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11.28.18

Links 28/11/2018: Red Hat Buys One Last Company, Mozilla’s Annual Report

Posted in News Roundup at 6:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Anatomy of an OSS Institutional Visit

    I recently visited the UK Meteorology Office, a moderately large organization that serves the weather and climate forecasting needs of the UK (and several other nations). I was there with other open source colleagues including Joe Hamman and Ryan May from open source projects like Dask, Xarray, JupyterHub, MetPy, Cartopy, and the broader Pangeo community.

    This visit was like many other visits I’ve had over the years that are centered around showing open source tooling to large institutions, so I thought I’d write about it in hopes that it helps other people in this situation in the future.

  • The Future of Technological Advancement Is Open Source

    The influence of open source on the IT industry for the past few decades has been undeniable, and the scale and speed of the open source development have been remarkable. The primary reason behind this is, it is cost-effective and also provides an opportunity for faster and more reliable innovation which allows enterprises to scale their infrastructure. Many employers allow developers to work on projects within the given time frame. Removing internal restrictions about open source will encourage developers, rather than making them feel like they are violating IT policies.

    Employers are enabling developers to work in conjunction with the latest innovations and accelerate the way at which these technologies are being adopted. Open source is a crucial area one can encounter in the present and the future. It is quickly becoming a necessity for success as enterprises realize the benefits it can offer and also provides a cost-effective option as compared to proprietary alternatives.

  • Lambda Debuts First Ever Blockchain Open-Source PoST Algorithm on GitHub

    Lambda recently unveiled its transparent Proof-of-Space-Time (PoST) protocol with high-speed verification capabilities, repetition computation, and streamlined proofs. It is reportedly the first ever blockchain open source PoST algorithm available to developers on GitHub – the popular software development platform.

  • Blockchain Storage Revolutionist Lambda Surpasses FileCoin Unveiling First Open-Source Proof-of-Space-Time Algorithm Available to Developers on GitHub

    Lambda, the leading decentralized infrastructure project providing innovative unlimited and scalable data storage capabilities on the blockchain, today announced its groundbreaking open-source Proof-of-Space-Time (PoST) protocol is the first available to developers worldwide on GitHub, the world’s leading software development platform

  • Open Source VoIP Specialist Ecosmob Launches Next-Generation Softswitches

    Ecosmob, a specialist in open source VoIP technologies, has launched a wholesale softswitch solution for VoIP service providers.

    Over the years Ecosmob has been refining its expertise in open source technologies in the softswitch area, including class four and five softswitch technology for VoIP services.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • State of Mozilla 2017: Annual Report

        The new report outlines how Mozilla operates, provides key information on the ways in which we’ve made an impact, and includes details from our financial reports for 2017. The State of Mozilla report release is timed to coincide with when we submit the Mozilla non-profit tax filing for the previous calendar year.

        Mozilla is unique. We were founded nearly 20 years ago with the mission to ensure the internet is a global public resource that is open and accessible to all. That mission is as important now as it has ever been.

      • These Weeks in Firefox: Issue 50
      • The Rust Programming Language Blog: Rust Survey 2018 Results

        Another year means another Rust survey, and this year marks Rust’s third annual survey. This year, the survey launched for the first time in multiple languages. In total 14 languages, in addition to English, were covered. The results from non-English languages totalled 25% of all responses and helped pushed the number of responses to a new record of 5991 responses. Before we begin the analysis, we just want to give a big “thank you!” to all the people who took the time to respond and give us your thoughts. It’s because of your help that Rust will continue to improve year after year.

      • Brussels Mozilla Mornings: Critically assessing the EU Terrorist Content regulation

        On the morning of 12 December, Mozilla will host the first of our Brussels Mozilla Mornings series – regular breakfast meetings where we bring together policy experts, policy-makers and practitioners for insight and discussion on latest EU digital policy developments. This first session will focus on the recently-proposed EU Terrorist Content regulation.

        The panel discussion will seek to unpack the Commission’s legislative proposal – what it means for the internet, users’ rights, and the fight against terrorism. The discussions will be substantive in nature, and will deal with some of the most contentious issues in the proposal, including the 60 minute takedown procedure and upload filtering obligations.

      • Mozilla Localization (L10N): Multilingual Gecko Status Update 2018.2

        Welcome to the third edition of Multilingual Gecko Status Update!

        In the previous update we covered the work which landed in Firefox 59 and Firefox 60.

        At the time, we’ve been finalizing the platform work to support Fluent localization system, and we were in the middle of migration of the first Firefox UI component – Preferences – to it.

        Today, we’ll pick up right where we left off!

      • Next Steps in DNS-over-HTTPS Testing

        Over the past few months, Mozilla has experimented with DNS-over-HTTPS (DoH). The intention is to fix a part of a DNS ecosystem that simply isn’t up to the modern, secure standards that every Internet user should expect. Today, we want to let you know about our next test of the feature.

        Our initial tests of DoH studied the time it takes to get a response from Cloudflare’s DoH resolver. The results were very positive – the slowest users show a huge performance improvement. A recent test in our Beta channel confirmed that DoH is fast and isn’t causing problems for our users. However, those tests only measure the DNS operation itself, which isn’t the whole story.

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

    • LibreOffice localisation sprint: Bengali

      LibreOffice’s localisation communities translate the software’s user interface and documentation. They help to make a powerful office suite available to millions of people around the world, in over 100 languages!

  • CMS

    • Upgraded my blog to Ghost 2.6

      I have been maintaining my blog. It is a self hosted Ghost blog, where I have my theme as Casper, the Ghost default. In the recent past, September 2018, Ghost has updated its version to 2.0. Now it is my time to update mine.

      It is always advisable to test it before running it into production server. I maintain a stage instance for the same. I test any and all the changes there before touching the production server. I did the same thing here also.

  • BSD

    • DragonFly 5.4rc1 image to use

      I uploaded the current 5.4 release candidate – there’s an ISO and an IMG file, though your local mirror may be a better place to get it than those links. Or just wait; I think the release won’t be long.

      Note that I was smart for once and named it ‘rc1’, so if there’s another release candidate, it can be named ‘rc2’. I used ‘rc’ in previous releases and was never sure if I should name a second candidate rc1, rc2…

    • Intel Cascade Lake Target Added To LLVM / Clang Compiler

      Similar to the GCC patch for Intel Cascade lake CPU support that was posted last week, the LLVM Clang compiler stack now supports these forthcoming Intel server CPUs.

      As of today the cascadelake target was added to LLVM and hooked up as well for Clang with the “-march=cascadelake” targeting for optimized code around this successor to Skylake-SP.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Decisive leadership is needed even more acutely in the digital open source era

      I was speaking recently at a seminar in Switzerland about leadership in the age of digital disruption, and an interesting question came up. Someone asked me why I was propagating the need for strong, decisive leadership and at the same time talking about open source era. “Isn’t open source about getting results without a clear (singular) leadership?” he asked while citing examples of open source operating systems (OS) like Linux, social movements like the Arab Spring and the recent rise of cryptocurrencies.

      This gentleman went on to say he was really confused. “Not only does your claim about the need for strong leadership in the open source era go against the very essence of open source systems, you go to the extent of advocating autocratic leadership?”

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • Thales joins RISC-V Foundation to help secure open-source microprocessors

        Membership of the RISC-V Foundation is the latest illustration of Thales’s commitment to free open-source hardware architectures based on RISC-V processors, and an opportunity for the company to play a major role in a new era microprocessor design. Based on the same philosophy as the Linux success story in the world of software, open source hardware is becoming increasingly important in many key sectors.

      • RISC-V and Linux Foundation partner up

        The RISC-V Foundation and the Linux Foundation agreed to a collaboration to accelerate open source development for the open source RISC-V ISA, starting with RISC-V starter guides for Linux and Zephyr.

