António Campinos is Working for Patent Trolls at the Expense of Science and Technology

Posted in Europe, Patents at 12:04 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

António Campinos FTI

Summary: By continuing to lower the quality of patents and pretending the challenge is to remove the causes of criticism (i.e. axe the critics) Mr. Campinos reaffirms that he’s another Battistelli if not something even worse (a better-marketed Battistelli)

AS WE NOTED two posts ago, EPO President António Campinos is a major booster of software patents in Europe (more so than Battistelli and far more so than Brimelow). What is going on? Has the EPC been burned to ashes at the top floor of the EPO’s building in Munich? Is the management drunk at the pub? No, they’re just drunk on power and knowing they’re immune from prosecution they go “all the way” (giving themselves bonuses while diminishing the value of every European Patent ever granted!).

Is Europe about to become a patent trolls’ favourite destination? Where low-quality patents can be used for extortion and blackmail? Against actual innovators? The EPO told examiners that patents were just fluffy cuddly things that “promote innovation”. But if examination cannot be done properly, innovation in Europe will only be harmed, not promoted. It’s innovation — not litigation — that examiners want, right? Unlike law firms…

“According to RPX Corp.,” said this new tweet, “half of the patent suits filed yesterday were filed by patent trolls.”

This is pretty typical. Some days as many as 90% of new lawsuits are filed by patent trolls. They typically use software patents (this is no secret) for all sorts of logistical reasons we’ve covered here for many years.

Imagine how bad things may become for European firms if the EPO continues along the same trajectory. I personally worry but also collectively, both as a programmer and writer who published over 10,000 articles/blog posts about patents.

A day ago the EPO wrote: “Nearly 18 000 patent applications relating to self-driving vehicle technologies have been filed with the EPO in the last decade, almost 4 000 of them in 2017 alone. More interesting findings on patents and self-driving vehicles here: http://bit.ly/SDVstudy #SelfDriving pic.twitter.com/C2mzKuiyCh”

I developed some software in the above area and it's crystal clear to me that they speak of software patents for the most part because the "self-driving" part just means computer vision, i.e. algorithms.

Worryingly enough, the EPO is willing to throw science away; today’s EPO serves neither science nor technology, just big litigation firms. Appalling change in policy. Here it is liaising with CIPA (a Team UPC nest). It retweeted this tweet yesterday: “We are teaming up with @EPOorg to deliver an online services workshop, making online filing easier to understand. 🖥️🖱️ Join us on 13 or 14 Dec at @TheCIPA in #London.”

“I developed some software in the above area and it’s crystal clear to me that they speak of software patents for the most part because the “self-driving” part just means computer vision, i.e. algorithms.”I responded with the simple analogy that when you’re a patent office it is like liaising with oil giants when you’re the EPA (in the US). It’s not appropriate. CIPA, by the way, is lying as usual and it is using terms like “AI” to promote software patents in Europe. This is from yesterday: “At the outset of the Conference, the Chairman, International Liaison Committee introduced the speakers, who were expert in various field of IP Laws. He further enlightened the delegates with highlighting that Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) is agroup of over 2400 Chartered Patent Attorneys in UK qualified to act before European Patent Office (EPO).”

Yes, EPO. And on they move to “AI” by saying: “Various other attorneys shared their experiences on Patent searching, novelty, inventive step to the objections faced during prosecution in comparison with EPO and US practices etc. Among other, the session regarding Artificial Intelligence (AI) by Mr. Saiful Khan was an eye opener about the present scenarios about upcoming automation world. He highlighted AI patents and the role that AI would play in day to day life. The use of AI would omnipresent in everything from home automation to transportation, communication, healthcare, education industries etc. He pointed on the need of developing an IP law that should focus on AI around the Globe. The UK Attorney’s covered almost all areas of technology from pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology, biopharma, biology, electrical, electronics, software, communication etc in Patents. Various case laws were discussed that made a mark in the history of UK Laws and IP practices.”

Is CIPA telling the Office what to do? Who does the Office serve or work for?

“Is CIPA telling the Office what to do? Who does the Office serve or work for?”Patrick Wingrove, a Managing IP writer (the site is cheerleading for UPC and patent trolls, which this site’s authors view as the Good Guys™), has just been speaking to lawyers when he framed a trolls’ case outcome (victory) as “helps telecoms and automotive companies” (incredible spin!) and we suppose the target audience includes politicians like Battistelli and Campinos. As we noted some days ago, patent trolls are being made principal speakers at EPO events (even the most notorious trolls, such as Mr. Spangenberg!).

Well, with friends like these one can tell that the EPO lost its mind completely; Erich Spangenberg sent me death wishes and now he is engaging in promotion of software patents under the guise at “AI” (at this think tank of patent lawyers).

Managing IP, covering a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office-centric event, has just said this:

Impact of artificial intelligence on IP strategy

The talk after lunch was about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on IP strategy.

Steve Harris, CTO at Aistemos, talked about how AI can help in the IP world. He said: “AI is particularly suited to making very complex but not strategic decisions.” As a result, it can provide answers about, for example, what patents relate to.

Erich Spangenberg CEO of IPwe, said that AI tools can reveal who owns a patent, regardless of the name of the subsidiary on the cover of the patent. He stated that prices will fall and everyone will be using this technology in the next few years. He added that this will “massively increase productivity” and informed the audience that the result will be that “people other than IP experts will begin asking about metrics”. He later observed that AI will lead to transparency as there will be “so much information sitting on the cover of a patent”.

The EPO has just advertised this similar event (to the one with Spangenberg in it), painting everything with the “blockchain” brush: “EPO experts will attend the @IPRHelpdesk event on blockchain and IP. We look forward to seeing you all there: https://bit.ly/2SelloP”

Meanwhile (also this week) the software patents boosters from Marks & Clerk published “Artificial Intelligence: Is your business ready?”

“”AI-related inventions” in this context is just a nonsensical term for software patent that are banned by the EPO’s founding document, the EPC. Does anyone at the EPO still have a hard copy of it?”So these Team UPC boosters who profit from patent trolls and predation help spin software patents as “AI”. How predictable. The EPO joined in yesterday with this tweet: “Our recent conference on patenting #artificialintelligence came up with some bold suggestions for drafting patent applications for AI-related inventions. To find out what they were, click here: http://bit.ly/AIpatents”

“AI-related inventions” in this context is just a nonsensical term for software patent that are banned by the EPO’s founding document, the EPC. Does anyone at the EPO still have a hard copy of it?

Even Sites That Served UPC Propaganda for Years (for These Sites’ Owners) Have Come to Admit That the UPC Might Already be Dead

Posted in Europe, Patents at 10:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The tone has changed a lot and few remain openly enthusiastic about the UPC’s prospects, e.g. a patent trolls' attorney (Tilman Müller-Stoy) and Kevin Mooney

Tilman Müller-Stoy
Image source

Summary: The Unified Patent Court Agreement (“UPCA”) is dead; the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) won’t be ruling on the matter any time soon, leaving it to die on the altar; most of Team UPC, which spent nearly a decade on this horrible legislative coup, is just mortified, shell-shocked and silent

DO NOT expect to hear much about the UPC; we track the subject very closely (with triggers and alerts) and it is quickly grinding to a complete halt/stop. Bristows’ UPC blog, for instance, published only one post in about 3 months and other UPC blogs are completely dead.

IAM’s Adam Houldsworth has just talked about UPC — yet again — in relation to the US (IAM was paid by the EPO‘s PR firm to promote UPC in the US, showing utter lack of ethics and morality, having already intervened in USPTO affairs). Other than that? Almost nothing. Nothing. It’s dead.

Battistelli’s abusive if not seriously illegal behaviour against EPO judges is one of the factors that killed the UPC. As one EPO-centric blog put it yesterday:

The disciplinary case against Elisabeth Hardon should not let us forget that the disciplinary case which keeps the Federal constitutional court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) busy at present is about a DG3 member. Are there any news about him? Not really. He is still officially supposed to work at the Hague in a room without a phone number.

Even more puzzling: there were several DG3 members reappointed in the last Council session and new posts were created as well, yet he is still not reintegrated. Märpel thinks he is probably the only DG3 member which did not see his contract renewed.

The Federal constitutional court shall therefore have little choice but notice that DG3 members can be removed at will and therefore are not independent. This will have consequences for the implementation of the UPC, obviously.


In simple words: President Campinos seeks to increase its power even beyond what “sun-king” President Battistelli had.

A few days ago the pro-Unified Patent Court blog of Kluwer took note of the CJEU Teva-Gilead case, dubbing it “a word of warning for UPC seafarers”. From the relevant part: “Certainly, the move in judgment of 25 July 2018 will disappoint those who pushed for the removal of substantive patent law from the text of Regulation 1257/2012 implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the creation of unitary patent protection, hoping that this trick would prevent the CJEU from interpreting substantive patent law. From this perspective, the recent Teva v. Gilead decision may be interpreted as a word of warning for Unified Patent Court (“UPC”) seafarers.”

As readers may recall, the Federal Constitutional Court signaled that it may take a very long time to issue a decision. UPCA ratification is extremely unlikely in Germany and the German attorney Thorsten Bausch wrote about it one day after the above, soon to be mentioned by Team UPC, which seems to agree: “Excellent summary on status of UPC vs German constitutional complaint and Brexit as well as on various hypotheticals spread by interested parties.”

