11.10.18

Links 10/11/2018: Mesa 18.3 RC2, ‘Linux on DeX’ Beta and Windows Breaking Itself Again

Posted in News Roundup at 5:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • 7 reasons I love open source

    Here’s why I spend so much of my time—including evenings and weekends—on GitHub, as an active member of the open source community.

    I’ve worked on everything from solo projects to small collaborative group efforts to projects with hundreds of contributors. With each project, I’ve learned something new.

  • Tractor Drives Itself, Thanks to ESP32 and Open Source

    Modern agricultural equipment has come a long way, embracing all kinds of smart features and electronic controls. While some manufacturers would prefer to be the sole gatekeepers of the access to these advanced features, that hasn’t stopped curious and enterprising folks from working on DIY solutions. One such example is this self-steering tractor demo by [Coffeetrac], which demonstrates having a computer plot and guide a tractor through an optimal coverage pattern.

    A few different pieces needed to come together to make this all work. At the heart of it all is [Coffeetrac]’s ESP32-based Autosteer controller, which is the hardware that interfaces to the tractor and allows for steering and reading sensors electronically. AgOpenGPS is the software that reads GPS data, interfaces to the Autosteer controller, and tells equipment what to do; it can be thought of as a mission planner.

  • Web Browsers

  • Databases

    • ScyllaDB Releases Scylla Open Source 3.0

      ScyllaDB, the real-time big data database company, is releasing Scylla Open Source 3.0, introducing new production-ready capabilities.

      The company also previewed Scylla support for concurrent OLTP and OLAP, an industry first that enables simultaneous transactional and analytical processing.

      Scylla Open Source 3.0 features a close-to-the-hardware design that makes optimal use of modern servers. Written from the ground-up in C++ to provide significant improvements to throughput, latency and administration, Scylla delivers scale-up performance of more than 1,000,000 IOPS per node, scales out to hundreds of nodes, and consistently achieves a 99% tail latency of less than 1 millisecond.

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

    • Import your files from closed or obsolete applications

      One of the biggest risks with using proprietary applications is losing access to your digital content if the software disappears or ends support for old file formats. Moving your content to an open format is the best way to protect yourself from being locked out due to vendor lock-in and for that, the Document Liberation Project (DLP) has your back.

      According to the DLP’s homepage, “The Document Liberation Project was created to empower individuals, organizations, and governments to recover their data from proprietary formats and provide a mechanism to transition that data into open and standardized file formats, returning effective control over the content from computer companies to the actual authors.”

    • Changelog for VirtualBox 5.2
    • VirtualBox 5.2.22 Released, Disables 3D For Wayland & Brings Linux 4.19 Fixes

      While VirtualBox 6.0 is in beta, VirtualBox 5.2.22 was released today as the latest stable release for this Oracle virtualization software.

      Announced earlier this week was a VirtualBox zero-day vulnerability that went public with the researcher being upset over current bug disclosure processes… That 0-day vulnerability in VirtualBox touches its PRO/1000 network adapter code and allows the guest to escape to the host’s ring three and from there paired with other exploits potentially hitting the host’s ring zero. Details on that zero-day via virtualbox_e1000_0day. Surprisingly though there is no word in today’s VirtualBox 5.2.22 release information whether this vulnerability is addressed.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

    • SD Times Open-Source Project of the Week: Apollo GraphQL Platform [Ed: That is fostering Microsoft tools like a VS Code plugin which helps Microsoft sell proprietary software.]

      Also available to open-core users is the VS Code plugin, which DeBergalis explained “puts valuable information about your schema — like the average latency of a specific field — right at your fingertips at development time.”

    • Facebook’s GraphQL moved to a new GraphQL Foundation, backed by The Linux Foundation

      The foundation will provide a neutral home for the community to collaborate and encourage more participation and contribution. The community will be able to spread responsibilities and costs for infrastructure which will help in increasing the overall investment. This neutral governance will also ensure equal treatment in the community.

      [...]

      In the next few months, The Linux Foundation with Facebook and the GraphQL community will be finalizing the founding members of the GraphQL Foundation.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • GIMP 2.10.8 Released

      Though the updated GIMP release policy allows cool new features in micro releases, we also take pride on the stability of our software (so that you can edit images feeling that your work is safe).

      In this spirit, GIMP 2.10.8 is mostly the result of dozens of bug fixes and optimizations.

    • GIMP 2.10.8 Gets Better Performance Boost On Lower-End Hardware

      It doesn’t look like GIMP 3.0 will be under the tree this Christmas, but at least GIMP 2.10 continues progressing with new stable releases to provide new optimizations and enhancements.

      GIMP 2.10.8 should perform better on lower-end systems now with its chunk size being determined dynamically based on processing speed. This should make this imaging program more responsive. There is also the groundwork in this release towards delivering more performance optimizations moving forward.

    • GRUB Bootloader Picks Up A Verifier Framework For Secure Boot, TPM, PGP Verification

      Landing in the GRUB boot-loader minutes ago is a new “verifiers” framework providing core verification functionality for the likes of UEFI Secure Boot, Trusted Platform Modules, and PGP.

      The GRUB verifiers framework can be used by modules whereby the boot-loader needs to handle some verification steps at boot-time. The obvious focus on this verification framework is for security mechanisms like Secure Boot or TPM support.

    • GCC 9 Lands Support For Intel PTWRITE

      There has been a flurry of activity recently for the GCC 9 compiler due to feature development ending soon. The latest work hitting their mainline tree this morning is support for the Intel PTWRITE instruction.

      PTWRITE is a new instruction for Intel CPUs that allows writing values into the processor trace (PT) log. The intention of this is for allowing lightweight instrumentation/tracing of programs. The PTWRITE instruction is initially supported by Intel Geminilake / Goldmont Plus hardware.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Open source licensing: Is your vendor a troll?

      This shouldn’t be an issue, of course. Open source is supposed to be about collaboration and community. When Red Hat, Facebook, Google, and IBM initially proposed the GCC in November 2017, therefore, it was a bit of a surprise. By July 2018, 20 more companies had joined, including Toyota, Intel, and Royal Philips. More head scratching. This week 16 more companies joined the GCC, including my employer, Adobe, and I finally asked the question, “Is this really a problem? Are individuals or companies really weaponizing GPL licensing against (likely) innocent wrongdoers?”

      The answer is “Yes.”

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • The Evolution Of Open

      I’ve mentioned before that I think it’s a mistake to think of federation as a feature of distributed systems, rather than as consequence of computational scarcity. But more importantly, I believe that federated infrastructure – that is, a focus on distributed and resilient services – is a poor substitute for an accountable infrastructure that prioritizes a distributed and healthy community. The reason Twitter is a sewer isn’t that Twitter is centralized, it’s that Jack Dorsey doesn’t give a damn about policing his platform and Twitter’s board of directors doesn’t give a damn about changing his mind. Likewise, a big reason Mastodon is popular with the worst dregs of the otaku crowd is that if they’re on the right instance they’re free to recirculate shit that’s so reprehensible even Twitter’s boneless, soporific safety team can’t bring themselves to let it slide.

      That’s the other part of federated systems we don’t talk about much – how much the burden of safety shifts to the individual. The cost of evolving federated systems that require consensus to interoperate is so high that structural flaws are likely to be there for a long time, maybe forever, and the burden of working around them falls on every endpoint to manage for themselves. IRC’s (Remember IRC?) ongoing borderline-unusability is a direct product of a notion of openness that leaves admins few better tools than endless spammer whack-a-mole. Email is (sort of…) decentralized, but can you imagine using it with your junkmail filters off?

    • How to make an open-source, computerized map of the brain

      This post was contributed by Mason Muerhoff, who is the Associate University Relations Specialist for the Waisman Center.

      In search of a way to improve how scientists analyze brain images, researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison Waisman Center decided to build a brain.

      Or at least, a brain model.

      Waisman Center senior scientist Alexander Converse and colleagues from several international universities recently published a rhesus macaque brain atlas aligned to a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) template. The result is a three-dimensional, computerized map of the rhesus brain.

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Why you should care about RISC-V

        If you haven’t heard about the RISC-V (pronounced “risk five”) processor, it’s an open-source (open-hardware, open-design) processor core created by the University of Berkeley. It exists in 32-bit, 64-bit, and 128-bit variants, although only 32- and 64-bit designs exist in practice. The news is full of stories about major hardware manufacturers (Western Digital, NVidia) looking at or choosing RISC-V cores for their product.

        But why should you care? You can’t just go to the local electronics boutique and buy a RISC-V laptop or blade server. RISC-V commodity hardware is either scarce or expensive. It’s all still early in its lifespan and development, not yet ready for enterprise tasks. Yet it’s still something that the average professional should be aware of, for a number of reasons.

        By now everyone has heard about the Meltdown and Spectre issues, and related “bugs” users have been finding in Intel and AMD processors. This blog is not about how hard CPU design is – it’s hard. Even harder than you realize. The fear created by these bugs was not that there was a problem in the design, but that users of these chips had no insight into how these “black boxes” worked, no way to review code that was outside their control, and no way to audit these processors for other security issues. We’re at the mercy of the manufacturer to assure us there are no more bugs left (ha!).

  • Programming/Development

    • Developers are the new kingdom builders

      These are today’s geniuses and visionaries of the blockchain world—the Linus Torvalds of blockchain. But there are many following them, using the platforms created by these geniuses to create new business models and experiment with their own kingdoms. Some will fail, and some will succeed. But clearly, there is a new path for developers to conquer the world—and now it’s for real.

Leftovers

  • Robert Jackson Bennett Uses Magic To Make Sense Of How Technology Shapes Our Lives

    In Robert Jackson Bennett’s critically-acclaimed new novel, Foundryside, a scrappy thief-cum-spy explores a world where items can be “scrived” to think for themselves and bend natural laws. The role scriving plays in this alternate reality is powerfully analogous to how software defines so many aspects of our own lives, and the four merchant houses that dominate Bennett’s fictional society map closely to the tech monopolies that are accruing more and more power every day in the real world. In the following interview, we discuss the political consequences of technology and the power of imagination.

    [...]

    Revolution is examined much more closely in the sequel, but I would say that it’s important to realize that a revolution is not a singular event, but a violent series of tug-of-war that has actions and reactions. One can argue, for example, that the French Revolution lasted nearly a century, if not more, as various kinds of liberals seized power, only for various kinds of conservatives to pop up and take it back, practically right up until the First World War.

    I think we should view revolutions in terms of survival. You should ask: Which groups are the most threatened? Which threatened group has the most power to organize and respond? You fight a lot more when your future’s on the line, and your fight makes a difference when you have the actual power to see it through. You can think of this in terms of the Clayton Christensen model of disruption, where disruptors are put into positions where they must disrupt in order to survive, or you can look at the Founding Fathers, who were almost exclusively upper class landholders and merchants — a critical reason why the American Revolution succeeded.

  • Hardware

    • Why I use a 20-year-old IBM Model M keyboard

      The Model M is more pleasant and accurate to type on than any other keyboard I’ve used. So behind my desk at home, where size, weight, and noise don’t enter into the equation, the Model M is front and center.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Why politicians need to ‘take responsibility’ for children’s health too

      Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health rightly points out that preventing ill health is crucially important in tackling the soaring costs of health care. This week he exhorts people to “take responsibility” for their health.

      But he omits to say that much adult ill health has its roots in childhood. And current government policy is not only failing to give children to the best start in life, but creating an economic environment driven by austerity where parents and families are unable to take control of their children’s health.

      This government is betraying children on a grand scale, and making positive ‘choices’ impossible.