        The RISC-V Foundation and the Linux Foundation announced a partnership to “accelerate open source development and adoption of the RISC-V ISA” and “grow the RISC-V ecosystem with improved support for the development of new applications and architectures across all computing platforms.” The Linux Foundation will advise RISC-V on “neutral governance and best practices for open source development” and provide resources for training programs, infrastructure tools, community outreach, and marketing and legal expertise.

      • Linux lobby org joins with RISC-V bods to promote open chip spec

        The Linux Foundation, the non-profit funded by for-profit tech firms to promote the open source operating system, has begun working with the RISC-V Foundation, another non-profit backed by well-heeled companies, to encourage adoption of the open source RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA).

        The two organizations on Tuesday plan to announce a collaboration to enhance the appeal of the RISC-V ISA, tech that proprietary chip designer Arm recently tried to stifle. The results of the tie-up should come in the form of training programs, tool development, community building and governance, marketing support, and legal advice.

  • Programming/Development

    • the first pygame 2 community game. Starting now! Are you in?
    • pygame 2 update – the examples all work
    • Asynchronous vs Synchronous Python Performance Analysis

      This article is the second part of a series on using Python for developing asynchronous web applications. The first part provides a more in-depth coverage of concurrency in Python and asyncio, as well as aiohttp.

      If you’d like to read more about Asynchronous Python for Web Development, we’ve got it covered.

      Due to the non-blocking nature of asynchronous libraries like aiohttp we would hope to be able to make and handle more requests in a given amount of time compared to analogous synchronous code. This is due to the fact that asynchronous code can rapidly switch between contexts in order to minimize time spent waiting for I/O.

Leftovers

  • Dear Silicon Valley Tech Companies: Stop Treating Your Structural Challenges As Political Challenges

    A couple weeks back Karl wrote up an excellent analysis of the NY Times’ big piece looking at how Facebook tried to deal with ongoing criticism of the company concerning the influence operations that it appears Russians used their site for. Karl’s post focused on just how many companies make use of similar political smear campaigns, and everyone (including the press) should be much more tuned into this kind of thing. Indeed, a followup story from the NY Times last week showed that a bunch of other tech companies — namely Lyft, Lime, Juul and Qualcomm — all had hired the very same “Definers” firm that Facebook had hired to smear its opponents.

    I wanted to write a follow up post, though, to make a slightly different point. This one is more directed at the people who work at all of the big tech companies: Stop thinking about running your companies as political campaigns, and focus most on what is best for end-users. It should be noted, of course, that all of these companies are a bit different, and they all do take different approaches to the market, but over the last few years, especially, one thing that has shined through with many of these companies is that they’ve dealt with the challenges suddenly being directed at them as political issues, rather than structural issues.

  • Sanitation Salvage, Troubled Garbage Hauler, Surrenders Operating License

    Sanitation Salvage, the embattled private trash hauler recently suspended from operations by New York City regulators, has decided to surrender its operating license.

    In a letter sent to city regulators Tuesday, lawyers for Sanitation Salvage said the company would cease operations “forthwith.”

    Officials at the Business Integrity Commission, or BIC, the city agency charged with overseeing the private trash industry, did not have an immediate public response. The BIC this year declared the company, one of the largest in the city, a threat to the public after two fatal crashes and a rash of safety violations documented by the agency’s investigators. The company returned to operations in October, but it remained under investigation and was required to agree to the installation of a monitor to oversee its daily operations.

  • Science

    • We Interrupt All The Hating On Technology To Remind Everyone We Just Landed On Mars

      It was hardly more than 100 years ago that human beings figured out powered flight. Barely 80 since flight became jet-powered, 70 since it broke the sound barrier, and 60 since we mastered jet flight sufficiently for ordinary commercial use. It was also not even 60 years ago that we figured out how to send human beings into space, and not even 50 since we put them on the moon. These time periods hardly span geological epochs; they can be measured by a lifetime.

      For those whose consciousness developed after these tectonic shifts in the development of human civilization, it can be easy to forget that mankind spent vastly more of its existence not being remotely able to succeed at any of these things than being able to do them all. It can be easy to lose sight of what a triumph each leap is when today they all seem so ordinary. We take it for granted that we can board a metal tube and just a few hours later end up a continent away. We become glib about putting people in space when we have them sitting up there 24/7. And the moon, that celestial body that from the dawn of man has been the object of every dream, has long faded into the rearview mirror. Been there, done that, we think, as the knowledge that it is within our grasp slowly extinguishes the wonder that used to fuel our drive to seek the impossible.

      Fortunately space is full of other frontiers to tantalize us. And Mars is one of them. Orbiting our solar system between 35 and 250 million miles away from Earth (depending on our respective orbital positions), barely visible to the naked eye, and full of even more mystery than our much more proximate moon (which is less than 240,000 miles away), it passes through the heavens flashing its enticing red glow like a bullfighter to his charges. And so, like moth to flame, we go.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • U.S. Panel Says China Is Not Doing Enough to Stem Tide of Fentanyl

      Fentanyl exporters have skirted Chinese laws by shifting to analogues, or molecules that have similar effects on the body, but do not fall under bans the country has imposed on fentanyl itself. China has been too slow to add new categories of analogues to the list of prohibited substances, according to the U.S. report.

    • Pharma companies are changing tack following major patent cases

      Recent high profile pharmaceutical patent disputes in the UK are forcing companies to go back and look at their business plans, according to HGF partner Rachel Fetches.
      Speaking at the Life Science IP conference in London this week, Fetches sad that both big pharma companies and manufacturers of generic drugs are going back and looking at their business plans as a result of high profile pharma patent cases in the UK Supreme Court.

      The most recent of which, the Pregabalin second medical use, saw the court dismiss an appeal from Warner-Lambert after Mylan and Actavis successfully revoked its patent.

    • UCB has reduced its patent portfolio to focus on a patient-centric approach

      Scientific research company UCB has reduced its patent portfolio by 25 percent to “focus on core innovation” and its “patient-centric approach”.
      According to UCB associate patent counsel, Manisha Desai and director of intellectual property policy, Aaron Smethurst, UCB opted to reduce its portfolio by one quarter in order to refocus on these goals.

      Speaking at the Life Science IP event in London this week, both Desai and Smethurst said this was conducted across the board, even on patents that relate to a product that is currently on the market.

    • Why are Certain NGOs Trying to Condemn Rural Residents to an Even Longer Pesticide Fate?

      When I first started the UK Pesticides Campaign 17 years ago in 2001 I did so largely because I had discovered that there was no specific representation in the UK for rural residents and communities exposed tothe vast cocktails of poisons sprayed on crops.

      As a resident myself directly affected from pesticide spraying in my locality I had started to attend various conferences and meetings on pesticides and whilst NGOs and environmental groups would make the odd comment here and there about operators health, environmental impacts, or pesticide residues in food, there was no mention of the risks and adverse health impacts for rural residents and communities across the UK.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Our Man in Riyadh

      What does President Trump’s recent nomination of retired Army General John Abizaid to become the next U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia signify? Next to nothing — and arguably quite a lot.

      Abizaid’s proposed appointment is both a non-event and an opportunity not to be wasted. It means next to nothing in this sense: while once upon a time, American diplomats abroad wielded real clout — Benjamin Franklin and John Quincy Adams offer prominent examples — that time is long past. Should he receive Senate confirmation, Ambassador Abizaid will not actually shape U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia. At most, he will convey policy, while keeping officials back in Washington apprised regarding conditions in the Kingdom. “Conditions” in this context will mean the opinions, attitudes, whims, and mood of one particular individual: Mohammed bin Salman. MBS, as he is known, is the Saudi crown prince and the Kingdom’s de facto absolute ruler. By no means incidentally, he is also that country’s assassin-in-chief as well as the perpetrator of atrocities in a vicious war that he launched in neighboring Yemen in 2015.

    • Border Patrol Officer Who Shot Unarmed Teenager on Mexican Soil Is Acquitted of Manslaughter Charges

      As Democrats hoping to sit at the helm of their party in the House in the next congressional term vie for support ahead of a January vote on the House floor, dozens of progressive groups released a letter Tuesday telling candidates that their leadership must include a firm stance against the fossil fuel industry, including a rejection of all donations from oil and gas companies.