Citing a patent trolls’ attorney (Tilman) as ‘proof’ or ‘support’ for the UPC, Bausch wrote:

The prophets forecasting an early decision by the Bundesverfassungsgericht in view of the urgency of the matter for Europe – or perhaps rather for their own pockets, have so far consistently been proven wrong. Dr. Stjerna’s constitutional complaint was filed on 31 March 2017 and has definitely not been decided “by Christmas”, as some predicted (in 2017). It was put on the (wish)list of court cases to be decided in 2018. But this does not mean much, as many cases on this list have been there for years. So much for the facts.

What do the complainant and interested third parties suspect?

Dr. Stjerna himself made abundantly clear that he has no idea when the BVerfG will decide on his case. He complained about this on his website by pointing to the fact that the court does not provide any information about the proceedings and their expected course even to the complainant, who is currently the only party to the proceedings. BTW, he can only know this, if he is the complainant himself, which he has never explicitly conceded, but also never denied.

The German Government also does not know when (and how) the case will be decided, as Dr. Pakuscher from the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection recently confirmed during a seminar in Munich.


Be that as it may, most observers seem to think that a pre-requisite for the UK to join or stay in the UPCA is a successful closure of the withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU. Otherwise, there would be no transition period and the UK would automatically drop out of the EU by virtue of Art. 50 TEU on 29/3/2019, i.e. before the UPCA will enter into force. As the Unified Patent Court shall be a court common to the Contracting Member States (Art. 1 UPCA), the “Contracting Member States” are “Member States” party to the UPCA (Art. 2 c UPCA) and “Member States” are defined as member states of the European Union (Art. 2 d UPCA), the UK’s participation is difficult to argue if the UK ceases to be a “Member State” before the UPCA is even enacted.

How realistic is the successful closure of a withdrawal agreement? Hmm… let us return to this question after the debate in the House of Commons in early December and assume, just for the moment, the best possible scenario from a UPCA point of view, i.e. that a Withdrawal Agreement will be closed by 29 March 2019 and that the German Constitutional complaint will be dismissed in December (aka “the Tilmann/Mooney scenario”).

This scenario will then pose the interesting question what Germany will (or should) do, i.e. proceed with the ratification at the risk that the UK may eventually not agree to the supremacy of Union Law and the CJEU as final arbiter, when push comes to shove, and/or that the EU and the UK will not manage to cut a “deal” on their further political and economic relationship at the end of the transition period. This could then mean an early end of the UK’s participation in the UPC Agreement and result in quite a bit of turmoil.

Mind that first comment:

Thorsten, thank you for sticking to the facts. It is much appreciated. There are, however, one or two points upon which it might be interesting to speculate.

The first point is a question of timing. That is, even if one assumes that Prof. Tilmann is well informed regarding how and when the BVerfG will decide the constitutional complaint (and putting aside the question of how he could have possibly come into the possession of the information upon which he based his statements), will Germany deposit its instrument of ratification for the UPCA before the Agreement governing the UK’s withdrawal from the EU has been ratified by all relevant Parliaments?

The second point is a question of legal mechanisms. That is, given that the UPCA does not contain any provision to (forcibly) expel Participating Member States, what could the EU (Participating) Member States do if the UK refused to withdraw from the UPCA even if (e.g. in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit, or after the transitional period provided by the Withdrawal Agreement) it was no longer bound by judgements of the CJEU?

It is also worth considering how these two points might interact with one another. For example, even if the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified, might it still be foolish for Germany to ratify the UPCA … on the grounds that there are no guarantees regarding the relationship with the UK (and the UK’s approach to judgements of the CJEU) after the end of the transitional period?

Frankly, from considering these points (and others), it appears to me that it would be reckless (to say the least!) for the UPC to be launched unless and until:
(1) the precise nature of the UK’s status after the end of the transitional period (if any) can be determined; and
(2) the CJEU has confirmed that, despite not having the status of an EU Member State, the UK can participate in the UPC without contravening EU law.

My experience is that many UPC enthusiasts are wilfully blind to the true nature of the legal risks for the UPC that are associated with the UK’s departure from the EU. In this regard, I can only hope that Germany will take a more realistic approach than such enthusiasts when it comes to assessing the chances (and the consequences) of the CJEU bringing down any UPC that is based upon the current legislation.

The remaining six (as of this moment) comments show Team UPC creeping in with some typical spin, citing the recent stacked debate with Kevin Mooney in it. Same old boring lies… (and yes, posted anonymously, as usual as of late)

Union Syndicale Fédérale Tells António Campinos to End ‘Political’ Cases Against EPO Staff Representatives

Posted in Europe, Patents at 9:51 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Recent: EPO Insider: Under António Campinos “the Union Busting Done by the Administration Continues Even Worse Than Before”

EUIPO outsourcing

Summary: Having failed to make a positive first impression, Campinos is now kindly asked to stop union-busting and silencing of staff representatives; “amnesty should be envisaged” for those who have been subjected to abuse, Union Syndicale Fédérale recommends

THE European Patent Office’s (EPO) promotion of software patents in Europe is a daily routine; we cannot even emphasise strongly enough that it got a lot worse under António Campinos (compared to Battistelli, under whom it hadn’t been done as much). As one EPO blog has just put it: “President Campinos seeks to increase its power even beyond what “sun-king” President Battistelli had.” (we will say more about this separately, in our next post and later we’ll focus on software patents in Europe as well).

SUEPO has just published German and English translations of a letter we mentioned earlier this week. It was in French, the mother’s tongue of Campinos (his mother is French and he was born/studied in France). SUEPO’s English translation [PDF] shows Bernd Loescher (Union Syndicale Fédérale) speaking about the rulings from the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organisation*. Here it is as HTML:


26 November 2018

To: Mr. Campinos

Mr. President,

The Union Syndicale Fédérale is perfectly aware of the serious difficulties created at the EPO in numerous spheres of activity by your predecessor. Matters relating to union members at the EPO have been widely presented in the media over the past six years. The recent rulings by the Tribunal of the International Labour Organization (proceedings of the 126th session) as well as the proceedings before the national German courts, provide details which are now widely accessible to the public at large.

Some union members have been acquitted, while others are still awaiting the results of internal procedures or proceedings brought before the Tribunal.
The lengthy nature of these proceedings necessarily raises the issue of the individual suffering caused to these union members and the effectiveness of the system of appeals at the EPO.
The USF takes the view that sufficient details of the matters still unresolved at the EPO are known, and these are sufficient to conclude that these conflicts are essentially political in nature, and not of a disciplinary nature.

We therefore propose, both in the interests of the new President of the EPO as well as of the blameless parties concerned, and in the general interest of social dialogue at the EPO, that an amnesty should be envisaged rapidly by the President of the EPO for the whole of the matters of a political nature.
With our respectful regards

Dr. Bernd Loescher
USF President

CC: Mr. Michels

We should meanwhile note that the patent maximalists’ propaganda site Managing IP, a routine booster of the UPC, has just published “The 50 most influential people in IP” [sic], crowning/highlighting António Campinos as “Most influential people in IP” [sic].

Yes, well… it helps to have a violent and corrupt compatriot like Battistelli exchanging seats and swapping influence.
* There were more rulings from the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organisation yesterday and it’s our understanding that at least 3 outcomes were favourable to staff, but we await informed analysis, which typically comes from those better familiar with the cases and background to them (it’s hard to guess based on the pertinent decisions alone).

Links 29/11/2018: Mesa 18.2.6, Cockpit 183, Dell.com Cracked

Posted in News Roundup at 6:19 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

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    In 1990, I was a 9th grader living in Vietnam. I had never had access to a computer. One day my mother returned from a trip and gave me a book titled “How to program with Turbo Pascal.” I was delighted—everything I read in that book made sense, and I started to write code on paper.

    When the local university opened a computer lab that offered rentals, I spent all of my allowances for weeks, trying to write the classic Pong game in Pascal.

    Soon after that, I moved to Austin, Texas, where I took computer programming courses in high school and community college. Since I needed a computer for school, I decided to build my own PC. A family friend who worked for IBM kindly offered to help install the operating system. My home-built PC seemed to give him a lot of trouble; it took nearly an entire evening to get everything working. To this day, I’m not sure why he decided to set up a dual-boot with Slackware Linux and IBM OS/2, but his decision had a positive impact on my path.

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  • Events

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    • KDAB at Embedded Technology in Japan

      Embedded Technology in Japan took place earlier this month and we are thrilled about our first participation in this event which attracted more than 400 exhibitors and over 25000 visitors.

      We are also thankful to our partners SRA group and ISB Corporation for welcoming us heartily to their booths and for making this cultural experience possible.

      IoT and embedded were at the center of the exhibition and we were proud to support our Japanese partners during the event by providing our expertise in C++, Qt and 3D.

    • OpenStack Summit Recap

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  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

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

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      • Thessaloniki GNOME+Rust Hackfest 2018

        A couple of weeks ago we had the fourth GNOME+Rust hackfest, this time in Thessaloniki, Greece. This is the beautiful city that will host next year’s GUADEC, but fortunately GUADEC will be in summertime!

