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11.25.18

Opponents of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), People Who Profit From Litigation, Accuse PTAB of Horrible Things to Stir up Imaginary ‘Controversies’

Posted in Courtroom, Patents at 10:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: The abundance of inter partes reviews (IPRs) which invalidate US patents by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) may mean very little litigation in years to come; that does not motivate and in fact very much demoralises those who make a living out of patent lawsuits

PTAB faces some hostilities from the new Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), who cites perceived ‘issues’ expressed by patent maximalists like himself. The reality of the matter is, companies that actually make something support and appreciate PTAB.

Watchtroll, as always, keeps bashing PTAB. As recently as yesterday (Sunday) Steve Brachmann wrote about PTAB invalidating yet another patent and one day earlier Watchtroll had published “The PTAB Promotes Petitioner Promiscuity” (yes, this anti-PTAB extremists’ site used the word “promiscuity” and maybe tomorrow these extremists will call judges “prostitutes”).

These patent lawyers and law firms are awful. The latest attack comes from David Wanetick, who calls himself “a world-renowned authority on the issue of intellectual property valuation” (there is no such thing as "intellectual property" as we last explained yesterday).

PTAB nowadays uses or leverages § 101 to squash hundreds of software patents per month. It is not hard to imagine who would oppose that.

Dennis Crouch constantly complains about US courts invaliding fake patents that are software patents. Here’s a new example:

For the past several years, I have been conducting an annual patent law moot court competition at Mizzou. This year – the eighth annual – the case was was captioned as an appeal of a recent dismissal by District Court Judge Indira Talwani in Cardionet, LLC v. Infobionic, Inc., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 177305, 2018 WL 5017913 (D. Mass October 16, 2018). In her decision, Judge Talwani dismissed the case for failure to state a claim — ruling CardioNet’s heart monitor patent is directed to an abstract idea rather than a patent eligible invention. U.S. Patent Number 7,941,207 (“the ‘207 patent”). The moot court is sponsored by McKool Smith and so the winner receives $1,000.

[...]

CardioNet sued InfoBionic for infringement in March 2017. Rather than filing an answer, InfoBionic filed a Motion to Dismiss for “failure to meet the pleading standard of Twombly and Iqbal and for patent ineligibility of the ‘207 patent pursuant to § 101.” While the district court was considering the briefed motion, the Federal Circuit decided Aatrix and Berkheimer but did not permit supplemental briefing regarding material facts at issue in the case. The district court then granted the motion to dismiss with prejudice – finding the claims invalid as directed to an abstract idea. The court explained “the innovation of the … patent may be to use computer equipment and logic to monitor the variability of beats, but nothing in these claims places any limitation on that abstract idea.”

Janal Kalis highlights (as usual) the rare exceptions to the norm, e.g. this PTAB intervention that overturned an examiner’s decision/judgment: “The PTAB Reversed an Examiner’s [Section] 101 Rejection of Claims for a Method of Making an Infeasible Assembly of Parts Feasible: https://e-foia.uspto.gov/Foia/RetrievePdf?system=BPAI&flNm=fd2017003103-10-22-2018-1 …”

Here’s another: “The PTAB Reversed a [Section] 101 Rejection of Claims in an Airbus Defence Patent Application: https://e-foia.uspto.gov/Foia/RetrievePdf?system=BPAI&flNm=fd2017010645-09-27-2018-1 …”

Those are very rare. They’re also far less interesting or relevant than Federal Circuit appeals.

We understand that these prominent patent maximalists aren’t happy with PTAB; but their motivation is rather clear; alluding to another PTAB determination of obviousness (escalated to CAFC), Watchtroll wrote:

On Friday, November 9th, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a nonprecedential decision in NuVasive, Inc. v. Iancu, which vacated certain findings of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) in an inter partes reexamination proceeding involving a NuVasive patent covering a system and methods for minimally invasive surgical procedures. The Federal Circuit panel of Circuit Judges Pauline Newman, Raymond Chen and Todd Hughes determined that on the issue of secondary considerations the PTAB erred in finding no nexus between NuVasive’s claimed method and the surgical procedure actually commercialized by NuVasive. The panel also held that further fact-finding was required in order to determine whether an asserted prior art publication teaches a certain nerve-monitoring technique necessary to support the Board’s determination of obviousness. Therefore, the decision of the PTAB was vacated and the case remanded for further proceedings consistent with the Court’s opinion.

[...]

NuVasive asserted the ‘057 patent in an infringement suit filed against Globus Medical in October 2010. The following February, Globus filed the request for the reexamination on claims of the ‘057 patent to determine obviousness based on combinations of four pieces of asserted prior art. In the first office action, the examiner rejected all claims as obvious because all of the references pertained to minimally invasive surgical techniques and a skilled artisan would have found it obvious to combine them to achieve the claimed system and methods.

This is another case of cherry-picking because, based on last year’s year-long statistics, CAFC affirms PTAB’s decisions about 80% of the time (in the rare cases it even expresses willingness to reevaluate).

All in all, we expect to continue to see such attempts to make “scandals” out of nothing, using words like “promiscuity” to characterise PTAB just doing its job, which is to assess patents’ validity after a grant, not just before it.

Links 25/11/2018: Pisi Linux 2.1, Linux 4.20 RC4

Posted in News Roundup at 9:30 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • RHEL

    • AMDGPU-PRO 18.50 Linux Preview Driver Available For RHEL7, Begins Work On Navi

      It turns out AMD quietly pushed out a public preview release of their upcoming Radeon Software 18.50 Linux driver (also referred to as AMDGPU-PRO 18.50). The public change-log is light, but there are references to the initial bring-up for next-generation Navi graphics.

      Available from AMD.com is a Radeon Software for Linux 18.50 “Early Preview” driver release. The 18.50 driver packages at this point are just RPMs intended for use on CentOS/RHEL 7 systems.

    • What’s new in RHEL 8

      RHEL 8 Beta version got released recently (Nov 14, 2018) and its Beta version is available for developers! In this quick post, we will walk you through features RHEL 8 offering currently and how to download your own RHEL 8 ISO for testing. If you are looking for more details then follow RHEL 8 release notes by Red Hat.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • Episode 44 | This Week in Linux

      On this episode of This Week in Linux. We take a look at the latest Raspberry Pi, Linus has some comments on some performance issues with recent Spectre mitigations, Canonical announced 10 Years Support for Ubuntu 18.04. We’ll also be checking out a bunch of distro releases from Void Linux, Slax, Deeping, Whonix and even a beta from Red Hat. Later in the show, we’ll cover some Security News as well as some awesome sales going on for Linux Games right now! All that and much more!

  • Kernel Space

    • Two Linux Kernels Revert Performance-Killing Spectre Patches
    • Facebook’s BOLT Is An Effort To Speed-Up Linux Binaries

      BOLT is the Binary Optimization and Layout Tool that is a Facebook Incubator project for speeding up Linux x86-64/AArch64 ELF binaries.

      BOLT is a post-link optimizer designed to speed-up large applications based upon an execution profile generated by the Linux perf utility and optimizes the program’s code layout. BOLT leverages LLVM but can also work with binaries built by GCC.

    • Linux 4.20-rc4

      The patch stats this week look a little bit more normal than last tim, probably simply because it’s also a normal-sized rc4 rather than the unusually small rc3.

      So this time around, about 60% of the patch is drivers (networking, HID, gpu, usb, mtd..) which is the usual distribution. The rest being a random mix of networking, filesystem fixes, arch updates, Documentation etc. And some fixes to the new xarray code.

      Nothing looks particularly odd or scary, although we do have some known stuff still pending. For example, the STIBP fixes are still being discussed and fine-tuned and haven’t been merged yet. And there’s a few mm fixes being talked about. Nothing that should keep people from testing the 4.20 rc’s, though, so go out and test.

      One thing I did forget to mention last rc, but did come up in some of the pull request threads, and that people might have noticed that way: I’ve stopped doing the manual pull request acknowledgement emails, because Konstantin’s automation to do it has gone live and is working well. It’s worth pointing out, though, that the automation only works for pull requests that have been cc’d to mailing lists that are being tracked by the lore.kernel.org archives, and have an email address that matches “linux-*”. So that’s obviously mainly LKML, but it does trigger for linux-block too, for example.

      The reason I’m mentioning it is that if you’re not seeing the pull request automation emails, it might be because you didn’t cc a list that is getting tracked..

      Linus

    • Linux 4.20-RC4 Released As The “Shy Crocodile”

      Linus Torvalds has announced the fourth weekly test release of the in-development Linux 4.20 kernel.

      Being well past the Linux 4.20 merge window, there isn’t too much to get excited about with RC4 in particular but Linux 4.20 does have a lot of new and improved functionality.

    • STIBP Patches Updated One Last Time Before Heading To Linux 4.20

      With Linux 4.20 STIBP got applied for all processes and that caused a major performance hit while now it’s only on by default for SECCOMP processes or processes opting for it via the prctl interface. More details and my tests of these revised patches from just a few days ago can be found in Benchmarking The Work-In-Progress Spectre/STIBP Code On The Way For Linux 4.20.

      Long story short, the patches clear up that very dramatic performance drop saw earlier in the Linux 4.20 cycle. STIBP had been back-ported to existing supported stable series, but has already been reverted due to the performance tax while these new patches may eventually work their way into those LTS trees.

    • Benchmarks

      • Radeon Vulkan Driver Benchmarks: AMDVLK 2018.4.2 vs. AMDGPU-PRO 18.40 vs. Mesa 18.2/19.0

        Released this week was AMDVLK 2018.4.2 having been released this past week as the newest open-source AMD Vulkan driver code derived from their official Vulkan driver code-base but with using the AMDGPU LLVM compiler back-end over their proprietary shader compiler. For your latest Vulkan benchmark viewing pleasure is a look at this newest AMDVLK release compared to AMDGPU-PRO 18.40 (the same fundamental Vulkan driver but with the closed-source shader compiler) and then the RADV Vulkan drivers in the form of Mesa 18.2 stable and the now in-development Mesa 19.0. These four AMD Radeon Vulkan driver combinations were tested on Fiji, Polaris, and Vega graphics processors.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • Xfce Screensaver 0.1.3 Released

      After 3 weeks of dedicated development time, the first Xfce Screensaver beta release is now available! With better event handling, a significantly upgraded preferences dialog, and a tidier codebase, the new version is nearly ready for prime time.

    • [Older] Adventures in primary display land

      As some may have noticed I have lately patched “Primary Display” support into a few of our components. It all started with the display settings dialog… But let me start right at the beginning.

      “Primary” is a setting of X11’s RandR extension that “is expected to be used by desktop environments to mark the screen that should hold the primary menu bar or panel” (quoted from the specification). So in short: the “Primary Display” should hold your panels, your desktop icons, your notifications, potentially your presenter’s screen (if you use LibreOffice) etc. in a multi-display setup.

      In 2016 I started by introducing a hidden setting in xfce4-notifyd. This meant your notifications wouldn’t pop up during presentations on external displays anymore (because the default setting before was to follow the mouse pointer’s location). I personally needed/wanted this and it felt like an easy fix.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • This week in Usability & Productivity, part 46

        This week in Usability & Productivity was full of bug squashing and user interface polishing! We landed a lot of nice fixes and improvements rather than focusing on big new features, and hopefully you’ll like them all!

      • KDE Frameworks 5.53 Will Have An Important KIO Performance Fix

        With KDE Frameworks 5.53 due out in December there is a significant performance fix in the KIO slaves code.

        In this week’s round-up of KDE usability and productivity work, there is a lot of bug fixing and other UI refinements going on… No standout features over the past week, but one of the fixes did catch my attention: improving the performance of KIO that is used by Dolphin and other KDE programs for dealing with I/O across various protocols/formats.

      • Updating openSuSE – math fun

        Now that KMyMoney 5.0.2 is released, I prepared to upgrade my development system from openSuSE 42.3 to Leap 15.0. This involves creating a drive image comparing the image with the original disk and then running the upgrade procedure. Triggered by a post on planet KDE by fellow KDE developer dfaure I expected some trouble ahead and took extra care to have a good backup.

        In the past, I had run the update directly from the iso image which I also did this time just to learn that it fails whatever I tried to do. Apparently, the updater became confused with the disk partition layout I am using. This fortunately all happened just before the disk was touched and I got around to restore my backup image every time.

      • Qactus 1.0 is out!

        Here is the next generation of Qactus – it is now an OBS client and not just an OBS notifier.
        The main feature of this release is an OBS browser for exploring and maintaining projects/packages; you can branch or create a project or a package, upload, download or delete files, or check the build log of your favourite package!

      • Automatic QML import by Qt deployment tools

        It was, of course, possible to workaround the issue by copying the missing files to their expected locations with a script or manually. For non-systemwide Qt installations, there was also an option of installing the libraries by side with Qt’s own modules. However, these are still platform-dependent workarounds we shouldn’t rely on long-term.

        I faced this issue when trying to package Kaidan, a Qt Quick XMPP client, as an AppImage. After a discussion with linuxdeployqt’s contributors and some research, I found that internally the tool uses qmlimportscanner to locate the imported modules, but only passes QT_INSTALL_QML (Qt’s own modules location) to the scanner. It was clearly missing an option to list custom import paths, like -qmlimport. That was easy to fix, and so I did.

      • Syntax Highlighter for Wayland Traces

        When debugging window compositing problems with the Wayland client-server protocol, often it is a good idea to set the environment variable “WAYLAND_DEBUG=1” and to take a deep look on the messages that are sent via this protocol. But as always, a lot of output is generated and highlighting can help very much. So far, you could use Johan’s excellent QML based highlighter with many cool features (e.g. rainbow colors for different objects).

        However, in my workflow usually I already have Kate open and simply want to paste a trace therein and to use Kate’s cool syntax highlighting features. So, yesterday I sat down and created an initial set version of highlighting rules for Wayland trace logs. These rules are already merged and will be available with the next KF5 release.

  • Distributions

    • Reviews

    • New Releases

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • Gentoo Family

      • Portability of tar features

        The tar format is one of the oldest archive formats in use. It comes as no surprise that it is ugly — built as layers of hacks on the older format versions to overcome their limitations. However, given the POSIX standarization in late 80s and the popularity of GNU tar, you would expect the interoperability problems to be mostly resolved nowadays.

        This article is directly inspired by my proof-of-concept work on new binary package format for Gentoo. My original proposal used volume label to provide user- and file(1)-friendly way of distinguish our binary packages. While it is a GNU tar extension, it falls within POSIX ustar implementation-defined file format and you would expect that non-compliant implementations would extract it as regular files. What I did not anticipate is that some implementation reject the whole archive instead.

    • Fedora

      • Touchscreen and stylus now working on HP Envy x360

        The Fedora version on kernel 4.19.3 includes a patch allowing both stylus and touchscreen to properly run on AMD processor based HP touchscreen thanks to the combined effort from Hans, Lukas and Marc for finding the root cause and testing the fix.

        A few scary moment on HP Envy x360 15-cp0xxx Ryzen 2500U was a conflicting IRQ handling due to possibly booting on Windows 10 used to get all feature parity to Linx counterpart i.e. Fedora 29 in this case. Fortunately, power off somewhat did the trick. Since then, both stylus and touchscreen run without a hitch.

    • Debian Family

      • Derivatives

        • ASUS Pushes Out TinkerOS 2.0.8 With Many Updates To Its Debian Linux Image

          For those with an ASUS Tinker Board, the Debian-based TinkerOS has an updated operating system release.

          The Tinker Board that comes in at about twice the price of a Raspberry Pi but with significantly better performance has out an official operating system update. TinkerOS 2.0.8 pulls in the latest Mali graphics driver, is updated to the Linux 4.4.132 LTS kernel, now supports Wake-On-LAN from suspend-to-RAM, supports WiFi Direct, improves HDMI hot-plug detection, and has a number of other improvements.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Google Open-Sources Speaker Diarization AI Technology, Claims 92% Accuracy

    Google has developed a research paper called Fully Supervised Speaker Diarization where they introduced a new model that uses supervised speaker labels in a more effective manner over traditional approaches. Within this model, an estimation takes place which identifies the number of speakers that participate in a conversation, which increases the amount of labeled data.

    As part of NIST SRE 2000 CALLHOME benchmarking, Google’s techniques achieved a diarization error rate (DER) as low as 7.6% where DER is defined as a “percentage of the input signal that is wrongly labeled by the diarization output.” The recent results are improvements over the 8.8% DER achieved using a clustering-based method or the 9.9% DER achieved using deep neural network embedding methods.

  • Review: Haiku R1 Beta1

    As you can probably tell by this point, I ran into a number of frustrating problems while using Haiku. The main ones were the network connection constantly dropping every few minutes, and the operating system failing to boot on my workstation. There were some other aspects that I wasn’t thrilled about – the title bar being a tab at the top of windows looks weird and inefficient to me, but that is a matter of taste.

    Having an operating system which only has one user account and doesn’t require passwords is a non-starter for me. Some people may like the convenience and simplicity of having a completely open, one-user system (it does streamline things) but it wouldn’t be suitable for any of my environments or devices, apart from my mobile phone.

    In short, in my situation and in my environments, Haiku is not a practical option. However, there are several aspects of the operating system and its surrounding project that I think are great. Haiku has unusually clear and well organized documentation. Most open source projects could use Haiku as an example of how to make user guides. There are little details I like, for example the notes on how to set up wireless networks are available locally, on the install media. This is a minor detail, but it’s unfortunate how many projects explain how to get on-line in resources which are only available on-line.

    Haiku’s desktop is clean, the look is consistent across applications and visual elements don’t use up much space. It took me some time to get used to having the application menu and task switcher on the right side of the screen instead of the left, but I like the way the desktop is presented.

    One of Haiku’s best features is that it is fast and responsive. Whether the system is booting, launching programs, browsing the web or displaying a video, the desktop is highly responsive. Everything feels light and reacts almost instantly to input. This is behaviour I usually only see in super light (and minimal) Linux window managers and I really appreciated the how everything happens quickly on Haiku.

    So while Haiku is not practical for me, and I’m guessing for many people, I do think there are aspects of the project which should be held up as a good way to do things in the open source community. I must also applaud Haiku’s team for porting several applications, including LibreOffice, to their operating system. Haiku has a lot of its own applications, but I think many users will appreciate having ports of popular programs in the HaikuDepot.

  • Ohio University to switch to open source fonts

    The fonts EB Garamond and Barlow will officially replace Galliard and Frutiger beginning Jan. 1, 2019, according to an OU news release.

    The new fonts are open source, which means they are accessible to anyone. After Nov. 1, users will be able to download the font packages from the University Communications and Marketing website.

    OU’s usage of Zilla Slab will continue since it is already an open source font, Dan Pittman, an OU Spokesman, said in an email.

    Converting to these new fonts is anticipated to save OU approximately $60,000 over the next three years and will also allow access to the different colleges and other departments to further the OU brand, according to the release.

  • BSD

    • FreeBSD 12.0-RC2 Now Available

      The second RC build of the 12.0-RELEASE release cycle is now available.

    • FreeBSD 12.0-RC2: Debugging Bits Turned Off, Knob To Build Userland With Retpolines

      FreeBSD 12.0 Release Candidate 2 is now available for testing ahead of the official release in December.

      FreeBSD 12.0-RC2 now ships with its kernel debugging support in its different configurations disabled, which was accidentally left enabled after the recent code branching. This now puts the kernel in the release state, which should also help with the performance, and be interesting for benchmarking now upon the official release for seeing how FreeBSD 12.0 is competing with the BSD and Linux competition.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Access/Content

      • Time to break academic publishing’s stranglehold on research

        Here is a trivia question for you: what is the most profitable business in the world? You might think oil, or maybe banking. You would be wrong. The answer is academic publishing. Its profit margins are vast, reportedly in the region of 40 per cent.

        The reason it is so lucrative is because most of the costs of its content is picked up by taxpayers. Publicly funded researchers do the work, write it up and judge its merits. And yet the resulting intellectual property ends up in the hands of the publishers. To rub salt into the wound they then sell it via exorbitant subscriptions and paywalls, often paid for by taxpayers too. (Some readers may scent a whiff of hypocrisy, given New Scientist also charges for its content. But good journalism does not come free.)

  • Programming/Development

    • Concurrency on the Internet of Things (Arduino, MicroPython, Espruino)

      In this presentation I talk about what concurrency actually is, why it matters for Internet of Things applications, and which platforms are best at handling it.

    • Sentiment analysis on Trump’s tweets using Python

      I’m almost sure that all the code will run in Python 2.7, but I’ll use Python 3.6. I highly recommend to install Anaconda, which is a very useful Python distribution to manage packages that includes a lot of useful tools, such as Jupyter Notebooks. I’ll explain the code supposing that we will be using a Jupyter Notebook, but the code will run if you are programming a simple script from your text editor. You’ll just need to adapt it (it’s not hard).

    • John Cook: Ellipsoid distance on Earth

      To first approximation, Earth is a sphere. But it bulges at the equator, and to second approximation, Earth is an oblate spheroid. Earth is not exactly an oblate spheroid either, but the error in the oblate spheroid model is about 100x smaller than the error in the spherical model.

      Finding the distance between two points on a sphere is fairly simple. Here’s a calculator to compute the distance, and here’s a derivation of the formula used in the calculator.

      Finding the distance between two points on an ellipsoid is much more complicated. (A spheroid is a kind of ellipsoid.) Wikipedia gives a description of Vincenty’s algorithm for finding the distance between two points on Earth using an oblate spheroid model (specifically WGS-84). I’ll include a Python implementation below.

Leftovers

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Samsung apologises for cancer deaths caused by toxic factories

      Kim Ki-nam, head of Samsung’s semiconductor business, said: “We sincerely apologise to the workers who suffered from illness and their families. We have failed to properly manage health risks at our semiconductor and LCD factories.”