    • The White House Unleashes More Attacks on Reproductive Health Care

      The White House released rules this week attacking insurance coverage for abortion and birth control.
      On Tuesday, voters turned out in record numbers for the midterm elections — and there is good evidence that health care motivated many of them to head to the polls. They voted to expand Medicaid in several states and elected more women than ever before to represent them in Congress.

      But less than 24 hours after ballots were cast, the Trump administration moved to undermine access to women’s health care, releasing a series of rules, one proposed and two final, attacking insurance coverage for both abortion and contraception.

      On Wednesday, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a proposed rule that would create burdensome and unnecessary regulations designed to cause insurance companies in the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace to stop covering abortion care. The proposed rule could push abortion care out of reach for many of the 1.3 million people who purchase plans through the government marketplaces, and possibly more if insurers opt to drop coverage in additional plans.

  • Security

    • Chinese drones could be [cracked] to access videos and credit card details

      China’s DJI accounts for approximately 70pc of the global commercial and consumer drone industry.

      User accounts for the DJI website and app, used to control and manage drones, were vulnerable to cyber-attacks, giving [crackers] access to live aerial drone footage, location of drone pilots and personal details of owners.

    • [Cracker] who launched DDoS attacks against EA, Sony and Steam pleads guilty

      Charged with causing Damage to a Protected Computing, Austin Thompson targeted Valve Software’s Steam, the most popular PC gaming portal, as well as Electronic Arts’ Origin service and the Sony PlayStation network.

    • Britain flashes amber light at Huawei with review of telecoms supply chains

      The British government has launched a probe into the security of supply chains in its fast-evolving telecommunications industry, in a move that will kick-start debate over the key role of Chinese telco giant Huawei in the country’s telecoms infrastructure.

      Britain’s review comes just months after Australia and the US effectively blocked Huawei and fellow Chinese equipment maker ZTE as suppliers to the rollout of 5G mobile telecoms infrastructure – so it will likely be welcomed by Britain’s key intelligence partners.

    • Red Hat’s Operating System Gets NIST Data Security Recertification; Paul Smith Quoted

      Red Hat has received Federal Information Processing Standard 140-2 recertification from the National Institute of Standards and Technology for its Enterprise Linux 7.5 operating system.

      Paul Smith, senior vice president and general manager of Red Hat’s public sector in North America, said in a statement published Thursday the FIPS 140-2 recertification seeks to show the capability of the company’s software to deliver “secure computing at both the operating system and layered infrastructure levels.”

    • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.5 renewed FIPS 140-2 security certifications from National Institute of Standards and Technology
    • Security updates for Friday
    • Linux CryptoMiners Are Now Using Rootkits to Stay Hidden [Ed: This impacts already-cracked machines; unlike Windows, where rootkits come though official channels like CD-ROM (Sony)]

      As the popularity of cryptocurrency rises, so does the amount of cryptominer Tojans that are being created and distributed to unsuspecting victims. One problem for cryptominers, though, is that the offending process is easily detectable due to their heavy CPU utilization.

      To make it harder to spot a cryptominer process that is utilizing all of the CPU, a new variant has been discovered for Linux that attempts to hide its presence by utilizing a rootkit.

      According to a new report by TrendMicro, this new cryptominer+rootkit combo will still cause performance issues due to the high CPU utilization, but administrators will not be able to detect what process is causing it.

      “We recently encountered a cryptocurrency-mining malware (detected by Trend Micro as Coinminer.Linux.KORKERDS.AB) affecting Linux systems,” stated a report by TrendMicro. “It is notable for being bundled with a rootkit component (Rootkit.Linux.KORKERDS.AA) that hides the malicious process’ presence from monitoring tools. This makes it difficult to detect, as infected systems will only indicate performance issues. The malware is also capable of updating and upgrading itself and its configuration file.”

    • Linux cryptocurrency miners are installing rootkits to hide themselves [Ed: By hiring Catalin Cimpanu CBS ZDNet basically imported the same misleading headlines and style as the sensationalist Bleeping Computer (above, where he came from). Because all CBS judges "success" by is clicks and ad impressions.]
    • The Morris Worm Turns 30
    • DJI Fixes Massive Vulnerability In User Accounts That Could’ve Allowed Hackers To Take Control Of Your Drone And Steal Personal Information

      DJI drones are the hot trend of 21st century. However, as functional and well built they are, some vulnerabilities in them could pose serious threat to your security. As these drones rely on a DJI account to be functional, you can land in serious trouble if a hacker gains access to your account. The hacker may access your drone and fly or crash it into a sensitive more or no fly zone. Not only that, personal information can also be accessed through the exploit and that may put you in more danger.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Ukraine shows downed Russian drone to Austrian delegation in Donbas

      Ukrainian Joint Forces Commander Serhiy Nayev has briefed an Austrian delegation headed by Ambassador to Ukraine Hermine Poppeller on the security and operational situation in Donbas, the press service of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry has reported.

      “The number of civilians killed or injured in the blasting of explosive devices in the territory beyond Ukraine’s control has increased in the past month. This is a result of the neglect by the Russian aggressor of any mine safety standards. Five civilians, three of them children, were killed when they hit enemy mines, and one more boy was seriously wounded,” Nayev said, speaking with the Austrian delegation.

      He also said that the enemy continues shelling settlements, including with the use of heavy weapons. Five civilians have been killed and ten more wounded in 58 shelling attacks on settlements and one attack on an area since the beginning of the Joint Forces Operation (April 30, 2018), he said.

    • The True Cost of Punishing Iran With Snapback Sanctions

      According to official figures , U.S. government drone strikes killed 2,436 people in 473 counterterrorism strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya under the Obama administration, representing an exponential increase from the prior eight years. Experts have called the Obama administration’s intensive and unrelenting use of drones as a key feature of his foreign-policy legacy. Drone strikes represented an effective means of targeting terrorists and were broadly popular among Americans as they carried little cost in money, American lives and geopolitical consequences.

    • Drone warfare: the autonomous debate

      This September, the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) announced plans to launch covert drone strikes against suspected Al-Qaeda and Islamic State (ISIL) militants from a base in north-eastern Niger. President Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama had sought to put drone operations under military control. However, under Trump’s rule, there has been a move to give the CIA an expanded role in drone strikes. Can society trust those in power to ensure these powerful weapons don’t fall into the wrong hands, or is the ever-growing development in autonomous technology a factor we need to be concerned about?

    • Britain Our 51st State? Better That It Become–Gasp–a U.S. Territory

      One recent and much-reprinted column bemoaned the setting sun of Empire that once ruled over 24% of Earth and 23% of its population. The writer chronicled events, artfully omitting the American Revolution in setting off the unraveling of its other defiant colonies up to the 1997 peaceful hand off of Hong Kong to China. Readers could easily conclude that after Britain leaves the EU in March, it will become a bankrupt, drifting lonely orphan in desperate need, as the writer said, of “a new way to rise ethically, morally, economically, politically and diplomatically.” Without that, the “current trajectory is to be the 51stState of America.”

      [...]

      Despite yesteryear’s contemptuous jest, today’s perilous times for both countries do suggest that the UK’s departure from the EU consider some kind of official union rather than continue our historic loose-knit alliance. After all, the EU is determined to become a major financial and trading rival of both the U.S. and U.K. Shades of 1939! The economic organization conceived for post-WWII peace now plans to establish its own army. Naturally, the Germans are in the forefront to field 200,000 troops by 2024. A navy and air force will follow.

      Statehood, of course, is an unlikely route for the UK. It took Hawaii 60 years to become our 50th. It was one of the U.S. major territories: Puerto Rico, Samoa, Guam, the Virgin Islands, Northern Marianas, Swains Island and 11 other South Pacific islands and atolls. Puerto Rico has held five referendums since 1967 for statehood. It was finally successful last June only to be blocked by Hurricane Maria and president Trump’s imperious remark: “Puerto Rico should not be thinking about statehood right now.” That’s blatant avoidance of Hurricane Maria’s recovery bills and fears that voters among its 3.5 million residents might favor the Democratic party.

    • Drone Pictures Reveal Landscapes Still Scarred By First World War

      Aerial photographs reveal First World War mass graves, trenches and bomb craters that have been covered over by grass.

      The images from 125ft up show the scale of the destruction – with ranks of white grave marking the Belgian countryside.

      Lochnagar Crater marks the site of an explosion from a British mine beneath the German lines signalling the start of the Battle of the Somme.

    • CIA agents in Bolivia: From Miami to Vallegrande

      Fifty-one years after Che’s death, today it is known that Gustavo Villoldo Sampera, Félix Ismael Rodríguez Mendigutía, and Julio Gabriel García García, who received military training at U.S. bases, were responsible for his assassination

    • Congresswoman-elect Rashida Tlaib & Peace Activist Kathy Kelly Condemn Saudi Cruelty in Yemen

      We turn now to the crisis in Yemen, where the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition has drastically escalated its assault on the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah. The Guardian reports there have been at least 200 airstrikes in the past week, killing at least 150 people. One Saudi airstrike destroyed a home in Hodeidah, killing a father and his five children. The increased fighting comes as calls grow for a ceasefire to the 3-year war, which has devastated Yemen. On Thursday, a group of Yemeni and international organizations called for “immediate cessation of hostilities” in Yemen, warning that 14 million people were now “on the brink of famine.” UNICEF has warned that the Saudi assault and blockade on Hodeidah is increasing shortages of food, drinking water and medicine. The group says a Yemeni child now dies from a preventable disease every 10 minutes. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have both called for a ceasefire in Yemen. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that the Trump administration is considering designating the Houthis a “terrorist organization.” We speak to newly elected Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare. She took part in Thursday’s protest.

    • How Britain is a bad influence on the Gulf states – an interview with David Wearing

      Britain imported a lot of oil from the Middle East during the post-war years, but this tailed off significantly from the 1970s as North Sea oil came on stream. At this point, we import a little more than we export, and only about 3% of our imports come from Saudi Arabia, less from the other Gulf states. However, gas is an important part of the UK’s energy mix, and imports from Qatar comprise about 13% of our gas consumption.

      Gulf oil does matter to the UK, but in different ways. First there’s the structural power in the world system that major states gain from control over hydrocarbons – the lifeblood of the industrialised world economy. Those sorts of geopolitical questions are slightly above the pay-grade of post-imperial Britain, but are of real relevance for the global hegemon, the United States, and the UK of course supports and complements US power in the Gulf. A reasonably stable flow of oil out of the Gulf is also important to the world economy (and thus to British capitalism, with its extensive global connections) since price shocks can be hugely disruptive. And Gulf oil remains a major commercial prize for two of the UK’s leading firms, BP and Shell.

      What the UK is interested in above all is the wealth that Gulf oil sales generate, and how it can use the connections developed with the Gulf Arab monarchies during the imperial era to attract those “petrodollars” into the British economy and arms industry.

    • When It Comes To Stone Throwing, Democrats Live In A Glass House

      The fascist Donald Trump reached a new low when he called on immigrants who throw rocks to be shot by the border police. CNN, the Trump-obsessed liberal wing of the corporate fascist state, was surprisingly helpful in pointing to a statistic that stated that zero border patrollers have died as a result of rock throwing. Donald Trump said that if immigrants have rocks, the border patrol should treat the rocks as rifles. It fits well with his stance of believing that armed white gunman shooting up schools, synagogues, and the like, should be treated as if they were merely holding rocks.

      Donald Trump, a force of ignorance, greed and stupidity—a one man wrecking ball that has taken down so much in so little time—is worth condemnation. But how on earth does one stop a truck barreling at full speed? Will it really be through polite conversations about fascism, its historical significance, and what it means to be white? It’s hard to find a liberal these days who is not quite busy running for cover by helping to explain how guilty they are as a ‘privileged’ ‘white’ person.

