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11.08.18

Microsoft is Supporting Patent Trolls, Still. New Leadership at USPTO Gives Room for Concern.

Posted in Deception, Microsoft, Patents at 7:58 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

LOT Network: A WHOLE LOT OF SOFTWARE PATENTS

Summary: New statements from Microsoft’s management (Andersen) serve to show that Microsoft hasn’t really changed; it’s just trying to sell “Azure IP Advantage”, hoping that enough patent trolls with their dubious software patents will blackmail GNU/Linux users into adopting Azure for ‘protection’

THIS morning we wrote four articles about the European Patent Office (EPO), but we haven’t lost sight of American matters, which we typically cover in the weekend due to lack of time. Yesterday we wrote about the aggressive past (arguably patent trolling) of the new Deputy Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). This past of hers has been mentioned in IPPro Patents coverage that yesterday noted “Peter was also previously vice president and general counsel of Immersion Corporation, where, among other legal roles, she led its IP portfolio.”

Immersion Corporation is a patent aggressor that many out there have also dubbed “patent troll”. Peter’s boss/superior is another person who comes from a questionable background and was likely appointed because of nepotism. So what on Earth is going on? It’s not hard to see who benefits (cui bono).

The Microsoft-friendly and Microsoft-sponsored IAM (it is also sponsored by Microsoft’s patent trolls) has just quoted/paraphrased Microsoft’s patent chief Andersen as saying: “more valuable for us to essentially license our patents through Open Invention And LOT Networks than to try to license them on our own…”

What on Earth does that even mean? Can that be interpreted as Microsoft using OIN to just tax/cross-license with software patents? Remember that Microsoft staff was forbidden from commenting on it. That can only mean that Microsoft is hiding something.

Microsoft, morever, supports the terrible Director who supports patent trolls. Quoting IAM’s tweet: “Andersen on PTO Director Iancu – I’m a fan, he’s doing a super job. One of things we’ve told him is importance of getting certainty back particularly post-Alice. PTO has a role to play in giving us more clarity and I think he’s taken that to heart…”

That doesn’t inspire a positive view of Microsoft’s ‘new’ policy or strategy, which also involves selling ‘protection’ from its patent trolls through Azure (they call it “Azure IP Advantage” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21]). Microsoft uses OIN and LOT Networks to actively promote this racket.

EPO Stacking up Buzzwords (4IR, AI, Now SDV) to Compel Examiners to Grant Patents on Algorithms

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:25 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Instead of looking for ways to better obey the law and comply with the EPC, President Campinos is creating new loopholes, further lowering patent quality in order to fake ‘growth’

FRENCHMAN (dual national) António Campinos has brought promotion of software patents in Europe to unprecedented levels. The European Patent Office (EPO) promotes such patents about twice or thrice a day, on average. We never saw anything quite so grotesque under Battistelli. In that regard, namely scope/quality of patents, Campinos seems to be even worse than Battistelli (and that’s just the start of his term; it can get a lot worse in years to come).

“Self-driving vehicle technologies are progressing strongly,” the EPO wrote yesterday, citing its very own study (“a new EPO study confirms”). It’s like another one of those Battistelli ‘studies’; has much actually changed since Battistelli left? Maybe only the buzzwords. Battistelli kept saying “4IR”; now they have a new three-letter buzzword, SDV, to obsses over. This typically means software patents pertaining to something inside the car (like those infamous “over the Internet” or “on a phone” patents).

It didn’t take long for the EPO to also tweet: “@RobertaRomanoG, COO for Mobility & Mechatronics at the EPO, spoke on the panel debate of the #EUCAR conference about the recently published study on trends in #selfdriving vehicle innovation…”

For all we can see/gather, EPO staff hates her. It’s hard to forget that Roberta is a career climber close to Battistelli. She allegedly defended his abuses and corruption [1, 2] — something for which people get rewarded at the Office. In other words, the only/best way to get a raise/promotion is to be evil and potentially complicit in criminal activities.

“The number of European patent applications related to autonomous driving has grown 20 times faster than other technologies in recent years, an EPO study has found,” Michael Loney wrote in order to help the EPO’s propaganda that tries to pass off patents on algorithms, i.e. bogus software patents, as "cars" something. Loney writes for a patent maximalists’ publication that has historically been close to Battistelli.

There’s similar coverage this week not just in English (e.g. in Heise). To give another example which is in English, consider World Intellectual Property Review’s (WIPR) participation in this latest stunt:

The number of European patent applications related to autonomous driving has grown 20 times faster than filings for other technologies in recent years, according to a study by the European Patent Office (EPO) and the European Council for Automotive R&D.

A release shared by the EPO yesterday, November 7, said that the statistics may “signal the coming of a transport revolution”.

The study, titled “Patents and self-driving vehicles”, showed that between 2011 and 2017, patent filings at the EPO relating to autonomous driving increased by 330%. However, filings directed to all other technologies in the same period rose by just 16%.

Over the past decade, the EPO said it has received approximately 18,000 patent applications related to self-driving vehicles; almost 4,000 filings were made in 2017 alone.

So EPO management can now pressure examiners to grant abstract patents if these have something to do with a car. As of one week ago, new guidelines came into effect which put similar pressure on examiners, instructing them to grant software parents if the applicant says “AI”. The National Law Review has just published this ‘ad’ of Michael T. Renaud and Marguerite McConihe (Mintz); they’re the latest of many to exploit EPO abuses to market software patents disguised as “AI”. The ‘ad’ is disguided as information:

On November 1, 2018, the European Patent Office (“EPO”) issued new guidelines for the patentability of artificial intelligence (“AI”) and machine learning (“ML”) inventions which indicate that applications within this subject matter may be treated as largely unpatentable. The new guidelines, G-II 3.3.1, provide that AI and ML are “based on computational models and algorithms for classification, clustering, regression and dimensionality reduction, such as neural networks, genetic algorithms, support vector machines, k-means, kernel regression and discriminant analysis.” These “computational models and algorithms” are, according to the guidelines, “per se of an abstract mathematical nature.”

Mathematical methods and purely abstract mathematical concepts are generally excluded from patentability under EPO guidelines. Chapter 3 of the EPO Guidelines for Examination provide the “List of Exclusions,” which includes the exclusion for claims based on mathematical methods in section G-II 3.3. That the AI and ML guidance is provided within this section, as G-II 3.3.1, indicates that claims based on this subject matter will likely face default exclusion from patentability.

They are again (mis)using buzzwords to work around the law and violate the EPC. Another term they like to abuse is “blockchain”, which very obviously refers to algorithms. The EPO has resorted to promoting these fake patents using hype waves. Here’s a tweet from yesterday: “The Office is organising a conference on patenting #blockchain. Among other things, we’ll be discussing the future implications of blockchain #patents for society. Sign up for free here: http://bit.ly/EPOblockchain18 pic.twitter.com/PNll8H3wqp”

So that’s the EPO in a nutshell: it just doesn’t care what the law says, it always tries to work around it.

EPO Needs to Publicly Apologise for Granting Bogus/Fake Patents to Aggressive Companies Like Monsanto (Now Bayer)

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:46 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Battistelli era patents

Summary: Admission of patents being granted in error and/or against public interest may be a step towards acceptance that there is a problem; EPO management, however, keeps quiet about it

THE quality of European Patents (EPs) is low. António Campinos takes it even lower by openly promoting software patents in Europe — a subject we’ll cover in our next post. How about patents on life and nature? Both the European Patent Office (EPO) and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are guilty in this regard. Both grant monopolies on these things which aren’t even inventions.

“EPs were once known for legal certainty; nowadays, upon close enough scrutiny, many can be invalidated.”Belatedly (years late) the EPO admit there’s a problem. It revokes patents. It has no choice. IEG Policy wrote about it, but the European Patent Office (EPO) did not say anything in its Web site, a tweet etc. Maybe they hope nobody will notice; why was such a patent granted in the first place? A lot of anger and a petition led to this.

“EPO revokes controversial broccoli” was the headline from IPPro Patents, which to its credit began writing about EPO scandals about a year ago. Now it covers this wake-up call about EPO granting lousy patents and correcting only after immense public/outside pressure. To quote:

The patent, which was granted to Monsanto in 2013 and later sold to Bayer, covered plant, seeds and harvested severed broccoli heads that grow slightly higher in order to ease harvesting. An opposition to the patent was originally filed in 2014.

No Patents on Seeds protested the patent by erecting the “largest broccoli in the world” outside of the EPO building in Munich. A petition with around 75,000 signatures supporting opposition to the patent was also handed over.

The EPO introduced new rules for examination in 2017, which mean that patents on animals and plants can no longer be granted if they are derived from conventional breeding using methods like crossing and selection. European law prohibits patents on plant varieties and animal varieties.

Why has the EPO not said anything about it? Instead it produced some puff piece about WIPO a few days ago, soon to be repeated by patent maximalists who write:

The European Patent Office has now decided to participate in WIPO’s Digital Access Service (DAS) for the exchange of certified copies of priority documents from 1st November 2018.

DAS supports the automatic electronic exchange of priority documents within participating patent offices (participating Offices). Applicants may request the Office of First Filing (OFF) to make certified copies of previously filed patent applications available to the DAS system and then request Offices of Second Filing (OSF) to retrieve the copies via DAS.

The purpose of DAS is to establish a cost- and time-effective electronic system for processing and exchanging priority documents within participating Offices, by relieving the applicant of the need to submit the documents to the OSF.

What good are these if EPO guidelines have been perturbed to allow abstract patents and examiners are subjected to unrealistic demands which deny them access to sufficient evidence, e.g. prior art?

The EPO is still going in a very dark direction. EPs were once known for legal certainty; nowadays, upon close enough scrutiny, many can be invalidated. It can devastate companies.

The Death of the UPC is Only a “Tragedy” for Patent Trolls and Their Facilitators

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Bristows EPO

Summary: The Unified Patent Court (UPC) will likely never exist (ever); it’s not hard to see who stands to lose from this demise of the UPC (before it even started)

THE corrupt European Patent Office (EPO) is still not mentioning the UPC. António Campinos mentioned it only a couple of times and Battistelli will likely pass away before he gets his hands on anything resembling a tribunal.

Team UPC isn’t giving up just yet; there was that bogus (stacked) hearing that we wrote about shortly after it had taken place [1, 2] (it was aided by misleading media coverage). Now "Kluwer Patent blogger" (likely Bristows) comes out with biased coverage. Notice how Team UPC is increasingly anonymous/masked, as we last noted a week ago, especially when they try to discredit people who say the truth.

From the introduction:

If a Brexit agreement is reached with the European Union, the UK can stay in the Unitary Patent system during the transitional period and likely be part of the system once this comes into effect. This was argued last week by Kevin Mooney of Simmons & Simmons, who is closely involved in the creation of the Unified Patent Court.

Kevin Mooney is quoted as saying: “There are people who are really quite angry because there is a severe risk that the UP project will fail if the UK – with its judges and their influence and the economic contribution towards the budget of the court, which is not inconsiderable – doesn’t participate. My personal view is that there is a real risk it won’t go ahead, and that would be a tragedy.”

Tragedy for who?

Not for British businesses, to whom the UPC itself was a tragedy in the making.

The group that’s pushing the UPC/A is a bunch of liars, professional liars. If they meddle in the court’s affairs, there will be dire consequences. As the first comment (on the above) said:

I find it remarkable that there a rumours circulating regarding not only the timing but the content of the decision of the BVerfG. This is because it can mean only one of two things.

The first option is that the rumours are well founded. That would be extremely disturbing, as it would mean either that someone from the BVerfG has been leaking information to individuals who are not party to the proceedings or it would mean that the BVerfG has been ordered to reach the “correct” conclusion at a time that is politically suitable (ie immediately after the latest sensible date by which the Withdrawal Agreement with the UK really ought to have been concluded). Both of these explanations would mean that the integrity of the judicial system has been compromised.

The second option would be that the rumours are all guesswork, based upon nothing of substance whatsoever. But would such groundless rumours really be proffered as an answer to a serious question at a hearing in Parliament? That would be highly unprofessional, would it not?

Either way, there is an unpleasant smell about all of this.

On a slightly different note, are there any rumours circulating regarding the constitutional complaints that concern the EPO? One would presume that those complaints would need to be dealt with first.

We’re keeping an eye on these affairs, but we don’t expect UPCA to suddenly make a comeback.

The António Campinos Private/Secret Meeting With ILO Officials a Slap Across the Face to Employees of the European Patent Office

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

He wants the cases closed (‘settled’) rather than justice served

Summary: European Patent Office injustice prevails; the new President, António Campinos, is merely trying to cover up the abuses of the person who lobbied to put him in charge

AS we noted yesterday, ILO is showing staff of the European Patent Office (EPO) and reaffirming to the world that it is not impartial and its tribunal is for employers, not employees. This has serious ramifications for a lot of institutions other than the EPO. Yesterday the epostaff4rights (FLIER) people had published this new document [PDF], which was later cited by a blog (Märpel’s) that made us aware of it. To quote Märpel:

The purpose of the meeting is, officially, to “reduce pending appeals”. While this is a laudable objective, Märpel finds it puzzling that one of the parties is welcome to talk with the tribunal and the other is not. Märpel notes that the most efficient way to reduce pending appeal to zero is simply to make sure that staff cannot appeal. Märpel notes that a “Memorandum of understanding” was apparently signed between President Campinos and the chair and vice-chair of the appeals committee that still keeps budget, objectives and discretionary power over the temporary contracts of the appeals committee in the hands of President Campinos. Independence of the judiciary does not look like this.

We have decided to reproduce the publication below.

7 November 2018

EPO FLIER No. 42

The EPO-FLIER wants to provide staff with uncensored, independent information at times of social conflict

Status of EPO disciplinary cases

In June 2014, despite staff protests and a written position by the staff union, the Administrative Council (AC) of the European Patent Office (EPO) endorsed the extension of Mr Battistelli’s term as the EPO President from July 2015 to June 2018 1. The last four years of his presidency will be remembered as an era of institutionalised harassment and bullying 2,3,4.

The Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organization (ILOAT) dealt with some EPO disciplinary cases from the Battistelli era in its 125th and 126 th sessions, only a few cases being settled in favour of the accused 5. This paper revisits the most prominent ones, highlighting remaining issues.

As a rule of thumb, whenever disciplinary proceedings were launched by Mr Battistelli, he found the accused guilty 6; whenever the Investigation Unit was involved in a case, it concluded that the suspect had committed misconduct7; and whenever the Disciplinary Committee8 (DC) issued a recommendation for an appropriate sanction, the president imposed a harsher punishment than recommended9. (In the parallel, the success rate for internal appeals dropped to 1% in 2015 10.)

Clear victories (Malika and Ion)

In judgments of the 126th session, issued on 26 June 2018, the Tribunal totally exonerated two officials of the EPO staff’s largest staff union (SUEPO)11.

Concerning Malika Weaver, the treasurer of the Munich branch of SUEPO, the Tribunal wrote:

“Her conduct was, in the circumstances, reasonable conduct for a staff union representative … It did not and could not constitute misconduct let alone serious misconduct. Both the Disciplinary Committee and the President erred in law in characterising her conduct in this way.”12

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1 EPO FLIER No. 3 9 – R eputation and patent quality after eight years of Battistelli: ruined (26.06.2018)
2 The tarnished legacy of an EPO president (Kluwer Patent Blog, 21.06.2018)
3 Landgericht München: Patrick Corcoran is Innocent and Acquitted of all Charges (Thorsten Bausch, 20.06.2018)
4 EPO FLIER No. 37 – Battistelli’s record: legal harassment and retaliation (12.06.2018), CA/20/16 and CA/21/15
5 EPO cases of the 126th s ession of the ILO-AT (SUEPO, 04.07.2018)
6 ILO judgments 3958 & 3960, 3968, 3971, 4042, 4043, 4047, 4050, 4052 and the pending case of Laurent Prunier
7 ILO judgments 3958 & 3960, 3968, 4047, 4052
8 Before 2014, the DC chairman and alternate chairman were members of the Legal Board of Appeal. From 2014 to 2017, Mr Battistelli nominated line managers instead, i.e. persons under the president‘s disciplinary authority. Some of them were even hired on (renewable) contract (see the Report of the 254th meeting of the GAC).
9 ILO judgments 3971, 4042, 4043, 4047, 4050, 4052
10 EPO FLIER No. 37, CA/21/15 and CA/20/16, point 287
11 Tribunal ILO reverses dismissals and downgrading of SUEPO leaders (Kluwer Patent Blog, 27.06.2018)
12 Judgment 4042 of the Tribunal’s 126th session (delivered in public on 26 June 2018)


And concerning Ion Brumme, at the time vice-chairman of SUEPO Munich, the judges concluded13:

“For the foregoing reasons no disciplinary sanction should have been imposed on the complainant including the sanction of dismissal. …”

The Tribunal ruled that Malika’s downgrading was to be reversed, Ion was to be reinstated, and both should receive compensation for moral damages. These two judgments have since been implemented grosso modo, or at least a settlement agreement has been reached 14. It is sad to note that while the president was happy to trumpet their supposed guilt, the Office only published a very low-profile announcement about the judgments, and certainly wrote nothing that could be understood as a public apology for the misery it had subjected our colleagues to.

Stage wins (Patrick and Elizabeth)

In December 2014, the president accused Patrick Corcoran of severe misconduct. He was then pursued through legal harassment by the president and the Administrative Council (AC) 15,16,4. VP4 and the president also filed complaints against him at national courts, both in Belgrade and in Munich, which they lost. In 2017, a Bavarian court found that the complaint against Patrick was irreceivable. The Court nevertheless ruled on the substance and declared him innocent!17 The ILO Tribunal ordered that Patrick Corcoran be reinstated to his previous position of a Board of Appeal judge 18. He was formally reinstated for two weeks, and then “permanently transferred in February 2018 to a post of senior expert in classification expressly created for him in The Hague”17, causing the institutionalised harassment by the European Patent Organisation to extend to more than 3.5 years. This had severe consequences for his health 2. There is no indication of remorse from anyone involved in what happened to Patrick Corcoran. And, this case may have consequences that go beyond the appalling mistreatment of a colleague: the fate of the former DG3 judge has put the very independence of the Boards of Appeal into question, and might lead to severe consequences for the Organisation and the European patent system due to pending cases at the German constitutional court19,20.

Elizabeth Hardon was suspended on 17 November 2015 together with Malika Weaver and Ion Brumme. At the time, Elizabeth was chair of SUEPO Munich. In her case, the Tribunal ruled that neither the Disciplinary Committee nor the president had correctly applied the appropriate standard of proof, and sent the case back to the Organisation for a repeat of the disciplinary procedure, with a newly constituted Disciplinary Committee.21

Here comes a pearl from this judgment: one of the allegations brought against Elizabeth was “having assisted and/or cooperated with another employee in repeatedly disseminating defamatory information to the detriment of the EPO and of members of the Administrative Council, the President of the Office, the Vice-President of Directorate-General 4 (DG4) and others.” A careful

_____
13 Judgment 4043 of the Tribunal’s 126th session (delivered in public on 26 June 2018)
14 Message from Ion Brumme, Chairman SUEPO Munich. ILO case 4043 closed. (17.10.2018)
15 Remember the House Ban? How two years flies past (The IPKat, 17.11.2016)
16 A rt. 23 1/15, Art. 23 2/15 and Art. 23 1/16 (Wikipedia)
17 Landgericht München: Patrick Corcoran is Innocent and Acquitted of all Charges (Thorsten Bausch, 20.06.2018)
18 Judgment 3958 of the Tribunal’s 125th session (exceptional public delivery on 6 December 2017)
19 Europe’s Unified Patent Court fate in the balance amid German probing (yes, Brexit is in the mix) (Kieren McCarthy, The Register, 22.02.2018)
20 EPA-Disziplinarverfahren: „Verwaltungsrat und Battistelli handeln ohne rechtliche Grundlage“ (JUVE, 29.10.2015)
21 Judgment 4047 of the Tribunal’s 126th session (delivered in public on 26 June 2018)


reading of judgments 3958 and 4047 makes it obvious that the other employee Elizabeth was accused of “having assisted and/or cooperated with“ was … DG3 judge Patrick Corcoran22. In his case, the Tribunal23 found that, since the president was a target of the alleged defamatory campaign, he had a conflict of interest in the matter, and ordered that the claimant “shall be immediately reinstated in his former post”. In its judgment on the (former) staff union official Elizabeth Hardon, however, the Tribunal – in a similar composition24 – sent the case back to the Organisation “to enable the charges … to be considered afresh … and the President of the Office to make a new decision.” Are truly all equal in the eyes of the ILO Tribunal? Now Elizabeth has to go through the disciplinary process again, with an unknown outcome and with all the stress and uncertainty associated with a procedure of that nature.

Our legal system sometimes seems like a lottery. In an earlier judgment concerning Elizabeth, the Tribunal had taken a very formalistic approach which, we think, did not do justice to the case at hand25. Firstly, the Disciplinary Committee had unanimously recommended to close the case but the president instead imposed a sanction of severe downgrading. The Tribunal found this punishment “not disproportionate”. Secondly, Elizabeth had reported an opinion of a group of persons through private emails. Reporting that opinion was interpreted as defamation and harassment, while neither the Office nor the Tribunal considered whether the opinion may have been correct.

Another judgment26 concerns a former employee of the EPO, who had taken up employment with the staff union. The Investigation Unit initiated an investigation against him for, among other things, “unauthorised publication on the Internet … of information and opinions about the work of the EPO.” In his decision, the president also took into account the charge of having published insulting and defamatory opinions, which the Disciplinary Committee had considered not proven. Although the Committee had concluded that pension cuts could not be imposed on former employees, the president reduced his future pension by one third26.

While in this case the activities of the Investigation Unit extended outside the Organisation, the Tribunal failed to draw a clear line to avoid possible conflicts with national law.

The Tribunal did, however, criticise the president for not considering the instructions of the Administrative Council’s Resolution CA/26/1627, aimed at “ending ‘the social unrest within the [European Patent] Office’.” It therefore found the decision unlawful and sent the case back to the EPO for a new examination.

Cases lost (Aurélien and Michael)

Two further judgments concern Aurélien Pétiaud and Michael Lund, both members of the Internal Appeals Committee (IAC), appointed by the Central Staff Committee (CSC)28. At some point in 2014, their heavy workload did not allow them to deal with all their tasks as IAC members, which include “completing opinions or dissenting opinions following the hearings and sessions within the deadlines provided.”29 They had to make a difficult choice: either stop writing dissenting opinions

_____
22 Referred to as “case C-062” in judgment 4047
23 Judges Giuseppe Barbagallo, Dolores M. Hansen and Michael F. Moore
24 Judges Giuseppe Barbagallo, Michael F. Moore and Yves Kreins
25 Judgment 3968 of the Tribunal’s 125 th s ession (delivered in public on 24 January 2018)
26 Judgment 4052 of the Tribunal’s 126 th s ession (delivered in public on 26 June 2018)
27 RESOLUTION ADOPTED BY THE ADMINISTRATIVE COUNCIL ON 16 MARCH 2016
28 Judgments 3971 of the Tribunal’s 125th s ession, and 4050 of the Tribunal’s 126 th s ession
29 ILO Judgment No. 3971 (see eg considerations 12 and 16)


on cases of previous sessions, or refuse to work on new cases. Between a rock and a hard place, they decided not to attend a future session. For this, they were disciplined by the president. The Tribunal showed no understanding for their difficult situation and dismissed their complaints5.

Presidential bias and legal harassment

The Tribunal was aware of the pattern of institutionalised harassment and “witch hunts”30 on staff union officials at the EPO: a March 2017 ILO report31 mentions that “the Administrative Council of the EPO adopted a resolution in which it expressed deep concern about the social unrest within the European Patent Office, noted that disciplinary sanctions against staff or trade union representatives were widely questioned in the public opinion, …”

In several cases32 the claimants stressed that the punishment imposed on them was an act of “harassment”, “institutional harassment”, a “reprisal” or a “retaliatory” measure directed against them because of their activities as staff representatives. But the Tribunal seems to fail to consider this general pattern when judging their cases. The only case where the Tribunal requested the Organisation to respect the March 2016 Resolution is Judgment 4052 (discussed above)26. We hope that the Tribunal will consider this when dealing with the cases still pending.

Open cases (Laurent)

Laurent Prunier was the third union representative dismissed by Mr Battistelli. His case is pending before the ILOAT. At the time of his dismissal, Laurent was the secretary of SUEPO The Hague and a full member of the Central Staff Committee. He was dismissed after the Council had issued its March 2016 Resolution27 – which the president ignored 33. The dismissal was even implemented in a manner incompatible with the Service Regulations34. Laurent’s dismissal was also criticised in the specialised press for being “not one of firm, balanced management, but of management by intimidation.”35 Reacting to this criticism, Mr Battistelli launched accusations against Laurent, implying that he belonged to a group of “harassers” who had subjected a colleague to “intense defamation, threat and harassment”, allegedly leading to the colleague’s resignation from the CSC.36 Apart from the fact that Laurent denied from day one any and all wrongdoings, the CSC has unambiguously stated that no-one resigned from the CSC for reasons of interpersonal problems within the CSC itself34. The president made his accusations public, whereas Laurent was not allowed to clear his name by publishing all documents relevant to his case37.

Finally, in addition to Laurent, another CSC member and SUEPO official in The Hague was also targeted by the former president, investigated and disciplined on the basis of equally false accusations. His case is now pending at ILOAT.

_____
30 Labor relations turn toxic in the European Patent Office (Politico, 12.08.2015)
31 Matters relating to the Administrative Tribunal of the ILO – Update on discussions with the European Patent Organisation on possible future action to improve the Tribunal’s caseload, Programme of the 329th Session of the ILO Governing Body in March 2017
32 Judgments 3968 (page 4), 3971 (consideration 18), 4042 (cons. 10), 4043 (cons. 11), and 4047 (cons. 4)
33 Firings will continue until morale improves – Merpel revisits the EPO (The IPKat, 07.11.2016)
34 Open letter: dismissal of a further staff representative (CSC, 21.11.2016)
35 EPO users and staff need the Administrative Council to get a grip on current events (Joff Wild, IAM, 7.11.2016)
36 EPO President Benoît Battistelli responds to IAM criticisms of recent union official dismissa l (IAM, 10.11.2016)
37 Sacked EPO staff union official responds to Battistelli’s IAM letter (IAM, 17.11.2016)


Conclusions

The above cases and more generally recent trends in the ILOAT judgments raise a number of concerns. One of them is the inconsistent application of the case law, and another is the practice of treating cases individually. Both lead to legal uncertainty and a higher number of complaints being filed5.

The practice of sending cases back for re-examination when the Office has made formal mistakes, thereby giving the employer a second chance to make its case, seems particularly unfair – if the complainant makes a formal mistake, the case is dismissed, often summarily. The percentage of summary dismissals has seen a striking increase since 2015, and for EPO staff (32%) it is
significantly higher than the average (15%) 38 . The publicly declared personal friendship between the EPO’s Director Employment Law, responsible for defending the EPO, and the Registrar of the Tribunal does not help to mitigate the perception of bias38.

It is a staff representative’s role to represent the interests of staff. This often brings them into conflict with their employer. In the world outside the EPO – at least that part covered by its member states – staff representatives therefore enjoy particular protection against the aggressions of employers. In the EPO, this is no longer the case. Under Mr Battistelli the Office started investigations against about a dozen elected or nominated staff representatives, and many of them were ultimately disciplined. This affected their health and families.

Mr Battistelli always claimed that the reason for initiating disciplinary procedures was misconduct. The Tribunal mostly supported his views. But even a superficial reading of the judgments makes clear that other motives were at hand. The risk of being down-graded or dismissed for merely doing their job no doubt dissuades many colleagues from standing for election and/or accepting a nomination as a staff representative33.

Due to the persistent atmosphere of intimidation, employees cannot fully focus on the work to be done. This has a negative impact on the quality of our services. If the EPO continues to persecute its staff representatives, it will also further damage its reputation as a first class employer.

