a passionate New York Giants fan, but more importantly, I recognized the invaluable experience I’d gain working for an organization that managed to draw more than 100 million viewers to the Super Bowl each year.

      This is not a novel observation, but the NFL is more than a sports organization. Football is — sorry baseball — America’s pastime, and the league’s steps and missteps on player discipline, health and safety, and executive compensation have become part of the national conversation. Knowing this, leadership has clear instructions: Focus on the game; deflect from a scandal; protect the shield.

      At the end of the day, it’s a business. Pontificate all you want about the selective outrage of the fanbase — denounce signing a domestic violence abuser unless he boosts that defensive line — but that fanbase buys tickets, merchandise, and expensive cable packages to justify multi-year broadcast deals.

    • CIA out of University of Illinois Chicago!

      The International Youth and Students for Social Equality at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) demands the immediate end to all connections, partnerships and agreements between UIC and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). We call on all students, student clubs, faculty, and campus workers to take up and fight for this demand: CIA out of UIC!

      Behind the backs of students and educators, UIC agreed in February to partner with the CIA as part of the Signature Schools Program, which includes a handful of other colleges around the country.

      The university has provided little information to students about the program. According to a brief statement published on UIC News, which few students read, the CIA will now have “a regular recruiting presence on the UIC campus”; students “will have opportunities to engage in on-campus interviews, information sessions, workshops, simulations and networking activities with CIA personnel”; and “students will participate in unclassified discussions, presentations and seminars that discuss the business of intelligence and learn about employment opportunities within the CIA.”

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Google slammed for Chrome change that strips out ‘www’ from domains [iophk: “machines have names for a reason, this breaks the web”

      Google’s move to strip out the www in domains typed into the address bar, beginning with version 69 of its Chrome browser, has drawn an enormous amount of criticism from developers who see the move as a bid to cement the company’s dominance of the Web.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Amgen Suit Shows Limitations Of Biosimilar Safe Harbor

      On Aug. 27, 2018, the United States District Court for the District of Delaware denied Hospira Inc.’s motion for judgment as a matter of law and found substantial evidence supported an earlier jury verdict that certain batches of drug product manufactured by Hospira failed to qualify for the safe harbor created by 35 U.S.C. § 271(e)(1).

    • Germany: Method of transferring component tape information, Federal Court of Justice of Germany, X ZR 101/15, 14 February 2018

      …Federal Court of Justice held that when inventive step is assessed it is of the utmost importance to consider all aspects of the claimed subject-matter and in particular effects and advantages of these aspects in order to avoid a hindsight assessment of inventive step.

    • German court rejects US pharma company’s compulsory licence request

      The German Federal Patent Court has rejected the application for a preliminary court order for a licence to use the European patent of two French pharmaceutical companies

      The German Federal Patent Court announced today that it has dismissed an application for a preliminary court order for licence to use the European patent of two pharmaceutical companies.

    • Webinar on Patent Implications for 3D Printing [Ed: Those are patent maximalists looking to undermine 3-D printing using patents]

      Strafford will be offering a webinar entitled “3D Printing: Implications for Patents, Trademarks, Trade Secrets and Copyrights — Challenges With Additive Manufacturing, Policing and Enforcement Strategies to Protect IP” on September 18, 2018 from 1:00 to 2:30 pm (EDT). Elizabeth D. Ferrill of Finnegan Henderson Farabow Garrett & Dunner, Christopher Higgins of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, and Marc H. Trachtenberg of Greenberg Traurig will examine 3D printing and its current and potential implications for patents, trademark, trade dress, trade secret, and copyrights, and offer guidance for developing enforcement strategies to police and protect IP rights in the emerging world of additive manufacturing.

    • Apple asks court to find that Qualcomm cannot claim billions of dollars for breach of gag order

      There’s a third summary judgment motion related to Qualcomm’s business practices that is worth talking about, though it is admittedly a distant third given the enormous potential of the FTC’s motion regarding the licensong of rival chipset makers and Apple’s motion targeting Qualcomm’s “double-dipping” (chipset sales + patent royalties). In a lower-profile motion that nevertheless highlights a major issue, Apple has asked Judge Gonzalo Curiel of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California to throw out Qualcomm’s counterclaims according to which Apple has to repay rebates amounting to billions of dollars because it breached a “Business Cooperation and Patent Agreement” (BCPA) through its efforts to instigate and broaden antitrust investigations into Qualcomm’s conduct (this post continues below the document):

    • Texas jury verdict exposes Huawei’s conflict between inbound and outbound licensing of FRAND-pledged patents

      Huawei is indeed torn between two roles: that of a licensor of standard-essential patents (SEPs), and that of a licensee.