      While liberals may seem heroic for turning themselves in for the crime of whiteness, let’s charge the liberal class with a far more specific (and consequential) crime: the support of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The appeal of the liberal confession under Trump is the same appeal as most liberal sadomasochism. When it comes to Trump guilt, liberals must remain in control of their own crimes. They want to be punished for being so “privileged” and “safe” in the age of Trump! Punished for being privileged and safe? Isn’t that what we all want to be in the age of Trump? It’s as if by proclaiming how privileged one is, it’s a backhanded way of saying “I’m still more rich than you” with a dose of “feel sorry for me” put on top!

    • Russia’s Mediterranean call: from Kerch to Palmyra, but without Constantinople?

      In August 2018, Russia’s fleet in the Eastern Mediterranean conducted major naval exercises, confirming the Sea’s newfound – or renewed – importance to Russian strategy and power projection. The 2014 military doctrine and the new National Security Doctrine, as well as the 2015 Maritime Doctrine, mention the Eastern Mediterranean as a region of influence, setting a goal of a permanent Mediterranean presence that would include one or two multi-purpose vessels and 10 to 15 surface ships. This presence is part of Russia’s broader plan to transform from a “green water” navy into a “blue water” one, capable of operating in open waters.

      Of course, this renewed presence in the Mediterranean is directly linked to Russia’s military operations in Syria. The civil war has offered a unique launchpad for Russia to test its capacities in a “real war” context outside the post-Soviet space and reassert itself in a region it largely abandoned with the collapse of the Soviet Union. The day may come when Moscow leaves the Syrian theatre, but it will nevertheless maintain a foothold in the region through its military bases at Tartus and perhaps Khmeimim.

      Beyond Russia’s military return to the Eastern Mediterranean lies a more profound and long-term trend: Russia’s efforts to oversee the Black Sea and turn it into a mare nostrum. This strategy, given an additional impulse by the annexation of Crimea and important port of Sevastopol, has been a concern of Moscow’s since the 2000s, as evidenced by the August 2008 war with Georgia, with Abkhazia a central piece in this Black Sea puzzle. After years of being forgotten, the Black Sea Fleet is now being revitalised and modernised, and should, Admiral A.V. Vitko explained, also be able to provide a presence in the Mediterranean. Russia’s perception of a weakened southwestern flank is no phantom of the mind: the routine nature of NATO’s naval presence in the Black Sea is interpreted as a threat to Russia’s traditional domination of the region, further challenged in recent years by the war with Ukraine and the two countries’ competition to navigate the sea.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Wildlife researchers horrified by ‘cute’ drone video of bear cub
    • Upsetting truth behind viral video of baby bear climbing snowy mountain
    • Viral bear video shows dark side of filming animals with drones
    • Wildlife experts condemn viral drone footage of bear cub climbing a snowy mountain – declaring it ‘harassment’
    • Don’t Harass Wildlife With Drones
    • Troubling truth behind viral video of a plucky baby bear climbing a mountain side
    • Why Experts Are Troubled by a Viral Video of a Baby Bear’s Mountain Climb

      Over the past few days, you may have seen a viral video of a little brown bear and its mother traversing an impossibly steep, snowy cliff side. The mother makes it to the top, but her cub struggles, sliding down the cliff several times until, after nearly three nail-biting minutes, it succeeds in reuniting with its mom. To many viewers, the video was an inspiration, a reminder to be like that fluffy little creature who does not give up in the face of adversity. But to wildlife experts, the clip was a worrying example of how drone users harass animals for the sake of getting a perfect shot.

      The video was taken by one Dmitry Kedrov while flying his drone on the coast of Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk this summer, reports Jason Bittel of National Geographic. And from the start, something is off about the clip. Why was the mother bear trying to cross such perilous terrain with a small and vulnerable cub? It is very possible, experts say, that she was frightened into unusual behavior by the drone hovering overhead.

      “The bears would not have felt the need to take these risks were they not disturbed by the drone,” Dani Rabaioitti, a PhD student with the Zoological Society of London, wrote on Twitter. “The drone operator could have killed the cub.”

    • Researcher slams viral video of bear cub: ‘The drone definitely put these animals at risk’

      Almost everyone loves a dramatic wildlife video, but are photographers doing enough to ensure their subjects are safe in the process?

      One bear researcher says some photographers are putting wildlife at risk as they chase social media hits over safety.

      Over the weekend, a harrowing and initially heartwarming video surfaced on Twitter giving the world a bird’s-eye view of a mother bear and her cub scaling a treacherous slope.

      Although it was shared by multiple accounts, a version on one user’s feed has pulled north of 17 million views, and climbing, capturing the cub repeatedly clambering up and sliding down a steep incline — and, at one point, nearly slipping off a cliff.

      [...]

      Usually a female grizzly wouldn’t dare take a cub that young and small on such a steep slope, he said, questioning what (including the documenting drone) may have driven the animals to traverse the snow-covered slope.

      [...]

      Usually a female grizzly wouldn’t dare take a cub that young and small on such a steep slope, he said, questioning what (including the documenting drone) may have driven the animals to traverse the snow-covered slope.

      [...]

      Still, he’s encouraged the public is taking an interest in wildlife, and hopefully, wildlife conservation, as well. But he hopes this lesson will serve as a reminder to operators who see themselves as wildlife documentarians.

      “There’s a lot of positive ways to use drones to protect wildlife,” Lamb said, “but I don’t think this is one of them.”

    • After Man-Eating Tiger Is Killed in India, a Backlash Against the Hunters

      Days after a man-eating tiger was shot dead in central India, a backlash is underway, with politicians and animal rights advocates denouncing the killing and a senior government minister threatening legal action against people involved in the hunt.

      The female tiger, called T-1 by forest rangers, was believed to have killed at least 13 villagers over the last two years, and to have partially eaten several. A military-style operation aimed at tranquilizing and capturing the animal, which had two cubs, ended instead with the tiger’s death on Friday night.

    • Fracking in the UK

      Burning fossil fuels is a major cause of greenhouse gas emissions (GGE), and, greenhouse gas emissions (water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O)) are the principle cause of man-made climate change. Given this fact, governments throughout the world should be moving away from fossil fuels and investing in, and designing policies that encourage development of, renewable sources of energy. But the British Conservative government, despite public opinion to the contrary, has all but banned the construction of onshore wind turbines and is encouraging fracking in England. The Tories are the only UK political party to offer support for this regressive form of energy production, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens having all promised fracking bans should they gain political office at the next general election.

      Hydraulic fracking is the process of releasing gas and oil from shale rock: huge quantities of water, proppant (usually sand) and chemicals are injected at high-pressure into hydrocarbon-bearing rocks, rocks that can be up to a mile down and were once thought to be impermeable. This process of fracturing (or cracking) forces the rocks to crack open, and gas held inside is released and allowed to flow to the surface.

      Shale gas is a fossil fuel, and when combusted produces GGE, albeit at around 50% less than coal or oil, but GGE nevertheless. The leading fracking company in Britain is the energy firm Cuadrilla. An organization that according to its website, aims “to be a model company for exploring and developing shale gas in the UK,” they state that they are “acutely aware of the responsibilities this brings, particularly with regard to safety, environmental protection and working with local communities.” Really?

    • Saying Approval by Trump Ignored Obvious Facts and Threats, Federal Judge Halts Construction of Keystone XL Pipeline

      In a major victory for the planet and blow to the Trump administration’s efforts to ramp up fossil fuel extraction and production in the face of grave climate consequences, a federal judge on Thursday halted all construction of TransCanada’s 1,200-mile long Keystone XL pipeline and tossed out the White House’s fact-free approval of the project.

      Issued by Judge Brian Morris of the District of Montana, the ruling ripped President Donald Trump’s State Department for blithely tossing out “prior factual findings related to climate change” to rush through the Keystone pipeline and using “outdated information” on the severe threat the tar sands project poses to endangered species, tribal lands, and the water supply.

  • Finance

    • Change incentives, change the outcomes: three ideas to stop the global race to the bottom

      When I co-founded the fair labour company FSI Worldwide in 2006, my colleagues and I thought that we were in the vanguard of an ethical business revolution. The illegal and unethical practices of recruiters were well known by then, and we sensed that the tide was turning on the issue of workers’ rights in global supply chains. It seemed there was a growing willingness and ability on the part of governments, businesses, and consumers to properly invest in better protections for vulnerable workers.

      We were wrong.

      Global corporate demand for our services, which seek to provide migrant workers to employers willing to offer safe and protected employment, remains a tiny fraction of the overall market. Only a handful of multinational companies have been prepared to elevate ethical practice over rhetoric and invest in the services provided by companies like ours.

    • How Aristocracies are Born

      This year’s stock market saw high returns for month after month, as retirees and stock runners alike saw their portfolios rise. Then one day this fall, the market took a turn, and all of the increases of the past several months vanished.

      That’s how it goes for the market. Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down.

      For the three wealthiest families in the country, however, the market only ever shoots skyward. The Waltons of Wal-Mart, the Kochs of Koch Industries, and the Mars of Mars chocolate own a combined $348.7 billion. Since 1982, their wealth has skyrocketed nearly 6,000 percent.

      None of the living members of these families founded the companies from which their fortunes come — all were started by earlier generations.

      In fact, more than a third of the Forbes 400 inherited the businesses that generated their wealth. These modern wealth dynasties exercise significant economic power in our current gilded age of extreme inequality.

    • The Election Was Step One. Now It’s Time to Take On the Capitalist Class.

      Neoliberal House Democrats will collaborate with Trump unless grassroots pressure prevents them. Now that the midterm election is over, what can we do to preempt that collaboration? We need to shift from a short-term electoral to a long-term community and union focus, and shift from preaching to the choir to expanding our base. To build the multiracial working class coalition it will take to win in the face of climate crisis and neofascism, we must make a real commitment to solidarity and lift up a vision of a transformed society with democracy and dignity for all. Only we ourselves can save us.

      On election night Nancy Pelosi said, “We will strive for bipartisanship with fairness for all sides.” This signals a dangerous rhetorical capitulation to the politics peddled by President Trump, one that could easily continue the rightward slide of the country. Rather than reinforcing the idea that the far right is a reasonable balance to moderate Democrats, House Democrats must refuse to collaborate. Strategically, this means building a disciplined bloc capable of passing dramatic reforms like a federal living wage, free college for all, and a Green New Deal, which would materially improve the lives of poor and working-class people, and sending them along to be voted on by the Republican Senate. Newly-elected democratic socialist Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib could be the warriors leading the charge rhetorically, as Sen. Bernie Sanders does in the other chamber, rallying the grassroots and bringing an ideological challenge to the very idea that for some to do well, the majority must suffer in the wealthiest country in the history of the world.

    • Good News, the Stock Market is Plunging: Thoughts on Wealth

      Several people on my Twitter feed touted the drop in the stock market last month as evidence of the failure of Donald Trump’s economic policy. I responded by pointing out that he was reducing wealth inequality. I was being only half facetious.

      I have always been less concerned about wealth than income both because I think wealth is less well-defined and because income is the more important determinant of living standards. In the case of the stock market plunge, the vast majority of the losses go to the richest 10 percent of the population and close to half go to the richest 1 percent, for the simple reason that this is distribution of stock ownership.