In its March 2016 Resolution27 the Administrative Council called on the EPO President “to ensure that disciplinary sanctions and proceedings are not only fair but also seen to be so, and to consider the possibility of involvement of an external reviewer or of arbitration or mediation”. The Office still has not complied with this call.

Mr Campinos did not cause any of this damage. But if he truly wants to restore social dialogue and the reputation of the Office, he will have to find a way to restore the trust that has been lost.

_____
38 EPO FLIER No. 38 The ILO Tribunal – Is it still worthy of our trust? (12.06.2018)

The PDF contains embedded URLs for the above references. The conversion was done manually and is time-consuming.

Links 7/11/2018: Unreal Engine 4.21 Released, Cinnamon 4.0 Preview, Rcpp 1.0.0

Posted in News Roundup at 12:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • Linux Apps For MediaTek Chromebooks A Little Closer

      If you are the proud owner of a MediaTek-powered Chromebook such as the Acer Chromebook R13 or Lenovo Flex 11, some new features are headed your way.

      Spotted in the Canary channel in mid-October, the Crostini Project is now live in the Developer channel for Chromebooks with the ARM-based MediaTek processor. This brings native Linux app functionality to the Chromebooks with the MT8173C chipset and although the number of devices is few, MediaTek Chromebooks are relatively inexpensive and versatile machines.

    • Some Chromebooks Won’t Get Linux Apps. Here’s What You Can Do Instead

      When Chromebooks first began getting support for Android apps, there was some confusion as to just which Chromebooks would be supported. The same thing is starting to play out—though to a lesser degree—with support for Linux apps.

      You’ve always been able to install Linux applications (or other Linux-based operating systems) on Chromebooks through a workaround called Crouton because Chrome OS is based on the Linux kernel. The new method for installing Linux apps is much easier than before since it’s a baked-in part of the operating system.

      But not all Chromebooks will get official support for Linux apps. Here’s the deal.

    • Chrome OS Linux app support may be coming to the 2015 Chromebook Pixel

      Linux app support has slowly been bringing new levels of desktop productivity to Chromebooks both new and old. Earlier this month, we reported that a vast swath of Chromebooks would sadly never receive this feature. One we weren’t sure of, Google’s 2015 Chromebook Pixel, may be getting this breath of new life judging from new code changes.

      Google has kindly documented three primary reasons why a Chrome OS device would not be able to support Linux apps via the Crostini project. The first is that some Intel Atom processors do not have the necessary virtualization support. The second being that virtualization is a non-standard operation for 32-bit ARM processors. The final issue is that Linux apps support requires a newer version of the Linux kernel’s KVM, found in Linux versions above 3.14.

    • The Chromium OS rootfs is mounted read-only. In developer mode you can disable the rootfs verification, enabling it to be modified.
    • Microsoft Acknowledges Issues with Edge Developer Tools and SQL Connection in cumulative update KB4462933

      In October 2018, Microsoft had release a cumulative update KB4462933 for Windows 10 V1803 users who had installed Windows 10 April 2018 update. This cumulative update released on 24th October lifted Windows 10 V1803 to build 17134376. It was a massive update with several important improvements and fixes. However, there were two main issues with this update that no one had noticed before, BornCity reports. One of the issues is the dysfunctional behavior of Edge Developer Tools and another is problems with SQL connections. These issues were also acknowledged by Microsoft on its support page for this update.

      According to WindowsLatest, Microsoft had not originally acknowledged the presence of these issues but later quietly updated the document to confirm these two issues being faced with the latest update.

  • Server

  • Kernel Space

    • No, Apple’s not locking you out of Linux on Mac with the T2 chip

      Apple’s T2 Security Chip provides a lot of great features for the vast majority of people, including secure boot, real-time AES 256-bit data encryption, and even Touch ID authentication for MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. For them, it’s on by default and should just be left on by default.

      Because of that security, it’s led some power-users to believe that Apple is locking down T2 machines, including those MacBooks as well as the iMac Pro and new Mac mini, so completely you will no longer be able to do things like boot into Linux.

      My understanding is that you can, in fact, boot into Linux if you really want to. You just need to disable secure boot on your Mac first.

    • You can’t run Linux on Apple’s 2018 Macs (or maybe you can… while sacrificing some security)

      Apple’s newest computers have a new chip dedicated to security. That’s a great thing if you care about disk encryption, support for for Touch ID/fingerprint sensors, and even improved visuals using a FaceTime HD camera.

      It’s less good news if you care about booting Linux on a Mac. Any computer with the Apple T2 security chip can’t currently do that.

    • Linux could be banned on Apple’s new Macs

      Apple recently announced their new Macs with powerful chipsets and enhanced security. The security has been beefed up with an Apple T2 Security Chip that provides a strong and Secure Enclave co-processor that is mainly responsible for TouchID, APFS storage encryption, UEFI Secure Boot validation, Touch ID handling, a hardware microphone disconnect on lid close, and others. This same chip also enables the secure boot feature on most new Apple computers, which could be a huge block for most Linux installations.

      A report by Phoronix states that the T2 Chip has been blocking Linux from booting and only allows Apple MacOS and Microsoft Windows OS to work well.

    • Virtualizing the Clock

      Dmitry Safonov wanted to implement a namespace for time information. The twisted and bizarre thing about virtual machines is that they get more virtual all the time. There’s always some new element of the host system that can be given its own namespace and enter the realm of the virtual machine. But as that process rolls forward, virtual systems have to share aspects of themselves with other virtual systems and the host system itself—for example, the date and time.

      Dmitry’s idea is that users should be able to set the day and time on their virtual systems, without worrying about other systems being given the same day and time. This is actually useful, beyond the desire to live in the past or future. Being able to set the time in a container is apparently one of the crucial elements of being able to migrate containers from one physical host to another, as Dmitry pointed out in his post.

      [...]

      So, there clearly are many nuances to consider. The discussion ended there, but this is a good example of the trouble with extending Linux to create virtual machines. It’s almost never the case that a whole feature can be fully virtualized and isolated from the host system. Security concerns, speed concerns, and even code complexity and maintainability come into the picture. Even really elegant solutions can be shot down by, for example, the possibility of hostile users creating files with unnaturally old timestamps.

    • A Big Batch Of DRM Feature Updates Line Up Ahead Of Linux 4.21

      With the Linux 4.20 merge window having ended this past weekend, the first big batch of new feature material to DRM-Next from the “DRM-Misc” area has been submitted for the follow-on Linux 4.21 cycle.

      The DRM-Misc-Next pull request sent in this morning is on the large side as it’s the first big feature pull for this area of the Direct Rendering Manager subsystem that touches the core DRM interfaces and smaller drivers.

    • RISC-V Linux Development in Full Swing

      Most Linux users have heard about the open source RISC-V ISA and its potential to challenge proprietary Arm and Intel architectures. Most are probably aware that some RISC-V based CPUs, such as SiFive’s 64-bit Freedom U540 found on its HiFive Unleashed board, are designed to run Linux. What may come as a surprise, however, is how quickly Linux support for RISC-V is evolving.

      “This is a good time to port Linux applications to RISC-V,” said Comcast’s Khem Raj at an Embedded Linux Conference Europe presentation last month. “You’ve got everything you need. Most of the software is upstream so you don’t need forks,” he said.

      By adopting an upstream first policy, the RISC-V Foundation is accelerating Linux-on-RISC-V development both now and in the future. Early upstreaming helps avoid forked code that needs to be sorted out later. Raj offered specifics on different levels of RISC-V support from the Linux kernel to major Linux distributions, as well as related software from Glibc to U-Boot (see farther below).

      The road to RISC-V Linux has also been further accelerated thanks to the enthusiasm of the Linux open source community. Penguinistas see the open source computing architecture as a continuation of the mission of Linux and other open source projects. Since IoT is an early RISC-V target, the interest is particularly keen in the open source Linux SBC community. The open hardware movement recently expanded to desktop PCs with System76’s Ubuntu-driven Thelio system.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Intel Linux Graphics Driver Exploring Another Small Power-Savings Optimization

        A new patch-set proposed by one of the open-source Intel Linux graphics driver developers would allow power-savings under load of roughly up to 3%.

        The new Intel “i915″ Linux DRM driver patches by Ankit Navik allow for the dynamic, context-aware re-configuration of the EU/Slice/Sub-slice controls.

        At present the Intel DRM driver only configures the execution unit / slice / sub-slice controls at context creation time, but these new patches re-configure the EUs at run-time depending upon how busy the particular graphics application is by the number of commands being submitted by the app to the kernel.

      • Mesa Gets Patches For EXT_multisampled_render_to_texture, Freedreno A6xx MSAA

        Wayland founder Kristian Høgsberg Kristensen who has been on Google’s Chrome OS graphics team the past few years is continuing to help advance the open-source Qualcomm Adreno graphics support.

        Among other recent MSM/Freedreno contributions by Kristian, his latest patch series plumbs in support to core Mesa/Gallium3D for the EXT_multisampled_render_to_texture OpenGL extension and also wires in Adreno A6xx series for multi-sample anti-aliasing (MSAA).

    • Benchmarks

      • A Look At The AMD EPYC Performance On The Amazon EC2 Cloud

        Of the announcements from yesterday’s AMD Next Horizon event, one that came as a surprise was the rolling out of current-generation EPYC processors to the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). Available so far are the AMD-powered M5a and R5a instance types to offer Amazon cloud customers more choice as well as being priced 10% lower than comparable instances. Here are some initial benchmarks of the AMD performance in the Amazon cloud.

  • Applications

    • sysget – A Front-end for Every Package Manager in Linux

      Linux comes in many flavors and many of us like to test all kind of distributions until we find the perfect match for our needs. The problem is that based on which major distribution your OS is build, the package manager might be different and turned out to be one that you are not particular familiar with.

      There is a utility called sysget that can become a front-end for every package manager. Basically sysget serves as bridge and allows you to use same syntax for every package manager.

    • Automate a web browser with Selenium

      Selenium is a great tool for browser automation. With Selenium IDE you can record sequences of commands (like click, drag and type), validate the result and finally store this automated test for later. This is great for active development in the browser. But when you want to integrate these tests with your CI/CD flow it’s time to move on to Selenium WebDriver.

      WebDriver exposes an API with bindings for many programming languages, which lets you integrate browser tests with your other tests. This post shows you how to run WebDriver in a container and use it together with a Python program.

    • Best Free Linux Software for DJs

      A disc jockey, commonly abbreviated as DJ, is an individual who plays existing recorded music for a live audience. It takes creative juices, passion, but most importantly hard work to become a good DJ.

      DJs use equipment that plays at least two sources of recorded music simultaneously and mixes them together, creating an original composition. The earliest DJs in pop music, in 1970s discos, used record turntables, vinyl records and audio consoles. For many years, this analogue environment was the only relevant one. DJs carted large collections of vinyl records to and from gigs.

    • stretchly Reminds You To Take Breaks From Your Computer (Open Source, Cross-Platform)

      stretchly is an open source, cross-platform break time reminder. The Electron application sits in your tray, reminding you to take breaks from working on the computer.

      The application is designed to be easy to use, but also flexible. You can start using it as soon as you install it, without having to dig into its settings. After 10 minutes, it notifies you to take a 20 second break. It does this every 10 minutes, with a larger 5-minute break every 30 minutes.

      The break duration and interval can be customized, along with various other aspects, like only enabling microbreaks or breaks, enabling or disabling strict mode (breaks can’t be finished early), and more advanced options.

    • Rclone – An Rsync Alternative To Sync File With Online Cloud Storage

      Backup and Sync are have become essential today and this brings tools like rsync. Rsync is an amazing tool to sync files between 2 computers. But wouldn’t it be cooler if we could sync files from a computer to a cloud storage. This is where rclone – a mod of rsync comes in. Rclone can sync files from your computer to cloud-based storage services including google drive, one drive, drop-box, amazon drive and many more.

    • Proprietary

      • Norbert Preining: RIP Dropbox on Linux

        Of course, Dropbox does see this differently, but their explanation that ext4 is the only reasonable file system (and be aware, not in all combination and encryption), and also the only that supports extended attributes, is so ridiculously stupid that it is vain to even discuss it.

        Yes I know, as OSS enthusiast I should (and I am) using NextCloud. But integration-wise Dropbox is still the best, and many of my applications only offer Dropbox integration (or, God forbid, OneDrive integration).

      • How to sync from Linux to Google Drive with rclone
    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Games

      • Unreal Engine 4.21 Released

        Unreal Engine 4.21 continues our relentless pursuit of greater efficiency, performance, and stability for every project on any platform. We made it easier to work smarter and create faster because we want your imagination to be the only limit when using our tools. And we battle-tested the engine on every platform until it met our developers’ high standards so your project will shine once it is ready for the masses.

        We are always looking for ways to streamline everyday tasks so developers can focus on creating meaningful, exciting, and engaging experiences. Our industry-leading Niagara effects toolset is now even more powerful and easier to use, enabling you to dream up the next generation of real-time visual effects. You can build multiplayer experiences on a scale not previously possible using the now production-ready Replication Graph functionality. Iterate faster thanks to optimizations with up to a 60% speed increase when cooking content, run automated tests to find issues using the new Gauntlet automation framework, and speed up your day-to-day workflows with usability improvements to the Animation system, Blueprint Visual Scripting, Sequencer, and more.

        We strive to make it possible for your creations to be enjoyed as you intended by everyone, everywhere regardless of the form factor they choose. Building on the previous release, we have added even more optimizations developed for Fortnite on Android and iOS to further improve the process for developing for mobile devices. Available in Early Access, Pixel Streaming opens a whole new avenue to deploy apps in a web browser with no barrier to entry and no compromise on rendering quality. We have also improved support for Linux as well as augmented, virtual, and mixed reality devices.

      • Unreal Engine 4.21 Released, Linux Now Defaults To Vulkan

        Unreal Engine 4.21 is out today as the last feature release for Epic Games’ engine of 2018. This is an exciting game engine update for Linux and Vulkan fans.