      Forty-seven national organizations including 350.org, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace USA wrote that with the scientific community making it abundantly clear that carbon emissions must be immediately curbed in order to keep the planet from warming more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, Democrats must fully extricate themselves from fossil fuel interests.

    • International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases

      The elimination of poverty could be at hand for the first time in the history of humanity. World hunger could easily be abolished with only a small diversion from military budgets. Yet, military spending is expanding, and with it global poverty.

      On November 16-18, some 300 peace activists representing over 35 countries gathered in Dublin, Ireland for the first International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases to address this tragic paradox of the technical ability to serve humanity and the political proclivity to do the opposite. Roger Cole of the Irish peace organization PANA identified the twin threats to humankind of global warming and global war, both driven by accelerating militarization.

      Ajamu Baraka of the US-based Black Alliance for Peace highlighted the reactionary role of the US and its allies, which have by far the largest military expenditures in the world. The material basis for the absence of peace and the accelerating proliferation of military bases, in his words, is US imperialism.

    • The Dark Side of the New Deal: FDR and the Japanese-Americans

      Not long ago, I had lunch with Arn Kawano, a friend and Marxmail subscriber whose parents had been interred during WWII for no other reason than being Japanese-Americans living in California. I was anxious to discuss a film with him that I had reviewed recently titled “Resistance at Tule Lake”, which described how Japanese-Americans stood up for their rights as citizens against FDR’s fascist-like Executive Order 9066 that gave the green light to the camps.

      Arn, who has a law degree, told me that despite liberal obsessions with constitutional rights, there is very little to protect such citizens when a government acts in the name of a national emergency. If anything, FDR’s willingness to shred the constitution should alert those invoking the New Deal as some kind of golden era for democracy and human rights to look more closely and objectively at American history. To give you an idea of the inability of American liberals to comprehend the depravity of FDR’s internment camps, Herbert Wechsler, an attorney who was part of the Nuremberg prosecution team, was also the government’s lawyer in a case defending the legality of Executive Order 9066. Later on, when Wechsler was teaching at the Columbia University law school, a student named Arn Kawano asked him if he had to do it all over again, would he have defended 9066? When he answered yes, Arn gathered up his books and walked out of the classroom.

      A superficial understanding of the crime against Japanese-Americans might lead to the conclusion that Pearl Harbor was of such a profound blow to national security that internment was necessary. Keep in mind that even the Communist Party accepted the need to support Executive Order 9066 mandating the concentration camps. Through a front group called the Japanese American Committee for Democracy, it opposed Norman Thomas’s call for hearings on 9066 and endorsed army claims that an “evacuation” was necessary in the face of a potential Japanese invasion. As it happens, Japanese-Americans could avoid the camps if they agreed to evacuate California but the logistics of selling their homes and finding a new place to live elsewhere made this impossible.

      In the course of our conversation, Arn recommended a book by Greg Robinson titled “By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans” that makes clear that 9066 was not only decades in the making but an Executive Order that FDR would have rejoiced in signing since his racist views on the Japanese dated back to his earlier years serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy between 1913 and 1919.

    • ‘Yemen Can’t Wait’: Ahead of War Powers Vote, Urgent Push for Senate to End US Complicity in Saudi Atrocities

      With a vote on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) resolution to end U.S. complicity in the Saudi-led assault on Yemen expected as early as Wednesday, grassroots anti-war organizations are ramping up pressure on Democratic senators who sided with the Republican majority in voting down the same measure earlier this year and demanding that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) act on his words by co-sponsoring the resolution.

      “The Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, with U.S. support, has killed thousands of civilians. Over 85,000 children have died of starvation. Enough is enough,” Sanders, who introduced the bill alongside Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), declared on Tuesday. “The Senate must vote to end U.S. support for this war.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • If You Hate Traffic, Curb Your Love for Online Shopping

      But if you hate traffic as much as you love online shopping, freeze that finger. Research completed in the past decade suggests the boom in ecommerce plays an outsize role in worsening urban congestion and pollution. McKinsey estimates trucks alone will be responsible for $34 billion a year in American urban congestion costs by 2020, up 20 percent since 2014.

    • Emmanuel Macron’s Fuel Problem

      Governments and ruling regimes tend to face revolution in the face of harsh hikes in prices. Margaret Thatcher’s rule in Britain was rocked by the poll tax. In France, the once enthusiastically embraced Emmanuel Macron has decided to leave the ground rich with challenges against his administration. The Yellow Vests, the gilet jaunes, have decided to take up the chance protesting with such intensity it has led to death and serious injury.

      The pretext was an old one. An increase in carbon taxes was imposed in 2017 as part of a push to support renewables. “Support for renewable energy,” announced the environment ministry, “will be increasingly financed by a tax on fossil fuel consumption.” In 2018, the amount rose from 30.5 euros to 44.6 euros per ton, rising to 55 next year. Diesel and petrol have been affected, a matter than proves less of a problem for those in city environs, serviced by public transport, than rural areas, where the car remains essential. “Macron has to understand,” camethe familiar sentiment from demonstrator Patrick Perez, “that Paris is not France.”

      Macron is now being accused of being icily out of touch, a self-conscious creature of arrogance who insists on the dignity of his office even as he attempts to dismantle the pride of others. But his current approval rating – with 25 percent, according to Ifop, is strikingly accurate, given the share of the vote he garnered in the first round of the 2017 presidential elections. A mere 24.01 percent favoured him, with Marine Le Pen of the National Front breathing down his neck with 21.3 percent, followed by the Republicans choice of François Fillon with 20.01 percent and the left wing Jean-Luc Melenchon with 19.58 percent.

    • David Schnare Forced to Disgorge Dark Money From ‘Free Market’ Piggy Bank

      Lawyer David Schnare has made a career of suing and harassing climate scientists, abusing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to demand masses of scientists’ emails and wasting people’s time.

      Much of this work has been executed via a dark money-funded 501(c)(3) “public charity” called the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (EELI), where he was General Counsel among other roles.

      Schnare’s work at EELI was often in conjunction with another shadowy group he founded, the Free Market Environmental Law Clinic (FMELC), which he co-founded in 2011 with long-time associate Chris Horner. These two groups dispute the scientific reality of climate change, and have made a business of targeting climate scientists with invasive and harassing lawsuits.

      FMELC recently imploded in spectacular fashion. Embroiled in multiple lawsuits and mired in infighting, the operation and legality of the “public charity” FMELC have been in heated dispute.

      Recently, Schnare was ordered to disgorge $630,000 from FMELC, whose bank account he is alleged to have used as his own personal bank.

    • Polish Coal Company Announced as First Sponsor of UN Climate Talks in Katowice

      One of Poland’s leading coal companies has become the first official sponsor of the UN climate talks, which start in the southern city of Katowice next week.

      Jastrzębska Spółka Węglowa (JSW), a majority state-owned corporation and one of the largest tar producers in the European Union, has announced the partnership with COP24 in a statement on its website.

      JSW said the partnership would guarantee “the company’s active participation in the event and the possibility of promoting pro-ecological changes in the mining sector”.

      It added that through the partnership, the company will organise panel discussions to showcase the company’s environmental activities and will offer “solutions” that will allow the coal sector to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and use resources such as land and by-products more effectively.

      Although some coal-friendly countries such as the US and Poland have been pushing the idea of “clean coal”, scientists from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have warned that the world needs to take “rapid and unprecedented measures” to move away from fossil fuels and halve its greenhouse gas emission in the next 12 years to avoid catastrophic climate change.

