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11.12.18

Team UPC, Fronting for Patent Trolls From the US, is Calling Facts “Resistance”

Posted in Deception, Europe, Patents at 7:30 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Tilman Müller-Stoy
Image source

Summary: The tactics of Team UPC have gotten so tastelessly bad and its motivation so shallow (extortion in Europe) that one begins to wonder why these people are willing to tarnish everything that’s left of their reputation

THE European Patent Office (EPO) is granting patents of laughable quality; in order for these patents to be worth a euro (or a cent) it will need equally laughable courts, headed by someone corrupt like Battistelli. Will that ever materialise? No. It’s unlikely. But Team UPC never gives up.

Team UPC/Bird & Bird’s Sally Shorthose has just published two articles [1, 2] about Brexit. Both mention the UPC, as one might expect (the usual spiel). Honest? No. Polite? Yes.

More radical or outspoken elements of Team UPC have been smearing people who speak for Europe’s interests rather than the lawyers’ interests. Team UPC nowadays attacks the Max Planck Institute anonymously and also attacks the complainant anonymously. Team UPC then wonders why the complaint was filed anonymously? The study from the Max Planck Institute did not resort to name-calling, but Team UPC’s language upsets even a pro-UPC person, who wrote: “Prof. Tilmann has published a rebuttal to Lamping/Ullrich (“The Impact of Brexit on Unitary Patent Protection and its Court”), see GRUR Int. 2018, 1094. Irrespective of merits, not sure whether labelling their criticism as “resistance” (p. 1094) is helping the discourse. (/2) [] Prof. Tilmann mentions in Fn. 6a he was not aware of anonymous comment by one Atticus Finch on same subject on @KluwerBlogger, which I understand to saythat the authors do not happen to be identical. (/3) [] In spite of difference in opinion, Prof. Tilmann acknowledges that academic studies “have their own right” (IV. Final remark). Having said that, he claims that Lamping/Ulrich “enter the battlefileld of political discussion” & ends his appraisal with some humor of his own: (/3) [] Namely, that Lamping/Ullrich were “risking, after this publication, to be called, by some humorous persons, German UPC-Brexiteers”. (END)”

Well, the mask falls off and Tilmann is again ridiculing people. Will he compare Lamping/Ulrich to AfD?

Tilmann works for Microsoft’s patent troll (and the world’s biggest and most notorious troll) Intellectual Ventures. To put it in simple terms, he’s aiding patent blackmail in Europe and wants the UPC to amplify the reach and magnitude of this blackmail. JUVE then rewards these people.

The Federal Circuit Bar Association (FCBA) Will Spread the Berkheimer Lie While Legal Certainty Associated With Patents Remains Low and Few Lawsuits Filed

Posted in America, Deception, Patents at 6:47 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Recent: Number of US Patent Lawsuits Was More Than 50% Higher Half a Decade Ago

Summary: New figures regarding patent litigation in the United States (number of lawsuits) show a decrease by about a tenth in just one year; there’s still no sign of software patents making any kind of return/rebound in the United States, contrary to lies told by the litigation ‘industry’ (those who profit from frivolous lawsuits/threats)

THE U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) can grant all the patents it wants; that still does not mean that such patents are necessarily enforceable.

Meanwhile, the European Patent Office (EPO) keeps promoting software patents in Europe — a matter that escalated under António Campinos and a subject we shall cover tomorrow.

“Things will only exacerbate if Iancu (of the litigation ‘industry’) further reduces the standards of examination and squashes Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) inter partes reviews (IPRs) little by little.”The more these patent offices diverge/deviate from courts, the worse the presumption of validity will get. They voluntarily reduce the legal certainty associated with their patents (US patents and European Patents).

Earlier today Patent Docs published this ad for FCBA (intentionally misleading name), which is pushing the Berkheimer lie. This was then boosted by Janal Kalis and said:

The Federal Circuit Bar Association (FCBA) Patent Litigation Committee will be offering a webcast entitled “Litigating § 101 Issues After Berkheimer” on November 14, 2018 from 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm (EST). Irene Yang of Sidley Austin LLP will moderate a panel consisting of Peter Menell, Koret Professor of Law, The University of California, Berkeley School of Law; and Jared Bobrow of Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. The panel will discuss the legal underpinnings of Berkheimer, the implications of Berkheimer for resolving § 101 issues before trial, and practices for litigating and trying § 101 issues in district court.

So a panel moderated by the litigation ‘industry’ will consist of a law professor and the litigation ‘industry’. Where are the people who actually deal with technology? Conveniently omitted/excluded as usual? Of course.

In talking about “§ 101 issues in district court[s]” they will just prop up the lie that Berkheimer was something revolutionary — a claim that we’ve debunked about half a dozen times before, citing relevant data.

Regardless of what they say about district courts or even the Federal Circuit (which they are not associated with, regardless of their dishonest name), the numbers continue to speak for themselves.

Sanjana Kapila, a Managing IP writer from London, is citing Docket Navigator (whose docket reports suddenly stopped at the end of summer). According to this, patent litigation data/figures in the US show a “8% decrease from the third quarter of 2017,” continuing a trend that has lasted about half a decade, not only because of 35 U.S.C. § 101 and Alice/SCOTUS (2014). To quote Kapila:

Data: US patent case filing in the third quarter continued the 2018 trend of lower levels of litigation. Managing IP reveals the rankings for the first nine months of 2018

Data pulled from Docket Navigator on November 7 shows that 1,035 district court patent litigation cases were filed in the third quarter of the year. This is an 8% decrease from the third quarter of 2017 when 1,123 cases were filed.

The certainty associated with bogus software patents is so low that few even bother filing lawsuits. Things will only exacerbate if Iancu (of the litigation ‘industry’) further reduces the standards of examination and squashes Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) inter partes reviews (IPRs) little by little.

Links 12/11/2018: Linux 4.20 RC2, Denuvo DRM Defeated Again

Posted in News Roundup at 6:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Behind the scenes with Linux containers

    Can you have Linux containers without Docker? Without OpenShift? Without Kubernetes?

    Yes, you can. Years before Docker made containers a household term (if you live in a data center, that is), the LXC project developed the concept of running a kind of virtual operating system, sharing the same kernel, but contained within defined groups of processes.

    Docker built on LXC, and today there are plenty of platforms that leverage the work of LXC both directly and indirectly. Most of these platforms make creating and maintaining containers sublimely simple, and for large deployments, it makes sense to use such specialized services. However, not everyone’s managing a large deployment or has access to big services to learn about containerization. The good news is that you can create, use, and learn containers with nothing more than a PC running Linux and this article. This article will help you understand containers by looking at LXC, how it works, why it works, and how to troubleshoot when something goes wrong.

  • Desktop

    • Samsung’s Linux on DeX app enters private beta

      In context: Almost exactly one year ago, Samsung announced it was working on an app called Linux on DeX (DeX is that gimmicky app/dock combo that got mediocre reviews). This was supposed to allow users to run Linux distros on their phone, which would seem to create a more PC-like experience — at least in theory.

      It looks as if Linux on DeX is almost ready. On Friday Samsung launched the private beta for the app. If you signed up for alerts when it was announced last year, you should have already received an email to allow you to register for the beta.

  • Server

    • How Will the $34B IBM Acquisition Affect Red Hat Users?

      Red Hat users looking to maintain hybrid cloud or multi-cloud deployments because they can’t go “all in” on the cloud will benefit from IBM’s $34 billion acquisition of the enterprise open source solutions provider, Nintex chief evangelist Ryan Duguid told CMSWire.

      Duguid and others offer more thoughts how the largest software acquisition to date will have on Red Hat users.

  • Kernel Space

    • EXT4 Getting Many Fixes In Linux 4.20, Including For Some Really Old Leaks

      Last month I reported on a number of fixes for really old bugs in the EXT4 code with some of the issues dating back to the Linux 2.6 days in the EXT3 file-system code that was carried over to the EXT4 driver. Those fixes are now working their way into the Linux 4.20 stable kernel.

      Ted Ts’o sent out a fixes pull request today containing 18 patches. Sixteen of those patches are from Vasily Averin who was nailing these really old bugs/leaks. Of them, Ted noted, “A large number of ext4 bug fixes, mostly buffer and memory leaks on error return cleanup paths.”

    • Apple’s new bootloader won’t let you install GNU/Linux

      Locking bootloaders with trusted computing is an important step towards protecting users from some of the most devastating malware attacks: by allowing the user to verify their computing environment, trusted computing can prevent compromises to operating systems and other low-level parts of their computer’s operating environment.

      But as with every security measure, there’s a difference between “secure for the user” and “secure against the user.” Bootloader protection that doesn’t allow an owner to decide which signatures they trust is security against the user: security that prevents the user from overriding the manufacturer, and so allows the manufacturer to lock the user in.

      Apple’s latest bootloader protection, the controversial T2 chip, is a good example of this. The chip comes with a user-inaccessible root of trust that allows for the installation of Apple and Microsoft operating systems, but not GNU/Linux and other open and free alternatives.

    • Linux 4.20-rc2

      Fairly normal week, aside from me traveling.

      Shortlog appended, but it all looks fine: about half drivers, wih the
      rest being the usual architecture updates, tooling, networking, and
      some filesystem updates.

    • Linux 4.20-rc2 Released With EXT4 Bug Fixes, New NVIDIA Turing USB-C Driver
    • Open Source Security Podcast: Episode 122 – What will Apple’s T2 chip mean for the rest of us?

      Josh and Kurt talk about Apple’s new T2 security chip. It’s not open source but we expect it to change the security landscape in the coming years.

    • Graphics Stack

      • AMDGPU DRM-Next Driver Picks Up Support For Vega 20 “A1″ Stepping

        Among the work queuing in the AMDGPU DRM-Next branch for what will in turn appear with the next kernel cycle (Linux 4.21) is support for Vega 20 A1 ASICs.

        The current Linux 4.20 cycle appears to have good support for Vega 20 GPUs at least from our tracking without having any access to the GPUs for now, but it looks like the production graphics cards will be on a new “A1″ stepping rather than A0 that was used for the bring-up of this first 7nm Vega GPU.

      • Gallium D3D9 “Nine” Support Gets New Patches To Help Fight Lag Without Tearing

        While most Linux gamers these days are mesmerized by DXVK for mapping Direct3D 10/11 to Vulkan for better handling Windows games on Linux, for those with older Direct3D 9 era games there is still the Gallium Nine initiative for D3D9 implemented as a Mesa Gallium state tracker. A new patch series posted this weekend will make that Gallium Nine experience even better.

        Axel Davy who has been the lead developer on the Gallium D3D9 state tracker posted a set of two patches that allow the thread_submit=true option to be used with tearfree_discard=true option.

      • SteamOS/Linux Requirements For Valve’s Artifact Is Just A Vulkan Intel/AMD/NVIDIA GPU

        With just two weeks to go until Valve unleashes their latest original game, Artifact, it’s now up for pre-order and there are also the system requirements published.

        This cross-platform online trading card game is available to pre-order for $19.99 USD. As known for a while, there is day-one Linux support alongside Windows and macOS.

      • Intel “Iris” Gallium3D Continues Advancing As The Next-Gen Intel Linux OpenGL Driver

        While we haven’t had much to talk about the Intel “Iris” Gallium3D driver in development as the future Mesa OpenGL driver for the company’s graphics hardware, it has continued progressing nicely since its formal unveiling back in September.

        Iris Gallium3D driver is the new Intel Open-Source Technology Center project we discovered back in the summer as an effort to overhaul their open-source OpenGL driver support and one day will likely replace their mature “i965″ classic Mesa driver.