        We held the hackfest at the CoHo coworking space, a small, cozy office between the University and the sea.

        Every such hackfest I am overwhelmed by the kind hackers who work on [gnome-class], the code generator for GObject implementations in Rust.

      • Firefox 64 Beta 12 Testday Results

        As you may already know, last Friday November 23th – we held a new Testday event, for Firefox 64 Beta 12.

        Thank you all for helping us make Mozilla a better place: Gabriela, Kamila kamciatek, Amirtha V and Priyadharshini A.

      • This Week in Rust 262
  • CMS

    • Paving new paths out of dead-end blog archive page navigation

      I’ve found some WordPress plugins and themes that have tried to do link up disparate archive pages by subtracting and adding one to the current month or year. This can lead to “navigational hazards” as they sometimes blindly link to months or years where there were no posts; creating 404 Not Founds and empty archive pages. It only takes a tiny extra effort to make sure that you only link to the next or previous page that actually have posts on them.

      You can apply similar solutions for other types of archive pages such as tag/topic and category archives. Try to provide good solutions for where a visitor may want to go next when they’ve reached the last page in a topic archive. You could suggest they go back to the front page or to a list of trending posts. Perhaps branch out to other related tags. There are many possible options here and the right choice will be up to how you’ve organized your website.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • Funding

    • Mozilla Funds Research Grants in Four Areas

      We’re happy to announce the recipients for the 2018 H2 round of Mozilla Research Grants. In this tightly focused round, we awarded grants to support research in four areas: Web of the Things, Core Web Technologies, Voice/Language/Speech, and Mixed Reality. These projects support Mozilla’s mission to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all.


  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

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        Excamera’s “I2CDriver” I2C debugging board has a logic-analyzer display, a micro-USB link to a PC, and support for 3x I2C modules. Options include up to 20x I2C sensor and I/O modules and 3x carriers.

        Earlier this year, Excamera Labs launched an SPIDriver board for analyzing and testing SPI-connected gizmos. Now it has returned to Crowd Supply to launch a similar I2CDriver board that takes on the more daunting challenge of I2C debugging.

  • Programming/Development

    • Install Python3 on Ubuntu 18.04 and Set Up a Virtual Programming Environment
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    • Python programming: Searching for Mersenne primes
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      For prior versions of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and most Linux Distributions, users have been locked to the system version of Python unless they got away from the system package manager. While this can be true for a lot of tools (ruby: rvm; node: nvm) the Python use case is worse because so many Linux tools (like yum) rely on Python.

      In order to improve this experience for RHEL8 users, we have moved the Python used by the system “off to the side”. In RHEL 8 we also introduced Modularity. As a result, in combination with Python’s ability to be parallel installed, we can now make multiple versions of Python available and installable, from the standard repositories, installing to the standard locations. Now, users can choose what version of Python they want to run in any given userspace and it simply works. For more info, see my article, Introducing Application Streams in RHEL 8.

    • Clang Picks Up Support For Per-Function Speculative Load Hardening (Spectre V1)

      For several months now the mainline LLVM Clang compiler code has offered Speculative Load Hardening (SLH) for the compiler-based approach for Spectre Variant One protection for critical software that might not be mitigated by hand against Spectre V1 vulnerabilities that can be picked up by Smatch and other utilities. The Clang compiler now has support for SLH on a function-by-function basis.

      Enabling Speculative Load Hardening can be done with LLVM/Clang 7.0+ via the “-mspeculative-load-hardening” flag, which enables SLH for all functions being compiled. But with this latest addition to Clang as of this week, an SLH attribute is now available for C/C++ functions and Objective-C methods for enabling the behavior on a function-by-function manner.

    • The technological transition of OpenJDK

      As we explored in our last post, there are major changes coming to Java. By way of quick refresher – OpenJDK is the open source reference implementation of the Java Platform, Standard Edition (Java SE). Oracle has recently announced changes that affect both the upstream community releases and Oracle’s proprietary distribution of OpenJDK. With many organizations depending on Java for their core business-critical applications, the changes are a big deal and many customers are still only just realizing the impact it has on their plans.

    • Understanding Conda and Pip
    • Create a game’s start scene for pygame project
    • Create a score manager class for pygame project
    • Dockerizing a Python Django Web Application
    • Continuous Deployment of a Python Flask Application with Docker and Semaphore
    • Learning Python: From Zero to Hero
    • RMOTR: Google Sheets with Python (live demo)
    • Let PyCharm Do Your Import Janitorial Work
    • Saving Text, JSON, and CSV to a File in Python
    • AutoHotkey, Python style
    • Search Algorithms in Python
    • Report from PyCon Zimbabwe 2018

      The 3rd edition of Pycon Zimbabwe was held from the 19th to the 20th of October, 2018 under the theme: “For the community, by the community”. The conference was hosted at Cresta Oasis Hotel in Harare, Zimbabwe.

    • Kubernetes for Python Developers: Part 1

      Kubernetes is an open-source container-orchestration system for automating deployment, scaling and management of containerised apps.

    • Measuring community opinion: subreddits reactions to a link

      As everyone knows a lot of subreddits are opinionated, so I thought that it might be interesting to measure the opinion of different subreddits opinions. Not trying to start a holy war I’ve specifically decided to ignore r/worldnews and similar subreddits, and chose a semi-random topic – “Apu reportedly being written out of The Simpsons”.

      For accessing Reddit API I’ve decided to use praw, because it already implements all OAuth related stuff and almost the same as REST API.

    • The DSF Board elections – what about you?

      I’m standing down from my position on the Django Software Foundation Board, having served for three years as the DSF’s Vice-President (it’s a nice role to have – but not nearly as grand as it sounds).

      Unfortunately, people do in fact often think that being on the DSF board is somehow a grand role, an exclusive kind of position for exclusive people, or even that it’s only for people who somehow “deserve” to be Board members. Needless to say, that’s really not true.

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    • RcppArmadillo

      A new RcppArmadillo release arrived at CRAN overnight. The version is a minor upgrade and based on the new Armadillo bugfix release 9.200.5 from yesterday. I also just uploaded the Debian version.

      Armadillo is a powerful and expressive C++ template library for linear algebra aiming towards a good balance between speed and ease of use with a syntax deliberately close to a Matlab. RcppArmadillo integrates this library with the R environment and language–and is widely used by (currently) 539 other packages on CRAN.

    • Fortran is still a thing

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  • Standards/Consortia

    • Downloading the newest Wi-Fi protocols: 802.11ax and 802.11ay explained

      If all this isn’t bad enough, the Wi-Fi Alliance has not-so-helpfully decided to replace some—not all!—of the 802.11 designations in consumer marketing with a supposedly simpler scheme. 802.11ac, which most of us are using now, becomes “Wi-Fi 5″ under this new scheme. 802.11ax will be marketed as “Wi-Fi 6.” This new numeric designator conveniently ignores some protocols, unfortunately: neither 802.11ad nor 802.11ay will get “Wi-Fi Numbers” at all.


  • Manchester is voted one of the most innovative cities in the world – beating Beijing but not London

    Manchester has been named as one of the most innovative cities in the world – beating competition from Shanghai, Beijing and Madrid.

    The city jumped 11 places in this year’s 2018 Innovation Cities Index which ranks top destinations from across all continents.

    Home to the largest creative, digital and technology cluster outside of London, Manchester is the only British city apart from the capital to feature in the top 50 list – coming in at 34.

  • UK cities named among world’s best for innovation

    The UK capital was usurped at the summit of the 2018 Innovation Cities Index by Tokyo in Japan while Silicon Valley in California climbed above New York to sit third. Los Angeles rounded out the top five.

    Data firm 2thinknow compiled the list after scoring cities on three key factors: cultural assets, human infrastructure and networked markets.

    They also assessed the locations against 31 segments in their industries and economy as well as 162 indicators for innovation.

    The other UK city to make the top 50 was Manchester, which jumped 11 places to 34th and is ranked higher than Chinese cities Shanghai and Beijing as well as Spanish capital Madrid.

  • Prey and Predator: The End of a Dialectic?

    Current scientific knowledge suggests that the predator/prey relationship began very soon after life itself arose.

    Although Hegel himself never discussed this natural phenomenon, it could be interpreted as an example of Reason and Dialectic working itself through Nature.

    The very idea, however unpalatable, that with life’s initial appearance predation was an immediate “logical/reasonable” response should give us philosophic pause.

    This ancient antagonistic natural relationship often gave and gives rise to what is known as an “evolutionary arms race” or what might be considered in Hegelian terms as a dialectical relationship.

    As prey continually seek to evade predator, and as predator continually seeks to engulf prey, both develop further survival strategies and physical adaptations in this deadly existential dialectical embrace.

    In short, gazelles develop in relation to lions and vice versa.

    However, there is of course asymmetry in the relationship in that if the lion fails to catch the gazelle it misses a meal whereas if the lion is successful the gazelle ceases to exist. Yet, on the other hand, if the lion consistently fails to catch a gazelle, he too will, at some point, pass out of existence.