    • Hospital Letter Urging Patient to Start ‘Fundraising Effort’ to Pay for Heart Treatment Seen as Yet Another Reason America Needs Medicare for All

      As progressive lawmakers and healthcare experts have frequently pointed out in recent months, few growing trends have laid bare the fundamental immorality and brokenness of America’s healthcare system quite like the rise of GoFundMe and other crowdfunding platforms as methods of raising money for life-saving medical treatments that—due to insurance industry greed and dysfunction—are far too expensive for anyone but the very wealthiest to afford.

    • The Gates Foundation’s Ceres2030 Plan Pushes Agenda of Agribusiness

      “Whether the challenge is low-yield crops in Africa or low graduation rates in Los Angeles, we listen and learn,” states the website of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (the Gates Foundation). Even though it is the richest and most powerful organization in all of international aid, the Gates Foundation prides itself on listening to small farmers.

      Its critics, however, have often accused the Gates Foundation of not living up to this goal. The importance of listening to farmers might seem straightforward — to avoid the risk of giving people what they don’t need. But underneath, much more is going on.

      Historically, international development was funded not so much for the welfare of the poor, the hungry or the landless, but rather to fight the Cold War. Boosting allied governments, winning hearts and minds, and opening spaces for commercial exploitation by Western corporations were the priorities.

      Those bad old days are behind us, according to the Gates Foundation. Their new wave of development interventions has left behind the tainted philanthropic foundations and their Cold War attitudes. Aid is now altruistic.

      [...]

      Its press release describes Ceres2030 as a “groundbreaking data project to support smallholder farmers and end hunger.” It will “map the fullest possible range of knowledge in agricultural research, establish protocols for systematic review, create a risk-of-bias tool, and then drill down to find the most powerful interventions that can help end hunger.”

      Its end product will supposedly “help donors prioritize investments by evaluating agricultural interventions and investment costs to achieve the UN’s sustainable development goal of zero hunger by 2030.”

      In this way, according to Ceres2030 Co-Director Jaron Porciello of Cornell, who spoke about Ceres2030 at a seminar held at the university on November 8, the nonprofit “provides the tools, the framework and the opportunity” to build consensus on development.

      More specifically, Ceres2030 will use “natural language processing” to computationally parse the scientific literature on agricultural interventions to find those of greatest benefit to small farmers. A “Global Advisory Board” will select authors and topics. The chosen authors will then write flagship review articles for a paid-for special issue of the prestigious Nature magazine (slated for early 2020). These reviews will then underpin a media outreach strategy whose intent is to sway G7 donor spending to better help those farmers.

      Even before the exact nature of the “risk-of-bias tool” is revealed, this approach to consensus-building will raise alarm bells for those already doubtful of the disinterestedness of the Gates Foundation­.

      For one, the definition of an intervention in agriculture, according to Ceres2030, is one that raises crop productivity. According to Porciello’s presentation, that means doubling smallholder output.

      For productivity to be the key goal is highly significant. A focus on productivity sidelines at the outset numerous other approaches to reducing hunger and helping farmers. Many types of potential interventions that could transform smallholder agriculture — such as targeted subsidies, commodity price floors, land distribution or food sovereignty, all of which don’t require yield increases — are automatically excluded by the narrow focus on production.

      Productivism, as it is called, represents an agenda. It is a premise whose well-recognized effect is to remove the politics from hunger and poverty. More than that, it provides a ready-made entry point for certain other classes of solutions: the chemicals and GMOs of agribusiness, the promotion of which the Gates Foundation is rapidly becoming known for.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Not Everyone Is Ready to Forgive Rebranded Iraq War Cheerleader Max Boot

      In the prologue to his most recent book, “The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right,” Max Boot writes that leftists have unfairly accused him of “war crimes” because he, like the majority of U.S. lawmakers, supported the invasion of Iraq. But many leftists and progressives remember that he didn’t simply support the disastrous Iraq War—he helped lead the charge—and tepid remorse does not change that.

      A columnist at the Washington Post, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and analyst for CNN, Boot has recently had a public epiphany in which he denounced President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, becoming, he writes, “politically homeless,” and leading to his acceptance by mainstream Democrats. Jacobin Magazine’s Branko Marcetic described Boot as “a war-hungry neocon now being approvingly retweeted by liberals.”

      But Boot’s criticisms of Trump weren’t enough to win over Peter Maas, a senior editor at the Intercept, who called his apology about Iraq “disingenuous.” Maas wrote that Boot “has helped create so much havoc, he has been wrong so completely, that it would be the definition of insanity to treat his ideas as fodder for anything other than a shredder.”

    • Denouncing the Republican Party
    • U.S. Relations with Pakistan Hit Rock Bottom With Trump’s Tweets

      After I wrote the following story about my trip to Pakistan ten days ago, President Trump began tweeting about Pakistan’s lack of effort in the war on terror which triggered a tweet storm with new Pakistani Prime Minister Iran Khan. Trump told Fox News on Sunday, November 18 that Pakistan should have revealed that Osama bin Ladin was “living in Pakistan in what I guess they considered a nice mansion, right next to the military academy. Everybody in Pakistan knew he was there. And we give Pakistan $1.3 billion a year… I ended it because they don’t do anything for us, they don’t do a damn thing for us.”

      Khan responded on Monday morning on Twitter with three tweets: First tweet: “Record needs to be put straight on Mr Trump’s tirade against Pakistan: 1. No Pakistani was involved in 9/11 but Pak decided to participate in US War on Terror. 2. Pakistan suffered 75,000 casualties in this war & over $123 bn was lost to economy. US “aid” was a miniscule $20 bn.

      Second tweet: “3. Our tribal areas were devastated & millions of ppl uprooted from their homes. The war drastically impacted lives of ordinary Pakistanis. 4. Pak continues to provide free lines of ground & air communications(GLOCs/ALOCs).Can Mr Trump name another ally that gave such sacrifices?”

      Third tweet: “Instead of making Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures, the US should do a serious assessment of why, despite 140000 NATO troops plus 250,000 Afghan troops & reportedly $1 trillion spent on war in Afghanistan, the Taliban today are stronger than before.”

    • America’s Post-9/11 Wars Have Cost $5.9 Trillion

      Not to mention 240,000 civilian deaths and 21 million displaced. And yet a congressional commission is urging yet more money for a bloated Pentagon.

    • The Counterinsurgency Paradigm: How US Politics Have Become Paramilitarized

      DONALD TRUMP RAN a campaign promising to refill the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison, to “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” to “take out” the families of suspected terrorists, to ban Muslims from entering this country, and to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Yet these policies didn’t start with Trump: Torture, indefinite detention, extraordinary renditions, record numbers of deportations, anti-Muslim sentiment, mass foreign and domestic surveillance, and even the killing of innocent family members of suspected terrorists all have a recent historical precedent.

      Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, continued some of the worst policies of the George W. Bush administration. He expanded the global battlefield post-9/11 into at least seven countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, and Syria. At the end of Obama’s second term, a report by Council of Foreign Relations found that in 2016, Obama dropped an average of 72 bombs a day. He used drone strikes as a liberal panacea for fighting those “terrorists” while keeping boots off the ground. But he also expanded the number of troops deployed in Afghanistan. Immigrants were deported in such record numbers under Obama that immigration activists called him the “deporter-in-chief.” And then there were the “Terror Tuesday” meetings, where Obama national security officials would order pizza and drink Coke and review the list of potential targets on their secret assassination list.

      For his liberal base, Obama sanitized a morally bankrupt expansion of war, and used Predator and Reaper drones strapped with Hellfire missiles to kill suspected terrorists, including U.S. citizens stripped of their due process. The Obama administration harshly prosecuted whistleblowers in a shocking attack on press freedoms. By the end of his presidency, official numbers on civilian deaths by drone were underreported; we may never know the true cost of these wars, which continue today.

    • Ukraine Says Russia Fired on Ships in Black Sea

      The Ukrainian navy said Sunday that Russia’s coast guard opened fire on Ukrainian vessels in the Black Sea following a tense standoff off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula, wounding two crew members.

      Russia didn’t immediately comment on the claims. Ukraine’s navy said that two of its vessels were struck and that Russian coast guard crews boarded them and a tugboat and seized them.

      There have been growing tensions between Ukraine and Russia, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and has steadily worked to increase its zone of control around the peninsula.

      Earlier Sunday, Russia and Ukraine traded accusations over another incident involving the same three vessels, prompting Moscow to block passage through the Kerch Strait.

    • Children ‘Screaming and Coughing in the Mayhem’ as Trump Border Patrol Fires Tear Gas Into Mexico

      After Central American migrants approached the U.S.-Mexico border on Sunday to call attention to awful shelter conditions and request asylum, U.S. Border Patrol agents reportedly fired tear gas into Mexico, forcing parents with toddlers to flee.

      “Children were screaming and coughing in the mayhem,” the Associated Press reported. “On the U.S. side of the fence, shoppers streamed in and out of an outlet mall.”

      [...]

      The demonstrations by Central American asylum seekers came amid reports that the Trump administration is looking to cut a deal with the newly-elected Mexican government to keep migrants out of the U.S. until their asylum claims are fully processed.

    • Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia’s Dismemberment of Yemen

      “Saudi Arabia must face the damage from the past three-plus years of war in Yemen.” These words opened the last column by Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi published while he was still alive. Three weeks later, on Oct. 2, Khashoggi walked into the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and was never seen again. Khashoggi was instructed to go there by the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., the brother of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to pick up documents allowing him to remarry. It was a ruse. Immediately after entering, Khashoggi was grabbed by a 15-member Saudi “kill team,” tortured, killed and dismembered.

      An audio recording of the gruesome murder, reportedly captured by the Turkish government, left little doubt about his fate. Turkey gave the recording to Saudi Arabia, the U.S., Germany, France and the U.K. When asked by Fox News if he had listened to it, President Donald Trump said, “It’s a suffering tape … There’s no reason for me to hear it.”

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Crucifying Julian Assange

      Chris Hedges and Joe Lauria, journalist and editor-in-chief at Consortium News, discuss efforts to force #WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange out of the Ecuador Embassy in London and extradite him to the US to stand trial.

    • Robert Mueller and His Ilk Are About to Commit a Massive Crime! Will You Let Them Get Away with It?

      The news this morning is all about the pending indictment of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). Wittingly or unwittingly, the Justice Department revealed the existence of a sealed indictment of Assange in a pleading it filed in a related case in the Eastern District of Virginia. According to the DOJ, the pleading in which Assange’s indictment was revealed, is a mistake.

      While others will talk about the horrendous Constitutional implications of an indictment for publishing truthful information—to wit, the 2016 emails of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), and John Podesta—this threatened prosecution of Assange is truly catastrophic to the very survival of the First Amendment. Let us look at the larger context.

      By indicting Assange, the United States seeks to shut him up about the biggest intelligence fraud yet conducted in human history: the fraudulent claim that the Russians hacked the DNC and Podesta, and handed Donald Trump the Presidency. As the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity have repeatedly demonstrated, “the evidence” that such a hack occurred, as recounted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his indictments of several Russian GRU officers, is extremely dubious at best, and more than likely entirely fabricated. The likelihood is that the Clinton and Podesta emails were leaked to WikiLeaks, and that Julian Assange and former British Ambassador Craig Murray know the name or names of the leakers, as they have said, publicly. The leakers were not Russian state actors.

    • ‘Very Trumpian’: Pamela Anderson continues war of words with prime minister

      Former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson has taken a swipe at Prime Minister Scott Morrison for a sexist remark, calling it “a very Trumpian” thing to do.
      Appearing on The Project tonight, Ms Anderson continued her war of words with the leader of the country after she called on him to offer Wikileaks founder Julian Assange safe passage to Australia.
      The Prime Minister landed himself in hot water after he made an insensitive joke about Ms Anderson when asked about her demand on a commercial radio station.
      “I’ve had plenty of mates have asked me if they can be my special envoy to sort the issue out… um, with Pamela Anderson” he said.

    • America’s Mood Swing Diplomacy

      Much has been written, both within and outside the US, on the extremely polarizing and divisive nature of Mr. Donald Trump’s presidency. Controversial, sensational and often the center of headlines himself, President Trump has left in his wake a plethora of shattered norms and conventions that have otherwise long been associated with the US presidency. Of all these shattered conventions however, none are more apparent than his purportedly unique take on US Foreign Policy characterized by his mantra, ‘America First.’

      Be it the United States’ long-standing allies as part of NATO, neighboring trading partners such as Canada and Mexico, or even its more complex web of relations with countries in key regions such as the Middle East and South Asia; President Trump’s ‘America First’ policy has led to a radical revaluation of the way the US is pursuing its overseas interests with widespread repercussions.

      This radical shift is perhaps most apparent in President Trump’s own statements and comments on countries as diverse as France, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan where leaders have been often left flabbergasted by the unpredictability, obtuseness, and grave implications of a sitting US president’s sudden barbs against their countries. These include rancorous statements on for instance, France’s contributions to NATO, illegal immigrants from Mexico, Saudi Arabia’s importance as an arms importer (despite their deteriorating human rights records), and the most recent insinuations on how Pakistan ‘hasn’t done a damned thing for the US.’

    • WikiLeaks finds “portion of fabricated” docs in hackers’ papers against Russian propaganda

      WikiLeaks experts have carried out an analysis of the documents published by the an anonymous group, which, according to hackers, belong to the British Integrity Initiative project (engaged in “fighting propaganda and disinformation”) and made a concludsion that some of them “show signs of falsification.” This is stated in the message on the official page of WikiLeaks on Twitter.

      The documents have been published by the Anonomus hackers group earlier. Among the papers were guidelines, which state the British project involves the creation of clusters of specialists in political, military, academic and other fields who will monitor and analyze cases of disinformation in the country. In addition, among the documents posted by the hackers, there was an a “Guide to Countering Russian Disinformation”. The Integrity Initiative, according to data on its website, is not directly connected with the state, but cooperates with various departments of the British government.

      “Purported internal documents, from a UK government “counter-Russia” influence network targeting mostly Europe and US, appear on site often alleged to be used by Russian state hackers,” the WikiLeaks message says. Experts, according to representatives of the organization, analyzed these documents and found these docs “show hallmarks of being fabrications”. The organization did not specify which papers they considered fake and gave no comments regarding their analysis.

    • Prosecuting Assange is Essential for Restoring our National Security

      Full disclosure: I am not a fan of Julian Assange or Wikileaks. My disdain for started long before both apparently acted as digital mouthpiece for Russian intelligence by releasing hacked emails. It began with the actions of Chelsea Manning, and hit a crescendo with Edward Snowden. Assange and Wikileaks are responsible for creating a class of leakers motivated by ego, who justify their betrayal of our national security by claiming that their moral code trumps the actual code governing the release of classified information.

    • Julian Assange’s lawyers say they have been stopped from seeing him at Ecuadorian Embassy and they fear the Wikileaks founder may soon be kicked out

      The Australian denied their claims but refused to travel to Sweden to face them, because he claimed it was part of a ruse to extradite him to the US.

      [...]

      ‘The hearing is on Tuesday in the national security court complex at Alexandria, Virginia,’ WikiLeaks tweeted, adding it is to ‘remove the secrecy order on the US charges against him.’

      A US court document leaked in November finally revealed the US has already placed secret charges on Assange.

      Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno is now said to have terminated the credentials of his British ambassador, Carlos Abad Ortiz, according to a decree published by WikiLeaks on Wednesday.

    • FEATURE PHOTO: Protesting for Assange

      Clayton Redden, a Charleston resident, protests the Julian Assange case Saturday afternoon on Lincoln Ave. outside of Old Main. “I’m trying to bring Republicans and Democrats together, to spread awareness about the persecution and death of independent journalism.” Redden said. “Spread awareness about the slow crucifixion of Julian Assange who has been exposing war crimes.”

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Rain Tamps Down California Fire but Turns Grim Search Soggy

      The catastrophic wildfire in Northern California is nearly out after several days of rain, but searchers are still completing the meticulous task of combing through now-muddy ash and debris for signs of human remains.

      Crews resumed the grim work Saturday as rain cleared out of the devastated town of Paradise. Some were looking through destroyed neighborhoods for a second time as hundreds of people remain unaccounted for. They were searching for telltale fragments or bone or anything that looks like a pile of cremated ashes.

      The nation’s deadliest wildfire in a century has killed at least 84 people, and 475 are on a list of those reported missing. The flames ignited Nov. 8 in the parched Sierra Nevada foothills and quickly spread across 240 square miles (620 square kilometers), destroying most of Paradise in a day.

    • In Southwest Texas, the Fracking Industry Encroaches on Small Towns, Remote Wilderness, and Clear Skies

      Sue and James Franklin run a rock and mineral shop in Balmorhea, Texas, a small picturesque town known for hosting the world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool. Their shop is about 15 miles from their home in Verhalen, a place they describe as too tiny to be called a town — only about 10 people live there. The couple never imaged the area, on the southwest edge of the Permian Basin, would become an industrial wasteland, but they say that transformation has begun the last two years.

      Texas’ latest oil boom, driven by the fracking industry and crude oil exports, has brought skyrocketing air, noise, and light pollution to small southwest Texas towns and the surrounding lands which are known for majestic mountain views and brilliant starry night skies. With the oil industry come bright lights illuminating an otherwise almost perfectly dark sky. The Franklins’ home on a narrow rural road is now surrounded by fracking sites. On a clear day they can see 20 of these sites from their 10-acre plot of land.

    • US Donors Gave $177k to UK Climate Science Denying Global Warming Policy Foundation

      The UK’s premier climate science denial campaign group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), received hundreds of thousands of dollars of US donations in 2017, recently published tax returns show.

      The money was received at a time when the GWPF was allegedly coordinating with eight other right-wing thinktanks based in and around offices at 55 Tufton Street to push for a hard Brexit.

      Another of the groups, the Taxpayers’ Alliance, received at least $286,000 (£223,300) from US-based donors in the last five years, the Guardian recently revealed — raising concerns about the influence of foreign money at a time when lobby groups are pushing to cut regulation to secure trade deals with major polluters such as India, China and the US.

      Public tax returns filed by the GWPF’s US-fundraising arm, American Friends of the GWPF, show the organisation received $177,001 in grants and gifts in 2017 (worth approximately £137,900 at the time of writing). That includes a single $124,884 donation (worth approximately £97,265), according to the documents.

      The 2017 donations were a significant increase on the amount the GWPF received in 2016 — $128,016 (approximately £99,735).

      US tax regulations only require the organisation to declare how much it has received in grants, without disclosing the source of the donations.

    • More oil moving by rail now than at time of Mégantic disaster

      With Donald Trump attacking the mainstream media, I find myself warming to it as never before — and thereby losing sight of its many failings.

      It gives abundant coverage to celebrities and powerful people, while giving short shrift to issues that threaten the planet, and dropping important stories after a short burst of attention.

    • 3 Charts: What Trump Doesn’t Want You to Know About the Climate Emergency

      The Trump administration dropped the 1,000-page second volume of a congressionally-mandated study of the impact of the climate crisis on the United States late on Friday of Thanksgiving weekend in order to bury it. This sort of move is designed to make sure the report is not headline news on the networks, newspapers and social media on Monday morning, when big news items are seen by most Americans.

      Trump and his cronies—I mean, cabinet—are deeply invested in or beholden to ExxonMobil and other Big Carbon firms who stand to lose billions if the public realizes the harm they are inflicting on us.

      The problem? If we let them go on pushing out 41 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide a year throughout the world, it is going to cost the US hundreds of billions of dollars a year by the end of the century. The economic contribution of entire states could be wiped out.

    • ‘This Is a Climate Emergency’: Extinction Rebellion Takes to Streets to Stand for the Planet Over Polluter Profits

      As scientists warn that the “window of opportunity for action” to prevent catastrophic and irreversible planetary harm from the climate crisis “is almost closed,” members of the Extinction Rebellion movement took to the streets of London on Saturday to demand an urgent response to the world’s ecological emergency and mourn the lives that human-caused climate change has already taken—and will take in the near future in the absence of radical change.

      “Last Saturday we celebrated all the life we wanted to save. This Saturday we mourn all the life we’ve lost, are losing, and are still to lose,” Extinction Rebellion said in a statement. “We rebel because we love this world, it breaks our hearts to see it ravaged, to watch so many people and animals all over this world already dying, to know that this will soon happen to our children if nothing changes. There is no way forward without giving credence to our grief.”

    • This Thanksgiving, a Look at the Indigenous Communities Making the Climate Connection

      As Thanksgiving celebrations kick off around the U.S., activists are calling attention to Indigenous organizations, including many that work on problems and issues related to climate change.

      “A lot of people have been asking me lately how to support Indigenous people during this holiday season which often harps on celebration of the genocide of our ancestors,” wrote community advocate Amy Breesman in a social media posting on Wednesday.

    • Ocean Warming Study Criticism Shows How the Scientific Method Works

      Errors in a recent ocean warming study illustrate global warming’s complexity. They also show the depths to which climate science deniers will stoop to dismiss or downplay evidence for human-caused climate change.

    • Flights to Cornwall will accelerate climate disaster

      Caroline Lucas said MP: “The world’s top scientists say we’ve got 12 years to avoid climate catastrophe.

      “Yet this Government appears to be doing all it can to accelerate disaster. These extra flights will add to noise, air pollution and climate-wrecking emissions – all for the benefit of a tiny minority.

      “Chris Grayling should be investing in improving creaking rail links to Cornwall – not wasting public money on damaging domestic flights.”

    • ‘Time is Running Out,’ American Petroleum Institute Chief Said in 1965 Speech on Climate Change

      The warning is clear and dire — and the source unexpected. “This report unquestionably will fan emotions, raise fears, and bring demand for action,” the president of the American Petroleum Institute (API) told an oil industry conference, as he described research into climate change caused by fossil fuels.

      “The substance of the report is that there is still time to save the world’s peoples from the catastrophic consequence of pollution, but time is running out.”