    • POWER9

      • The Performance Impact Of Spectre Mitigation On POWER9

        Over the past year we have looked extensively at the performance impact of Spectre mitigations on x86_64 CPUs but now with having the Raptor Talos II in our labs, here are some benchmarks to see the performance impact of IBM’s varying levels of Spectre mitigation for POWER9.

        By default, Raptor Computing Systems ships their system in the safest mode of providing full kernel and user-space protection against Spectre Variant Two. But by editing a file from the OpenBMC environment it’s possible to control the Spectre protections on their libre hardware. Besides the full/user protection against Spectre there is also kernel-only protection that is more akin to the protection found on x86_64 CPUs. Additionally, there is the ability to completely disable the protection for yielding the greatest performance (or what would be considered standard pre-2018) but leaving your hardware vulnerable to Spectre. More details on controlling the Spectre protections on Talos II hardware can be found via the RaptorCS.com Wiki.

      • ICYMI: what’s new on Talospace

        In the shameless plug category, in case you missed them, two original articles on Talospace, our sister blog: making your Talos II into an IBM pSeries (yes, you can run AIX on a Talos II with Linux KVM), and roadgeeking with the Talos II (because the haters gotta hate and say POWER9 isn’t desktop ready, which is just FUD FUD FUD).

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • This week in Usability & Productivity, part 44

        Week 44 in Usability & Productivity is coming right up! This week was a bit lighter in terms of the number of bullet points, but we got some really great new features, and there’s a lot of cool stuff in progress that I hope to be able to blog about next week!

      • KDE Plasma Now Supports WireGuard, Alt-Tab Switching Improvements

        The WireGuard secure VPN tunnel is not in the mainline kernel yet but the KDE Plasma desktop is the latest project already adding support for it, which can be useful today if making use of WireGuard’s DKMS kernel modules.

        KDE Plasma now supports WireGuard VPN tunnels if enabling the NetworkManager WireGuard plug-in. Previously KDE Plasma didn’t play well with this plug-in but now it’s all been fixed up to deliver a first-rate experience for this open-source VPN tech.

        This week KDE also received some alt+tab switching improvements for screen readers and supporting the use of the keyboard to switch between items. These alt+tab window switching and WireGuard VPN support will be part of the KDE Plasma 5.15 release.

      • Akademy 2018 Vienna

        You have probably read a lot about Akademy 2018 recently, and how great it was.

        For me it was a great experience too and this year I met a lot of KDE people, both old and new. This is always nice.
        I arrived on Thursday so I had one day to set everything up and had a little bit of time to get to know the city.

        On Friday evening I enjoyed the “Welcoming evening”, but I was very surprised when Volker told me that I would be on stage the next day, talking about privacy.

        He told me that someone should have informed me several days before. The scheduled speaker, Sebastian, couldn’t make it to Akademy.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • The GNOME (and WebKitGTK+) Networking Stack

        One guess which of those we’re going to be talking about in this post. Yeah, of course, libsoup! If you’re not familiar with libsoup, it’s the GNOME HTTP library. Why is it called libsoup? Because before it was an HTTP library, it was a SOAP library. And apparently somebody thought that when Mexican people say “soap,” it often sounds like “soup,” and also thought that this was somehow both funny and a good basis for naming a software library. You can’t make this stuff up.

        [...]

        Haha no, it uses a dynamically-loadable extension point system to allow you to pick your choice of OpenSSL or GnuTLS! (Support for NSS was started but never finished.) This is OK because embedded systems vendors don’t use GPL applications and have no problems with OpenSSL, while desktop Linux users don’t produce tivoized embedded systems and have no problems with LGPLv3. So if you’re using desktop Linux and point WebKitGTK+ at an HTTPS address, then GLib is going to load a GIO extension point called glib-networking, which implements all of GIO’s TLS APIs — notably GTlsConnection and GTlsCertificate — using GnuTLS. But if you’re building an embedded system, you simply don’t build or install glib-networking, and instead build a different GIO extension point called glib-openssl, and libsoup will create GTlsConnection and GTlsCertificate objects based on OpenSSL instead. Nice! And if you’re Centricular and you’re building GStreamer for Windows, you can use yet another GIO extension point, glib-schannel, for your native Windows TLS goodness, all hidden behind GTlsConnection so that GStreamer (or whatever application you’re writing) doesn’t have to know about SChannel or OpenSSL or GnuTLS or any of that sad complexity.

  • Distributions

    • Fedora

      • Review: Fedora 29 Workstation

        Fedora 29 is a good release, but there are some issues with it. Users who are interested in trying out new things and are okay with the the occasional bug should feel comfortable trying out Fedora 29 Workstation. However, users wanting a polished experience might want to hold off until a few more bugs are fixed.

        I would be okay with a few rough edges if they were just limited to the new features, but the two show-stopper bugs I had were playing full-screen video with GNOME Videos and being able to install texlive-scheme-full. Only the latter has been fixed, while video playback remains an issue. Playing full-screen videos in GNOME Videos on Wayland has worked perfectly on my hardware for the last several Fedora releases, but in Fedora 29 it is unusable. The video playback bug has already been reported in Red Hat’s Bugzilla, but the bug is still classified as new.

        Overall, Fedora 29 Workstation is worth checking out, but I have to say “buyer beware” and encourage people to check to make sure all of the things they need are in a functional state before making the switch or upgrade. Things should be fixed in a few weeks, but I have honestly run beta releases of previous Fedora versions that had fewer issues than the final release of Fedora 29.

    • Debian Family

      • Debian Linux 9.6 released and here is how to upgrade it

        he Debian GNU/Linux project has released an updated version of its stable Linux distribution Debian 9 (“stretch”). You must upgrade to get corrections for security problem as this version made a few adjustments for the severe issue found in Debian version 9.5. Debian is a Unix-like (Linux distro) operating system and a distribution of Free Software. It is mainly maintained and updated through the work of many users who volunteer their time and effort. The Debian Project was first announced in 1993 by Ian Murdock.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Ubuntu 19.04 Daily Builds Available to Download

            Prep a partition because Ubuntu 19.04 daily builds are now available to download.

            A new “Disco Dingo” daily build will be produced each and every day from now until the Ubuntu 19.04 release date in April 2019.

            For dedicated Ubuntu developers, testers, and community enthusiasts the arrival of daily builds is the horn blare that declares the development cycle well and truly open.

            Furthermore, these images are the only way to sample the upcoming release before a solitary beta release pops out sometime in late March.

            Do remember that Ubuntu daily build ISOs are intended for testing and development purposes only. Don’t run these images as the primary OS on mission critical machines — and yes, that includes your brother’s laptop — unless you really know what you’re doing and (more importantly) how you can undo it.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Events

    • TeXConf 2018 – the meeting of the Japanese TeX Users

      Having attended several international TeX conferences, I am always surprised how many Japanese TeX users find their way to this yearly meeting. This year we were about 80 participants (wild guess). We had five full talks and two lightning talks, followed by a very enjoyable dinner and after-party.

  • Databases

    • Why We Paired Open Source and Managed Services to Optimize Our Database

      Launching Peloton has certainly been a tremendous ride – one that’s included an exhilarating acceleration resulting in two-fold year-over-year growth and a tripled subscriber base in under a year. Among the steepest hills climbed along this journey, though, has been keeping up with our database requirements and pushing through the pains experienced throughout intensely-paced user growth.

      Our challenge managing an exponentially growing user base has been kicked into a higher gear by the fact that our consumer product utilizes so much user data. The idea for Peloton was born out of the founders’ desire to bring studio-style, group fitness classes home that still included the feeling – and benefits – of actual in-person classes. In practice, this has resulted in storing vast volumes of personal fitness data. As customers exercise on their home bikes and experience live or on-demand cycling classes, we need to continuously collect and retain a swath of telemetric data that includes pedaling speed, heart rate, the selected resistance setting, and many other metrics germane to the experience. This data is important to both our product and our customers, providing feedback that helps us shape the user experience and enabling us to deliver performance information to each customer via statistics, graphs, achievements, lists of top rides and routines, etc.

      [...]

      The managed provider route helped us diagnose and fix our production issues on day one; the overly dense production nodes and environment were adjusted for better (and noticeable) optimization. With our database back to running smoothly, we faced a choice as to how we’d acquire the Cassandra expertise we clearly needed in the long term: either investing to build that expertise in-house or relying on managed services going forward. Given the higher expenditures in both time and money, and the focus building an in-house team would take away from our product, it was an easy decision to stick with the managed provider route for our Cassandra production environment.

  • CMS

    • Migrating my website from Drupal 7 to Hugo

      My first interaction with Drupal was with its WSOD. That was it until I revisited it when evaluating different FOSS web tools to build a community site for one of my previous employer.

      Back then, we tried multiple tools: Jive, Joomla, WordPress and many more. But finally, resorted to Drupal. What the requirement was was to have something which would filter content under nested categories. Then, of the many things tried, the only one which seemed to be able to do it was Drupal with its Taxonomy feature, along with a couple of community driven add-on modules.

      We built it but there were other challenges. It was hard to find people who were good with Drupal. I remember to have interviewed around 10-15 people, who could take over the web portal and maintain it, and still not able to fill the position. Eventually, I ended up maintaining the portal by myself.

  • BSD

    • Showing a Gigabit OpenBSD Firewall Some Monitoring Love

      Now that the machine was up and running (and fast!), I wanted to know what it was doing. Over the years, I’ve always relied on the venerable pfstat software to give me an overview of my traffic, blocked packets, etc. It looks like this: [...]

  • Programming/Development

    • Sourcegraph: An Open-Source Source Code Search Engine

      In a recent announcement, a Code Search and Navigation tool named Sourcegraph was declared Open Source. As it makes navigating through Source Code much more convenient, the tool itself going Open Source is definitely a big plus for developers!

    • Compile any C++ program 10× faster with this one weird trick!

      The main reason that C++ compiles slowly has to do with headers. Merely including a few headers in the standard library brings in tens or hundreds of thousands of lines of code that must be parsed, verified, converted to an AST and codegenerated in every translation unit. This is extremely wasteful especially given that most of that work is not used but is instead thrown away.

      With an Unity build every #include is processed only once regardless of how many times it is used in the component source files.

      Basically this amounts to a caching problem, which is one of the two really hard problems in computer science in addition to naming things and off by one errors.

    • Future Developments in clang-query

      I am not aware of any similar series existing which covers creation of clang-tidy checks, and use of clang-query to inspect the Clang AST and assist in the construction of AST Matcher expressions. I hope the series is useful to anyone attempting to write clang-tidy checks. Several people have reported to me that they have previously tried and failed to create clang-tidy extensions, due to various issues, including lack of information tying it all together.

      Other issues with clang-tidy include the fact that it relies on the “mental model” a compiler has of C++ source code, which might differ from the “mental model” of regular C++ developers. The compiler needs to have a very exact representation of the code, and needs to have a consistent design for the class hierarchy representing each standard-required feature. This leads to many classes and class hierarchies, and a difficulty in discovering what is relevant to a particular problem to be solved.

Leftovers

  • Science

    • A trip through the peer-review sausage grinder

      It is often said that peer review is one of the pillars of scientific research. It is also well known that peer review doesn’t actually do its job very well, and, every few years, people like me start writing articles about alternatives to peer review. This isn’t one of those rants. Instead, I’m going to focus on something that is probably less well known: peer review actually has two jobs. It’s used to provide minimal scrutiny for new scientific results, and to act as a gatekeeper for funding agencies.