  • Science

    • AI thinks like a corporation—and that’s worrying

      A central promise of AI is that it enables large-scale automated categorisation. Machine learning, for instance, can be used to tell a cancerous mole from a benign one. This “promise” becomes a menace when directed at the complexities of everyday life. Careless labels can oppress and do harm when they assert false authority. In protest at inadequate labels that are used to “know” the world, many young people today proudly defy unwelcome categorisations, be they traditional gender binaries or sexual binaries.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • It’s Time for Nancy Pelosi to Embrace Medicare for All

      A little over a year ago a resolution was introduced to the central committee of the San Francisco Democratic Party titled “Resolution Urging Senator Feinstein and Leader Pelosi to Support Medicare for All”. It was a pretty straightforward request: thank you for defending the Affordable Care Act, but it’s time to move forward. The resolution was passed 19 to 2 with 7 abstentions, and with Feinstein and Pelosi’s representatives mysteriously absent.

      This is unsurprising considering the local party and state party delegates have overwhelmingly gone to progressives, including several Democratic Socialists who burst onto the scene after Bernie Sanders’s bid for President. We also saw a single-payer bill make its way through the state senate, which was supported unanimously by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the California Democratic Party. And currently HR676, the Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act, is supported by the majority of House Democrats after years of lukewarm support.

    • New Database Documents The Power Of TRIPS Flexibilities

      Medicines Law & Policy has published an on-line database of instances of the use of TRIPS flexibilities in public health contexts, titled the TRIPS Flexibilities Database. The publication of the TRIPS Flexibilities Database merits sharing a bit of its history because it has been a work in progress for some time. The database includes cases of actual use of TRIPS flexibilities and instances in which countries planned or threatened to use them. The collection of such cases started ten years ago as part of a research project to document and examine the uptake of the flexibilities contained in the TRIPS Agreement in medicines procurement.

    • What’s Keeping the World From Ending AIDS: Greedy Big Pharma, Bad Policy
    • Big Pharma, Bad Policy Are Keeping the World From Ending AIDS

      If you cure illnesses, said Goldman Sachs Vice President Salveen Richter, it will disrupt “sustained cash flow.” Far better to find medical treatments that provide some solace but that prolong illnesses. Even better if these treatments are both necessary and expensive. If you find a cure for an illness, then you will find—as Richter wrote in her analysis for Goldman Sachs—“a gradual exhaustion of the prevalent pool of patients.” That’s the worst thing imaginable for pharmaceutical companies and their investors. Keep the goose alive as long as it keeps laying golden eggs.

    • Opioids for Depression? Not So Fast Says An FDA Advisory Committee

      The mental illness “franchise” has been very good to Pharma. While it could not “grow” the number of people with actual schizophrenia, it has successfully grown those diagnosed with amorphous “schizoaffective” and bipolar disorders and, of course, depression.

      Thanks to Pharma’s everyone-is-mentally-ill ploy, buoyed by the Pharma-funded writers of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, an estimated one quarter of the population now takes psych drugs. Gone are the days when bad moods were attributed to problems with finance, romance, jobs, housing, family, marriages and health.

      Especially lucrative to Pharma is its concoction of “treatment resistant” depression which allows expensive psych drugs to be added to antidepressants while side-stepping why the aggressively advertised SSRIs aren’t effective on their own. (And whether the patient was ever really depressed.) The resulting “cocktails” are exceedingly hard for patients to quit––with new drugs added to treat the side effects of other drugs––and what is the original “mental illness” versus the drug effects is almost impossible to distinguish. Adding expensive psych drugs for “treatment resistant” depression has become such a common, profitable practice for Pharma, prescribing only one drug is now dismissed as just “monotherapy.”

      The latest attempt to cash in on “treatment resistant” depression is by the Dublin-based biopharma company Alkermes. It hopes to jump start revenues with a “treatment resistant” depression drug candidate that combines the opioid buprenorphine (used to treat opioid addiction) with samidorphan, an opioid blocker to counteract the abuse potential of buprenorphine.

  • Security

    • Multiple vulnerabilities in FreeBSD NFS server code

      FreeBSD is a free and open source operating system. The NFS (Network File System) is a server and client application that turn FreeBSD into a file sharing server. Users can upload or update files on a remote NFS server. NFS is standard on NAS (network attached storage) devices or sharing data for web servers. A new bug found in NFS server code which could allow a remote attacker to crash the NFS server, resulting in a denial of service (DoS) attack. Another possibility is to execute arbitrary code on the server.

    • Cybersecurity Threats Keep Evolving, Research Shows

      Cybersecurity industry research is a great way to stay on top of the latest threats — and the controls that can keep those vulnerabilities from affecting your organization. Research released in November 2018 spanned the gamut of IT risk concerns, including identity, application containers, vulnerability disclosures, and the global threat landscape itself. Here are key takeaways from 11 reports released this month, along with cyber defenses organizations should consider implementing.

    • Security updates for Wednesday
    • “New Tech” From DriveSavers Unlocks Locked iPhones With 100% Success Rate

      DriveSavers’s website strictly says that they do not offer their “passcode lockout data recovery” service to law enforcement agencies and it is meant only for the owners of the locked devices.

    • Daniel Lange: Security is hard, open source security unnecessarily harder

      Now it is a commonplace that security is hard. It involves advanced mathematics and a single, tiny mistake or omission in implementation can spoil everything.

      And the only sane IT security can be open source security. Because you need to assess the algorithms and their implementation and you need to be able to completely verify the implementation. You simply can’t if you don’t have the code and can compile it yourself to produce a trusted (ideally reproducible) build. A no-brainer for everybody in the field.

      But we make it unbelievably hard for people to use security tools. Because these have grown over decades fostered by highly intelligent people with no interest in UX.
      “It was hard to write, so it should be hard to use as well.”
      And then complain about adoption.

    • NSA Leaked Tool Used to Exploit Computers, UPnProxy Vulnerability Surfaces

      IT has been over a year since The National Security Agency (NSA) hacking tool was leaked online but its aftermath is coming back to haunt everyone again. Security agency Akamai has warned everyone that the UPnProxy vulnerability can now target your personal computers that are still prone to hacks and other cyber attacks.

      When the NSA was hacked, there were patches released over the time in order to counter the exploits that were being done, but now it looks as if the security vulnerability is back again. Security agency researchers believe that the unpatched computers are now at high risk with hackers using the leaked tool of NSA to create some malicious proxy network.

      The unpatched computers are at risk of being targeted by hackers through the router’s firewall. The hackers are now using more powerful tools through which they can exploit through your personal computer. This can be done by making way through your internet Wi-Fi router that can cause damage to your personal computer on the Wi-Fi network.

    • Dell.com Breached: Hackers Tried To Steal Customer Data

      Dell also revealed that a password reset was initiated for all customer accounts on Dell[.]com online electronics store on November 14 for security purposes.

      While the company didn’t discuss the complexity of the password-hashing algorithms used to protect them, some of them — such as MD5 can be broken within seconds to reveal the plaintext password.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Three Thanksgivings – Snapshots From a Career of Failure

      Millions of American troops have spent countless holidays away from home, in Iraq, Afghanistan and various smaller wars across the region – it’s worth asking what it’s all for.

    • Argentine Prosecutors Consider Charges Against Saudi Crown Prince Ahead of G-20

      The investigation in Argentina, initiated by a complaint lodged by Human Rights Watch, the advocacy group, is in its early stages, and diplomatic or other kinds of immunity may ultimately shield the prince from any potential charges. Argentine officials called it extremely unlikely that the inquiry might produce an arrest warrant before the gathering, which is set to begin on Friday.

    • Amid Outrage Over Yemen War Crimes and Khashoggi Murder, Argentina Prosecutors Considering Charges Against Saudi Crown Prince

      At the behest of human rights advocates, Argentinian prosecutors are considering bringing criminal charges against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), days before he is set to arrive in Buenos Aires for the G20 summit, alleging that he has committed war crimes in Yemen.

      Citing Argentina’s robust human rights law, Human Right Watch (HRW) filed a petition on Monday asking a federal prosecutor to bring charges against the crown prince, a close ally of President Donald Trump, for “violations of international law committed during the armed conflict in Yemen” including the killings of more than 15,000 civilians and blockades which have pushed 14 million people to the brink of famine.

    • Nothing Justifies the Killing of Children in Yemen. Nothing.

      When I was young and the war in Vietnam was raging, I rejected much of what I associated with a government and a society that could undertake the destruction of an entire people and still carry on as if there were nothing in the least bit abnormal about that state of affairs. In time, I saw that the way forward, at least for me, was to join those who understood just how evil the war was and how imperative it was for people to lift their voices, take to the streets, and risk their personal well being to protest the war.

    • Capitalist Society Under the One Party of Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum

      That puking up barbarism in this enclave of genocide and perpetual war, resource theft and global toxification comes in a coat of many colors. In the simplest terms I see it daily in my job as underpaid and spat upon social worker jiggering with the penury, punishment and putrefying systems of bureaucratic hell and legal rape exemplified in the schizophrenic American version of capitalism.

      In no way am I ever not entertained by the magical thinking and retrograde beliefs of those I serve – homeless veterans who in some cases decry welfare for the masses while picking up their welfare checks and benefits from the Veterans Administration. On top of that, they feel entitled because they ended up in the economic draft of the US Military Industrial Complex. These are not the ones who saw “battle” overseas, but the ones who were snookered into thinking a tour here or there, in a non-combatant role would get them somewhere in life.