      When people decry the rise in inequality in wealth over the last decade, they are basically complaining about the run-up in the stock market. The real value of the stock market has roughly tripled from its recession lows. With the richest one percent holding close to 40 percent of stock wealth and the richest 10 percent holding more than 80 percent, a tripling in the value of the stock market pretty much guarantees a big increase in wealth inequality. If we think this increase is bad, then why would we not think a drop in the stock market is good?

      There is a correlation between the stock market and economic growth. The market generally rises when the economy is strong and falls in recessions, but this link is weak. Remember the recession of 1988?

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Georgia’s secretary of state Brian Kemp doxes thousands of absentee voters

      Georgia’s secretary of state and candidate for state governor in the midterm election, Brian Kemp, has taken the unusual, if not unprecedented step of posting the personal details of 291,164 absentee voters online for anyone to download.

      Kemp’s office posted an Excel file on its website within hours of the results of the general election, exposing the names and addresses of state residents who mailed in an absentee ballot — including their reason why, such as if a person is “disabled” or “elderly.”

    • Georgia’s Brian Kemp Decides To Dox Absentee Voters, Revealing Why They All Voted Absentee

      Kind of a key part of the American election setup is the concept of a secret ballot for hopefully obvious reasons. We haven’t gone quite so far as eliminating that, but down in Georgia, Secretary of State Brian Kemp (who was running for governor at the same time as he was overseeing the integrity of the election and also putting in place a bunch of attempts at voter suppression) has doxxed hundreds of thousands (291,164 to be exact) of absentee voters by posting an Excel file on the state’s website listing out the names, addresses and reasons why they voted absentee.

      [...]

      More concerning, of course, is the idea that this could scare off future voters as well who don’t want such info being released in such a manner.

      Either way, the idea that the Secretary of State, who kept insisting how wonderful his electronic voting systems were, would then release a giant Excel spreadsheet should again raise questions about the technological skills of whoever set up the system, let alone Kemp for overseeing such a system.

    • Georgia Voter Purge Victim: “This Was a Strategy From Kemp”

      Atlanta — “I was blocked from voting for Stacey Abrams.” Yasmin Bakhtiari is upset, horrified and determined. Her family had fled Iran for American democracy. But New York-born Yasmin found democracy disappeared now that she’s located down in Brian Kemp’s Dixie.

      Kemp, until Thursday, was Georgia’s secretary of state in charge of voting – and in charge of “maintaining” the voter rolls to make them more accurate. But he used that power to cancel more than half a million Georgian voter registrations without notice.

      Bakhtiari, who planned to vote for Kemp’s Democratic opponent Abrams, said poll workers told her, “Your name has been purged [from voter rolls] because you haven’t voted in two election cycles.”

      Yet, according to rights attorney Jeanne Mirer of Mirer, Mazzocchi and Julien, New York, “The National Voter Registration Act is crystal clear that you cannot lose your vote for not voting.”

    • 700 Wrapped Voting Machines Found In A Georgia Warehouse

      According to Stacey Abrams camp, Fulton County did not have the adequate amount of machines for voters. They discovered 700 wrapped machines in a warehouse. This evidence is more proof of widespread voter suppression throughout the state.

    • The Strange Case of American Diplomats in Cuba: As the Mystery Deepens, So Do Divisions in Washington

      There’s a lot to think about in terms of who “won” in the 2018 midterms, but there’s also a lot to think about in terms of how we locate electoral politics in our efforts to change the world. As Phyllis Bennis and Rev. William Barber wrote: “Elections are not how we change history. But they are a big part of how we — social movements, poor and disenfranchised and marginalized people, communities of color—engage with power.” So Tuesdays in November and what happens every other day of the year is our topic.

      First we’ll hear from Negin Owliaei, inequality editor and researcher at the Institute for Policy Studies, about choices voters made about a range of ballot initiatives that can have major impact in their communities.

      We also talk with civil rights attorney Liz OuYang, of the New York Immigration Coalition, about the fight over the 2020 Census. If you don’t know just how that relates to elections, you certainly should.

    • Impeach!

      The midterm elections have concluded. The Democrats have regained the majority in the House of Representatives. One can be fairly certain that a number of those Democrats will begin to backpedal on their more progressive campaign statements in the coming weeks. After all, like their GOP counterparts, those backpedalers are primarily interested in their own future, not the future of those who voted for them, especially the voters with little or no money. Consequently, it is up to the voters who put these Democrats in power to turn up the pressure on these politicians and keep it up.

      There is no better way to do so than to demand that an impeachment investigation begin against Donald Trump. His administration’s abuse of power is at the least on par with that of the Nixon White House. Indeed, his Wednesday afternoon firing of Attorney General Sessions (who deserved to go for completely different reasons) and replacement with the Trump sycophant and scam artist Matt Whitaker is a page straight out of Nixon’s script in 1973. Congress would be failing in its duty to the US Constitution and the American people if it does not begin the process. Ideally, the Special Prosecutor’s office will provide any investigative committee with the evidence it has accumulated on the various criminal actions of Trump and his people. This evidence has already led to the convictions of numerous government and Trump campaign officials. One assumes it will lead to more. Trump’s continuous attempts to intrude and block the investigation are just one example of his ongoing attempts to obstruct the course of justice. One can safely assume that his actions known and unknown in this growing scandal are enough to make him a co-conspirator. Whether or not he is indicted for being so does not remove the fact of his participation. In a historical sidenote, it seems important to recall that Congress did not want to begin impeachment hearings against Richard Nixon in 1973 but did so after overwhelming political pressure from their constituents.

    • Election 2018: The More Things Don’t Change, the More They Stay the Same

      In 1992, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton ran on a platform of “change.” He used the word a lot. His first campaign slogan was “for people for change.” “Change” here, “change” there, “change” everywhere and all the time.

      I found the “change” theme kind of odd coming from Clinton. At the time he ran, his party had controlled both houses of Congress for nearly 30 years straight. It had controlled the White House for 22 of the previous 50 years. And when his party hadn’t been in control, only one other party ever had been. For 132 years.

      How would electing yet another Democratic president — and one who held himself out as a “moderate,” not too terribly unlike his Republican opponent, to boot — constitute “change?” Independent candidate Ross Perot or Libertarian candidate Andre Marrou, maybe. Bill Clinton? No.

      But he won. And, hopefully surprising no one, eight more years — wait, make that 26 more years — of business as usual followed.

      This year, a lot of Americans seemed to agree that, again, “change” was needed.

    • The Senate Is an Institutional Barrier to Democracy

      The 2018 midterms offer more proof that the US Senate must — someway, somehow — be democratically reformed or abolished. Unless projected outcomes in Arizona or Florida change, the Democratic Party stands to lose a net two Senate seats despite its senatorial candidates racking up, as counted so far, 46.7 million votes versus Republicans’ 33.8 million. Even entirely excluding the more than 6.4 million votes cast in California, where no Republican senatorial candidate appeared on the general ballot, Democrats still secured 6.4 million more votes nationally, an 8-percentage point lead.

      Yes, the 2018 Senate map was historically bad for Democrats — but the map is always bad for Democrats. The 2020 map is no exception. While Republicans will be defending 21 seats to the Democrats’ 12, as the Cook Political Report notes, “The GOP has just three of their 21 seats that are up in states that Trump either lost or won by 5 points or less.” In order to take back the Senate, Democrats will have to: hold all of their seats, including Alabama; win both Maine and Colorado; and flip several seats in red states, an exceedingly unlikely outcome.

    • What Now?

      The good news is that Democrats will take over the House of Representatives and hold onto or take back governorships in the upper Midwest and elsewhere. That less odious duopoly party also did well in statewide elections all over the country, and about as well as could be expected in gerrymandered state legislatures.

      Had this not happened, Donald Trump would now be feeling empowered to be even more mean spirited and wicked than he usually is, and more careless of democratic norms and the rule of law. Worse still, the benighted folk in the cult that has grown up around him would be even more prone to believe the nonsense they get from rightwing media and more likely to act out in violent and destructive ways.

      The bad news is that the more odious duopoly party still controls the Senate, and is therefore still able to pack the judiciary with troglodytes, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh types and worse.

      Were the Senate under Democratic control too, Trump would now be facing investigations from both chambers of Congress, and the possibility of removal from office in the constitutionally prescribed way.

    • Many states pass campaign finance reform measures during midterms

      During Tuesday’s midterm elections, a number of reform measures aimed at money-in-politics and ethics were on many states’ ballots. Here are the highlights from the ones that were passed or defeated.

      Massachusetts

      A Massachusetts measure will create a citizens commission made up of 15 Massachusetts citizens. This commission will create a report to promote amendments to the U.S. Constitution to improve campaign finance.

      [...]

      Missouri

      In Missouri, voters passed Amendment 1 — also known as Clean Missouri — which will create stricter campaign finance laws for state lawmakers. This measure received more than 60 percent of the vote.

      This measure most notably will change the redistricting process in the state. It will also lower the campaign contribution limits to state legislature candidates and will ban lobbyist gifts worth more than $5. Politicians will also have to wait two years after leaving office before taking a job as a lobbyist.

    • Revealed: Arron Banks’s staff crunched millions of voters’ data after Brexit vote

      Senior staff at Arron Banks’s insurance company had access to the personal information of millions of British voters months after the Brexit vote, according to a new whistleblower from inside Banks’s Brexit campaign.
      Under UK electoral law, this data should have been securely destroyed after the referendum – and Banks has previously claimed to MPs that there was no data sharing between his insurance business and his Leave.EU campaign.

      openDemocracy has already revealed that Banks misled Parliament about how his Brexit campaign was run, and the role played by staff at his Eldon insurance business. He also failed to declare the part played by Eldon staff to the Electoral Commission, as is required by law.

      Now further emails seen by openDemocracy reveal for the first time the scale of the data warchest that Banks, Brexit’s largest donor, has built. He has since pledged to use his Leave.EU campaign to unseat anti-Brexit Tories and encourage his supporters to take over the Conservative party.

      Damian Collins, chair of the parliamentary inquiry into fake news, said that openDemocracy’s latest revelations about Leave.EU and Eldon “suggest that they were potentially holding data that they knew they shouldn’t have, which would be a clear breach of the law, as well as contradicting, once again, what Arron Banks said to Parliament”.

    • The Left Has Better Things to Do Than Watch Liberals Scratch Their Heads

      But as I paint, the news is (still) all about him. And Bolsonaro, and Brexit, and half the leaders of Europe. Modi, in India, just built the world’s tallest homage to self-rule by way of forced relocation. Here, somehow praying for a ‘blue wave’ didn’t exactly fix things. In all, Liberals are scratching their heads over why democracy has turned against itself.

      They shouldn’t be. After all, liberal-democracy -according to their own matrix, rests on capitalism, and capitalism is a particularly-modular system. Over which democracy is the thinnest of veneers. And of which, like my house, time paints in so many different colors that you probably can’t say which it really is, nor trust its variations. (I mean, from slavery on through the current fire sale we’ve been a ‘democracy’.) In other words, it’s not simply vulnerable to the creative/destructive process, but–like all capitalist production–relies on it, if it’s to remain at all part of capitalism. Of course, it has a life-force outside of capitalism. But that’s not what they’re mourning.

      The ‘democracy’ liberals pine for is a Baudrillardian strain; a near-seamless image, but with an exchange-value quite void of the labor-value of democracy. No wonder, panicking about it hasn’t exactly rattled Trump’s walls. On the contrary, it’s made room for Trump and his like to call their own equally-vacuous signage, ‘democracy’. Of course, both are in a race to funnel power to the very top, the liberals to get a corporate pat on the head, and Trump, I assume, just to be a dick.