      What I would like to do here is outline some of the differences between peer review in these two jobs and the strengths and weaknesses of peer review in each case. This is not a rant against peer review, nor should it be—I have been pretty successful in both publications and grant applications over the last couple of years. But I think it’s worth exploring the idea that peer review functions much better in the case of deciding the value of scientific research than it does when acting as a gatekeeper for scientific funding.

    • How bicycles have changed in the last 25 years
  • Health/Nutrition

    • The Rules of the Economy Are Taking a Tragic Toll on Women and Their Pregnancies

      Recently, The New York Times published a report about women who, while working in physically demanding jobs, lost their pregnancies after requests for less-strenuous assignments were denied. The profile is a tragic example of the steep toll levied on women, and particularly women of color, who face economic and social rules that are rigged against them—rules that ultimately prioritize profit over life.

      The Times investigated the stories of workers at XPO Logistics, a Verizon-contracted warehouse near Tennessee’s border with Mississippi, piecing together the picture of a cruel and punishing work environment. In one case, a 23-year-old woman, whose proactive requests for a lighter workload upon learning that she was pregnant were denied, miscarried after eight hours of heavy lifting. She was in the second trimester of her first pregnancy.

      For many American workers and families, the experiences of the women in this story are not uncommon. In fact, the Times investigation is a stark demonstration of the collision of three dangerous trends in our economy that threaten women.

      First, we’ve seen a decades-long decline in workers’ voice and agency resulting from the rapid erosion of unionization and labor rights. The workers at the Tennessee XPO warehouse are—despite efforts to unionize—part of the growing majority of employees in the United States who lack union representation. Over the past 40 years, union membership has plummeted from 20.1 percent of workers in 1983 to just 10.7 percent in 2017. This decline wasn’t inevitable. It was driven by a broken labor law system that ignores entire sectors of the economy and by harmful corporate ideology, behavior, and practices that put the interests of shareholders above all others.

    • Short-Term Health Insurance Plans Destroy Insurance Pools

      This is a fact that would have been worth mentioning in a NYT piece on how health care may be affected by last Tuesday’s elections. Near the end, the article referred to the Trump administration’s promotion of short-term insurance policies but only said that they, “do not have to cover pre-existing conditions or provide all the benefits required by the health law.”

      The important feature of these short-term plans from the standpoint of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is that they are designed to be appealing to relatively healthy people. By excluding people who are likely to suffer from costly health conditions, they can offer insurance at a lower price. This has the effect of pulling healthier people out of the ACA insurance pools.

    • Dangerous, Expensive Drugs Aggressively Pushed? You Have These Medical Conflicts of Interest to Thank

      The year was 2011. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg proposed loosening conflict of interest rules for doctors sitting on advisory committees because non-compromised doctors were disappearing. The FDA could not find “knowledgeable experts who are free of financial conflicts of interest,” said news reports.

      How bad is Pharma’s brazen financial infiltration into US medicine? The New York Times and ProPublica recently reported that Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s own CEO, Dr. Craig B. Thompson, its chief medical officer, Dr. José Baselga, and one of its immunotherapy specialists, Dr. Jedd Wolchok, were swimming in Pharma money.

      Thomas sat on the boards of Merck and Charles River Laboratories and actually founded a cancer start-up. Wolchok, says the Times and ProPublica, has links to 31 Pharma companies. Baselga, who has since resigned, received undisclosed millions from Pharma.

      I have personally attended medical conferences where doctors unflinchingly show slide after slide of Pharma companies who pay them as if the payments did not affect their presentations to follow.

      The responses of doctors exposed for the payola/bribes are downright embarrassing. Lee Cohen, lead author of a 2006 JAMA article promoting antidepressants during pregnancy listed 76 financial relationships with Pharma that he and the other authors had not mentioned explaining that, “We did not view those associations as relevant to this study.”

    • Measure To Cap Dialysis Profits Pummeled After Record Spending By Industry

      Record-breaking spending by the dialysis industry helped doom a controversial California ballot measure to cap its profits.

      The industry, led by DaVita and Fresenius Medical Care, spent nearly $111 million to defeat Proposition 8, which voters trounced, 62 to 38 percent, and appeared to approve in just two of 58 counties. The measure also faced strong opposition from medical organizations, including doctor and hospital associations, which argued it would limit access to dialysis treatment and thus endanger patients.

      The opposition presented a powerful message that “if you can’t get dialysis, you will die,” said Gerald Kominski, a senior fellow at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. “If you didn’t know that, the commercials made it clear.”

      Despite arguments about the outsize profits of dialysis companies, Kominski said the “Yes on 8” case wasn’t as clear. The measure, sponsored by the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West, sought to cap dialysis clinic profits at 115 percent of the costs of patient care. Revenues above that amount would have been rebated primarily to insurance companies. Medicare and other government programs, which pay significantly lower prices for dialysis, wouldn’t have received rebates.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Britain funds research into drones that decide who they kill, says report

      Technologies that could unleash a generation of lethal weapons systems requiring little or no human interaction are being funded by the Ministry of Defence, according to a new report.

      The development of autonomous military systems – dubbed “killer robots” by campaigners opposed to them – is deeply contentious. Earlier this year, Google withdrew from the Pentagon’s Project Maven, which uses machine learning to analyse video feeds from drones, after ethical objections from the tech giant’s staff.

      The government insists it “does not possess fully autonomous weapons and has no intention of developing them”. But, since 2015, the UK has declined to support proposals put forward at the UN to ban them. Now, using government data, Freedom of Information requests and open-source information, a year-long investigation reveals that the MoD and defence contractors are funding dozens of artificial intelligence programmes for use in conflict.

    • Intelligence: Spy For The CIA And Die

      Once more the American CIA proved itself spectacularly inept at managing spies in foreign countries. This example was recent revelations about how between 2009 and 2013 the CIA used a vulnerable (to enemy access) Internet based communications system to supervise local agents in China and Iran. During that time a growing number of CIA tech staff and even field agents warned that the system was vulnerable and should be changed. That was done when it was obvious that the Internet based messaging system was the reason who over 50 local agents in China (mostly) and Iran were rounded up. Most of these agents were executed after being interrogated (often with considerable violence, that being the custom in those nations). This incidence of fatally incompetent management was not unique for the CIA. Such fatal incompetence handling foreign spies is a bad habit going back decades and seemingly immune to change. It basically comes down to senior management becoming too complacent or unwilling to act lest it cause problems with elected superiors. Key allies like Britain, Israel, France and others, with much smaller, but less lethal (to their own agents) espionage agencies have learned not to share data on their field agents with the Americans. Meanwhile it is incredibly difficult for CIA field agents to recruit useful spies in foreign nations. The reason for this, those who spy for the CIA tend to die.

    • The Fate of Yemen’s Baha’is

      It is common these days to read headlines such as “At least 19 killed, 10 injured in Saudi-led coalition air raid in Yemen” (Sputnik, October 24, 2018). We are reminded often how many Yemenis have died and are starving. But it is not common to learn that the Houthis, the Islamic extremist group who are fighting the Saudis, are persecuting the minority of Baha’is currently living and working in Yemen. In fact, the Left seldom turns its eyes to the on-going persecution of Baha’is in Iran and other places in the Islamic world. How often do you hear, for instance, that Baha’is are not even permitted to attend post-secondary institutions in Iran?

      The Houthi regime believes that Baha’is are fighting a “Satanic war” against Muslim Yemenis. In the last five years, in particular, spiteful rhetoric has intensified. This enflamed language has reminded Baha’is of the horrible fate many faced in the aftermath of the 1979 Iranian theocratic revolution. Since December 3, 2013 Hamed bin Haydara, a Baha’i leader, has been imprisoned, indicted for apostasy and accused of “being a destroyer of Islam.”

      The National Security Office raided his home and seized laptops and documents. Reports indicate that he has been tortured (beaten and electrocuted). The history of the torture of Baha’is since the mid-19thcentury is like visiting a haunted house of horrors. He has also been denied legal and medical assistance.

      In October 2014, Hamed was transferred to the Central Prison under the jurisdiction of the Prosecution Service. But the process of prosecution has been delayed. He was accused of being a spy for Israel; medical requests were repeatedly blocked; his prosecutor was extremely prejudiced against Hamed; he had been forced to sign several documents while blindfolded and repeated torture. On April 3, 2016, his sixth visit of the year, 100 supporters gathered peacefully outside the court. By mid-September of 2016, it was plainly evident that a faction within the Houthi political movement was under the influence of Iran. Hatred of Baha’is runs deep in Iran, and they pushed the Houthi faction to persecute the Yemeni Baha’is.

    • These pilots fly 100-year-old airplanes

      As historians mark exactly a century since the end of World War I, a group of pilots take to the air in a museum’s vintage airplanes, bringing a bygone era back to life.

      Located just two hours north of New York City, the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in New York’s Hudson Valley boasts around 60 vintage biplanes — including reproductions of the famed SPAD VII and the classic Sopwith Camel.

      Take a turn off picturesque Stone Church Road, cross a foot bridge and you’re jumping back 100 years to a time when airplanes were made of wood and fabric held together by a bit of wire — and not much more.

    • US Calls for a Yemen Ceasefire is a Cynical Piece of Political Theatre

      The UK appears now to be gearing up towards authoring a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Yemen, following years of blocking any resolutions on the issue. The UK has been the official ‘penholder’ on Yemen, meaning that it has been up to the UK to table resolutions, which it has steadfastly refused to do, whilst simultaneously blocking anyone else’s attempts to do so. The apparent about-turn is a response to last week’s statements from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis calling for a ceasefire in Yemen within 30 days, to be followed up with UN-facilitated peace talks. The UK dutifully followed suit shortly afterwards, expressing their support for the initiative. This was somewhat ironic given that minister Alistair Burt, obviously not privy to the seeming about-turn, had just spent the day providing MPs with excruciatingly contorted explanations of why calling for a ceasefire was not a good idea in the circumstances. “Passing a ceasefire resolution risks undercutting the UN envoy’s efforts to reach a political deal and undermining the credibility of the Council” he told the House of Commons at midday; yet within 36 hours, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt was telling Newsnight that the US call for a ceasefire was “an extremely welcome announcement because we have been working towards a cessation of hostilities in Yemen for a long time.” In the parallel universe of British double-speak, it is of course natural that unrelenting support for what is fast turning into a war of national annihilation gets recast as “working towards a cessation of hostilities”.

      Yet this latest call does appear to be at odds with the hitherto existing strategy; it was only in June, after all, when the US and UK torpedoed a Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in the face of impending famine. Many commentaries (such as this one in the Telegraph, for example), have suggested that the US is now taking advantage of pressure on Saudi Arabia following the murder of Saudi insider-turned-dissident Khashoggi to push the kingdom towards a less belligerent position in the disastrous Yemen war. The ever-more desperate humanitarian situation is giving the war a bad name and – so the story goes – the US are now keen to end it. David Miliband, former UK foreign secretary and now president of the International Rescue Committee, even called the US announcement “the most significant breakthrough in the war in Yemen for four years”.

    • Applauding Plan to Stop Refueling Saudi Planes, Progressives Call for Further Action to End Yemen’s “Humanitarian Nightmare”

      Anti-war groups and progressive lawmakers expressed cautious optimism this weekend after the Trump administration announced it would end its policy of refueling Saudi planes that are engaged in Saudi Arabia’s assault on Yemen—but called for bolder and broader policy changes to ensure an end to the attacks that have killed more than 15,000 civilians.