    • How a Climate Change-Fueled Drought & U.S.-Fed Violence Are Driving Thousands from Central America

      President Trump is urging Mexico to deport the thousands of Central American migrants who are at or approaching the U.S. border in an attempt to seek asylum, days after U.S. border authorities fired tear gas into a crowd of asylum seekers as some tried to push their way through the heavily militarized border near San Diego. Trump tweeted, “Mexico should move the flag waving Migrants, many of whom are stone cold criminals, back to their countries. Do it by plane, do it by bus, do it anyway you want, but they are NOT coming into the U.S.A. We will close the Border permanently if need be. Congress, fund the WALL!” This comes just days before Andrés Manuel López Obrador is sworn in as Mexico’s new president. López Obrador’s incoming government has denied it made any deal with the Trump administration to force asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while their U.S. asylum claims are processed. We speak with John Carlos Frey, Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter and PBS NewsHour special correspondent. He recently returned from reporting trips in Guatemala, Mexico City and Tijuana, where he was documenting the migrant caravan.

    • To Fight Climate Emergency, Democrats Told: ‘We Need Leaders With the Backbone to Stand Up to Big Polluters. Full Stop.’

      As Democrats hoping to sit at the helm of their party in the House in the next congressional term vie for support ahead of a January vote on the House floor, dozens of progressive groups released a letter Tuesday telling candidates that their leadership must include a firm stance against the fossil fuel industry, including a rejection of all donations from oil and gas companies.

      Forty-seven national organizations including 350.org, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace USA wrote that with the scientific community making it abundantly clear that carbon emissions must be immediately curbed in order to keep the planet from warming more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, Democrats must fully extricate themselves from fossil fuel interests.

    • Australian Kids Plan “Big School Walkout for Climate Action”

      The climate rebellion is growing. Over the weekend in London, over 2000 protesters, part of the new Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement, took part in demonstrations, including holding a memorial in the famous Parliament Square to “mark the loss of life our planet is experiencing”. As part of the ceremony, activists carried a coffin with “our future” written on it.

      In a statement, Extinction Rebellion, who have repeatedly criticised the UK Government for its inaction on climate change, said: “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 without urgent changes.”

      The group added: “There is no way forward without giving credence to our grief. We are serious, this is an emergency, this is our home we are watching collapse.”

      But the UK Government is not the only one under fire. Any regular reader of this blog will know we repeatedly criticise the Trump administration for its lack of urgency on climate change, including most recently here, in a blog entitled Black Friday; Black Planet.

      Just hours after this blog was written, the US Government released its US National Climate change assessment, a 1,656 page work by 300 scientists and 13 federal agencies, which is the most comprehensive study to date outlining the consequences of climate change to the US.

    • Rebuffing Prime Minister’s Order to Stay in Class, Australian Students Forge Ahead With #ClimateStrike Walkouts

      As the United Nations issued its latest report detailing the climate emergency facing humanity—finding that world governments must triple their efforts to reduce carbon emissions in order to stop the dangerous warming of the globe—schoolchildren in Australia demonstrated that young people are largely taking the lead in fighting the climate crisis while many of their elected officials debate scientific conclusions and argue in favor of protecting corporate polluters’ profits.

      Thousands of students in Australia applauded the Senate on Tuesday as it voted in favor of supporting a national “School Strike 4 Climate Action,” comprised of several walkouts across the country planned for this week.

  • Finance

    • Trump Suggests 10% Tariffs May Be Placed on iPhones, Laptops

      Apple Inc., which has lost a fifth of its value in a tech market rout since October, is poised for another setback after U.S. President Donald Trump suggested that 10 percent tariffs could be placed on mobile phones, like the iPhone, and laptops made in China.

    • Google Drops $1 Billion on Real Estate Near Its Headquarters

      Alphabet Inc.’s Google has closed a $1 billion deal for a 51.8-acre business park next to its Mountain View, California, headquarters. The purchase adds to a mammoth real estate expansion the company is in undertaking in both California and New York City.

    • Fixing Campaign Finance Needs to Be at the Center of Democracy Reform

      In the years following the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, fixing the way campaigns are funded was at the center of the discussion about reforming our democracy. But in recent years, as concerns about voter suppression and gerrymandering have rightly grown, accompanied by a cavalcade of ethical sleaze from the Trump administration, the issue has at times taken a backseat.

      In the wake of an election that highlighted the many shortcomings of our democracy across the board, from poor ballot design to the lack of up-to-date voting equipment, we may finally be getting serious about strengthening our system. And campaign finance reform needs to be prominent in the conversation.

      Voting problems in Georgia and Florida, the product of both intentional suppression and incompetence, again took most of the headlines for the 2018 midterms. But according to Open Secrets, this was also the most expensive midterm election in history. Senate and House candidates spent $2.1 billion. On top of that was $1.3 billion in outside spending, much of it on negative ads trashing candidates. When big money buys misleading political ads to sway voters, it doesn’t inspire faith in democracy.

    • One day a historian will assert that the outcome of Brexit was inevitable all along

      A day or so ago this blog set out that in the current fog of Brexit there were three visible paths: Deal, No Deal, or (even) No Brexit.

      That is still the case, and others – no doubt more sensible – can also see other paths, such as ones which head toward a further referendum or an extension of the Article 50 period.

      Today’s post is about what an odd situation this is, given we are now only a few months away from when the UK is set to leave the EU by automatic operation of law, unless (as I aways say) something exceptional happens.

      We have had the Article 50 notification, we have had negotiations, we have had “sufficient progress” and a joint report, and we now have a draft withdrawal agreement agreed in principle between the UK and EU, and which has been approved at a senior level at the EU. All which is now required is formal acceptance and ratification on both sides.

      This should be the most certain point in the Brexit story so far. All the formalities are in place for an orderly departure.

      And yet: Brexit has never been as uncertain as it seems today.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Jack Ma Confirmed as Chinese Communist Party Member

      Ma, co-founder and chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., is one of 100 people the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee will honor as part of a celebration marking 40 years since the country’s economic reform and opening up. The honorees also include Tencent Holdings Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Pony Ma, Baidu Inc. CEO Robin Li, basketball star Yao Ming and volleyball coach Lang Ping.

      The lines between business and politics have become increasingly hazy in China as President Xi Jinping has led a campaign to ensure the Communist Party plays a leading role across all aspects of society. That has at time created tensions when the interests of private business people and the state have conflicted.

    • The Trump penis Wikipedia war has kicked off again

      None of these attacks would work if the other precautions Wikipedia has pushed out had proved effective. Right now, Trump’s Wikipedia page is under “extended confirmed protection” which severely limits the number of people that can make edits. Only accounts that have been around for more than a month and that have chalked up over 500 edits can rewrite the President’s history, which sounds like a sensible precaution. You have to be really dedicated to Wikipedia winkles to jump through those hoops.

      But apparently the vandals have got around this, hacking dormant accounts of older editors, and even getting trusted editors to smuggle in ham candles unnoticed, Wikipedia admin TheSandDoctor told The Verge. Four accounts have apparently been blocked as a result of the latest dong edits.

    • Is it Time to Throw US History Textbooks Away?

      Wineburg, who studies the way history is taught in the United States, says that instead of protecting students from the [I]nternet, it’s time to teach them how to differentiate the good information from the bad.

      [...]

      Beyond teaching students how to evaluate and verify what they find online, Wineburg believes history classes should also give students a broad chronological knowledge of history and a fundamental understanding of the nation’s founding principles.

    • Democratic Party “Leadership” Is Upside Down

      When Democrats take control of the House in early January, they’ll have two kinds of leadership—one from the top of the party’s power pyramid, the other from its base. With formal control, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer can brandish huge carrots and sticks to keep Democratic lawmakers in line. With grassroots support, a growing number of those lawmakers can—and should—strategically step out of line to fight for progressive agendas.

      Pelosi and Hoyer have been running the Democratic machinery in the House of Representatives since 2003, and they’re experts at combining liberal rhetoric with corporate flackery. Pelosi is frequently an obstacle to advancing progressive proposals. Hoyer is significantly worse as he avidly serves such “constituents” as giant banks, Pentagon contractors and other Wall Street titans. The duo has often functioned as top-drawer power tools in the hands of powerful corporate-military interests.