      The speaker wasn’t Mike Sommers, who was named to helm API this past May. Nor was it Jack Gerard, who served as API’s president for roughly a decade starting in 2008.

    • Will Democrats Back a ‘Green New Deal’?

      News related to climate change is rarely good. More often than not, it engenders a sense of doom and helplessness among the public. But lately there has been a glimmer of hope on the horizon for climate justice, and it bears the name Sunrise Movement.

      Even before the midterm elections took place, activists in the youth-based climate justice organization had planned a sit-in at the Washington, D.C., offices of California representative and longtime Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. A week after the election, the approximately 200 people that crowded into Pelosi’s office were visited by newly elected New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Addressing the climate activists, Ocasio-Cortez said, “My journey here started at Standing Rock,” referring to the powerful indigenous-led rebellion to stop the Dakota Access pipeline project in 2017. Immediately afterward, Ocasio-Cortez pledged to introduce legislation to create a “Select Committee on a Green New Deal,” as one of her first actions in Congress.

      William Lawrence, a co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, explained to me in an interview that the movement is motivated by the existential threat of the climate crisis. “We have hundreds of millions of lives worldwide that are at stake because of the threat of runaway climate change,” he said. The solutions out of this crisis are known and achievable: “We need to overhaul our energy system, our food system and our transit system,” Lawrence explained. In his opinion, “The only way to do that in time is for the government to take an active role in the economy to shape and guide the transition. That’s exactly how we got ourselves out of the Great Depression.”

    • In Massachusetts, ‘Independent’ Studies of Gas Infrastructure Use Industry Data and Consultants

      Massachusetts has contracted two major studies of its natural gas infrastructure, billing both assessments as “independent” efforts. Yet the fact that they use industry consultants and data has raised doubts among critics about their level of objectivity.

      While one study is evaluating the state’s overall gas distribution system, the other assessment explores the potential health risks associated with Enbridge’s proposed compressor station in Weymouth, just south of Boston.

      Last week the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) announced the hiring of Canadian consulting firm Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, Inc. to evaluate the state’s gas distribution system following the deadly explosions that rocked Columbia Gas of Massachusetts’ pipelines in the towns of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover.

      The September blasts killed 18-year old Leonel Rondon, injured dozens of other residents, set fire to scores of homes, and left thousands without gas service, which has yet to be restored in full.

    • 3 Charts: What Trump doesn’t Want you to Know about the Climate Emergency

      The Trump administration dropped the 1,000-page second volume of a congressionally-mandated study of the impact of the climate crisis on the United States late on Friday of Thanksgiving weekend in order to bury it. This sort of move is designed to make sure the report is not headline news on the networks, newspapers and social media on Monday morning, when big news items are seen by most Americans.

      Trump and his cronies– I mean, cabinet– are deeply invested in or beholden to Exxon-Mobil and other Big Carbon firms who stand to lose billions if the public realizes the harm they are inflicting on us.

    • New National Climate Assessment Shows Climate Change is a Threat to our Economy, Infrastructure and Health

      The Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II, was released today. The much-anticipated report, prepared by a consortium of 13 US federal government agencies, makes clear that climate change is already here—as evident from the worsening flooding, wildfire seasons, droughts, and heatwaves the nation has been experiencing. What’s more, the report highlights that as climate change worsens, risks to our economy, infrastructure, health and well-being, and ecosystems will grow significantly. Urgent action is needed to lower heat-trapping emissions and invest in making our economy and our communities more prepared to withstand climate impacts.

    • Rain Tamps Down California Fire but Turns Grim Search Soggy

      The fire burned down nearly 19,000 buildings, most of them homes, and displaced thousands of people, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

    • To Tackle Climate Crisis, Says Bernie Sanders, US Must ‘Be Bold and Aggressive in Standing Up to Greed of Fossil Fuel Industry’

      In an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation” shortly after the Trump administration attempted to bury a devastating report on the climate crisis, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said it is more important than ever to unite the public around ambitious solutions to human-caused climate change as the White House actively works with the fossil fuel industry to make it worse.

    • Pro-environment groups spent millions on “green” midterm candidates

      In October, the United Nations released a landmark report describing a grim future for the planet if climate change isn’t aggressively and rapidly addressed.

      The report describes near-apocalyptic conditions — mass food shortages, stronger wildfires and dying coral reefs — as early as 2040.

      Many environmental advocacy groups, like Environment America and the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), spent millions on the 2018 midterms to ensure Congress is filled with more pro-environment members. So far in 2018, organizations such as the Nature Conservancy and Partnership for Conservation have funded lobbying efforts for policies supporting the environment.

      “This is not some distant threat,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, LCV’s senior vice president for government affairs. “The need to combat the climate crisis has never been more important.”

      While the consequences of climate change aren’t new information, the U.N. report makes the situation far more dire than previously thought.

    • Fighting for the Climate: A Note from Post-Apocalyptic California

      People have been warning for years about a grim future if we don’t act to dramatically reduce green-house gas emissions. They warned that the unstable climate would lead to droughts, more frequent and intense wildfires, and too much and too intense rain in other places. They also argued that while the Global North was the source of the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions, the Global South would bear the brunt of the damage, and that this would lead to increased global migration, as climate refugees needed to flee as places became unlivable. In October, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report which says that we have 12 years to get greenhouse gas emissions down by a significant amount or we face irreversible consequences.

      The grim future we have been warned about is now with us. For years it was incredibly frustrating to know what was coming, to try to engage others, and have most people living their private lives, based on the pursuit of private happiness, while leaving the public to rot from a lack of civic engagement. For many years it was difficult to get people to see that dealing with climate change was not going to mean they would have to give away their creature comforts for something that would happen to polar bears in fifty years. Now, as a result of the fires, and the hurricanes, and sea level rise, many more people feel a sense of urgency around the fact that the collective social fabric upon which we all depend is in serious trouble.

    • Koch Industries Lobbies Against Electric Vehicle Tax Credit

      Koch Industries is calling for the elimination of tax credits for electric vehicles (EVs), all while claiming that it does not oppose plug-in cars and inviting the elimination of oil and gas subsidies that the petroleum conglomerate and its industry peers receive.
      Outgoing Nevada Republican Senator Dean Heller introduced a bill in September that would lift the sales cap on electric vehicles eligible for a federal tax credit, and replace the cap with a deadline that would dictate when the credit would start being phased out.

      Under the current tax credit for EVs, once a manufacturer sells 200,000 EVs in the U.S. the amount of the credit gets slashed in half, then halved again. The full credit amount is $7,500. Tesla has already hit the 200,000 cap and GM will soon reach it, so both companies would benefit from a tax credit extension via eliminating the sales cap. Heller’s bill lifts the 200,000 vehicle limit and substitutes a phase-out period starting in 2022.

      But the conservative senator’s bill is facing opposition from the conservative billionaire Koch brothers.

      In a letter to senators dated October 24, Koch Industries lobbyist Philip Ellender urges opposition to the expansion of EV tax credits through 2022. Ellender claims that the tax credits primarily benefit wealthy consumers and that subsidization interferes with “innovation and consumer choice.”

      The letter cites two studies, each by a right-wing think tank. One study comes from the Pacific Research Institute, which has received fossil fuel funding – including over $1.7 million from Koch-related foundations and $615,000 from ExxonMobil. The PRI study, titled “Costly Subsidies for the Rich: Quantifying the Subsidies Offered to Battery Electric Powered Cars,” emphasizes that “the majority of the dollar benefits from energy and electric car subsidies are paid to tax filers in the higher income tax brackets.”

    • Protesters demand a Green New Deal

      Donning particle masks in the smoke-fogged air this morning, dozens of protesters urged Bay Area congressional representatives Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Lee to endorse a Green New Deal select committee that could create millions of jobs combating the climate crisis.

      “We need to respond with the urgency the situation requires,” said 24-year-old Sunrise Movement volunteer organizer, Daniela Lapidous. “We can create millions of green jobs, and move our economy to safe renewable energy, and keep our communities healthy.”

      [...]

  • Finance

    • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Already Making Democrats and Republicans Nervous

      The 116th United States Congress is not yet in session and already there’s been no shortage of headlines about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the incoming House Democrat who sent a shock through her party’s establishment with her primary win in New York’s 14th Congressional District. Even before she won the November midterm election and became the youngest representative ever to head to Congress, both Republicans and Democrats tried desperately to make sense of her popularity—and began throwing punches.

      From criticizing her clothing and savings account to trying to cut down her activism, it seems media and politicians alike can’t stop talking about her. Former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and former Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman both scrutinized Ocasio-Cortez’s actions, with Lieberman warning in the run-up to the midterms that the would-be House member “hurts the party, congress and even America.”

    • Why we must regulate the blockchain

      Ken Thompson, the co-creator of the Unix computer operating system, received the Association for Computing Machinery’s prestigious Turing Award in 1984. In his acceptance speech, he did something odd. He chose not to talk about Unix at all; instead, he spoke about trust. Computer security can never be proven indisputably, Thompson pointed out, because those who write the software can embed malicious code that is invisible to outside observers. “You can’t trust code that you did not totally create yourself,” he concluded. Instead, you must trust the people who wrote the code. Humans are always in the loop.

      [...]

      Furthermore, the Internet experience should give pause to those making confident predictions about the blockchain’s social impacts. The Internet is an extraordinary tool for free speech around the world but also is the mechanism that repressive governments now use to control their populations. Social media brought people together but also nurtured communities of hate and state-sponsored disinformation campaigns. Uber provides people around the world with efficient access to transportation but also gives one company tremendous power that it has repeatedly abused. The blockchain has similar potential to be used for good and ill. The same corrosive forces that gave rise to the modern trust crisis could undermine or corrupt its solutions.

      [...]

      One interpretation of this result, from fellow NYU professor David Yermack, is “that there really is a desperate need for technology to come, reduce the cost of financial intermediation, probably by orders of magnitude. He posits this as the opportunity for financial technology (fintech) innovations including distributed ledger technology. The question, though, is why these innovations would be any more likely to change these dynamics. Recording financial transactions on a distributed ledger could be much cheaper than doing so through a collection of reconciled databases and could give rise to many new services. But the same was true of moving from paper to computerized records, and from room-sized mainframes to Internet cloud storage. Today’s financial services colossus JPMorgan Chase is light years more sophisticated than the firm that John Pierpont Morgan created in 1895. Yet it occupies a similar role in the interstices of finance.

    • Theresa May accused of “major cover-up” over Brexit donor Arron Banks

      Theresa May is under increasing pressure to clarify reports that she blocked an investigation into Brexit bankroller Arron Banks in the run-up to the 2016 referendum after the Home Office refused to reveal information about the controversial Leave.EU and UKIP donor.

      In an “extraordinary” response to a freedom of information request from openDemocracy, the Home Office refused to confirm or deny whether it holds any material from 2016 about Leave.EU and Banks. The department said that doing so “would impede the future formulation of government policy”.

      Opposition MPs have accused the Home Office of a “major cover-up” and called on the government to “ditch the obfuscation” and “come clean”, amid media reports that May, as home secretary, blocked a proposed probe into Banks ahead of the Brexit vote.

      In a letter seen by openDemocracy, Liberal Democrat MP Tom Brake has called on the prime minister to “clarify whether you were aware of any concerns regarding Arron Banks’s finances and alleged relationships with foreign states”. The Leave donor is currently under investigation by the National Crime Agency.

    • Brexiteers, backstops, and the bloody Irish border

      The bomb went off in the early morning, about 4 or 5 am. In Coshquin, just outside Derry – about six miles away from where I grew up in Donegal in the Irish Republic.

      I remember it as a booming thud. I didn’t think much of it – I’d heard bombs before. I tried to get back to sleep. Back in October 1990, it was no big deal. There was no shortage of bombs in Derry and around the border throughout the 70s and 80s. Probably a controlled explosion by the British army, I thought, or even a dummy run up in the hills on the Donegal side of the border by the Provos.

      There were lots of dark mutterings about who was responsible in the days afterwards. The IRA, of course. But in a small rural area on the border adjoining a small city like Derry, people have a good idea of who was actually responsible. Best not to speak though. Dangerous times produce dangerous people with dangerous ideologies. You never know. Whatever you say, say nothin’. It was, and still is to some extent, a “land of password, handgrip, wink and nod.” , as Seamus Heaney so perceptively pointed out.

      Whoever it was, they’d chained Patsy Gillespie tightly into a van loaded with over a thousand pounds worth of explosives at gun point. His wife and kids were held at gunpoint during the ordeal. They then told him to drive the van out the Buncrana road to the heavily fortified British army checkpoint at Coshquin. Patsy had worked in an army base in the city. He’d been told to stop by the local brigade many times. But he was a stubborn wee man by all accounts. Pushed his luck not fully realising the danger, perhaps.

    • Tied visas and quick fixes: the UK’s post-Brexit labour market

      In 2016 the UK voted to leave the European Union. At the time many British businesses raised serious concerns about the likely impact of a leave vote upon the labour market. At the heart of their concerns was a fear of labour shortages resulting from the end of free movement within the EU. Some experts from government, civil society and industry have called for a renewed focus on improving wages and conditions in order to entice British workers into jobs that were previously only palatable to EU nationals.

      This would be in line with the UK’s stated ambition of leading the world in the fight against ‘modern slavery’. If employers must treat workers better as a result of Brexit, then surely this helps to advance the cause? Yet rather than welcoming this new world of work, the government has instead introduced a temporary migrant worker scheme that will greatly increase the risk of ‘modern slavery’ in Britain.

    • End the Subsidy Wars: Amazon Took Advantage of a System That’s Baked into America’s Economy. We Must Finally Fix It.

      Leave it to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. In his zeal to be disruptor-in-chief, he has pulled back the green curtain on America’s corrupted economic development system. More publicly than ever, taxpayers have been shown how our nation’s tax break-industrial complex works — and quite rightly, they want to end it.

      This state-eat-state and city-versus-city madness has many names: “race to the bottom,” “zero-sum game,” even “second war among the states.” That last phrase was coined by Business Week magazine — 42 years ago. It costs at least $70 billion per year, but can only be estimated due to poor disclosure.

    • 2020 Presidential Contenders More Likely to Take on Wall Street

      From Katie Porter to Colin Allred, candidates who ran hard on taking on Wall Street found many victories in the 2018 midterms — and vulnerable red-state Democrats who tried to prove their bipartisanship through deregulation lost big. But even before running on the left flank of financial policy proved itself electorally, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party had already, without much fanfare, won a longtime intra-party fight. When it comes to financial policy, the members of the Democratic Party vying for the 2020 presidential nomination are closer to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez than they are to Senator Chuck Schumer.

      In February 2018, long before anyone in the national media had Ocasio-Cortez on their radar, she was forcefully speaking out against a bill formally named the “Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act” (S. 2155) but dubbed the “Bank Lobbyist Act” by consumer advocates. This legislation, signed into law in May, rolls back the automatic monitoring by the regulators for financial institutions with more than $50 billion in assets — raising the bar for this automatic scrutiny to a staggering quarter of a trillion ($250 billion). It also functionally exempted 85 percent of US banks and credit unions from fair lending laws in the mortgage market. Minority Leader Schumer voted against the bill but he did not whip the caucus against it — an implicit endorsement of the deregulatory policy. In the end, 16 Democratic Senators voted with the GOP to carve a giant chunk out of the Dodd-Frank Act.

    • Trump’s Trade Wars Hurt Everyone in Farm Country

      Agriculture is one of the largest industries in Iowa. When agriculture suffers, all Iowans do — even those who’ve never set foot on a farm.
      That’s exactly what’s happening because of President Trump’s tariffs and trade wars.
      When farm prices rise because of tariffs, farmers can’t buy a new pickup, purchase equipment, or make repairs. The salesperson the farmer works with doesn’t get a commission, so they spend less at home. Businesses get fewer customers, so they cut back on their workforce.
      Eventually the whole economy is hurting — and so is our state.
      Iowa’s lost tax revenue from personal income and sales taxes alone may range from $111 million to $146 million, Iowa State’s Center for Agricultural and Rural Development estimates. Federal offsets could reduce those losses, but not completely.
      Those revenue losses can translate into additional lost labor income — anywhere from $245 million to $484 million, enough income to support 9,300 to 12,300 jobs.

    • America’s wealthiest family owns Walmart. They can afford to pay workers $15 an hour.

      The major economic crisis facing this country is that at a time of massive income and wealth inequality, tens of millions of Americans are working for wages that are so low that they are barely surviving. All over this country, people are forced to work two or three jobs to support their families as the cost of healthcare, housing, childcare, and prescription drugs continues to rise. In today’s economy, the very rich are becoming much richer while too many workers see little or no income growth.

      Thankfully, over the past year, real progress has been made to address this crisis. As a result of major grassroots campaigns, workers at the Walt Disney Company and Amazon fought and won a living wage of at least $15 an hour. Further, from coast to coast, many states and cities are raising the minimum wage — often to $15 an hour.

      The American people understand that something is fundamentally unfair when workers earn totally inadequate wages, while the corporations that employ them make billions in profits and their CEOs receive outrageously high compensation packages. On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and one of the busiest shopping days of the year, we must remind Walmart, the largest corporation in America, that the low wages they pay their employees is unacceptable. Walmart must pay their employees a living wage — at least $15 an hour. The American worker needs a pay raise, and Walmart can play an important role in leading that effort.

    • Skip Cyber Monday—Support a Real Local Business

      “Cyber Monday” is coming up—get out there and buy stuff!

      You don’t actually have to “get out there” anywhere, for this gimmicky shop-shop-shop day lures us to consume without leaving home, or even getting out of bed. Concocted by Amazon, the online marketing monopolist, Cyber Monday is a knock-off of Black Friday—just another ploy by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to siphon sales from real stores.

      Seems innocent enough, but behind Amazon’s online convenience and discounted prices is a predatory business model based on exploitation of workers, bullying of suppliers, dodging of taxes, and use of crude anti-competitive force against America’s Main Street businesses.

      A clue into Amazon’s ethics came when Bezos instructed his staff to get ever-cheaper prices from small-business suppliers by stalking them “the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.”

      John Crandall, who owns Old Town Bike Shop in Colorado Springs, is one who’s under attack. He offers fair prices, provides good jobs, pays rent and taxes, and lives in and supports the community.

    • As EU Approves Theresa May’s Brexit Plan, Corbyn Denounces Deal as ‘Miserable Failure’ That Puts Ordinary People at Risk

      After leaders of the European Union on Sunday unanimously approved British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan—which is the product of over a year of chaotic negotiations that saw key Tory cabinet ministers resign in protest—Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn immediately vowed to oppose the deal in Parliament, arguing it “gives us less say over our future, and puts jobs and living standards at risk.”

      “This is a bad deal for the country,” Corbyn wrote on Facebook. “It is the result of a miserable failure of negotiation that leaves us with the worst of all worlds… That is why Labour will oppose this deal in parliament. We will work with others to block a no deal outcome, and ensure that Labour’s alternative plan for a sensible deal to bring the country together is on the table.”

      Labour’s alternative, Corbyn continued, “includes a permanent customs union with a U.K. say, a strong single market deal and guarantees on workers’ rights, consumer, and environmental protections.”

    • Jeremy Corbyn: Brexit Deal ‘Leaves Us With the Worst of All Worlds’

      A former leader of Britain’s Conservative Party says he cannot support the Brexit deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May.

      Michael Howard said Sunday that May’s deal has many shortcomings, adding “It’s not a deal that is a good deal for the U.K.”

      Howard says the biggest problem is the way Britain would have to seek European Union permission to sever all ties to the EU if a “backstop” agreement comes into force.

    • Amazon’s move will gentrify neighborhoods – at what social cost?

      When large companies move into an area, politicians often proclaim how the new business will create jobs, increase tax revenues, and thus lead to economic growth. This is one reason local governments offer tax incentives to businesses willing to move in.

      Amazon’s decision to locate offices in Long Island City across the East River from Manhattan, and in Crystal City on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., follows this pattern. The New York location borders the largest low-income housing area in the United States, with mostly African-American and Hispanic residents whose median household income is well below the federal poverty level. These people, local politicians claim, will benefit from Amazon’s move to the neighborhood.

      However, when large companies with an upscale and specialized workforce move into an area, the result is more often gentrification. As economic development takes place and prices of real estate go up, the poorer residents of the neighborhood are forced out and replaced by wealthier ones.

      Is such a market-driven approach that accepts displacement ethically justifiable? And how do we even measure its costs?

      [...]

      Gentrification, as an economic and social phenomenon, is not limited to cities in the United States. Gentrification has become a global issue. In cities as geographically dispersed as Amsterdam, Sydney, Berlin and Vancouver, gentrification has been linked to free-market economic policies. Put another way, when governments decide to let housing and property markets exist with little or no regulation, gentrification typically flourishes.

      When neighborhoods gentrify, politicians and policymakers often point to physical and economic improvements and the better quality of life for residents in an area after gentrification. For example in 1985, during a period of intense urban renewal in New York City, the Real Estate Board of New York took out advertisements in The New York Times to claim that “neighborhoods and lives blossom” under gentrification.

      Through the lens of utilitarianism, one could say that the population living in neighborhoods after gentrification experience greater happiness than before.

      The fallacy of this argument is, of course, that these “happier” populations are overwhelmingly not the same people as were there before gentrification. As a scholar who works on questions of ethics in the built environment, I have studied how we, as the concerned public, can better equip ourselves to see through such arguments.

      Economic development in an area leads to less poverty in that area, not because the personal economic situation of poor people who live there has improved, but because the poor people have quite simply been erased out of the picture.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • On Thanksgiving Eve, Facebook quietly admitted to hiring dirty tricksters to publish an anti-Semitic Soros hoax smearing its critics

      But on Thanksgiving eve, after the majority of newsrooms had shut down for the night and while everyone’s attention was elsewhere, Facebook quietly admitted that the Times had been right, with Facebook communications and policy chief Elliot Schrage, admitting that he had personally hired Definers and that the company had directed them to investigate and publish about Soros. Schrage is now leaving Facebook, and claims that the decision to do so pre-dated the scandal.