      Broken people come to the military, and the military breaks them again, and, the gift that keeps on giving are the systems of oppression and criminalization of living life in Trump’s “MAGA, MAGA über alles, über alles in der Welt.”

      Reality is that this thing called America, united snakes one in all, was running on that manifest destruction at the moment those Puritanical misanthropes ended up on the east coast with their fears, dark perversions, warped criminal religiosity and white DNA primed for a taking, eminent domain and killings far and wide.

    • Bowing to Saudi Pressure, Trump stops UN Yemen Ceasefire

      Saudi Arabia and its ally the United Arab Emirates launched the war on Yemen in spring of 2015. It has killed tens of thousands of people directly (far more than the frozen 2016 estimate of 10,000), and has led to the starvation of 85,000 children. Much of the country of some 28 million is now food insecure, that is, about 10 million Yemenis are one economic setback away from starving. No public health crisis of this enormity has been known since WW II.

      The Saudis and their allies are determined to unseat the Helpers of God (Houthi) militia, which took over the capital of Sana’a in September 2014 and halted the constitutional process whereby Yemenis were trying to craft a new, democratic government in the wake of 2011-2012 revolution against long-lived dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Houthis hail from the moderate Zaydi branch of Shiite Islam, which is often closer to Sunnis than the Twelver Shiism of Iran and Iraq. About 1/3 of Yemenis are Zaydis, while some Sunni tribes and urban quarters are willing to ally with them against outsiders. The Saudis do propaganda that the Houthis are controlled by Iran, but although the Iranians might have provided a little money and a few weapons, their involvement has been vastly exaggerated by Saudi and UAE propaganda. The Houthis are an authentic local Yemeni reaction against Saudi hegemony over Yemen and against attempts of Riyadh to convert Zaydis to the puritanical Wahhabi form of Islam, which is hyper-Sunni.

    • Senate Challenges Trump on Yemen War

      The Senate voted 63-37 on Wednesday to advance a resolution that would end United States support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen, where thousands of civilians have been killed and millions more face starvation and the outbreak of disease in what the UN has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

      Before the vote, senators from both parties expressed frustration with the ongoing bloodshed in Yemen, the lack of transparency around the Trump administration’s relationship with the Saudi Arabian government, and its response to the abduction and killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi.

      Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) said, “It is a vote … that says that the United States Senate respects the Constitution … and understands that the issue of war making, of going to war, putting young men and women’s lives at stake, is something determined by the US Congress, not the president of the United States.”

    • In Open Letter, Scholars and Activists Call on Bernie Sanders to Embrace Foreign Policy That Rejects US Militarism, Bloated Pentagon Budget

      Offering their “advice in a spirit of friendship” in an open letter issued on Wednesday, over 100 noted intellectuals, left-wing academics, and progressive activists have urged Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to lay out clear proposals for a foreign policy that rejects U.S. militarism, overseas misadventures, and the outrageous Pentagon budget that continues to cripple funding for many of the progressive programs and policy solutions the senator advocates.

      Given the $1 trillion annually in so-called “national security spending” as well as the military industrial complex’s impact on the environment and “the erosion of liberties,” Sanders’s public comments and policy proposals should address head-on the military and its spending, the group writes in the open letter.

      They write that they have “great respect for [his] domestic policies,” but in terms of foreign policy, Sanders has come up quite short. His recently laid-out “bold agenda” for Democrats, for example, has no mention of foreign policy, the group notes. And while the progressive lawmaker has pushed for a Senate vote on ending U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition’s war on Yemen, the letter urges Sanders to go further by being laser-focused on “the existence of the military and its price tag” to show how easily the nation could fund his proposals like Medicare-for-All and tuition-free public colleges.

    • Bolton and Rubio Keep Pushing the “Sonic Attacks” Tale

      There has been an intense and extensive media campaign that involved a group of U.S. officials accredited as diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Havana with strange acoustic attacks. Their origin and actors could not be identified, and then Washington decided to reduce the staff of its representation in Cuba. This had a big impact on consular, political and tourist relations between the two countries.

      Washington’s rhetorical indictment didn’t identify presumed culprits or evidence of the supposed crimes, nor the sources for the speculative comments that were always anonymous. This peculiarity later served to justify the fact that the main victims could not be met with, given that they were agents of the U.S. intelligence services, and therefore unable by the nature of their functions, to contribute to the inquiries with testimonies related to their secret work at the Embassy.

      The Cuban authorities, from the beginning, took on themselves the task of clarifying the facts. Cuba contributed to the U.S. investigative work. This included including supporting the work in Cuba of an ad hoc FBI delegation that traveled especially for that purpose. Then the U.S. government decided to drastically reduce the personnel in its mission in Havana. That aroused distrust with respect to the cooperation offered by the Cuban side.

    • Afghan Officials: US Air Strike Kills At Least 30 Civilians, Including 16 Children

      Officials in Afghanistan’s Helmand province and international media are reporting at least 30 civilians, including 16 children, were killed in the latest US air strike targeting Taliban militants.

      Reuters reports the latest US mass casualty bombing in Afghanistan came amid a surge in aerial operations aimed at forcing the Taliban to the negotiating table after more than 17 years of US-led war there. Officials said Afghan government advisers and US troops were attacked late on Tuesday by Taliban fighters based in a compound in Garsmir district, south of Marjah, in southern Helmand. The militants attacked the Afghans and Americans with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, according to the NATO-led Resolute Support forces.

      Provincial governor Mohammad Yasin Khan said Afghan troops called in air strikes, with US warplanes responding with attacks that killed both Taliban fighters and local civilians. A local resident told Reuters that “foreign forces bombed the area and the bombs hit my brother’s house.” He said the victims included women and 16 children. Another local resident, Feda Mohammad, said more victims remained buried beneath the rubble of the compound.

    • Why U.S. Senate Vote To Advance Resolution To End Military Involvement In Saudi War In Yemen Is Remarkable

      The United States Senate took a significant step in withdrawing U.S. military support for the Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen and advanced debate on a war powers resolution by a vote of 63-37.

      The vote discharged the resolution on withdrawing U.S. military support from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which was a key obstacle when Senators Bernie Sanders and Mike Lee attempted to bring this resolution up for debate about eight months ago.

      “Let me thank all of the people at the grassroots level throughout our country, who helped us today with a major vote on the path toward ending U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen,” Sanders said after the vote.

      Sanders also declared, “For the first time, the U.S. Senate voted to advance a resolution withdrawing U.S. armed forces from an unauthorized and unconstitutional war.”

      “The situation in Yemen now is the worst humanitarian disaster in the world. Eighty-five thousand children have already starved to death and millions more are on the brink of starvation.”

      “All of which was caused by Saudi intervention in the civil war in Yemen,” Sanders added. “Instead of being part of the killing in Yemen, we have got to do everything we can to bring peace to that country and humanitarian aid so that we stop this horrific humanitarian disaster.”

    • In Historic Vote, Senate Advances War Powers Resolution to End US Complicity in Saudi Assault on Yemen

      “Today’s victory is a testament to the power of grassroots activism across the country to bring about change,” said Diane Randall, executive secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). “This vote sets a historic precedent for future action Congress can take to reclaim its constitutional authority over war and end American involvement in wars around the world.”

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • WikiLeaks sets up legal fund to sue the Guardian

      The GoFundMe page has a goal of $300,000, and had raised more than $12,000 as of 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, after an hour of being active.

      The Guardian had reported that Manafort secretly met with Assange in 2013, 2015, and 2016 at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

      According to the report, which was written in London and Ecuador, the last meeting took place in March 2016, right before WikiLeaks released hacked Democratic National Committee emails in June and July of 2016. Manafort was hired by Trump on March 29, 2016.

      However, the story by the Guardian has since been softened, according to the website News Sniffer. For example, 90 minutes after publication, the Guardian modified its “Manafort held secret talks with Assange” headline to add “sources say.”

      “Remember this day when the Guardian permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper’s reputation. @WikiLeaks is willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor’s head that Manafort never met Assange,” WikiLeaks’ official Twitter account said early Tuesday when the article was first published.

    • It Is Possible Paul Manafort Visited Julian Assange. If True, There Should Be Ample Video and Other Evidence Showing This.

      THE GUARDIAN TODAY published a blockbuster, instantly viral story claiming that anonymous sources told the newspaper that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort visited Julian Assange at least three times in the Ecuadorian Embassy, “in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016.” The article – from lead reporter Luke Harding, who has a long-standing and vicious personal feud with WikiLeaks and is still promoting his book titled “Collusion: How Russia Helped Trump Win the White House” – presents no evidence, documents or other tangible proof to substantiate its claim, and it is deliberately vague on a key point: whether any of these alleged visits happened once Manafort was managing Trump’s campaign.

      For its part, WikiLeaks vehemently and unambiguously denies the claim. “Remember this day when the Guardian permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper’s reputation,” the organization tweeted, adding: “WikiLeaks is willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor’s head that Manafort never met Assange.” The group also predicted: “This is going to be one of the most infamous news disasters since Stern published the ‘Hitler Diaries.’”

      (Manafort denies it the claim as well; see update below.)

