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11.20.18

Links 20/11/2018: Spectre Patch Ruins Linux, Total War: WARHAMMER II Comes to GNU/Linux

Posted in News Roundup at 7:36 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Server

    • Getting started with software-defined networking

      Software-defined networking (SDN) is a dynamic, manageable, cost-effective, and adaptable networking technology suitable for the high-bandwidth, dynamic nature of today’s applications. By using an SDN architecture, an IT operations team can control network traffic in complex networking topologies through a centralized panel, rather than handling each network device, such as routers and switches, manually.

      Rapidly growing mobile content, server virtualization, and hybrid cloud services are some of the trends leading the networking industry to reconsider network architectures. The traditional networking architecture is built mainly on multiple layers of network switches in a hierarchical topology. But it’s harder to address rapidly increasing application workloads from multiple and hybrid infrastructures (like the cloud) in a hierarchical architecture.

    • Up in the clouds: where next for IBM stock after Red Hat acquisition?
    • Microsoft confirms: We fixed Azure by turning it off and on again. PS: Office 362 is still borked

      Microsoft is recovering somewhat from a bad case of the Mondays that left some of its subscribers unable to use multi-factor authentication to log into their cloud services.

      The Redmond giant said that around 2130 UTC today it had managed to get its Azure Cloud back up and running as per normal. Meanwhile, Office 364 is still being knocked into shape by the Windows giant’s techies.

      Azure and the cloud-based Office suite started playing up at 0439 UTC, meaning multi-factor authentication has been knackered for about 17 hours, preventing unlucky users from logging in.

      Over the weekend, Azure’s DevOps services were also a little wobbly, we note.

      [...]

      This is after many, but not all, punters have spent most of the day unable to log-in to their Microsoft-hosted services via multi-factor authentication. The outages were felt worldwide, beginning in the afternoon of Monday in Asia, and carrying on into Europe’s start-of-the-week, and into the Americas as unlucky users found themselves unable to use their two-factor gizmos to log in.

      For security reasons, multi-factor authentication is highly recommended in order to prevent password-stealing hackers from hijacking accounts.

      Now, with Asia nearly ready to get up and start its Tuesday workday, Microsoft has yet to fully resolve its Office 359 login headaches. Passwords also cannot be reset by users.

    • MFA failure hits Microsoft cloud services globally

      Microsoft cloud customers using multi-factor authentication have been locked out of their accounts since Monday morning US time, the company’s own status pages indicate.

    • Azure and Office 365 down as Microsoft suffers MFA borkage
    • IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat gives them access to crown jewels: OpenShift and Ansible

      Business opportunities today rarely involve IBM Corp. software, says Kyle Bassett, with only a few IBM-loyal customers using BlueMix requiring his company’s services. But after the largest software acquisition to date, Bassett, partner at Arctiq: Intelligent Solutions, expects that to change.

      [...]

      While Bassett is unsure what IBM’s strategy is going to be moving forward – although Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat, has suggested Red Hat will remain a distinct unit in IBM – what is certain is that Big Blue now has access to Red Hat’s “crown jewels.”

      “Now they’re going to have their hands on OpenShift and Ansible,” says Bassett. “They’ve acquired the maturity around kubernetes and they might be able to turn that around into some type of service offering.”

  • Kernel Space

    • Latest Spectre patches bring big performance hits to Linux 4.20 kernel

      This wouldn’t be a big deal if this also affected AMD CPUs, but it appears that AMD is doing well and it allowed AMD’s Threadripper 2990WX to pull ahead of Intel’s Core i9-7980XE in some of those tests, at least with those performance hits.

    • Linux Spectre V2 Patch Incurs up to 50 Percent Performance Penalty

      How far are you willing to go to make your PC more secure? Most security conscious people understand that mitigating their risk involves some kind of trade-off, whether it’s sacrificing convenience, spending more money, or compromising their system’s performance. Yet many Linux users weren’t prepared for a patch for the Spectre v2 vulnerability to incur up to a 50% performance penalty on Intel processors.

      The patch in question was released with the Linux 4.20 kernel. It bears the Single Thread Indirect Branch Predictors (STIBP) mitigation for CPUs with simultaneous multithreading (SMT). This is supposed to prevent attacks based on the Spectre v2 vulnerability, but as a result, it also hurts performance on Intel processors with Hyper-Threading enabled, provided those CPUs are running the latest microcode updates as well.

    • Linus Torvalds: After big Linux performance hit, Spectre v2 patch needs curbs

      As noted by Linux news site Phoronix, the sudden slowdowns have been caused by a newly implemented mitigation called Single Thread Indirect Branch Predictors (STIBP), which is on by default in the Linux 4.20 kernel for Intel systems with up-to-date microcode.

      STIBP is one of three possible mitigations Intel added to its firmware updates in response to the Spectre v2 attacks. Others included Indirect Branch Restricted Speculation (IBRS), and Indirect Branch Predictor Barrier (IBPB), which could be enabled by operating-system makers.

      STIBP specifically addresses attacks against Intel CPUs that have enabled Hyper Threading, its version of Simultaneous Multithreading (SMT)

    • Linux File-Systems Keeps Getting Better, But More Improvements Are Sought

      Linux file-systems continue getting better along with the infrastructure around it in the VFS and block code, but still there are some pain points for both users and developers around Linux storage.

      Steven French who is a Samba developer and the kernel CIFS VFS maintainer while serving as Microsoft’s principal software engineer on Azure storage, presented at last week’s Linux Plumbers Conference 2018 on some of the recent file-system/VFS improvements as well as current pain points.

    • Graphics Stack

      • An Update On The Radeon RX 590 For Linux

        Last week AMD released the Radeon RX 590 Polaris refresh graphics card, but after buying this ~$279 USD graphics card, sadly it’s not yet out-of-the-box on Linux for driver support. I am still working on getting it working with the open-source driver stack but have a brief update to share.

        As shared last week, when trying various stable/development combinations when receiving the Sapphire Radeon RX 590, the display output doesn’t work upon loading of the AMDGPU Direct Rendering Manager driver.

      • NVIDIA 415.18 Linux Driver Released: Adds HardDPMS, Fixes Wine Bug & Much More

        This builds succeeds the recent 415.13 Linux beta. That earlier release had a fix for a possible Wine crash, a new HardDPMS configuration option (causing displays to be put to sleep using a mode-set rather than Display Power Management Signaling), Vulkan and OpenGL fixes, and X.Org Server fixes too.

        Today’s NVIDIA 415.18 stable driver release incorporates those changes as well as some other extra fixes, including an indicator for the PRIME synchronization state via NVIDIA Settings.

      • AMDVLK 2018.4.2 Open-Source Vulkan Driver Brings Sparse Support, Degenerate Triangles

        It appears AMD is stepping up their game around the open-source AMDVLK Vulkan Linux driver with moving to tagged releases and better release notes.

        One year after they began pushing out the sources to AMDVLK, which is based upon their internal Linux/Windows Vulkan driver code, they did their first tagged release last week in the form of AMDVLK 2018.4.1. Out today is AMDVLK 2018.4.2.

    • Benchmarks

      • AMD AOCC 1.3 Compiler Benchmarks vs. GCC 8.2 vs. LLVM Clang 7.0

        Earlier this month marked the release of the AMD Optimizing C/C++ Compiler 1.3 (AOCC 1.3) with a re-base to the LLVM 7.0 code-base, enhanced loop optimizations, better vectorization, code generation, integration of the optimized AMD Math Library, and other enhancements. Here are some fresh benchmarks against AMD AOCC 1.3 against LLVM Clang 7.0 upstream as well as GCC 8.2.0.

        Using the Dell PowerEdge R7425 that we received a few weeks ago and have been using for a lot of our Zen/EPYC benchmarks given its dual EPYC 7601 processors, the server was running Ubuntu 18.10 in its current configuration for the latest compiler toolchain. AMD AOCC 1.3 was tested using its default binaries and compared to GCC 8.2.0 and LLVM Clang 7.0. The CFLAGS/CXXFLAGS for testing were maintained at “-O3 -march=native” throughout.

      • Phoronix Test Suite 8.4 M3 Brings Improvements For POWER9, Colorful Text Graphs

        The third and possibly final development release of the upcoming Phoronix Test Suite 8.4-Skiptvet is now available for testing of our open-source, cross-platform testing and benchmarking framework.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Krita Fall 2018 Sprint Results: HDR support for Krita and Qt!

        In October we held a Krita developers’ sprint in Deventer. One of my goals for the sprint was to start implementing High Dynamic Range (HDR) display support for Krita. Now almost a month have passed and I am finally ready to publish some preliminary results of what I started during the sprint.

        The funny thing is, before the sprint I had never seen what HDR picture even looks like! People around talked about that, shops listed displays with HDR support, documentation mentioned that, but what all this buzz was about? My original understanding was like “Krita passes 16-bit color to OpenGL, so we should already be ready for that”. In Deventer I managed to play with Boud’s display, which is basically one of few certified HDR displays with support of 1000 nits brightness, and found out that my original understanding was entirely wrong :)

      • KDAB Training at Qt World Summit Berlin

        KDAB is offering eight superb Training Classes in Berlin, you can see the list below, which includes one run by our long-term collaborator, froglogic. All the rest are delivered by KDAB engineers.

      • Kdenlive Bugsquashing Day

        On the 2nd of December, the Kdenlive team will be having a bug squash day in preparation for the major refactoring release due in April 2019. This is a great opportunity for interested developers to participate in the project. The team has triaged hundreds of reports, closing more than a hundred of them in the past month. We have also made a list of entry level bugs you can get started with. For the more seasoned developers, there are plenty of options – be it a shiny feature request or a challenge to polish some non-trivial edges. To hack Kdenlive you need to know C++, Qt, QML or KDE Frameworks. Those with knowledge of C can join the fun by improving MLT, the multimedia framework Kdenlive runs on. Those with no programming experience can join in testing fixes and features, as well as triaging more bug reports.

      • Spectre Mitigation Causing Significant Slowdown in 4.20 Kernel, Shadow of the Tomb Raider Coming to Linux in 2019, Kdenlive Bug-Squashing Day December 2, Diskio Pi Kickstarter Campaign and Phones to Receive Android Pie

        Kdenlive is holding a bug-squashing day on December 2, 2018 in preparation for an April 2019 major release. A list of proposed bugs to solve is available here. Contact Kdenlive via IRC: #kdenlive on Freenode.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

  • Distributions

    • Clear Linux Making Progress With Encrypted Installations

      One of the features I’ve personally been looking forward to is the official support for encrypted installations with Clear Linux. While many don’t view it as a particular desktop distribution, it does have all of the packages I personally need for my main production system. So I’ve been wanting to see how well it could work out as my main desktop OS and to chronicle that experience. Having official support for encrypted installations has been one of the last blockers for my requirements. You can currently setup Clear on an encrypted installation manually, but for simplicity and wanting to keep to the “official” installation routes, I’ve been waiting for them to officially support encrypted installs… Especially in this day and age, anyone installing a desktop Linux distribution particularly on a mobile/laptop/ultrabook should really be doing a full-disk encryption.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE

      • Find Out the Visa Requirements to Attend oSC19

        For people planning on attending the openSUSE Conference 2019 in Nuremberg, Germany, from May 24 – 26, there are certain requirements necessary to receive a visa for those who are not a citizen of a Schengen country.

    • Fedora

      • Fedora 29 release retrospective

        Some of the Fedora Spins and Labs were not included in the compose that was declared gold. With a few notable exceptions, Spins intentionally do not block releases. However, from a user-friendliness standpoint, it is nice to have all of the Spins available. Some of the missing Spins failed to build due to broken packages, while others (e.g. the ppc64le Cloud image) happened to have a transient failure during the compose that eventually shipped.