    • In Thanksgiving Eve News Dump, Facebook Admits Hiring GOP Operatives to Dig Up Dirt on Critics—Including George Soros
    • As Zuckerberg Refuses to Testify, UK Seizes Thousands of ‘Potentially Explosive’ Documents Facebook Has Tried to Keep Secret

      Conservative MP Damian Collins, the Guardian reports, then “invoked a rare parliamentary mechanism” that compelled Six4Three’s founder—who was on a business trip in London—to hand over the documents, which reportedly “contain significant revelations about Facebook decisions on data and privacy controls that led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It is claimed they include confidential emails between senior executives, and correspondence with Zuckerberg.”

      “This week Facebook is going to learn the hard way that it is not above the law. In ignoring the inquiries of seven national parliaments, Mark Zuckerberg brought this escalation upon himself, as there was no other way to get this critical information,” wrote Christopher Wylie, a whistleblower who was previously the director of research at Cambridge Analytica.

      “The irony is… Mark Zuckerberg must be pretty pissed that his data was seized without him knowing,” Wylie added.

    • Feed the Swamp

      It is a fact of political life that in the United States, what Michelle Goldberg in a recent New York Times article referred to as the “bottomless depravity” of Donald Trump, can also be applied to at least three members of Congress who emerged triumphant from the recent election. One of them, to his credit, was not an indicted criminal.

      The re-elected, but unindicted congressman, was Steve King of Iowa. He was re-elected for the 9th time on November 6, 2018. Mr. King almost certainly takes great pride in the fact that he has not been charged with any criminal activity-only racism and fascism. He is credited over the years with countless racist rants. In one of his many tweets he said: “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” Commenting on the activities of illegal immigrants, he said that for every illegal immigrant who becomes a valedictorian of his or her class, there are 100s of others who “weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”

    • Rejecting Claim of Presidential Immunity, Judge Allows Lawsuit Against Trump Foundation to Proceed

      Rejecting the immunity defense put forth by President Donald Trump’s lawyers, a New York state judge on Friday ruled that a lawsuit accusing Trump and members of his family of using their “charitable” foundation as nothing more than a personal “piggy bank” can proceed.

      Filed in June by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, the suit alleges that Trump engaged in “persistently illegal conduct” by using the Trump Foundation as a vehicle to advance his political and business aims. The lawsuit seeks to dissolve the Trump Foundation entirely.

      “The Trump Foundation functioned as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests. There are rules that govern private foundations, and we intend to enforce them—no matter who runs the foundation,” Underwood wrote in a tweet on Friday.

    • A dangerous moment for democracy: Why we need a New Reconstruction

      Despite record turnout and a historic shift in power in Congress, the 2018 midterm elections represent a dangerous moment for the future of American democracy. From Georgia to Kansas to North Carolina, this election has been marred by a concerted effort to rig our democracy and suppress the voices of communities of color. From voter purges to gerrymandering to openly racialized intimidation attacks, conservatives have continued to escalate their attempts to entrench political power by dismantling democratic institutions.

      This is not the first time the country has faced this kind of assault on both democracy and multi-racial political power. We have done so twice before: first in the Reconstruction era that followed the Civil War, and second in the civil rights movement battle to dismantle Jim Crow. These previous experiences underscore the scope of the challenge for us today. To rebuild democracy and ensure it works for all us, we will have to do more than win elections; we need to radically transform our underlying democratic institutions.

      In the aftermath of the Civil War, Republicans and abolitionists in Congress launched an ambitious project of Reconstruction aiming to dismantle the legacy of slavery and racial hierarchy. These efforts led to the adoption of the radical Reconstruction Amendments to the Constitution: the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery; the 14th Amendment securing the privileges and immunities of citizenship including rights of equal protection and due process for all persons; and the 15th Amendment prohibiting states from disenfranchising voters on basis of race. It would take another several decades for these constitutional provisions to include women.

    • Corporate PACs Cling to Relevance Amid Rise of Progressives Refusing Big Business Donations

      The rise of progressive lawmakers who have refused to accept corporate political action committe (PAC) money has not gone unnoticed by big business, and corporate interests are mobilizing to save the outsized influence they’ve had on Washington, especially since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010.

      According to the Huffington Post, which obtained a PowerPoint presentation from a biennial conference held earlier this month by the National Association of Business Political Action Committees (NABPAC), the group presented a blueprint for “challenging the narrative” about corporations’ toxic hold on American lawmakers—by combating anti-PAC rhetoric and gaining buy-in from politicians and political journalists who can help disseminate PAC-friendly views.

    • Birds of a Feather

      It’s just another one of those amazing coincidences and a harbinger of things to come in the United States. It was the news that Democracy’s greatest champion in Europe, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a Trump wannabe, was presiding over a parliament last June that was drafting anti-immigrant legislation.

      The parliament’s efforts were preceded by the Hungarian parliamentary election, that took place on April 8, 2018. During that election, Mr. Orban ignored the problems in Hungary, such as corruption scandals, low wages, or the depressing state of health care. His campaign was focused exclusively on keeping immigrants out of Hungary. The choice, he said when campaigning, was (a) a national government over which he would preside, or (b) a government formed by George Soros.

      The legislation that was drafted, following the election, was aimed at immigrants seeking asylum, and criminalized the activities of anyone giving them assistance. It was called the “Stop Soros Bill.”

      Mr. Soros is the American-Hungarian billionaire who has had a large presence in Hungary. The government was, however, accusing him of encouraging refugees to go to Hungary. According to Mr. Orban’s acolytes, NGOs financed by Mr. Soros operate as “a network to facilitate illegal migration.” In mid-June the Hungarian parliament passed the Stop Soros legislation.

      [...]

      CEU was founded more than 30 years ago by George Soros. As its website explains, it is a graduate level “crossroads” university where “faculty and students come to engage in interdisciplinary education. . . . With approximately 1,400 students. . . from more than 130 countries, CEU is one of the most densely international universities in the world. . . .” CEU has been in Budapest since its creation in 1991. Beginning in the 2019-2020 academic year, incoming students for the masters and doctoral programs will study at a new campus in Vienna. As the trustees of CEU explained, CEU is moving because of the Hungarian “government’s crackdown on academic freedom including a government ban on gender studies programs, the forced suspension of research related to migration, and punitive tax measures.” It is a great victory for Viktor Orban. And it is a wonderful model for the Trump who not only shares Mr. Orban’s hatred of immigrants, but his dislike for George Soros.

      Trump’s fear of immigrants is well known and is attested to by the deployment of troops to the border which, the Trump says, is designed to keep out the caravan that is filled with terrorists and other unsavory sorts intent on causing havoc in the United States as soon as they get in.

      According to a report in the Wall Street Journal on November 20, the Trump has been almost as successful in keeping out immigrants as Mr. Orban. According to the report, at the border crossing in Yuma, Arizona, until very recently, 30 or more families were permitted entry every day. In the last two weeks, at most one family a day has been permitted to enter. As one immigration counsellor said: “It really seems like they are trying to discourage people from crossing to seek asylum legally . . . . It’s been bad for a couple weeks.”

  • Censorship/Free Speech

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Camera traps designed for animals are now invading human privacy

      We conducted a survey of researchers who had deployed camera traps in ecological or conservation projects. More than 90 percent of the 235 respondents said that their cameras had taken images of people as well as wildlife.

      Fewer than nine percent of researchers who had captured images of people had initially set out to do so. But most said that once they had the pictures they made use of them. For example, almost half of respondents who had pictures of apparently illegal activities (such as poaching) subsequently used them to inform conservation management or law enforcement, sometimes by sharing them with third parties (most notably the police and park management staff).

    • Parliament seizes cache of Facebook internal papers

      Damian Collins, the chair of the culture, media and sport select committee, invoked a rare parliamentary mechanism to compel the founder of a US software company, Six4Three, to hand over the documents during a business trip to London. In another exceptional move, parliament sent a serjeant at arms to his hotel with a final warning and a two-hour deadline to comply with its order. When the software firm founder failed to do so, it’s understood he was escorted to parliament. He was told he risked fines and even imprisonment if he didn’t hand over the documents.

    • U.K. Parliament Seizes Thousands of ‘Potentially Explosive’ Facebook Documents

      After Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg refused to testify at a joint hearing with lawmakers from seven nations over his company’s invasive privacy practices, the U.K. Parliament on Saturday legally seized thousands of secret and “potentially explosive” Facebook documents in what was described as an extraordinary move to uncover information about the company’s role in the Cambridge Analytica data-mining scandal.

      According to The Guardian, the documents were initially obtained during a legal discovery process by the now-defunct U.S. software company Six4Three, which is currently suing Facebook.

      Conservative MP Damian Collins, The Guardian reports, then “invoked a rare parliamentary mechanism” that compelled Six4Three’s founder—who was on a business trip in London—to hand over the documents, which reportedly “contain significant revelations about Facebook decisions on data and privacy controls that led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It is claimed they include confidential emails between senior executives, and correspondence with Zuckerberg.”

    • Facebook’s Internal Documents Seized By The UK Parliament

      On arriving in London, a Parliamentary Sergeant at Arms was sent to his hotel for seizing the documents. When he refused to handover the documents, he was “escorted to parliament” and informed that he was risking fines for the same.

      The company alleged that the social media giant used a “range of methods” to collect user information such as text messages and location data along with misleading privacy and data controls. Although Facebook says that the claim had “no merit,” it used California laws to protect those court documents.

      This action was taken after Mark Zuckerberg refused to answer a committee formed in UK for investigating data harvesting incident.

      [...]

      The social media company has now asked the DCMS committee to refrain from reviewing those documents and to return them to counsel or to Facebook.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • ICE Is Trump’s Gestapo

      Thanksgiving weekend, but the barbarism of the Trump regime goes on apace. On Friday, plainclothes ICE officers in North Carolina ambushed and arrested Samuel Oliver-Bruno, a 47-year-old undocumented construction worker from Mexico in the U.S. for over 20 years who’s been living in the basement of a sanctuary church for 11 months while he petitions to stay here with his sick wife and teenage son. Oliver-Bruno left Durham’s CityWell United Methodist Church, part of the state’s growing faith-based sanctuary movement, for an alleged meeting with immigration officials, who told him he had to come in person to provide fingerprints for his petition.

      Oliver-Bruno had come to the U.S. in 1994; he met his wife Julia here, and his son Daniel was born here. After long working construction jobs and helping raise Daniel – and with no criminal record – he and his family briefly visited Mexico a few years ago to see his ill father. When Julia’s lupus condition worsened, she had to abruptly return to the U.S. for open heart surgery; when, shortly after, Oliver-Bruno tried to return as well, he was arrested at the border, and the threat of deportation has followed him.

      Arriving at the USCIS office Friday, Oliver-Brunohe was accompanied by faith leaders, family and members of Alerta Migratoria, an immigrants rights advocacy group. Once inside, the scene quickly plunged into chaos: Burly ICE thugs wrestled him to the ground as other clients shouted “No! No! No!” When his son tried to intervene, ICE guys handcuffed and arrested him, too. After they hastily strong-armed father and son into a waiting van, supporters surged around it, shouting “Shame!” and blocking it from leaving. Police eventually arrived, and 27 people were arrested.

    • ‘No Agreement of Any Kind’: Incoming Mexican Government Denies Cutting Deal With Trump to Keep Asylum Seekers Out of US

      Hours after the Washington Post reported that the Trump White House and the incoming administration of Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López (AMLO) cut a deal to keep asylum seekers in Mexico while their claims are processed by the U.S., Mexican government officials on Saturday straightforwardly denied that any such agreement has been reached.

      “There is no agreement of any kind between the future federal government of Mexico and the United States of America,” future Interior Minister Olga Sanchez told NBC News. “The new government will begin its mandate on December 1.”

      Jesus Ramirez Cuevas, a spokesperson for AMLO, also denied that the incoming government has reached a deal with the Trump administration.

    • Reflecting Democratic Party’s Past, Clinton’s ‘Deluded and Dangerous’ Remarks on Migration in Europe Spark Outrage

      The rise of xenophobic, right-wing extremists intent on stoking bigotry and prejudice against foreigners in Europe and elsewhere has startled observers around the world—but former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton angered critics Thursday when she revealed her belief that the onus lies with European leaders to curb migration in order to appease those same extremists, rather than to protect the rights of asylum seekers.

      In an interview with the Guardian, the 2016 presidential candidate perfectly illustrated the rift between so-called centrist Democrats and progressives as she suggested Europe should end its attempts to resettle the world’s 25.4 million refugees whose home countries have become unlivable due to war, unrest, and poverty—frequently thanks to actions by the U.S. and its European allies.

      [...]

      Clinton’s remarks echoed Trump’s frequent lies about the burden Central American immigrants have placed on the United States. The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan pointed out that while Europe—a continent of about 740 million people and some of the world’s wealthiest countries—allowed about a million refugees to cross its borders in 2015, before numbers started to steadily decline, the vast majority of refugees are hosted by far less well-off countries.

    • Government could hold migrant families indefinitely in unlicensed detention centers under new plan

      Migrant families could be held indefinitely in unlicensed detention centers under a new federal plan that also would end critical court protections for immigrant children, according to new court records.

      Under the so-called Flores agreement, created in 1997, the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement “shall release a minor from its custody without unnecessary delay” to a parent, relative, legal guardian or adult designated by a parent.

      But new Trump administration regulations would dismantle the landmark Flores agreement and allow authorities to release children only to a parent or legal guardian – even if those adult guardians are detained.

    • Why Is Johns Hopkins Enabling ICE?

      REFUSING TO be defeated by the intransigence of the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) administration, students and Baltimore community members held a teach-in and rally on November 15 to protest the university’s million-dollar contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

      The action was spurred after the administration received a petition with over 2,000 signatures calling for JHU to terminate the ICE contracts — and then rebuffed the demand.

      At least 30 participated in the teach-in outside in freezing weather before entering the Brody Learning Commons (BLC) building to disrupt business as usual, where the action swelled to at least 80 participants.

      Speakers at the teach-in rejected the administration’s cynical invocation of “academic freedom” as a defense of the ICE contracts, and denounced the university’s complicity in Trump’s war on immigrants. Inside the BLC, protesters chanted, “Money for education, not deportation!” and “End the contracts!” after several participants unfurled a banner over a balcony, which read “End the Contracts! #ICEoutJHU.”

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Enplas Display v. Seoul Semiconductor: How to Police Damages Expert Testimony

      In this appeal, the Federal Circuit has largely sided with the patentee Seoul Semiconductor — affirming the jury verdict on induced-infringement and validity. However, the panel split on the issue of damages — with the majority finding that the damages verdict was not supported by the evidence. In particular, the court ruled that the SSC’s expert had included non-infringing sales in her calculations. Judge Stoll authored the majority opinion that was joined by Judge Hughes. Judge Newman wrote in dissent and would have let the jury verdict stand.

      The patent at issue here claims a method of backlighting LED displays — used in lots of TVs. Back in 2012, Enplas filed for declaratory relief, but the jury sided with the patentee on all counts — finding the patents valid and infringed and awarding $4 million as a reasonable royalty for the life of the patent.

      [...]

      The damages case here was similar to a convoyed damages situation. The patentee’s expert testified that the reasonable royalty for the accused lenses would have been $500,000. However, the expert testified more “pragmatic license” negotiations would be for a broader freedom-to-operate license that would include additional similar (i.e. non-infringing) products as well as future developed infringing products. That broader license would go for $4,000,000.

    • Copyrights

      • Hollywood Wants Hosting Providers to Block Referral Traffic From Pirate Sites

        The US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator is working hard to update his copyright enforcement plans. In a written submission, Hollywood’s MPAA shared a few notable ideas. The group calls for more cooperation from Internet services, including hosting providers, who should filter infringing content and block referral traffic from pirate sites, among other things.

Motorola Solutions v Hytera (Hardware Patents) Again Shows That Only Lawyers Are Winning in Major Patent Battles

Posted in Hardware, Patents at 12:48 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Back in summer (regarding Hytera): Patents on Steroids: ITC is Rushing Embargoes Before the Facts Are Even Known

Hytera

Summary: High-level and large-scale patent disputes (which could probably be resolved or at least settled without lawsuits) are another reminder of the downsides of over-relying on patent lawyers, whose most expensive (profitable to themselves) product is lawsuits

“The U.S. International Trade Commission has shielded Hytera Communications Corp. Ltd.’s line of redesigned two-way radio systems from import restrictions, but maintained a trade block on the original design,” Suzanne Monyak said about the latest twist in Motorola‘s battle at the ITC, based on questionable old patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). We recently mentioned again the Hytera case (Motorola tries hard to control the narrative); lawyers want to be seen as winners regardless (legal bills), so as one site put it some days ago, “Motorola Solutions and Hytera both claim victory in USITC patent dispute” (it’s a half ‘win’ for both, half ‘loss’ as well). To quote:

Both Hytera and Motorola Solutions have claimed a victory in a patent dispute over digital mobile radio products.

Motorola Solutions filed a complaint against Hytera at the US International Trade Commission (USITC) accusing it of infringing seven Motorola patents.

Hytera filed a petition requesting a review of a final initial determination on the matter.

Previously, Hytera vice president, Tom Wineland, said he was confident that the company had not infringed any of Motorola Solutions’ patents.

However, in its ruling, the USITC determined that Hytera had infringed Motorola Solutions’ patents, and issued a limited exclusion order on any infringing two-way radio products, as well as cease and desist orders.

The USITC also rejected Hytera’s request to allow infringing products into the US to repair and/or replace those already in the country.

Hardware-based things cannot be tackled by 35 U.S.C. § 101. This case will go on and will be making more money for lawyers.

In Europe (carmakers) there’s also this lawsuit over 18 patents of Broadcom (we last mentioned the lawsuit last week). Here are some details about the outcome, basically a settlement (was litigation necessary at all?):

In fact, according to the source, a court trial slated for Friday has been called off. However, both the companies refrained from making any official statements.

Broadcom had reportedly claimed €1 billion (approximately $1.1 billion) earlier this month from Volkswagen for the unauthorized use of its 18 patents. The company had also threatened the automaker to judicially demand prohibition on production of notable Volkswagen models, including select models of Porsche and Audi, per the reports.

The automaker is alleged to have infringed upon patents concerning Broadcom’s semiconductors, Volkswagen leverages for its entertainment and navigation system in select car models.

We note that this is not the first time that Broadcom charged an automaker over patent infringement. In May 2018, the semiconductor company alleged Japan-based Toyota Motor (TM – Free Report) with infringement charges of six infotainment system patents between 2005 and 2014.

[...]

As of Oct 29, 2017, Broadcom had 24,250 patents, with expiration dates ranging from 2018 to 2036. Further, aggressive acquisition policy favors Broadcom with patent wins.

Notably, in the third-quarter of fiscal 2018, Broadcom reported Industrial & other (5% of total revenues) of $225 million, declining 5% year over year. The decline can primarily be attributed to decrease in Intellectual Property (IP) licensing revenues.

After months of litigation (money down the drain) they agreed to no longer pursue this case any further; whose idea was this litigious approach? Probably lawyers’. This is how they justify their job inside or outside those large firms.

The Demise of Software Patents in Patent Courts Worldwide Would Mean Much-Needed Staff Cuts in Litigation Giants

Posted in America, Europe, Patents at 12:23 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The demise of the UPC means that courts will remain software patents-hostile

Tilman Müller-Stoy
Image source

Summary: The European Patent Office and the American Patent and Trademark Office aren’t managing to subject the courts to patent maximalists’ demands (shown above it’s Tilman Müller-Stoy from Team UPC); this means that, irrespective of whether they grant fake patents or not, such patent wouldn’t get very far in legal proceedings

TECHRIGHTS has long opposed software patents in Europe (for well over a decade) and spent years promoting 35 U.S.C. § 101 in the US. What once seemed unaccomplishable in the US is nowadays a reality. It’s just a shame that the EPO nowadays promotes software patents, thanks in part to António Campinos.

We mentioned Jonathan Rosenberg's article on Thanksgiving Day, as did some sites across the Web, e.g. this high-profile hardware site the following day, summarising: “Jonathan Rosenberg is the VP/CTO Collaboration at Cisco, SIP lead author, and a VoIP industry pioneer. He has written a blog post about the vagueness of software patents and how this has created the modern day patent troll. Patent trolls are companies that don’t make a product but collect patents with the intent of using the vagueness of the descriptive language contained in the patent to “creatively” apply them to as many products as they can.”

SoylentNews has just mentioned this too (earlier today). Readers told us about it.

Rosenberg himself has his name on a lot of patents (almost 100 at the USPTO), but he’s not enthusiastic about it and he’s in fact quite dismissive of their merit/s. we encourage sites/people/groups to spread his article widely; this can help sway public opinion.

On the other hand, Watchtroll now promotes the illusion that some ideas are “patents” and are thus “inventions”; it is a typical law firms’ lie. “Moving from Idea to Patent: When Do You Have an Invention?” says the headline. As we shall show tomorrow, Watchtroll has gotten so desperate that it’s attacking courts/tribunals again. These people have totally lost their minds; next they might lose their job, too. Their job depends on a lot of frivolous patent litigation; once that stops they run out of ‘business’ and have to get a real (productive) job.

Speaking of frivolous patent litigation, how about Tinder v Bumble? It’s a laughable dispute. These are obviously fake patents that are software patents and the courts should throw these out to avoid further time-wasting. The following new article describes an abstract patent on workflow, not design per se. Why did they think Sarah Burstein was the suitable person to remark on it? She focuses on design patents (like shapes of devices), which is another thing altogether. To quote some passages:

Tinder and Bumble are sparring over the right to swipe with lawsuits on both sides claiming the other is in the wrong. Tinder’s parent company, Match, filed a lawsuit against Bumble last March on the grounds that Bumble stole their intellectual property. According to Bumble’s lawsuit, Tinder’s claim is false and designed to drive down Bumble’s worth and investment market.