      Just at a time when Huawei is trying to prove Samsung’s infringement of some of its SEPs in court (and seeking a whopping 1.5% royalty), a group of three affiliated non-practicing entities (Optis Wireless TEchnology, Optis Cellular Technology, and Panoptis Patent Management) has prevailed over Huawei in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas on all five patents-in-suit: four FRAND-pledged wireless SEPS and one non-FRAND-pledged (but potentially still essential) H.264 codec patent. And the jury awarded a total of $10.6 million, with each of the four FRAND-committed patents, however, accounting for only an average of approximately $0.7 million. In other words, the non-FRAND patent was deemed roughly ten times more valuable. While it’s theoretically possible that the non-FRAND H.264 patent was considered more valuable for technical reasons than the FRAND-pledged wireless SEPs, Judge Rodney Gilstrap, the nation’s busiest patent judge in recent history, had instructed the jury that the FRAND promise needed to be kept in mind when determining damages.

      [...]

      Huawei makes very good devices. I’ve bought some for my app development company, and it’s one of two Android brands that I’ve repeatedly recommended to others. It would be great if Huawei’s priority was its product business, in which case it should be in the FRAND camp. Its dispute with ZTE earlier this decade was more of a statement. To me it looked like Huawei wanted to demonstrate that it takes pride in its contributions to wireless innovation. But the longer its dispute with Samsung takes, the more I fear that Huawei is actually aspiring to become the next Qualcomm…

      It will be interesting to watch the further proceedings in the Eastern District of Texas.

    • Trademarks

      • Government: We Can Still Regulate Morality

        Morality judgments have been a core governmental activity for millennia. However, when it comes to limiting speech – morality is unlikely to be a sufficient justification to overcome today’s expansive Free Speech principles.

        The Lanham Act requires the USPTO to bar registration for marks that are either “immoral” or “scandalous.” 15 U.S.C. 1052(a). A separate portion of the provision prohibits registration of marks that “may disparage . . . persons” — but the Supreme Court found that portion uncontitutional in Matal v. Tam, 582 U.S. ___ (2017). In Brunetti, the Federal Circuit expanded Tam by holding that the prohibition on registering “immoral” or “scandalous” marks is also an unconstitutional. The court suggested that the government could draw some lines – such as barring obscene marks — but those dilenations are the province of Congress.

      • Souvenir industry battered by CJEU castle name ruling

        The CJEU has dismissed a trade mark appeal over a German castle name in a decision that overrules the German Federal Court and opens the gates for other European heritage-site owners to monopolise their marks

      • Express Homebuyers Wins Again As Court Decides Its Allowed To Have Opinions

        We just recently discussed the very good ruling by Judge T.S. Ellis in a trademark lawsuit between Express Homebuyers USA and WBH Marketing Inc. over the latter’s once-valid trademark, “We Buy Houses.” Ellis not only concluded that Express Homebuyers’ advertising that it too “buys homes” was not trademark infringement, but also went so far as to proclaim that WBH’s mark was generic and invalidated it. The generic nature of the mark was obvious and it’s a wonder the USPTO ever approved it, but in the end the ruling was good.

        Separately, WBH sued Express Homebuyers for false advertising, trade libel, and conspiracy as well. Much of these accusations either relied on the trademark WBH once held or targeted Express Homebuyers’ discussion of the dispute in public. In yet another good ruling from Ellis, however, those claims were all tossed out as invalid.

    • Copyrights

      • Italy Wants to Upgrade Movie “Camming” Piracy to a Criminal Offense

        Recording first-run movies in cinemas, an activity known as “camming”, has long been a thorn in the side of movie companies everywhere. In Italy, there are moves underway to tackle the problem, by upgrading the practice to a criminal offense with more severe penalties. Cinema owners may also install monitoring equipment to detect people illegally recording on site.

      • Please Write (Yes, Again – Sorry) to Your MEPs to Stop the EU Copyright Directive from Seriously Harming the Internet

        Back in June, I wrote a long post about the proposed update to EU copyright law. As I explained, there are some bad ideas being proposed, notably upload filters (Article 13), and ancillary copyright for news publications (Article 11), that will seriously harm the Internet in the EU. I won’t repeat everything I wrote there: the bad ideas are still in play, despite minor amendments that have been proposed to give the impression that problems have been addressed. They haven’t.

        But I will ask you to write, once more, to your MEPs, as I did again in July, asking them to defend the Internet in the key European Parliament vote on Wednesday, 12 September. Once more, a short email is quite sufficient: the most important thing is to convey the seriousness of the situation. At its simplest, we need to remove Article 11 and Article 13 completely – they are not salvageable – and to amend Article 3 to allow companies to carry out text and data mining (TDM).