        Unreal Engine 4.21 features various tooling and creation improvements for game developers, optimizations that come to the engine following Epic’s development of Fortnite for iOS and Android, performance enhancements, early access pixel streaming support, animation system optimizations, and more.

      • Unreal Engine 4.21 is out, now defaults to the Vulkan API on Linux

        Epic Games have released Unreal Engine 4.21 and it includes some interesting stuff on the Linux side of things.

        From now, Unreal Engine will default to using the Vulkan API on Linux and fallback to OpenGL when that can’t be used. This is going to be good for the future of Linux games, since it should help developers get better performance.

        On top of that, it features a new media player for Linux with the bundled WebMMedia plugin which includes support for WebM VPX8/9 videos. To further improve Linux support, they now have a proper crash reporter interface so that they can “continue to improve support for Linux platforms”.

      • Artificial life sim ‘Vilmonic’ where you can mess with evolution is now out

        Vilmonic, a pixel-art artificial life sim from Bludgeonsoft has been officially released, with full Linux support.

      • Galaxy of Pen & Paper has a free +1 edition update, which adds official Linux support

        After waiting since last summer, Behold Studios have now managed to add official Linux support to Galaxy of Pen & Paper along with the +1 edition free update.

        In addition to Linux support, the new update includes 6 new playable classes, new planets and biomes to explore, 2 new player races, loads of new quests and NPCs, new bosses, new skills, performance improvements and a whole lot more. They’ve certainly been busy for sure!

      • Lutris game manager has another release out adding more spit and polish

        Two updates in the space of a week? You spoil us Lutris team. The open source game manager continues spitting and polishing.

        While this update is on the small side, every little helps towards making it the best experience possible. It’s a very handy application, one ring program to rule them all. Need to run some games with Wine, how about an Emulator, Steam? Lutris covers it all.

      • Surviving Mars: Space Race expansion to blast off on November 15th

        Get ready to blast off towards the red planet once again, as the Surviving Mars: Space Race expansion is set to release on November 15th.

      • Tropico 6 release date announced, looks like Linux will see same-day support

        Tropico 6 from developer Limbic Entertainment and publisher Kalypso Media now has a release date announced for January 25th, 2019.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • Cinnamon 4.0 Preview

      Clem hasn’t announced the official release of Cinnamon 4.0, but the tarball has been around for some days and i have managed to build it on top of latest Slackware Current. Cinnamon 4.0 will give some big performance on Nemo, new panel layout, and many new features. You can check the detailed changes on every sub component of Cinnamon on their github repository.

      I noticed the release just two days ago while i was sick at home and i started to work on it. It took some time to do finish it since some sub components changed their build tool to Meson and some changes in the parameters were needed to build without Wayland (Thanks Clem for the pointers). At the end, it was a successful one (at least under a virtual machine), but it won’t get merged into master for now as i need to make sure few things before pushing them to master. Also, Slackware Current is still developing, so there might be a chance that some packages are added into the main tree itself.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Plasma 5.14.3 update for Cosmic backports PPA

        We are pleased to announce that the 3rd bugfix release of Plasma 5.14, 5.14.3, is now available in our backports PPA for Cosmic 18.10.

        The full changelog for 5.14.3 can be found here.

        Already released in the PPA is an update to KDE Frameworks 5.51.

      • Planet KDE Categories

        Jings no wonder people find computer programming scary when the most easily accessible lanugage, JavaScript, is also the most messy one.

        Occationally people would mention to me that the categories on Planet KDE didn’t work and eventually I looked into it and it mostly worked but also sometimes maybe it didn’t. Turns out we were checking for no cookies being set and if not we’d set some defaults for the categories. But sometimes the CDN would set a cookie first and ours would not get set at all. This was hard to recreate as it didn’t happen when working locally of course. And then our JavaScript had at least three different ways to run the initial-setup code but there’s no easy way to just read a cookie, madness I tell you. Anyway it should be fixed now and set categories by default but only if it hasn’t set some before so you may still have to manually choose which you read.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • GSConnect v15 Released With Rewritten Gnome Shell UI, Option To Send Keyboard Events From Desktop To Android

        GSConnect v15 includes a rewritten Gnome Shell user interface “to better conform to design guidelines”. By default (when the Display Mode is set to User Menu in the GSConnect settings), the extension no longer uses icons for actions such as sending files, locating the device, and so on, and instead a regular menu is used.

        The latest v15 release also ships with a new feature which allows sending keyboard events from the desktop to Android devices.

  • Distributions

    • The Best Linux Distros of 2018

      Every year, the question pops up; which Linux distribution is best? The reason that question persists the way it does is because there is no singular concrete answer. Most distributions are purpose built for certain situations, and even when they aren’t, there are bound to be conditions that they’re better and worse in.

      This list attempts to pin down the best distributions for common use cases and situations. These are by no means the only options, but they are arguably the best as of now. Things in the Linux world always change, so keep an eye out for new developments.

    • Arch Family

      • HOW TO Overcoming Your Terror of Arch Linux

        recent episode of a Linux news podcast I keep up with featured an interview with a journalist who had written a piece for a non-Linux audience about giving it a try. It was surprisingly widely read. The writer’s experience with some of the more popular desktop distributions had been overwhelmingly positive, and he said as much in his piece and during the subsequent podcast interview.

        However, when the show’s host asked whether he had tried Arch Linux — partly to gauge the depth of his experimentation and partly as a joke — the journalist immediately and unequivocally dismissed the idea, as if it were obviously preposterous.

    • Fedora

    • Debian Family

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • KubeCon and CloudNativeCon

            This December, Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu, will be present at KubeCon and CloudNativeCon in Seattle.
            The team at Ubuntu will be out in force showcasing their work across Kubernetes and containers and highlighting what makes Ubuntu the platform of choice for developers.

          • Clear Linux Developers Weigh Supporting Snaps

            While Clear Linux augments their package/bundle archive with Flatpak support on the desktop, they are currently deciding whether to also support Snaps that are commonly associated with Ubuntu Linux.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Meet Franz, an open source messaging aggregator

    If you are like me, you use several different chat and messaging services during the day. Some are for work and some are for personal use, and I find myself toggling through a number of them as I move from apps to browser tabs—here, there, and everywhere.

    The Franz website explains, “Being part of different communities often requires you to use different messaging platforms. You end up with lots of different apps and browser windows trying to stay on top of your messages and chats. Driven by that, we built Franz, a one-step solution to the problem.”

  • This MIT PhD Wants to Replace America’s Broken Voting Machines with Open Source Software, Chromebooks, and iPads

    Tuesday morning, as millions of Americans lined up at their polling places to participate in the often quite literally broken democratic process, a new Twitter account tweeted a link to a short manifesto: “today’s voting machines are often insecure, not particularly easy-to-use, and so expensive that they’re often used much longer than they were designed for and election officials are forced to hunt for replacement parts on eBay. The market has failed us.”

    The announcement, from a new nonprofit called VotingWorks, ended with a promise to build a “secure, affordable, open-source voting machine” from the ground up. The letter wasn’t signed, but it’s the work of Ben Adida, a software developer who has studied voting machines for more than 20 years and had a PhD from MIT in secure voting.

    “I thought this launch would be pretty quiet, I thought it would be buried in the news of the actual election, but already a lot of people have reached out to volunteer to make it happen,” Adida told me on the phone. “It’s super early days, but the response to the announcement shows that people are hungry for this.”

    Adida says that VotingWorks plans to use already existing, commodity hardware and open-source software to compete with the proprietary, expensive, and often insecure voting machines that currently dominate the market. He pitches it as an attempt to rethink voting machine from “first principles,” to reconsider what a voting machine is.

  • SD Times news digest: Eggplant’s DAI Suite, Scylla Open Source 3.0, and Data Engine by Periscope Data

    ScyllaDB has announced a major release of its database, Scylla Open Source 3.0. The release introduces preview support for concurrent OLTP and OLAP, materialized views, secondary indexes, and Cassandra 3.0 file format compatibility.

  • “Peace Has Broken Out” In Software Development, Heralding Open Source As The Future

    “Peace has broken out” between big technology companies and the free and open source software (FOSS) community, according to a leading FOSS advocate, leading a tech industry representative to say, “this is the future.”

  • Events

    • Sold out LPC 2018 starts in a week — info for attendees

      In just one week, the 2018 Linux Plumbers Conference will begin on November 13 with microconferences, a refereed track, Networking Summit track, Kernel Summit track, BoFs, and more. The conference is completely sold out at this point, sadly we cannot accommodate those on the waiting list. Below is some information for conference attendees.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Happy BMO Push Day!
      • Lessons Learned while Designing for the Immersive Web

        It’s not necessarily more difficult – all the same design principles still apply – but it is quite different. One of the things that you have to account for is how the user perceives space in a headset – it seems huge. So instead of designing for a rectangular window inside a rectangular display, you’re suspending a window in what looks to be a very large room. The difficulty there is that people want to fill that room with a dozen browser windows, and maybe have a YouTube video, baseball game or stock ticker running in the background. But in reality, we only have these 2-inch screens to work with, one for each eye, and the pixels of just half a cell phone screen. But the perception is it’s 1,000 times bigger than a desktop. They think they’re in a movie theater.

      • Cross-language Performance Profile Exploration with speedscope

        The goal of speedscope is to provide a 60fps way of interactively exploring large performance profiles from a variety of profilers for a variety of programming languages. It runs totally in-browser, and does not send any profiling data to any servers. Because it runs totally in-browser, it should work in Firefox and Chrome on Mac, Windows, and Linux. It can be downloaded to run offline, either from npm, or just as a totally standalone zip file.

        In doing performance work across many language environments at Figma, I noticed that every community tends to create its own tools for visualizing performance issues. With speedscope, I hoped to de-duplicate those efforts. To meet this goal, speedscope supports import of profiles from a growing list of profilers:

      • How do people decide where or not to get a browser extension?

        The Firefox Add-ons Team works to make sure people have all of the information they need to decide which browser extensions are right for them. Past research conducted by Bill Selman and the Add-ons Team taught us a lot about how people discover extensions, but there was more to learn. Our primary research question was: “How do people decide whether or not to get a specific browser extension?”

      • These Weeks in Firefox: Issue 49
      • Friend of Add-ons: Jyotsna Gupta

        Our newest Friend of Add-ons is Jyotsna Gupta! Jyotsna first became involved with Mozilla in 2015 when she became a Firefox Student Ambassador and started a Firefox club at her college. She has contributed to several projects at Mozilla, including localization, SuMo, and WebMaker, and began exploring Firefox OS app development after attending a WoMoz community meetup in her area.

        In 2017, a friend introduced Jyotsna to browser extension development. Always curious and interested in trying new things, she created PrivateX, an extension that protects user privacy by opening websites that ask for critical user information in a private browsing window and removing Google Analytics tracking tokens. With her newfound experience developing extensions, Jyotsna began mentoring new extension developers in her local community, and joined the Featured Extensions Advisory Board.

      • This Week in Rust 259

        Hello and welcome to another issue of This Week in Rust! Rust is a systems language pursuing the trifecta: safety, concurrency, and speed.

      • Mozilla Reaffirms Commitment to Transgender Equality
      • Why open source isn’t just about code [Ed: Mozilla continues to unnecessarily alienate Firefox users who leave not because they don’t like the code or the program but because they don’t agree with company leadership using the company as a political vehicle]

        For sure. Yeah, and we’ve seen things like Firefox really succeed where people come together from all over the world to build a product openly, and invite contributions. And we’ve seen that succeed and really take down a monopoly. And we’ve seen this work, time and time again, in more than just code, but in businesses, in government, in science. Where people, when they work openly, when they’re inviting contributions, they’re more innovative, they get better ideas. And they get more buy-in from the community who wants to use them.

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

  • Education

    • How open source in education creates new developers

      Like many programmers, I got my start solving problems with code. When I was a young programmer, I was content to code anything I could imagine—mostly games—and do it all myself. I didn’t need help; I just needed less sleep. It’s a common pitfall, and one that I’m happy to have climbed out of with the help of two important realizations:

      First, the software that impacts our daily lives the most isn’t made by an amazingly talented solo developer. On a large scale, it’s made by global teams of hundreds or thousands of developers. On smaller scales, it’s still made by a team of dedicated professionals, often working remotely. Far beyond the value of churning out code is the value of communicating ideas, collaborating, sharing feedback, and making collective decisions.

  • Healthcare

    • FDA unveils open source code for collecting patient data

      Apps and devices are everywhere. 2018 appears to be the year of voice technology pilots in healthcare. Medical data is exploding.

      Late last month at the HIMSS Connected Health Conference in Boston, in fact, it became evident that the market is so flooded with apps, devices, wearables and wellness tools that what’s needed is radical simplicity, if only so clinicians and consumers can better grasp their options.

      Despite all the technologies available, there is not yet a seamless way to tie patient-generated health information into larger datasets.

      The MyStudies code is neither intended to solve that problem entirely nor is it something many patients are likely to pick up on their own. Indeed, it’s too early to know how developers or researchers will use the code but they now have the technological underpinning to at least start integrating even small data sources.

    • The Influence of an Open Source Artificial Pancreas System

      Twitter data indicate that patient-driven innovation in diabetes management has resulted in a patient population with type 1 diabetes who choose to build and share knowledge around a do-it-yourself (DIY) open source artificial pancreas system (OpenAPS). OpenAPS is an open and transparent effort to make safe and effective basic artificial pancreas system technology widely available to anyone with compatible medical devices who is willing to build their own system.

      In a study published in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, Michelle L. Litchman, PhD, FNP-BC, FAANP, and colleagues examined Twitter posts (with the hashtag #OpenAPS) to understand how patients, caregivers, and care partners perceive OpenAPS, the personal and emotional ramifications of using OpenAPS, and the influence of OpenAPS on daily life.“There is a distinct difference between diabetes management by a textbook and diabetes management in real life,” says Dr. Litchman. “We sought to understand how people with diabetes manage their condition in the real-world as it relates to OpenAPS.”