Match claims that there are plenty of grounds for them to sue Bumble. The two popular dating apps are very similar by design, especially in early versions. At their core, they both show a person’s photo and a short description, and then allow the user to swipe right or left to like or dislike them, respectively. The main difference is that Bumble requires women to message first while anyone can initiate contact on Tinder.

According to Sarah Burstein, a professor at the University of Oklahoma College who focuses her research on design patents, Match has accused Bumble of nearly every type of intellectual property infringement the law allows. Match submitted a patent application for their double opt-in, swipe left/swipe right system over five years ago, about seven months before Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe left Tinder to launch the rival app.

Only the lawyers will win, as usual (legal bills, bickering over nonsense); we expect this lawsuit to go nowhere, but it will last a while… long enough for lawyers to pocket a lot of money from misguided legal action (which no doubt they encouraged/incited for).

Steph the “Troll Tracker” is back for Thanksgiving (after years of relative if not complete silence) and she writes about Honeywell, Intellectual Ventures, IP Nav, and Nest in light of more litigation:

This thing is awesome and would look particularly fetching in my front entryway, replacing the circa 1998 Honeywell electronic thermostat that hangs there now. And therein lies the rub: Honeywell doesn’t like the new player on the block and so went after Nest for patent infringement. What did Nest do? Crawled right into the arms of Intellectual Ventures for some protection . This is not wholly dissimilar from what Ditto had to do, selling out to IP Nav to get 1-800-Contacts off their back.

Oh, the irony.

Maybe this is exactly what the trolls had in mind to begin with? First, you go after everyone and their dog for patent infringement, focusing in recent years on the young and weak like startups, and then when the problem has become so rampant in the industry, you offer a “solution” which is nothing more than protection from people like yourself.

Remember that Intellectual Ventures’ lawyers in Europe are pushing hard for the UPC, more so than the European Patent Office (EPO) ever did. They probably worry that the UPC’s downfall would mean a lot of job cuts in their profession. They wrongly assumed that the UPC(A) would get ratified, spurring lots of patent lawsuits across the entire continent. As long as national patent courts are in tact, their chances of winning are slim to none and they cannot sue EU-wide (except in many pertinent courts that do not tolerate abstract patents).

Patents Are Not Property

Posted in Deception, Intellectual Monopoly, Patents at 5:00 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: The mythology about patents being something one can own and then sell is one among the biggest lies perpetrated and exacerbated in the 21st century, giving rise to ‘extortion factories’ such as patent trolls

THE European Patent Office (EPO) and U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are both run by patent maximalists, Battistelli’s António Campinos and Trump's Iancu. These people view patents as things they’re not. They’re clueless or intentionally wrong, i.e. dishonest.

“They interject themselves into media and create their own propaganda sites, usually with inappropriate terms like “asset” and “property” in the name. So even the very names of these sites are lies.”As Hartwig Thomas put it: “The notion of IP is just a propaganda term which attempts to wrap copyright, trademarks and patents in the respectable cloth of “private property” which is guaranteed in the constitution. But the constitution never meant to guarantee anything like it.”

Josh Landau was quoting Madison on the subject of patents several days ago. To quote:

James Madison is credited with introducing the Patent and Copyright Clause to the Constitution, and defended that clause in Federalist 43, stating “[t]he utility of this power will scarcely be questioned.” But he was well aware that there were dangers to the power, writing in his own papers that the patent monopoly could produce more evil than good.

But it wasn’t just in his private papers that Madison referenced the potential problems patents can create. In the letter to Congress in which he, as President, recommended the establishment of a separate patent office within the Department of State, he also noted those dangers, saying he recommended “further guards [be] provided against fraudulent exactions of fees by persons possessed of patents.”

Patents have since then become like a religion with clergy/preachers who tax everyone; some, without being lawyers, are doing this too (trolls). They interject themselves into media and create their own propaganda sites, usually with inappropriate terms like “asset” and “property” in the name. So even the very names of these sites are lies.

“Even the name of the site and the job/title/role contain the propaganda term. If they repeat the propaganda often enough, they presume, people will eventually believe it. Even politicians, judges and governments…”The headline and each paragraph here, for example, contains the lie and the propaganda term “IP”. That’s just a new example; there are examples like it every day. Even the name of the site and the job/title/role contain the propaganda term. If they repeat the propaganda often enough, they presume, people will eventually believe it. Even politicians, judges and governments…

Self-Professed Linux ‘Lover’ Microsoft Passes Questionable Patents to DJI as Part of “Microsoft-DJI Collaboration on Azure”

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 4:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Still scattering patents to trolls and other entities which help Microsoft promote its protection racket, “Azure IP Advantage” [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21]

LOT Network: A WHOLE LOT OF SOFTWARE PATENTS

Summary: Microsoft is again scattering patents around (for profit and lawsuits), having long done that with patent trolls which attack GNU/Linux

Microsoft is reportedly selling USPTO-granted patents, potentially software patents, for patent litigation purposes. So much of a “truce” and “peace” with Linux, eh?

Microsoft recently joined the software patents apologists at OIN and LOT Network. We didn’t expect that to end Microsoft’s bad behaviour, especially because Microsoft publicly exploited the membership to ‘sell’ “Azure IP Advantage”, which is basically a protection racket.

“The report itself is paywalled, but the tweets gave away the gist of it.”A site sponsored by Microsoft and its trolls (several of them) has repeatedly noted in recent days that “DJI acquired US patents from Microsoft amid litigation fight with competitor” and this “deal follows Microsoft-DJI collaboration on Azure and AI for drones,” according to a later note. The report itself is paywalled, but the tweets gave away the gist of it.

DJI acquired US patents from Microsoft amid litigation fight with competitor

[paywall]

That same site has meanwhile spoken about and as usual glorified patent trolls in China (article by Bob Stembridge). To these people, having been literally sponsored by trolls, trolling is a good thing. They even use the term “NPE”. IAM is a really nasty propaganda site of trolls; the malicious agenda is one they’re not ashamed of, presumably because they’re greedy. The paywall is their way to hide from critics.

“To these people, having been literally sponsored by trolls, trolling is a good thing. They even use the term “NPE”. IAM is a really nasty propaganda site of trolls; the malicious agenda is one they’re not ashamed of, presumably because they’re greedy.”One piece that isn’t paywalled is promotional propaganda from Kent Richardson (Richardson Oliver Law Group), who sells the illusion of growing demand for low-quality patents; Microsoft now sells some of these, showing that Microsoft is still a dangerous company. “The full ROL Group report on the current state of play in the brokered patent market will be published in issue 93 of IAM, available online to subscribers at the end of this month,” it says. Further up it almost refutes the headline itself when it says: “Two years ago, the cover of IAM Magazine showed a beaten boxer stumbling to his feet, representing a patent market struggling to recover from the brink of disaster. With asking prices down 30%, each punch is no longer as strong as it was. But the boxer is nimbler and with 53% more transactions than two years ago, he is landing a lot more punches.”

“It’s just the Microsoft-Novell strategy rebranded a bit.”That ‘market’ is still diminishing, in terms of overall value. Many companies just distribute worthless patents to trolls, many of which simply go out of ‘business’.

Either way, it could be argued that Microsoft no longer saw value in the above patents; by passing these patents to DJI as part of “Microsoft-DJI collaboration on Azure” it basically allows DJI to sue (back) a competitor. Microsoft is trying to market Azure by fueling unnecessary patent litigation. So much for a ‘new’ Microsoft, eh? It’s just the Microsoft-Novell strategy rebranded a bit.

Links 25/11/2018: DXVK 0.93 and Frogr 1.5 Released

Posted in News Roundup at 1:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Server

    • Kubernetes in production vs. Kubernetes in development: 4 myths

      We recently cleared up some of the common misunderstandings people have about Kubernetes as they start experimenting with it. One of the biggest misunderstandings, though, deserves its own story: Running Kubernetes in production is pretty much the same as running Kubernetes in a dev or test environment.

      Hint: It’s not.

      “When it comes to Kubernetes, and containers and microservices in general, there’s a big gap between what it takes to run in the ‘lab’ and what it takes to run in full production,” says Ranga Rajagopalan, cofounder and CTO of Avi Networks. “It’s the difference between simply running, and running securely and reliably.”

      There’s an important starting point in Rajagopalan’s comment: This isn’t just a Kubernetes issue, per se, but rather more widely applicable to containers and microservices. It is relatively “easy” to deploy a container; operating and scaling containers (and containerized microservices) in production is what introduces complexity.

    • Community is key to open source success and possibly profit

      Open source companies like Redis Labs and MongoDB may be looking to cordon off code to ensure commercial success, but the correct path to open source project success is openness. Thus spake Kubernetes co-founder Brendan Burns, and thus it is. As he noted in a recent interview, “…especially in the infrastructure space, the [open source projects] that make room for other people to be successful are the ones that ultimately win.”

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • Linux Action News 80

      Mark Shuttleworth announced 10 years support of Ubuntu 18.04, but there’s a catch. Why we’re buying the new Raspberry Pi, and we have a laugh at folding Android screens.

      Plus the new Red Hat Enterprise beta has modularity, why Canonical might be ready for investors, and the bad week for cryptocurrencies.

    • Deconstructed Dialog | User Error 53

      There’s something almost intangible about the way Linux presents itself and Popey tries to explain it, the balance between living for the moment and planning for the future, and doing it wrong with social media.

  • Kernel Space

    • Benchmarking The Work-In-Progress Spectre/STIBP Code On The Way For Linux 4.20

      Due to the performance fallout from the introduction of STIBP for cross-hyperthread Spectre Variant Two mitigation in the Linux 4.20 kernel, the stable Linux kernels are reverting those patches after originally being quickly back-ported to those branches. For Linux 4.20, STIBP on by default for all processes remain in place until the revised STIBP code is ready for merging that is still expected to happen before the stable Linux 4.20 debut in about one month’s time. Here are some initial benchmarks of those preliminary improvements.

      The improved STIBP heuristics have gone through several rounds of public review on the kernel mailing list in recent weeks. The patches are now queued in tip/tip.git’s new WIP.x86/pti Git branch. With that work-in-progress code now in Thomas Gleixner’s tree, I figured I would run some performance tests of that code to see if there was anything unexpected and to verify the restoration of the performance drops that could be easily in double digit losses.

    • Allwinner VPU support in mainline Linux November status update

      Since our previous update back in September, we continued the work to reach the goals set by our crowdfunding campaign and made a number of steps forward. First, we are happy to announce that the core of the Cedrus driver was approved by the linux-media maintainers! It followed the final version of the media request API (the required piece of media framework plumbing necessary for our driver).

      Both the API and our driver were merged in time for Linux 4.20, that is currently at the release candidate stage and will be released in a few weeks. The core of the Cedrus driver that is now in Linus’ tree supports hardware-accelerated video decoding for the MPEG-2 codec. We have even already seen contributions from the community, including minor fixes and improvements!

    • Allwinner “Cedrus” Driver Moving Ahead With H.264 & H.265 Video Decode Support

      Merged last month for the Linux 4.20 kernel was The Cedrus VPU driver for Allwinner SoCs that was developed by Bootlin. Initially the video format supported with this kernel is MPEG-2, but H.264 and H.265 support is moving closer to mainline too.

      Bootlin’s Paul Kocialkowski shared an update on the state of the Allwinner VPU support. There are patches still under review for H.264 and H.265 hardware video decoding. Hopefully we’ll see these patches merged for the Linux 4.21 kernel cycle so the Cedrus VPU driver becomes usable for more than just MPEG-2.

    • Linux is reverting the STIBP support due to major slowdowns in Linux 4.20

      Linux 4.20 has shown major performance issues and the reason behind this regression was Single Thread Indirect Branch Predictors (STIBP), as shared by Phoronix yesterday. This support is being reverted from the upcoming releases Linux 4.19.4 and 4.14.83 kernel points.

    • Linux 4.19.4 & 4.14.83 Released With STIBP Code Dropped

      On Friday marked the release of the Linux 4.19.4 kernel as well as 4.14.83 and 4.9.139.

      Greg Kroah-Hartman issued this latest round of stable point releases as basic maintenance updates. While these point releases don’t tend to be too notable and generally go unmentioned on Phoronix, this round is worth pointing out since 4.19.4 and 4.14.83 are the releases that end up reverting the STIBP behavior that applied Single Thread Indirect Branch Predictors to all processes on supported systems. That is what was introduced in Linux 4.20 and then back-ported to the 4.19/4.14 LTS branches, which in turn hurt the performance a lot. So for now the code is removed.

    • Logitech High Resolution Scrolling Support Dropped From Linux 4.20

      Yet more fallout from the Linux 4.20 development kernel is over the newly-added Logitech “high resolution scrolling” functionality that is now being disabled until a better solution is in place.

      The past few months there has been patches working on high resolution scroll wheel support that is more precise than the standard behavior offered for Logitech mice on Linux up ot this point. This code was worked on by Google’s Chrome OS team and intended to vastly improve the scroll wheel experience with Logitech’s high-end mice. The code was merged to Linux 4.20.

    • Graphics Stack

      • NVIDIA Tegra194 Xavier Gets Plumbed For Open-Source Display Support

        With the Linux 4.20 kernel there is the initial display code for NVIDIA’s Tegra194 “Xavier” SoC while the next kernel cycle, Linux 4.21, will bring the rest of the display enablement code and enough to light up the HDMI output on the Jetson AGX Xavier.

        Thierry Reding of NVIDIA sent out the latest seven patches on Friday for working on the Tegra194 display support. The code includes adding Tegra194 support to the host1x GPU driver (host1x is the DMA engine for register access to Tegra graphics/multimedia modules), Video Image Composer (VIC) support for Tegra194 within the Tegra DRM driver, and enabling display support for Tegra194 via the DeviceTree additions in the kernel.

      • Marek Takes To Possible AMDGPU Winsys Memory Optimizations

        AMD’s Marek Olšák known for his many additions and performance optimizations to RadeonSI and who is leading Mesa development this year with the most commits has been working on some AMDGPU winsys optimizations.

        The Winsys in the Gallium3D space is what sits between the Gallium3D user-space driver and the operating system / DRM kernel driver. Marek’s latest work in this area are slab allocation improvements and changes around memory address translation.

      • Meson DRM Driver Getting Support For HDMI 2.0 4K

        Should you be using the Meson DRM/KMS Linux driver for Amlogic hardware support, HDMI 2.0 4K @ 60Hz support is on the way.

    • Benchmarks

      • Gaining eBPF vision: A new way to trace Linux filesystem disk requests

        When Brendan Gregg gave his Performance Analysis superpowers with Linux BPF talk during the Open Source Summit in Los Angeles last year, he wasn’t messing around. Using the new eBPF tracing tools really feels like you gained some x-ray vision powers since, suddenly, opening the program’s hood is no longer necessary to see in details how it is behaving internally.

        I had the chance of applying these new gained powers last month, when I was asked to develop a small tool to trace when and what parts of each file was being accessed for the first-time during a program initialization. This request came with a few constraints, like the information had to be available independently of the kind of buffered I/O method being used (synchronous, aio, memory-mapping). It also should be trivial to correlate the block data with which files were being accessed and, most importantly, the tracing code should not result in a large performance impact in the observed system.

      • AMDGPU+RADV Linux Gaming On GCN 1.0/1.1, 25-Way Warhammer II GPU Benchmarks

        With Feral Interactive’s modern Linux game ports that rely upon the Vulkan graphics API for rendering, the company usually lists the Radeon R9 285 as the minimum requirement. That’s generally because the R9 285 “Tonga” is the first graphics card officially supported by the AMDGPU kernel driver, which is necessary for RADV Vulkan driver support, but with non-default options it’s possible to get AMDGPU+RADV working on GCN 1.0 Southern Islands and GCN 1.1 Sea Islands graphics cards. Here are some benchmarks of that experimental GCN 1.0/1.1 Vulkan support using Feral’s newest Linux game port, Total War: Warhammer II, in a 25-way AMD/NVIDIA graphics card comparison for Linux gaming.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Latte bug fix release v0.8.3

        Latte Dock v0.8.3 has been released containing important fixes and improvements!

      • Change in Professional Live

        We build software for the next generation Heidolph devices based on Linux and C++/Qt. Both technologies are in the center of my interest, over the years it has become more than clear for me that I want to continue with that and deepen my knowledge even more.

        Since the meaning of open source has changed a lot since I started to contribute to free software and KDE in particular, it was a noticeable but not difficult step for me to take and move away from a self-proclaimed open source company towards a company that is using open source technologies as one part of their tooling and is
        interested in learning about the processes we do in open source to build great products. An exciting move for me where I will learn a lot but also benefit from my experience. This of course that does not mean that I will stop to contribute to open source projects.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • What about Gnome apps then?

        Strangely, if we look at the Gnome desktop applications, it comes short, but not that much more than KDE, albeit for very different reasons. Gnome does a few areas really well, like accessibility, image editing, instant messaging, mail, and screenshots. But all these happen to be applications designed before Gnome 3, which makes for a curious pitch. In other areas, the desktop environment is severely lacking, like the office suite, browser and education. Much like Plasma, it also struggles with media and package management.

        Again, you may think I’m being negative. Nope. My overall usage arsenal is a mix between Gnome and Plasma, which shows that neither of these desktop environments fully satisfies my needs, and I’m sure the same is true for the needs of many other users. The Gnome desktop environment has lost a big part of its popularity and edge recently, whereby visual minimalism also impacts functionality. This would be fine if there was a range of excellent, complete programs to compensate for the desktop shell changes, but this is not the case. In turn, this makes Gnome 3 feel fragmented, bland and with sub-par software that does not really excite. Except the hardy veterans that still march on, years and years later, a testament of smart, elegant design and wicked functionality.

        Much like KDE – in fact more so – Gnome comes with a lot of small, single-purpose programs that are just inadequate, so you’re most likely to just ignore them. All in all, the Gnome application stack is need of some serious revamp. Most of the new programs aren’t that exciting or useful, the old ones are pretty robust and just need some visual realignment, but the rest of the stuff is unnecessary. Also, Gnome needs to work hard in creating content in some of the categories, as it does not exist today, making the whole desktop experience rather disjointed.

        The solution would be to unite all the different desktops and projects, eliminate all the overhead of developing the same thing nine times over, and create an ultimate punch that has everything, alas this is not likely to happen any time soon. Which means that most people will end up using curious recipes, with something like 30% Plasma, 15% Gnome, and 55% third-party stuff. That’s fine, but that’s also 55% missed opportunity to create a unique and lasting identity with the users. One can dream, though.

      • Frogr 1.5 released

        Not many changes this time, but some of them hopefully still useful for some people, such as the empty initial state that is now shown when you don’t have any pictures, as requested a while ago already by Nick Richards (thanks Nick!), or the removal of the applications menu from the shell’s top panel (now integrated in the hamburger menu), in line with the “App Menu Retirement” initiative.

        Then there were some fixes here and there as usual, and quite so many updates to the translations this time, including a brand new translation to Icelandic! (thanks Sveinn).

        So this is it this time, I’m afraid. Sorry there’s not much to report and sorry as well for the long time that took me to do this release, but this past year has been pretty busy between hectic work at Endless the first time of the year, a whole international relocation with my family to move back to Spain during the summer and me getting back to work at Igalia as part of the Chromium team, where I’m currently pretty busy working on the Chromium Servicification project (which is material for a completely different blog post of course).

  • Distributions

    • Fedora

    • Debian Family

      • Derivatives

        • Deepin 15.8 Promo Video Proves Distro Deserves ‘Blingiest Desktop’ Crown

          The recent Deepin 15.8 release impressed many on its arrival — now a new promo video published by the team behind demonstrates precisely why.

          The five-minute clip, which we’ve embedded above, showcases the distro’s recent crop of UI changes and UX tweaks, including a new boot menu, disk encryption feature, and optional ‘dark mode’.

          And call me sucker for eye candy but it all looks terrifically bling-bling. Whether the blurred ‘fluent design’ aesthetic is to your own personal tastes or not, isn’t it great to see that such a distinctly different desktop available?

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • HTML Conversion Software ‘HTMLDOC’ Available as Snap

            The latest HTMLDOC, open-source HTML conversion software, now can be easily installed in Ubuntu 16.04 and higher via Snap package.

            HTMLDOC is a program that reads HTML and Markdown source files or web pages and generates corresponding EPUB, HTML, PostScript, or PDF files with an optional table of contents.

            While Ubuntu universe repository provides an old software package, the HTMLDOC developer offers the Snap (containerized software package) which is always updated.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Picam360-SurfaceWalker: The Open Source Aquatic Drone

    Features called OpenCoralMap and OpenCyanoMap are currently being developed, which automatically upload underwater images filmed during autonomous navigation and data collected with the drone’s measuring devices to a server, and display the collected data on a map.

  • SD Times Open-Source Project of the Week: Acumos AI

    Last week, the LF Deep Learning Foundation announced the first release of its Acumos AI Project. Acumos AI is an open-source framework for building, sharing, and deploying AI applications. It provides a standardized stack and components so that data scientists can “focus on the core competencies and accelerate innovation.”

    Dubbed Athena, this release offers one-click deployment via Docker or Kubernetes, the ability to deploy models into public or private cloud infrastructures, a design studio, security tokens to allow simple onboarding of models into an Acumos AI repository, and an advanced user portal.

  • Metrics for test suite comprehensiveness

    In a previous post I discussed a few FOSS specific mentalities and practices that I believe play a role in discouraging adoption of comprehensive automated testing in FOSS. One of the points that came up in discussions, is whether the basic premise of the post, that FOSS projects don’t typically employ comprehensive automated testing, including not having any tests at all, is actually true. That’s a valid concern, given that the post was motivated by my long-term observations working on and with FOSS and didn’t provide any further data. In this post will try to address this concern.