        We identified two separate avenues to address this issue. The first is raising the visibility of failed Spin builds prior to the release so that Spin maintainers have time to address this issue. František Zatloukal suggested having a member of the Spins SIG track Release Engineering Pague issues to that they will see build failures and can notify the appropriate Spin owner(s). However, the Spins SIG may not be active enough to support this.

        The second is decoupling Spins from the main release process such that they can be published in a more-self service manner. This may take the form of Spin maintainers marking their spin “Go” or of providing a self-service build and publishing system for non-blocking deliverables.

        In subsequent discussion with Release Engineering, we determined that the Fedora Program Manager will send a list of failing Spins and Labs to owners at the Freeze points for Fedora 30. Work to provide an automated notification system based on Pungi notifications will be considered for Fedora 31 and beyond. Similarly, Release Engineering is already planning how a self-service platform might be developed for Fedora 31.

      • Containers without daemons: Podman and Buildah available in RHEL 7.6 and RHEL 8 Beta
      • Support Lifecycle for Clang/LLVM, Go, and Rust
    • Debian Family

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Ubuntu 18.04 LTS Will Get 10-Year Support
          • Behind the drone: how aerial robotics solve industrial IOT challenges

            Apellix, an emerging leader in the field of aerial robotics, are creating innovative industrial solutions with the help of Ubuntu.

            The development of aerial robotic systems to carry out tasks at height has taken the responsibility of dangerous activity away from human workers. With 150 workers dying everyday in the USA as a result of hazardous working conditions, there is a clear need for improved occupational safety practices. Of these deaths, 849 came as a result of falling whilst on the job, a figure that Apellix endeavours to reduce. Not only are the benefits significant from a workplace safety perspective, Apellix systems provide a cost-effective and time saving solution to such tasks.

            None of this however, would be possible without software. Software is allowing the industrial world to move from analog to digital and Apellix aerial robotic systems are at the forefront of innovation.

            Ubuntu enables Apellix’s aerial robotics to conduct autonomous flights without the assistance of human navigation, eliminating the risk of human error or danger which can occur with pilot operated drones. To achieve this, each aerial robot is fitted with several sensors which are constantly processing data through an Ubuntu server. The data, once processed is then sent to the autopilot electronics systems to precisely locate and control the drone in a 3D space.

          • Costales: Ubuntu Community Appreciation Day: Thanks Rudy (~cm-t)!

            Today is the Ubuntu Appreciation Day in which we share our thanks to people in our community for making Ubuntu great.

            This year, I want to thank you to Rudy (~cm-t)! Why? Because IMHO he is an incredible activist, helpful, funny, always with a smile. He prints passion in everything related to Ubuntu. A perfect example for everyone!

          • One Mix 2S Yoga mini laptop running Ubuntu 18.04

            If you are interested in learning more about running the latest Ubuntu 18.04 Linux operating system on the new One Mix 2S Yoga mini laptop. You’ll be pleased to know that Brad Linder from the Liliputing website has created an in-depth run-through complete with video revealing what you can expect from the operating system and performance of the mini laptop.

          • Flavours and Variants

            • Hitting a Break Point

              I am seeking support to be able to undertake freelance work. The first project would be to finally close out the Outernet/Othernet research work to get it submitted. Beyond that there would be technical writing as well as making creative works. Some of that would involve creating “digital library” collections but also helping others create print works instead.

              Who could I help/serve? Unfortunately we have plenty of small, underfunded groups in my town. The American Red Cross no longer maintains a local office and the Salvation Army has no staff presence locally. Our county-owned airport verges on financial collapse and multiple units of government have difficulty staying solvent. There are plenty of needs to cover as long as someone had independent financial backing.

              Besides, I owe some edits of Xubuntu documentation too.

              It isn’t like “going on disability” as it is called in American parlance is immediate let alone simple. One of two sets of paperwork has to eventually go into a cave in Pennsylvania for centralized processing. I wish I were kidding but that cave is located near Slippery Rock. Both processes are backlogged only 12-18 months at last report. For making a change in the short term, that doesn’t even exist as an option on the table.

              That’s why I’m asking for support. I’ve grown tired of spending multiple days at work depressed. Showing physical symptoms of depression in the workplace isn’t good either especially when it results in me missing work. When you can’t help people who are in the throes of despair frequently by their own fault, how much more futile can it get?

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • How Software Is Helping Big Companies Dominate

    Antitrust deserves the attention it’s getting, and the tech platforms raise important questions. But the rise of big companies — and the resulting concentration of industries, profits, and wages — goes well beyond tech firms and is about far more than antitrust policy.

    In fact, research suggests that big firms are dominating through their use of software. In 2011, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen declared that “software is eating the world.” Its appetizer seems to have been smaller companies.

    [...]

    This model, where proprietary software pairs with other strengths to form competitive advantage, is only becoming more common. Years ago, one of us (James) started a company that sold publishing software. The business model was to write the software and then sell licenses to publishers. That model still exists, including in online publishing where companies like Automattic, maker of the open source content management system WordPress, sell hosting and related services to publishers. One-off licenses have given way to monthly software-as-a-service subscriptions, but this model still fits with Carr’s original thesis: software companies make technology that other companies pay for, but from which they seldom derive unique advantage.

    That’s not how Vox Media does it. Vox is a digital publishing company known, in part, for its proprietary content management system. Vox does license its software to some other companies (so far, mostly non-competitors), but it is itself a publisher. Its primary business model is to create content and sell ads. It pairs proprietary publishing software with quality editorial to create competitive advantage.

    Venture capitalist Chris Dixon has called this approach the “full-stack startup.” “The old approach startups took was to sell or license their new technology to incumbents,” says Dixon. “The new, ‘full stack’ approach is to build a complete, end-to-end product or service that bypasses incumbents and other competitors.” Vox is one example of the full-stack model.

    The switch from the software vendor model to the full-stack model is seen in government statistics. Since 1998, the share of firm spending on software that goes to pre-packaged software (the vendor model) has been declining. Over 70% of the firms’ software budgets goes to code developed in-house or under custom contracts. And the amount they spend on proprietary software is huge — $250 billion in 2016, nearly as much as they invested in physical capital net of depreciation.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Decentralizing Social Interactions with ActivityPub

        Hi, I’m Darius Kazemi. I’m a Mozilla Fellow and decentralized web enthusiast. In the last year I’ve become really excited about ActivityPub, a W3C standard protocol that describes ways for different social network sites (loosely defined) to talk to and interact with one another. You might remember the heyday of RSS, when a user could subscribe to almost any content feed in the world from any number of independently developed feed readers. ActivityPub aims to do for social network interactions what RSS did for content.

      • DSP-Boosted Neural Speech Synthesis

        LPCNet is a new project out of Mozilla’s Emerging Technologies group — an efficient neural speech synthesiser with reduced complexity over some of its predecessors. Neural speech synthesis models like WaveNet have already demonstrated impressive speech synthesis quality, but their computational complexity has made them hard to use in real-time, especially on phones. In a similar fashion to the RNNoise project, our solution with LPCNet is to use a combination of deep learning and digital signal processing (DSP) techniques.

      • Mozilla files comments on NTIA’s proposed American privacy framework

        Countries around the world are considering how to protect their citizens’ data – but there continues to be a lack of comprehensive privacy protections for American internet users. But that could change. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recently proposed an outcome-based framework to consumer data privacy, reflecting internationally accepted principles for privacy and data protection. Mozilla believes that the NTIA framework represents a good start to address many of these challenges, and we offered our thoughts to help Americans realize the same protections enjoyed by users in other countries around the world (you can see all the comments that were received at the NTIA’s website).

  • CMS

    • How machine learning is supercharging content management

      Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are some of the hottest buzzwords around, especially in the open source community. It seems that every month brings a new machine learning system, each focused on a different application.

      The good news is that since academics developed many of these frameworks, they are often open source by default. Even Google’s own neural network software library, TensorFlow, is (at least for now) open source.

      The bad news is that many of these frameworks are designed for high-end applications and require a lot of experience to deploy effectively. If you want to spend years building image recognition software from scratch, for instance, and want to stick to open source software, there are plenty of options available. Good luck with that PhD.

      For the rest of us, taking advantage of recent advances in machine learning and AI requires that they come in an easy-to-use package and have real-world applications.

      Luckily, there is at least one area where open source machine learning and AI systems are making a real impact: content management systems (CMSes), the software that sits behind websites and manages the content on them.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • Funding

    • Software Composition Analysis Startups: Investors Are Looking For These Three Qualities

      It is clear that enterprises and investors are looking for ways to be heavily integrated into the open-source ecosystem because that is where the developers are. It is up to you to show that your company can appeal to the developers who use open source as the core of their work, gaining significant adoption that can turn into sizable market share. Investors want to know that they are getting into business with a company who has the pulse of the open-source community, providing services that will make working with open-source components easier.

    • MicroBlocks Joins Conservancy

      We’re proud to announce that we’re bringing MicroBlocks into the Conservancy as our newest member project. MicroBlocks provides a quick way for new programmers to jump right in using “blocks” to make toys or tools. People have been proclaiming that IoT is the future for almost a decade, so we’re very pleased to be able to support a human-friendly project that makes it really easy to get started building embedded stuff. Curious? Check out a few of the neat things people have already built with MicroBlocks.

      MicroBlocks is the next in a long line of open projects for beginners or “casual programmers” lead by John Maloney, one of the creators of Squeak (also a Conservancy project!) and a longtime Scratch contributor. MicroBlocks is a new programming language that runs right inside microcontroller boards such as the micro:bit, the NodeMCU and many Arduino boards. The versatility and interactivity of MicroBlocks helps users build their own custom tools for everything from wearables to model rockets or custom measuring devices and funky synthesizers.

    • $90K Year-end Match to Fund an Ambitious Year for Conservancy
  • BSD

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • Linux To Start Alternative To glibc?

      The world of open source software, and Linux/GNU in particular, is a strange one, governed by internal politics and beliefs. Now frustration seems to have the better of the Linux developers who are now considering creating their own Linux call library.

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Shutting the open sauce bottle

      While open source software has revolutionised the enterprise software world, a few people are starting to wonder if its very nature will survive the age of the cloud.

      The concept that software can be used by pretty much anyone for pretty much anything is causing its developers big problems in the era of distributed cloud computing services.

      Two open-source software companies have decided to alter the licences under which some of their software is distributed, with the expressed intent of making it harder — or impossible — for cloud computing providers to offer a service based around that software.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Access/Content

      • Give your students edit access to their course syllabus

        I wanted to give students more agency in their learning. So I let them make pull requests against the syllabus.

        [...]

        This exercise was a learning experience for both my students and me, as we clearly had different visions of what constituted a “disruption.” While we all agreed that students should pay attention to the instructor and engage in all classroom activities, students thought they should be able to take “important” calls during class time and that texting during class was acceptable. I thought that cell phones should be turned off entirely during class. Students also thought that leaving the classroom to get a drink without asking permission was acceptable, while I thought that they should handle thirst needs before or after class.

        This resulted in a discussion about professionalism and the expectations associated with college-level work. We discussed what constituted a distraction and agreed that making sounds, whispering, and talking in class all counted as distractions. This in turn led to a discussion of the impacts distractions can have on a learning environment and the importance of paying attention in class. We also explored the impact various learning technologies can have on a classroom—for example, the tools students with disabilities require to fully participate in class, such as a screen reader—and agreed that noise generated by these was acceptable under the policy we intended to construct.