      • Copyright and tattoos: where are we now?

        Copyright and tattoos is one of The IPKat’s favourite topics. Over time a few posts have been devoted to exploring the intricacies of copyright law as applied to this type of works: see, eg here, here, here, here, here, here, here. However, as Jeremy recalled – despite all this interest – The IPKat sports no tattoos, not least because of the mess it would make of the fur.

      • YouTube condemns Article 13 ahead of EU Copyright Directive vote

        YouTube has published a blog slamming Article 13 of the EU Digital Single Market Copyright Directive. It is unclear how the website would handle the provision making it directly liable for copyright infringement

        YouTube has voiced its stance on the argument on the EU’s Digital Single Market Copyright Directive ahead of the vote on the proposed legislation in the EU Parliament on September 12.

      • OpenPGP Keyservers Now Store ‘Irremovable’ Torrent Magnet Links

        BitTorrent has proven to be an ideal tool for pirates. The protocol’s decentralized nature makes it impossible to interfere with transfers between users. Torrent sites and indexes are the only weak link in the chain, but there are novel solutions to that ‘problem’ as well, it appears.

Renaming Patents on Algorithms to Make Them Look and Sound Less Abstract Than They Really Are

Posted in Deception, IBM, Patents at 6:23 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Working around the law

David Kappos as lobbyist

Summary: How companies continue to receive software patents from the US patent office with substitution of words and an embrace of vague/broad buzzwords

THE EPO‘s gross misuse of trendy new buzzwords has been covered here many times before. But what about the US?

We are sadly seeing a lot of corporate front groups leaving the door open to software patenting; they just don’t say so explicitly. An example of this came less than a week ago from a patent maximalism site of ALM Media Properties, LLC. Ken Seddon, whose group is is like a wolf dressed up as a sheep, published an article titled “Why Would Big Tech Companies Give Away Free Patents? It’s a loaded headline/statement. There’s no such notion as “free patents”. Patents represent things which were taken away and unless these patents are invalidated, they’re not free. We generally cannot trust Seddon because when it comes to software patents, he’s not an opponent and might even be a proponent. Never mind if software patents are not compatible with Free software. Like OIN, these people advocate solutions that aren’t (except for proprietary software companies with loads of software patents of their own). “Though we live in a world where we’re trained to suspect anything that’s given away for free, there are valid and self-preserving reasons for tech companies to give away patents for free,” Seddon wrote. If they care about freedom or even zero cost (gratis), why did they apply for these patents in the first place? The truth of the matter is, they keep these patents under their own name. Terms and conditions may apply. Some companies like Red Hat claim to support Seddon’s group, but at the same time Red Hat is pursuing software patents of its own; what will happen if Red Hat gets sold this week? Those ‘free’ patents may suddenly become ammunition of an aggressive company like Oracle or — yet worse — sold to a patent troll.

The real solution and the only solution would be to eliminate these underlying software patents. Unfortunately, it has gotten harder to identify these because language has evolved to help dodge Section 101/Alice tests. Here’s a new article titled “Some Facts of High-Tech Patenting,” which says: “This study details the growth of patenting in software, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and related technologies in the twenty-first century, and the continuing dominance of inventors in large US, Japanese, and Korean companies. Researchers still need to understand the impact of such trends on social welfare more generally.”

Well, These are all software patents (call them “cloud” or “artificial intelligence” or “blockchain” of whatever). They’re hence invalid or bogus (to be invalidated in courts). Sometimes we find admissions of that. Robert Harrison (his description says he’s into “commercialisation focusing on matching intellectual property strategies with business success”) wrote a few days ago: “Interesting twist on #blockchain #patent with Alibaba filing so many. They are difficult to get granted in some countries and so advice is crucial to avoid wasting funds. https://twitter.com/news_mainstream/status/1037490757039480845 …”

“It’s about that fantasy that computers alone can manage patents, defeating the very purpose of a patent systen.”He mentioned “blockchain” in relation to Alibaba because about five days ago the company made the headlines. All of these are totally bogus software patents from Alibaba, IBM and Mastercard [1, 2, 3]. IBM has been hoarding many such patents (“blockchain” as a buzz-generating term for database). Lobbyist and IBM’s ‘mole’ David Kappos is meanwhile promoting software patents using this buzz as well. Here is an article titled “Recordals tipped to be one of blockchain’s main IP uses”. A few days ago it said:

Panellists including David Kappos at IP Week in Singapore agreed the most important IP use for blockchain will be to record registration in order to understand who owns patents and trade marks

This alludes to blockchain in relation to management of patent data rather than patents themselves, but still, we previously highlighted the overlap in this kind of propaganda. Janaína Simões (Brazil) published some piece last month (mentioned here last month) and it was still circulating in more sites last week (“Patent mining indicates promising routes for research”). It’s about that fantasy that computers alone can manage patents, defeating the very purpose of a patent systen.