  • OECD: open-source software pivotal in artificial intelligence

    Open-source software plays an important role in artificial intelligence (AI). This includes specific software libraries, editors and development environments, and machine learning platforms. So say the authors of the latest OECD Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Outlook (2018), who identified AI and (big) data as the most prominent disruptive developments in innovation.

  • Events

    • Why Aren’t There C Conferences?
    • KDE Itinerary – Last week in France

      A week ago Benjamin Port presented our work around KDE Itinerary at Capitole de Libre in Toulouse, and Thursday I did the same at the Paris Open Transport Meetup. Here’s some of the feedback we got.

      First of all, I’m very happy with the interest we saw in this, it seems people are aware of and care for the privacy issues there and are very eager to use a free software alternative to the proprietary services, that’s very motivating.

  • Web Browsers

    • Chrome

      • No More Tab Clutter On Chrome, Engineer From Google Confirms Work On Scrollable Tabstrips

        Google Chrome is undoubtedly one of the more used and popular browsers to the common man. One huge problem that Chrome suffers from is tab cluttering. Tab cluttering happens when a user opens new tabs, one after another, and after a certain number of tabs Chrome automatically reduces the width of all the open tabs in the browser’s UI to make space and accommodate all the new tabs that are being opened.

        This often leads into hiding the webpage header which you would normally see on your tab and then switching between these tabs and looking for your desired tab can become annoying and even mildly infuriating at times.

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

  • BSD

    • DragonFlyBSD 5.4 RC1 Available For Testing Of This Leading BSD Operating System

      Release preparations continue for DragonFlyBSD 5.4 that will officially premiere in the days ahead.

      DragonFlyBSD 5.4 is introducing many improvements and new features as the latest six month operating system update for this long ago fork from FreeBSD. There is a lot of work in the Intel/AMD CPU space this release as well as other new hardware support, maturing of their homegrown HAMMER2 file-system, and more.

    • A Thoughtful Episode | BSD Now 273

      Thoughts on NetBSD 8.0, Monitoring love for a GigaBit OpenBSD firewall, cat’s source history, X.org root permission bug, thoughts on OpenBSD as a desktop, and NomadBSD review.

    • FreeBSD for Thanksgiving

      I’ve been working on FreeBSD for Intel for almost 6 months now. In the world of programmers, I am considered an old dog, and these 6 months have been all about learning new tricks.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • Free Software Messiah Richard Stallman: We Can Do Better Than Bitcoin

      Richard Stallman, the fervently committed founder of the free software movement, is discussing the term “libertarian,” when he stops talking abruptly and says, “Hello?”

      I tell him I’m still listening, but he explains that the confused greeting wasn’t intended for me. Instead, he says a man’s voice – neither mine nor an echo of his – had just cut in with one word: “liberty.”

      “Does that sort of thing happen a lot?” I ask. I hadn’t heard anything.

      “Yes,” he says. “It wasn’t a voice I recognize.” He added, “It could be … ”

      Then a quick burst of static made his next words inaudible.

      [...]

      If that’s surprising, keep in mind that fine distinctions matter a great deal to Stallman. For example, he wrote a 9,000-word explainer on the difference between the terms GNU and Linux.

      In 40-ish words: GNU, which Stallman proposed in 1983, is an operating system using exclusively free software. Linux, created years later by Linus Torvalds, is a kernel. Many refer to packages combining the two as “Linux,” but Stallman insists that the proper term is GNU/Linux or just GNU.

      He also wrote 3,000 words on the differences between free software and open source software. Advocates of both push for the freedom to use, study, change and redistribute software, but Stallman said that those similarities conceal “a deeply important moral disagreement” centered on freedom and human rights, which the free software movement stresses.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Raptor Blackbird Micro-ATX POWER9 Motherboard Pre-Orders Open Up At $799 USD

        At the start of October, Raptor Computing Systems announced Blackbird as a lower-cost POWER9 motherboard built on a micro-ATX footprint. We now have the firm specs on this motherboard as well as the current pricing as the pre-order window has just opened.

        Raptor Blackbird is the lowest-cost POWER9 board we’ve seen to date while being quite promising on the feature front. Earlier this month they probed their customer base about Blackbird potentially coming in at just under $900 USD while today the pre-order period has begun. Raptor is running a Black Friday / Cyber Monday special where this micro-ATX motherboard can be pre-ordered for $799 USD.

  • Programming/Development

    • PHP 7.3 Performance Benchmarks Are Looking Good Days Ahead Of Its Release

      Released on Thursday was PHP 7.3 RC6 as the last planned pre-release for the upcoming PHP 7.3. Here are some benchmarks looking at the PHP 7.3 performance compared to PHP releases going back to the v5.5 series on a Linux server.

      PHP 7.3 RC6 is the last expected release candidate before the general availability expected around 6 December. The RC6 changes are outlined by the release announcement.

    • Regular Expressions using Python 3

      Regular Expressions are often seen as this really obscure series of hieroglyphs that one typically copies from the Internet and pastes into his/her code. This mysterious spell then shows magical capabilities of finding patterns inside strings of text and if we ask it nicely it will even do us the favor of replacing a given pattern within a string with something nicer.

      For example, when you are writing handlers for URL (and God help you if you are writing one from scratch) then you often want to display the same result regardless of the trailing ‘/’ in the URL. E.g https://example.com/user/settings/ and https://example.com/user/settings should both point to the same page despite the trailing ‘/’.

    • Migrating from Bazaar to Git on Launchpad just got easier!

      Debian recently switched from Alioth to Salsa offering only Git hosting from now on and that simplifies the work of exiting contributors and also helps newcomers who are most likely already familiar with Git if they know at least one version control system. (Thanks to everyone involved in the transition!)

    • 22 Essential Git Commands

      Git has become the quintessential version control system. The rise of Git’s popularity can be attributed to its speed, agility and versatility. Whether you are a freelancing web developer or a software designer for enterprise-level applications, you can benefit from using Git. It helps you keep track of your files through systematic versioning. Git makes it easier to roll-back to older versions of code or create new branches to experiment on the current codebase. Also, Git is a distributed version control system which means you don’t have to always connect to a central server to get your work done.Below are the essential Git commands that will help in your day-to-day tasks. The simple examples will give you an understanding of the commands, so you can easily remember the syntax when you need to use them.

    • RcppEigen 0.3.3.5.0

      Another minor release 0.3.3.5.0 of RcppEigen arrived on CRAN today (and just went to Debian too) bringing support for Eigen 3.3.5 to R.

      As we now carry our small set of patches to Eigen as diff in our repo, it was fairly straightforward to bring these few changes to the new upstream version. I added one trivial fix of changing a return value to void as this is also already in the upstream repo. Other than that, we were fortunate to get two nice and focussed PRs since the last release. Ralf allowed us to use larger index values by using R_xlen_t, and Michael corrected use of RcppArmadillo in a benchmarking example script.

Leftovers

  • Science

    • The Destruction of Higher Education Today

      It was recently revealed how British universities are imitating the Premier League football in procuring star names in academia to boost their REF (Research Excellence Framework) rankings. First used in 2014 to assess the academic period of 2008 to 2013, the REF was to provide accountability for public investment in research as well as to establish “reputational yardsticks, for use within the HE [higher education] sector and for public information.” Yet, many of its critics argue that it places too much emphasis of extra-academic impacts of research which has no relevance to the quality of research. Others suggest that it increases mediocrity with the emphasis of these assessment are on impacts, not intellectual or academic value. Add to this the creation of the managerial-bureaucrat within academia rose in British institutions by over one-third between 2003 and 2008, the end result is that working in British universities is having severe repercussions on the mental health of junior and senior scholars and even more negative effects on the qualities of learning.

      Such policies should also be of great concern to those of us in the United States despite having an entirely different structure. The REF in the UK, to quote one critic, has imposed “increasingly ridiculous administrative burdens on researchers, inventing increasingly arbitrary assessment criteria and wasting increasing amounts of money on red tape which should actually be going to fund research.” But such bureaucratization strategies are not limited to the UK since American universities have similarly seen a rise in the managerial class such that between 1987 and 2012, American “universities and colleges collectively added 517,636 administrators and professional employees, or an average of 87 every working day, according to the analysis of federal figures.” And like the UK in recent years, American institutions have incessantly courted star academics since the late 1980s which drove up university costs as the humanities became this area to access education with intellectual pop stars.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Gene Editing: Fears Lead To Call For Moratorium At CBD, Discussions Ongoing

      Gene editing techniques have opened the way to a new world of innovations. One of them is the potential eradication of malaria-carrying mosquitoes. What appears as a very attractive way to help with malaria eradication is denounced by civil society groups arguing that the technology is in its infancy. Wiping out entire species could have unforeseen environmental, health, and social consequences, they say. They are calling for a moratorium preventing the release of gene drive organisms in the wild. They also describe the gene drive mosquitoes as a Trojan horse, hiding broader interests of agricultural multinational corporations.

    • UN Committee Adopts ‘Landmark’ Declaration Reinforcing Peasants’ Rights To Seeds

      The social, humanitarian and cultural committee of the United Nations meeting this month adopted a UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. The declaration includes the right to save, exchange, and sell farm-saved seeds, a contentious issue for which small farmers have been campaigning for years.

      [...]

      The non-binding resolution was adopted after a vote [pdf], with 119 for, 7 against, and 49 abstentions. Voting against the resolution were: Australia, Hungary, Israel, New Zealand, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Those who abstained included most European Union nations, such as Germany, France, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, and Spain, along with countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea.

      China and India, as well as a number of Latin American, Asian, and African countries voted for the resolution, along with Switzerland, and Monaco.

      The declaration calls for countries to “respect, protect and fulfil the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas,” and says “they shall promptly take legislative, administrative and other appropriate steps to achieve progressively the full realization of the rights of the … Declaration that cannot be immediately guaranteed” (Article 2).

      [...]

      The right to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seeds is related to intellectual property issues, in particular the royalties on the harvested material if it is further used on a commercial basis by farmers.

      States “shall ensure that seeds of sufficient quality and quantity are available to peasants at the most suitable time for planting and at an affordable price,” Art. 19 says.

  • Security

    • New Linux crypto-miner steals your root password and disables your antivirus [Ed: Yes, well, when a machine gets totally cracked it can get totally trashed; but that does not mean GNU/Linux is inherently not secure as Catalin Cimpanu always wants us to think]

      The latest example of this trend is a new trojan discovered this month by Russian antivirus maker Dr.Web. This new malware strain doesn’t have a distinctive name, yet, being only tracked under its generic detection name of Linux.BtcMine.174.

    • New Linux malware mines cryptocurrency and steals your password

      Linux.BtcMine.174 is the current name of the new strand which mostly aims to mine the Monero cryptocurrency. But, in addition to that, this piece of malware which contains over 1,000 lines of code also tries to set itself up to shut down running services, hide files, and potentially steal your password.

      Among the many steps it takes in rooting itself into a system, the malware tries to move itself into a folder where it has write permissions, gain root access, and escalate its own privileges using known exploits. It also adds itself to the autorun list and installs a rootkit.

    • New Linux Trojan Can Disable Your Antivirus and Steal Root Passwords

      Linux is known to be a much safer OS compared to other desktop alternatives, but it is nowhere near perfect. A new trojan has been discovered by Russian antivirus company Dr. Web. The Linux.BtcMine.174 malware comes with a number of malicious features and has a gigantic amount of code in its shell script.

    • Nasty New Linux Crypto Malware Compromises Root, Launches DDoS Attacks

      With the value of Bitcoin once again experiencing a big drop this past week, you may begin to think that malware developers would begin shifting focus elsewhere. Unfortunately, that’s far from being the case. Even if crypto seems to have modest value, that value becomes substantial when you multiply it by every infected machine; it really is easy money for attackers.

      In case we needed a reminder that Linux is in fact susceptible to viruses, this latest malware targets that platform specifically. Ultimately, two vulnerabilities need to be exploited (CVE-2016-5195 and CVE-2013-2094) to gain root access, and in effect, full control over the system.

    • Password Hashing And Why We Need It

      Password hashing is the process of encrypting a user’s password before storing it into a database. The encryption is one way and passwords once hashed cannot be decrypted to their original text value.

    • Security updates for Friday
    • DoS Vulnerabilities Found in Linux Kernel, Unpatched

      Two denial-of-service (DoS) vulnerabilities found in the Linux Kernel by contributor Wanpeng Li could allow local attackers to exploit null pointer deference bugs to trigger DoS conditions.

      The first vulnerability, which received the CVE-2018-19406 ID in the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures database, resides in the kvm_pv_send_ipi function of the Linux kernel, defined in the arch/x86/kvm/lapic.c file.

    • Google, Mozilla working on letting web apps edit files despite warning it could be ‘abused in terrible ways’

      However, the group says the biggest challenge will be guarding against malicious sites seeking to abuse persistent access to files on a user’s system.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Two Numbers That Explain Why Trump Won’t Sanction Saudi Arabia

      “[W]e may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi,” US president Donald Trump told the nation on November 20, but “[t]he United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.”

      Many find the president’s statement curious indeed given the seeming consensus among the Turkish and US intelligence communities that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. But two simple numbers clarify just how much importance successive administrations, including Trump’s, have placed on the US-Saudi relationship.

      The first number is the number one.

      Jamal Khashoggi was one man. He was a Saudi citizen, and considered an enemy of the state by “his” government to boot. He was neither a US citizen, nor was he killed on US soil. In fact, he was technically killed on Saudi soil — consulates enjoy the same “sovereign” status as embassies. His murder, while evil and tragic, was really not any more the business of the US government than the execution of an American in Texas would be Mohammed bin Salman’s concern.

      The second number is 2,977.

    • Ex-CIA Officer’s Brief Detention Deepens Mystery in Montenegro

      When a former CIA officer was detained overseas recently, Montenegrin officials thought the answer to a question that their country has been obsessed with for two years might be within reach: How did Russia try to topple Montenegro’s government?

      On the eve of a parliamentary vote in 2016 viewed as a referendum on membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Montenegrin police broke up what they claimed was a Russian-backed coup. The investigation and court proceedings over the ensuing two years have riveted the country, including the sensational, and head-scratching, allegation that the coup backers recruited a former CIA officer to help ferry its plotters out of Montenegro.

    • Afghanistan is Collapsing. Get Out: Now!

      November has been quite a month, so far, in Afghanistan. The level of violence has been appalling and the most serious recent atrocity was yet another suicide bombing in Kabul. It killed over fifty people and injured twice that many but didn’t merit a Trump tweet, which isn’t surprising because he doesn’t seem to be interested in the place. Further, as reported by the Washington Post on November 19, he hasn’t visited a single country in which his troops are fighting.

      The reason he hasn’t visited his troops in such areas is because he is a coward. He is a physical yellow-belly who lacks the courage to go anywhere near a war zone. He is below contempt, but he could gain a little bit of respect if he ordered the US and NATO to get out of Afghanistan.

    • Saying Goodbye to UN Sanctions Against Eritrea

      It isn’t often the UN Security Council votes unanimously to remove sanctions against a country, but this past Wednesday, November 14 they did just that by saying goodbye to nine years of UN just punishment against the small, socialist, east African country of Eritrea.

      It was Christmas Eve, 2009 when the USA forced through UN Security Council sanctions against Eritrea, with Ambassador Susan Rice storming out into the hallway and ordering a tardy South African Ambassador back into the room so she would have enough votes to pass her edict which would falsely accuse Eritrea of supporting terrorism in Somalia.

      It turns out, thanks to Wikileaks, the whole purpose of the sanctions was to sabotage the Eritrean economy by preventing German banks from funding the fledgling Eritrean mining industry.

      We know, again thanks to Wikileaks, that, in the words of the senior US diplomat in east Africa and later acting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Don Yamamoto way back in 2007, that Eritrean involvement in Somalia was “insignificant”. Remember, one of the instigators of this classic piece of “fake news” was the Queen of Chaos herself, Hillary Clinton, who alongside her erstwhile enemy, Susan Rice, used their paid minions in the human rights organizations such as HRW’s hitman Tom Malinowski (just elected to the US Congress) to get the ball rolling, spreading their fake news across the media. Guilty as charged, no matter the complete lack of
      evidence, full speed ahead with the smear campaign. Eritreans must kneel down and give up our socialist way of life, with brutal consequences to be borne if Pax American was not obeyed.

      Nine years later Eritrea has survived crippling sanctions and emerged victorious by bringing peace to the Horn of Africa, concluding a peace deal and ending twenty years of no-war-no-peace with our neighbor Ethiopia.

    • Syria: A Moment to Reflect

      The death of Raed Fares in Syria reminds us that there was a moment in Syria when protest was led by secular democrats keen to see the end of decades of one family rule. That he was killed by the Islamist rebels the West is now actively supporting – and the fact that all the western news reports have sought to elide that fact – is sign of how horribly it has all gone wrong.

      The assault on Hodeidah appears finally to have focused some Western leaders on the appalling horrors of the bombing of civilians in Yemen by the Saudi/UAE led coalition. Hodeidah is abhorrent not just because of the direct effect of the assault, but because the aim is to close the port which is the only supply route standing between further millions and death by starvation. When you add to Hodeidah the hideous killing of Khashoggi and the dreadful imprisonment of the unfortunate Matthew Hedges by Saudi satellite the UAE, and you realise that all of these deaths and injustices including that of Raed Fares are orchestrated by the same people, you would hope the pause to reflect would be general.

    • Thieves Like Us: the Violent Theft of Land and Capital is at the Core of the U.S. Experiment

      The United States has been at war every day since its founding, often covertly and often in several parts of the world at once. As ghastly as that sentence is, it still does not capture the full picture. Indeed, prior to its founding, what would become the United States was engaged—as it would continue to be for more than a century following—in internal warfare to piece together its continental territory. Even during the Civil War, both the Union and Confederate armies continued to war against the nations of the Diné and Apache, the Cheyenne and the Dakota, inflicting hideous massacres upon civilians and forcing their relocations. Yet when considering the history of U.S. imperialism and militarism, few historians trace their genesis to this period of internal empire-building. They should. The origin of the United States in settler colonialism—as an empire born from the violent acquisition of indigenous lands and the ruthless devaluation of indigenous lives—lends the country unique characteristics that matter when considering questions of how to unhitch its future from its violent DNA.

      The United States is not exceptional in the amount of violence or bloodshed when compared to colonial conquests in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and South America. Elimination of the native is implicit in settler colonialism and colonial projects in which large swaths of land and workforces are sought for commercial exploitation. Extreme violence against noncombatants was a defining characteristic of all European colonialism, often with genocidal results.

    • Will the new House Dems take on the War Lobby?

      A new Democratic majority will take charge in the U.S. House of Representatives in January, thanks to a remarkable rebound in public participation in U.S. elections. Based on early data, it appears that over 49% of eligible voters showed up at the polls this year, compared to a 70-year low of 36.4% in the last mid-term in 2014. More than ever before, the Democrats should thank young voters for their success, as 18-39 year olds appear to have voted for them by a two to one margin.

      An incredible 71.6% of 18-29 year olds voted for Senator Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton in 2016. So it should be no surprise that the 2018 “Blue Wave” in the House is the youngest, most diverse and most progressive new class of Democratic House Members in many years, ready to fight for the issues that Sanders ran on in 2016 and that many of them have been working on in their own communities.

      But an issue that will seriously affect young people for decades to come, i.e. the direction of U.S. foreign policy, hardly featured in the 2018 campaign. Few new Members of Congress have a background in foreign affairs, so the new House Dems may face a bit of a shock when they discover that all their domestic priorities are held hostage by a huge “war tax” that drains off well over 60% of federal discretionary spending for weapons, war and military spending.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Joe Emersberger on the Prosecution of Julian Assange

      Joe Emersberger, contributor to teleSUR English, ZNet, Counterpunch and FAIR, discusses the prosecution of Julian Assange, its implications and the media coverage.

    • A Wikileaks for Everything?

      That organization was Wikileaks. Julian Assange’s whistleblower outlet was guarded behind layers of code and digital securitizations, ensuring that the political sovereign could not take down the site.

    • Assange Under Siege… Where Is Justice? Ron Paul Talks With Lew Rockwell

      What kind of justice system do we have in the US when publishers of the truth that government does not want you to know are threatened with imprisonment and even the death penalty? Ron Paul and Lew Rockwell discuss the terrible and shameful treatment of publisher, journalist, and truth-teller Julian Assange:

    • Julian Assange: Charges in the US, trial by the Media?

      Last week, in court papers filed in the US, in a case completely unrelated to Julian Assange, there was a paragraph confirming that a secret indictment has been filed against the Wikileaks founder. A supposed clerical error confirmed something that Assange had always feared, but that the US Department of Justice never admitted: it wants him in jail. It’s been more than six years since Assange was granted asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

      An investigation into sexual assault-related allegations made by two women in Sweden has long since been dropped. However, British police say Assange will be arrested the moment he steps out of the embassy for breach of bail.

      Less than a decade ago, Assange had media outlets eating out of his hand and governments with secrets to hide on high alert. Now, he’s at the mercy of an Ecuadorian government that’s running out of patience and he may be running out of time.

    • Julian Assange: Bad guy, yes. Criminal? Not so fast.

      Love him or hate him, Julian Assange shouldn’t be prosecuted by the United States.

      The WikiLeaks founder, a divisive figure who’s either a transparency hero or a Russian pawn who helped elect Donald Trump, depending on whom you ask, has been living inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London for the past six years. Assange has been afraid to leave the embassy, fearing authorities would arrest him and extradite him to the United States to face charges related to releasing a vast amount of US government documents in 2010.

      It turns out those fears were well founded. Last week, it emerged that there is a secret indictment of Assange, which was accidentally revealed in an unrelated legal filing.