  • Programming/Development

    • Open source tools to consider for your RESTful APIs

      At the start of a RESTful API development project, a software team might be tempted to buy an expensive commercial API management tool when an open source tool can just as easily do the trick. In fact, there are plenty of open source tools that can help with each stage of the API lifecycle and help get an API development program off the ground at low cost.

    • London Perl Workshop

      As london.pm celebrates its 20th anniversary, join Katherine Spice in conversation with a panel of the group’s former leaders.

Leftovers

  • Science

    • How do we handle and use such enormous amounts of data?

      How many gigabytes of data did we (the people of Earth) create yesterday?

      …brain. is. thinking…

      More than 2.5 billion!

      And it’s growing. Yes, it’s hard for us to wrap our human brains around it. So, the question the Command Line Heros podcast deals with this week is: How do we handle and use such enormous amounts of data?

    • Resist Google’s Attempts to Make You Like a Robot

      hat’s more useful to Google, however, is when you do choose to respond to an email with an autoresponse (or as Google calls them, a “smart reply”). Here’s what’s probably going on under the hood: [...]

    • How we’re ruining young minds

      In The Coddling of the American Mind, Jonathan Haidt, a professor of moral psychology, and Greg Lukianoff, CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), have carefully and precisely captured and analysed this disturbing new phenomenon, exploring its origins, the way it operates and how those of us concerned about the future of free expression might challenge it.

      They identify several factors that have led students to reject free speech in favour of what Haidt and Lukianoff term a culture of ‘safetyism’, aided by highly risk-averse university administrators who now play the role of welcome protector on campus. ‘Three great untruths’ define safetyism, they write: 1) what doesn’t kill you makes you weaker; 2) always trust your feelings; and, 3) life is a battle between good people and evil people.

    • For the first time, researchers say Facebook can cause depression

      A new study conducted by psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania has shown — for the first time — a causal link between time spent on social media and depression and loneliness, the researchers said.

  • Hardware

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Scott Gottlieb’s Nicotine Nazism Will Kill Kids, Not Save Them

      On November 15, US Food and Drug Administration commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced new measures regulating the sale of products that seem to reduce the negative health impacts of nicotine addiction — in the name of protecting children from those health impacts. Oddly, Gottlieb also announced a plan to dramatically increase the availability and variety of flavored cigarettes — in the name of banning them.

      First, let’s talk about “vaping.” The jury is still out on long-term health effects of “e-cigarettes” — electronic devices that deliver a hit of nicotine in water vapor, without all the carcinogens found in burning tobacco — but pretty much everyone seems to agree that e-cigarettes are less unhealthy than tobacco cigarettes.

      The FDA is demanding that these devices and the “juice” for them be sold only in age-restricted stores where kids aren’t allowed, rather than in convenience stores where getting them is more, um, convenient. Why? Because apparently millions of minors acquire and use them, even though current law already forbids them to do so.

    • Gilead withheld safer HIV drug to monetise its patent portfolio, claim attorneys

      Three US attorneys have filed a lawsuit against pharma company Gilead accusing it of hiding a safer HIV drug in order to protect its patent for a less safe drug.

      Bob Hilliard, Steve Berman, and Ben Crump of Hilliard Martinez Gonzales claimed that Gilead was aware that Viread, also known as TDF, could damage a patient’s bones and kidneys, yet decided to delay the availability of a safer version of Viread called TAF.

      According to Hilliard, Berman and Crump, delayed the safer version of Viread for 15 years in order to extend the commercial life of its original patented drug.

      They said that it was only when the original drug neared the end of its patent life that Gilead began to pitch the newer version as a safer drug.

      The lawsuit claimed that Gilead enabled the stifling of generic versions of its drug and limited the potential market for TDF generics.

    • Scientists warned this weed killer would destroy crops. EPA approved it anyway

      Every August, Andrew Joyce used to hunker down in the field beside his house, picking juicy, ripe tomatoes in the blazing sun. He’d load them onto his golf cart, along with buckets of okra, squash and other summer crops, and zip over to the farm stand he runs with his wife, Sara, off a two-lane highway near the Arkansas border. Sara’s Produce fans would drive hours to stock up on the artisanal fare, grown amid the fields of soybeans and cotton that reach toward the horizon of Missouri’s Bootheel.

      “Everybody brags on my stuff,” said Joyce, 58, a wistful pride crossing his bronzed, weathered face.

      But now, he has nothing to sell.

      Joyce leans against the greenhouse he’s building, hands in the pockets of his overalls, peering at the field where he started nearly 800 tomato plants in the spring. It was early August when the telltale signs of trouble emerged. The plants’ broad, flat leaves shriveled and curled, their branches twisted and buckled. Then blossom rot set in. Joyce knew they couldn’t be saved. He climbed onto his tractor and mowed down his bestselling crop – for the third year in a row.

      The plague that struck Joyce’s farm in Malden, Missouri, was not a natural disaster, but a man-made weed killer called dicamba. Farmers had applied the drift-prone chemical sparingly for decades. But in the past two years, its use has grown exponentially, and now dicamba is destroying millions of acres of crops worth millions of dollars, pitting farmer against farmer and scientists against manufacturers.

      A joint investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and the Food & Environment Reporting Network has found that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – which is required by law to ensure pesticides don’t impose unreasonable environmental and economic costs – could have averted the destruction.

    • Undercutting Female Circumcision

      Malaysia has always been the land of myths in the colonial imagination. The myth about those who run amok when possessed by demons; the myth of the Pontianak, the female vampire, inhabiting banana trees; the myth of the lazy native.

      Today, Malaysia is still the land of myths, though one has to be careful about the way the word myth is used.

      Remember the two lesbians who were publically caned in Malaysia, but they were not really caned, just “forcefully tapped” with a rod? The myth here is about shariah punishment for sexual ‘crimes’ or ‘deviance’. Is the lashing of women sanctioned by the Quran? How is it to be done? To what extent is lashing actually carried out in Muslim countries? There are those who will also point out that caning as a form of punishment is part of the old British colonial penal code, forgetting that Malaysia is not obliged to retain this code and that this code is compatible with Islamic code.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • With Nearly 400,000 Dead in South Sudan, Will the US Finally Change Its Policy?

      The Trump administration has remained largely silent about the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, maintaining a quiet diplomacy with the country’s leaders despite a recent report that nearly 400,000 people have died in the country’s civil war.

      This figure of nearly 400,000 deaths is comparable to the estimated number of deaths in the war in Syria. About 2 million people have been internally displaced in South Sudan, and more than 2.5 million people have fled the country.

      Making matters worse, the people of South Sudan are experiencing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. About 6 million people, or about 60% of the population, are severely food insecure, and another 1.7 million people are facing a looming famine.

      “As the conflict has gone on and worsened, the numbers of people in need of assistance has simply continued to grow,” Mark Lowcock, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, said earlier this year.

    • Some Saudi royals turning on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after Khashoggi murder

      Amid international uproar over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, some members of Saudi Arabia‘s ruling family are agitating to prevent Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from becoming king, three sources close to the royal court said.

      Dozens of princes and cousins from powerful branches of the Al Saud family want to see a change in the line of succession but would not act while King Salman – the crown prince’s 82-year-old father – is still alive, the sources said. They recognize that the king is unlikely to turn against his favorite son, known in the West as MbS.

      Rather, they are discussing the possibility with other family members that after the king’s death, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, 76, a younger full brother of King Salman and uncle of the crown prince, could take the throne, according to the sources.

    • How America’s Perpetual Warfare Abroad Is Fueling an Increase in White Supremacist Violence in U.S.

      America’s perpetual warfare abroad has led to an increase in white supremacist violence at home. That’s one of the key findings in Frontline PBS and ProPublica reporter A.C. Thompson’s new investigation, “Documenting Hate: New American Nazis,” which premieres Tuesday evening on PBS. The documentary reveals the deep ties between the military and white supremacy, as Thompson examines the Pittsburgh shooting and the rise of violent hate groups such as Atomwaffen. Thompson interviews historian Kathleen Belew, who says there has always been a correlation in the U.S. between the aftermath of war and the rise of white supremacist violence. “If you look for instance at the surges in Ku Klux Klan membership, they align more consistently with the return of veterans from combat and the aftermath of war than they do with anti-immigration, populism, economic hardship or any of the other factors that historians have typically used to explain them,” she notes. We speak with A.C. Thompson in Boston. His investigation premieres Tuesday on PBS stations and online.

    • Planet of War

      American militarism has gone off the rails — and this middling career officer should have seen it coming. Earlier in this century, the U.S. military not surprisingly focused on counterinsurgency as it faced various indecisive and seemingly unending wars across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa. Back in 2008, when I was still a captain newly returned from Iraq and studying at Fort Knox, Kentucky, our training scenarios generally focused on urban combat and what were called security and stabilization missions. We’d plan to assault some notional city center, destroy the enemy fighters there, and then transition to pacification and “humanitarian” operations.

      Of course, no one then asked about the dubious efficacy of “regime change” and “nation building,” the two activities in which our country had been so regularly engaged. That would have been frowned upon. Still, however bloody and wasteful those wars were, they now look like relics from a remarkably simpler time. The U.S. Army knew its mission then (even if it couldn’t accomplish it) and could predict what each of us young officers was about to take another crack at: counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    • An Atomwaffen Member Sketched a Map to Take the Neo-Nazis Down. What Path Officials Took Is a Mystery.

      Some experts and former officials see the case as part of a larger pattern, evidence that federal agencies are understaffed and out of position in confronting the threat of white supremacist terrorism — even as the FBI’s latest report shows a spike in hate crimes for the third straight year.

      [...]

      On that night in May 2017, the police quickly took two suspects into custody and developed a rough outline of what had happened. One of the suspects, Devon Arthurs, 18, said the victims were his roommates, and members of a neo-Nazi group called the Atomwaffen Division. Arthurs said that he’d decided to leave the group, and that he’d killed the men to keep them from carrying out what he said were their plans for violence.

      The second suspect detained by police, Brandon Russell, also lived in the apartment. Russell told the authorities he’d just returned home from a weekend of training with the Florida Army National Guard. And then Russell revealed something that should have set off alarms among federal investigators assigned to track the growing threat from armed, violent right-wing extremists. He said, and the police quickly confirmed, that the single-car garage attached to the apartment was full of explosives.

      Explosives experts from the Tampa Police Department and the local FBI field office soon found components of a crude pipe bomb as well as radioactive materials. The search turned up ammonium nitrate and nitromethane, the mixture used by McVeigh to destroy the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. There were sacks of explosive precursors, including potassium chloride, red iron oxide and potassium nitrate. There were homemade fuses fashioned from brass 5.56 mm rifle cartridges. In a closet, they found two Geiger counters.

      And there was a cooler with the name Brandon scrawled on the lid in black marker. Inside, the investigators discovered HMTD — hexamethylene triperoxide diamine — a potent, highly volatile peroxide-based explosive. It has become a favored tool of terrorists both here and abroad, who cook it up in small batches using recipes circulating on the internet and in improvised weapons manuals.

      At Tampa police headquarters, investigators put Arthurs and Russell in separate interrogation rooms. They wanted to know about the killings, about the neo-Nazi group and about the explosives.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Charges Under Seal: US Prosecutors Get Busy With Julian Assange

      Those with a stake in the hustling racket of empire have little time for the contrariness that comes with exposing classified information. Those who do are submitted to a strict liability regime of assessment and punishment: you had the information (lawfully obtained or otherwise) but you released it for public deliberation. Ignorance remains a desensitising shield, keeping the citizenry in permanent darkness.