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • OpenSMTPD released and upcoming filters preview

      Filters have been a (the most ?) long awaited feature in OpenSMTPD.
      I finally committed most of the filters code to OpenBSD.
      There is still a bit of work required but the trickiest parts are done.
      This article describes how filters are implemented and what to expect.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • OpenRISC Port Revised For GCC, Still Trying To Be Mainlined Soon

      The GCC steering committee decided earlier this year they will accept the OpenRISC port for this processor ISA while the patches for it are still being prepped.

      This RISC-based open-source processor ISA has struggled to get the GCC compiler support in place after their original toolchain support was rejected: the original developers were not okay with assigning their code’s copyright to the Free Software Foundation as is required for contributions to the GNU Compiler Collection. So an OpenRISC developer has been doing a clean-room rewrite of the OpenRISC GCC code since earlier this year in order to be able to mainline the code.

    • GCC Picks Up Support For Newer Loongson Processors

      Ahead of the GCC 9 feature freeze later this month, support for several newer Loongson processors have been picked up by this leading open-source compiler.

      As of today in GCC Git/SVN, the Loongson 2K1000, 3A1000, 3A2000, and 3A3000 processors are supported by the GCC compiler. In the process, the Loongson MMI, EXT, and EXT2 instructions are added as well. These processors were previously floating on the mailing list.

    • ARM Posts Compiler Patches For Their New “Ares” High Performance Core

      It’s been a few years since “Ares” first appeared on the ARM road-map and it looks like this high performance core might be close to finally shipping.

      Ares first came up on the ARM road-map around 2015 when it was presented as a high-end core for servers/enterprise or even large tablets and would be manufactured on a 10nm process and have a power consumption of 1~1.2 Watts per core and based on ARM Cortex-A72. There has been some indications since that this Ares core might have shifted to a 7nm process but public information overall has been light.

    • libredwg-0.6.2 released

      Important bugfixes:
      * Fixed several out_dxf segfaults (#39)
      * Enhanced the section size limit from 2032 to 2040.
      There were several DWG files with a section size of 2035
      in the wild. (PR #41, Denis Pryt)
      * Fixed EED realloc on decoding when end – dat->byte == 1
      (PR #41, Denis Pryt)

    • Linux Fu: Pimp Your Pipes [Ed: That’s GNU. Not Linux.]

      One of the best things about working at the Linux (or similar OS) command line is the use of pipes. In simple terms, a pipe takes the output of one command and sends it to the input of another command. You can do a lot with a pipe, but sometimes it is hard to work out the right order for a set of pipes. A common trick is to attack it incrementally. That is, do one command and get it working with the right options and inputs. Then add another command until that works. Keep adding commands and tweaking until you get the final results.

  • Programming/Development

    • Gitbase: Exploring Git repos with SQL

      Git has become the de-facto standard for code versioning, but its popularity didn’t remove the complexity of performing deep analyses of the history and contents of source code repositories.

      SQL, on the other hand, is a battle-tested language to query large codebases as its adoption by projects like Spark and BigQuery shows.

      So it is just logical that at source{d} we chose these two technologies to create gitbase: the code-as-data solution for large-scale analysis of git repositories with SQL.

      Gitbase is a fully open source project that stands on the shoulders of a series of giants which made its development possible, this article aims to point out the main ones.

    • Rcpp 1.0.0: The Tenth Birthday Release

      As mentioned here two days ago, the Rcpp package turned ten on Monday—and we used to opportunity to mark the current version as 1.0.0! Thanks to everybody who liked and retweeted our tweet about this. And of course, once more a really big Thank You! to everybody who helped along this journey: Rcpp Core team, contributors, bug reporters, workshop and tutorial attendees and last but not least all those users – we did well. So let’s enjoy and celebrate this moment.

      As indicated in Monday’s blog post, we had also planned to upload this version to CRAN, and this 1.0.0 release arrived on CRAN after the customary inspection and is now available. I will build the Debian package in a moment, it will find its way to Ubuntu and of the CRAN-mirrored backport that Michael looks after so well.

      While this release is of course marked as 1.0.0 signifying the feature and release stability we have had for some time, it also marks another regular release at the now-common bi-monthly schedule following nineteen releases since July 2016 in the 0.12.* series as well as another five in the preceding 0.11.* series.

Leftovers

  • Science

    • Quantification of energy and carbon costs for mining cryptocurrencies

      [...] From 1 January 2016 to 30 June 2018, we estimate that mining Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and Monero consumed an average of 17, 7, 7 and 14 MJ to generate one US$, respectively. Comparatively, conventional mining of aluminium, copper, gold, platinum and rare earth oxides consumed 122, 4, 5, 7 and 9 MJ to generate one US$, respectively, indicating that (with the exception of aluminium) cryptomining consumed more energy than mineral mining to produce an equivalent market value. [...]

    • Energy cost of ‘mining’ bitcoin more than twice that of copper or gold

      One dollar’s worth of bitcoin takes about 17 megajoules of energy to mine, according to researchers from the Oak Ridge Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio, compared with four, five and seven megajoules for copper, gold and platinum.

    • Anglocentrism broke my tests – ignore localisation at your peril!

      An issue was recently raised on the ConTabs project that sent me down a bit of a localisation rabbit hole. You see, I’d written a load of conformance tests that included example output. What I hadn’t factored in was how many of these were dependent on my locale. These would potentially fail on computers with different locales. In today’s post, I’d like to explore exactly what went wrong and how we put it right.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Why Doctors Hate Their Computers

      But three years later I’ve come to feel that a system that promised to increase my mastery over my work has, instead, increased my work’s mastery over me. I’m not the only one. A 2016 study found that physicians spent about two hours doing computer work for every hour spent face to face with a patient—whatever the brand of medical software. In the examination room, physicians devoted half of their patient time facing the screen to do electronic tasks. And these tasks were spilling over after hours. The University of Wisconsin found that the average workday for its family physicians had grown to eleven and a half hours. The result has been epidemic levels of burnout among clinicians. Forty per cent screen positive for depression, and seven per cent report suicidal thinking—almost double the rate of the general working population.

    • Why healthcare for all is a feminist issue

      Yesterday dressed as suffragettes, activists from Feminist Fightback changed the sign on the new Millicent Fawcett statue in Parliament Square from ‘Courage calls to Courage Everywhere’ to ‘Feminists demand healthcare for all,’ in protest against NHS charges for migrants.

      “We took this action because universal healthcare, like universal suffrage, is a feminist issue”, explained Eleanor Smith, who took part in the action. “This year marks 100 years since some women got the vote, but women under thirty and 2 million working-class women who did not meet the property qualification had to wait another 10 years. Today, there are exclusions too. Some people are eligible for free abortion and pregnancy services, which feminists have fought for, while others must pay enormous charges for the care they need.”

      Migrants who are not considered ‘settled’ in the UK are now charged for these essential, life-saving services at 150% of the cost. Abortion is charged up front, costing £1,300 in an NHS hospital. Birth, including pre and post-natal care, is charged after the event and costs up to £7,000.

    • Voters in Alabama and West Virginia Approve Anti-Abortion Measures

      Three states gave voters the chance to weigh in on abortion access this election cycle: Oregon rejected the prohibition of public funding for abortion while West Virginia doubled down on its pre-Roe anti-abortion law and Alabama approved Amendment 2, a “personhood” measure that could effectively end abortion in the state.

      In Alabama, just 18.4 percent of residents voted for Amendment 2 — but with less than one-third weighing in at the polls overall (1,520,611 total) the measure passed with a solid majority. The amendment declares, “It is the public policy of this state to recognize and support the sanctity of unborn life and the rights of unborn children, most importantly the right to life in all manners and measures appropriate and lawful; and to provide that the constitution of this state does not protect the right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.”

      Willie Parker, an abortion provider and board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health, issued a statement following yesterday’s midterm results: “In my home state of Alabama, a law passed that is so vague and dangerous that it strips away the rights of pregnant people and could ban any abortion in the state. Also, in West Virginia, a ban on abortion funding passed, where the impact will be felt most on women with low incomes, who will continue to face significant barriers to abortion access. I am heartbroken for my patients and the people of Alabama and West Virginia.”

    • Voters Expand Medicaid While Defeating GOP House That Tried to Destroy It

      Health care touched the 2018 midterm elections at nearly every level last night. The issue, according to many polls, is the top concern for Americans, and this sentiment was credited by many for the biggest headline of the night: the Democrats reclaiming the House of Representatives. It was, of course, the House GOP Caucus that passed arguably the most regressive health care bill in US history this term with its version of Trumpcare.

      “Health care and pre-existing conditions won the Democrats the House,” said Chris Matthews to a group of agreeable hosts on MSNBC not long after they called the House for the Democrats. The point was made many times over the course of the evening.

      While health care played a role in thousands of elections across the country last night, it played the most central role in several important ballot initiatives across the country. Medicaid expansion, most notably, was on the ballot in four deep-red states and won in three of them: Idaho, Nebraska and Utah. Another Medicaid expansion bill, which was complicated by a tobacco tax, was defeated in Montana. Medical marijuana initiatives also won in Missouri and Utah. An otherwise good night for progressives was tempered by the defeat of proposals for nursing staffing minimums in Massachusetts and a program for elder care in Maine, which was to be paid for with a tax on the wealthy.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty Could Become Law Next Year

      This October 29 report also announced a newly established watchdog for the 2017 nuclear weapons ban known as the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The new “Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor” published by Norwegian People’s Aid will measure progress related to signature, ratification, and entry into force of the TPNW.

      So far, 19 governments have ratified the TPNW and it will come into force after 50 states ratify. Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, told Reuters, “We have about 25 or 30 countries that say they will be ready [to ratify] by the end of 2019, so it’s definitely possible” to pass the 50 country mark next year.

      The TPNW places nuclear weapons in the same outlaw category as biological weapons, poison gas, land minds and cluster munitions, all of which are banned by treaties. The Monitor says the TPNW will further stigmatize both nuclear weapons and the countries that ignore the treaty. The Monitor can be downloaded on at www.banmonitor.org

      The Monitor’s lead article says about the new ban treaty: “Adopted by 122 states on 7 July 2017 at a United Nations diplomatic conference, the TPNW provides a reassertion of the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.” Once it takes effect, the TPNW will forbid the development, testing, possessing, hosting, using of, and threatening to use nuclear weapons. The treaty also outlaws assisting, encouraging, or inducing these prohibited acts. The treaty “codifies norms and actions that are needed to create and maintain a world without nuclear weapons,” the Monitor notes.

    • Yemeni Immigrant Activists Are Changing a Whole Community’s Mindset

      Riyadh Alhirdi is trying not to cry. He’s sitting in the Yemeni American Merchants Association’s (YAMA) new offices in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, explaining the convoluted process of procuring asylum for his wife and five children.

      Alhirdi, who is 43-year-old and was born in Yemen, has been dealing with opaque immigration procedures regarding his family for over four years. They have been stuck in Egypt since 2015 because the American Consulate in war-torn Yemen is closed. Although he talks on video chats with them daily, over the past eight years, he has been with his family only once.

    • Is NATO Protecting My Granddaughter in Norway?

      Like all grandparents, I worry about my offspring. As President Trump and John Bolton continually remind us, it’s dangerous out there. But these nights I am sleeping better. My granddaughter, age nine and living in Norway, is being particularly well looked after.

      Fifty thousand allied troops are participating in Operation Trident Juncture in Trondheim, Norway, my granddaughter’s home town. It is the largest North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) exercise since 1991. About 15, 000 American troops are involved, almost as many as President Trump has promised to send to the United States border to stop the “ caravan.” Fifteen thousand troops to protect my granddaughter just because her mother and grandfather are American citizens. What service! This is why American citizens, even those abroad, file taxes.

      NATO was established after World War II to defend the western alliance against the Warsaw Pact and a confrontation with the Soviet Union in Europe. Originally twelve countries, the alliance has grown to 29-member states. After the end of the Soviet Union, NATO was active in the former Yugoslavia and in out of the European areas such as Afghanistan. During a cooling of U.S.-Russian relations – remember Hillary’s “reset the button” – the alliance seemed like 29 characters in search of an author. What was the point of military cooperation if there was no common enemy to fight?

      The alliance has now found a raison d’etre. My granddaughter is nine years old, approaching that delicate age between childhood and adolescence when parents and grandparents worry about where the youngsters are and what they are doing. While she seems wise for her years, and her devoted parents are more than attentive, one never knows where trouble is lurking, even in peaceful Norway.

    • UK’s Unwillingness to Cooperate Over Belgacom Hack is Scandalous – IT Journo

      The security analyst explained that the malware planted by British spies on the company’s servers had not drawn attention to itself. He specified that it was disguised as legitimate Microsoft software installed “after tricking engineers to visit a bogus version of the LinkedIn website, and before silently exfiltrating data from Belgacom’s network ensured it was wrapped in multiple layers of encryption.”

      He further noted that the data was usually stolen during the normal working day “making the transmission of data less suspicious and hiding the activity amongst the cacophony of other data moving in and out of the corporate network.”

    • The Troika of Tyranny: The Imperialist Project in Latin America and Its Epigones

      Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela are today threatened by US imperialism. The first salvo of the modern Age of Imperialism started back in 1898 when the US seized Cuba along with Puerto Rico and the Philippines in the Spanish-American War.

      The Age of Imperialism, as Lenin observed, is characterized by the competition of the various imperial powers for dominance. That inter-imperialist rivalry led to World War I. Lenin called those putative socialists who supported their own national imperialist projects “social imperialists.” Social imperialism is a tendency that is socialist in name and imperialist in deed. Imperialism and its social imperialist minions are still with us today.
      The Troika of Tyranny: The Imperialist Project in Latin America and Its Epigones

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Industries Turn Freedom of Information Requests on Their Critics

      In a subsequent commentary, the academics criticized the I.R.S. for poor oversight of the industry agreement, saying that Free File “puts tax preparation companies first and taxpayers last.” Some of the criticism echoed the I.R.S.’s independent taxpayer advocate, Nina E. Olson, who said in an interview that Free File was a “poorly designed” program that only 3 percent of eligible taxpayers used after 15 years in existence.