      While certain MSNBC and CNN personalities instantly and mindlessly treated the story as true and shocking, other more sober and journalistic voices urged caution and skepticism. The story, wrote WikiLeaks critic Jeet Heer of the New Republic, “is based on anonymous sources, some of whom are connected with Ecuadorian intelligence. The logs of the embassy show no such meetings. The information about the most newsworthy meeting (in the spring of 2016) is vaguely worded, suggesting a lack of certitude.”

      There are many more reasons than the very valid ones cited by Heer to treat this story with great skepticism, which I will outline in a moment. Of course it is possible that Manafort visited Assange – either on the dates the Guardian claims or at other times – but since the Guardian presents literally no evidence for the reader to evaluate, relying instead on a combination of an anonymous source and a secret and bizarrely vague intelligence document it claims it reviewed (but does not publish), no rational person would assume this story to be true.

      But the main point is this one: London itself is one of the world’s most surveilled, if not the most surveilled, cities. And the Ecuadorian Embassy in that city – for obvious reasons – is one of the most scrutinized, surveilled, monitored and filmed locations on the planet.

    • Why you should be skeptical of the Guardian’s big Manafort-Assange claims

      Critics and supporters of WikiLeaks voiced skepticism at what appeared to be an explosive report published by a British newspaper on Tuesday, tying Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to the transparency organization’s founder Julian Assange.

      The article, published in the Guardian, claimed that Manafort met with Assange in the run up to the 2016 presidential election and on two other occasions—in 2013, 2015, and in March 2016—at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where the WikiLeaks founder has resided since 2012 to avoid U.S. extradition.

      WikiLeaks, of course, went on to publish hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the run-up to the Election Day, in late 2016, to devastating effect on the Democrat’s presidential bid.

    • Prisoner for free speech

      CNN correspondent Jim Acosta returned to the White House on 17 November, a few days after a US judge had forced President Donald Trump to reverse the revocation of his press pass. Smiling before 50 or more photographers and cameramen, Acosta said triumphantly: ‘This was a test and I think we passed the test. Journalists need to know that in this country their First Amendment rights of freedom of the press are sacred, they’re protected in our constitution. Throughout all of this I was confident and I thought that … our rights would be protected as we continue to cover our government and hold our leaders accountable.’ Fade-out, happy ending.

      Julian Assange probably did not watch the moving conclusion of this story live on CNN. He sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London six years ago, and his life there has become that of a prisoner: he cannot go outside for fear of being arrested by the British police, then probably extradited to the US; his access to communications is limited and he has been harassed repeatedly since Ecuador’s president, Lenín Moreno, decided to please the US and make conditions less comfortable for his ‘guest’ (see Ecuador veers to neoliberalism, in this issue).

      The reason for his detention, and the threat of several decades in prison in the US (in 2010 Trump wanted him executed), is his WikiLeaks website which has been behind the major revelations that have inconvenienced the world’s powerful over the last decade: photographic evidence of US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, US industrial espionage, secret bank accounts in the Cayman Islands. The dictatorship of former Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was shaken by the leaking of a US State Department cable that referred to this kleptocracy, a US ally, as a ‘sclerotic regime’ and ‘quasi-mafia’. WikiLeaks also revealed that two senior figures in France’s Socialist Party, François Hollande and Pierre Moscovici, had visited the US embassy in Paris in June 2006 to say that they regretted the vigour of President Jacques Chirac’s opposition to the US invasion of Iraq.

      What the ‘left’ cannot forgive Assange for is WikiLeaks’ publication of stolen emails from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. They believe this favoured Russian designs and Trump’s election, and forget that, in this matter, WikiLeaks only unveiled her efforts to sabotage Bernie Sanders’s campaign during the Democratic primaries. In 2016 media around the world, especially in the United States, eagerly relayed the information, as they had done with previous leaks, without editors being called foreign spies or threatened with imprisonment.

    • Manafort/Assange Drama Proves Media Buys Any Russia Conspiracy

      Many media figures have swallowed whole, without evidence, a conspiracy theory that Donald Trump became president by treasonously colluding with Russia to steal the 2016 election from its rightful owner, Hillary Clinton. The information operation that pushed this story turned out to have been secretly developed and funded by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, a fact uncovered only through the tenacious digging of Republicans on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in the face of major opposition from the media and Democrats on the committee.


      Even on first read the story seemed difficult to believe. It was based on anonymous sources so non-descript that they could be any of literally millions of people. A document from Ecuador’s Senain intelligence agency allegedly claimed a “Manaford” had visited Assange along with “Russians.” The story mentioned the discredited dossier that journalists wrote about and intelligence agencies used to secure wiretaps on Trump associates despite the failure to verify its claims.

    • The Forgotten Story of the Julian Assange of the 1970s

      If Julian Assange leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, he’ll likely face criminal charges in the United States. We know this thanks to an inadvertent disclosure in a federal court filing—the result of a cut-and-paste blunder by prosecutors.

    • Federal prosecutors fight effort to unseal Assange charges

      Federal prosecutors are fighting a request to unseal an apparent criminal complaint against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

      In papers filed Monday in Alexandria, prosecutors argued that the public has no right to know whether a person has been charged until there has been an arrest.

      “Any contrary rule would completely undermine the proper functioning of the criminal process at this stage: anyone could petition the Court to require the government to confirm whether the time was right to flee or evade arrest,” prosecutor Gordon Kromberg wrote.

      Assange has been staying in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012 under a grant of asylum and has long expressed fear of a U.S. prosecution. Recently, Ecuadorian officials have placed restrictions on Assange’s use of the embassy, including requirements that he clean up after his cat.

    • US won’t ‘confirm or deny’ charge against Wikileaks’ Assange
    • Guardian ups its vilification of Julian Assange

      It is welcome that finally there has been a little pushback, including from leading journalists, to the Guardian’s long-running vilification of Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks.

      Reporter Luke Harding’s latest article, claiming that Donald Trump’s disgraced former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly visited Assange in Ecuador’s embassy in London on three occasions, is so full of holes that even hardened opponents of Assange in the corporate media are struggling to stand by it.

      Faced with the backlash, the Guardian quickly – and very quietly – rowed back its initial certainty that its story was based on verified facts. Instead, it amended the text, without acknowledging it had done so, to attribute the claims to unnamed, and uncheckable, “sources”.

      The propaganda function of the piece is patent. It is intended to provide evidence for long-standing allegations that Assange conspired with Trump, and Trump’s supposed backers in the Kremlin, to damage Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential race.

    • WikiLeaks launches legal fund to sue Guardian for Manafort report

      WikiLeaks launched a crowdfunding campaign Tuesday in an effort to sue The Guardian for a report about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holding secret discussions.

      “WikiLeaks launches legal fund to sue the Guardian for publishing entirely fabricated story … which spread all over the world today,” the organization tweeted. “It is time the Guardian paid a price for fabricating news.”

    • Assange-Manafort fabricated story is a plot to extradite WikiLeaks founder – Max Blumenthal

      The apparently fabricated report by The Guardian linking Russiagate and Manafort to WikiLeaks is laying the case to arrest and extradite Julian Assange to the US, investigative journalist Max Blumenthal told RT.
      WikiLeaks is ready to sue Britain’s Guardian newspaper for a “fabricated Manafort story” that accused Julian Assange of secretly meeting Donald Trump’s former election campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

      Manafort agreed to take part in the Mueller probe over Russia’s alleged meddling into the 2016 US election but he denies co-operating with Russia or ever meeting Assange.

    • Manafort passport stamps don’t show he entered London in all years Guardian claimed

      Paul Manafort’s passports don’t show he entered London in all the years claimed by Guardian newspaper when it said he met secretly with WikiLeaks Julian Assange.
      The Guardian said he met with Mr. Assange in London in 2013, 2015 and 2016.
      A review of Manafort’s two passports shows he entered Heathrow Airport since 2008 on two occasions, in 2012 and on another time where the customs stamp year is blurred. It appears to be either 2010 or 2016.
      Prosecutors entered two of the three passports into evidence.

    • Assange-Manafort meeting claim backed by anonymous sources, what else do ‘collusion skeptics’ need?

      A bombshell Guardian claim that US President Donald Trump’s campaign manager secretly met with WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange lacks any verifiable sources, standing solely on its authors’ reputations. Is that enough?
      Written by Luke Harding and Dan Collyns and published earlier this week, the article claims that Paul Manafort secretly met with Assange at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, unseen by security cameras and unnoted in security logs – not once, not twice, but three times.

      In the total absence of verifiable information, the story has come to be judged by the credibility of its authors. Harding has been hailed as a reputable reporter and the story as a slam-dunk by a range of figures, from journalists who have previously flogged tall tales from Christopher Steele’s salacious “Trump-Russia dossier,” to professional Russia-haters at the Atlantic Council and #Resistance Twitter activists.

    • Manafort denies meeting with Assange as Mueller zeroes in – WCBI
  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • A Good Step Forward But Not Enough, Say Climate Campaigners of EU’s Proposal to Go Climate Neutral by 2050

      Climate campaigners welcomed what they saw as a “step forward” and “glimmer of hope” following the European Commission’s announcement Wednesday that it had set a goal of 2050 to get to net zero climate emissions. But, they warned, the plan still doesn’t go far enough to avert planetary crisis.