Just before the weekend RPX Corporation wrote about a new legal action in the Eastern District of Texas. To name the many companies involved/sued:

Vindolor, LLC has expanded its sole litigation campaign with new suits filed against Disney Stores (2:18-cv-00375), NTW, LLC (d/b/a National Tire and Battery) (2:18-cv-00374), and Restoration Hardware (2:18-cv-00373) in the Eastern District of Texas. The asserted patent generally relates to using biometric authentication to create an “access code” based on a resulting identification profile, with defendants throughout the campaign targeted over their use of NFC-enabled point-of-sale terminals offering contactless payments. Vindolor alleges infringement through the accused terminals’ compatibility with various payment platforms, including “Microsoft Wallet, Wells Fargo Wallet, Masterpass, Samsung Pay, Android Pay, Google Pay, Google Wallet, Apple Pay, and PayPal mobile” as used with a variety of Android, iOS, and/or Windows smartphones and related mobile apps.

The ‘ex’ Microsoft executive, Bart Eppenauer (Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P.), wrote about another such lawsuit in the Eastern District of Texas:

Two of the largest U.S. banks – Bank of America (“BofA”) and Wells Fargo – were sued for patent infringement by Wapp Tech Limited Partnership and Wapp Tech Corp. in the Eastern District of Texas in July 2018. The lawsuits allege infringement of three patents relating to mobile device application development and testing systems that simulate network characteristics indicative of mobile app performance. Just two weeks before the lawsuits against BofA and Wells Fargo, Wapp Tech sued both Micro Focus and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (“HPE”) on the same three patents. HPE and Micro Focus completed a spin-off and merger of HPE’s software business on September 1, 2017, valued at $8.8 billion. Wapp Tech now asserts that BofA and Wells Fargo infringe its patents by using testing systems of Micro Focus (formerly offered by HPE), including the Micro Focus LoadRunner load testing software and Micro Focus Performance Center. Wapp Tech accuses both Micro Focus and HPE of infringement for selling those products as well as the StormRunner Load cloud-based load and performance testing solution and Mobile Center mobile testing solution.

These are software patents, which is why the docket in the Eastern District of Texas was chosen. Why were such patents granted at all?

We’re meanwhile seeing new evidence that Google proudly hoards software patents which it calls “AI”. Google is just AI-washing software patents and so does Jim Hinton, who wrote: “The race to own #MachineLearning and #AI is on! US and CN way out in front.”

These are software patents i.e. invalid patents in the US (unlike in China). It is a race to the bottom, not to the front. And this cites IAM!

IAM has meanwhile published some new nonsense completely behind a paywall. It’s titled “How to build an effective IP strategy for AI.” (i.e. software patents that have no validity anymore).

We cannot quite rebut IAM because it’s hiding from scrutiny. Many patent propaganda sites (funded quite literally by patent trolls and law firms) are going ‘dark’ these days (inactive or barely active), more so after the summer. Sites gone ‘dark’ (completely paywalled except headlines) are closed to the outside world and limit their exposure. It’s quite self-defeating.

Anyway, here comes law firm Haseltine Lake, writing about software patents (bogus patents) disguised using buzzwords like “autonomous vehicles” (software). Based on their PDF newsletter, as covered by Managing IP with a partial paywall:

A newsletter published by Haseltine Lake reveals autonomous vehicle patent applications have soared since 2011, with Ford leading the way. It analyses applications and grants since 1999, filing jurisdictions, and the most active companies

A newsletter published recently by Haseltine Lake looks at patent filing data to extract information about trends in the area of autonomous vehicles.

Having worked in the field of autonomous vehicles, it’s pretty clear to me that they’re dealing with algorithms there. They call it “autonomous” or “smart” or “intelligence” or whatever, but it’s still just a bunch of algorithms, which are of course patent-ineligible. How about “business intelligence” patents? Days ago there was this press release about US Patent 10,025,837 B2 – “Systems and Methods for Intelligent Data Preparation and Visualization” and US Patent 9,727,836 B2 – “Systems and Methods for Generating Data Visualization Dashboards” (both sound like software). On optics/computer vision there was another new press release, this one celebrating US Patent 10,042,994 – “Validation of the Right to Access an Object,” US Patent 10,025,982 – “Collecting and Targeting Marketing Data and Information Based upon Iris Identification,” and US Patent 10,038,691 – “Authorization of a Financial Transaction” (software).