      We don’t know what the charges are, when they were filed, or what evidence the government has to support them. It’s always possible that there’s more to the Assange case than meets the eye — and if there is credible evidence that he hacked e-mail accounts, conspired with others to do so, or committed other crimes, he should be charged. But based on what is known publicly, there are good reasons to be skeptical of his prosecution, and to fear it could set a damaging precedent that would weaken press freedom.

    • Julian Assange Faces Federal Charges. But Let’s Not Forget What We’ve Learned From WikiLeaks.

      The United States is reportedly closing in on prosecuting Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder who has spent over six years holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London avoiding extradition.

      But while the ethics of WikiLeaks’ operations and its motives are contested, the organization has revealed undeniably newsworthy information that authorities sought to keep from the public. These are some of the biggest stories that came from WikiLeaks.

    • Julian Assange: Charges in the US, trial by the Media?
    • We got the government to reverse its longtime policy to get Silicon Valley diversity data

      Federal labor officials have decided to reverse their longtime policy and release diversity numbers for government contractors such as Oracle and Palantir Technologies in response to a lawsuit filed by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

    • Julian Assange Lawyers Refused Entry to Ecuadorian Embassy

      Members of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s legal team were blocked from entering the Ecuadorian embassy in London this weekend, WikiLeaks’ official Twitter account said Saturday.

      Ecuadorian officials turned away attorneys Jen Robinson and Aitor Martinez scheduled to meet with Assange, who is preparing for a court hearing at a “national security court complex at Alexandria, Virginia,” according to the whistleblowing non-profit organization. The aim of the hearing is to “remove the secrecy order” concerning the U.S. charges Assange faces, the group tweeted.

    • The Fate of Julian Assange: Chris Hedges Interviews Consortium News Editor-in-Chief Joe Lauria

      On his program “On Contact,” journalist and author Chris Hedges interviews Joe Lauria, CN editor, on the moves to prosecute Julian Assange using the Espionage Act; the media’s cravenness and the latest on Assange’s condition in London.

    • ON CONTACT: CRUCIFYING JULIAN ASSANGE

      Chris Hedges and Joe Lauria, journalist and editor-in-chief, Consortium, discuss efforts to force #WikiLeaks publisher, #JulianAssange, out of the Ecuador Embassy in London and extradite him to the USA to stand trial.

    • Assange’s lawyers blocked from entering Ecuadorian embassy

      Earlier this week, Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno terminated the credentials of Ecuador’s London ambassador Abad Ortiz. No explanation was given for the prompt recall, and WikiLeaks contextualized it by tweeting, “All diplomats known to Assange have now been transferred away from the embassy.”

      Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy since he sought asylum there in June 2012. The WikiLeaks editor feared being extradited to Sweden for questioning over sexual assault allegations, where he believed he would then be sent on to the US to face charges for his role in publishing thousands of US government cables leaked by whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Can a Few People Save the World?

      In both presentations I summarized my knowledge and experience. I worked on Capitol Hill for two years and for the US Environmental Protection Agency for twenty-five years. I supplemented my remarks with images from the industrialization of agriculture and the destructive administration of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s: the model for the harmful environmental deregulation of the Trump administration.

      Of course, twenty-five years cannot be brought back, much less captured in a story. But I did my best in telling the truth with fragments of memories, some of which I documented in Poison Spring.

      The overarching idea that explains the tragedy of today is this: America lost its soul with the winning of WWII. The country became an empire and, slowly, began discarding its democratic traditions.

      From democratic family farms to imperial plantations

      In agriculture, this metamorphosis was monstrous. Family farmers, most of whom had farms rarely exceeding 160 acres in size, became a target of government indifference. Most government subsidies and scientific knowledge generated by government-funded research at the land grant universities has been building up agricultural giants now controlling rural America.

    • Climate Change Is Threatening Many Species, But One Is Getting a Boost

      towering elm tree stands 30 meters tall, somewhere near the border between England and Scotland, defying the fate that so many of its cousins met when Dutch elm disease ravaged the species in the 1970s. One of relatively few elm trees left, it is a haven for wildlife. Look closely and you can see the erratic fluttering of a small brown butterfly, with a W-shaped white streak across its wing.

      This butterfly is making history: It’s crossed the border into Scotland, where it has settled happily in a native wych elm tree and been sighted in the country for the first time in 133 years. The white-letter hairstreak — Satyrium w-album — has been squeezed slowly out of its habitat over the last 40 years, but now it seems to be getting a helping hand from an unexpected source: climate change.

      Although numbers were up slightly in 2017, the white-letter hairstreak isn’t doing well in the United Kingdom — the population has fallen 93 percent in the last 42 years, according to the United Kingdom Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, with a 59 percent reduction in the last decade alone.

    • YouTube Lets California Fire Conspiracy Theories Run Wild

      The conspiracy theorists use doctored or out-of-context images in order to falsely argue that directed energy weapons, or laser beams, caused the wildfires in California—not climate change. By incorrectly claiming that the houses were consciously struck, these theorists ignore ecological science which explains that the arrangement of homes and topography of the land makes wildfires prone to destroy some homes and not others.

      But the point isn’t that these conspiracy theorists are wrong. They obviously are. The point is that vloggers have realized that they can amass hundreds of thousands of views by advancing false narrative, and YouTube has not adequately stopped these conspiracy theories from blossoming on its platform, despite the fact that many people use it for news. A Pew Research survey found that 38% of adults consider YouTube as a source of news, and 53% consider the site important for helping them understand what’s happening in the world.

    • Google Searches Reveal Public Interest in Conservation Is Rising

      OK, Google: Has the general public lost interest in biodiversity conservation? Has people’s interest in environmental issues been overshadowed by climate change alone?

      The answer to both questions, according to Google searches at least, is “No.” Public interest in both conservation and climate change seems to be rising, a new study has found.

      At first, Zuzana Burivalova, a tropical forest ecologist at Princeton University who was also the lead researcher on Mongabay’s Conservation Effectiveness series, and Rhett Butler, Mongabay’s founder and CEO, wanted to find out which conservation strategies were getting more popular over time, and which ones were simply fads.

      But then, some conservation scientists echoed a common sentiment: public support for conservation had been waning in general, and what limited “bandwidth” the public had for environmental issues was being dominated by climate change.

    • Better forest management won’t end wildfires, but it can reduce the risks – here’s how

      President Donald Trump’s recent comments blaming forest managers for catastrophic California wildfires have been met with outrage and ridicule from the wildland fire and forestry community. Not only were these remarks insensitive to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in California – they also reflected a muddled understanding of the interactions between wildfire and forest management.

      As scientists who study forest policy and community-based collaboration, here is how we understand this relationship.

  • Finance

    • Amazon accidentally streams Doctor Who episode before BBC broadcast

      BBC Studios have made a statement on this issue: “We’re aware that an upcoming episode of Doctor Who was made available to Amazon Prime users in the US in error. We are investigating how this happened and have taken the steps to remove it. BBC Studios would like to apologise if anyone’s enjoyment of the series has been spoiled by this mishap.”

    • Amazon staff in Europe protest to coincide with Black Friday

      The union argues Amazon employees receive lower wages than others in retail and mail-order jobs. Amazon says its distribution warehouses in Germany are logistics centers and employees earn relatively high wages for that industry.

    • Amazon Warehouse Workers Protest in Europe on Black Friday

      “What we’re saying is Jeff Bezos, you’re the richest man in the world, you have the wealth and ability to make sure your workers are treated with respect and dignity,” Rix said. “You as the wealthiest man in the world would prefer to spend your wealth on space travel rather than on the people who create your wealth.”

    • Amazon’s European workers go on strike for Black Friday

      Protesters left Amazon.com facilities all over the continent, including Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy.

    • The human costs of Black Friday, explained by a former Amazon warehouse manager

      Last year, Amazon accounted for 45 percent of all Thanksgiving Day online purchases and 60 percent of purchases on Black Friday, according to Hitwise. The Seattle e-commerce giant is expecting similar numbers this year, and has been making an even more aggressive push, offering free shipping to all shoppers during the holiday season, with no minimum purchase.

      While this may be great for Amazon’s bottom line, all this shopping has a real human cost. As plenty of Amazon employees have attested, working in the company’s warehouses is grueling. Earlier this summer, a former Amazon fulfillment center manager from California reached out to me after I wrote about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sparring with Amazon over worker rights and pay rates. (The battle ended in Amazon raising the hourly rate to $15 an hour but cutting company stock grants and bonuses.) The former Amazon employee, a US Air Force veteran, requested anonymity for fear of professional repercussions.

      [...]

      Yes, it’s a pretty typical thing for Amazon. It’s easy for Amazon to hire us because they know vets are willing to shut up and cooperate. In my opinion, Amazon is preying on the work-life balance issue that the military has, and feeds off the rigid order the Army teaches. The military is known for being a bastion of sexism, but I had a worse experience at Amazon. It’s way more cutthroat.

    • Amazon warehouse workers in Europe stage ‘we are not robots’ protests

      Amazon warehouse workers in several countries in Europe are protesting over what they claim are inhuman working conditions which treat people like robots. It’s the latest in a series of worker actions this year.

      They’ve timed the latest protest for Black Friday, one of the busiest annual shopping days online as retailers slash prices and heavily promote deals to try to spark a seasonal buying rush.

      [...]

      In a statement on Wednesday announcing the Black Friday protest, Tim Roache, the GMB’s general secretary, said: “The conditions our members at Amazon are working under are frankly inhuman. They are breaking bones, being knocked unconscious and being taken away in ambulances. We’re standing up and saying enough is enough, these are people making Amazon its money. People with kids, homes, bills to pay — they’re not robots.”

    • ‘We Are Not Robots’: Amazon Workers Across Europe Walk Out on Black Friday Over Low Wages and ‘Inhuman Conditions’

      Eduardo Hernandez, a 38-year-old employee at an Amazon logistics depot in Madrid, Spain—where about 90 percent of staff walked off the job—told the Associated Press that the action was intentionally scheduled on the popular shopping day to negatively impacting the company’s profits.

      “It is one of the days that Amazon has most sales, and these are days when we can hurt more and make ourselves be heard because the company has not listened to us and does not want to reach any agreement,” he said.

    • A New Economic Model for the South: Ditch Corporate Welfare and Fund Agricultural Co-ops

      A set of statistics from a new report provides a window into how misplaced economic priorities perpetuate poverty in the rural South.

      Since opening a plant in Canton, Mississippi 15 years ago, auto manufacturer Nissan has been awarded at least $1.3 billion in tax subsidies.

      Meanwhile, since 2010, small and cooperative farmers across Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi have received just $2.3 million from the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program, their primary source of economic support.

      A report from the Institute for Policy Studies, titled “Agricultural Cooperatives: Opportunities and Challenges for African-American Women in the South,” makes the case that redirecting governmental support from corporate welfare to agricultural co-ops could provide an alternative vision for economic development in the South.

      Despite promises made when they open shop in the South, companies like Nissan often fall short when it comes to providing safe, living-wage jobs in the predominantly African-American communities where they operate. And the enormous subsidies they receive end up, directly or indirectly, starving alternative models that could actually support the health and economic prosperity of rural communities across the South.

    • Medieval Europe: Power and Splendor

      I went with my wife Carmen to the Ottawa Museum of History to see the exhibition on “Medieval Europe: power and splendour.” Stunningly beautiful, the Museum of History majestically overlooks the Ottawa River with the back of the parliament buildings visible. It is a wonderful host for presentations of humanity’s (and of course Canada’s) past. After wandering through an exhibition or two, one can gently stroll along the walk that follows the river. One can sit on the rocks and dangle one’s feet if so desired, or simply sit on a bench and delight in the steps of the canal across the river.

      We can speak of the pedagogics of exhibition design. This exhibition on Medieval Europe is the first collaboration with the British Museum. It is a superb example of creating the ethos of medieval spaces. The light and colours are muted, music playing in each of the galleries cultivates one’s sensibility and heightens perception. One is nudged to view close-up. And each specific gallery (Heavenly treasures and Courtly life are instances) focuses our attention through stylized symbols of the court or cathedral.

      We need all the help we can get. The medieval period is usually dated from the fall of Rome in 400 A.D. to the advent of the Italian Renaissance and Protestant Reformation in the early 1500s. Historians warn us that when we dwell in the past we enter a strange and often unfamiliar and puzzling land. And we may carry our own strange ideas about these medieval creatures. Wasn’t it a dark age? The symbols so exquisitely etched on a coin or sword leave us scratching our minds.

      This exhibition organizes itself around the themes of power and splendour. Power adores splendour. The more splendour, the more status. Power displays its riches on every object imaginable. Coins and sword hilts are decorated to speak power to the lowly. For the wealthy woman wearing the “Wingham brooch” (575-625, England) made of gilded silver, garnet, blue glass and shell, and shaped as a four-point star, power has embroidered its magnificence (and our lowly insignificance). Look, I am rich, and you do not appear so.

    • Evrémonde in New York: The Amazon Deal

      Meanwhile New York’s homeless population has hit 60,000, including 10 percent of the city’s school children. All in all half the city’s population is considered poor or near poor. The argument that the wealth of tech companies, and their much coveted big spending, tax paying engineers, is only positive for a city strains credulity. Though New York was the first city to impose a cap on Uber, halting the issue of new for-hire vehicle licenses for 12 months in the aftermath of several high publicized suicides by medallion cab drivers, the city is still jammed with overworked Uber drivers. The awful conditions in Amazon warehouses are well documented (Amazon has a distribution center in Staten Island), and despite Amazon recently being shamed to raising pay to $15 per hour (offset by cutting other benefits), its warehouse jobs have a ways to go. The tech industry remains a pillar of subcontracting and anti-unionism. Every ballyhooed innovation in recent years, from just-in-time inventory to the overhyped ‘gig economy’ has hit the working class directly.

      The past few years there has been much ink spilled about the ongoing sparring match between Governor Cuomo and Mayor deBlasio, with Cuomo allegedly representing the pragmatic ‘centrist’ wing of the Democrats, with deBlasio being the ‘progressive’. If such nonsense was in any way credible before, perhaps the sight of both men together at the same press conference fronting the Amazon deal will break the spell. New York remains very much a tale of two cities, with the same half still calling most of the shots.

    • Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order

      Neo-Liberalism has infiltrated all areas of society and permeated life in virtually every corner of the world; it is a dysfunctional system that instead of serving human need is designed to provide wealth ‘beyond the dreams of Avarice for a privileged few,’ as Noam Chomsky puts it. Its very existence denies the manifestation of real democracy.

      Flowing from this paradigm of injustice is extreme inequality leading to a wide range of social ills, high levels of unemployment – particularly among the young in many parts of the world – low investment in public services and, as the political/economic scientist C. J. Polychroniou, says, “rapidly declining standards of living, dangerously high levels of both public and corporate debt, a financial system that remains out of whack, and ecological collapse.” It is a decrepit global system propped up by the guardians of the status-quo, who are intellectually bankrupt, have no answers to the issues of the day but, desperate to cling on to power, use all their tools of control to resist change.

      Within the existing forms political influence is concentrated in the hands of a tiny group of people and institutions — they run the corporate organizations and stock the governing executive, these are the wealthy and powerful — the ruling elite; Corporations and their masters dominate this entitled ensemble; huge tyrannical institutions, unaccountable bodies with enormous power. As Noam Chomsky states, corporations are “one of the most tyrannical systems human beings have ever devised”. Control is concentrated at the top from where policy is made and orders are issued, managers pass on instructions and workers are expected to obey, conform, and be thankful to the beneficent company for buying their labor, albeit for a pittance compared to the pay checks of the boardroom. This is little more than wage slavery.

    • NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden agrees ‘Bitcoin is a new form of money’

      Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who copied and leaked classified information from the US National Security Agency, and who has been granted political asylum in Russia after he made his getaway from the US, shares his views on Bitcoin and the underlying blockchain technology.

      According to the Daily Hodl, Snowden shared his views with his lawyer Ben Wizner, through loose transcripts and text exchanges, which were published by the American publishing comapany, McSweeney’s.

    • Rapprochement at APEC: Japan and China Trade Insults for Trade

      Strange. A White House never shy about proclaiming its achievements, real or imagined, has been uncharacteristically reluctant to inform the world about one of its major successes.

      Modesty? No, more likely those who toil on Pennsylvania Avenue were probably blindsided by the speed with which China and Japan overcame their mistrust and decided to trade insults for, well, more trade.

      The rapprochement, occurred before the Papua New Guinea Apec summit that ended in rancor after its failure to produce a joint communique because of tensions between the United States and China over trade and security issues. This was the first time that Apec leaders were unable to agree on a formal written declaration. Officially, this was because the US wanted the declaration to call for the World Trade Organization to be reformed putting China in the position of championing the status quo. Unofficially, the two countries view each other with growing mistrust. They were never going to agree.

      Both view the Indo-Pacific region as their battleground. At the moment the battle is for ideas and influence but could at some future date live up, literally, to its description.

      Mike Pence, the US vice-president demanded at Apec that China “change its ways” on trade, intellectual property and human rights, and ridiculed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “one belt, one road” multinational infrastructure initiative as a “debt trap” for the greedy and unsuspecting.

      But Xi will not be too bothered. Unlike Barack Obama, who “pivoted” to Asia, China realises Trump is pivoting on the golf course. His commitment to Asia is less than wholehearted.

      No one knows this better than Xi who has gone out of his way to improve relations with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Mark Zuckerberg criticised for ducking international grilling on fake news

      In a letter sent to the committee on Monday but only just made public, Facebook said Mr Zuckerberg was “unable to accept” the invitation and would instead send its European head of policy, Richard Allan, to a hearing on Tuesday.

    • Facebook looks like it’s preparing for war with Trump after hiring a top Department of Justice antitrust lawyer

      Facebook has hired one of the top antitrust lawyers in Silicon Valley in a sign that the company could be preparing for war with Donald Trump’s administration.

      Kate Patchen, the chief of the Department of Justice’s antitrust division in San Francisco, has joined Facebook as director and associate general counsel of litigation.

    • Thankstaking in the Trumpfederacy: Terminate the Tribe That Aided the Pilgrims

      As elementary school kids across the US don gaudily dyed chicken feathers and hop around like the fowl themselves for no discernible reason other than it’s what they’ve been told “Indians did,” their classmates watch on with stoicism in cardboard capotain hats, before together they fall upon plates of factory-farmed turkey. Yes, it’s Thanksgiving, and the same white privilege that enables Dan Snyder to claim that the racial slur his football team is known by “honors” tribal people, is once more transmitted to children who know no different but deserve far better in perpetuation of the quintessential American myth. Possibly in preparation for Roger Stone, Jared Kushner or Don, Jr., President Donald Trump kept his pardon-hand hot by adhering to at least one White House norm, granting the annual Thanksgiving pardon to a turkey, a skill he honed just three-months earlier on Joe Arpaio who, like Stone and Don, Jr., exhibits traits not dissimilar to those found in Galliformes.

      “History and culture – so important,” Trump has mused, while enlightening the likes of Brinkley, Goodwin and Beschloss that “Indian Killer,” President Andrew Jackson, could have stopped the Civil War. “He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said, ‘There’s no reason for this,’” Trump famously blathered. Putting aside that Jackson had been entombed for sixteen-years before the first volleys of the Civil War, the architect of the Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears was also a slave owner and slave trader, so, had he been alive, he would have known exactly the reason for the war. However, in fairness to Trump, Jackson’s view from six-feet under was significantly impaired. With such a stellar grasp of history, Trump would likely validate the first-graders presentation of Thanksgiving. The specter of Trump as a Pilgrim is more in keeping with Halloween, his oafish form in stockings and drawers a horrifying thought, but not nearly as terrifying as the real-world carnage he is unleashing on Tribal Nations, something Jackson no doubt approves of from the grave, as Trump sits beneath his portrait in the Oval Office.

    • Chasing Down Fascists in Europe

      Polish government officials openly marching in a fascist parade along with tens of thousands of their country men and women. Police and city officials in the supposedly liberal city of Portland OR provoking antifascist protesters while protecting fascists and their sympathizers. An openly racist president of the United States declares that he is a nationalist. This writer figures he knows his followers will implicitly understand that the word “white” precedes the word “nationalist.” The modern fascist group Proud Boys marches in Philadelphia; when confronted by a much larger crowd of antifascists, the Proud Boys call cabs on their cell phones. The taxi drivers overwhelmingly refuse to give them rides. In Boston, the local Proud Boys are chased away from a book fair they hoped to disrupt.

      We live in a time when humanity’s most hateful members have once again garnered public attention. Fascist and white supremacist groups across the world are marching proudly. Some of their allies are gaining ground in legislative bodies. In Hungary, a fascist runs the government. His supporters engage in crimes of hate against their fellow humans, now legitimized by the creatures who rule them. Refugees from capital’s wars struggle to make their way towards a new life, their journey impeded by police and civilians motivated by a fear and hatred legitimized by the fascist elements now making headway in Europe—a continent that seems to have forgotten the essential inhumanity of Nazism. Although intolerance is gaining ground, so is resistance.

    • End Times for American Liberalism

      Despite the most blatant violations of civil liberties in American history by a Republican Southern evangelical president fighting a never-ending crusade against “evil” itself, the three leading Democratic candidates for the 2008 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards make almost no mention of civil liberties as a campaign issue on their websites. The most liberal candidate, the Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, does include it at the very bottom of his list of issues, just underneath animal rights. Senators Clinton, Obama, and Edwards outdo each other speaking of their faith in their Lord and Savior, without whom they couldn’t have gotten through difficult times, and bend over backwards to “respect” the different opinions of evangelical voters, on such issues as “intelligent design” or the preservation of adult stem-cell embryos. Clinton voted not only to authorize the Patriot Act (which gutted civil liberties in 2001), but to reauthorize it in 2006. The Democratic candidates vow to hunt down the terrorists and kill them, and to show no tolerance for illegal immigrants, as they speak a language of economic populism focused on the anxieties of the declining middle-class. And all this comes at a time when the self-destructive acts of the radical neo-conservatives in power couldn’t possibly have created a more propitious time for the revival of liberal individualism in America.