      Critics indifferent to the plight of Julian Assange have seen his concerns for prosecution at the hands of US authorities as the disturbed meditations of a sexualised fantasist. He should have surrendered to the British authorities and, in turn, to the Swedish authorities. It was either insignificant or irrelevant that a Grand Jury had been convened to sniff around the activities of WikiLeaks to identify what, exactly, could be used against the organisation and its founder.

      Cruelty and truth are often matters of excruciating banality, and now it is clearer than ever that the United States will, given the invaluable chance, net the Australian publisher and WikiLeaks founder to make an example of him. This man, who dirtied the linen of state and exposed the ceremonial of diplomatic hypocrisy, was always an object of interest, notably in the United States. “He was,” confirmed Andrea Kendall-Taylor, former deputy national intelligence officer for Russia under the director of national intelligence, “a loathed figure inside the government.”

    • 46% Want to Prosecute WikiLeaker Julian Assange [Ed: Poll by GOP-leaning propaganda mill Rasmussen]

      Recent accidentally released court filings indicate that the Department of Justice has filed criminal charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and is preparing to indict, something nearly half of Americans are likely happy to hear.

    • Julian Assange deserves a Medal of Freedom, not a secret indictment

      Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been secretly indicted by the Trump administration’s Justice Department, “a drastic escalation” of the feds’ efforts against him, the New York Times reported. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has denounced Wikileaks as a “non-state hostile intelligence service” and labeled Assange a “fraud,” “coward,” and “enemy.” But rather than a federal indictment, Assange deserves a tweaked version of one of Washington’s hottest honorifics.

      Wikileaks has been in the federal crosshairs since it released scores of thousands of documents exposing lies and atrocities regarding the Afghan and Iraq wars, thanks to leaks from Army corporal Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Wikileaks released emails from the Democratic National Committee showing that its nominating process was rigged to favor Hillary Clinton. During the final month of the campaign, Wikileaks disclosed emails from Clinton campaign chief John Podesta.

      [...]

      “Truth will out” is the biggest fairy tale in Washington. U.S. troops are now fighting in 14 foreign nations: will the Pentagon tell us all about it? The National Security Agency illegally tracked every citizen’s phone calls: no federal official disclosed the system that a federal judge castigated as an “almost Orwellian” surveillance scheme. And what are the betting odds of Americans seeing the dirt on the U.S. government’s long-term collusion with the Saudi regime (despite its atrocities at home and abroad)?

      On the same day the Assange indictment scored headlines, Trump awarded seven Presidential Medals of Freedom. No controversy greeted posthumous awards to Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley — unlike the ruckus regarding Miriam Adelson, wife of Republican super-donor Sheldon Adelson. Public Citizen, a liberal nonprofit, howled that the Adelson award “is just the latest sign of [Trump’s] ability to corrupt and corrode all aspects of the government.” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman caterwauled that it was “ludicrous” and “and an insult to people who received the medal for genuine service.”

    • PM ‘probably regrets’ comments about Pamela Anderson, Kelly O’Dwyer says

      The minister for women has semi-apologised on behalf of the prime minister for “smutty” comments he made about Pamela Anderson, as she attempted to advocate on behalf of Julian Assange.

      Kelly O’Dwyer said she stood by her comments in the wake of the Liberal party leadership spill, when she backed female colleagues who made complaints of bullying and intimidation and said she was taking a “very active and personal interest” in the complaints process.

      But it was also left to O’Dwyer to explain Scott Morrison’s comment to a Gold Coast FM radio station that he had “plenty of mates who’ve asked me if they can be my special envoy to sort the issue out with Pamela Anderson”, after the actor and activist called on him to assist the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.

    • PM ‘probably regrets’ Pam Anderson comment

      Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer believes Scott Morrison regrets comments he made about Pamela Anderson, after the Baywatch star appealed to the prime minister to defend WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

      The former Playboy centrefold earlier this month urged Mr Morrison to support the Australian, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for six years.

      The prime minister later chuckled when asked if intended to heed the star’s advice, before simply replying: “No.”

      “I’ve had plenty of mates who have asked me if they can be my special envoy to sort the issue out with Pamela Anderson,” he told Gold Coast radio station Hot Tomato FM.

    • Lisa Wilkinson blasts Aussie PM over ‘lewd’ Pamela Anderson comments
    • Scott Morrison ‘probably regrets’ Pamela Anderson comments
    • Pamela Anderson, Scott Morrison feud: Minister claims he didn’t mean it
    • Scott Morrison probably regrets his comments about Pamela Anderson: Kelly O’Dwyer

      Prime Minister Scott Morrison likely regrets his suggestive comments about model and actor Pamela Anderson, says his Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer.

      Anderson, a friend and vocal backer of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, has publicly lobbied the government to help the Australian, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for six years.

    • WikiLeaks founder Assange secretly charged in US

      Any charges against him could help illuminate whether Russia co-ordinated with the Trump campaign to sway the 2016 presidential election.

      They would also suggest that prosecutors have finally taken a more aggressive tack against WikiLeaks.

      A criminal case can also potentially expose the practices of a radical transparency activist, under US scrutiny for years and at the centre of some of the most explosive disclosures of stolen information in the last decade.

      Those include thousands of military and State Department cables from Army Private Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, secret CIA hacking tools, and most recently and notoriously, Democratic emails published in the weeks before the 2016 presidential election and that US intelligence officials say had been hacked by Russia.

      Federal special counsel Robert Mueller, who has already charged 12 Russian military intelligence officers with hacking, has been investigating whether Trump associates had advance knowledge of the stolen emails.

    • Police challenged over refusal to disclose files on WikiLeaks staff

      The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) faces a legal challenge over its refusal to confirm or deny whether it has shared correspondence with US law enforcement agencies about three prominent members of WikiLeaks staff, including two British citizens, whose personal emails were secretly disclosed to US prosecutors.

      Stefania Maurizi, an investigative journalist for La Repubblica, will argue at an appeal tribunal today that it is in the public interest for the police force to reveal whether it has exchanged information about the current and former WikiLeaks employees with the US.

      The case comes only days after it emerged that a US prosecutor had mistakenly revealed that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had been charged with crimes in the US, after apparently mistakenly cutting and pasting Assange’s name into an indictment on an unrelated case.

      Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012, after losing his appeal against extradition to Sweden following allegations of sexual assault by two Swedish women. He remains there still. The charges were dropped in 2016.

    • Arrest Julian Assange? They should give him a medal

      They hired a group of characters including the guy who was fated to become the most famous – or notorious – graduate of St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark: G. Gordon Liddy.

      Liddy had a tendency to go a bit overboard in his efforts to find information about the leakers. And that led to the bungled break-in at the National Democratic Party headquarters that started the Watergate scandal.

      Keep that in mind as you follow the investigation into the role of Julian Assange in the ongoing Russia investigation by special prosecutor Robert Mueller.

      There was a report last week that a filing in a different federal case included a reference to “the fact that Assange has been charged.”

      That led to some great headlines the next day. But it turned out the “revelation” may have been nothing more than a cut-and-paste error by a busy prosecutor.

      There’s no doubt, however, that Mueller is trying to plumb the depths of Assange’s role in posting purloined emails of the same Democratic National Committee that was involved in Watergate.

      The guys who burglarized the DNC headquarters in 1972 were clumsy and got caught in the act. As to just exactly who did what to the DNC email server, we’ll have to wait for Mueller’s final report to find out.

      But the case poses a real problem for those of us in the journalism field. As Woodward and Bernstein showed so convincingly, it’s tough to uncover the truth without leaks of one sort of another.

      When Assange published the leaks from Chelsea Manning and others he was performing the same function the New York Times performed when it published the Pentagon papers in 1971.

    • Keep Calm and Report On: The Case Against Julian Assange

      U.S. law enforcement and intelligence officials have treated WikiLeaks as a hostile, foreign intelligence service and Julian Assange, its director, as a potential target for criminal prosecution, since the Obama administration.

      Last week’s inadvertent disclosure of a sealed federal indictment against Assange in Federal District Court in Eastern Virginia, has set off speculation that charges may include the publication of classified information – an allegation that has prompted debate about press freedom and First Amendment rights. But journalists should remain calm, since there are likely several charges that form the basis of the indictment that do not threaten the independence of journalists.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Fuel to the Fire

      HE FIELDS OUTSIDE Kotawaringin village in Central Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo, looked as if they had just been cleared by armies. None of the old growth remained — only charred stumps poking up from murky, dark pools of water. In places, smoke still curled from land that days ago had been covered with lush jungle. Villagers had burned it all down, clearing the way for a lucrative crop whose cultivation now dominates the entire island: the oil-palm tree.

    • An Indonesian Village That’s Fighting for Its Life

      The sprawling roughly 100,000-acre plantation that surrounds the village is run by DSN, one of Indonesia’s largest producers of palm oil. Here alone, they employ at least 8,000 mostly migrant workers, and say they have brought in experts to help them better understand the local culture and the concerns of surrounding communities.

    • Killing Plants Is the Fastest Way to End the World

      A recently published study has found that “[c]limate change and human activity are dooming species at an unprecedented rate.”

      The study, “Co-extinctions annihilate planetary life during extreme environmental change,” published in the journal Scientific Reports, was a joint effort by Australian and Italian researchers from Flinders University in Adelaide and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, respectively.

      To conduct the study, the researchers created 2,000 “virtual Earths.” They then added in different stressors such as abrupt climate change replicating that which we are now experiencing, a nuclear winter following the detonation of multiple nuclear weapons, and a massive impact from an asteroid.

      Each scenario resulted in showing that plant and animal species that are wiped out by any of these extreme environmental changes dramatically increases the risk of a domino effect that could annihilate all life on Earth.

    • Climate Change Denial Is Raking the Ashes of Paradise

      It began on the morning of November 8, with 50 mile-per-hour winds roaring through Jarbo Gap near the Feather River, not far from the northern California town of Paradise. Just after 6 am, two PG&E power lines that should have been shut down because of the wind malfunctioned, and minutes later the Camp Fire was born. The fire was eating 80 acres a minute before long, and thousands were forced to flee a wall of flames that moved faster than any warnings ever could. People were incinerated in their homes, in their cars and on their running feet. It happened that fast.

      Twelve days later, the Camp Fire stands as the single most devastating wildfire in California history. It remains only two-thirds contained, with at least 79 people confirmed killed and nearly 700 still missing. More than 12,000 structures and more than 250,000 acres have been burned. Paradise, home to some 27,000 people, is now a smudge on the map. The ongoing Woolsey Fire outside Los Angeles is about 90 percent contained and has claimed three lives, some 500 structures and nearly 97,000 acres.

      Beyond the damage done by the flames is the heavy curtain of choking smoke that has enveloped the areas around the fires for hundreds of miles. “On Friday,” reports The New York Times, “residents of smog-choked Northern California woke to learn that their pollution levels now exceed those in cities in China and India that regularly rank among the worst. In the communities closest to the Paradise fire, an apocalyptic fog cloaked the roads, evacuees wandered in white masks and officials said respiratory hospitalizations had surged.”

    • Living Through California’s Wildfire Nightmare

      “RED MOON. Red Moon.”

      These were the words of my 18-month-old, describing the sky in the late afternoon on November 8 as we walked out of his day care center. Choking back a deep sadness, I said “Sweetie, that’s the sun. The sky is dark from smoke.”

      I tried to not think too hard about the world he is growing up in, and how his little lungs were getting inundated by polluted air from raging fires that had already killed so many people.