“Financial Transaction” means it’s related to business methods or the whole “blockchain” hype. We’ve grown used to but also tired of that. Why can’t examiners understand that algorithms are being painted as “objects” or “apparatus” just for the sake of bypassing Section 101? Judging by the numbers above, these are very newly-granted patents that were quite recently submitted (the numbers exceed 10 million). There’s no excuse for that after Alice.

Watchtroll Calls Company That Defends Itself From Patent-Trolling-Like Behaviour a ‘Patent Troll’

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

Watchtroll great againInability or unwillingness to actually understand/grasp the term? Inversion of roles/narratives is a lie, not “alternative facts”.

Summary: A software patents advocacy site, which generally dislikes technology companies, deliberately misuses the term “troll” and still attempts to abolish quality control, such as PTAB and § 101

IT is no secret that Watchtroll likes patent trolls more than it likes actual technology companies. It constantly makes that evident. One might say that the site actively berates and thus hates technology companies and it even demonises those who support technology rather than litigation. It actually does matter because many patent zealots get suckered by this cult (the Cult of Patents) and it threatens science and technology in the same way EPO management does.

As readers of ours may recall, software patents were leveraged by BlackBerry when it sued several companies with them. BlackBerry started it and it is BlackBerry acting like patent trolls, according to some patent maximalists too. BlackBerry is a failing company (see its performance over the year), so now it resorts to almost nothing but litigation. Facebook’s response to BlackBerry’s ridiculous lawsuit was widely covered by mainstream media for well over a week, with examples ranging from English to French, German, Mandarin and so on. There were articles aplenty and there are still newer ones like this one. We can’t give an exhausive list because it’s virtually everywhere. Earlier today, however, Watchtroll came up with the most ridiculous framing. “Facebook patent infringement suit against BlackBerry looks remarkably patent troll-like,” Watchtroll said today (right there in its headline). Wait, what?!

“…we assume it’s one among many similar stunts that attempt to misuse/overuse the term “trolls” to make it seem out of place and inappropriate in general.”Surely the founder of Watchtroll knows what started all this. But we assume it’s one among many similar stunts that attempt to misuse/overuse the term “trolls” to make it seem out of place and inappropriate in general. Perhaps we could just ignore this and move on, but this has become part of a trend. These people pretend that the term “patent troll” is meaningless by calling “trolls” people who certainly are not. They paint with a very broad brush, deliberately so.

Other ridiculous new articles from Watchtroll include this new smear of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). New ‘scandals’ from a few hours ago? No. It attempts to make a scandal out of an inter partes review (IPR) that is pretty ordinary. Separately, and dated yesterday, there’s another one of these attacks on Section 101 from Burman York (Bud) Mathis III, i.e. the patent microcosm. “There Are Two Types of § 101 Rejections” and “Congress, Not the Supreme Court, Determines the Scope of Patent Eligibility,” he says. Actually, no. SCOTUS determines, based on the Constitution etc., what the law says. Congress just does what a bunch of lobbyists ask, e.g. those that now lobby to abolish PTAB. It’s not hard to see why the patent microcosm wants politicians to simply override SCOTUS, overturn (sort of) SCOTUS decisions, and undo AIA. But such is the nature of sites like Watchtroll. We ignore while we can and rebut when it seems necessary.

District Courts — Not Just the Federal Circuit (Higher Court) — Increasingly Reject Software Patents (Even ‘Better’ Ones)

Posted in America, Courtroom, Patents at 3:47 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Interesting new data points to learn from

A lecture room

Summary: Fewer patent lawsuits are being filed because only the ‘braver’ parties dare bring abstract patents before a court; so one might expect only the ‘better’ patents to end up in court and nevertheless the courts still reject them (all the way from the bottom to the top, including the Federal Circuit)

THE U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), having embraced Alice (SCOTUS) and incorporated that into 35 U.S.C. § 101, is obliged to reject software patents because they are abstract.

The Federal Circuit (CAFC) and Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) both rejects such patents. One might say that software patents are passé in the US, especially in US courts. As we continue to discover, however, the USPTO still grants several such patents every day.

Patently-O‘s Dennis Crouch wrote about TS Patents v Yahoo! Inc. last week. It was about 35 U.S.C. § 101 at the level of district courts (the lowest courts) and to quote:

The district court found all the asserted claims invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101 following the Alice/Mayo test as applied to abstract ideas. In Alice Step-Two, the district court concluded that the claimed elements and arrangements were all “conventional” and “generic.” In particular, the district court dismissed the case on the pleadings — ruling that the patent is so clearly invalid that the complaint failed to state a plausible claim (Fed.R.Civ.Pro. 12(b)(6)). At that stage, the district court did not consider any evidence or expressly draw factual conclusions. On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed without opinion (R.36).