      The label “liberal” is avoided like the plague by all the Democrats, who prefer to be called “progressives” these days. Turn-of-the-century Progressivism, whose two leading presidential avatars were Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, was a heady blend of moralistic intervention in public and private life, extending the reach of the regulatory state to areas well beyond the imagination of the nineteenth-century American laissez-faire state. It arose from the earlier Populist movement, which was nostalgic and backward-looking, harkening to a bygone era of agrarian independence no longer possible in rapidly industrializing late-nineteenth-century America.

    • The Politics of the Viciousness: the US After the Midterms

      There was a huge turnout in the 2018 election, with the number of voters up by almost 30 percent from the last mid-term in 2014. Both parties managed to effectively motivate their base and get them out to vote. While the outcome was not the decisive victory that the Democrats had hoped for, it did give them many wins that will substantially change the course of politics over the next two years.

      First, and most importantly, the Democrats won enough votes to retake the House of Representatives.

      This matters because it means there will be an effective check on Donald Trump’s power. In a wide variety of areas, beginning with his personal finances, Trump has ignored longstanding precedents and procedures. The Republican-controlled House and Senate were prepared to say that all manner of conflict of interest and abuse of power were fine.

      The Democrats may also be in a position to force the Trump administration to confront the truth in many areas. For example, Trump made one of the major issues in this election a “caravan” of several thousand people walking up from Central America, through Mexico, seeking asylum in the United States.

      Trump convinced millions of his followers that this group of unarmed people, which included many whole families with children, posed a major threat to national security. He even deployed ten thousand troops to the border to protect the country from this groups of asylum seekers.

    • Business as Usual: Washington’s Regime Change Strategy in Venezuela

      For those who have been following Venezuela closely in recent years there is a distinct sense of déjà vu regarding US foreign policy towards that South American nation. This is because Washington’s strategy of regime change in Venezuela is almost identical to the approach it has taken in Latin America on numerous occasions since World War Two. This strategy involves applying economic sanctions, extensive support for the opposition, and destabilization measures that create a sufficient degree of human suffering and chaos to justify a military coup or direct US military intervention. Because this strategy has worked so well for the United States for more than half a century, our elected leaders see no reason not to use it regarding Venezuela. In other words, from Washington’s perspective, its regime change policies towards Venezuela constitute business as usual in Latin America.

      Despite US rhetoric, this regime change strategy does not take into account whether or not a government is democratically elected or the human rights consequences of such interventions. In fact, virtually all of the Latin American governments that the United States has successfully overthrown over the past 65 years were democratically elected. Among the democratically-elected leaders that have been ousted were Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala (1954), Salvador Allende in Chile (1973), Jean Bertrand Aristide in Haiti (2004) and Manuel Zelaya in Honduras (2009). Washington targeted all these leaders with economic sanctions and destabilization campaigns that created the economic chaos and humanitarian crises required to justify a military solution.

    • After Bright Blue Wave, Wisconsin’s Gerrymandered Legislature Already Up to Dirty Tricks

      It was a bright blue wave in Wisconsin. More than 2.6 million people voted, more than in any previous midterm, more than in the 2012 recall election, and roughly 60 percent of the state’s voting-age population. Democrats swept constitutional offices, winning Governor, Lt. Governor, State Treasurer, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and a U.S. Senate seat for the first time since 1982.

      A former school science teacher, Tony Evers, sent Scott Walker packing.

      But before Democrats could strike up the band at the inaugural ball, Wisconsin Republicans, the beneficiaries of an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, were already preparing a lame-duck session and a slate of dirty tricks.

      Wisconsin Republicans, led by Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, are considering enacting voter suppression rules, seizing control over key state boards, and changing the date of the next Supreme Court election to thwart the will of the voters.

      “And there is no reason to think they will stop there,” said Jay Heck director of Common Cause Wisconsin.

    • Trump Silent as His Critic and Ex-CIA Chief Hayden Hospitalised After Stroke

      Ex-CIA Director Michael Hayden suffered a stroke at his home earlier this week, Hayden’s family said in a statement Friday.

      Hayden has been taken to a hospital, where he is getting “expert medical care” and attempting to recover from the stroke, the family said but hasn’t provided any further information about the severity of his condition.

    • Meeting Comrade Pasang, Nepal’s Vice President

      Quickly changing the subject, the Vice President asks if there is peace in Venezuela, to which I say, yes, for more than a year there has been relative peace. It soon becomes clear from Pasang’s manner that we are in a very official context and will not be delving deeply into either revolutionary military practice or politics. In fact, during the whole meeting, the only indication that the VP comes from a Marxist background are a few fleeting remarks made about the shared struggle of Nepal and the Latin American countries against capitalism…

      The formal courteousness of this one-time revolutionary commander is itself food for thought. Unlike other key Maoist leaders, who have separated from Prachanda’s hegemonic tendency, Pasang has followed the latter in forming Nepal’s new ruling party through a fusion with UML, the traditional communist party. Pasang was probably the most impressive military leader to emerge in the People’s Liberation Army. He is famous for brilliantly haranguing his troops before battle. These were often informal, even “green” troops, who are said to have maintained high morale and carefully followed their commander’s instructions in the most difficult battles.

    • Whatever Happened to Resigning on Principle?

      This past spring the president met with his White House counsel to discuss an idea. Donald Trump wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey, the FBI director he fired. “It is not clear which accusations Mr. Trump wanted prosecutors to pursue,” reported The New York Times.

      The counsel, Don McGahn, argued against it. He won the day. Trump shelved his boneheaded plan to Lock Them Up. Hillary remains free to collect six-figure speaking fees from ethically-challenged organizations and threaten to run for president again.

      That worked out OK. After all, it would be hard to overstate the political crisis that would result if a precedent were established in which the perils of running for political office were to include getting thrown into prison should you lose.

      But what about what was supposed to come next: the principled resignation?

      Don McGahn stared into the face of the Leader of the Free World and Keeper of the Launchcodes and saw—there’s really no more precise way to put it—a lunatic.

      “Mr. McGahn apparently was able to dissuade Mr. Trump from issuing the order to prosecute political enemies by telling him that the plan was so antithetical to American political values that it could trigger impeachment proceedings,” former U.S. attorney Harry Litman wrote in the Times.

    • Deval Patrick, the Compassionate Corporatist?

      For Democrats, the 2020 primary season could come right out of their 2008 playbook, with a black man contesting a white woman for nomination to the highest office in the land.

      It’s unlikely that the name Deval Patrick does more than ring a bell for most Americans, yet he is seriously considering running against Donald Trump in 2020 and just might garner considerable corporate cash. Democrat Patrick succeeded Mitt Romney as Governor of Massachusetts in 2006, beating Republican Kerry Healey in the general election to become the first black governor of the Commonwealth. Healy had been Romney’s Lieutenant Governor who became Acting Governor when Romney resigned to run for President. Cherchez la femme, as we shall see.

    • How Liberals Got Seduced By Trump’s Gifts To Private Prisons

      It didn’t take long. Just weeks after securing a House majority, Democrats had Donald Trump on the ropes for the first time. But Donald Trump, whose only game is a con, always remains a step ahead of his audience. Trump hasn’t turned on his liberal charm in a while. Once a bonafide star and certified Democrat, Trump played the bad boy on television and on magazine covers. Liberals ate him up as he swindled and conned his way to the top in the cultural capital of the world. Resentful to the core, this was never enough for Donald Trump. The insecure and small-handed man needed more love than the liberals could give to him. After NBC gave Gwen Stefani a bigger television contract than him, Don had enough of playing second fiddle. If you can’t join em, beat em. Don’s new audience became those who hate liberals, and the rest is history.

      So when the Democrats made up some grounds, I just assumed Donald would unleash his blood-thirsty base, openly calling for violence across the country. Oh wait, he actually did this, as he threatened Antifa with violence shortly after the election. But the Democrats wouldn’t care about that. Donald though went a step further. To counter the Democrats, he knows his base won’t be enough. Trump hasn’t seduced Democrats for years, but his magic touch remains.

      The Donald knows that to land the liberals, one must play to their guilt. The biggest disgrace by a Democrat was Bill Clinton’s transformation of the United States prison system. Clinton created arguably the most wide-scale human rights violation in the world today through his expansion of a truly diabolical system that featured prison firefighters saving our sorry lives for a dollar a day during the recent California fires. Surely (hopefully) embarrassed by Mr. Clinton, some Democrats took Trump’s bait. Liberal guilt and conservative profits unite!

    • NPR Infomercial for Its Sponsor Amazon Omits Labor and Environmental Criticisms

      There are dozens of reports detailing how Amazon’s shipping policies negatively effects both the environment and workers, but one wouldn’t have any idea either was a concern after listening to NPR’s sexed-up report (Morning Edition, 11/21/18), “Optimized Prime: How AI and Anticipation Power Amazon’s 1-Hour Deliveries.”

      The report, detailing the “Artificial Intelligence” behind Amazon’s delivery systems, relies entirely on interviews with Amazon flacks. The only people NPR speaks to are Brad Porter, the head of robotics for Amazon operations; Jenny Freshwater, director of software development; and Amazon VP Cem Sibay. No outside parties were sought for comment, let alone anyone remotely adversarial, such as labor organizers or environmental activists.

      Indeed, the words “labor,” “worker” or “employee” are nowhere to be found in the six-minute report: Christmas packages simply deliver themselves with the help of brilliant Amazon execs and this mysterious AI technology. If Amazon’s marketing department wrote and produced a segment on their AI technology for NPR, it’s difficult to see how it would have been any different.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • IMDb Battles Actions Union Over Age Censorship Law

      A California law requiring entertainment industry site IMDb.com to hide actors’ ages at their request is unconstitutional, the company argues in new court papers.
      “The First Amendment does not permit a wholesale prohibition of truthful speech (in this case, age information) in order to prevent its misuse by others,” Amazon’s IMDb.com writes in legal papers submitted Wednesday to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

    • Censorship Offensive Takes Down More Conservatives

      Loomer is the latest prominent figure on the right to have her access to Twitter and Facebook revoked due to comments that contradict the progressive agenda. Still, the accounts belonging to Nation of Islam founder and notorious anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, and journalist Sarah Jeong, who posted racist tweets against whites are still intact.

      When Infowars content was removed from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, many on the left justified it, arguing that the channel’s penchant for dealing in conspiracy theories and heated rhetoric necessitated its removal. They claimed that this move was not an indicator of active movement against conservative voices on the internet.

      However, many on the right knew better, and they recognized the writing on the wall. There is no question that Loomer is a controversial figure, but she is clearly no different from many of the rabble-rousers on the left, who enjoy nearly unlimited access to the major social media platforms.

    • Atlus Addresses Catherine: Full Body Censorship Concerns in Light of Sony’s Policies

      Sony Interactive Entertainment’s censorship policies were recently thrust into the limelight after the company banned the Western release of Omega Labyrinth Z, forced the removal of Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal‘s Intimacy Mode, and reportedly had several Japanese releases – including Nekopara Vol. 1 – censored. Although a censorship policy isn’t explicitly stated anywhere, it’s evident that Sony has been tightening the reins, leaving fans to wonder how these policies will impact upcoming releases.

    • Will Sony Censor Catherine: Full Body? Developer Can’t Give a Definitive Answer

      This whole censorship thing has been rumbling on for around a month now, and at first, it looked like Sony was only targeting relatively niche Japanese developers. However, more recently, it was confirmed by Koei Tecmo that Dead or Alive Xtreme 3: Scarlet would have certain aspects removed on PlayStation 4. In other words, Sony may be widening the net.
      The aforementioned Studio Zero has responded to fan questions on Twitter, many of them asking whether Catherine: Full Body would be censored as per Sony’s policy. “There are no mysterious lights in Catherine: Full Body. (We went as far as we could go without the light shining.) To everyone worried about that, we love you. (We received about 10 more of the same question),” the tweet reads, as translated by Gematsu.
      In this case “mysterious lights” refers to the obscuring of a visual’s sexualised areas. It’s a reasonably common form of censorship in Japanese media.

    • Censor board is deaf, says Vishal Bhardwaj

      Vishal Bhardwaj on Saturday said that the censor board gives a “deaf” ear to the concerns of the filmmakers.

      The writer-director, who has faced troubles with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in the past, said films are a “soft target” for anything and everything that goes wrong with the society.

      When asked for his reaction on the possibility of censorship creeping into the digital medium, Bhardwaj said, “Did they listen to us when they put the ‘no smoking’ ticker on a running visual? Do they hear us even now? They (censor board) are deaf. They do whatever they want to do. We are the only nation in this world that has ‘no smoking’ on a running visual. How more ridiculous can it be?”

    • Bitcoin User Edward Snowden Talks Passionately on Crypto and Blockchain Benefitting Censorship

      Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who had said he used BTC to pay for various activities online before leaking NSA documents, recently talked about BTC. He said there was no way to take down the blockchain. He added that decentralization was going to challenge the status quo of monopolization and censorship.

    • Censorship: The Current Regulatory Framework And The Future Of Digital Content

      The applicable law concerning pre-censorship of films in India has historically been tested on the basis of freedom of speech and expression for the reason that it is the heart of any artistic expression. In the earliest instance, when censorship of films was challenged on the grounds that it violated freedom of speech and expression, the Supreme Court2 held that the social interest of people overrides individual freedom and thus justified the censorship of films on the basis that it is a powerful medium of expression. However, in the same judgment the Supreme Court also recognised the importance of setting a standard for censors to ensure that a substantial allowance is made in favour of artistic freedom, thus leaving a vast possibility and opportunity for creativity.

    • No, Ubisoft Didn’t ‘Pander’ To Entitled Gamers Over ‘Rainbow Six Siege’ Censorship
    • Kuwaiti Artist Creates ‘Cemetery of Banned Books’ in Censorship Protest
  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Facebook patents software that will even record family members, their interests

      Despite facing flak for leakage of personal data of millions of its users in recent times, Facebook is seeking to patent a software that could help it build profile of a user’s household – the number of people in the household, the interests that they share, nature of their relationships or even the devices that they use.

      The software, which could be used to target ads, would analyse images posted to Facebook or Instagram, The Los Angeles Times reported on Friday.

    • Who lives with you? Facebook seeks to patent software to figure out profiles of households

      Facebook Inc. is applying to patent software that it could use to create profiles of users’ households by making educated guesses about how many people live in the household, what their relationships to each other are, what interests they share and what electronic devices they use.

      The system would draw on the wealth of information Facebook already has about its users—including their photos, comments, messaging history and web browsing activities—and could be used to help target ads, according to the patent application.

    • Facebook seeks to patent software to figure out profiles of households

      Facebook Inc. is applying to patent software that it could use to create profiles of users’ households by making educated guesses about how many people live in the household, what their relationships to each other are, what interests they share and what electronic devices they use.

      The system would draw on the wealth of information Facebook already has about its users — including their photos, comments, messaging history and web browsing activities — and could be used to help target ads, according to the patent application.

    • Beijing to Judge Every Resident Based on Behavior by End of 2020
    • China’s dystopian social credit system set to begin rollout in 2021

      Bloomberg reports that Bejing residents will be targeted first, with their starting score based on their standing at the end of 2020.

      The scheme will reward as well as punish citizens by combining data from several departments including credit reference and crime agencies.

    • NordVPN Shares Results of ‘No-Log’ Audit

      NordVPN shared the results of an audit into its ‘no-logs’ policy with customers yesterday. The audit, conducted by one of the Big 4 accounting firms, was triggered by damaging allegations earlier this year. The results, however, suggest that NordVPN is living up to its no-logging promises.

    • [Older] Surveillance Kills Freedom By Killing Experimentation

      In my book Data and Goliath, I write about the value of privacy. I talk about how it is essential for political liberty and justice, and for commercial fairness and equality. I talk about how it increases personal freedom and individual autonomy, and how the lack of it makes us all less secure. But this is probably the most important argument as to why society as a whole must protect privacy: it allows society to progress.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Can Imran Khan Rein in the Extremists Challenging Pakistan?

      Aasia Bibi, a Christian farm worker who had been accused of blasphemy by Muslim co-workers and sentenced to death by a Pakistani court in 2010, was finally acquitted by the Pakistan Supreme Court on 31 October. In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court reasoned that she was innocent as those accusing her of insulting the Prophet Mohammed could not present sufficient evidence against her. It was a bold decision on the part of the Supreme Court justices, as blasphemy cases and accusations are often toxic in Pakistan.

      A former governor, Salman Taseer, and a Christian cabinet minister, Shahbaz Bhatti– two politicians who were vocal in supporting Aasia Bibi– were both assassinated in 2011, the former by his own bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri. And although Qadri was executed for murder in 2016, many hail him as a hero. In 2014, Rashed Rehman, a lawyer and human rights activist, who dared to defend, Junaid Hafeez, a college lecturer accused of blasphemy, was shot dead in Multan. Hafeez languishes in jail and in January this year, his case was transferred to yet another judge, having changed hands six times since his trial began.

      It is therefore not surprising that the recent Supreme Court decision was met with fierce resistance. What was surprising however was the extent to which the Tehreek-e-Labaik- Pakistan (TLP), a newly formed political party with little to show in terms of seats but much formidable street power, threatened the power structure of the state. Sparing no one, its leadership attacked the Prime Minister, judges of the Supreme Court, and even the army chief, with choice expletives and death threats. Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a televised address, on the eve of the verdict, had forewarned those opposing the judicial decision that if they dared to take on the state, the state will not hesitate to use its full force against them.

    • CIA Ditched Truth Drugs for Direct Torture of Prisoners After 9/11 – Analysts

      The CIA found the use of truth drugs ineffective and appears to have fallen back on more direct methods of torture, or enhanced interrogation in its so-called Global War on Terror (GWOT) after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks against the United States, analysts told Sputnik.

      The CIA appeared to have relied more on outright methods of torture or so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques rather than using truth drugs after the September 11 terror attacks, University of Illinois Professor of International Law Francis Boyle said.

    • I’ve Been in Prison for 24 Years and I Feel Dead

      have thought almost daily, since July 8, 1994, about suicide. Not because I want to die — I just do not want to live like this: imprisoned. The longing and loneliness of being away from family, friends, and from all that is dear to my heart; constantly being denigrated by prison officials; the use of physical force to control my life — handcuffs, shackles, and belly chains everywhere I go.

      I do not want to live like this because this is not living.

      The state regards prison not as an institution of rehabilitation, but as an instrument of retribution. Not as an institution to prepare me to lead a respectable and industrious life, but to punish and debilitate me so that I should never again have the strength and courage to proclaim my innocence.

    • Beyond Prisons: Jail Free NYC feat. Nabil Hassein

      Nabil is a technologist, organizer and educator based in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. He has worked professionally as a software developer and a teacher in both public schools and private settings. Nabil also works with grassroots police and prison abolitionist campaigns in NYC including Shut Down Rikers, Abolition Square and No New Jails NYC.

      Nabil talks about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to spend tens of billions of dollars on new jails at a time when money is desperately needed for housing, education, health care, food, and more. He talks about what the plan for new so-called “modern” jails will and won’t do about gentrification and broken windows policing. And Nabil gives an idea of what it’s like inside the various community meetings held by the city to promote the new jails and (allegedly) hear input from the public.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Leading Home Appliances Manufacturer Granted Preliminary Injunction Against Competitor

      Last year, Turkey’s leading home appliance manufacturer filed two patent infringement actions, claiming the determination, prohibition and prevention of a patent infringement and seeking a preliminary injunction against an international company in the same sector for its coffee machine products.

      The infringement actions were based on two patents protecting different features and methods of a Turkish coffee machine – the first electronic coffee machine dedicated solely to making traditional Turkish coffee.

    • How to Defend Unsearched Dependent Claims in Prosecution

      EPO Examiners sometimes urge Applicants to delete dependent claims considered to relate to “unsearched subject-matter” after having raised a unity a posteriori objection. We are investigating in how far the EPC justifies forcing an Applicant to delete dependent claims as well as possible counter-arguments for defending them.

    • Copyrights

      • Book review: Cross-Border Copyright Licensing: Law and Practice

        Copyright is not the simplest of intellectual property rights and when you add licensing to the mix the combination of contract and competition law plus cross border questions can provide complex considerations for even the most experienced practitioner.

        Cross-Border Copyright Licensing: Law and Practice, edited by Carlo Scollo Lavizzari and Rene Viljoen aims to guide you through some of these complexities, particularly as they relate to China, the EU, India, Mexico, Russia, Singapore, South Africa and the US.

        The book gives a handy and comprehensive overview of the legal issues to consider when licensing copyright in each territory. This includes the approach of the national courts to important questions such as jurisdiction and choice of law. More practical considerations such as collecting societies are considered as well as related rights such as image rights, moral rights and performers rights. In some cases, other rights such as patents get a special mention, particularly where the law is still developing and the likely approach toward copyright can be seen from patent law developments.

      • Non-Pirate Kodi Add-On is Copyright Infringing, Denuvo Owner Says

        Third-party add-ons for the popular Kodi platform are perhaps best well-known for their ability to provide free access to otherwise premium movies and TV shows. However, according to Denuvo-owner Irdeto, a Kodi add-on that provides access to legally paid-for subscription content is also copyright-infringing and must be taken down.

      • US Judge Slams Copyright Troll For Using His Court “Like an ATM”

        A judge in the U.S. has issued one of the most scathing opinions ever seen in a copyright troll case. In response to an early discovery request by porn troll Strike 3 Holdings, Judge Royce C. Lamberth describes the plaintiff as a “cut-and-paste” serial litigant whose lawsuits “smack of extortion”. The company runs away at the first sign of a defense, he added, while noting his court is being used “as an ATM”.

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