    • Election Day Was Filled With Frustrations, Claims of Mischief and Glimmers of Hope

      Election Day in America brought its familiar mix of misery and allegations of mischief: Aging voting machines crashed; rain-soaked citizens stood in endless lines; laws that many regarded as attempts to suppress turnout among people of color led to both confusion at the polls and angry calls for recounts and investigations.

      The root causes have been at play for years. The neglect of America’s elections infrastructure, after all, has persisted, and all levels of government are responsible. And since the Supreme Court in 2013 voided a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, local governments have been emboldened in crafting hotly debated requirements for people to cast their ballots.

    • ‘Moderation’ and the Midterms

      Rubin didn’t mention any of these three senators, presumably because they greatly undercut the point she wants to make. Instead, she called attention to the defeat of Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray, whom she described as “a progressive darling” and “a ‘tax and spend’ progressive” that “moderates in the suburbs might shy away” from. (When Rubin warned Democrats against the “Sanders type,” Cordray was the example she offered.)

      In fact, Cordray campaigned in 1992 for Ohio’s 15th congressional district on a platform of fiscal conservatism. As Ohio attorney general, Cordray was a fierce proponent of the death penalty, complaining that “Ohio’s appeal process for inmates sentenced to death is still too long and sometimes defeats the possibility of justice being served” (AP, 4/1/09). In this governor’s race, the headline of his economic platform was “Support for Small Businesses to Grow and Spread Economic Opportunity”—not exactly a line stolen from Eugene V. Debs.

      There was another Democrat on Ohio ballots this election—Sen. Sherrod Brown—who’s more aptly described as a “progressive darling.” Brown’s reputation as a progressive maverick may be overstated—during the current administration, he’s voted on Trump’s side 28 percent of the time, which is about half as often as Heitkamp, but three times as often as New York Sen. Kristen Gillibrand—but it’s unclear why Rubin saddled progressives with Cordray’s 4-point loss but didn’t give them credit for Brown’s 6-point victory.

    • Why Democrats Are So Okay With Losing?

      Ever since the Democratic Party abandoned its New Deal legacy and adopted the neoliberal centrism associated with the Carter presidency and then cast in stone by the Democratic Leadership Council in 1985, each election loss has generated a chorus of remonstrations in the left-liberal press about the need to run “progressive” candidates if the party wants to win. The latest instance of this was a post to the Jacobin FB page that stated: “By running to the right, Democrats insist on losing twice: at the polls and in constructing an inspiring agenda. Bold left-wing politics are our only hope for long-term, substantive victory.”

      The question of why Democrats are so okay with losing has to be examined closely. In some countries, elections have huge consequences, especially in Latin America where a job as an elected official might be not only a source of income for a socialist parliamentarian but a trigger for a civil war or coup as occurred in Costa Rica in 1948 and in Chile in 1973 respectively.

      In the 2010 midterm elections, there was a massive loss of seats in the House of Representatives for the Democrats. In this month’s midterm elections, the Democrats hoped that a “Blue Wave” would do for them what the 2010 midterms did for the Republicans—put them in the driver’s seat. It turned out to be more of a “Blue Spray”, not to speak of the toothless response of House leader Nancy Pelosi who spoke immediately about how the Democrats can reach across the aisle to the knuckle-dragging racists of the Republican Party.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Google in China: When ‘Don’t Be Evil’ Met the Great Firewall

      Interviews with more than 18 current and former employees suggest the company’s predicament resulted in part from failing to learn from mistakes that played out a decade earlier, when it first confronted the realities of China’s economic and political might. This history is known to many at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., but mostly unknown outside of it. In an interview in September, Downey, 42, elaborates. “There’s this Utopian idea: Technology will come in, and people will take these tools, change their government, and get their freedom,” he says. “We tried that experiment, and it didn’t work.”

    • Gab cries foul as Pennsylvania attorney general subpoenas DNS provider

      Shapiro’s subpoena asked that the letter be kept confidential, but Gab defied that request, posting screenshots of the subpoena on the Gab Twitter account Wednesday afternoon. Gab removed the screenshots from its Twitter account a few hours later.

    • White House suspension of CNN reporter ‘unacceptable’: Journalist group

      “The White House Correspondents’ Association strongly objects to the Trump Administration’s decision to use US Secret Service security credentials as a tool to punish a reporter with whom it has a difficult relationship,” the group said in a statement. “We urge the White House to immediately reverse this weak and misguided action.”

    • How an InfoWars Video Became a White House Tweet

      However, the main issue with the White House video is its editing. While the video itself is 15 seconds long, the only footage in the clip is the three-second GIF shared by ForAmerica and The Daily Wire. The GIF is shown in its entirety at the beginning of the video posted by Sanders; it’s the wide shot that includes the C-Span logo. This GIF is shown six times over the course of the 15-second video, with a variety of edits and zooms that serve to make the relatively inconsequential moment seem more dramatic.

      “At issue here is how video speed and frame rate affects the human ability to perceive force,” said Britt Paris, a researcher with Data & Society studying audio-visual manipulation. “Context matters, and time and duration is an oft-overlooked part of context that helps us interpret the content of a video.”

      Let’s break this down.

    • No Evidence the White House Video of Jim Acosta Was Doctored, Forensic Expert Says

      It’s important to recognize that Trump is not like a typical politician when it comes to press briefings. Lots of politicians dodge questions and obfuscate, but Trump also interrupts and berates reporters, calling them liars, fake news, and “the enemy of the people.” In doing so, he’s been able to keep the narrative focused on the media and has been able to get people to argue about minute details like the Acosta video, instead of the issues that actually affect people, like banning Acosta.

      [...]

      As much as we like to believe video is conclusive, we know that isn’t always the case (ahem, DeepFakes). People on both sides are going to see what they want in this video. But the bigger issue is the Trump administration’s attempts to silence, discredit, and block the free press from holding this president to account. Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, having journalists barred from asking the president questions should send a chill down your spine.

    • Why Sarah Huckabee Sanders Can’t Be Sued for Her Acosta Lie

      Sarah Huckabee Sanders told a whopper about CNN correspondent Jim Acosta on Wednesday, accusing him of “placing his hands on” a White House intern during a press conference.

      That didn’t happen. The video of the incident shows it was the intern who tried to grab the microphone from Acosta’s hands while he was asking the President a question. Nevertheless, Acosta’s press pass was revoked, underscoring the false implication that Acosta had assaulted a defenseless staffer.

    • Censorship Will Not Stem Violence

      Four weeks ago, I wrote a piece criticizing the idea that unfettered expression would lead to violence. Since then, some very high-profile incidents of murder and attempted murder have occurred. Although I share in the outrage that political and religious divides are the source of so much hate, I also couldn’t help from cringing at the thought that these tragedies would be used to further the blame game. Unfortunately, inexplicably, and yet somehow predictably, that blame game was taken up by none other than the President of the United States.

      In a dark week, however, there was some encouraging news: a majority of Americans are not as predictably absurd as this president. A recent poll demonstrated that most Americans do not hold the president directly responsible for the mail bombers actions. This is encouraging because it reflects an important awareness of how incredibly difficult it is to gauge the impact of rhetoric on action. Sane Americans have always been able to absorb pugnacious, even belligerent rhetoric regarding politics without resorting to acts of violence. Obsessive and violent individuals such as the mail bomber or the anti-Semite who attacked a Jewish temple in Pittsburgh are motivated by delusions drawn from unhinged mental states. A “normal” person simply does not shoot those they have never met nor interacted with, and it is vitally important that we not limit our freedom of speech based on how these disturbed people might react.

    • Justice Minister becomes ‘Minister of Censorship’

      A large poster reading ‘Minister of Censorship’ and sporting a photo of Justice Minister Owen Bonnici has been stuck to new hoarding surrounding the whole of Great Siege Square.

      The square was sealed off on Wednesday, ostensibly for further restoration works but effectively added another barrier to activists using the foot of the Great Siege Monument as a makeshift memorial to assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

    • Photos: Culture Minister called out as ‘Minister of Censorship’

      #Reżistenza activists have placed a banner reading “Minister of Censorship” accompanied by a photo of Justice Minister Owen Bonnici over the newly laid out second hoarding. On Wednesday, a second barrier was set up which effectively blocking activists from using the area around the Great Siege Monument as a makeshift memorial to assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

      In a statement, the activist group said that Bonnici was ‘clearly abusing’ the power entrusted to him by the people when insisting to suppress genuine calls for justice. They also described his “obsession to suppress legitimate calls” as having given rise to the Minotaur’s labyrinth. #Reżistenza noted in their statement that despite the Minister frequently pronounced himself against censorship, in their understanding he did not hesitate to place a second hoarding allowing free protest.

    • Facebook Allows Governments to Decide What to Censor

      Facebook and other social media companies give governments free reign to censor political dissent on their websites – and that is not “fake news.” Facebook’s unholy alliance with government actors includes Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. These partnerships have led to arrests and killings both in the US and abroad.

      Glenn Greenwald reported last year on Facebooks’ admission that it unashamedly deletes accounts at the behest of the US and Israeli governments. An example he gives is the deletion of the Facebook and Instagram (Facebook owns Instagram) accounts of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Facebook’s reasoning was not that he had been accused of human rights violations or due to the content of his page, but simply because he had been added to a United States sanctions list. This came after reports that a Facebook delegation had met with Israeli officials to improve “cooperation against incitement” –which led to the deletion of pro-Palestinian accounts and news agencies. Hundreds of cases in which Palestinians were arrested for their Facebook postssubsequently took place also.

      US support of Israel has a lot to do with maintaining hegemony in the Middle East. One of the reasons Saudi Arabia is such an important partner to the United States government is because of its role of backing US and Israeli policies and influence in the Arab world. An example is Saudi Arabia’s support of US and Israeli efforts to undermine the governments of Iran and Syria.

      US social media companies work with the Saudi Arabian government to censor dissent and to cover up wrongdoing. In August, when news broke out that Saudi Arabia was planning on beheading Esra al-Ghamgam for peacefully protesting (which they did) Facebook and Twitter deleted hundreds of anti-Saudi accounts. The social media companies cited FireEye, the private intelligence firm, for their discovery. FireEye in turn accused the account of being Iranian propaganda. Facebook also deleted posts from users who shared an article on the Saudi Arabian warin Yemen, claiming that the photographs of starving Yemeni children went against their community standards.

      All of this is compounded in the context of Saudi Arabian laws that jail people if they post satireon social media. It should also be kept in mind that the Deputy Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salam has met with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, and Microsoft CEO Satya Narayana Nadellato work on business deals and cooperation.

    • Sony Censorship Row Returns as Mature Rated Switch Title Is E for Everyone on PS4

      The title features nudity along with some sexually-charged scenes and dialogue, as well as a ‘breast jiggle’ slider that lets you choose how bouncy you want your catgirls to be. Because of all this, the game’s rated M, or Mature on Switch. However, on PS4, it’s sat there with an E for Everyone. That’s quite the change.
      That’s because on Sony’s system, there’s less nudity thanks various visual effects, and the breast jiggle slider has been removed entirely.

    • Sudan’s Journalists Face Continued Extortion and Censorship by National Security Agency

      The day before Amnesty International released a statement calling on the government of Sudan to end harassment, intimidation and censorship of journalists following the arrests of at least 15 journalists since the beginning of the year, the head of the National Intelligence Security Services (NISS) Salah Goush accused Sudanese journalists, who recently met with western diplomats, of being spies.

      Goush made the statement before parliament where he signed the code of conduct for journalists.