      That morning, Paradise, a city of 27,000 people just 165 miles northeast of San Francisco, was nearly obliterated by a wildfire.

      By the afternoon, the air smelled like a campfire across the Bay Area, and since then, air quality has become worse than anywhere in the world, beyond China and India. Schools are closed and people have been forced to wear respirators. The toxic air has seeped into our workplaces and homes, creating a health crisis.

    • Why (Mostly) Men Trophy Hunt: a Biocultural Explanation

      Wolves do not stay anywhere for long. This is partly a function of their prey’s movement, but it’s also a function of being hunted for seven months of the year, at least in Montana, where residents can “harvest” up to five wolves for a paltry $19 dollars. A quick online search reveals dozens of images and videos of (mostly) men posing with wolves they had killed. The majority of the hunters are wearing what researchers K. R. Child and C. T. Darimont call “pleasure” or “killing” smiles. In their essay “Hunting for Trophies: Online Hunting Photographs Reveal Achievement Satisfaction with Large and Dangerous Prey,” the authors note that hunters’ smiles tend to be more pronounced when the prey is large and/or dangerous, that is, as opposed to when they pose with smaller and presumably less dangerous animals of the same species.

      Similarly, a cursory glance of online images of wolf hunts (which is all I can stomach) supports this finding by showing all the creative ways that hunters display and accentuate the size of their trophies. Some men carry the wolf across their shoulders. Others string up, lay out, or hold up the wolf to show its length, height, or mass. Another pose motif shows the hunter, often with gun in hand, kneeling behind and standing up the wolf so that it appears to be alive. One hunter—I will call him “the artist”—went so far as to prop up the wolf on a moss-covered rock. But the wolf’s size is not the only cause for celebration; so too is the fearsome appearance of the wolf’s teeth, which hunters often display, apparently, to show how much danger they were in as they hid in their blinds and shot the wolf from 150 yards away. The hunter’s killing smile tells only one part of the story, however.

      [...]

      While these findings and this anecdote may illuminate the personalities or mindsets of trophy hunters, they don’t address why this mindset may exist in the first place. For that we can look at Why men trophy hunt, a paper by Evolutionary Anthropologists Brian Codding and Kristen Hawkes, and Chris Darimont, a Conservation Scientist at the University of Victoria. After finding the current hypotheses for why men trophy hunt (for meat, recreation, population control, among other apparent benefits) incomplete or implausible, Darimont, Hawkes, and Codding offer an evolutionary explanation for what they describe as this “perplexing activity.”

      This “seemingly irrational behavior is resolved by costly signaling theory. . . [which] considers the social status and prestige that accrue to successful hunters.” This explanation suggests that recreational hunters accrue status from the costs that they appear to absorb (economically and otherwise), despite the high risk of failure. According to this view, from the audience’s perspective (particularly that of rivals and prospective mates), only the fittest of the fit can afford to hunt big-game or trophy animals, especially when the hunt is for large, and/or dangerous animals and has no guarantee of success.

    • America Fiddles While California Burns

      President Trump ordered 5,600 American troops to the Mexican border to stop around 3,500 poverty- and violence- fleeing Central American migrants from seeking asylum in the United States, while the worst wildfires in California’s history were destroying homes, killing people and displacing thousands more. To motivate his base to vote in the midterm elections, Trump whipped up the unarmed Caravan of men, women and children, weeks away from the U. S., as a threatening “invasion,” while strong winds continued to whip up flames of death and destruction upon drought-stricken Californians. As American troops strung barbed wire at the Mexican border to block the migrants and their dreams of safety, residents in Northern and Southern California were seeing their dreams go up in smoke. As the heavily body-armored American troops sat around and suffered from heat exhaustion while waiting for the weary, slow-moving caravan to arrive, thousands of exhausted California firefighters battled three major wildfires, as they waited for out-of-state crews to arrive. (See “Deployed Inside the United States: The Military Waits for the Migrant Caravan” By Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Helene Cooper, The New York Times, Nov. 17, 2018; and “California wildfires leave at least 66 dead with more than 600 still missing,” ABC News Radio, abc7.com,, Nov. 13, 2018)

    • Geographies of Violence in Southern California

      The Arroyo Conejo winds through what once were oak meadows in the Conejo Valley. The area is now home to the Los Angeles exurbs of Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, Westlake Village, Agoura Hills and Oak Park. It was here, before contact, that the Chumash people relied on acorns as their staple food and traded their flour for seafood from coastal villages along the Pacific coast some twenty miles to the west. William Bryant Logan in Oak, the Frame of Civilization, 2005, notes that “early European travelers came to recognize how close they were to an Indian village by the boom and thump of women driving pestles into mortars to grind acorns into meal”. That sound had hung in the Conejo Valley for at least two millennia.

      On Wednesday evening, November 7th, the only boom and thump to be heard along Rolling Oaks Drive in Thousand Oaks was coming from the Borderline Bar and Grill where country music echoed into the night. A little before midnight that sound was punctuated by the dull thuds of a Glock 21 handgun being fired in a mass shooting that killed twelve. The shooter, a former Marine, concluded the massacre by turning the gun on himself.

      Early in the afternoon the next day, a wildfire started somewhere on the 2,668 acre Santa Susana Field Laboratory. Up until 2006 this facility had been used to test nuclear reactors and rocket engines for over fifty years. It was here that Rocketdyne developed and tested the engines that powered the space shuttle. In an un-used corner of the vast site sits Burro Flats painted cave, a Chumash solstice observation rock formation where members of the community’s priestly caste, the ’Antap, confirmed the return of the sun for another year. It is here too, in the surrounding Simi Hills, that winter rains run to the Arroyo Conejo, to form a part of the Calleguas watershed.

  • Finance

    • America’s big box stores sucked up corporate welfare and killed Main Street — now they’re ducking property tax

      For a generation, big box stores have swept across America, using predatory pricing and other dirty tricks to kill the independent retail sector; they used their corporate lobbying muscle to tempt cities and towns into handing out massive corporate welfare checks to lure them to town, and now, with the help of hustling contingency lawyers, they are promulgating a property-tax scam called “the dark store theory” that is cutting their taxes in half or more, with further reductions every year, and no end in sight.

    • Tradeshift Is Bidding for Finnish Software Maker Basware

      San Francisco-based Tradeshift made the offer, backed by a group of U.S. and Chinese investors, last month, the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private. Basware confirmed it was evaluating a “highly conditional” proposal on Friday without naming the bidder after Bloomberg News reported it was weighing a sale.

    • Instacart changes how it pays shoppers, but many say they’re now making less

      Of course, if shoppers were simply made employees with a straightforward salary, figuring out one’s take-home pay would be considerably easier. Instacart and other companies like it save millions annually by not having to pay for employee benefits, like Social Security withholdings, unemployment insurance premium payment, workers’ compensation, and more.

    • The Scam at the Heart of New York’s Amazon Deal

      But not everyone was excited. Outside the press conference—in the streets of Queens, in the chamber of the City Council, on editorial pages—a consensus was building that the multibillion-dollar mega-deal was not just lopsided, overpriced, and liable to exacerbate everything from gentrification to congestion, but was also deeply anti-democratic.

    • After the Retail Apocalypse, Prepare for the Property Tax Meltdown

      Big-box retailers nationwide are slashing their property taxes through a legal loophole known as “dark store theory.” For the towns that rely on that revenue, this could be a disaster.

    • Pro-Trump ‘dark money’ group’s first tax return reveals millions in previously undisclosed spending

      The first annual tax return filed by pro-Trump “dark money” group America First Policies and reviewed by the Center for Responsive Politics reveals that the 501(c)(4) nonprofit spent even more on political activities than previously reported in campaign finance disclosures.

      As a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” nonprofit, is not allowed to have politics as its primary purpose despite spending millions on politicking.

      Disparities between the new tax documents submitted to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under the penalty of perjury and earlier disclosures to Federal Election Commission (FEC) indicate that millions of dollars in political spending may have been left undisclosed for many months.

      America First Policies told the FEC that it spent $1.97 million in independent expenditures and $245,404 on electioneering communications in its first year of operation. But the “political campaign activities” spending it reported to the IRS for the same period was around twice that amount — $4.3 million — and its total spending reported for that period was even more.

      While discrepancies in political expenditures reported to the IRS and FEC by politically active nonprofits are not uncommon — nor necessarily indicative of a false statement to either federal agency — dark money groups often try to mitigate their spending in tax returns’ descriptions of their political activities.

    • Apple, Amazon Team Up To ‘Enhance Customer Experience’ By Limiting Customers’ Options

      The “right of first sale” still exists. Not that Apple’s happy about it. Apple’s no fan of right-to-repair laws either, preferring to keep its revenue streams nice and deep by forcing customers to get their repairs only from Apple-approved vendors, no matter what the law actually says.

      So, yeah, you still have the right to resell your Apple products. You’re just not going to do it in the largest marketplace in the United States. This CNBC article delivers the bad news like it’s good news.

    • Global Oil Price Deflation 2018 and Beyond

      One of the key characteristics of the 2008-09 crash and its aftermath (i.e. chronic slow recovery in US and double and triple dip recessions in Europe and Japan) was a significant deflation in prices of global oil. After attaining well over $100 a barrel in 2007-08, crude oil prices plummeted, hitting a low of only $27 a barrel in January 2016. They slowly but steadily rose again in 2016-17 and peaked at about $80 a barrel this past summer 2018. Now the retreat has started once again, falling to a low of $55 in October and remain around $56 today, likely to fall further in 2019 now that Japan and Europe appear entering yet another recession and US growth almost certainly slowing significantly in 2019. With the potential for a US recession rising in late 2019 oil price deflation may continue into the near future. What will this mean for the global and US economies?

      The critical question is what is the relationship between global oil price deflation, financial instability and crises, and recession–something mainstream economists don’t understand very well? Is the current rapid retreat of oil prices since August 2018 an indicator of more fundamental forces underway in the global and US economy? Will oil price deflation exacerbate, or even accelerate, the drift toward recession globally now underway? What about financial asset markets stability in general? What can be learned from the 2008 through 2015 experience?

      In my 2016 book, ‘Systemic Fragility in the Global Economy’ and its chapter on deflation’s role in crises, I explained that oil is not just a commodity but, since the 1990s, has functioned as an important financial asset whose price affects other forms of financial assets (stocks, bonds, derivatives, currencies, etc.). Financial asset price volatility in general (bubbles and deflation) have a greater impact on the real economy than mainstream economists, who generally don’t understand financial markets and cycles, think. Hence they don’t understand how financial cycles interact with real business cycles. This applies as well to their understanding of oil prices as financial asset prices, not just commodity prices.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’: What Alex Jones and Voldemort Have in Common

      Jones is a kind of real-world Voldemort. Speak his name to condemn his conspiracy theories and you draw more attention to his hateful ideas. It’s like fighting fire with oxygen tanks instead of fire extinguishers. The tools breathe more life into the flames.

    • Inside the Pricey War to Influence Your Instagram Feed

      Many influencers with substantial followings “are not promoting products without being compensated,” said Kevin James Bennett, a cosmetics developer and consultant who works with brands interested in influencer marketing. “That doesn’t make them bad people, it makes them salespersons—and you, the consumer, deserve to know when you’re being ‘sold’ something.”

      The Federal Trade Commission agrees. As the practice has become more popular, the agency has adopted rules governing the disclosure of paid endorsements on social media. The text is long and complicated, but can be reduced to two essential concepts: If an influencer has received anything—be it cash, free products, or something else—that could affect how a viewer interprets their mention of a brand or product, they must disclose it; and the disclosure must be displayed prominently, and plainly, in the video, photo, or blog.