      “Going climate neutral is necessary, possible, and in Europe’s interest,” stated Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Cañete. He added that it “is in Europe’s interest to stop spending on fossil fuel imports and invest in meaningful improvements to the daily lives of all Europeans.”

      The latest IPCC report, Arias Cañete told reporters, was “a real wake-up call,” and “today we are responding to this call.”

      The proposal, put forth days before the United Nations climate summit known as COP24 kicks off in Katowice, Poland, declares that the “status quo is not an option.” It also says the “vision presented today does not propose to change the 2030 climate and energy targets but will enable the EU to build on them and develop in due time policies towards 2050.” Greenpeace adds in a press statement: “The IPCC report also clearly states that emission cuts between now and 2030 are what will make or break the world’s response to climate change.”

    • Polish Government Issues Terrorism Alert in Katowice Days Before Start of UN Climate Talks

      The Polish government has implemented a terrorism alert in the province where the annual UN climate talks are about to start.

      Climate campaigners are warning of a “tense atmosphere” in and around the city of Katowice in southern Poland, where the global climate negotiations, known as COP24, are due to kick off on Monday.

      Katowice, a city of around 300,000 people — and the smallest city to host the UN climate talks yet — is about to welcome nearly 30,000 people for the climate conference, including heads of state, government representatives and UN officials.

      Over the weekend, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has signed an order declaring an ALFA alert — the first of four increasing terrorism security levels — across the entire southern province of Silesia, where Katowice is located, and the city of Krakow.

    • The Game-Changing Promise of a Green New Deal

      LIKE SO MANY others, I’ve been energized by the bold moral leadership coming from newly elected members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley in the face of the spiraling climate crisis and the outrageous attacks on unarmed migrants at the border. It has me thinking about the crucial difference between leadership that acts and leadership that talks about acting.

      I’ll get to the Green New Deal and why we need to hold tight to that lifeline for all we’re worth. But before that, bear with me for a visit to the grandstanding of climate politics past.

      It was March 2009 and capes were still fluttering in the White House after Barack Obama’s historic hope-and-change electoral victory. Todd Stern, the newly appointed chief climate envoy, told a gathering on Capitol Hill that he and his fellow negotiators needed to embrace their inner superheroes, saving the planet from existential danger in the nick of time.

      Climate change, he said, called for some of “that old comic book sensibility of uniting in the face of a common danger threatening the earth. Because that’s what we have here. It’s not a meteor or a space invader, but the damage to our planet, to our community, to our children, and their children will be just as great. There is no time to lose.”

    • No, We Won’t be Raking Our National Forests

      By now the worst wildfire in California has been extensively covered, even as rains drown the ashes and bones during the grim search for the missing. Despite their best attempts to deceive the American public and push their commercial deforestation agenda for the timber industry, both President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s comments about managing our national forests have been widely rebutted by firefighters and scientists who correctly assessed the disaster for what it was — a climate change-fueled urban fire that started in chaparral causing homes, not forests, to burn. And no, the blame can’t credibly be laid on failures by federal forest management agencies or “environmental extremists.”

      By now most Americans — and the rest of the world’s citizens — are all-too-well acquainted with Donald Trump’s propensity to lie about issues large and small. But he may have set a new low with his false claim that the president of Finland told him that they have fewer forest fires because they rake their forest floors.

      To quote our very stable genius president: “I was with the president of Finland, he said ‘We have a much different — we’re a forest nation.’ He called it a forest nation. And they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem. And when it is, it’s a very small problem. So I know everybody’s looking at that to that end. And it’s going to work out, it’s going to work out well.”

      It was such a blatant misrepresentation that the Finnish president himself had to clarify that he never told Trump any such thing and that, no, the Finnish people do not rake their forest floors.

      To anyone with even elementary knowledge of an actual forest, the entire idea of raking the forest is ludicrous. That, of course, would exclude Trump since he’s spent most of his life in high-rise New York penthouses or on manicured golf courses. His understanding of nature and functioning ecosystems is about on par with his claim that he has a “natural instinct” for science. Uh yeah, science is definitely an instinct — unless you’ve actually studied organic and inorganic chemistry, biology, physics and the host of other intellectually demanding disciplines that form the basis for real, not imagined, science.

    • Meat and Consequences: More Bad News for Climate Change

      Thanksgiving is quite a holiday. In one day, we manage to eat and enjoy 44 million turkeys, twice the number consumed at Christmas. Yes, vegetarians may live longer and vegans even more so, but the smell of a roasting turkey in the kitchen lingering in the nostrils, titillating appetites as friends and relations gather, is synonymous with Thanksgiving — a meal where it is politic to keep politics away from the table.

      Yet the news about our world cannot cease. The annual greenhouse gas bulletin issued by the World Meteorological Organization reports a new high in CO2 levels of 405.5 parts per million reached in 2017; it is 46 percent higher than preindustrial levels. The rising trend continues for on May 14, 2018, another high of 412.60 ppm was recorded.


      COP24 or to give it its official name the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is upon us (December 3rd to 14th in Katowice, Poland). Its purpose is to develop an international agreement compelling all countries to implement the Paris accord on climate change; it limits global mean temperature rise to 2 degrees C.

      Meanwhile the IPCC was charged with comparing the 2C rise with a 1.5C rise and the risks to the world of both. The IPCC report unveiled to the world on October 8, 2018 was far from sanguine. There the matter rests as we await COP24.

      The U.S. government’s Fourth Climate Assessment was released Friday afternoon. A massive undertaking involving 13 Federal Agencies and 300 scientists it portrays a somber reality of hundreds of billions of dollars in economic losses, damage to health and a compromised quality of life. It warns of crop failures, altered coastlines, expanding wild fires and severe weather events.

    • Honduras: As Berta Cáceres Murder Trial Nears End, Will True Perpetrators Be Brought to Justice?

      Eight men are on trial in Honduras for the murder of environmentalist Berta Cáceres, who was gunned down in her home in La Esperanza in 2016. A verdict is expected this week. The assassination of Cáceres came a year after she won the Goldman Environmental Prize for her work protecting indigenous communities and her campaign against a massive hydroelectric dam project. We speak with Dana Frank, professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her new book is titled, “The Long Honduran Night: Resistance, Terror, and the United States in the Aftermath of the Coup.”

    • Saving the Environment: Is Degrowthing the Answer?

      A friend recently sent me a piece by Jason Hickel, arguing that growth can’t be green and that we need to move away from growth oriented economics. I am not convinced. It strikes me both that the piece misrepresents what growth means and also confuses political obstacles with logical ones. The result is an attack on a concept that makes neither logical nor political sense.

      In the piece, Hickel points out the enormous leaps that will be required to keep our greenhouse gas emissions at levels that will prevent irreversible environmental damage. He then hands us the possibility, that even if through some miracle we can manage to meet these targets with the rapid deployment of clean energy, we still have the problem of use of other resources that is wiping species and wrecking the environment.


      But whatever happens in the transition period, what would keep the economy from growing in subsequent years? We have locked down all the resources in short supply and preserved large chunks of the world from encroachments by roads and settlements, but it is hard to see why we would not be developing better health care technology, better software, more types of cultural output, better housing (in the sense of being more pleasant – not necessarily larger) and other improvements in living standards, all of which count as growth in GDP.[1] Where is the war with growth?

      Or to flip it over, let’s put Hickel and the anti-growthers in charge. (I confess, I have just read two essays by him, so I may be misrepresenting his views). He explicitly doesn’t want us to have growth, but in the Hickel world will we stop people from developing better software, improved medical treatments, improved educational techniques, and other advances that mean growth? I assume that won’t be the case, but then how is Hickel’s world different than the world that any pro-growther who takes the environment seriously would want?

    • CNN’s Anderson Cooper Cancels Segment With Climate Report Author to Give Rick Santorum More Air Time

      In a thread on Twitter, Hayhoe said that, despite being interviewed by Cooper, the segment was replaced with airtime for far-right former senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum. “Please! they said, we will send a car! Ok, I said. It’s important. I will do it,” she tweeted. “I get my hair and make up done, we drive across the city, I do the interview, Anderson is lovely, the whole thing takes three hours …. and they don’t air the interview. Instead, they give more airtime to Santorum, so he can to continue to spread disinformation.”

      Santorum became a CNN senior political commentator in January 2017 and is paid to regularly espouse right-wing views, only occasionally disagreeing with the Republican line. Most recently, he claimed on-air that climate change scientists are “driven by money,” before praising the Trump administration for attempting to bury Hayhoe’s report.

      Hayhoe went on to tweet that she had been cancelled by All In with Chris Hayes three times, “once when I was literally in a chair with that earpiece in my ear.” In July of this year, Hayes tweeted that climate change was a “palpable ratings killer.”

      Stefan Rahmstorf, Head of Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, commiserated with Hayhoe, tweeting, “Has happened to me several times, although yours is particularly bad. It just made me more reluctant to oblige to media calls.”

    • The Scourge of the American Petroleum Tankers That Prowl the British Columbia Coast

      November 26 marked a dreadful anniversary for the tanker-bedraggled British Columbia coast. One year ago in Hecate Strait, the American ATB “pusher tug” Jake Shearer broke apart from its fully loaded 10,000 deadweight-ton capacity petroleum barge and came within a stone’s throw of destroying the most magnificent, wild and precious region of the Pacific Ocean.