    • A Tale of Two Massacres

      His social life may have been largely restricted to social media, and there he freely expressed himself. He found his comfort zone on a rightwing websight entitled Gab. Gab promotes a concept of unfettered free speech. In theory this might sound like an admirable aim, but in practice it can just turn into an arena to vent hatred, conspiracy theories and incitement of oneself and/or others to violence. Apparently, that was the environment that attracted Robert Bowers.

      Bowers used Gab to express classic anti-Semitic views. He wrote that “jews [sic] are the children of satan [sic],” and asserted that President Trump’s mantra of “making America great again” was impossible to realize as long as there is “a kike infestation.” Bowers hated Jews first and foremost because they were Jews. But he also hated them for what they were allegedly doing to “his people”—driving “white Americans,” and by extension “Western Civilization,” to extinction.

    • Washington, DC artists recall 1980s culture wars as grant-making commission issues morality clause

      The Washington-based DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) flirted with censorship this week, adding a restrictive amendment onto a contract for grantees and then withdrawing it three days later.

      In early October, the commission, which annually awards millions of dollars to individual artists and arts organisations across disciplines, announced the recipients of its grants for fiscal year 2019. Several weeks later, the agency sent out a new contract with minor revisions. On 5 November, it sent out yet another update, this one with a passage requiring grantees to agree that any work made with the funding would not be “lewd, lascivious, vulgar, overtly political, excessively violent, constitutes sexual harassment, or is, in any other way, illegal.” The amendment went on to give the DCCAH “sole discretion” to determine what qualified as such and accordingly terminate the contract.

      The language immediately alarmed people in the Washington, DC, arts scene, with some saying it recalled the culture wars of the late 1980s, when the National Endowment for the Arts introduced an “anti-obscenity” clause into its rules for grantees. Artists quickly organised an online petition, while trying to figure out whether they could afford to forego the funds they’d been promised. “These grants are very, very important to those of us that get them,” said the artist Amy Hughes Braden, who was due to receive $5,000 from the DCCAH this year.

    • Mayor Bowser To Withdraw Censorship Amendment from D.C. Arts Grants
    • Online Censorship
    • The Danger in Censorship

      When granting power to the government, like the ability to dictate with legal authority what individual persons may think and express, it is much easier to conceive when politicians you like are in the government. Instead of imagining Democrats or Republicans in Washington, imagine Klansmen or Stalinists in Washington. There’s a good chance they also find hateful speech to be repulsive and consequently desire to censor it, but their definitions of hateful are obviously not the same definitions most fellow students and Americans have. Would you want them to wield the ability to dictate what you can and cannot say or express without the fear of legal punishment? If these ideologues theoretically made up a majority, does that by extension now grant them inherent moral superiority? According to the logic of censorship advocates, it fundamentally must. We don’t live in a Utopia where the best candidates are our options, either, as we’ve learned well from the 2016 election. Any democracy will be perpetually threatened by those with a lust for power and oppression so long as it is a democracy. Giving the government the tool to draw lines for speech while expecting the threat of abuse to never manifest whatsoever is both unrealistic and dangerously naïve.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Manhattan DA Cy Vance Says The Only Solution To Device Encryption Is Federally-Mandated Backdoors

      Because no one has passed legislation (federal or state) mandating encryption backdoors, Manhattan DA Cy Vance has to publish another anti-encryption report. An annual tradition dating back to 2014 — the year Apple announced default encryption for devices — the DA’s “Smartphone Encryption and Public Safety” report [PDF] is full of the same old arguments about “lawful access” and evidence-free assertions about criminals winning the tech arms race. (h/t Riana Pfefferkorn)

      You’d think there would be some scaling back on the alarmism, what with the FBI finally admitting its locked device count had been the victim of software-based hyperinflation. (Five months later, we’re still waiting for the FBI to update its number of locked devices.) But there isn’t. Vance still presents encryption as an insurmountable problem, using mainly Apple’s multiple patches of security holes cops also found useful as the leading indicator.

      The report is a little shorter this year but it does contain just enough stuff to be persuasive to those easily-persuaded by emotional appeals. Vance runs through a short list of awful crime solved by device access (child porn, assault) and another list of crimes unsolved (molestation, murder) designed to make people’s hearts do all their thinking. While it’s certainly true some horrible criminal acts will directly implicate device encryption, the fact of the matter is a majority of the locked phone-centric criminal acts are the type that won’t make headlines or motivate lawmakers.

    • Privacy International lodges complaints against seven firms for breaching data protection

      Privacy international ain’t happy with seven major companies and has filed complaints against them for “wide-scale and systemic infringements of data protection law”.

      Acxion, Oracle, Criteo, Quantcast, Tapad, Equifax and Experian are all in Privacy International’s sights, with the organisation filing complaints in the UK, Ireland and France, urging data protection authorities to look into what it alleges is the “mass exploitation” of individuals’ data.

    • Mark Zuckerberg won’t attend the UK’s ‘international grand committee’

      Then again we rather suspect he won’t really care; when you’re a billionaire with a platform with more than 1.5 billion users, you might not worry what politicians on a small island might think of you.

    • Zuckerberg rebuffs request to appear before UK parliament

      He says “five parliaments are now calling on you to do the right thing by the 170 million users in the countries they represent.”

    • Researchers expose ‘critical vulnerabilities’ in SSD encryption

      After considering a handful of possible flaws in hardware-based full-disk encryption, or self-encrypting drives (SEDs), the pair reverse-engineered the firmware of a sample of SSDs and tried to expose these vulnerabilities.

      They learned that hackers can launch a range of attacks, from seizing full control of the CPU to corrupting memory – outlining their findings in a paper titled ‘self-encrypting deception: weakness in the encryption of solid state drives (SSDs)’.

      There are a host of exploits that can be used, such as cracking master passwords, set by the manufacturer as a factory default. These are routinely found in many SSDs, and if obtained by an attacker could allow them to bypass any custom password set by a user.

    • Crucial and Samsung SSDs’ Encryption Is Easily Bypassed

      Researchers from Radboud University in The Netherlands reported today their discovery that hackers could easily bypass the encryption on Crucial and Samsung SSDs without the user’s passwords. The researchers also pointed at Microsoft for defaulting to using these broken encryption schemes on modern drives.

      The Dutch researchers reverse-engineered the firmware of multiple drives and found a “pattern of critical issues.” In one case, the drive’s master password used to decrypt data was just an empty string, which means someone would have been able to decrypt it by just pressing the Enter key on their keyboard. In another case, the researchers said the drive could be unlocked with “any password” because the drive’s password validation checks didn’t work.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • In online ruse, fake journalists tried to [crack] Saudi critic

      AlAhmed was right. The BBC said it wasn’t aware of anyone called “Tanya Stalin” working for the broadcaster and that the title she claimed to hold did not formally exist. An Associated Press analysis of her messages suggests the interview request was a sloppily executed trap, an attempt to get AlAhmed to click a malicious link and break into his inbox.

    • Trump’s acting attorney general was part of firm US accused of vast scam

      Donald Trump’s new acting attorney general was part of a company accused by the US government of running a multimillion-dollar scam.

      Matthew Whitaker was paid to sit on the advisory board of World Patent Marketing, which was ordered in May this year to pay a $26m settlement following legal action by federal authorities, which said it tricked aspiring inventors.

      Whitaker was appointed acting attorney general on Wednesday afternoon after the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, was fired by Trump.

    • Jeff Sessions Was the Worst Attorney General in Modern American History

      On Wednesday, the Trump administration bid farewell to one of its most infamous members: Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In his brief tenure, Sessions managed to dismantle and rescind an astounding range of efforts by prior administrations to protect civil rights and civil liberties and introduced new policies that endanger some of the most vulnerable citizens in the U.S.

      From his draconian approach to immigration policy to his efforts to erase protections for transgender people to his many moves to dismantle his predecessors’ attempts to decrease the federal prison population, the list of Sessions’ offenses is long. We’ve rounded up some of the former attorney general’s most egregious actions below to showcase Sessions’ contempt for civil rights and liberties.

    • Labour history shows us where workers “took back control” without building walls

      Labour history should be a field in demand. Jeremy Corbyn appears as a possible British Prime Minister, and a growing number of Americans see their salvation in strikes and socialism. Journalists write endlessly about the “white working class,” a force with the power to elect Trump, vote for Brexit, and support a slew of rightist demagogues across Europe. Shelves of books anticipate full automation and the end of work, or the casualisation of work, or the rise of a post capitalist order from within the existing system. These events and trends all have a past, and they can and must be found in the history of work, workers, and their movements.

      Yet labour history is the subject that dare not speak its name. Unions no longer promote their own history with the old enthusiasm.

      The men behind New Labour forgot their Party’s past as much as humanly possible, and blundered, as amnesiacs often do, from Iraq to Northern Rock. Marginalised in the academy, senior labour historians anxious to help junior ones advise them to rebrand as a social historian, political historian, economic historian – anything but a labour historian – if they want that elusive permanent job.

      This abdication leaves the survival of labour history in fewer hands. Small academic societies, such as the Society for the Study of Labour History, hold the fort in the universities. Institutions such as the People’s History Museum still put labour history before the public. Musicians keep the old songs of protest alive, and write new ones. Trade unionists with great passion, few resources, and disparagingly referred to by some academics as amateurs, do the bulk of the work. They have kept the labour movement in touch with its past.

    • Google Changes Sexual Harassment Policies After Massive Global Protests

      After the massive Google Walkout where over 20,000 protestors led an agitation against the sexual harassment cases at Google, the company has now come up with new sexual harassment and sexual assault policies.

      Along with publicly posting CEO Sundar Pichai’s e-mail to the employees, the company has released a long PDF file named ” Our commitments and actions.” The three-page file talks about the new steps taken by Google to add “more transparency on how we (Google) handle concerns.”

    • Liberal Backlash To Protest At Tucker Carlson’s Home Reinforces Crackdown On Dissent

      An anti-fascist group of around twenty or so people gathered at the two-story Colonial home of Fox News host Tucker Carlson to protest how he spreads fear and racism on television.

      Reports on the protest and misinformation spread by right-wing media outlets fueled a backlash to the demonstration. Twitter even suspended the account of Smash Racism D.C., the group that organized the protest, without providing any notice.

      Police in Washington, D.C., told the press they were investigating the protest as a “suspected hate crime” and that the motivation for the “incident” was “anti-political.” Officers went to the home of Dylan Petrohilos, who was part of the protest and a former #J20 defendant (one of several people who faced charges after protesting on President Donald Trump’s inauguration day).

      The language used by figures in media yielded to right-wing attacks on dissent and reinforced how law enforcement criminalizes protest.

      Stephen Colbert, host of “The Late Show” on CBS, declared, “Fighting Tucker Carlson’s ideas is an American right. Targeting his home and terrorizing his family is an act of monstrous cowardice. Obviously don’t do this, but also, take no pleasure in its happening. Feeding monsters just makes more monsters.”

    • Jeff Sessions Leaves a Dark Mark on the Justice Department

      Under almost any other circumstances, the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions would be a moment for dancing in the streets. Sessions oversaw a Justice Department that systematically undermined civil liberties and civil rights.

      But his departure portends no improvement on these fronts. And the fact that President Trump fired him, notwithstanding his faithful advancement of the president’s agenda, should raise alarm bells.

      Sessions leaves the Justice Department far less committed to justice than he found it. Under President Barack Obama, the department expanded the rights of LGBTQ individuals, responded aggressively to police abuse, directed federal prosecutors to use their charging discretion wisely to reduce mass incarceration, promoted voting rights, reduced reliance on private prisons and commuted lengthy sentences imposed on nonviolent drug offenders. Sessions could not reincarcerate the men and women whose sentences Obama commuted, but he reversed virtually everything else.