      Pelosi is a longtime wizard at generating and funneling hundreds of millions of election-cycle dollars, and as speaker she’ll wield enormous power over committee assignments. But she must keep Democratic House members minimally satisfied—and along the way that should mean yielding more power to the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Buoyed by wins in the midterm elections, the caucus includes two-fifths of all Democrats in the House.

    • Noam Chomsky: How the US “Politically Vulgarizes” Genocide and War Crimes

      Noam Chomsky has revolutionized multiple fields of study, from psychology to linguistics to political science. With books such as Manufacturing Consent (with Edward S. Herman), The Fateful Triangle, Hegemony or Survival, and others, he has enlightened people all over the world. For these reasons and more, Chomsky is regarded as one of the most influential thinkers of our time.

      Shortly after the 2016 US elections, Truthout had the privilege of being able to sit down with Professor Chomsky in his office for a chat on an array of different topics, from ethnic conflicts to anarchism.

    • What Bernie needs to win the presidency

      It’s time to talk about the very real possibility of President Bernie Sanders.

      I know, I know: The midterm elections are just barely over. And the 2020 presidential election is more than 700 days away. But the sad reality of the U.S. electoral system is that positioning over the 2020 election has already begun. And it seems likely that Sanders will run again, despite his advanced age, and that he will be by far the favored candidate for the American left — by simple process of elimination if nothing else.

      Donald Trump is a weak, unpopular president whose party got wiped out in the midterms despite unemployment being at a 50-year low. Sanders consistently tops Trump’s approval numbers by 20 to 30 points. He could legitimately beat Trump in a general election, as could plenty of other would-be Democratic nominees.

    • The One Mistake Democrats Cannot Afford to Repeat

      When Democrats take control of the House in early January, they’ll have two kinds of leadership—one from the top of the party’s power pyramid, the other from its base. With formal control, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer can brandish huge carrots and sticks to keep Democratic lawmakers in line. With grassroots support, a growing number of those lawmakers can—and should—strategically step out of line to fight for progressive agendas.

      Pelosi and Hoyer have been running the Democratic machinery in the House of Representatives since 2003, and they’re experts at combining liberal rhetoric with corporate flackery. Pelosi is frequently an obstacle to advancing progressive proposals. Hoyer is significantly worse as he avidly serves such “constituents” as giant banks, Pentagon contractors and other Wall Street titans. The duo has often functioned as top-drawer power tools in the hands of powerful corporate-military interests.

      Pelosi is a longtime wizard at generating and funneling hundreds of millions of election-cycle dollars, and as speaker she’ll wield enormous power over committee assignments. But she must keep Democratic House members minimally satisfied—and along the way that should mean yielding more power to the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Buoyed by wins in the midterm elections, the caucus includes two-fifths of all Democrats in the House.

      That’s where the other kind of leadership comes in—if a hefty number of self-identified progressives in Congress go to the mat to vigorously represent progressive constituencies. For that to happen, a dubious aspect of the Progressive Caucus past must not repeat itself.

    • Trump’s fascist efforts to demolish democracy

      Fascist politics is once again on the rise in the United States, Europe and Latin America.

      As an echo from the past, its principles and attitudes are re-emerging in a populist rhetoric that embraces extreme forms of nationalism, the cult of the leader, systemic racism, a culture of fear, a hatred of dissent and an utter disdain for the truth.

      Driven by a hatred of “the other” and infused with narratives of decline and victimization, fascist politics trade in an incendiary rhetoric of fear, demonization and violence.

      It creates divisions by targeting groups it defines as criminal, less than human, and then expands its hate-mongering to other groups as part of an attempt to deepen and expand a culture of terror, insecurity and disposablilty.

      It attempts to build power through aggressive attacks on the media, critics and the judiciary.

    • Anti-Semitism Rises in Europe, as Memories of the Holocaust Decline: CNN Report

      The killing of eleven Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue on Oct. 27 was a chilling reminder for American Jews that anti-Semitism is not a relic of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations, but a real, even fatal aspect of American life that was merely hidden from view. The Anti-Defamation League reported a 57 percent increase in American anti-Semitic incidents in 2017, compared to 2016. And Pittsburgh wasn’t the only anti-Semitic incident the week of the Pittsburgh attack, as a bomb was hand-delivered to billionaire philanthropist George Soros (a frequent target of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories) that Monday. What’s more, as a new report from CNN reveals, anti-Semitism is also on the rise in Europe.

      CNN’s poll of 7,092 people from seven countries showed that almost a quarter of respondents believe that “Jews have too much influence in business and finance.” And “Nearly one in four said Jews have too much influence in conflict and wars across the world.”

      “One in five,” CNN continued, believe “[Jews] have too much influence in the media and the same number believe they have too much influence in politics.”

      At the same time that anti-Semitic beliefs have risen, awareness of the Holocaust has decreased. According to CNN, “A third of Europeans in the poll said they knew just a little or nothing at all about the Holocaust, the mass murder of some six million Jews in lands controlled by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime in the 1930s and 1940s.”

    • An American Horror Story

      Be besting herself, the incomparable Melania has for a second year aptly chosen a Dystopian Nightmare Theme for her Christmas decorations, engulfing the White House in gaudy blood-red fake trees which, an obliging public has variously speculated, represent The Handmaid’s Tale, The Shining, a car wash, a murder forest, a Tim Burton/ David Lynch movie gone terribly wrong, used tampons, Elmo pelts, hot Cheetos, furry KKK hats, the empty void where her soul should be, or the combined blood of her enemies, gun violence and sexual assault victims, disappeared asylum-seekers, starving murdered children in Yemen, trans victims of violence, and broken migrant kids in cages. Despite her “There Will Be Blood” hallway and the lurid excess surrounding it – 20,000 feet of lights, 14,000 ornaments, 12,000 bows, Be Best! balls and wreaths of sharpened Be Best! pencils – there is as yet no baby in a manger. Maybe, some ruminated, her husband’s regime has already tear-gassed them all?

      The display was revealed in a video and statement about the year’s theme of “American Treasures.” It includes a Gold Star Family Tree (they love the military unless it’s raining), celebrations of children (unless they’re brown), a model White House (“Look it’s my prison!”), trees that “sparkle in hues of blues and golds amongst the vermeil for all to see” and 29 trees boasting 14,000 red ornaments, “a symbol of valor and bravery.” Gushing it was all “beautiful,” her fans blessed “you and your wonderful husband (for) returning us to our Judeo-Christian roots” with their “Faith Bases decisions.” Many disagreed, focusing on the tacky gilded mall look, blood-red corridor, “War of the Worlds” mood and “Be Best tear gas grenades” as proof everything these people touch dies: “Flotus looks like an evil witch living alone in a castle because the good people realized that she is wicked & have abandoned her.” In the video, Melania floats from tawdry to garish mess in gloves and coat, like she just dropped in, celebrating “The People’s House.” Yes. Which means we can evict her. Till then, Merry Trashy Christmas!

    • ‘In Front of Your Nose’—A Sequel to Orwell in the Trump Era

      In 1946, George Orwell wrote a piece about the unfortunate human habit of failing or refusing to see what plainly lay before one’s face. Whether through conscious mendacity, or intellectual laziness, or the universal tendency to euphemism, or because facing the truth would be too personally unsettling, people espouse beliefs blatantly at odds with the evidence. Orwell titled his essay “In Front of Your Nose.”

      Several of the examples he cited there and in much of his postwar writing arose from the fact that what was obvious to any unbiased observer— that Britain’s global status had diminished and political decision-making must take that into account—was intolerable; therefore it had to be ignored, contradicted, or euphemized.

      Seven decades on, this attitude is still endemic to Britain: witness Monty Pythonesque upper-class twits like Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg (the UK appears to have an inexhaustible supply of these walking caricatures) breezily opining that Brexit will teach all those bloody foreigners on the wrong side of the Channel.

    • The President Isn’t Orange. He’s Yellow.

      But as we cascade toward the latter half of his first and, God hope it, only term, Donald Trump’s craven fearfulness is worth a reminder simply because of its vast continuing implications for our country and the world.