It was probably so obvious that CAFC didn’t even bother with a whole trial. Rebecca Kahn has meanwhile published this short post about a CAFC decision from the end of August (following a similar decision from Texas). CAFC still isn’t tolerating low-quality patents that should not be granted by the USPTO and brought to court (frivolous litigation that only lawyers profit from). In her own words:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed a Texas district court’s ruling that Verizon Wireless did not infringe on Barkan Wireless’ patent despite disagreeing with the lower court’s construction of a term recited in each independent claim of the patent.

Law360 had another article to that effect; To quote:

InvestPic LLC urged the full Federal Circuit on Tuesday to review a panel’s decision that the company’s patented software product, which was asserted against SAP America Inc., is too abstract, arguing that the panel had misapplied a test to determine patent eligibility and imposed incorrect requirements on the invention.

InvestPic claimed in its petition for an en banc rehearing that the Federal Circuit panel had violated U.S. Supreme Court precedent and failed to properly apply the eligibility test established in the high court’s Alice decision…

CAFC is even more strict than most, it would be a waste of its time to just reaffirm that software patents are abstract and thus wrongly granted by USPTO examiners. In our next post we’ll deal with some of the buzzwords that applicants used to trick examiners into granting software patents.

The Battle Over PTAB Determines the Fate of Patent Quality in the United States

Posted in America, Patents at 12:56 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) inter partes reviews (IPRs) are under attack by Iancu, a longtime proponent of software patents who would not mind letting patent quality slip even further to help the litigation ‘industry’

THE NEED to limit the scope of patents is well understood among examiners at the EPO (albeit not the management). The appeal boards exist there for a reason, but they cannot quite function anymore because they lost their independence. António Campinos can exercise authority and power over them. Battistelli abused them aplenty. This is what happens when the leadership of the Office threatens and limits the actions of actual judges.

In the US, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) serves a similar function. It can undo mistakes made by examiners by handling inter partes reviews (IPRs), in effect voiding US patents (that already got granted). PTAB is sometimes saving lives (almost literally) by battling unjust patent monopolies which do not advance science but actively prevent or impede scientific progress while killing those in need of it. As IP Watch put it a few days ago (in relation to PTAB although much of the same can be said about Europe):

A newly released study shows that generic drug companies win nearly half the time when challenging patents on United States government-approved pharmaceutical products through the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) process.

[...]

PORTAL’s new study demonstrates that generic drug manufacturers have embraced the new process, challenging 198 patents covering 134 different drug products over the last 5 years. In 43% of the inter partes review cases since 2011, the challengers succeeded in overturning all challenged patent claims. In addition, inter partes review for drug patents has consistently been completed within 12 months, as required by statute—much faster than litigation. According to Dr. Darrow, “In the pharmaceutical market, the inter partes review process can meaningfully contribute to competition and lower drug prices by ensuring that invalid patents do not block timely availability of generic drugs and by resolving many patent disputes in a more efficient manner than was previously possible.”

Not too long ago we wrote about how a firm called Asha Nutrition dealt with the EPO's appeal boards. It has just been ‘intercepted’ by PTAB (tackling the same firm in Bhagat v Iancu) using Section 101 and more. As Dennis Crouch put it just before the weekend:

Bhagat v. Iancu is a newly filed petition for writ of certiorari now pending before the United States Supreme Court. (Case No. 18-277). Bhagat is the founder and CEO of Asha Nutrition and is seeking to patent a lipid-formulation – that contains a mixture of omega-6 and omega-3 faty acids at a ratio of 4:1 or greater.

The USPTO refused to issue the patent finding the claims barred both by on eligibility (101) and anticipation (102) grounds. On appeal, the Federal Circuit affirmed. The 101 denial is most interesting. The PTAB found that that claimed fatty-acid mixtures already occur naturally in walnut oil and olive oil. And, although the claims require (via disclaimer) that the mixture of oils come from different sources, the Board found them to be directed to a natural phenomenon. On appeal, the Federal Circuit agreed — finding that the original ingredients of walnut oil and olive oil are natural products and the mixtures were not shown to be a “transformation of the natural products, or that the claimed mixtures have properties not possessed by these products in nature.”