    • China’s growing influence swallows global criticism on human rights
    • Tackling the kilil system: a critical response to ‘Ethiopia: Climbing Mount Uncertainty’

      In terms of 1980s prices, for example, real income per capita has declined in Ethiopia by more than six-fold. Consequently, living standards have been going downhill for quite some time in the country. There is no economy in Ethiopia that one can call an “unquestionable success”. In fact, Ethiopia’s age-old, hand-to-mouth economy has long failed to generate wealth to cope with a population explosion unprecendented the country has ever seen in its history.

      Lefort blames Prime Minister Abiy Ahmad for “overhastiness”, like, according to him, allowing “the return of formerly outlawed OLF and A-G7” and the “normalization with Eritrea.” Here, Lefort overlooks the fruits borne by the Prime Minister’s astute actions. For instance, normalization with Eritrea has made the port of Assab available to Ethiopia. It has also helped deny a haven to anti-government rebels, who used to operate from Eritrea.

      I find the following assertion by Lefort particularly concerning. He writes, “For the founders of National Movement for the Amhara (NAMA), the Amhara nation is to be defined according to the territorial criterion, not based on ethnic features. Now this territorial criterion is expansionist.” Here, Lefort blames the victim. In fact, it is the TPLF that is expansionist because it has annexed forcibly territories from the Amhara regions of Gondar and Wello.

      [...]

      There are three areas where a permanent consensus may be worked out between these two camps: First is the reorganization of the society on other than ethnic or so-called linguistic basis. Second is an all-inclusive national unity based on equal citizenship, and equality of all languages, religions and cultures. Third is private ownership of land and a free market economy.

      Rene Lefort’s biggest worry is “a race against time between escalating ethnic conflicts and the emergence of a powerful leadership.” But, emphasizing the need for a powerful leadership, Lefort fails to see the connection between ethnic conflicts and the kilil system. A powerful leadership cannot resolve the endless ethnic conflicts in Ethiopia and save the country. Only a genuine transition to a democracy can.

    • The Weaponization of Social Media

      The use of ‘bots’ present modern society with a significant dilemma; The technologies and social media platforms (such as Twitter and Facebook) that once promised to enhance democracy are now increasingly being used to undermine it. Writers Peter W Singer and Emerson Brooking believe ‘the rise of social media and the Internet has become a modern-day battlefield where information itself is weaponised’. To them ‘the online world is now just as indispensable to governments, militaries, activists, and spies at it is to advertisers and shoppers’. They argue this is a new form of warfare which they call ‘LikeWar’. The terrain of LikeWar is social media; ‘it’s platforms are not designed to reward morality or veracity but virality.’ The ‘system rewards clicks, interactions, engagement and immersion time…figure out how to make something go viral, and you can overwhelm even the truth itself.’

      In its most simple form the word ‘bot’ is short for ‘robot’; beyond that, there is significant complexity. There are different types of bots. For example, there are ‘chatbots’ such as Siri and Amazon’s Alexa; they recognise human voice and speech and help us with our daily tasks and requests for information. There are search engine style ‘web bots’ and ‘spambots’. There are also ‘sockpuppets’ or ‘trolls’; these are often fake identities used to interact with ordinary users on social networks. There are ‘social bots’; these can assume a fabricated identity and can spread malicious links or advertisements. There are also ‘hybrid bots’ that combine automation with human input and are often referred to as ‘cyborgs’. Some bots are harmless; some more malicious, some can be both.

      The country that is perhaps most advanced in this new form of warfare and political influence is Russia. According to Peter Singer and Emerson Brooking ‘Russian bots more than simply meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election…they used a mix of old-school information operations and new digital marketing techniques to spark real-world protests, steer multiple U.S. news cycles, and influence voters in one of the closest elections in modern history. Using solely online means, they infiltrated U.S. political communities so completely that flesh-and-blood American voters soon began to repeat scripts written in St. Petersburg and still think them their own’. Internationally, these ‘Russian information offensives have stirred anti-NATO sentiments in Germany by inventing atrocities out of thin air; laid the pretext for potential invasions of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania by fuelling the political antipathy of ethnic Russian minorities; and done the same for the very real invasion of Ukraine. And these are just the operations we know about.’

    • Governor Of Tanzania’s Capital Announces Plan To Round Up Everyone Who Was Too Gay On Social Media

      There has been an unfortunate trend in far too many African nations in which governments there look at the internet as either a source of evil in their countries or purely as a source for tax revenue, or both. The end result in many cases is a speech tax of sorts being placed on citizens in these countries, with traffic being taxed, bloggers being forced to register with the federal government, and populations that could otherwise benefit from a free and open internet being essentially priced out of the benefit altogether.

      But things have taken a different and far worse turn in Tanzania, where the governor of the country’s capital city, Dodoma, has announced his plan to round up anyone who is perceived as being gay on the internet and chucking them in prison.

      [...]

      If this indeed goes forward, the international moral outrage had better be swift and massive, or we’ll have confirmation that the world has lost its way.

    • Before Resigning, Jeff Sessions Handcuffed the Justice Department’s Ability to Police the Police

      The former attorney general’s last action all but eliminates federal oversight of abusive law enforcement agencies.
      In his final move as attorney general, Jeff Sessions on Wednesday issued a new policy that all but eliminates federal oversight of state and local law enforcement agencies that engage in unconstitutional and unlawful policing. While Sessions — a white man with money and political connections — will likely never be personally affected by this policy change, his decision to sabotage the legal instruments of federal civil rights enforcement is going to harm people and communities of color for years to come.

      The new policy sets unprecedented barriers for Justice Department attorneys to negotiate consent decrees, which are court orders jointly agreed on by the federal government and a state or local law enforcement agency accused of serious rights violations. They usually require new training and policies to resolve these violations at a systemic level, with implementation overseen by a court-appointed monitor until the agency has successfully carried out the required reforms. Such decrees have covered everything from use of force to racial bias and officer hiring and oversight to basic recordkeeping.

      Ever since Sessions took office, he was openly hostile to consent decrees as a “harmful federal intrusion” on state and local law enforcement authority. And his final decision as attorney general codified his contempt.

    • President Trump’s Proclamation Suspending Asylum Rights Is Illegal, So We’re Suing

      Refugees fleeing violence have a right to declare asylum regardless of how and where they enter the country.
      Claiming that the illegal entry of immigrants across the southern border of the United States is a national crisis, President Trump on Friday issued a proclamation purporting to bar the entry of all persons entering the United States at any place other than an official port of entry.

      The Trump administration’s action is contrary to the founding values of the country — welcoming homeless refugees to our shores. It also violates U.S. law, so we, along with the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Southern Poverty Law Center, filed suit against the administration on behalf of several nonprofit organizations that provide assistance to refugees and asylum seekers. The plaintiffs include the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, Al Otro Lado, Innovation Law Lab, and the Central American Resource Center.

      Federal law specifically guarantees that “[a]ny alien who is physically present in the United States or who arrives in the United States,” at a designated port of entry or not, is entitled to apply for asylum. In writing that law, Congress was specific and clear that immigrants who fear persecution in their home countries are entitled to seek asylum regardless of how they entered the United States.

      This right is particularly important because U.S. government officials are routinely denying entry to asylum seekers at official ports of entry. We and our partners have documented numerous instances of Border Patrol agents arbitrarily and unreasonably delaying access to the asylum process by threatening, intimidating, providing misinformation, and using physical force to turn away people seeking asylum.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • The Fight for Net Neutrality Heats Up as Democrats Take the House

      The fight to restore net neutrality is heating up in the wake of the midterm elections.

      Every Democrat in the House of Representatives who supports reversing the Trump administration’s decision to repeal popular net neutrality rules has held on to their seat. House Democrats also secured a majority in the lower chamber, setting the stage for a potential showdown between Congress, the White House and the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over how the government should regulate powerful internet service providers (ISPs) like AT&T, Cox and Comcast.

      Democratic state attorneys general, who have been united in challenging the Trump administration’s effort to end net neutrality in federal court, now hold a majority of state seats nationwide. Democrats flipped four attorney general seats in the midterms, including in Colorado, where longtime net neutrality proponent Phil Weiser defeated Republican George Brauchler after campaigning on the issue. Weiser said Colorado would join 22 other states in a lawsuit filed against the FCC earlier this year to block the net neutrality repeal. Oral arguments will be heard in February.

    • The Internet Is Splitting in Two Amid U.S. Dispute With China

      Critics of the model say players like Alibaba and Tencent thrive because Beijing dampens competition by making it nigh-impossible for global players such as Facebook to operate. They say the government’s heavy hand and unpredictability is counter-productive. Exhibit A: a months-long crackdown on gaming that helped wipe out more than $200 billion of Tencent’s market value this year. That cultivates a pervasive climate of fear, said Gary Rieschel, founding partner at Qiming Venture Partners.

    • Sprint Is Throttling Microsoft’s Skype Service, Study Finds

      Sprint Corp. has been slowing traffic to Microsoft Corp.’s internet-based video chat service Skype, according to new findings from an ongoing study by Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts.

      [...]

      Among leading U.S. carriers, Sprint was the only one to throttle Skype, the study found. The throttling was detected in 34 percent of 1,968 full tests — defined as those in which a user ran two tests in a row — conducted between Jan. 18 and Oct. 15. It happened regularly, and was spread geographically across the U.S. Android phone users were more affected than owners of Apple Inc.’s iPhones.

    • Cory Doctorow: What the Internet Is For

      The internet is not a revolutionary technology, but it makes revolution more possible than ever before. That’s why it’s so important to defend it, to keep it free and fair and open. A corrupted, surveillant, controlled internet is a place where our lives are torn open by the powerful, logged, and distorted. A free, fair, and open internet is how we fight back.

    • tell your kids about css overflow-wrap
  • DRM

    • Denuvo: Every Download Is A Lost Sale For This Anonymous AAA Title We’re Referencing, So Buy Moar Dunuvo!

      The saga of antipiracy DRM company Denuvo is a long and tortured one, but the short version of it is that Denuvo was once a DRM thought to be unbeatable but which has since devolved into a DRM that cracking groups often beat on timelines measured in days if not hours. Denuvo pivoted at that point, moving on from boasting at the longevity of its protection to remarking that even this brief protection offered in the release windows of games made it worthwhile. Around the same time, security company Irdeto bought Denuvo and rolled its services into its offering.

      And Irdeto apparently wants to keep pushing the line about early release windows, but has managed to do so by simply citing some unnamed AAA sports game that it claims lost millions by being downloaded instead of using Denuvo to protect it for an unspecified amount of time.

    • Denuvo Research Claims Unnamed “major sports title” Lost $21m in Revenue Because of Piracy [Ed: Amplifying the lies of disgraced DRM firm Denuvo]

      Denuvo, the infamous video game anti-piracy software provider, was acquired by Irdeto earlier this year in January. In a statement posted on Irdeto’s website, the software company shared research results which claim game piracy caused a potential loss of $21 million for an unnamed AAA sports title in the two weeks following its release.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Qualcomm’s Patent Nuclear War Turning Into Nuclear Winter

      We haven’t written much about Qualcomm and Apple’s all out nuclear war over patents, but a few recent developments suggest it’s worth digging in and discussing. In some ways it sweeps in other companies (mainly Intel) and also involves the FTC and the ITC. I won’t go through the entire history here because I’d still be writing this post into next year. Qualcomm is a pretty massive company and while it does produce some actual stuff, it has long acted quite similar to a patent troll. It has also vigorously opposed basically all patent reform efforts, while at the same time quietly funding a bunch of “think tanks” that go after anyone advocating for patent reform (I expect some fun comments to show up below).