      Of course, there’s the surface narcissistic indifference and insensitivity to others, in particular his disregard for members of the military and veterans, despite his many tweeted proclamations of support and gratitude.

      This disrespect was made manifest in early November during the 100th anniversary celebrations of the armistice that ended World War I. His well-known fear of wet head kept him indoors, a no show both on one of the days he was in France and later at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. Panic at the prospect of a bad hair day apparently took precedence over Veterans’ Day.

    • ‘This Is Sketchy’: Critics Warn Against Blind Acceptance of Explosive Guardian Report About Secret Manafort-Assange Meetings

      After the Guardian sent the punditry into a frenzy on Tuesday by publishing a bombshell report alleging that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly met with WikiLeaks founder and editor Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London during the 2016 presidential race, journalists and critics were quick to warn against blindly accepting the claims made in the piece due to the story’s scant material evidence, anonymous sources, and explosive political implications.

      As independent national security journalist Marcy Wheeler wrote on Twitter, “skepticism” about the Guardian’s reporting—which was quickly picked up by corporate outlets—”couldn’t be more broad-based” as it brought together journalists and legal experts from an array of political persuasions and opposing views.

    • Voter Suppression Has Gone Digital

      This month’s elections were fought online to an unprecedented degree, with an estimated $900 million in digital ad spending — more than two and a half times the 2014 midterms. Not all of this spending was intended to persuade voters to favor one side or the other, however. Some online activity tried to keep people from voting altogether. My research team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found hundreds of messages on Facebook and Twitter aimed at voter suppression — designed to discourage or prevent people from voting.

      Online voter suppression in 2018 showed similarities to Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. We found three categories of messages: deception about how or when to vote, calls to boycott the election, and attempts to threaten or intimidate potential voters.

      Voter suppression messages appeared online despite the platforms’ efforts to stop them. In October, Facebook broadened its election integrity policies to combat voter suppression and committed to taking down such content. Just a few days prior to Election Day, Reuters reported that Twitter also purged more than 10,000 automated accounts that discouraged voting. Clearly, the problem has not yet been solved.

    • Without New Leadership, the New House Majority Will Fail (Again)

      As the nascent House Democratic majority of the 116th United States Congress prepares for its role as Last Bulwark Against Trumpian Annihilation, the question of who should be the next speaker of the House has been looming large. Nancy Pelosi, who has served in Congress for 31 years and held the post from 2006 until the 63-seat wipeout in 2010, has been the clear front-runner since the election.

      Pelosi throws more weight than any other House Democrat. She is a fundraising powerhouse who has been in the building longer than the water fountain in the Rotunda. Her political skills are legendary; thanks to her leadership, not one single House Democrat voted in favor of the Trump tax cuts or the Affordable Care Act replacement bills. In a nation where large swaths of the electorate have been gulled into believing “tax cuts” are magic words and “Obamacare” is an epithet, wrangling all those “no” votes was the best trick anyone has seen since “Lazarus, come forth.”

      Pelosi’s run for the speakership is supported by new progressive superstars like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose leadership on the matter has staved off a left-bent insurrection from new members seeking to shake things up. The only real resistance to Pelosi’s nomination from congressional Democrats has come from conservative members of the party, 16 of whom signed a seemingly doomed letter of opposition.

    • The Koch Brothers’ Freedom Partners Group Spends $115.2 Million in 2017

      The billionaire Koch brothers’ primary fundraising vehicle called the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, raised $127.3 million and spent over $115 million in 2017 according to an IRS 990 disclosure obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy. The amount raised is down $20 million from 2016.

      Freedom Partners, officially organized as a 501 (c)(6) trade association for the purpose of “promoting economic freedom,” funnels money from the Koch Network of billionaire donors to a growing number of political advocacy organizations controlled by Koch operatives.

      These operatives make a good living. Freedom Partners reports $18.7 million in compensation, salaries and wages presumably for the groups in the network, a whopping 15 percent of the total raised.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • German Hate Speech Legislation Receives Mixed Review At German Internet Governance Forum

      Germany’s controversial hate speech legislation is working well, a representative of the German Ministry of Justice said during a panel on 27 November at the German national Internet Governance Forum in Berlin.

      Big social media providers have adapted the reporting mechanisms and hired considerable staff to deal with the complaints. Former Minister of Consumer Protection Food and Agriculture and Green Party Member Renate Kuenast, herself a victim of hate speech, promoted advancing the legislation to include games and said she favours a bigger package.

      “Games were part of the original draft and should not have been taken out,” she argued, pointing to illegal speech in the chats running alongside the games.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Israeli Exploit Developer Caught Negotiating Spyware Sales With Saudi Government

      More ugly news has surfaced about Israeli malware developer NSO Group. Over the past year, investigations have uncovered sales of phone-targeting spyware to countries known mostly for their human rights violations. Even less questionable governments have purchased NSO’s software ostensibly for law enforcement purposes only to use it to target activists, journalists, and government critics.

      There’s no telling how US agencies will deploy this malware, but there’s no question federal entities like the DEA think NSO spyware would be a useful addition to their investigative tool kits. The US government doesn’t appear to be worried about getting in bed with tech companies willing to sell software to blacklisted countries, so NSO Group is still a viable option.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • ‘This Is a War’: Prisons Want Cell Phone Jammers to Stop Inmates from Communicating With the Outside World

      Prisons want jamming technology to stop criminal activity, but critics warn there would be dire consequences if jamming was allowed to propagate.

    • The shifting power at the heart of the UK’s ‘spy’ row
    • School Security Software Decides Innocent Parent Is Actually A Registered Sex Offender

      Raptor says its system is reliable, stating it only returned one false positive in that county last year. (And now the number has doubled!) That’s heartening, but that number will only increase as system deployment expands. Raptor’s self-assessment may be accurate, but statements about the certainty of its search results are hardly useful.

      The company’s sales pitch likely includes its low false positive rate, which, in turn, leads school personnel to believe the system rather than the person standing in front of them — one who bears no resemblance (physical or otherwise) to the registry search results. Mitchell still isn’t allowed into the building without a security escort and is hoping that presenting school admins with his spotless criminal background check will finally jostle their apparently unshakeable belief in Raptor’s search results.

      This failure is also an indictment of the security-over-sanity thinking. The Sentinel asked government officials if there were any incidents in which sex offenders had gained access to schools, thus necessitating this $100,000+ investment in Raptor’s security system. No results were returned.

    • Tear Gas at the Border: Trump and the Endgame of Capitalism

      Toddlers scrambled alongside their parents on Sunday to escape sprawling clouds of tear gas. A mother attempting to scale a border fence fell and was impaled by a piece of rebar in front of her children. Thousands of desperate people, fleeing nightmares of brutality the US helped to cultivate, are met with a wall of militarism.

      As many have stated, this is not new. The United States has committed unspeakable acts against women and children within its own borders, and far beyond, just as European countries have, in many instances, horribly abused migrants amid their own refugee crisis. And yet, here we are, living in our own unique moment of horror that must be reckoned with in its own right, regardless of what’s come and gone before.

      Because this is the way the world ends, under neoliberalism or fascism. The reigning politics that preceded Trump’s xenophobic white nationalism — free market worship, paired with window-dressing reforms — and the catastrophes unfolding before us today offer different stories with the same conclusion.

    • A Defendant Shows Up in Immigration Court by Himself. He’s 6.

      It was shortly before Thanksgiving in an immigration court in San Antonio, and the third defendant to come before Judge Anibal Martinez walked into the courtroom without an attorney, wearing a gray winter hat that was stitched with a pair of blue googly eyes and a floppy red yarn mohawk.

      When the bailiff asked his name, he piped up proudly: Wilder Hilario Maldonado Cabrera.

      “How old is Wilder?” the immigration judge asked.

      An attorney, who was there with other clients, came forward and volunteered to stand in for Wilder. She turned to the boy and in Spanish asked his age.

      “Seis años,” he said, 6, his legs dangling from a chair at the defendant’s table.