      Days later, the University of California received the request for all of Mr. Ventry’s communications about the op-eds, including his contacts with the I.R.S. taxpayer advocate’s office.

      [...]

      Companies often request such emails “to intimidate people like us, because it really raises the ante and makes it very scary just to email stuff,” he added. For the industry, “it’s a freebie,” he said. “But imagine you’re some young professor somewhere — you don’t know what hit you.”

    • No extradition request for Assange, says Ecuador

      Ecuador said Wednesday it has received no extradition request for Julian Assange, which his lawyers have long cited as the reason the WikiLeaks founder has refused to leave its London embassy.

      “We have told Mr Assange: ‘Up to now, as far as we know, there is no extradition request from any country,’” Foreign Minister Jose Valencia told state-owned Radio Public.

      The 47-year-old Australian has been holed up at Ecuador’s embassy since 2012, but Ecuador has shown increasing signs in recent months that it is preparing to terminate his six-year stay.

      Valencia said the cost of hosting Assange so far had come to around six million dollars.

    • As Julian Assange Faces Crisis, the Media Obsesses About His Cat

      Having spent the last 3 years fighting in four jurisdictions – Sweden, the UK, Australia and the U.S. – to access the full documentation on the Assange and WikiLeaks case under FOIA, I have acquired a few documents which leave no doubt as to the role played by UK authorities in contributing to create the legal and diplomatic quagmire which is keeping Assange confined to the embassy. Why have the UK authorities done this? What special interest, if any, do they have in the Assange case?

    • Ecuador denies receiving orders from abroad seeking Julian Assange, wanted WikiLeaks founder

      Ecuador on Wednesday denied receiving any requests to extradite Julian Assange, addressing concerns keeping the self-exiled WikiLeaks publisher from leaving the nation’s London embassy.

      “We have told Mr Assange: ‘Up to now, as far as we know, there is no extradition request from any country,’” Foreign Minister José Valencia told Ecuador’s state-owned Radio Public.

      “Ecuador continues to try to build political ground for its dirty deal with U.S. to hand over Julian Assange,” replied a Twitter account operated by the WikiLeaks founder’s legal team.

    • Should Julian Assange Fear For His Life?
  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Veterans Benefit from Nature’s Power to Heal and Teach

      The 2017 hurricane season caused major damage to coral reefs off the Florida and Puerto Rico coasts, but NOAA scientists found excellent partners to assess and repair that damage in Force Blue, a nonprofit group that gives former combat divers opportunities to use their specialized training in coral conservation efforts. Seven veterans worked in dark, murky conditions to identify and restore damaged coral reefs, and their expertise in moving delicate coral and heavy equipment underwater was greatly valued. Force Blue also trained the vets to observe marine life behavior and take underwater photos documenting reef health. Force Blue represents all branches of the U.S. military and The British Royal Marines.

    • Burning Sagebrush Will Not Save Endangered Grouse

      The BLM wants to burn 30,600 acres of sagebrush in southwest Montana. In a nutshell we are suing to stop the burning and destruction of 48 square miles of sage grouse habitat in the Middle Ruby River, Centennial, South Tobacco Root, and Blacktail watersheds.

      The Bureau of Land Management proposals contend the huge, years-long project will increase and improve habitat for sage grouse and other species that rely on sagebrush steppe habitat. But reams of federal, state, and independent scientific research as well as on-the-land experience with similar projects wind up doing just the opposite – and that burning such huge areas of sagebrush and juniper will actually decrease the likelihood of sage grouse recovery.

      After they burn the sagebrush and juniper, cheatgrass will move in as we have seen in many examples across the West. Cheatgrass is an invasive species that cannot be eradicated by any current methods. By May the cheat grass cures to become a hard stem with extremely sharp seeds capable of penetrating the stomach and intestines of animals that try to ingest it. So not only won’t wildlife or cattle eat it, the cheat grass seeds get into the eyes of nesting birds that use sagebrush habitat and it blinds them.

    • Fossil Fuel Industry Defeats Multiple Environmental Measures—And Other Key Ballot Initiative Results

      Fossil fuel industry interests spent millions on campaigns to defeat measures that would have advanced policies to fight climate change and protect the environment. They largely prevailed.

      In the state of Washington, a tax on fossil fuels and electricity to reduce greenhouse emissions was rejected by 56 percent of voters. It would’ve raised at least $1 billion to fund clean energy projects.

      More than $31 million was spent by major oil corporations to defeat Initiative 1631 in Washington, which the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported was a record for initiative spending. BP America spent over $11.5 million to defeat the initiative, Valero spent nearly $1 million, and Koch Industries spent nearly $1 million to mobilize opposition to the measure.

      Chevron spent at least a half million dollars, with the support of former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna whose private firm represents the oil corporation.

      Building trades and refinery workers came together with big energy corporations to fight the measure, even though it had the support of the Washington State Labor Council, which helped draft the initiative.

      Colorado voters rejected Proposition 112, which would have required new oil and gas developments, especially fracking wells, to be 2,500 feet or more from homes, schools, hospitals, and “vulnerable” areas, such as “playgrounds, permanent sports fields, amphitheaters, public parks, public open space, public and community drinking water sources, irrigation canals, reservoirs, lakes, rivers, perennial or intermittent streams, and creeks.”

  • Finance

    • EU stumbles in plan to levy 3% digital tax on major firms

      EU countries are studying proposals to levy a 3% tax on big internet companies that make money from user data or digital advertising, in a bid to level the playing field with bricks-and-mortar companies that pay more tax.

      But the idea, which must be agreed unanimously by all 28 member states, is running into serious opposition, as Ireland, Sweden and Denmark made their criticism public on Tuesday.

    • The missing piece of NAFTA 2.0
    • Cisco laying off hundreds of staff: claim

      Global networking giant Cisco is cutting hundreds of full-time staff, with one employee saying on the Web forum thelayoff.com that his team was told about being sacked by the vice-president of the section.

    • When It Comes to Short-Term Economic Results, Momentum Matters More than Presidents

      Here’s a truth at the intersection of politics and economics that is particularly germane right now: When an economy is well into an expansion, as is the case today, presidents have little to do with the positive outcomes for which they take credit. President Trump would have us believe he’s responsible for Friday’s strong jobs report (the recent stock market losses, however, are the fault of Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell). In fact, once the momentum of an expansion is solidly in place, as was the case when Trump took office, a president’s effect on the daily data flow is mostly on the margin.

      In normal times, a large economy like ours chugs along like a huge oil tanker on the high seas. Various forces can speed it up or slow it down, but it is mostly driven by momentum. In economic terms, such momentum is a function of the virtuous growth cycle wherein strong consumer demand creates more jobs, which creates more wage income, which creates more demand. This is particularly the case in the United States, where consumer spending is 70 percent of the economy.

      When President Barack Obama took office, the tanker was, if not sinking, going backward, and it is here where the actions of presidents (as well as the Federal Reserve) matter a great deal. The housing bubble that had driven the economy since 2002 was in full collapse, with home prices falling fast. The four-point drop in the construction sector as a percentage of GDP would be equivalent to a loss of annual demand of $800 billion in today’s economy. The sudden loss of housing wealth caused an equally large hit to consumer spending.

    • Degrowth as a concrete utopia

      The emergence of interest in degrowth can be traced back to the 1st International Degrowth Conference organized in Paris in 2008. At this conference, degrowth was defined as a “voluntary transition towards a just, participatory, and ecologically sustainable society,” so challenging the dogma of economic growth. Another five international conferences were organized between 2010 and 2018, with the latest in Malmo in August.

      This year also saw the publication of Giorgos Kallis’ landmark book Degrowth, which opens with three bold statements. First, the global economy should slow down to avert the destruction of Earth’s life support systems, because a higher rate of production and consumption will run parallel to higher rates of damage to the environment. Hence, we should extract, produce and consume less, and we should do it all differently. Since growth-based economies collapse without growth we have to establish a radically different economic system and way of living in order to prosper in the future.

      Second, economic growth is no longer desirable. An increasing share of GDP growth is devoted to ‘defensive expenditure,’ meaning the costs people face as a result of environmental externalities such as pollution. Hence, growth (at least in rich countries) has become “un-economic:” its benefits no longer exceed its costs.

      Third, growth is always based on exploitation, because it is driven by investment that, in turn, depends on surplus. If capitalists or governments paid for the real value of work then they would have no surplus and there would be no growth. Hence, growth cannot reduce inequalities; it merely postpones confronting exploitation.

    • Luxury Development Is Making Our Housing Crisis Worse

      Rent control. It’s on the ballot in California this November, as tenant campaigns pick up steam across the country and revive an old refrain: “The rent is too damn high!” The real estate industry’s biggest argument in opposition? Rent control will hurt new construction. And – as the developers would have us believe – the only way to pull ourselves out of our dire housing shortage would be by building new construction.

      This unquestioning reliance on new construction – a code phrase used by developers to signify for-profit building – is deeply flawed.

      For one, for-profit new construction is overwhelmingly geared at the upper end – the luxury market, so to speak. But it’s lower-income households who face the severest affordable housing shortage. While our high-end stock has steadily grown – think towering market-rate apartments downtown – since 1990 on balance we’ve lost over 2.5 million affordable units renting for under $800. To what? In large part, rent increases.

    • How can Europe survive the extinction of its ruling élite?

      A spectre is, in fact, haunting Europe. Populists and sovereigntists are becoming the nightmare of the traditional European political parties, which are either melting away like the SPD in Germany, the Socialists in France, and the Democratic Party in Italy, or are in great trouble like the CDU in Germany or the People’s Party in Spain.

      However, the real threat to those establishments are not movements that are too intellectually empty and too wideranging to present a coherent alternative theory to liberalism and to how the world has been governed thus far. The threat is their own intellectual obsolescence. Not one real idea, not even a small piece of strategy has been put forward so far by what used to be the European élites, by their think tanks, and academic circles. Consequently, any western intelligentsias have lost their footing: no longer can they make sense and communicate the complexity of our world, nor do they offer solutions or even visions of a future in which all can thrive.

      Yes, Macron – arguably the sole product of an Ancien Regime able to convincingly win an election – has been talking about a re-foundation of Europe. And yes, the rather widespread, current consensus is that Europe can adapt to the twenty-first century only by radically transforming its nature and institutions.

      Yet where should these reforms begin?

    • The Ultimate General Strike: a Revolution of Failures

      The message was spot on, but highly unlikely to have inspired anyone listening to seek the wisdom of failure for themselves, either at Harvard or at the state college where I taught. The idea of failure bears the hiss of the snake and its hideous rattle; to be avoided for dear life. That this is so is no accident, for those who learn the deeper wisdom of failure will likely come to feel that success on capitalism’s terms is failure in human terms. (For this reason, the poets, artists, prophets and anarchists who can teach us the wisdom of failure are marginalized, i.e., to appear as failures.)

      Going further with the idea, learning to fail may in fact provide the basis for a revolution that begins with overthrowing the dominant neoliberal worldview that thrives on the illusion reality can be controlled and predicted, and on our terror of acknowledging our true condition, i.e., powerlessness. There’s much agreement on the left that no way exists out of the ongoing catastrophe driven by global capitalist hegemony, other than mass disobedience. Therefore, I suggest the most radical call to disobedience that could be made to liberal middle class white people is to refuse, en masse, success on capitalism’s terms, just say “I prefer not to,” i.e., to fail.

    • Taxing the Digital Giants

      The treasurers of various countries seem to be stumbling over each other in the effort, but taxing the digital behemoths has become something of an obsession, the gold standard for those wishing to add revenue to state coffers. Back in May, when Australia’s then treasurer Scott Morrison oversaw the purse strings of the country, it was declared that, “The new economy shouldn’t be some sort of tax-free environment.” (Low tax environment was not be confused with a no-tax one.) He had his eye on the $7 billion in annual Australian sales recorded by Google, eBay, Uber, Linked-In, and Twitter.

      As always, such statements must be seen for all their populist worth. A treasurer keen to secure more revenue but happy to compress the company tax base must be regarded with generous suspicion. Trickle-down economics, with its fanciful notions of job creative punch, still does the rounds in certain government circles, and Morrison, both as treasurer and now as Australian prime minister, is obsessed with the idea of reducing, let alone imposing company tax. But the Australian Tax Office has not been left entirely out of pocket: the Multinational Anti-Avoidance Law (MAAL) and Diverted Profits Tax have both done something to draw in some revenue from the likes of Facebook and Google.

      What is lacking in approaches to the digital company environment is consensus. At the specialist level, there has been no end of chatter about how to rein in cash from the earnings of the digital world. But action has been tardy, inconsistent and contradictory. The OECD-G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Plan (2015), the product of 12,000 pages of comments, 1400 contributions from interested parties, 23 drafts and working documents and two years of deliberation, is one such imperfect effort.

    • Tax Reform: Down with the ‘Stepped-Up Basis’

      The term “stepped-up basis” is shorthand for a tax loophole that lines the pockets of the haves while it picks the pockets of the Treasury. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the cost over ten years could reach $644 billion.

      Let’s see how the well-off get handed hundreds of billions that should be going toward the good of all Americans.

      The basis of an asset (stocks, real estate, fine art, etc.) is its price or fair market value when it’s acquired. Any increase over the basis becomes a capital gain. When holders dispose of assets, they’re taxed on those gains—except when the stepped-up basis steps in, and erases both the gains and the taxes.

      It’s automatic: when assets are passed along to an heir, the value at the time of the transfer becomes the heir’s basis. Magically, all the accumulated gains vanish. With no gains, all the taxes vanish too.

    • Arkansas and Missouri Approve Minimum Wage Increases

      In two deep-red states, voters approved substantial raises for nearly 1 million of their fellow workers on Tuesday.

      “Despite the rosy picture being painted by many politicians, voters are saying ‘enough’ to an economy that’s leaving too many struggling families behind,” Jonathan Schleifer, executive director of The Fairness Project, which provided financial and strategic support to the two ballot initiatives, said in a statement.

      Arkansas voters approved a minimum wage increase, passing Issue 5 by 68.4 percent to 31.6 percent. The state’s minimum wage will now increase to $11 an hour by 2021, meaning nearly 300,000 workers, or almost a quarter of the state’s entire workforce, can expect an average annual raise of $1,520 each.