So now even the Federal Circuit is affirming, as usual. Patents in the biotechnology/chemical/pharmaceutical (BCP) domain have just been promoted by a site that advocates patents on life/nature; there are many reasons to reject such patents, especially in light of some particular SCOTUS rulings, which the USPTO begrudgingly follows.

Crouch has also written about IPRs, in particular a case about patents from which a question arose: who can petition? Who can file IPRs?

The appeal here stems from three Inter Partes Review (IPR) proceedings — each cancelling the claims of aseparate Worlds’ patent. U.S. Patent Nos. 7,945,856; 8,082,501; and 8,145,998. The Worlds’ patents involve methods and systems for displaying avatars within a virtual environment and claim priority back to a 1995 provisional patent application.

The appeal here does not focus on the merits of the case but rather whether the IPR proceedings were time barred. I.e., whether the patentee’s still-pending lawsuit against Bungie’s contracting partner Activision will block Bungie from pursuing its IPR.

[...]

In the IPR, the patentee Worlds requested discovery on the connection between Bungie and Activision in order to determine whether Activision could be considered a “real party in interest” or “privy.” However, that request was summarily denied and the PTAB concluded that the patentee “has not demonstrated that Activision is an unnamed real party in interest in this proceeding.”

On appeal, the Federal Circuit has vacated and remanded — holding that the PTAB should have investigated the relationship between the IPR petitioner (Bungie) and the prior litigant (Activision) and that the PTAB should have explained its reasoning.

[...]

On remand, the Board will reconsider its the real-party-in-interest decision — placing the ultimate burden of persuasion on the IPR petitioner.

The Federal Circuit did not overrule this judgment; instead it just adds another dimension to it, having recently done that to RPX (and by extension parties like Unified Patents as well).

There’s a coordinated effort to undermine PTAB, but it has not really worked, at least not yet. PTAB is only getting more prolific over time.

Watchtroll (Gene Quinn) now promotes Kavanaugh as part of his ‘crusade’ against patent quality, e.g. PTAB and more. This blowhard lawyer/attorney makes the patent ‘industry’ (profession) look like a bunch of Republicans; here he goes saying:

As was the case with Justice Neil Gorsuch, Kavanaugh has a history of being skeptical toward the growth of the Administrative State, which means the growth of agency power is not something he has shown a predisposition to being in favor of in his decisions. Given the outsized importance of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) within the patent industry, and the fact that the Supreme Court has already twice mentioned “shenanigans” in PTAB procedures…

What “shenanigans”? The ones Watchtroll makes up? The ones that Koch-funded anti-PTAB groups try to bring up, only to be echoed by Gorsuch? That actually happened.

HTIA responds to the observation that the current leadership at the USPTO is PTAB-hostile and under attack by Iancu. “Today’s patent system is the product of nearly a decade of reform,” HTIA said a few days ago, “thanks to which the quality of U.S.-issued patents has gone up and American innovation is flowering.” They link to an older article from John Thorne.

On the other hand we have patent maximalists, not technology companies. “USPTO begins process for finding new leadership at the PTAB,” Watchtroll wrote, after they had smeared the chief judge (he has been moved or voluntarily moved elsewhere last month). Iancu has been condemned for this kind of attitude since (CCIA and EFF spoke out) and here he is in his own words:

Andrei Iancu: Chief Judge Ruschke, he hasn’t left the PTO, obviously. He will be in a new role at the PTO addressing an important issue for the office, which is the coordination between the PTAB and the overall patents organization. Sometimes there is a gap between the two organizations that we would like to bridge, or at least minimize. He will take on that role and study that issue and try to make suggestions on how to improve it. I do think it’s an important function to address. And at the PTAB, we will have new leadership. For now, come September 2nd, the acting chief will be Scott Boalick, and the acting deputy chief will be Jackie Bonilla.

IPO and the EPO are getting together to promote software patents quite soon. Patent maximalists who have just advertised this event say that “[i]n addition, Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will present a keynote address on September 24, and Hon. Kathleen O’Malley, Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will present a keynote address on September 25.”

That’s a fortnight from now.

IPO has also just advertised this PTAB event whose panel/debate is stuffed with patent maximalists:

The Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) will offer a one-hour webinar entitled “The Revised PTAB Trial Practice Guide and Its Impact on Your Practice” on September 13, 2018 from 2:00 to 3:00 pm (ET). Hon. Michael Tierney, Lead Administrative Patent Judge, Patent Trial and Appeal Board, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; Tarek Fahmi of Ascenda Law Group; and Eliot Williams of Baker Botts LLP will discuss the reasoning behind recent changes to the PTAB Trial Practice Guide and explain how these revisions will impact PTAB practice.