      On Friday, the Washington Post reported that the refueling practice would end, with Saudi Arabia claiming in a statement that it now has the ability to refuel its own planes—a claim that U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis bolstered in his own comments on the policy changem but that drew skepticism from critics. The change came amid heightened calls from across the political spectrum to end the U.S. military’s cooperation with the Saudis, following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

    • Nuclear Treaties: Unwrapping Armageddon

      The decision by the Trump administration to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Force Agreement (INF) appears to be part of a broader strategy aimed at unwinding over 50 years of agreements to control and limit nuclear weapons, returning to an era characterized by the unbridled development weapons of mass destruction.

      Terminating the INF treaty—which bans land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of between 300 and 3400 miles— is not, in and of itself, a fatal blow to the network of treaties and agreements dating back to the 1963 treaty that ended atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. But coupled with other actions—George W. Bush’s decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) in 2002 and the Obama administration’s program to upgrade the nuclear weapons infrastructure— the tapestry of agreements that has, at least in part, limited these terrifying creations, is looking increasingly frayed.

      “Leaving the INF,” says Sergey Rogov of the Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies, “could bring the whole structure of arms control crashing down.”

      Lynn Rusten, the former senior director for arms control in the National Security Agency Council warns, “This is opening the door to an all-out arms race.”

      Washington’s rationale for exiting the INF Treaty is that the Russians deployed the 9M729 cruise missile that the US claims violates the agreement, although Moscow denies it and the evidence has not been made public. Russia countercharges that the US ABM system—Aegis Ashore—deployed in Romania and planned for Poland could be used to launch similar medium range missiles.

    • The terror wreaked by the ‘war on terror’

      In a distressing reminder of the death and destruction caused by America’s so-called war on terror following the 9/11 attacks, a study report released by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs puts the death toll at between 480,000 and 507,000, recognizing though that the actual number is likely higher, and that the ‘war on terror’ remains intense. Indeed, the number is much, much higher than that and continues to increase. Giving a country-wise casualty count, the report says between 182,272 and 204,575 people have been killed in Iraq, 38,480 in Afghanistan and 23,372 in Pakistan. Predictably, there is no mention of the US and its allies’ meddling in Syria, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and driven millions out of their homes forcing them to seek shelter in neighbouring countries or to knock at the EU countries’ doors.

    • Permanent war

      The 9/11 attacks, in which nearly 3000 people were killed, was universally condemned as one of the greatest atrocities of our time. What followed has been less remarked on but may be the bigger crime against humanity. A report by Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs estimates that at least half a million people have been killed in the wars unleashed by the US in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Of that number, only about 7000 are American troops that have been fighting these wars. The overwhelming majority of the killings have been of those unlucky to find themselves in the path of the rampaging Americans.

    • Was President Kennedy Going To Destroy the CIA?

      Many people on the internet and in articles have said that President JFK was going to smash the Central Intelligence Agency into the wind. But was he? In this video I explain what really happened. JFK made a move to eliminate the name CIA from everything and even split it apart in 1961 – but did not do it. Here are the details and the real reasons why. JFK did make changes though. I touch on some of them and in the next video will go into more detail.

    • Poppy Fascism and the English Education System

      What Jon Snow, the Channel 4 broadcaster (on English television), wisely discerned as ‘poppy fascism’ several years ago, reached its crescendo this weekend – as it does every year now it seems, with more vitality. However, this year, 2018, being the centenary of the Armistice of World War I, the crescendo’s pitch felt louder than usual.

      As, mid-week, I watched Sky News Live on YouTube from my Philadelphia apartment, a seemingly unwitting child appeared on my screen and announced the importance of passing down the ‘knowledge’ of the First World War from those who had gone before him. This segment was aired alongside report on an ‘artist’ [read, ‘lunatic’] named Rob Heard who had carved thousands of wooden figurines, over a period of five years, of British soldiers killed in the conflict and laid them out on the ground somewhere in England to commemorate this centenary of futile slaughter. No context, ever.

      Lest we get ahead of ourselves and assume that the fanaticism cease there, we’re reminded intermittently throughout the week from various English news sources that 10,000 torches (remember those torches carried by Trumpite fascists in Charlottesville last year?) are lit each night at the Tower of London to remember the ‘fallen’.

    • Physicians Work to Bring Back the Anti-Nuclear Movement

      It is a move that many, including former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, believe has ignited a new nuclear arms race. This is because the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed by Gorbachev and former US President Ronald Reagan, banned all short and mid-range nuclear and non-nuclear missiles, and helped eliminate thousands of land-based missiles.

      The situation is exacerbated by the fact that Trump has already promised to build new nuclear weapons, in addition to having withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal, heightening tensions further after having previously threatened the use of nuclear weapons against North Korea. Trump has also promised to build new nuclear weapons.

      While these deeply concerning issues, which are clear existential threats to the entire planet, often fly under the radar, a large and diverse coalition of groups across Washington State has formed with the aim of reviving the anti-nuclear movement.

      “Kitsap Bangor Naval Base is the single largest collection of nuclear weapons in the US, and each of those warheads is many times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Estela Ortega, the executive director of El Centro de la Raza, told Truthout. El Centro de la Raza is a Seattle-based civil rights, human services, educational, cultural and economic development organization.

      Ortega explained that the mission of her organization is “to struggle for a clean, safe, and nuclear waste-free environment for our people and future generations. To work for a rational use of natural resources in the interests of the preservation of Mother Earth and the peaceful development of humankind.”

    • A Note on the Paris Peace Forum

      France is the the world’s third arms suppliers and its exports increased by 27% compared to 2008-2012, according to SIPRI Arms Tranfers Database.

    • Military “Service” Serves the Ruling Class

      One cannot serve both the one percent and the 99 percent as their interests are at odds with each other. Although many join for righteous reasons, actions speak louder than intentions. Actions of the U.S. military has always been death, destruction, anguish of the working class, and entitlements for the elites. When the ruling class benefits it’s always at the expense of the poor.

      I’m a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Not only that, I’m a veteran of both surges. Eight years after separating from the military I see that I did not provide a service for my country. Clearly the wars have sucked our hard-working dollars and placed them on a silver platter for the economic ruling class–war contractors (oops I mean ‘defense’ contractors), politicians, and corporations that literally profit from the death of innocent people, including little children.

      Although I served in the U.S. Army as a Paratrooper working as a mechanic, the world sees me as nothing but an imperialist watchdog. The people impacted by the wars in which I participated don’t care about the difference between an infantry soldier and an administrative paper-pusher. It’s all the same to them: soldiers occupying their homelands and pointing weapons at innocent people, like women, children, and the elderly.

    • Badge of Shame: the Government’s War on Military Veterans

      In the United States, however, we take particular pride in recognizing as heroes those who have served in the military.

      Yet while we honor our veterans with holidays, parades, discounts at retail stores and restaurants, and endless political rhetoric about their sacrifice and bravery, we do a pitiful job of respecting their freedoms and caring for their needs once out of uniform.

      Despite the fact that the U.S. boasts more than 20 million veterans who have served in World War II through the present day, the plight of veterans today is America’s badge of shame, with large numbers of veterans impoverished, unemployed, traumatized mentally and physically, struggling with depression, suicide, and marital stress, homeless, subjected to sub-par treatment at clinics and hospitals, and left to molder while their paperwork piles up within Veterans Administration offices.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Tropical Trump Declares War on Amazonia

      When it comes to planetary carnage, Trump (Amerika’s president) is facing strong competition. Brazil’s new president Jair Bolsonaro aka “Tropical Trump” will likely outdo Amerika’s destroy the EPA Trump. Bolsonaro declared war on the Amazon rainforest. Thus, he’ll likely outpace Trump’s arbitrary efforts at eco annihilation because he has a much bigger target!

      The Amazon Rainforest, affectionately known as “the planet’s lungs,” inhales CO2 and exhales precious oxygen (“O”), which serves as a life force for every living being on the planet. As a result, everybody from New Zealand to Finland is impacted by what happens to the global rainforests, as unlike Las Vegas, what happens in the tropical rainforest does not stay in the tropical rainforest.

      Significantly, a University of Leeds study found forests absorb 35% of human-made fossil fuel emissions (CO2) every year. Dr. Simon Lewis, a tropical ecologist from the University of Leeds and co-author of the study, said trees are much more important to tackling climate change than previously thought. (Source: Forests Absorb One-Third of Global Fossil Fuel Emissions, University of Leeds, Environment News, July 15, 2011)

      “The large uptake of CO2 by forests implies that the world’s agricultural lands, grasslands, desert and tundra each play a more limited role as globally significant carbon dioxide sources or sinks at present. This new information can help pinpoint where actions to conserve carbon sinks are likely to have most impact,” Ibid.

    • Saving the Buffalohorn/Porcupine: the Lamar Valley of the Gallatin Range

      The Buffalohorn and Porcupine drainages (BHP) that drain into the Gallatin River near Big Sky, Montana are a miniature ecological equivalent of the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone.

      [...]

      Until conservationists advocate for wilderness designation for the entire Gallatin Range, one cannot know what may be politically possible.

      There are other issues with the GFP that needs remedy including greater wilderness advocacy for areas in the Hyalite Canyon region such as South Cottonwood Canyon and Chestnut Mountain, but suffice to say that it is my hope that wilderness advocates including organizations like the Montana Wilderness Association, The Wilderness Society and Greater Yellowstone Coalition reassess their promotion for the halfway measures of the GFP and instead seek full wilderness protection for all roadless lands in the range, especially for the Buffalohorn Porcupine drainages or what could be called the Lamar Valley of the Gallatin Range.

      If you are a member of any of these organizations, I urge you to contact them and compliment them for making protection of the Gallatin Range a priority but ask them to advocate for wilderness designation for all of the roadless lands in the Gallatin Range.

      Keep in mind these are lands owned by all Americans, as well as internationally significant. The Buffalohorn and Porcupine drainages lie just north of Yellowstone National Park which was designated International Biosphere Reserve in 1976, and a World Heritage Site in 1978.

      Therefore, the Gallatin wildlands deserve the best protection possible and wilderness is the Gold Bar for conservation status. Conservationists should be advocating nothing less.

    • Drone actions in ‘inspirational’ bear video ‘could have killed the cub’

      Millions of people have watched and shared “inspirational” video of a bear cub struggling to climb a steep, snow-covered slope after its mum as “proof of why you should never give up”.

      In the video, captured by a drone in eastern Russia and first uploaded to YouTube in June, the cub repeatedly tries to scramble up the ridge, only to fall back down. The mother swipes at her cub at one point, knocking it back down the slope – a “lesson in child-rearing”, wrote one Twitter user.

      But grizzly bear researcher Clayton Lamb, of the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, is among the scientists who say the drone was to blame for the bears’ behaviour.

      [...]

      Dmitry Kedrov, who filmed the bears off the coast of Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk, told the Russian website Lenta.ru he and his colleagues had seen the bears slip down the ridge several times before filming them. He insisted he they didn’t get too close to the animals and they added a zoom effect in post-production.

      However, Lamb said while he wasn’t a videographer, he was a drone operator as well as a scientist, and the effect looked exactly like when he flew his drone closer to something, rather than a zoom.

  • Finance

    • Winners Take All: Modern philanthropy means that giving some away is more important than how you got it

      Giridharadas’s point was that the business elites who were gathered to “give back” and “solve the big problems” were some of the most egregious contributors to those problems. They had looted the world’s treasuries, shut down businesses and shipped jobs to low-wage, low-regulation free trade zones, gutted public services and replaced them with low-bidder private sector contractors, and had done so while formulating and promulgating the philosophy that business leaders’ individual judgment about the provision of public services were always to be preferred to those policies set by democratically elected politicians.

    • An Honest Look at Poverty in the Heartland

      A few weeks before the election, a roomful of Wisconsinites gathered to share some of the stories that are often left out of political campaigns. At a Racine gathering of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, visitors shared real-life stories about poverty in the state.