      “The people of Arkansas have spoken,” Kristin Foster, campaign manager for the group behind the measure, Arkansas for a Fair Wage, said in a statement. “No one who works full time should have to live in poverty and struggle to make ends meet.”

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Blockchain-based elections would be a disaster for democracy

      Tapscott is wrong—and dangerously so. Online voting would be a huge threat to the integrity of our elections—and to public faith in election outcomes.

    • Voting Machine Manual Instructed Election Officials to Use Weak Passwords

      A vendor manual for voting machines used in about ten states shows the vendor instructed customers to use trivial, easy to crack passwords and to re-use the passwords when changing log-in credentials.

      [...]

      Unisyn did not respond to requests for comment.

    • 18 Colorado Local Governments Are Voting on City-Run Internet Tuesday

      In almost every election for the last 13 years, Colorado towns and counties have been chipping away at a state law that prohibits city-run internet. On Tuesday, 18 more local governments (a mix of towns and counties) will vote on whether to exempt their district from the Comcast-backed law, opening to door for municipal broadband projects.

    • Brian Kemp Is Weaponizing Good Cybersecurity in an Authoritarian Ploy Against Democrats

      Kemp’s office has not given any specifics about what happened, but media reports suggest that a voter identified a software bug on the state’s voter information page that allowed him to see other voters’ information and alerted the Democratic Party of Georgia’s voter protection hotline. The Democratic Party then asked a private firm to evaluate the bug, and that firm alerted the Secretary of State. The “cyber attack” aspect of this is either completely made up or a willful misunderstanding by Kemp about how standard security research works, repurposed to attack Abrams and the Democrats.

      The idea that a politician should have the authority to formally investigate his opponent two days before an election is absurd, and has been called an “abuse of power” by Georgia Democrats. That’s an understatement: It’s brazenly authoritarian.

    • Voting Machine Meltdowns Are Normal—That’s the Problem

      Instead, Weiner was just one of a still-unknown number of Americans who watched their country’s voting technology break down right in front of their eyes on Tuesday. Machine malfunctions caused hours-long lines and reports of voters giving up and going home at polling stations across the country. On an already tense Election Day, these technical issues exacerbated voters’ anxieties and concerns about voter suppression. And it’s true that in past election cycles, long lines have disproportionately impacted communities of color.

      [...]

      But if this year’s issues weren’t an anomaly, the truth may be even bleaker: These kinds of problems are a new normal.

    • Tracking Voting Irregularities Across the U.S.

      Here’s the latest news on election integrity from Washington, Silicon Valley and America’s more than 170,000 polling places as U.S. voters decide whether the Republican Party will retain control of Congress: [...]

    • US Americans Are Not the Only Americans

      The migrant caravan that originated in Honduras is currently making its way northward through Mexico towards the US border. Who are these people who have fled their homeland in a desperate search for a better life” If we are to believe President Donald Trump, many of them are “hardened criminals.” But the men, women and children in the migrant caravan are not hardened criminals as President Trump would have us believe. They are people fleeing from economic hardship and violence that has resulted in part from the foreign policy of the US government. Furthermore, they are Americans.

      In 2009, the Obama administration supported the military coup that overthrew the democratically-elected government of President Manual Zelaya. Even since the coup, the country has suffered from rampant violence as well as neoliberal economic reforms that have impoverished millions of Hondurans. In response, tens of thousands of Hondurans, including those currently travelling in the migrant caravan, have fled their homeland. These people are not only Hondurans, they are also Americans whose lives have been impacted by US government policies.

    • Trump’s Embrace of “Nationalist” Label Is Final Link to Dangerous Pattern

      Now that Donald Trump has announced that he is an unapologetic “nationalist,” it is even more likely that violent repression of anti-fascist demonstrators will occur. While Trump did not affix any prefix to “nationalist,” his actions speak loudly for the fact that he favors a specific definition of who is counted for in his “nation”— certainly not LGBTQ folks, those who have migrated to the US, Muslims, people of color or Indigenous peoples. Indeed, he has accused any protests against his “nationalism” to be led by “mobs.” All these groups are targeted by the “alt-right” in general.

      Far-right groups are rising in the US and becoming bolder in their actions as they incorporate more and more people who subscribe to either the entire Trump agenda of hate or selective parts of it. And that is not even to mention individuals who might not be members of these groups but embody and enact their programs of hate — people like the one who sent pipe bombs to those who have criticized Trump, people like the person who murdered two Black people at a Kroger store in Kentucky and the person who killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

      Why does this open identification with white nationalism send up danger signals for those who oppose it — especially anti-fascists? Because it completes an already existing set of connections. First is the open declaration of “nationalism” as Trump sees it; second is the redefinition of “law and order” to mean increased police violence; third is the alliance between racist far-right groups and the White House; and most deadly of all, the extension of this alliance to loop in police officers.

    • Stacey Abrams refuses to give up: Georgia governor race still too close to call

      Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for Georgia governor, is not conceding to her Republican opponent, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, by claiming that not every vote in the state has been counted.

      “Tonight we have closed the gap between yesterday and tomorrow. But we still have a few more miles to go,” Abrams told a crowd of cheering supporters as the election results came in, according to NPR. She also made it clear that, despite being behind Kemp in the most recent vote counts, she does not consider the election to have been decided yet.

    • To End the Trump Nightmare, We Need a Radical Political Agenda

      The electoral victories that broke the Republican hold on the House of Representatives last night have pierced the perceptions of Trumpism as all-powerful and impenetrable. These victories include not only those in the House itself, but also all kinds of progressive referenda, wins for left candidates in state races, and most dramatically, the restoration of voting rights for (most of) the formerly incarcerated in Florida. There were significant victories in the Midwest, where Trump secured his electoral outcome in 2016. The demise of two troglodyte governors — Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Bruce Rauner in Illinois — is also welcome. These are important repudiations of the white supremacy emanating from the White House. They are also a confirmation of the audience that exists for actual left politics, not watered-down centrism.

      For some of the Democrats running for re-election in the Senate and elsewhere, we now have tangible proof that you can’t beat neo-Confederate, white nationalism with mealy-mouthed, middle-of-the road appeals to civility and good governance. Conservative and centrist Democrats found that many voters won’t waste their time with cheap knockoffs. The only chance we have to bury the Trump nightmare is a radical political agenda that provides an actual and real alternative to the status quo.

    • Aging Machines, Crowds, Humidity: Problems at the Polls Were Mundane but Widespread

      If the defining risk of Election Day 2016 was a foreign meddling, 2018’s seems to have been a domestic overload. High turnout across the country threw existing problems — aging machines, poorly trained poll workers and a hot political landscape — into sharp relief.

      Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida who studies turnout, says early numbers indicate Tuesday’s midterm saw the highest percentage turnout since the mid-’60s. “All signs indicate that everyone is now engaged in this country — Republicans and Democrats,” he said, adding that he expects 2020 to also be a year of high turnout. “Election officials need to start planning for that now, and hopefully elected officials who hold the purse strings will be responsive to those needs.”

    • Louisiana Votes to Eliminate Jim Crow Jury Law

      New Orleans – Louisiana voters approved an amendment to the state constitution on Tuesday requiring that jury verdicts for felony convictions be unanimous, putting an end to one of the last vestiges of Jim Crow on the state books. For decades, Louisiana has been one of the only states where a guilty verdict from only 10 of 12 jurors can secure most felony convictions — including for life sentences without parole. The practice dates back to the late 1890s, when post-Reconstruction Democrats worked to maintain white supremacy by passing laws that disenfranchised Black voters and filled prison plantations with people of color.

      This legacy helps explain why Louisiana is a hotspot for wrongful convictions and has long held the title of the most incarcerated place on Earth. For years, Louisiana had a higher incarceration rate than any other state in the United States, which is the most incarcerated country in the world. However, recent reforms helped the state drop down to second place this year (Oklahoma now tops the list). At the statehouse in Baton Rouge and in the streets, campaigns to reduce incarceration in Louisiana and politically enfranchise former prisoners have been driven by formerly incarcerated activists. They trace their roots back to a political organization formed in the mid-1980s inside the walls of the infamous Louisiana State Penitentiary (known as “Angola,” after the plantation that previously occupied its grounds). Thanks to their efforts, Louisiana passed a law last year restoring voting rights for people with felony convictions who have been out of prison for five years, setting the stage for a similar measure in Florida that was approved by voters yesterday.

    • New York Registration Deadline Prevents Tens of Thousands From Voting

      The 25-day cutoff is an unnecessary and outdated burden on New Yorkers’ right to vote.
      Imagine a national department store chain holding a “Back to School” sale in late July instead of in August. People who show up close to when school actually starts are told, “You’re too late.”

      That’s what voting in New York is like. Each election cycle, thousands of New Yorkers are prevented from casting a ballot because of the state’s registration cutoff, which requires voters to register at least 25 days in advance of the election in order for their vote to count.

      The 25-day registration cutoff imposes an unnecessary and outdated burden on the right to vote — and we, along with the New York Civil Liberties Union and Latham & Watkins LLP, are suing to change it. Late last night, we filed a lawsuit seeking to strike down this unnecessarily long registration cutoff.

      By requiring voters to register almost a month in advance of Election Day, New York forces voters to register before the election even becomes salient to most people and disenfranchises those who don’t.

      The entire election machinery is geared toward one big day — Election Day — with public anticipation building every day until then. But New York’s registration cutoff hits before campaign activities heat up. For example, candidate debates, one of the hallmarks of campaign activities, often don’t happen until after New York’s registration deadline.

    • Electoral Fetishism

      Our word “elect” comes from the latin eligere meaning to pick out or choose. Bourgeois democracy celebrates the etymological sense of this word in elections. However, what, exactly, are we the people actually choosing?

      The argument has been made by Marx, Badiou, and Chomsky among others that we do not so much as choose in elections as having parties, platforms, and candidates chosen for us.

      Every politician in the Western “democracies” has to go through a complex vetting process which assures those truly in power that they, at best, will become paper tigers that will do their bidding and no more. Those foolish enough not to play by the rules will be eliminated by either defamation, extortion, or even, in the final instance, downright murder(JFK? MLK?).

      However, those who now enter Western politics are well aware of the rules as well as the ultimate nature of the game. They knowingly enter the theater that is modern Western politics without any intention to fundamentally challenge either system or elites.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • After Being Sued To Block Sci-Hub; Swedish ISP Blocks Court’s And Elsevier’s Website In Protest

      Late last week, Torrentfreak had a fascinating story about Bahnhof’s response to a court case demanding it block the site Sci-Hub due to demands from Elsevier that Sci-Hub was inducing infringement of academic papers. We’ve written in the past about Sci-Hub. Rather than an evil piracy site as Elsevier likes to imply, it is a very clever system to allow academics to share and access other academic works. Of course, Elsevier prefers to lock up academic research that it did not pay for, which is a travesty. And it has gone after Sci-Hub in multiple jurisdictions, and is constantly playing a form of Whac-a-Mole as Sci-Hub keeps on moving around (not to mention each attempt at taking it down only seems to add to Sci-Hub’s popularity). In this case, Elsevier sought a blocking order in Sweden. The Swedish ISP, Bahnhof, which has spent years pushing back against copyright maximalist extremism, but without much luck.

    • Russian Government Hits Last Independent News Outlet With A $338,000 Fine

      Albats suspects this fine is the result of an October 22nd interview with opposition politician and vocal Putin critic Aleksei Nalvany. The hefty fine should result in the closure of The New Times, which would be exactly what the Russian government wants.

      The law used to effectively push the magazine into bankruptcy went live in 2012. It requires all non-government operations that receive foreign funding to register as “foreign agents.” This law was upgraded last year in response to a new US policy requiring similar “foreign agent” registration for Russian state-run news outlets. This newer twist allows for direct targeting of press outlets. But, even without this addition, the Russian government still could have crippled The New Times. As Agence France-Presse reports, part of The New Times’ funding involves donations collected by a registered charity.

      With this move, Russian citizens will now be limited to state-run publications. The internet will still provide opportunities for Russians to read news not controlled by the state, but those too will eventually dry up as the Russian government continues to assert its control of this medium as well. The internet was the last refuge of The New Times, which had to cease publication of its print edition due to a lack of funding.

    • Dear HBO: Just Shut The Fuck Up About Trump’s ‘Game Of Thrones’ Meme, Please

      There has been a drumbeat punctuating the past decade or so that goes something like: everything is political. It’s not really true, of course, but that mantra is used by those who want to inject politics into everything as an excuse for doing so. That makes the world a much more tiresome place to exist. Unfortunately, it seems both that politics really does infect aspects of our lives it should not, as does intellectual property bullshit.

      [...]

      Despite being a fan of the show, I don’t know the answer to this question. Which doesn’t really matter, because it’s an irrelevant question to begin with. Nothing about Trump’s tweet and meme is in any way trademark misappropriation or infringement. There is no public confusion. No common marketplace. This is purely fair use. And HBO should know as much, so litigious and bullying have they been in the past — both generally and specifically when it comes to Game of Thrones.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • How to Protect Your Online Privacy: A Practical Guide

      Do you take your online privacy seriously?

      Most people don’t. They have an ideal scenario of just how private their online activities should be, but they rarely do anything to actually achieve it.

      The problem is that bad actors know and rely on this fact, and that’s why there’s been a steady rise in identity theft cases from 2013 to 2017. The victims of these cases often suffer a loss of reputation or financial woes.

      If you take your online privacy seriously, follow this 10-step guide to protect it.

    • Analysis of BBFC’s Post-Consultation Guidance

      Following the conclusion of their consultation period, the BBFC have issued new age verification guidance that has been laid before Parliament. It is unclear why, if the government now recognises that privacy protections like this are needed, the government would also leave the requirements as voluntary.

    • Principles for Corporate Platforms in the Gig Economy

      From ride-hailing platforms like Lyft and Uber, to sites like Airbnb, FlipKey, or VRBO that enable occupants to rent properties, the so-called sharing or gig economy is expanding and disrupting industries from hotels to taxis. Cities across the U.S.—and the rest of the world—are facing a daunting array of regulatory challenges in responding to their growth.