      Wilder, a smiley, pudgy Salvadoran boy, missing his two front teeth, was the youngest defendant on the juvenile docket that day. But that wasn’t all that made him special. He was one of the last children left in government custody who had been affected by the administration’s widely criticized zero-tolerance policy, and who were still awaiting reunification with parents detained in the United States.

      The policy, which was announced with great fanfare in April and was scuttled two months later in the face of bipartisan opposition, required immigration authorities to file criminal charges against anyone caught crossing the border illegally and separate them from the children they brought with them.

    • Risk Of Death From ‘Extremely Poor’ Illinois Prison Medical Care Has Worsened

      Medical care in Illinois prisons remains “extremely poor” and conditions leading to preventable deaths have worsened since a court-appointed team of experts first assessed the state’s prison health program.

      Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and the Uptown People’s Law Center challenged the systemic problems with health care in state facilities in 2013.

      The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ordered an expert to evaluate the services, and that report was released in 2015.

      Following the report, the court certified the complaint as a class action lawsuit, allowing the attorneys to represent the interests of all prisoners failed or harmed by negligence in the Illinois Department of Corrections’ (IDOC) health program.

      The federal court requested a second report by a medical investigation team. That report was released on November 14, and it concluded examples of “preventable morbidity and mortality” seemed worse than what was initially uncovered by the first evaluation.

      “The vendor, Wexford, fails to hire properly credentialed and privileged physicians,” the report states. “This appears to be a major factor in preventable morbidity and mortality and significantly increases risk of harm to patients within the IDOC. This results from ineffective governance.”

    • Congress Urged to Freeze Border Patrol Funding Until Trump Ends “Illegal” Treatment of Asylum Seekers at US-Mexico Border

      The human rights group Amnesty International is calling on Congress to freeze funding of the U.S. Border Patrol until the Trump administration ends its illegal treatment of refugees attempting to apply for asylum status at the U.S.-Mexico border.

      The demand comes as U.S. President Donald Trump denied that his Border Patrol used tear gas against asylum-seeking children in Mexico despite an abundance of photo and video evidence showing they did precisely that. Late Monday, Mexico’s foreign ministry formally called on the U.S. conduct an “exhaustive investigation” into the federal agents’ behavior as they enforced the White House’s anti-immigrant border policy.

    • Families Are Still Being Separated at the Border, Months After “Zero Tolerance” Was Reversed

      The Trump administration has quietly resumed separating immigrant families at the border, in some cases using vague or unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing or minor violations against the parents, including charges of illegally re-entering the country, as justification.

      Over the last three months, lawyers at Catholic Charities, which provides legal services to immigrant children in government custody in New York, have discovered at least 16 new separation cases. They say they have come across such instances by chance and via their own sleuthing after children were put into temporary foster care and shelters with little or no indication that they arrived at the border with their parents.

      ProPublica stumbled upon one more case late last month after receiving a call from a distraught Salvadoran father who had been detained in South Texas, and whose 4-year-old son, Brayan, had literally been yanked from his grasp by a Customs and Border Protection agent after they crossed the border and asked for asylum. Julio, the father, asked to be identified only by his first name because he was fleeing gang violence and worried about the safety of relatives back home.

      “I failed him,” said Julio, 27, sobbing uncontrollably. “Everything I had done to be a good father was destroyed in an instant.”

    • Mississippi Memories: “You’re Not Black Are You?”

      In Gulfport, Mississippi, 1998, you could depend on the gracious hospitality from whites and blacks alike, a haircut for just $3 — and perodic proof of an uncanny racism.

      It’s hard to relate how bigotry on the Mississippi Gulf Coast was any different from racial indifference you might experience in say, Philadelphia or New York City.

      But during my two and half years living on the coast, covering a burgeoning casino industry for the local daily newspaper, driving a cab and fronting the Rockin’ Daddy Blues Band, I experienced that unmistakable undercurrent of engrained bigotry.

      Listening to the supremacist rhetoric from Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Mississippi) who rallied in Biloxi/Gulfport Monday for today’s Mississippi Senate runoff with Democratic challenger Mike Espy, reminded me of such things.

      As an east coast white, yankee boy lover and player of the blues, I was pretty much naive about the south’s present day racial tensions. Hadn’t the Civil Rights Act of 1964 gone a long way towards repairing the divide?

      My first night at the newspaper in Biloxi, making calls to find a place to stay, my future landlady asked me over the phone, point blank: “You’re not black are you?”

      I remember being taken aback. Up north they wouldn’t put it so bluntly, and yet so smoothly.

    • Elkhart, Indiana, Police Chief Suspended for 30 Days Following Release of Beating Video

      For the last two weeks, the police chief in Elkhart, Indiana, has been a no-show at various forums where he might have been expected to appear, from civilian oversight board hearings to town hall meetings focusing on the city’s Police Department.

      On Tuesday, Mayor Tim Neese confirmed what others had been left to wonder: He had suspended the police chief, Ed Windbigler, placing him on a 30-day unpaid leave. The suspension started Nov. 14, but Neese had made no public announcement. A South Bend Tribune reporter had left repeated messages at City Hall on Monday, asking about the police chief’s status.

      [...]

      At a Nov. 14 town hall meeting, Neese said he disciplined Windbigler for his handling of the officers who punched the handcuffed man. But he did not elaborate or specify what the discipline was.

      Jim Rieckhoff, chair of Elkhart’s Police Merit Commission, was unaware as recently as Monday that Windbigler had been suspended. Rieckhoff told a reporter that he did wonder about the absence of the chief at a meeting on Monday, at which the chief’s top assistant appeared in Windbigler’s stead.

      Neese has said in “hindsight” that Windbigler should have issued more severe discipline than reprimands to officers Cory Newland and Joshua Titus, who were videotaped punching the handcuffed man Jan. 12 in the police station’s detention area. The mayor’s son, Sgt. Drew Neese, was in the room while the officers punched the man. He walked over and spoke into his radio as the beating ended. Newland, Titus and Drew Neese have not responded to requests for comment.

    • Matthew Hedges: British academic pardoned by UAE – BBC News

      A British academic who was jailed for spying in the United Arab Emirates has been freed after a pardon.

    • Universities must learn from the Matthew Hedges case

      The case of Matthew Hedges should prompt all universities to reflect on the role of ethics committees, and PhD supervisors, in the process leading to approval of potentially dangerous overseas PhD research (UAE frees British academic but insists Hedges was a spy, 27 November). As a recent member of a University of York ethics committee which dealt with political research, I frequently encountered such applications from PhD candidates. These requests were often accompanied by reassurances to the effect that – like Matthew Hedges, who spent his childhood in UAE, where his father still lives – the researcher had roots, or close connections, in the country concerned, and that these would be sufficient to protect her/him from dangers which could otherwise affect less well-connected people.

    • Mississippi GOP Sen. Hyde-Smith Wins Racially Charged Runoff

      Republican U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith won a divisive Mississippi runoff Tuesday, surviving a video-recorded remark decried as racist and defeating a former federal official who hoped to become the state’s first African-American senator since Reconstruction.

      The runoff was rocked by the video, in which Hyde-Smith said of a supporter, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” A separate video showed her talking about “liberal folks” and making it “just a little more difficult” for them to vote.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Consumer Groups Say FCC Weakening Oversight Of Cell Carriers Under Pretense Of Battling Text Message Spam

      Consumer groups say that the Ajit Pai FCC is once again being misleading as he continues his ongoing quest to eliminate most meaningful oversight of cell carriers and broadband providers.

      Last week, the FCC announced several major initiatives the agency claimed were intended to help fight text message spam. One of them involves the creation of a reassigned number database, which would help marketers market more efficiently by ensuring that a target of marketing calls and text messages are receiving the messages they either opted in to, or opted out of. But another effort, only vaguely hinted at in the announcement, would further weaken the FCC’s consumer protection authority over wireless cell providers, already greatly eroded after the assault on net neutrality.