The management of the USPTO keeps trying to weaken PTAB, but courts aren’t letting that happen. It’s going to be interesting to see if Iancu can maintain the fiction that he’s impartial. Seeing the like of Watchtroll in person has been quite a giveaway. He did the same with IAM. Whose Director is he? His private firm’s?

On Virnetx, Intellectual Ventures, Interval Licensing and Other Microsoft-Connected Patent Trolls That Microsoft Leverages to Attack Its Competition

Posted in Apple, Microsoft, Patents at 11:04 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Chess board

Summary: Microsoft’s biggest patent troll Intellectual Ventures, as well as smaller patent trolls that it created or has funded, faces a hard time in the higher patent courts; the chilling effect, however, can be exploited by Microsoft to market Azure ‘IP’ ‘Advantage’

THE firm known as Virnetx (or VirnetX) generally produces just lawsuits. Many sites characterise it as a patent troll and it matches the definition. It’s nowadays known for little more than its lawsuit/battle against Apple, which relies on controversial jury trials in Texas.

“Our view is that Virnetx is a patent troll which was emboldened by payments from Microsoft and then targeted Apple.”There has been plenty of coverage about this case's latest twist (because it’s about Apple). Our view is that Virnetx is a patent troll which was emboldened by payments from Microsoft and then targeted Apple. We wrote about the actions against Microsoft in about a dozen past articles.

The shares of Virnetx soared after a recent ruling. “This case will certainly be appealed,” Patently-O asserts, concurring or overlapping our analysis from the time of the ruling. With new standards/bars, as well as SCOTUS precedents, we expect the Federal Circuit (CAFC) to squash the underlying patents. Here is what Patently-O wrote, being a patent maximalist: (there were perhaps hundreds of English articles about that, but not from specialist sites)

The Virnetx v. Apple patent battle has been running since 2010. Virnetx won its first verdict against Apple in 2012. The court in that case required two more jury trials — but Virtnetx won all three and the $300 million damage award is pending appeal before the Federal Circuit.

Apple redesigned its FaceTime and VPNOnDemand products back in 2012. Rather than adding the redesigns to the original case, Virnetx filed a new lawsuit (2012). In April 2018, a jury awarded an additional $500 million in damages and found that Apple’s infringement was willful.

The whole purpose of this firm is lawsuits such as this. It is a patent troll. The payments from Microsoft certainly helped fuel it, just like Microsoft’s payments to Intellectual Ventures helped propel this much bigger troll (connected very closely to Microsoft) to “top legal nuisance” status. In Intellectual Ventures I LLC v T-Mobile USA, Inc. (according to this new analysis from Patently-O) there’s a reference to Interval Licensing (Paul Allen, Microsoft’s co-founder). This troll’s history includes attacks on Android. Microsoft’s patent trolls are, in general, helping Microsoft market its ‘protection’ racket [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20]. In this particular CAFC case the troll fortunately lost its patent (as it typically does at CAFC):

The district court found the claimed function indefinite. In particular, the court noted that specification’s description of QoS as “subjective” according to a user’s “individual preferences” and that description lacked “adequate guidance as to the meaning of ‘optimize.’”

On appeal, the Federal Circuit presumably performed a de novo review, but affirmed — particular zeroing in on its precedent requiring “objective boundaries.” Interval Licensing LLC v. AOL, Inc., 766 F.3d 1364, 1371 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (“The claims, when read in light of the specification and the prosecution history, must provide objective boundaries for those of skill in the art.”). Here, the court interpreted “optimizing QoS” as akin to the invalid “aesthetically pleasing” limitation of Datamize, LLC v. Plumtree Software, Inc., 417 F.3d 1342 (Fed. Cir. 2005). According to the court, both elements are “purely subjective” and depend wholly upon each user’s personal opinions.

[...]

Invalidity Affirmed.

Microsoft still loves and lobbies for patents. It still defends trolls and sells ‘defense’ from trolls (for a fee), presumably in an effort to market Azure as the “safe” option (over AWS).

“Microsoft still loves and lobbies for patents. It still defends trolls and sells ‘defense’ from trolls (for a fee), presumably in an effort to market Azure as the “safe” option (over AWS).”The Bill Gates-funded Seattle Times (which understandably does reputation laundering for Bill Gates and Paul Allen), has just published this article titled “Amazon has patented a system that would put workers in a cage, on top of a robot”. This isn’t the first oppressive (towards Amazon’s workers) patent and Amazon is said to be a top litigation target. Microsoft would want to make it more so (e.g. lawsuits against AWS clients, too) in an effort to sell Azure as a form of ‘protection’ from trolls (which Microsoft itself is controlling). Is this even legal?

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