      The reason Qualcomm acts this way is that it has long abused the patent system to jack up prices to ridiculous rates. And it’s finally facing something of a reckoning on that. In early 2017, the FTC went after Qualcomm for abusing its patents — notably: “using anticompetitive tactics to maintain its monopoly in the supply of a key semiconductor device used in cell phones and other consumer products.” Specifically, the FTC alleged that Qualcomm, despite promises to the contrary to get its patents into important standards, was not following the FRAND (Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory) licensing of its patents, as required to have its inventions be a part of the standard. Just days later, Apple sued Qualcomm, also regarding Qualcomm’s patent shakedown, claiming that Qualcomm had been massively overcharging Apple for the use of its patents, rather than licensing them on a FRAND basi

    • Paediatric extensions – Switzerland to follow suit as of January 2019

      In order to provide adequate incentives for the research and development of high-quality medicinal products adapted for paediatric needs, special rewards, such as a 6-month paediatric extension of the term of a Supplementary Protection Certificate (SPC) have been made available in the EU since 2007.

      Switzerland, which participates in the EU’s single market and traditionally has adapted its IP provisions to those of the EU, will now follow suit.

      In line with this, the Swiss Patent Act and Patent Ordinance have been amended so as to provide for an additional 6-month paediatric extension of proprietary protections, by either extending the term of a pending or granted SPC or by way of a new paediatric certificate, which is linked directly to the term of the basic patent.

    • Apple not in settlement talks ‘at any level’ with Qualcomm: source

      In the past, Apple used Qualcomm’s modem chips in its flagship iPhone models to help them connect to wireless data networks. But early last year, Apple sued Qualcomm in federal court in San Diego, alleging that the chip company’s practice of taking a cut of the selling price of phones as a patent license fee was illegal.

      Qualcomm denied the claims and has alleged that Apple owes it USD 7 billion in unpaid royalties.

    • Copyrights

      • The Satanic Temple Apparently Believes In Copyright And Is Suing Netflix For $50 Million It Will Not Get

        So… the Satanic Temple is suing Netflix for $50 million for copyright infringement. Please insert your own joke here.

        To be honest, you would kind of hope that the Satanic Temple would, you know, maybe have a bit more excitement when filing federal cases, but this case is just… dumb. I’m almost wondering if it’s just a sort of publicity stunt for both the Satanic Temple and the Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. The crux of the complaint is that the show features a Baphomet statue that they feel is too similar to their own Baphomet statue (which the Temple tries to get erected in front of courthouses who want to post the 10 Commandments). If you’re thinking but isn’t Baphomet “a historical deity which has a complex history, having been associated with accusations of devil worship against the Knight Templar,” I’d agree with you and perhaps copy and paste that statement straight from the Satanic Temple’s complaint. But… wouldn’t that also likely mean that it had been around in a design form for many, many years, meaning most depictions are probably public domain? Yes, again.

      • AT&T Ignores Numerous Pitfalls, Begins Kicking Pirates Off Of The Internet

        We’ve noted for years how kicking users offline for copyright infringement is a terrible idea for a myriad of reasons. Severing access to what many deem an essential utility is not only an over-reaction to copyright infringement, but a potential violation of free speech. As France quickly learned it’s also a technical nightmare to implement. Most pirates hide their traffic behind proxies and VPNs, and even if you kick repeat offenders offline, you then need systems to somehow track them between ISPs. There’s also the fact that entertainment industry accusations of guilt are often based on flimsy to nonexistent evidence.

        None of this is stopping AT&T, which this week quietly indicated they were going to start kicking some users off the internet for copyright infringement for the first time in the company’s history.

        Axios was the first to break the story with a comically one-sided report that fails to raise a single concern about the practice of booting users offline for copyright infringement, nor cites any of the countless examples where such efforts haven’t worked or have gone poorly. I talked a little to AT&T about its new plan, who confirmed to me that while they’d still been sending “graduated warnings” to users after the collapse of the “six strikes” initiative, this policy of actively kicking users offline is new, and comes on the heels of the company’s $89 billion acquisition of Time Warner.

        Though this doesn’t make the idea any better, it’s arguably difficult to get on AT&T’s bad side under this new program. According to the company, users will need to ignore nine different warnings about copyright infringement before they lose access. AT&T repeatedly tried to make it clear that the actual users getting kicked offline (around a dozen to start) will be relatively minor.

      • EU’s proposed link tax would [still] harm Creative Commons licensors

        In September the European Parliament voted to approve drastic changes to copyright law that would negatively affect creativity, freedom of expression, research, and sharing across the EU. Now the Parliament and Council (representing the Member State governments) are engaged in closed-door negotiations, and their task over the coming months is to come up with a reconciled version of the directive text, which will again be voted on in the European Parliament next year.

      • Dutch Govt Agency Warns Against Fake ‘Piracy’ Fines

        The Dutch Government’s Telecom Agency is alerting the public that its name is being abused by scammers to demand piracy fines. In a warning issued today, it recommends recipients not to respond to these emails. It appears that scammers are capitalizing on the news that rightsholders may soon start sending ‘fines’ to alleged pirates.

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  5. Truth Tellers Aren't an Enemy of Free Software

    There's a perpetual attack on people who speak out against actors and corporations in positions of great power, however subtle and indirect those attacks may seem on the surface (they don't wish to be held accountable for defaming activists)



  6. The Linux Foundation, With Over 124 Million Dollars in Annual Revenue, is in Trouble Because of the Pandemic, So It's Trying to Reinvent Itself as Training and Certifications Outfit

    With mountains of cash and a Public Relations (PR) or marketing business model the so-called 'Linux' Foundation became reliant on travel, lodging, booths and speeches on sale; COVID-19 is a great risk to that business model



  7. IRC Proceedings: Sunday, January 24, 2021

    IRC logs for Sunday, January 24, 2021



  8. Our Move Further Away From the World Wide Web, the Browser Monopolies, HTTP, and HTML

    The World Wide Web (WWW) is going down a bad path and a clearly regressive direction; the solution isn't going 'retro' but exploring more sophisticated systems which are robust to censorship (localised or globalised) and downtime (related to censorship) while reducing surveillance by leveraging encryption at the endpoints



  9. Important Issues Not Entertained in the Community, Especially Critics of the Status Quo

    here's corporate infiltration inside communities (for oligarchy hunts volunteer, unpaid labour) and those who speak about that as a threat to our cause and objectives are painted as misguided outcasts who must be ignored



  10. Internet Origins of the Mob

    Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock



  11. When Proprietary Software Users Dictate the Freedom-Leaning Communities

    Fedora doesn't care about software freedom and its steward (or parent company) is sometimes imposing proprietary software on staff; they've quit caring



  12. In 2020 Onwards 'Open Source' is Just a Marketing Ploy of Monopolies, Unlike Free Software

    More people are nowadays seeing or witnessing 'Open Source' for what it truly is; the term has become a misleading marketing term of proprietary software firms looking to rebrand as "ethical" (e.g. by sharing some code with other proprietary software firms, over proprietary platforms such as GitHub)



  13. Microsoft: The Year After We Bought GitHub There Was a Significant Decline in Number of New Projects on GitHub

    Microsoft has just admitted that in 2019 GitHub saw a very significant decline in number of new projects (and users, which it is conveniently miscounting by adding 'phantom' ones) on the site. Just what we had heard before they confirmed it (and they foresaw this effect of the takeover, hence the lies about "loving" Linux).



  14. Social Control Media is a Passing Fad, We Should All Go Back to Blogging and Subscribing to RSS Feeds

    The whole "social control media" phenomenon has been oversold or promoted using lies; in reality, as a mountain of evidence serves to show, it's a way to manage society at a macro scale



  15. As Andrei Iancu Removes Himself From the Patent and Trademark Office All Eyes Are on Biden's Next Nomination

    Patent zealots and their front groups already lobby Joe Biden to put one of them in charge of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; we'll soon see if Joe Biden "means business" or simply means monopoly/large corporations (and their law firms/departments)



  16. Data Point: GNU/Linux Share in Desktops/Laptops Nearly Tripled in the Past Decade, Peaking This Past Month (All-Time High)

    Contrary to what some publishers try to tell us, GNU/Linux is still growing and mostly at the expense of Windows



  17. IRC Proceedings: Saturday, January 23, 2021

    IRC logs for Saturday, January 23, 2021



  18. Links 24/1/2021: Nouveau X.Org Driver Release and GhostBSD 21.01.20

    Links for the day



  19. InteLeaks – Part XXX: Harbor Research's Pseudo-scientific 'Research' for Intel, Bizarrely Suggesting a Microsoft Partnership for a Domain Largely Controlled or Dominated by Linux

    The full document that Intel paid for and in turn used to justify cracking down on Free software (obliterating Free software-based workflows inside Intel), instead outsourcing all sorts of things to proprietary software traps of Microsoft



  20. Chromium and Chrome Are Not Free Software But an Example of Microsoft-Fashioned Openwashing Tactics

    It's time to reject Google's Web monopoly (shared with other companies but still an oligopoly); removing its Web browser would be a good start



  21. Links 23/1/2021: Chromium Pains and New Debian Maintainers

    Links for the day



  22. InteLeaks – Part XXIX: Harbor Research Did Not Produce a Study But an Elaborate Hoax for Intel, Suggesting Microsoft Partnership and Outsourcing Based on Zero Evidence and No Solid Rationale

    The pseudo-scientific ‘report’ from Harbor Research is more of the same nonsense we’ve grown accustomed to; unethical if not rogue firms are being paid to lie — or to perpetuate falsehoods which someone stands to gain from



  23. Video: The State of Communities Surrounding GNU/Linux Distributions

    A discussion about the state of volunteer efforts going into the development, maintenance (in the 'maintainership' sense) and support/advocacy of GNU/Linux distros



  24. IRC Proceedings: Friday, January 22, 2021

    IRC logs for Friday, January 22, 2021



  25. InteLeaks – Part XXVIII: Intel Served Report From Microsoft Boosters, Who Provide No Actual Evidence and No Science to Back Their Supposed 'Findings'

    Findings and recommendations from Harbor 'Research' aren't based on any scientific methods, just perceived loyalty, branding, and a bunch of unsourced quotes (from unnamed people with ridiculous job titles like a soup of buzzwords)



  26. Erosion of Communities, Ascent of Corporate-Industrial Fake Communities

    Despite the attempts to manipulate/trick developers (and sometimes users) into becoming unpaid workforce of for-profit companies, there's an exodus back to real communities, which aren't subjected to the fury of wealthy shareholders who utterly dislike or simply don't care for software freedom



  27. The Corporate 'Left' and the Open Source Pseudo 'Movement'

    President Biden may not be as bad as his predecessor, but that hardly means very much; software freedom is still threatened, along with many other things



  28. Links 22/1/2021: pfSense Plus, Endless OS Foundation, and Many Laptops With GNU/Linux

    Links for the day



  29. The Linux Foundation is Trying to Obscure Racism Using Microsoft-Inspired Tactics (Vouchers Disguised as Actual Money)

    The Linux Foundation and its PR stunts don’t help combat racism; one might argue that the Foundation is leveraging racism, which prevails in the US, to paint itself as benevolent and caring (offering immaterial things and self-serving press releases)



  30. InteLeaks – Part XXVII: 'Pulling a Nokia' on Intel (Outsourcing to Microsoft)

    The recommendation of an Intel marriage with Microsoft (even in units that deal mostly with Linux) is an insulting slap across the face of developers employed there; we take a look at recommendations made to IoTG (Intel) by a firm with Microsoft orientation


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