      The ongoing saga of scooter-sharing services suggests a foreseeable pattern….

      Earlier this year, a new class of companies prompted controversies by flooding several cities with personal scooters available on a short-term rental basis. Advances in battery technology recently made the business model of companies like Bird and Lime profitable. In the absence of regulation, the companies deployed thousands of scooters to selected cities across the world. A resulting backlash included municipal regulation, a recent class action lawsuit, and even acts of vandalism ranging from burying scooters at sea to lighting them on fire.

      The ongoing saga of scooter-sharing services suggests a foreseeable pattern: future advances in various technologies will generate opportunities for innovation. Users will clamor for services that platforms will rush to offer, often without a recognition of the legal or economic externalities seemingly exogenous to their business model. Recognizing how this pattern is poised to recur across context, we’re publishing a few suggested guidelines for companies creating the gig economy and the cities increasingly facing pressure to regulate their activities.

    • Google’s Chrome cares for bottom line, not users: EFF claim

      Google’s Chrome and Microsoft’s Edge are the only widely-used browsers which have no inbuilt protection against tracking users, the digital rights body, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • [UPDATE] University who rector says obeying Erdoğan is religious obligation resigns

      In Turkey, it has become common for university rectors who are now appointed by Erdoğan to make statements in favor of the president and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

    • Pakistani minister: Asia Bibi could be barred from leaving the country

      The case is now with the Supreme Court, and a review petition has been filed with a plea that Bibi’s name be put on the ECL. It is up to the top court to decide now.

    • China: Immediately and Unconditionally Release Huang Qi & Ensure Access to Prompt Medical Care for all Detained Human Rights Defenders

      Tomorrow, during China’s 3rd Universal Periodic Review, UN Member States should raise the continued pervasive use of torture and other ill-treatment in China, including tactics like denying medical care for human rights defenders, and make clear calls on the Chinese government to end such practices.

    • More Foul Murders, in a System That Survives on Racism

      We live in a nation totally beholden to racism. Founded on racism, built on racism, surviving by virtue of racism. From the near total eradication of Native Americans by disease, slaughter, and death marches; to the enslavement of 12 million Africans and the continued oppression, imprisonment, impoverishment and wanton killing of their descendants; to the exploitation and deportation of immigrants; to the Jews and Irish and Italians being eventually admitted into invented whiteness in order to turn them anti-black, but still maligned; to the wars fought against “gooks” and “ragheads” to increase rich men’s profits – US capitalism survives on racism. And the US that survives this way is not beneficial to any of its working people, tearing us apart from each other, impoverishing our souls and our pocketbooks, depriving us of health and learning and peace needed by all and the strength we could have in our oneness. Separated, we can be led down the road to fascism.

      [...]

      According to the Center for American Progress report Unequal Education of 2012, schools are just as segregated and unequal now as they were in 1954 when Brown was decided. The average white student attends a school where 77% of students are white and 40% of black and Latin students attend schools where over 90% are non-white. Not only are students deprived of knowledge and kinship of each other, but schools with over 90% students of color spend $733 less per student per year than schools with 90% or more whites.

      How do we accept these disparities in our own country? How do we not rise up against the death of over 10,000 Yemenis and starvation of half of the population? How do we explain our ability to accept the death of half a million Iraqis due to sanctions before the invasion even started? How do we turn away from the deaths of thousands of Gazans imprisoned in their illegal concentration camp? How do we explain the assignment of troops to go to the border and threaten migrating families fleeing the ravages of US imperialism? We can only explain it by racism, and without that racism this government, under Democrat or Republican, would not be able to maintain profits at home or wield its imperialist might around the world.

      So let us mourn all of those who die by violence or die young or die by neglect perpetrated by the ruling class or those whom they win to carry out their racist policies. Let us celebrate times we have fought together, in many union battles, in Selma, in Ferguson, in Charlottesville and many, many more. Let we who work, whether builder or waiter or teacher or unemployed, unite together in every way, in every struggle, in all our mourning, in all our resistance and continue together until we found a world based on equality, one that seeks to provide the fullest life for all. Not a capitalist world for sure.

    • ACLU calls Sessions worst AG in modern history

      The American Civil Liberties Union slammed Jeff Sessions Wednesday moments after he resigned as attorney general at the request of President Trump, calling him the “the worst attorney general in modern American history.”

      “He was an egregious violator of civil rights and civil liberties,” Anthony Romero, executive director of the civil rights group said in a statement before running down a list of actions Sessions took that the ACLU says undid civil rights for immigrants, women and LGBT people.

      “From his plot to deport Dreamers, remove police and law enforcement accountability, discriminate against trans people, perpetuate and expand senseless enforcement of racist drug laws, use of religion to discriminate against LGBTQ people and undermine reproductive rights, abandon protections for women against violence, and even lie to the Senate to cover up Trump campaign contact with Russian officials, his tenure as the highest chief law enforcement officer was a complete disgrace to our nation’s constitutional protections,” Romero said.

    • The 2018 Midterm Elections Were a Big Win for Criminal Justice Reform Ballot Initiatives

      Voters made it clear that they’ve had enough of President Trump’s “tough on crime” rhetoric.

      Wednesday morning I woke up in a better America when it comes to criminal justice reform.

      On Election Day, voters in states across the country said enough is enough to America’s horrific criminal justice system. They voted for reforms that will change people’s lives for the better while expanding our civil liberties and civil rights. They also voted for reform-minded law enforcement officials and against the “law and order” types who have led to America’s epidemic of mass incarceration. In other words, they rejected Donald Trump’s divisive “tough on crime” rhetoric and policies in favor of criminal justice reform and reformers.

      Here’s what we won last night in ballot initiatives.

    • Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: We Need to Confront Trump’s Creeping Authoritarianism

      Twenty-nine-year-old Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Ocasio-Cortez rose to national prominence in June, when she unseated 10-term incumbent Representative Joe Crowley, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House. She was elected to represent New York’s 14th Congressional District by a landslide last night, defeating Republican candidate Anthony Pappas with 78 percent of the vote. Ocasio-Cortez celebrated her victory in Queens last night. Democracy Now! was there with The Intercept for our special election broadcast. We spoke with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about her plans for Congress.

    • Fair Voting Results in GOP Losses

      The Democrats have taken control of the House of Representatives, presenting President Donald Trump with the frustrations and roadblocks of divided government. In the coming days and weeks there will be abstract appeals to bipartisanship from pundits and columnists who will wonder if Trump will reach across the aisle to work on “infrastructure,” a buzzword that means public investment to liberals and privatization to conservatives.

      Trump himself will likely continue to promote extreme right-wing goals rather than risk disengagement by his supporters. This could take the form of a new flurry of executive orders to get around Democratic opposition in the House. He will likely escalate his rhetoric against political opponents and marginalized communities, searching for new and emphatic superlatives to define some new, largest-ever threat. When the House Ways and Means Committee subpoenas Trump’s tax returns, as an anonymous Democratic source promised to do within minutes of the party winning the lower chamber, he’ll surely fight it in court.

      The Democrats picked up at least 26 House seats, but the difference in vote totals between the parties tells the real story. Democrats won the House popular vote by about 7 percent, about the same as in the midterm wave elections in 1994 and 2010. But in 1994, Republicans picked up 54 House seats and 63 seats in 2010, which strongly suggests gerrymandered districts continue to protect Republicans through undemocratic means. (Democrats gained 31 seats in 2006, when they won about 8 percent of the popular vote.)

    • New York Lawmakers Want Social Media History To Be Included In Gun Background Checks

      The facile explanation for this ridiculous piece of legislation is this: somehow the Pittsburgh shooter might have been prevented from buying a gun because he posted anti-Semitic content to a social media platform.

      This premise will only make sense to those incapable of giving it more than a superficial examination. First off, gun ownership is Constitutionally-protected, whether these legislators like it or not. It doesn’t make sense to abridge someone’s rights over social media posts, even if the posts contain bigoted speech. That speech is also protected by the Constitution, so combining the two simply doubles the chance the law will be struck down as unconstitutional. Plenty of people engage in ignorant bigotry. Not all of them are would-be criminals.

      This law would treat every gun buyer as a suspected criminal who may only take advantage of their guaranteed rights by engaging in government-approved speech. That’s completely the wrong way around. This Brooklyn lawmaker doesn’t seem to understand this inversion even when he directly, if inadvertently, addresses it.

    • In Rebuke of Trump, Democratic Women Help Seize House & 7 Governorships in Historic Midterm

      In a historic midterm election, Democrats have seized control of the House of Representatives, flipping more than two dozen seats. This gives Democrats subpoena power for the first time since President Donald Trump was elected two years ago. While the Democrats will control the House, the Republicans picked up two more seats in the Senate. The midterms were a groundbreaking election for women. At least 100 women will serve in the U.S. House for the first time in U.S. history, including the first two Native American women and the first two Muslim women. We speak with Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation, and Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Another Study Shockingly Discovers That Cable TV Needs To Compete On Price

      For the last decade the cable and broadcast industry has gone to great lengths to deny that cord cutting (dropping traditional cable for streaming alternatives, an antenna, and/or piracy) is real. First, we were told repeatedly that the phenomenon wasn’t happening at all. Next, the industry acknowledged that, sure, a handful of people were ditching cable, but it didn’t matter because the people doing so were losers living in their mom’s basement. Then, we were told that cord cutting was real, but was only a minor phenomenon that would go away once Millennials started procreating.

      Of course none of these claims were true, but they helped cement a common belief among older cable and broadcast executives that the transformative shift to streaming video could be easily solved by doubling down on bad ideas. More price increases, more advertisements stuffed into every viewing minute, more hubris, and more denial. Blindness to justify the milking of a dying cash cow instead of adapting.

    • Supreme Court rejects net neutrality appeal

      The court on Monday rejected appeals from the telecommunications industry seeking to throw out a lower court ruling in favour of the “net neutrality” rules. The Federal Communications Commission under President Donald Trump has rolled back the rules, but the industry also wanted to wipe the court ruling off the books.

    • FCC Pretends To Hold Carrier Feet To The Fire On Robocalls

      Despite numerous government initiatives and countless promises from the telecom sector, our national robocall hell continues. Robocalls from telemarketers and scammers continue to be the subject the FCC receives the most complaints about, and recent data from the Robocall Index indicates that the problem is only getting worse. Consumers are routinely hammered by mortgage interest rate scams, credit card scams, student loan scams, business loan scams, and IRS scams. In September, group data showed that roughly 4.4 billion robocalls were placed to consumers at a rate of 147 million per day.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Are specialist or generalist courts better for judges?

      A judges panel at the Hong Kong Competition Commission conference shared experiences of use of specialist courts and mechanisms in adjudicating cases in areas including intellectual property

      Judges from a number of jurisdictions shared their experiences in adjudicating competition cases during the first international conference held by the Hong Kong Competition Commission on November 1. The role of specialist courts as well as considerations in taking evidence…

    • Swiss Patent Office clarifies applicability of new Medeva approach to the examination of SPCs

      The Swiss Patent Office issued a brief notice regarding a change of practice in the granting of supplementary protection certificates (SPCs) as well as corresponding detailed information on 22 October 2018.

      Following the Swiss Federal Supreme Court’s judgment 4A_576/2017 of 11 June 2018 relating to the SPC for Truvada, the requirement under Article 140b(1)(a) Swiss Patent Act that the product of an SPC must be “protected” by the basic patent is no longer assessed using an “infringement test”. Instead, as summarized by the Swiss Patent Office, “it is essential that the product is detailed in the patent claims in a form recognizable for a person skilled in the art”. Switzerland thereby intends to follow the approach established by the CJEU in Medeva (C-322/10) and subsequent decisions.

      The Swiss Federal Supreme Court in 4A_576/2017 already made it clear that this change of practice does not have retroactive effect, so that the “infringement test” remains applicable to earlier granted SPCs. What the Court did not explicitly address, however, is how SPC applications that were already pending but not yet granted on 11 June 2018 should be dealt with.

      Welcome clarification has now been provided by the practice notice of the Swiss Patent Office, which sets out that also SPC applications that were already pending on 11 June 2018 have to be examined under the new approach in line with Medeva.

    • Copyrights

      • OF HYPOCRISY AND DEMOCRACY

        As a previous editorial explained, the EU’s proposed directive – supposedly aimed at making copyright “fit for the digital age” – has now entered the trilogue negotiations. Hitherto, in an abiding affront to democracy, these discussions have been held behind closed doors, and the details kept secret. However, an important recent decision by the General Court of the European Union means that the European Parliament can no longer deny the public access to trilogue documents. This will allow the Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda to provide some long-overdue transparency for this process.

        MEP Reda has just published documents relating to the second round of trilogue negotiations on her Web site. They provide information about an important shift that has taken place in the position of Italy on both upload filters (Article 13) and the ancillary copyright for news publications (Article 11). As she explains, this means there is a small chance that both might be rejected, or at least improved, during the trilogue negotiations. MEP Reda also provides other updates on the text that might emerge from the trilogues for a final vote in the European Parliament. There’s both good and bad news, and her post is well-worth reading.

      • Brussels Court Of Appeal Holds That Leonidas Infringed Longchamp’s Copyright On Le Pliage Handba

        On 26 July 2018, the Brussels Court of Appeal confirmed the judgment of the Brussels Commercial Court of 25 October 2017 on whether Longchamp, owned by the Jean Cassegrain company (“Longchamp”), had a copyright in its famous handbag design “Le Pliage” and whether this copyright had been infringed by S.A. Confiserie Leonidas (“Leonidas”).

        The dispute arose in 2016 when Leonidas started to give away to its customers shopping bags resembling Longchamp’s Le Pliage as a reward for any purchase in excess of EUR 28.

      • AT&T to Terminate First Customers Over Piracy Accusations

        Internet provider AT&T plans to terminate the accounts of over a dozen subscribers who were repeatedly flagged for copyright infringements. This is reportedly the first time the company has taken this measure, which is based on copyright holder complaints.

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