      Solo Little John of Kenosha, Wisconsin was one of those who testified. He’s a fast food worker at Wendy’s and a leader of the Fight for $15 living wage campaign. “My voice represents the voices of the voiceless,” he said, “those who live in poverty and are directly impacted by low wages because we can’t form unions.”

      “I only make $8.75 an hour,” he added. “You can probably imagine that day in day out, this is very hard for me, that it makes it a very difficult time for me to pay my bills, my light bills, my gas, the necessities.”

      Some 1.2 million Wisconsin workers make under $15 an hour — that’s 44 percent of Wisconsin’s workforce.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • If Trump and Whitaker Undermine the Mueller Investigation, That’s an Impeachable Offense

      Do not mourn the end of Jeff Sessions. But recognize that the motivation for Trump’s removal of Sessions points to a constitutional crisis.

    • A World Off Balance

      It is a moral duty to restore the balance we have lost. Moral because our effort to restore a healthy equilibrium must include what we call Nature for it is the only thing which sustains us and we are now at the point where it is threatened irreparable damage. We may imagine that our vast technological triumphs and the plastic, steel, aluminum, iron and cement cages (cities) we inhabit provide us enough to survive but the very the air we breathe is being threatened worldwide led, in part, by the newly elected supporter of fascism Juan Bolsonaro.

      Seriously. An admirer of fascism has been elected President in Brazil and he is advocating even more “development” of the rainforests which give us more than 20% of the oxygen we need to live. This is beyond crazy. Where are the cries for UN intervention to stop this rapacious insanity and instead restore the planet so that we all have enough oxygen to survive? I know, this sounds outmoded (“UN intervention”?) and crazy, but how did we get so far that our planetary life-giving essentials are treated as commodities to be traded in for the short-term profits of a few? Many will answer that that’s been capitalism all along (and agreeing I’ll happily support its overthrow) but still, we no longer wince at the extremities advocated by and spoken of by “world leaders”, chalking it up to yet another piece in the gradualist onslaught of vertigo we are all suffering. There’s no prednisone for this illness. There are no tests needed to confirm that something is terribly wrong in our sense of balance and that this is dangerous not only for us, but for the whole teetering planet.

    • Not a Blue Wave, But Perhaps a Foreshock

      The 2018 election looks at first glance like a wash: Republicans gained seats in the Senate and Democrats regained control of the House with enough of a margin to ensure that they can put some limits on presidential power.

      But longer term impacts of 2018 are, I believe, more significant. In this election, with President Trump as party leader pushing a rabidly racist claim that immigrants fleeing from the largely US-caused poverty, chaos and violence in Honduras hoping for a better life for their kids in the US were actually an “invasion” of the US that would bring across the border everything from disease to Arab terrorists, gangs and dark-skinned rapists, and with his claiming that Democrats were behind what he labeled a “caravan” of tens of thousands (it is really just several thousand mostly young people and parents with children and babies), Republicans have hit bottom.

    • Harold Pinter’s America: a Giant Criminal Conspiracy…

      If you’ve never read or seen Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, it’s amazing—a 46-minute piece of thunderous power—but I’m not sure I’d recommend it. Pinter’s plays, when well-acted, braid together moments of existential terror and electric comedy, but his Nobel speech is not a bundle of laughs. It begins with an intriguing but much too long rumination on his creative process, but just when you think he’s going to call it a wrap, he suddenly pivots from the inward to the outward and begins a furious condemnation of the United States government that kicks so hard and hurts so deeply that it makes you ashamed not to be an outright leftist revolutionary. He forces us to look at what the great William Burroughs called the “naked lunch”—calmly but viciously indicting us for our crimes in South America and all around the world. And though he delivered the speech in 2005, it could run as an op-ed piece today, with only a few minor details changed.

      Watching the speech is exponentially scarier than reading it. Pinter couldn’t travel to Stockholm to accept the prize in person because he was hospitalized with some God-awful kind of cancer, so he sent a video which shows him sitting in a chair with a blanket on his knees, obviously ill, but methodically building his indictment as he stares at the camera, as if daring you to look away. And you want to look away. You don’t want to be a silent partner in all the murders we commit, all the rapes we encourage, all the torture we teach and practice, all the money we steal, all the air and water and creatures we poison, all the stupidity manufactured by our media, all the—well, you get the picture. To wit: “the United States has supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War, leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths,” Pinter asks: “Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy?” Then he answers his own question: “The answer is yes, they did take place, and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it.”

    • #MeToo could become a national reckoning – if the new House treats it like a financial crisis

      More than 500 women ran in primaries for federal office, a pipeline that ultimately led to a record number of women set to take office.

      Even so, it also reveals how far women are from achieving parity in politics – they are projected to hold barely more than a fifth of seats in the House and Senate. For comparison, that’s less than in Iraq, where the post-Saddam Hussein Constitution sets a 25 percent minimum for female representation in the national assembly.

      In a way, it reflects the ways in which the #MeToo movement, for its many achievements, has thus far stalled at the federal level. After a year of headlines involving sexual misconduct in a variety of industries, Congress has not passed a single piece of legislation on harassment.

    • Is Yugoslavia an “alien” or are we alien to Yugoslavia?

      There is obviously a long-lasting fascination with the character of Josip Broz Tito. To this day, Yugoslav partisan movies are still broadcast on Chinese TV channels; children and streets in China are named after the characters from the film “Walter defends Sarajevo” (1972), and there is even a beer brand “Walter”. The recent docu-fiction Houston: We Have a Problem! (Žiga Virc, 2016), about Yugoslavia’s clandestine space program, and Cinema Komunisto (Mila Turajlić, 2012), about the rise and fall of Yugoslavia’s cinematography and Tito’s personal love of the cinema, add to the growing current interest in Tito. At the same time, a recurring sentiment ever since the collapse of Yugoslavia alongside the nationalism, in Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia, is a sort of nostalgia toward “ the good old Yugoslav times” that prompted the Slovenian sociologist Mitja Velikonja – in his book Titostalgia – A Study of Nostalgia for Josip Broz published in 2008 – to coin a neologism “Titostalgia”. It describes a specific sort of nostalgia, which is part of the more general “Yugonostalgia”, but more concrete and directly connected to the Yugoslav leader Tito.[3]

    • “Words Can’t Articulate the Joy”: Wisconsin Workers Celebrate Scott Walker’s Defeat

      Joy is the order of the day as 100 people or so congregate at the rotunda of the Wisconsin Capitol in Madison just hours after incumbent Republican Scott Walker conceded the gubernatorial election to Democratic challenger Tony Evers, a former teacher who heads the state’s education department.

      It’s an emotional celebration. Old friends and allies greet one another with warm hugs, happy tears, cheers of delight and sighs of relief. They form a circle for, literally, the 1,999th gathering of the “Solidarity Sing Along,” an hour-long, informal event held every Monday through Friday at noon.

    • The Issues That Won’t Go AwayThe Issues That Won’t Go Away

      How much closer did we move to becoming a nation able and willing to focus on the real issues that threaten the planet?

      [..]

      F. The prison-industrial complex. The United States has the largest prison system in the world (and it’s becoming increasingly privatized), with 2.3 million people — mostly impoverished people of color — behind bars. Our prison system is a regrouping of Jim Crow America, which can’t stand having a country without second-class and tenth-class citizens. But here’s some good news from this year’s midterms: “Florida restored voting rights to more than 1 million people with felony records, which amounts to the biggest enfranchisement since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the women’s suffrage movement,” Vox reports.

      G. Immigrant scapegoating, hatred and fear. Because our unwinnable, endless wars can no longer serve the function of unifying the country, Trump has turned to immigrants — in particular, that “invading caravan” of desperate, shoeless Central Americans — as the Other he needs to rev his base and get the vote out. However, the Trump administration’s treatment of immigrants, including the cruel separation of parents and children, has shocked and enraged much of the country, putting the country’s long-standing policy of cruel indifference to global suffering (and of course one of its leading creators as well) into the national spotlight like never before.

      H. Voter suppression, gerrymandering, hacking. Ah, democracy, a nuisance to the powerful, a system to be gamed! If the voting can’t be controlled, my God, Republicans could lose. Witness Georgia and North Dakota, where bureaucratic twists deprived African-American and Native American citizens of their right to vote in large enough numbers to skewer election results. Stacey Abrams may yet prevail in her quest for the governorship of Georgia over Secretary of State and Purger in Chief Brian Kemp. But American democracy is not safe from itself, no matter how much the media insists on blaming all its flaws on the Russians.

    • Something Has Gone Very Wrong: An Interview With Ecuadoran Author Gabriela Alemán

      The Paris Review recently called Gabriela Alemán “a literary citizen of the Andes.” One might also call her a “citizen of the Americas,” and of the world as well. After all, her work has appeared in Chinese, Hebrew, French and Croatian; her fictional characters belong to the U.S., Germany, Ecuador, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Argentina.

      Moreover, Alemán isn’t just a “literary citizen,” though that’s a fine thing to be, but also an overtly political citizen as so many writers from South America are today and have been, from Pablo Neruda and Carlos Fuentes to Gabriel García Márquez.

      A journalist and a reporter as well as a novelist and a playwright, she was born in 1969 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the granddaughter of Ecuadorian poet, Hugo Alemán, and the daughter of the Ecuadorian diplomat Mario Alemán.

      Her novel, Poso Wells, which was published by City Lights of San Francisco in English in 2018, originally appeared in Spanish in 2007. Novelist Dick Cluster did the translation.

      A reviewer on Amazon wrote, “Poso Wells is a perfect compliment for the current political state of the United States and the hopelessness caused by constant access to terrible news via social media.” Indeed, it’s a freewheeling work of fiction that defies genres and mixes satire and surrealism, the literary and the political.

    • Myths on Race and Invasion of the ‘Caravan Horde’

      Indeed, Trump and his administration have focused on immigrants as a major threat to the security of nation. Such hyped-up racist rhetoric is completely false.

      This vitriol against the caravan of Central Americans and Mexicans on their way to the US border was cruel electioneering, no more. These people are poor and are fleeing horrific violence in their home countries. Some of this violence has been caused by US policies in the region.

      Nonetheless, Trump has staged the national guard at the border for photo opportunities of soldiers building coil wire fencing. Trump’s words of racist hatred have also inspired and summoned numerous paramilitary posses of armed militias to the US/Mexican borderlands.

      Fear-mongering and racism against immigrants is nothing new in the history of the United States.

      Toward the end of the 19th-century and at the turn of the 20th-century, many in the US promoted “Nativism”—an all-white America where good jobs belonged to Whites, not foreigners. This was the historical period known as the “Second-Industrial Revolution,” the “Gilded Age,” and the “Progressive Era”—a time of enormous economic transformation for the country through industrialization and urbanization.

    • The Real Lessons From the Debate Between David Frum and Steve Bannon

      Last November 2 the Toronto-based group Munk Debates organized a well-publicized debate between David Frum and Steve Bannon titled “Be it resolved, the future of western politics is populist not liberal…” [2] Frankly, I didn’t care about the debate so I will not refer to its content because both debaters at this point in time don’t have anything new to contribute in my view. Also, the Munk Debates are just an elitist show of intellectual entertainment for a select privileged group of people, or in Frum’s exclusivist words, for “the learned, the preeminent, and the notorious.”

      However, I read very carefully the article by David Frum in The Atlantic, “The Real Lesson of My Debate With Steve Bannon.” [1] Not having attended the debate I was curious about what he had to say about it.