    • The Most Damaging Election Disinformation Campaign Came From Donald Trump, Not Russia

      The Kremlin has been focused on undermining trust in American democracy and elections, but Donald Trump and the Republicans have done it better than Russia ever could.

    • Now eight parliaments are demanding Zuckerberg answers for Facebook scandals

      The elected representatives of Facebook users want Mark Zuckerberg to answer questions in the wake of a string of data misuse and security scandals attached to his platform. The international parliaments have joined forces — forming a grand committee — to amp up the pressure on Facebook.

    • Facebook will reduce reach of ‘sensationalist and provocative’ content

      So instead of moving the line of what’s banned, Facebook is going to alter its distribution algorithms. Posts that Facebook’s AI detects as needlessly provocative will be distributed less and less, preventing them from seeing a spike in engagement.

    • Facebook to Pay to Train Local Newspaper Reporters in UK

      Around 80 new trainee reporters funded by Facebook will be recruited by regional publishers Newsquest, JPIMedia, Reach, Archant and the Midland News Association, in a scheme overseen by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), Facebook said.

    • Look to the Right for Corruption

      ewWhen I was growing up a long time ago there was a presumption of prudential integrity for politicians. Yes, I suppose I was naïve, but as a boy from Minnesota I came to think of politics as a clean game in my formative years.

      This may explain why I am nonplussed now with the acceptance of such low standards by so many, and frankly, at this time most of them with the lowest standards seem to be aligned with Trump out on the right. The voters rejected Trump for the most part in our midterms, but this is normal and he lost less than Obama did in 2010, so my question is really for the voters, not the buck naked corrupt Trump wing controlling the Republican party and the base.

      Why do you accept, tolerate, and even identify with the dishonesty, the cheating, and the incivility of the leadership of your party? What is wrong with you? Can you help me understand why dirty tricks and robbing people of voting rights is fine by you?

      Yes, I’d love to excuse them. Oh, they are working class and ignorant fools, how can they be expected to keep up? How can we hope that they will have decent values? They are all undereducated redneck fools.

    • Hypocrisy Alert: Republicans Agreed with Ocasio-Cortez Until About One Minute Ago

      When congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) confessed her personal financial dilemma — “I have three months without a salary before I’m a member of Congress. So, how do I get an apartment? Those little things are very real” — to the New York Times, guffaws broke out on the right.

      “Some of those shoots she had during her campaign, she had these multi-thousand dollar outfits that could pay a month’s rent in Washington,” said Fox News correspondent Ed Henry.

      “[T]hat jacket and coat don’t look like a girl who struggles,” wrote the Washington Examiner‘s Eddie Scarry in a tweet he deleted after an uproar.

      I get it. It’s easy to mock a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” who wants to re-make the US economy when she hasn’t proven her own financial acumen by piling up a nice nest egg before running for Congress.

      But return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear …

      Former House Majority Leader Dick Army (R-TX), who served in Congress from 1985-2003, slept in his office rather than rent an apartment in DC. So did outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan. In fact, that trend caught on among Republican members of Congress to such an extent that earlier this year it resulted in an ethics complaint from members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

    • Our Falkirk Moment

      Both the Tories and Labour are riven by internal dissent over Brexit. The UK is in palpable political chaos, and the prospect of remaining tied to Westminster has never been less appealing.

      [...]

      I have no more claim to be a strategic genius than the next man. But when I see my sworn opponents, disoriented, in disarray, and fighting fiercely amongst themselves, I cannot help but feel that now is the time to attack them.

    • Instagram Targets Illegally Obtained Likes and Followers

      Third-party services selling likes and followers on Instagram have been available for a long time. According to the terms of use, getting more followers through these methods is illegal, but this issue hasn’t been brought up as much in the past. Today, Instagram has finally put its foot down and has begun removing likes and followers purchased via illegal means.

      Instagram says that they have developed “machine learning tools” which will help in locating accounts that use these illegal services.

    • Courier Journal reporter who couldn’t type was actually a CIA spy

      When 28-year-old Robert H. Campbell was hired as a Courier Journal reporter in December 1964, he couldn’t type and seemed to know little about writing a newspaper story.

      He lived at the YMCA and was paid $125 a week, but he could afford to fly home to St. Louis every other weekend to see his wife and children. And he left the newspaper after only four months.

      An assistant city editor later said the stuff that Campbell turned in was “almost unreadable” and that “there was something very strange about the whole thing.”

      In 1976, another Courier Journal reporter discovered Campbell’s secret.

      “Evidence developed during a newspaper investigation strongly indicates that Campbell was an undercover agent for the Central Intelligence Agency,” James Herzog wrote in a long expose.

      [...]

      Campbell was one of more than 400 American journalists who secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency, Carl Bernstein reported in a 1977 story in Rolling Stones, which cited documents on file at CIA headquarters.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Ban on Follow-Up Questions Among Trump’s New ‘Dictatorial’ Rules for White House Reporters

      In response to the new rules, which were crafted without any input from the White House press corps, the ACLU wrote, “The White House belongs to the public, not the president, and the job of the press is to ask hard questions, not to be polite.”

      “These rules give the White House far too much discretion to avoid real scrutiny,” the ACLU continued. “Asking an ‘unauthorized’ follow-up question cannot be the basis for excluding a reporter. The rules should be revised to ensure that no journalist gets kicked out of the WH for doing her job.”

      While some journalists and commentators floated the now-common suggestion that reporters should just stop going to White House press briefings entirely, others argued that reporters should show solidarity and push back against the Trump administration by not allowing the White House to dodge and lie by simply moving on to the next question.

    • White House drops bid to revoke Acosta’s press pass

      The reversal comes after the White House notified Acosta last Friday it may renew its attempts to revoke his press pass after a judge’s order restoring it expired. The White House set a Sunday deadline for Acosta to object and said it would make a final decision by 3 p.m. on Monday.

      [...]

      The letter also outlined new rules for reporters at presidential news conferences, including limiting each journalist to one question with follow-ups coming “at the discretion of the president or other White House officials taking questions.”

    • How China Walled Off the Internet

      Today, China has the world’s only internet companies that can match America’s in ambition and reach.

    • When Technology Meets Tyranny

      As China heads full force in developing AI weapons, the West needs to take a stand

      Back in May 2014, Stephen Hawking, along with several scientists, warned the world: “Success in creating AI [artificial intelligence] would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks.

      “In the near term, world militaries are considering autonomous-weapon systems that can choose and eliminate targets; the U.N. and Human Rights Watch have advocated a treaty banning such weapons.”

    • UN Spokesman Dujarric Spins Censorship For Guterres While Former Boss Helen Clark Questions

      As Inner City Press moved forward with its investigative reporting about the UN including its Secretary General Antonio Guterres, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric on 20 June 2018 said that “things will soon be getting worse” for Inner City Press’ reporter. Inner City Press has now been banned from the UN for 138 days and Dujarric is providing his and his boss’ pretext, as purported background, to some of those asking questions, at least if they come from Europe, see below. But on November 19 Dujarric’s former boss at UNDP Helen Clark, answering Inner City Press’ question across First Avenue from the UN, pointedly called out “the exclusion of journalists across the road.” Vine; longer version here. One might think this would be jarring for Dujarric. One might question if ANY of the other candidates for Secretary General would have been the censor Guterres has been for 138 days, enabled by Dujarric. Inner City Press at noon on November 19, before questioning Clark, asked in writing Guterres and Dujarric: “Now that the Trump Administration has given CNN time (44 hours) to response to their re-suspension, please explain why the UN did not nad has not provided even that amount of time or due process – and immediately provide it, readmitting Inner City Press in the interim to the noon briefing and SG and GA proceedings.

      More specifically, please immediately explain how Mr. Dujarric’s statement that “press credentials to work at the UN, just like any other institution, is a ‘privilege’” is different in any way that the position taken by the Trump Administration in response to the CNN lawsuit. Now that the Federal judiciary has ruled that access to the White House is not, as OSSG Dujarric has claimed, a privilege but a right, this is a FORMAL REQUEST THAT THE SG LIFT MIS-USED LEGAL IMMUNITY IN THIS CASE.” Eight hours later, no answer to this or any other question submitted, on DRC, Cameroon, Mali. Guterres’ UN is corrupt, and Dujarric is a corrupter. We’ll have more on this.

    • In A Speech Any Autocrat Would Love, French President Macron Insists The Internet Must Be Regulated

      Props to French President Emmanuel Macron, who had a busy week last week, what with the observance of the World War I armistice centennial, the Paris Peace Forum, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), and various other related events. All drew attendees and attention from around the world to his capital city, and all required his participation in some significant way, including through the delivery of several speeches that each surely required substantial preparation to deliver so capably. Techdirt has already covered a few minor aspects of the IGF speech: the announcement that France would embed officials with Facebook, and reference to the “Paris Call.” But in terms of the major substance of the speech, there are few compliments that can be paid.

      At best it was the sort of speech that someone completely new to tech policy might have come up with. Someone who, upon finding an imperfect situation, presumes that they are the first to notice the issue. And then takes it upon themselves to heroically step in to address the problem, despite the fact that their proposed “solution” reflects an incomplete understanding of the matter.

      There are a number of ways this incomplete understanding infected his speech and undermined the quality of his recommendation. There was, for instance, his erroneous declaration that the Internet today is too much about content distributors not enough about content creators. This declaration alone suggests a very poor understanding of all the myriad ways people all over the world use the Internet to create and then disseminate their expressive works themselves. In and of itself it calls into question whether his overall suggestion is capable of being adequately protective of all this expression.

    • Berlin ‘calling for censorship’ of Ukrainian website: opinion

      The Myrotvorets site is a private Ukrainian website that has since 2014 been posting a list of people who it believes threaten Ukraine’s national security, Polish journalist Grzegorz Górny writes in an opinion piece.

      On November 8, Gerhard Schröder, a former German chancellor “who is now a lobbyist” for Russian gas giant Gazprom, was added to the list, Górny says in his piece, published by the wpolityce.pl online news service.

      He adds that Myrotvorets placed Schröder’s name on the list alongside “separatists, terrorists and Kremlin agents” because the former German leader “has publicly justified the [2014] annexation of Crimea by Russia.”

    • BusTV: Culture Jamming Censorship One Bus at a Time

      You can jam up to 40 people in the tiny busses that ply the streets of Caracas, and you run into all kinds of everyone there: folks running their errands, others going to work or school. They all wait between one stop and the next; sitting, standing or clinging to the doors of the bus. While they wait, they listen to us read the news, brief pills of information that nobody was asking or looking for, but found their way to their route.

    • NCAC Protests Political Censorship at Cleveland State University

      The sculpture, titled The Politician: A Toy, by artist Billie Lawless, is encircled by a fence featuring humorous one-foot-high texts that play with popular political slogans and media clichés. These include phrases like READ MY HIPS, CONTRADICTION IN AMERICA, and AFFIRMATIVE FRICTION. Some phrases, like OBAMA SCARE have been added temporarily to reflect current issues and then removed.

    • Ubisoft Changes Mind on Rainbow Six Siege: Operation Censorship

      The best tactical shooter on the market almost became something a lot of its community lost faith in as Ubisoft announced recently plans to alter the aesthetic design of Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege for the Chinese market.

    • Ubisoft Cancels ‘Rainbow Six Siege’ Aesthetic Changes After Censorship Backlash
    • Rainbow Six Siege drops China censorship, reverts ‘aesthetic changes’
  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Facebook Won’t Really Tell You How Much Time You Spend Using Facebook

      Instagram and Facebook now both have metrics that show you how much you use each platform, but they’re completely skewed for anyone with more than one device.