      So some background: a little more than a decade ago, Verizon decided to ban a pro-choice group named NARAL Pro-Choice America from sending text messages to Verizon Wireless customers that had opted in to receiving them. Verizon justified the ban by declaring the text messages “controversial or unsavory”; a curious move for an industry that often cuddles up to marketing spammers and crammers when it’s profitable. Ever since then consumer groups, worried that cellular carriers would use their power as gatekeepers to stifle certain voices, have been urging the FCC to declare text messages a “telecommunications service,” making it illegal for carriers to ban such select SMS services.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Comparative study on the stay of patent proceedings in Europe

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

    • Trademarks

      • Lawyers For Kobe Bryant Tout His Uselessness In Potential Trademark Opposition Fight

        Kobe Bryant made his name, and his Black Mamba nickname, playing basketball. Like many athletes, however, he expanded his business reach off the court and into branding. Utilizing the Black Mamba nickname, he entered into all sorts of licensing arrangements, including with Nike, which makes athletic apparel. As far as I can tell, he has no licensing arrangements for health supplements.

        And, yet, he has been embroiled in a years-long fight with Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals, makers of the Black Mamba HYPERRUSH line of diet pills. Aside from the divergent marketplaces, the entire dispute is something of a mess. Hi-Tech applied for its trademark a year before Bryant applied for his own Black Mamba mark, after which Bryant opposed Hi-Tech’s application on grounds of customer confusion. Hi-Tech has been battling this out, claiming that Bryant has information that would be helpful to its side of the argument. To that end, they want to depose Bryant, who has thus far refused to hand over documents. Now a motion to compel has been filed, but Bryant’s lawyers’ strategy for refusing to have him be deposed is essentially to highlight just how useless he would be in a deposition.

    • Copyrights

      • Civil Society Offers Range Of Advice To WIPO Negotiators On Broadcast Treaty

        Civil society doesn’t see things from behind a window, but takes the lead in international policy negotiations to discuss issues that affect everyday life. At this week’s World Intellectual Property Organization copyright committee meeting, some of the observers took the floor to let delegates know their opinion on the crucial matter of a treaty on broadcasting under negotiation.

        [...]

        The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions highlighted the need for exceptions and limitations to the signal as they are needed on the use of the transmitted work and also pointed out that libraries have an important role of preserving and giving access (on the premises, for research purposes) to broadcast material: “Broadcasting organisations do not necessarily preserve and archive all their content, and researchers that go there might be referred to a library. Some university libraries also make copies of broadcast content for it to illustrate teaching at the university. Without E&Ls, all this will not be possible.”

        The Society of American Archivists stated: “Regardless of whatever measures are put into place to provide the signal protection that broadcasters need, it is essential that they do not add any further layers on the copyright protection that already exists in the content or extend that protection for terms beyond the current business needs of broadcasters.”

        Health and Environment Program in Cameroon made the case that “Our members are very interested in the work of the SCCR. To get a verified information is for them at the base of a good education; it can also influence their health, for example information about obsolete drugs. Verified information is especially important concerning radio-diffused information. Another important topic is free access.”

      • 12 Best Free Music Websites To Download Songs Legally In 2018

        he internet offers a lot of things and among them is free music. You can find plenty of websites that offer free downloadable music; however, not all of them are legal. So if you are looking for songs that can be availed safely and free of cost, we have handpicked the best music websites for you.

      • Court Rules MusicMonster Stream-Ripping Service Illegal

        A music service that scans Internet radio streams for specific music tracks, records them, and makes them available for download in MP3 format, has lost its case in a German court. The case, brought by Sony Music against MusicMonster.fm, ended with a declaration that the service cannot rely on the private copying exception so is both unlicensed and illegal.

Clouding Abstract Software Patents Using Acronyms and Buzzwords

Posted in America, Europe, Patents at 12:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: The practice of obscuring software patents using fashionable trends from the media carries on in Europe and the United States; the main question is, will judges and examiners see past this fog?

THE European Patent Office (EPO) and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) have got some overlap in the fashion in which they bypass the EPC and the SCOTUS Alice decision or 35 U.S.C. § 101, respectively. The common denominator is marketing, buzzwords, and hype.

Recently we have been writing a great deal about how the EPO grants software patents in Europe in spite of the rules. Not only do courts say “no” to such patents; they’re in violation of the EPC and management of the EPO should thus be reprimanded.

“The common denominator is marketing, buzzwords, and hype.”A new EPO tweet said: “Today is the last day you can register for our Patenting #Blockchain event in The Hague.”

Those are just algorithms. Over in the US, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) keeps demolishing such patents, sometimes when they’re still mere applications. Exceptions to the rule are rare and Janal Kalis keeps looking for them; he has just found this one: “The PTAB Reversed an Examiner’s 101 Rejection of Claims for Video Content Networks: https://e-foia.uspto.gov/Foia/RetrievePdf?system=BPAI&flNm=fd2017007967-10-31-2018-1 …”

“Over in the US, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) keeps demolishing such patents, sometimes when they’re still mere applications.”Also this one: “The PTAB Partially Reversed a 101 Rejection of Claims in a GE Patent Application for Monitoring Turbine Clearance: https://e-foia.uspto.gov/Foia/RetrievePdf?system=BPAI&flNm=fd2018002958-10-31-2018-1 …”

One can assume that in all other cases PTAB rejected a decision to grant or affirmed a rejection after an examiner had decided on the matter. Kalis, being a vocal patent maximalist, is looking for exceptions like the above.

How about the following tweet? “Not Surprisingly,” it said, “there are more and more #patents filed around #AI. The numbers are even larger than those in this Wired article: Companies Rush to Patent AI Tech https://www.wired.com/story/despite-pledging-openness-companies-rush-to-patent-ai-tech/ …”

That’s just because more people now label their stuff, especially in the context of patents — in order to bypass Section 101 — “AI”. It’s the same for “smart”, “cloud” and other fluff du jour

“…more people now label their stuff, especially in the context of patents — in order to bypass Section 101 — “AI”.”And speaking of “AI”, here is what the EPO has just advertised. It’s an event that promotes illicit software patents (just calling them “AI”) and it says: “Panellists at the EPO’s Patenting #ArtificialIntelligence conference identified three types of AI patenting. More on what they said here: http://bit.ly/AIpatents pic.twitter.com/1HbniC3Td1″

On the “AI” hype Benjamin Henrion (FFII) wrote: “That means they can pay for lobbyists and lawyers to push lawmakers or courts to support their favored approach – which seems to be making all kinds of AI techniques broadly patentable.”

It should be noted that patents on software are generally rejected almost worldwide; such patents are de facto dead everywhere but China, where even courts would likely accept these. Chinese patent law is different. As PCK Perry + Currier Inc Currier + Kao LLP put it earlier this week, in Canada a new “case serves as a reminder for patentees that abstract ideas are not patentable.” Just like in the US down south…

“It should be noted that patents on software are generally rejected almost worldwide; such patents are de facto dead everywhere but China, where even courts would likely accept these.”Michael Borella, also writing earlier this week, was promoting patents on software again. “For the majority of the existence of computers,” he wrote, “programmers wrote functions that were designed to take some input and produce a desired output. Machine learning inverts this paradigm.”

This is not true. They train classifiers, don’t write code. There’s code, written by humans, that uses data to make decisions. When people with no clue or experience in programming (let alone particular disciplines or areas of software development) write about software patents it’s bound to get embarrassing, misleading, i.e. pure propaganda. Such patents are abstract and are thus to be invalidated by courts, no matter what you call them (ML boils down to statistics/mathematics).

“Well, “ICT” is another one of those buzzwords that typically allude to software.”Of course we could go on and on with other new acronyms and buzzwords; the EPO recently made up or brought up “SDV”. Yes, then there are all those abstract patents or bogus software patents "on a car". The EPO wrote: “At the EPO, about half of the top 25 patent applicants for self-driving vehicle innovation operate in ICT, and the other half in transportation or related industries.”

Well, “ICT” is another one of those buzzwords that typically allude to software.

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