      I found out that apparently he “lost” the debate, or, as he put it, “bungled it” to Bannon by some questionable voting system that the organizers had set up. That outcome must have been quite a surprise to usually self-confident Frum who saw it necessary to write about what he had learned; and he did write about …sour grapes in both a self-effacing and unrepentant way.

      My reading about the debate did teach me some lessons, and they come from two specific issues that I question in Frum’s article.

      First, he dismisses the relevance of the protests about validating someone with the reputation of Trump strategist Steve Bannon by bringing him to the debate. I was one that signed a petition against his coming to Toronto, and I would have been protesting if I were there.

    • Getting Past Gingrich

      Journalist McKay Coppins traces the toxic politics of today back to Newt Gingrich in the 1990s. Gingrich, he said, pioneered “strategic obstructionism.”

    • Donald Trump and the politics of emotion

      In 2017 Donald Trump posted a clip of himself on Twitter wrestling an avatar of CNN to the ground. In the thirty-second vignette he seizes an individual with CNN’s logo where the head should be and pummels them. The point was to position himself as a defender of truth, flattening media enemies who spread disinformation about his reign.

      It was a predictable move: Trump is a recurring character on World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), body slamming its CEO Vince McMahon, “buying” its ‘Monday Night Raw’ program and remaining unperturbed by an egregiously racialised boogeyman who regularly appears in the ring. He is the only US President to be inducted as a member of the WWE Hall of Fame.

      His immersion in this world might appear to be just another instance of the absurdly comic combining with the brutally terrifying in his presidency, but it is much more than that: the collision between Trump and wrestling provides an insight into his tactics and the broader contemporary transformation of electoral politics. The WWE taught Trump how to fuse the interests of big business with a mass of people coagulated around shared rage.

      Nationalist populism is an odd phenomenon in the ways in which it creates alliances between voters who occupy structurally opposed positions. Trump has managed to combine support from the corporate world, evangelical Christians, rural southerners and ex-union Democrats in a way that confounds existing psephological models. Transcending, at least to some extent, distinctions between left and right, this alliance melds together the ultra-rich with the people they have actively disempowered.

      There’s an obvious inconsistency here: big capital fattens itself on the democratic choices of its victims. But this also suggests that ideology and demography no longer provide a satisfactory explanation for the results of elections. Something else brings this bloc together – mass emotion which has taken the place of ideological identification. What unites the electoral victories of nationalist populists is their ability to manipulate affect, to induct their voters into a shared mood that usually resonates in the key of anger and hate. So could ‘emotional politics’ of this kind also be used to anchor a progressive revival?

      The shift from ideology to emotion that has taken place in politics over the past 30 years passed through a phase of centrism in the 1990s when liberal democracy was seen as the ‘end of history.’ Dominated by a managerial technocracy, the role of politicians was to oversee public affairs in a rational, detached manner in an affectless world. Neither the governments they ran nor the people they governed were expected to behave emotionally. Politics was stripped of any sense of mob mentality in order to save the populace from their supposedly self-destructive urges.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Following Outcry, Washington Arts Council Reverses Course on Amendment

      A Washington arts council reversed a decision on Thursday to make all of its grantees sign new contracts that several arts groups said would leave recipients open to censorship.

      The arts groups who were greenlighted for grants from the council, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, which is partially backed by the National Endowment for the Arts, received a letter on Monday. There was an amendment to the original grant contracts that they were instructed to sign to receive the money, for which they had already signed paperwork for.

      It stipulated that the work of recipients was susceptible to losing funding if it was “lewd, lascivious, vulgar, overtly political, excessively violent, constitutes sexual harassment, or is, in any other way, illegal.” It did not specify how “overtly political” would be defined, or who would be making those judgments. The decision also came as a surprise to commissioners of the council, volunteers throughout Washington who are supposed to represent the public.

    • After outcry, DC commission backs down on censoring art
    • Mayor Bowser To Withdraw Censorship Amendment from DC Arts Grants
    • After Outcry, DC’s Mayor Overrules Grant-Giving Organization’s Attempt to Restrict ‘Lewd or Political’ Work
    • DC Commission Reverses Course After Attempt to Censor Artists

      Just days after the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) issued an eleventh-hour amendment on its already-signed contracts with grantees that prohibited “lewd, lascivious, vulgar, overtly political, and/or excessively violent” projects from being funded, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office rescinded the controversial guidelines.

      On Thursday evening, DCCAH sent a letter to all its grantees explaining that the amendment was an “over-correction” and has been officially rescinded.

      Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evan initially confirmed the news to the Washington City Paper. “It should never have been sent out in the first place,” he said. “We should not be censoring artwork or anything of that nature. It was not well thought out.”

    • ‘I don’t pay attention to censorship’
    • Govinda alleges Bollywood conspiracy to curb release of his films
    • Second C in CBFC stands for certification, not censorship
    • Censorship, strong-arm tactics of AIADMK draw flak

      It has happened again. Actor Vijay’s Sarkar, which was certified by the Central Board of Film Certification, has been forced to undergo fresh cuts by ministers and ruling AIADMK cadre, alleging “insult” to their late leader Jayalalithaa and the government.

      Though it is not uncommon for movies to be “ambushed” by fringe groups, what has taken certain political leaders and the film industry by surprise is the response of the ruling party whose cadre took the law into their hands, forcing some theatres to suspend shows of Sarkar for two days.

    • Aussie Amarok ad mocks censorship, gets banned

      Sydney – Authorities in certain countries can get quite grumpy, to say the least, about adverts that show cars unleashing their performance potential.

      Anything that even remotely encourages spirited driving of any kind must be silenced at all cost, before every member of the public is suddenly and subliminally brainwashed into becoming a reckless driver, ultimately resulting in mayhem on the roads of an apocalyptic scale.

    • Vietnam’s Lady Gaga is pressuring Facebook to stop complying with censorship laws

      Mai Khoi never intended on becoming an activist.

      “I had a lot of fans, songs, and money,” said the Vietnamese pop star who’s been likened to Lady Gaga and Pussy Riot (paywall). “Life was easy and comfortable, but it wasn’t enough for me.”

      At the Oslo Freedom Forum in Taipei, Khoi opened her talk with a performance of her song “Vietnam,” which urged her fellow citizens to “step out from the fear” and “raise our voice, speak, sing, scream.”

    • Hypocrisy and censorship: China’s human rights model

      In early September, a seemingly ordinary incident involving Chinese tourists being ejected from a hotel in Stockholm made international headlines when it erupted into a minor diplomatic quarrel between China and Sweden. Almost a month later, an altercation between a reporter from China’s state-run CCTV network and a speaker at a London forum addressing the erosion of rule of law and autonomy in Hong Kong similarly escalated tensions between China and the UK. In both instances, Beijing accused the European governments of violating basic human rights and flouting international norms and diplomatic protocol.

      While this is not the first time either country has been the target of China’s sharp diplomatic rhetoric, the approach implies a new trend in employing this particular tactic on European nations — one not lost on Western media outlets. Drawing links between the two events, the tactic has been identified as a new strategy of applying diplomatic pressure by stirring national outrage. However, for countries more exposed to China’s reach, there is nothing new about it.

    • How censorship became deadly during the First World War

      The Boer War wasn’t just a disaster for the British army in terms of geopolitics and the perception of its power on the world stage. It was also a disaster in terms of public relations.

      Much of the European and American press had supported the Boers, casting these Dutch settlers as victims of brutal British colonialism (though very little ink was devoted to the dispossessed indigenous Africans who were colonized by the Boers and the British). Meanwhile, foreign press printed stories about the new British invention, the “concentration camp” where Boer civilians were herded, and of the boldness of the guerrilla campaigns waged by these farmers against the professional army of one of the world’s greatest powers.

      So the British learned their lesson for their next war—the First World War, almost 12 years later—investing significant money and effort into developing a scientific censorship and propaganda system to manipulate world public opinion. The best minds in the British press and universities were co-opted to develop censorship and propaganda systems, and they learned that it only worked if the marketplace of ideas was cleansed of competing narratives.

    • Hollywood Movie ‘Hunter Killer’ in Russian Limbo – ‘Veiled Censorship‘?

      “Hunter Killer,” the new American action thriller film starring Gerard Butler and Gary Oldman, was scheduled to premiere in Russia on November 1. However, it was not released due to what officials say was a bureaucratic issue, not censorship. Critics disagree.

      The Russian Ministry of Culture, which gives permits to all art productions before they can be shown to the public, said the problem was with the Russian distributor, which did not provide a proper copy of the film to be preserved in the state film archive (Gosfilmfond).

    • Former Post-Gazette cartoonist discusses censorship

      Though politics are growing more polarized, former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers said artists need not shy away from them in their work. While they shouldn’t feel pressured to take a side, he said, entertainers should also recognize that it’s okay to use their platforms as a means of making political statements.

      “When you see government cutting arts programs in schools and trying to demonize Hollywood,” Rogers said, “I think it’s really important for artists to stand up.”

      Rogers, who was fired from the Post-Gazette in June for works critical of President Trump, spoke Nov. 1 at a panel on free speech and censorship held at the Carnegie Stage. He was joined by attorney John Gisleson of the Pittsburgh law firm Morgan and Lewis, and by the American Civil Liberties Union of Greater Pittsburgh Vice President Brenda Lee Green.

    • Censorship And The Future Of Media!

      In modern times, Mass Media play vital role by providing information and entertainment to people across the border. Media’s different forms have influenced our lives. It was time, when print media ruled over the world, but now it faces competition from electronic media. And electronic media is now facing the same condition from social media. But these mediums still play their role by adopting changes of the time. Radio has been remained the main factor of providing entertainment apart from news and views.

      As we are living in the digital world, media has also reshaped itself and emerged as new media. With the internet new mediums of disseminating the information and views across the globe have revolutionized the media.

      Media with responsibility defended its freedom and played vital role, but the authoritarian governments and dictatorship narrowed its scope. We take an example of Pakistan; we see the dismal picture of media. Couple of the media institutions tend to maintain and protect its freedom, but the sense of social responsibility is not showed that is linked with the freedom of expression. Here we see media divided into anti-government, pro-government and righteous groups’ blocks. Meantime, it propagates the campaign against the rivals and trying to represent the skewed views on national issues. As a result, the truth and responsibility are vanished in vain.

    • Bending Over Backward: A Biased Look at Left-wing Censorship

      To provide “balance” and indicate similar incivility on the right the authors cite “off-campus” groups, regularly described as “alt-right’ and “white supremacist,” that send online threats to political opponents, one to a professor who called for “white genocide.” This subtle academic term, the authors explain, was taken literally by the ill-informed online bigots. Another professor’s commencement address, they note, sparked a flurry of fifty hate-filled internet responses, as if that number of electronic threats were extraordinary given the speaker’s use of the celebratory occasion to call President Trump “a racist and sexist megalomaniac.” Contrast those cyber-insults with the vile face-to-face confrontations and threats that were endured by an instructor at Yale’s Child Study Center who offered the modest email opinion that the school shouldn’t be so paternalistic as to prescribe Halloween costumes for adult students. Both she and her husband were harassed and insulted by an on-campus mob. To make matters worse, the couple received no backing from colleagues or administrators and eventually resigned over this picayune questioning of PC orthodoxy,

    • ‘Political censorship’: United Nations removes submissions from int’l civil groups at China’s human rights review

      nternational civil groups have expressed concern after the United Nations removed their submissions from papers relating to China’s human rights review. In response, the UN said that it must respect the “sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity” of China.

      The United Nations Human Rights Council conducted its Universal Periodic Review on China on Tuesday. It welcomed constructive contributions from civil society on human rights issues to be submitted by March.