      The idea is a good one: people spend too much time on social networking, and by letting them know how much time they’re wasting scrolling through their feed, they can maybe help curb some of the overuse. This feature is new to both platforms, with Instagram’s rolling out last week and Facebook’s starting today.

    • HITMAN 2 Bashed For ‘Data Harvesting’ Privacy Policy

      HITMAN 2 launched last week and was well received in many ways. Steam reviews for the game have been largely positive, but several negative reviews claim that the privacy policy is immoral data harvesting. Players have reported that they are being locked out of online play unless they sign up for an IOI account, which requires you to agree to the privacy policy. IO Interactive’s privacy policy and the implementation of Denuvo Anti-Tamper for HITMAN 2 has made a lot of players unhappy.

      IO Interactive’s data collection activities involve gathering personal information, payment information, IP addresses, and information about others from HITMAN 2 players. The information gathered is then used to “market, and advertise products, programs, and services” from the developers, trusted partners, and select third parties deemed interesting to the user. Accepting the privacy policy is mandatory if you wish to register an account, which is required for online play. Usually this wouldn’t matter, but when a big part of a game is locked unless you agree to share your data, something is definitely wrong.

    • Facebook Releases 13 NSLs, Reports Another Big Increase In US Government Demands For Info [Ed: Facebook is in NSA PRISM. This (NSLs) is for when something is missed.]

      Facebook’s new transparency report is up, and the company has released a baker’s dozens of National Security Letters along with it. Thanks to the USA Freedom Act, companies finally have a way to challenge the indefinite gag orders the government attaches to its demands for user info — a process it deploys thousands of times a year without having to run anything by a judge.

      NSLs are gifts the FBI gives itself. With these self-issued pieces of paper, the agency can demand internet platforms turn over info about targeted accounts. What it can actually demand is fairly limited, although there appears to be no limit to the number of accounts the FBI can target with a single NSL. Many of the NSLs in this batch [PDF] cleared for release ask for data on multiple Facebook and Instagram users.

    • Dutch government report says Microsoft Office telemetry collection breaks GDPR

      The telemetry data collection mechanism used by Microsoft Office breaks the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Dutch authorities said yesterday in a report.

      The report raises eight issues that investigators found in ProPlus subscriptions of Office 2016 and Office 365, but also with the web-based version of Office 365.

    • Did the CIA, NSA, or anyone else have intel that an attack was coming?
    • Who lives with you? Facebook seeks to patent software to figure out profiles of households
    • Facebook patents software that will even record family members, their interests

      To help determine whether people live in the same home, the software could look at how often people are tagged in pictures together and at the captions of the photos, it said.

      “Without such knowledge of a user’s household features, most of the content items that are sent to the user are poorly tailored to the user and are likely ignored,” said the patent application, which was filed last year and made public on Thursday.

      Facebook could also incorporate “past posts, status updates, friendships, messaging history, past tagging history” and web browsing history to put together a profile of a household or family, the report added.

      The proposed online system seeks to apply one or more models trained using deep learning techniques to generate the predictions.

    • FACEBOOK SEEKS TO PATENT SOFTWARE about HOUSEHOLDS
    • Targeted Advertising Is Ruining the Internet and Breaking the World

      Social media companies are advertising companies. This has never been a secret, of course. Google pioneered the targeted advertising business model in the late 90s, and Sheryl Sandberg brought the practice to Facebook in 2008 when she joined the company as chief operating officer. The cash was flowing in, and companies around Silicon Valley and beyond adopted the same basic strategy: first, grow the user base as quickly as possible without worrying about revenue; second, collect as much data as possible about the users; third, monetize that information by performing big data analytics in order to show users advertising that is narrowly tailored to their demographics and revealed interests; fourth, profit.

    • This Company Is Helping Build China’s Panopticon. It Won’t Stop There [iophk "there is a mistake in their premise. Biometrics are like usernames, not passwords"]

      Beyond spotting and ranking faces in a crowd, SenseTime’s long-term goal is to put its technology at the core of image recognition everywhere, from security and shopping systems to personal ID services that work by scanning faces. The idea can be seen in microcosm at its Beijing office, where staffers never swipe a badge to enter. A glass door simply slides open after a hidden camera checks their faces against company records. “That’s really how they see future interactions,” says Jean-François Gagné, who runs Canadian startup Element AI Inc. “You don’t need to log in to your computer, you don’t need to get a boarding pass, you don’t need to do anything anywhere. You’re just recognized.”

    • Instagram’s GDPR tool exposes ‘a small number’ of user passwords
    • Tim Cook defends multibillion-dollar Google search deal despite Apple’s privacy focus

      Apple reportedly makes anywhere from $3 to $9 billion from its deal with Google, which sees its search engine made the default on Apple’s Safari browser, Siri web search, and elsewhere. Privacy-focused search engines — like DuckDuckGo — exist, but for Apple, the bump in services revenue from Google coupled with a modicum of Safari controls seems to trump privacy concerns.

    • Tim Cook defends using Google as primary search engine on Apple devices

      In an interview with Axios on HBO, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained the decision to use Google as the default search engine on Apple products. This decision has baffled some, considering Google’s business model of making money off of users’ data—something Apple has spoken out against numerous times.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • $337,000 Settlement Headed To Elementary School Students Handcuffed By School Resource Officers

      Putting cops in schools often turns routine disciplinary issues into police matters. That’s a problem. Cops — given the friendly-spin title of “school resource officers” — have a limited tool set for handling discipline. It involves shows of authority, deployments of force, and, in this case, adult handcuffs clamped onto an 8-year-old’s upper arms. Tiny wrists can’t be secured by adult cuffs, so up the arm they go until they more resemble an instrument of torture than a restraint device.

    • Ifat Gazia, Steve Macek and Robin Andersen

      Then Kashmiri journalist Ifat Gazia relates some of the atrocities committed by Indian occupation troops in Kashmir, and calls on the world to pay attention.

    • Women as Repositories of Communal Values and Cultural Traditions

      Why is gender violence such a consistent feature of the insurgency and counterinsurgency that have wrenched apart the Indian subcontinent for decades? The equation of the native woman to the motherland in nationalist rhetoric has, in recent times, become more forceful. In effect, the native woman is constructed as a trough within which male aspirations are nurtured, and the most barbaric acts are justified as means to restore the lost dignity of women.

      The story of the partition of India in 1947 into two separate nation-states, India and Pakistan, is replete with instances of women resorting to mass suicide to preserve the “honor” of the community. If a woman’s body belongs not to herself but to her community, then the violation of that body purportedly signifies an attack upon the honour (izzat) of the whole community.

    • CIA Was Fully Aware of Drugs Used to Assist Interrogations – Ex-Pentagon Analyst

      Shortly after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, the CIA weighed using a sedative used to treat anxiety as “possibly worth a try” as a truth serum, newly-unveiled records requested by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) revealed last week.

      “One of the drugs mentioned in the CIA report was Midazolam, commonly known as Versed. It’s been around since the mid 1970′s and is a common and cheap medicine in hospital storerooms. It’s functionally a sedative, an anxiety reducer,” Kwiatkowski, a retired US Air Force lieutenant colonel, pointed out.

      [...]

      However, those restrictions did not mean that the drug was not used, or that prisoners were not experimented on with it and other drugs, Kwiatkowski explained.

      “It seems as if it wasn’t a formal program,” she said.

      Interrogations utilizing torture such as waterboarding, slamming, humiliation, the use of extreme temperature, sound and vibrations were also unproductive and ultimately embarrassing to the US government, Kwiatkowski acknowledged.

    • Abolishing ICE Means Defunding it

      Many progressive Democrats that won their midterm election bids, from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York, to Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, campaigned to change radically immigration policy. One of their slogans was to abolish the principal immigration law enforcement agency, ICE (Immigration Customs and Enforcement). To turn that campaign slogan into reality means defunding ICE, which Democrats can do, if they chose, now that they have a majority in the House of Representatives.

      ICE has long been criticized by immigration rights groups – even before Trump became President – for its use of private, for-profit detention centers, treatment of detainees, and overall lack of transparency and accountability. Despite these problems, the Trump administration has not only expressed support for the agency, but has sought to increase its budget. In 2017, ICE was authorized to use $6.4 Billion, which increased to $7.6 Billion in 2018. Trump’s proposed 2019 budget for ICE, similarly, sees an increase of nearly $1 Billion dollars.

      A variety of activities related to immigration fall within ICE’s purview. Its 2018 budget divides these activities into five ‘missions,’specifically, (1) ‘preventing terrorism and enhancing security,’ (2) ‘securing and managing our borders,’ (3) ‘enforcing and administering our immigration laws,’ (4) ‘safeguarding and securing cyberspace,’ and (5) ‘strengthening national preparedness and resilience.’ Of these five, the third – ‘enforcing and administering our immigration laws’ – receives by far the lion’s share of ICE’s total budget. In 2017, this amounted to nearly $4 Billion, with over $3 Billion dedicated to enforcement and removal. Such operations, as explained in ICE’s budget statement, entail “identifying and apprehending removable aliens, detaining those individuals pending final determination of removability, and removing aliens from the United States by legal processes and procedures.” These practices, which are central to ICE’s mission, are also some of the institution’s most controversial and criticized.

    • Federal Judge Blocks Trump’s “Asylum Ban,” Saying President Can’t Rewrite Immigration Laws

      In the latest pushback against President Trump’s attack on immigrants rights, a federal judge in California has temporarily halted Trump’s asylum ban, which attempted to deny asylum to anyone entering the country from outside of a legal port of entry. Trump announced the move earlier this month, but Monday, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar put a temporary halt on the order. Tigar wrote, “Asylum seekers will be put at increased risk of violence and other harms at the border, and many will be deprived of meritorious asylum claims. The government offers nothing in support of the new rule that outweighs the need to avoid these harms.” We speak with one of the lawyers who sued the Trump administration over the ban, legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights Baher Azmy.

    • Oregon Officials Call for Changes of Laws on Criminally Insane

      Oregon’s attorney general said the number of people deemed criminally insane who commit new crimes after their release is “definitely too high” and must be addressed by the state.

      She was “surprised” by the frequency of crimes, often violent, documented by the Malheur Enterprise and ProPublica. Slightly more than a third of the people released by the state’s Psychiatric Security Review Board were charged again within three years, showed the analysis of public records.

      “Given the nature of the crimes committed after release, these numbers are definitely too high,” Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a written statement. “It makes me want to take a deeper dive into the topic.”

      Other state and local officials echoed her comments, saying it was unacceptable that so many people found “guilty except for insanity” in felony cases and sent to treatment instead of prison go on to commit new crimes after being freed, which is known as recidivism

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Comcast To Battle Cord Cutting By… Reinventing The Closed Cable Box

      Like many cable operators, Comcast continues to slowly bleed cable TV customers to cheaper, more flexible streaming alternatives (aka cord cutting). The industry just saw its biggest ever quarterly loss of such subscribers in history, with Comcast losing 106,000 subscribers during the third quarter alone. It’s a trend that’s directly thanks to the industry’s refusal to not only compete on price, but flexibility and openness.

      You’ll recall that Comcast (with the US Copyright Office’s help) played a starring role in killing plans at the FCC to bring more competition and openness to the cable box. The cable industry hauls in $21 billion in cable box rental fees annually, so their motivation here should be obvious. The combination of limited cable box competition and the walled-garden approach to content also lets these companies keep would-be competitors at arms’ length, helping to “protect” existing customers from the temptation of cheaper, more flexible programming options.