      However, international civil groups, including Hong Kong’s Demosisto, have said that they were dismayed after at least seven submissions were completely removed from the final document. The document is presented to UN member states so they may draft recommendations as part of China’s review.

    • Not Safe for Facebook: Censorship and the Modern Public Square

      Semi-nude paintings by Austrian artist Egon Schiele surprised recent riders of the New York subway, London Tube, and Cologne bus. The works were part of an ad campaign launched by the Vienna Tourism Board. Originally, they were supposed to stand on their own as advertisements for the Leopold Museum. City regulators protested this request to depict nudity in their public spaces, which prompted a change from the Board: the addition of a strategic banner reading, “SORRY, 100 years old but still too daring today.” Facebook also refused to run the original images. Justice Anthony Kennedy dubbed Facebook the modern public square, an arena where citizens around the world can share and access information, buy and sell goods, and gather to discuss current events. Unlike the physical town square, Facebook does not have roots in civic organization. A private corporation, Facebook has no obligations or accountability to the public, only to business imperatives and shareholders. And yet, it has many of the powers typically ascribed to a government, due to its prominence in everyday life and ability to decide who sees what and when. Returning to a time before Facebook and a handful of other tech companies have quasi-governmental authority is impossible. The only alternative is to challenge censorship of free expression on the platform itself by pointing out omissions and opening up a dialogue.

    • Facebook and Twitter intensify censorship in 2018 elections

      Stepping up its online censorship less than a day before polls opened for the 2018 mid-term elections, Facebook announced on Monday the shutdown of 115 social media accounts on its Facebook and Instagram platforms. Nathanial Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook wrote in a newsroom blog post that US law enforcement had “contacted us about online activity that they recently discovered and which they believe may be linked to foreign entities.”

      The 30 Facebook and 85 Instagram accounts were blocked, according to Gleicher, because they “may be engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior” and some of the accounts “appear to be in the French or Russian languages.” Acknowledging the threadbare character of the assertions, Gleicher also wrote that Facebook had not even completed an investigation before shutting down the accounts. He added, “Once we know more—including whether these accounts are linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency or other foreign entities—we will update this post.”
      Meanwhile, Reuters reported on November 2 that Twitter had deleted 10,000 “automated accounts” in September and October that “wrongly appeared to be from Democrats” and “discouraged people from voting” on election day. Admitting the political motivation behind the censorship, the report said that Twitter took that action “after the party flagged the misleading tweets to the social media company.”

    • Russian Trolls Were at It Again Before Midterms, Facebook Says
    • Facebook Says Russia’s Internet Research Agency Likely Behind Online Election Meddling, Removes Additional Accounts
    • A Russian troll farm set an elaborate social media trap for the midterms — and no one bit
    • Facebook takes down fake accounts over Russian troll farm concerns

      Facebook says it removed more than 100 accounts this week from the main service as well as its subsidiary Instagram over concerns they may be connected to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) — the same troll operation targeted by special counsel Robert Mueller in his sprawling Russia investigation.

    • Internet Freedom and China’s censorship influence
    • Report Warns of “China Model” of Net Control
    • Rainbow Six Siege gets review bombed after Chinese censorship announcement
    • Rainbow Six Siege review bombed amid China censorship backlash
    • ‘Rainbow Six Siege’ In Censorship Row As “Aesthetic Changes” Are Made To Fit Asian Regulations
    • Ubisoft Will Censor Rainbow Six Siege’s References To Sex And Gambling Prior To Chinese Release
    • Pahlaj Nihalani Moves Bombay HC Against Censor Board Cuts to ‘Rangeela Raja’
    • If censorship is wrong, isn’t Pahlaj Nihalani and Rangeela Raja wronged too?
    • Elastos back on track after the “unlocking funds” drama – 220k ELA carriers distributed in October. Censorship-free Internet is making a comeback
    • Ex-CBFC Chief Pahlaj Nihalani, Known For His Love Of Censorship, Has Moved Bombay HC Over Cuts To His Film
    • SENSATIONAL: ‘Prasoon Joshi Doesn’t Do Any Work’, Blasts Predecessor Pahlaj Nihalani Going To Court Over CBFC’s 20 Cuts In His Film

      Pahlaj Nihalani has filed a plea at the Bombay High Court against the censor board for demanding 20 cuts in his upcoming film ‘Rangeela Raja’.

    • Once scissor-happy, Nihalani now has second thoughts on censorship
    • Rangeela Raja Vulgarity Controversy: Ex-Censor Chief Pahlaj Nihalani Declares War On His Successor Prasoon Joshi
    • Govinda on 20 cuts given to Rangeela Raja: My films being targetted for last nine years
    • New Zealand slaps warning on A Star is Born over two teens getting ‘severely triggered’
    • A Star Is Born: Hollywood blockbuster sparks NZ censorship concerns

      he Office of Film and Literature Classification added a suicide warning to the recently released film A Star Is Born, just days after its release, following reports of young viewers being deeply affected by the content.

      The film, starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, is a remake of a Hollywood classic and has received positive reviews on the global stage.

      It was rated M in Australia making it automatically an M in New Zealand.

      However, Chief Censor David Shanks said it did bring into question whether cross rating regulations with Australia were fit for purpose.

      “There is definitely additional attention that needs to be paid in New Zealand with the vulnerable population we have, that could be affected by this content,” he said.

    • ‘A Star is Born’ Rating Changed in New Zealand After Claims That Teens Were ‘Triggered’ By Pivotal Scene

      According to a series of tweets from the country’s Office of Film & Lit Classification, “Thanks to public feedback we’ve updated the descriptive note for #AStarIsBorn to include a warning for suicide. The depiction is subtle but emotionally arresting.”

      The film is now classified as “M” for “sex scenes, offensive language, drug use & suicide.”

    • FCC warns of fears and self-censorship

      The Foreign Correspondents’ Club warned today that journalists working in Hong Kong face fear and self-censorship if the government fails to explains its decision to deny entry to the Asia editor of the Financial Times newspaper, RTHK reports.

      Victor Mallet was denied entry into Hong Kong yesterday when he arrived as a visitor. British citizens are usually given a visa-free stay of up to six months.

      The FCC said it’s “shocked and baffled” over the entry denial and it is demanding an immediate explanation for this “aggravated and disproportionate sanction that seems completely unfounded.”

      A statement from the FCC said the action by the Immigration Department has placed journalists working in the SAR in an opaque environment in which fear and self-censorship may replace the freedom and confidence essential to a free society, and guaranteed by the Basic Law.

    • Fake court papers trick Google into censorship

      Forged court orders have been used in an attempt to deceive Google into removing hundreds of links.

      A British businessman’s name appears to be among dozens of instances where the documents have been served on the search engine to try to force it to remove damaging information from search results.

      Last week two fake documents were sent to Google in an attempt to censor a Times article revealing concerns about an online pharmacy run by an alleged internet spammer. The documents, including an order which purported to be from the UK Supreme Court, were sent to the tech giant in an attempt to get the article removed from its search result.

      The “de-indexing” request was submitted in the name of Mason Soiza, 24, the owner…

    • National Coalition Against Censorship Celebrates Free Expression on Stage

      On November 5th, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) hosted its annual Free Speech Defender Awards at a benefit celebration in New York City, honoring Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of The Public Theatre, and featuring a highly-anticipated performance from musical theater icons Joe Iconis and George Salazar of Be More Chill. The event was hosted by comedian Michael Ian Black.

      [...]

      In the summer of 2017, The Public’s production of Julius Caesar, featuring a Trump-like Caesar, drew ire from right-wing media, resulting in the withdrawal of two of the play’s largest corporate sponsors. NCAC honors Eustis for his dedication to artistic freedom, his fierce defense of the value of provocative art to democracy and his unwavering commitment to the free expression of his directors, playwrights, actors and entire the entire theatrical community.

    • Freedom’s just another word for everything left to lose

      In this age when information flows internationally, it’s not enough for your country’s press to be free; it has to be free around the world.

      Two stats for you, one to make you happy, one to make you scared. Of the 180 countries ranked by the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, South Africa is number 28. Yay for us. Despite the gross attempts at Media Capture™ by the Guptas and their 24-hour Comedy News Channel, and by Mandela’s Dr Survè and his laughingly named Independent Media (at least the guy has a sense of humour), and despite our government’s corrupt channelling of millions in state advertising away from legitimate newspapers and into the Zuptas’ bank accounts, we still have a press that’s ranked as more free than countries like the US (45), the UK (40), and Uganda (117).

    • Twitter Censorship Strikes Again

      It is known that Twitter likes to censorship content. They have the power to ban and shut down the accounts of regular people, and even the ability to ban world leaders and their posts. It looks like Silicon Valley can decide what we are permitted to see on the modern web. Recently they shut down the account of a vocal Trump supporter who happens to be a black woman.

      [...]

      Obviously, this young black conservative Trump supporter doesn’t fit into the far-left vision that Twitter has. It looks like Twitter and its fellow Silicon Valley cronies are using their powerful platform to silence the voice from the right.

      President Trump is figuring out how to avoid social media platforms and this kind of liberal manipulations, and reach his supporters directly.

    • Activists Use Crypto to Protect ‘Rap Against Dictatorship’ from Government Censorship

      Anti-government activists in Thailand are using crypto tech to help prevent authorities from censoring “Rap Against Dictatorship,” a controversial music video that has gone viral in the country. The video, which excoriates Thai government and military authorities on a number of social issues, has achieved runaway success in Thailand, amassing more than 28 million views on YouTube since it was released on October 22.

    • Second EN Thompson lecture discusses free speech over censorship
    • Tajikistan: Internet censorship surges amid unrest and tax break report

      Security-related incidents and reporting on alleged tax breaks for businesspeople within Tajikistan’s ruling family appear to have triggered a fresh wave of internet censorship.

      Some websites, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, have been only sporadically inaccessible for months, even years. Total blocks on other websites, such independent newspaper Asia-Plus, are more recent.

      The worst situation of all is in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, or GBAO, which was cut off from the internet altogether as of November 9. The Pamiri region is currently the focus of an intense security sweep and has seen at least one show of mass discontent by local residents.

    • Thai Rappers Adds Song on Zcoin’s Blockchain to Fight Censorship

      A rap song titled Prathet Ku Mee (Which is My Country), centered on government oppression in Thailand has garnered over 25 million views on YouTube. The viral song, which is topping Thailand’s iTunes download list as at October 27, 2018, was released by Thai rappers who dropped fiery rhymes about government corruptions, censorships, military dictatorship and much more.

      Thailand has been under the rule of a military government since 2014. The generals who toppled the elected government have kept a tight lid on dissent, going as far as telling the Thai population that the song violates the law, warning citizens not to watch or share it.

      Filmed in an old-fashioned black and white, the lyrics of the video seems to target junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha.

    • White Rabbit Red Rabbit denounces censorship

      “White Rabbit Red Rabbit” — an experimental play without a set, director or any rehearsals — will open to the public this weekend at Wild Goose Creative.
      Each night, the play will be performed by a different actor — Adam Humphrey, Acacia Duncan and Brian Evans— from the Columbus-based theater company Available Light. Written in 2010, the play has been performed in more than 20 languages by several famous actors and celebrities, including Whoopi Goldberg and Martin Short during its premiere in New York City.
      Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour, having refused mandatory military service, was not permitted to leave his country. In response, he wrote “White Rabbit Red Rabbit” as a means to express himself through borders.
      “This is a play about censorship, about one’s voice and about whose voice you obey,” said Eleni Papaleonardos, artistic director at Available Light Theatre and visiting assistant professor of Theatre at Denison University.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • The DEA and ICE are hiding surveillance cameras in streetlights

      The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have hidden an undisclosed number of covert surveillance cameras inside streetlights around the country, federal contracting documents reveal.