      Realizing the company had to do something to address the rising streaming threat, Comcast has been doing things like adding Netflix to some cable boxes in the hopes that would keep its existing customers from cutting the cord. And, in last week’s news, it emerged that Comcast would soon be launching a new streaming device for its broadband customers that actually lets users view not only Comcast’s cable TV content, but that of some competitors. Again, the hope is that adding a few additional options will prevent users from fleeing to alternative options.

    • Ajit Pai isn’t saying whether ISPs deliver the broadband speeds you pay for

      But the FCC hasn’t released any new Measuring Broadband America reports since Republican Ajit Pai became the commission chairman in January 2017. Pai’s first year as chair was the first time the FCC failed to issue a new Measuring Broadband America report since the program started—though the FCC could release a new report before his second year as chair is complete.

    • Charter, Comcast don’t have 1st Amendment right to discriminate, court rules

      Charter, the second-largest US cable company after Comcast, was sued in January 2016 by Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios Networks (ESN), which alleged that Charter violated the Civil Rights Act of 1866 by refusing to carry TV channels run by the African-American-owned ESN. Allen, a comedian and producer, founded ESN in 1993 and is its CEO; the lawsuit seeks more than $10 billion in damages from Charter.

    • Some notes about HTTP/3

      There is a good lesson here about standards. Outside the Internet, standards are often de jure, run by government, driven by getting all major stakeholders in a room and hashing it out, then using rules to force people to adopt it. On the Internet, people implement things first, and then if others like it, they’ll start using it, too. Standards are often de facto, with RFCs being written for what is already working well on the Internet, documenting what people are already using. SPDY was adopted by browsers/servers not because it was standardized, but because the major players simply started adding it. The same is happening with QUIC: the fact that it’s being standardized as HTTP/3 is a reflection that it’s already being used, rather than some milestone that now that it’s standardized that people can start using it.

    • Everything Online Is Getting Bigger Except Your ISP’s Data Cap

      Fallout 76‘s latest patch is over 47 GB in size. From video games to 4K streaming video, everything online keeps getting bigger. But Comcast’s 1 TB data cap isn’t changing, and some smaller Internet service providers are even worse.

    • Court Again Rules That Cable Giants Can’t Weaponize The First Amendment

      Over the last few years, telecom giants have increasingly been trying to claim that pretty much any effort to hold them accountable for their terrible service (or anything else) is a violation of their First Amendment rights. Historically that hasn’t gone so well. For example, courts generally laughed off ISP lawyer claims that net neutrality violated their free speech rights, quite correctly highlighting that ISPs are simply conduits to information, not acting as editors of available speech through their blocking or filtering of available information.

      Charter Spectrum, the nation’s second biggest cable operator, has been trying to embrace this argument a lot lately as it fights off state lawsuits for terrible service. It recently tried to use the First Amendment card again in a legal battle with Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios Networks (ESN), which recently accused Charter of violating the Civil Rights Act of 1866 by refusing to carry TV channels run by the African-American-owned ESN.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Retheorizing the Impact of Intellectual Property Rights on Industry Structure

      Technological and creative industries are critical to economic and social welfare, and the forces that shape such industries are important subjects of legal and policy examination. These industries depend on patents and copyrights, and scholars have long debated whether exclusive rights promote industry consolidation (through shoring up barriers to entry) or fragmentation (by promoting entry of new firms). Much hangs in the balance, for the structure of these IP-intensive industries can determine the amount, variety, and quality of drugs, food, software, movies, music, and books available to society. This Article retheorizes the role of patents and copyrights in shaping industry structure by examining empirical profiles of six IP-intensive industries: biopharmaceuticals; agricultural biotechnology, seeds, and agrochemicals; software; film production and distribution; music recording; and book publishing. It makes two novel arguments that illuminate the impacts of patents and copyrights on industry structure. First, it distinguishes along time, arguing that patents and copyrights promote the initial entry of new firms and early-stage viability, but that over time industry incumbents wielding substantial IP portfolios often absorb such entrants, thus reconsolidating those industries. It also distinguishes along the value chain, arguing that exclusive rights most prominently promote entry in “upstream” creative functions—from creating biologic compounds to coordinating movie production—while tending to promote concentration in downstream functions related to commercialization, such as marketing and distribution of drugs and movies. This Article provides legal and policy decision makers with a more robust understanding of how patents and copyrights promote both fragmentation and concentration, depending on context. Drawing on these insights, it proposes calibrating the acquisition of exclusive rights based on the size and market position of a rights holder.

    • The Role of IP in Industry Structure [Ed: There is no such thing as “IP”, Michael Risch; patent, trademark, copyright and trade secret laws are all inherently different; you can’t make a salad out of them]

      Professor Lee surveys six industries, looking for commonalities in how they are structured, and how IP fits in with entry and consolidation. This is not an empirical paper in the sense of, say Cockburn & MacGarvie, who found that patents reduced entry into the software industry unless the entrant had patent applications. Instead, it looks at the history of entry and consolidation in the different industries as a whole, using studies like Cockburn & MacGarvie (which is discussed in some detail) as the foundational base for the theoretical view that puts all the empirical findings together.

      The result is a sort of two dimensional axis (though Prof. Lee provides no chart, which wouldn’t have added much). He finds that, in general, IP leads to entry early in time, but as the industry (or product area) matures, then IP leads instead to consolidation, as companies find it easier to acquire IP than create it on its own in crowded areas. He also finds, however (and I think this is a key insight in the paper), that IP leads to more entry upstream (early creation stage) and more consolidation downstream (commercialization and marketing).

    • ITC To Review Whether To Bar US Entry Of Nikon Cameras

      The U.S. International Trade Commission will review the bulk of an administrative law judge’s initial determination that several Nikon digital cameras should be barred from entering the United States…

    • Don’t Overreact To Fed. Circ. Design Patent Ruling

      The Federal Circuit in In re Maatita recently held that a single, two-dimensional plan view of a three-dimensional object in a design patent can satisfy the enablement and definiteness requirements.

    • Guest Post by Prof. Yelderman: How Do District Courts Cite Prior Art?

      Not all prior art is created equal. The ease of finding what’s been done before can vary dramatically—from a prior U.S. patent cited by hundreds of applicants, to the dusty doctoral thesis sitting on the shelf of a foreign library. So one might wonder: when district courts invalidate patents on prior art grounds, do they typically rely on prior art that the inventor, or the USPTO, or even a reasonably diligent searcher could plausibly have found? Or do courts regularly invalidate patents on the basis of art that only the most determined litigant could have possibly uncovered?

      For the last year or so, I have been working with a team of research assistants to attempt to answer these and other questions. Drawing directly from district court dockets, we collected every decision invalidating a patent claim over a six-and-half-year period. We then coded these on a claim-by-claim, reference-by-reference basis to learn how district courts rely on prior art. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be highlighting some of the more interesting things we’ve uncovered. In this post, I’ll start by sharing some of our top-level findings and briefly explaining our collection methodology. (If you’d like to see our full results right away, a draft of the paper is available for download here.)

    • Ford wants to eliminate odor from new cars by baking them

      Ford Motor Co. has filed a patent application for an odor-removal process that eliminates the new car smell after a vehicle has been purchased.

    • Judge Awards Enhancement of Damages to $268 Million in Cochlear Implant Patent Case

      On Sunday, November 4th, U.S. District Judge Fernando M. Olguin of the Central District of California signed an order regarding pending motions in a patent infringement case between Australian medical device firm Cochlear Corporation and the medical non-profit organization Alfred E. Mann Research Foundation for Scientific Research. Among the motions decided by Judge Olguin included a motion for enhanced damages granted by the judge which doubled the damages award to the research foundation up to a reported $268 million.

      In the lawsuit, the Alfred E. Mann Foundation asserted two patents which it alleged Cochlear had infringed upon through its sale of cochlear implant technology: U.S. Patent No. 5938691, titled Multichannel Implantable Cochlear Stimulator; and U.S. Patent No. 5609616, titled Physician’s Testing System and Method for Testing Implantable Cochlear Stimulator. The jury in the case found that claims of both patents were infringed by Cochlear and that Cochlear engaged in willful infringement.

    • FWP IP ApS v. Biogen MA, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2018)

      Last month, in FWP IP ApS v. Biogen MA, Inc., the Federal Circuit affirmed a decision by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board granting Biogen’s motion that FWP’s U.S. Application No. 11/576,871 did not provide an adequate written description under 35 U.S.C. § 112 for claims directed to a method for treating multiple sclerosis. The MS treatment at dispute involves administering a specific daily dosage (480 mg) of fumarates, specifically dimethyl fumarate (DMF) and/or monomethyl fumarate (MMF), to a subject.

      The appeal arose from an interference proceeding involving the above method for treating multiple sclerosis. U.S. Patent No. 8,399,514, owned by Biogen, describes and claims such a method. The ’871 application, which was assigned to FWP by original Appellant Forward Pharma A/S after the appeal was docketed, discloses controlled release compositions of fumarates. In the interference proceeding, Forward argued that the ’871 application describes the treatment method in dispute. Although the Board determined that the ’871 application had an earlier priority date than the ’514 patent, it granted Biogen’s motion that the MS treatment method Forward sought to claim was not supported by an adequate written description.

      [...]

      In affirming the Board’s decision, the Federal Circuit stated that “[g]iven the brief references to MS and the lack of recognition of 480 mg/day as a therapeutically effective daily dosage, we agree with the Board’s finding that there ‘is no discussion [in the '871 application] that would guide one skilled in the art to treat MS with a therapeutically effective dose of 480 mg/day. . . .’” The Court was also unpersuaded by Forward’s attempt to use the prior art to supply the link between the therapeutically effective dose of 480 mg/day and MS, noting that “even if we allow Forward to rely on the prior art for establishing a prior, known link between MS and fumarates, the prior art does not teach the key limitation of the count: the 480 mg daily dosage.”

    • Comparative study on the stay of proceedings in Europe

      Malte Köllner, Eric Sergheraert and Mihnea Hanganu compare the frequency of stays in patent infringement proceedings in Germany with the frequency of stays in other European countries, and conclude the German practice of staying proceedings gives serious cause for concern

    • Trademarks

      • How to establish secondary meaning

        In Converse v ITC, the Federal Circuit clarified the value of evidence to prove unregistered marks have acquired secondary meaning

        Converse brought suit against 31 shoe manufacturers at the International Trade Commission (ITC) in 2016, alleging they infringed Converse’s Chuck Taylor All Star design.

    • Copyrights

      • Labels Sue PokerNews over Copyright-Infringing Tracks in Podcasts

        A group of record labels and music publishers, including UMG Recordings and Universal Music, has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the company behind the poker website PokerNews. The music companies note that several podcasts published through PokerNews use unlicensed recordings. They request damages that could add up to several million dollars.

      • A verified email address will be required to publish to crates.io starting on 2019-02-28

        To comply with DMCA, we need a guaranteed way to contact publishers of content on crates.io. We’ve added the ability to verify your email address associated with your crates.io account, and we’re going to require a verified email address to be able to cargo publish to crates.io starting on 2019-02-28 (coinciding with the release of Rust 1.33.0).

        Starting with stable Rust 1.32.0 that will be released on 2019-01-17, if you run cargo publish using stable Rust and you have not verified an email address, the publish will work but you’ll see a warning encouraging you to verify an email address before 2019-02-28. We’ll warn for that whole release cycle. The warning will look something like this (exact wording is yet to be determined):

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