      According to government procurement data, the DEA has paid a Houston, Texas company called Cowboy Streetlight Concealments LLC roughly $22,000 since June 2018 for “video recording and reproducing equipment.” ICE paid out about $28,000 to Cowboy Streetlight Concealments over the same period of time.

    • ICE and the DEA have secretly hidden cameras in some streetlights

      Government procurement data reveals that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Agency have each spent tens of thousands of dollars on products from Houston’s Cowboy Streetlight Concealments LLC, which specializes in fake streetlight housings designed to conceal surveillance cameras.

      Since June, the DEA has spent $22,000 with Cowboy; ICE’s total is about $28K. Neither the government agencies nor Cowboy Streetlight Concealments will reveal where or how the hidden camera housings were used.

    • Researchers claim to have permanently neutralized ad-blocking’s most promising weapons

      Last year, Princeton researchers revealed a powerful new ad-blocking technique: perceptual ad-blocking uses a machine-learning model trained on images of pages with the ads identified to make predictions about which page elements are ads to block and which parts are not.

      However, a new paper from a group of Stanford and CISPA Helmholtz Center researchers reveals a powerful machine learning countermeasure that, they say, will permanently tilt the advantage toward advertisers and away from ad-blockers.

    • Amazon must give up Echo recordings in double murder case, judge rules

      According to local media accounts, Strafford County Superior Court Presiding Justice Steven M. Houran compelled Amazon to disclose not only the audio files but any associated data—such as what phones were paired to the smart speaker—that may be connected to the January 2017 murder of Christine Sullivan and Jenna Pellegrini.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Police ‘hamstrung’ over facial recognition tech, says Met chief

      She was reported as saying she was keen to press ahead with greater use of facial recognition. “I am very keen that the law keeps up with the technology and I don’t feel that we are working in a tremendously enabling environment at the moment,” Dick said.

    • Experts oppose gov’t proposal to restrict right to assembly

      “Even that would obviously restrict the right to assembly. And saying that police are too busy to respond in six hours is not a justification for this bill proposal,” Lavapuro said.

    • Reflections on the role of philanthropy in the world of work

      The fifth strategy listed by the Ford Foundation – amplifying the voice and influence of young and old workers, migrant workers, and returnee migrants – is vital. Conventionally this was done by promoting freedom of association and collective bargaining, and trusting that trade unions would transmit the workers’ voices. However, experience has shown that this is not enough: many workers go unrepresented and the trade union structures at the international level are sometimes part of the top-down problem.

    • As California Burns, Undocumented People Face Gap in Recovery Aid

      California is on fire.

      As this piece is being written, the Camp Fire is racing across northern California at a rate of about eighty football fields per minute. To the south in Ventura County, the Hill Fire has already scorched 30,000 acres in a single day. Although I am sitting safely in my home hundreds of miles away from either blaze, I can actually smell the smoke. The air is hazy and the sun has taken on an eerie reddish hue. It’s November. It hasn’t rained in months. And it’s not forecasted to anytime soon.

      Earlier this summer, the largest wildfire in the state’s history — the Mendocino Complex Fire — burned so intensely that it generated its own weather patterns, creating ‘fire whirls’ that uprooted trees and ripped roofs off of homes. Stretching out over almost 500 square miles, the Mendocino Complex fire burned through an area roughly the size of the city of Los Angeles, and it was just one of more than a dozen infernos active in the state at the time.

      Wildfire has always been a normal feature of California’s ecosystems. Periodic blazes serve to clean up dead litter on the forest floor and play an important role in the reproduction of certain plants. What is not normal are the climate change-fueled extreme weather conditions that have led to larger and more frequent fires. The period between fall of 2011 and fall of 2015 was the driest in California’s history, with 62 million trees dying in 2016 alone, largely due to drought. According to science writer Gary Ferguson, these prolonged droughts, coupled with broken heat records, have led to forests filled with trees as flammable as the kiln-dried timber found in lumber yards.

    • Insult to Injury: US Citizen Children of Migrants Already Suffer Under Immigration Law, Even Without an Executive Birthright Order

      One of President Trump’s stated reasons for the proposed elimination of birthright citizenship is: “a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years, with all of those benefits.” Among the many problems with this statement is its disregard for the difficulties that current immigration law imposes on the US citizen children of migrants. One of the most wrenching examples plays itself out when migrants seek permanent resident status through applications for “cancellation of removal” under section 240(A)(b)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

      This provision established a type of relief sought by certain migrants who are in removal proceedings before an immigration court.o

    • In remembrance of Kristallnacht

      Eighty years ago, on 9 November 1938, an order was given by Nazi German authorities to terrorize and arrest German Jewish citizens, resulting in tens of thousands of people being sent to concentration camps. Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, marked a violent escalation against Jewish people. This escalation of violence was a continuation of antisemitic policies instituted in 1933, but was also part of a long history of discrimination against Jewish people.

      In the October issue of The American Historical Review, the most prominent professional history journal in the United States, historians have taken on the task of understanding “the vexed history of anti-Semitism.”[1] In a “roundtable discussion”, historians debate the origins of the term itself, which only appeared in the late nineteenth century. They discuss alternative terminologies, such as Judeophobia, which Jewish historian Jonathan Judaken “defends as an overarching category for the field’”[2] In his writing, Judaken pushes us to understand and differentiate ancient Judeophobia and medieval anti-Judaism, Nazi anti-Semitism and contemporary anti-Zionism. Judaken prompts us to understand both continuities and changes. Searching to understand the origin of the word “anti-Semitism”, historian David Feldman locates its usage in the 1870s – after political and civil equality for Jews is achieved in Germany in 1871.[3]

      As Feldman points out, the prominent British-Jewish journalist, editor and activist Lucien Wolf wrote of antisemitism in an entry commissioned for the Encyclopedia Britannica’s eleventh edition, which came out in 1910. In that entry, Wolf writes, “In the political struggles of the concluding quarter of the nineteenth century an important part was played by a religious, political and social agitation against the Jews, known as ‘Anti-Semitism’. The origins of the remarkable movement already threaten to become obscured by legend. The Jews contend that anti-Semitism is a mere atavistic revival of the Jew-hatred of the middle ages”.[4] In this way, Wolf describes antisemitism as being felt as part of a continual form of oppression by Jews.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • HTTP/3

      The protocol that’s been called HTTP-over-QUIC for quite some time has now changed name and will officially become HTTP/3. This was triggered by this original suggestion by Mark Nottingham.

      The QUIC Working Group in the IETF works on creating the QUIC transport protocol. QUIC is a TCP replacement done over UDP. Originally, QUIC was started as an effort by Google and then more of a “HTTP/2-encrypted-over-UDP” protocol.

      When the work took off in the IETF to standardize the protocol, it was split up in two layers: the transport and the HTTP parts. The idea being that this transport protocol can be used to transfer other data too and its not just done explicitly for HTTP or HTTP-like protocols. But the name was still QUIC.

      People in the community has referred to these different versions of the protocol using informal names such as iQUIC and gQUIC to separate the QUIC protocols from IETF and Google (since they differed quite a lot in the details). The protocol that sends HTTP over “iQUIC” was called “hq” (HTTP-over-QUIC) for a long time.

  • DRM

    • Bad News For Denuvo, Hitman 2 Gets Cracked Before Official Release

      DRM companies have been in constant battle with scene groups for quite some time. We have seen multitudes of DRM software over the years with varying degrees of success. There hasn’t been any software that has stopped scene groups from cracking a game.

      Yet Denuvo has been the most successful DRM software till date. The software doesn’t protect a game indefinitely, but it does manage to delay the cracks and protect the initial launch window. This approach has been highly successful and Denuvo has seen its popularity soar, being present in most AAA titles now.

      [...]

      A lot of games using Denuvo’s new 5.2 version were also cracked recently. Just Cause 4 will also be protected by Denuvo, so there’s some possibility scene groups bring out cracks in a few days of release.

      This isn’t really bad news for Game Developers, but it might be for Denuvo. If cracks start appearing within a few days after launch, companies might start looking for other providers, or use their in-house protection software.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • More than a dozen public interest statements filed in investigation of Qualcomm’s first ITC complaint against Apple

      In late September, the ITC’s meanwhile-retired Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Thomas B. Pender recommended that the U.S. trade agency refrain from banning Intel-powered iPhones he deemed to infringe a Qualcomm patent, given Qualcomm’s overtly anticompetitive litigation tactics of targeting only Intel-powered iPhones. In late October, a heavily-redacted version of his findings became available. On Halloween, the parties filed their public interest statements.

      The parties, government agencies, and the general public have multiple opportunities to submit public interest statements to the ITC. I’ve created a three-page diagram that shows at which procedural milestones the ITC requests and/or invites such statements.

      On Thursday (November 8), the latest round of statements by the general public was due. A total of thirteen statements were filed that day. Here are some observations:

      Intel’s statement is particularly relevant. Its testimony on what would happen if Qualcomm could successfully exclude Intel-powered iPhones from the U.S. market is at the heart of ALJ Pender’s factual findings relating ot the public interest.

    • Recent Critiques of Post-Sale Confusion: Is Materiality the Answer?

      Kal Raustiala and Christopher Sprigman are well known as the authors of the book, The Knock-Off Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation (2012). In their new article, Rethinking Post-Sale Confusion, Raustiala and Sprigman level a critique at “post-sale confusion” theory that supports many of their book’s conclusions about the virtues of so-called knock-offs. In post-sale confusion cases, courts find infringement even when it is abundantly clear that consumers of obvious knock-offs are not confused at the time of purchase.

      Raustiala and Sprigman’s critique of post-sale confusion theory adds to similarly critical scholarship by others such as Jeremy Sheff and Mark McKenna, whose articles Veblen Brands and A Consumer Decision-Making Theory of Trademark Law, respectively, provide the backbone for much of the discussion in this post. Professor Sheff also has a forthcoming book chapter in the Cambridge Handbook on Comparative and International Trademark Law, where he places American post-sale confusion doctrine in perspective by comparing it to the European approach.

      This post attempts to synthesize this scholarship, though cannot hope to serve as a replacement for the much more comprehensive and eloquent original work by these experts. The post also draws attention to a growing refrain by trademark scholars such as Rebecca Tushnet, Mark McKenna, and Mark Lemley: that a possible response to trademark courts’ embrace of alternative theories of confusion is to institute a materiality requirement, like courts use for false advertising claims.

    • Copyrights

      • Researchers Report Elsevier to EU Anti-Competition Authority

        Academic publisher Elsevier has repeatedly made the news for its battle with Sci-Hub, the “Pirate Bay” of science. However, while Elsevier is using copyrights to protect its business, academic-insiders accuse the publisher of “anti-competitive” actions.

      • MPAA Considers a ‘Makeover’ As It Faces Shrinking Budget

        Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox has been one of the major entertainment industry stories this year. Indirectly, it also impacts Hollywood’s industry group the MPAA, which loses one of its six members. This prompted insiders to rethink the organization’s future and reportedly, streaming giants such as Netflix are being considered as future members.

      • Spotify to Musicians: Let Us Be Your Label

        Of course, the direct upload plan isn’t altruistic. Spotify, which is on track to lose more than $170 million this year, pays out more than 70 percent of its monthly sales to rights holders. The direct upload system ups Spotify’s take even as it delivers 50 percent to the artists, who’d typically get more like 15 percent to 20 percent under the old system.

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