      The Jake Shearer is a new-generation tugboat which is set up to lock into, and push its petroleum barge rather that towing it by cable in the conventional manner. The bow of the tug is fitted with two giant hydraulic locking pins, while its tanker barge is fitted with a large notch cut out of its transom. Once mated together, these two vessels then become an “articulated tug/barge unit” or “ATB.” The tug pushes into the transom notch and the locking pins extend out sideways from the bow and engage into large racks fitted within the transom of the barge. Then, mated together “doggy style” as it were, the tug/barge combo goes about its business.

    • Tripled climate cuts needed to fulfil pledge

      The world is not yet living up to its undertaking to tackle global warming, and it will have to make tripled climate cuts − at least − if it is to do so, a report says.

      The emissions gap − the difference between the global emissions of greenhouse gases scientists expect in 2030 and the level they need to be at to honour the world’s promises to cut them − is the largest ever.

      The 2018 Emissions Gap Report is published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). While it is still possible to keep global warming below 2°C, its authors say, the world’s current pace of action to cut emissions must triple for that to happen.

      In 2015 almost 200 governments adopted the target of keeping global warming to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to try for a lower level, 1.5°C. Their decision is set out in the Paris Agreement.

  • Finance

    • Trump tariff threat a double whammy for Apple

      Just when things are already looking shaky for Apple this quarter, President Donald Trump has delivered a further kick in the groin by threatening to slap a 10% tariff on iPhone imports from China. However, analysts are saying China’s possible response could make things even worse for the company.

    • Amazon Gives to End Homelessness? That’s Rich.

      They call it Giving Tuesday, and we’ve just marked the seventh annual this week. It’s supposed to kick off a season of charitable giving, but the way some corporate robber barons use it for public relations is enough to turn your stomach.

      So let’s rename it Stomach-Turning Tuesday. This year’s prime stomach-turner was Amazon, of course. The corporate megastore that would sell everything to everybody and put all competition out of business publicizes its December-long #DeliveringSmiles program that supposedly gives away toys to kids. This year, they announced they’ll give half a million dollars away in toys and throw in an additional $1 for every mile their #DeliveringSmiles trucks drive during their holiday giving tour.

      Whom will Amazon give those extra dollars-on-the-mile to? The National Alliance to End Homelessness. That’s rich.

    • Across the Troubles in Northern Ireland

      This is the first in a series of five articles about Northern Ireland on the eve of Brexit, which threatens to put a “hard border” between the six counties of the North and the Republic of Ireland, a member of the European Union. This is part I.

      For almost thirty years, when the chance has arisen, I have tried to make sense of the issues that have divided Northern Ireland, which found peace from the Troubles in the late 1990s but now threatens to pull apart not just the United Kingdom but the European Union over the issue of a “hard border” between the North and the Republic.

      I wish I could report more success in my lifelong enterprise. For whatever reasons, until recently I have never found it easy to get around Ireland, be it in the North or down south in the Republic. Much of that has to do with my loathing of rental cars, and by and large Ireland is as much a car island as it is emerald. That said, I have gotten around on trains and buses, and sometimes on ferries—but it has meant missing things along the way.

    • Why the Brexiteers May be More Dangerous Than Trump

      When a majority of the British people voted to leave the EU in 2016, I was struck by the similarity between the Brexiteers’ plans for their perilous voyage and those of Edward Lear’s characters in The Jumblies as they set to sea in their sieve. The analogy became more apt as the proponents of Brexit showed that they did not know nor care very much about the nature of the world into which they were proposing to sail other than to hope that everything would be alright on the night.

      The Jumblies, like the Brexiteers, were swift to dismiss critical comment predicting a disastrous end to their venture, saying: “Our sieve ain’t big / But we don’t care a button, we don’t care a fig! / In a sieve we’ll go to sea!”

      The water did indeed come in, but the Jumblies were not downhearted “because they wrapped their feet / in pinky paper all folded neat”. For extra safety, they pass the night in a crockery jar where they sang of their wisdom as they set their pea-green sail for lands where, among other things, they secured an owl, a pig and some green-Jack-daws, and “a lovely monkey with lollipop paws”.

    • Why This Long Island City Resident Opposes the Amazon Deal

      In Mel Brook’s 1976 film Silent Movie, the villain is a corporation, “Engulf and Devour,” that is seeking to affect a hostile takeover of the independent studio Brook’s character, Mel Funn, is trying to convince to produce the first silent movie since the 1920s. When I first learned that Amazon had concluded a deal to locate part of its so-called HQ 2 in Long Island City, where I’ve lived for four years, I was inclined to oppose it. Like a lot of my fellow LICers, I feared Amazon’s presence would accelerate the already fast pace of gentrification, increase the area’s already sky-high rents and create more crowding on our already overcrowded subways. I also didn’t like what I was reading about how Amazon treats its employees, overworking them, encouraging cut throat competition between them, refusing bathroom breaks and indoctrinating them as if the company was some kind of cult. As I began to research more about Amazon and the deal, I found that both are worse than I could have ever imagined. Amazon is Engulf and Devour for real.

      Before I go further, I need to confess that as a confirmed compulsive reader, I’ve done a fair amount of business with Amazon in the past. Its website is one of several browser tabs (including CounterPunch) I open daily. Though I’m usually just looking at books referenced in articles, which I can almost always find and reserve through the magnificent Queens and New York Public Library systems, I have also bought a few books the libraries don’t have, as well as some clothing and ink cartridges for my printer. I never gave a second thought to what I was doing until now.

    • Ross Barkan: General Motors, Sears and Toys R Us: Layoffs across America highlight our shredding financial safety net

      Today’s aging workforce faces an uncertain future. The announcement this week that General Motors will lay off 15 percent of its salaried workforce and shutter multiple plants in North America was a sobering reminder of how far the American worker has fallen. Unlike most large private sector corporations today, thousands of employees at GM still enjoy some union benefits. The company has reportedly set aside $2 billion for layoffs and buyouts. It’s not much, but it’s something — many workers, if they are laid off en masse, will be far less lucky.

      Some older Americans are lucky enough to have been grandfathered into generous pension plans and others hope social security and personal savings will be enough to sustain themselves. But for millions of younger people, the outlook is bleaker — an ever-diminishing social safety net, with retirement dependent almost entirely on how well they manage savings. Two-thirds of millennials have nothing saved for retirement.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Here’s To the State of Mississippi

      Campaigning in a bus dubbed the MAGA Wagon, Hyde-Smith won despite multiple, now-infamous gaffes, aka moments where she revealed her repugnant beliefs. Apparently unaware the savage murder of black people is unfunny, she jovially told a crowd she’d be “on the front row” at a lynching, then offered a bristly non-apology Espy wasn’t having: “No one twisted your comments. They came out of your mouth.” She “joked” about not letting liberals vote. Others dug out atrocities from her repugnant past: She posted a gleeful photo of herself in a Confederate cap, rifle in hand, with the noxious title, “Missisisippi history at its best!”, she promoted a bill honoring a Confederate soldier for trying to “defend his homeland,” she sent her daughter to the same “segregation academy” she attended, evidently not having learned over time to find the idea of black fellow-students any less icky.

    • Democracy as an information system

      But in order for this to work, there needs to be common knowledge both of how government functions and how political leaders are chosen. There also needs to be common knowledge of who the political actors are, what they and their parties stand for, and how they clash with each other. Furthermore, this knowledge is decentralized across a wide variety of actors­—an essential element, since ordinary citizens play a significant role in political decision making.

      Contrast this with an autocracy. There, common political knowledge about who is in charge over the long term and what their policy goals are is a basic condition of stability. Autocracies do not require common political knowledge about the efficacy and fairness of elections, and strive to maintain a monopoly on other forms of common political knowledge. They actively suppress common political knowledge about potential groupings within their society, their levels of popular support, and how they might form coalitions with each other. On the other hand, they benefit from contested political knowledge about nongovernmental groups and actors in society. If no one really knows which other political parties might form, what they might stand for, and what support they might get, that itself is a significant barrier to those parties ever forming.


      The Power of the Documentary is an unusual film festival, because its aim is to break a silence that extends across much of film-making, the arts and journalism. By silence I mean the exclusion of ideas that might change the way we see our world, or help us make sense of it.

      There are 26 films in this festival and each one pushes back a screen of propaganda – not just the propaganda of governments but of a powerful groupthink of special interests designed to distract and intimidate us and which often takes its cue from social media and is the enemy of the arts and political freedom.

      Documentary films that challenge this are an endangered species. Many of the films in the festival are rare. Several have never been seen in this country. Why?

      There is no official censorship in Australia, but there is a fear of ideas. Ideas of real politics. Ideas of dissent. Ideas of satire. Ideas that go against the groupthink. Ideas that reject the demands of corporatism. Ideas that reach back to the riches of Australia’s hidden history.

    • Trump is Crazy, Invoke the 25th

      Never mind the policies. For the purpose of this discussion—a discussion our country desperately needs to have—politics are an annoying, distracting rabbit hole.

      Donald Trump should be removed from office under the 25th Amendment.

      The reason Trump should be de-presidented has nothing to do with his legislative actions or foreign policy initiatives. Unlike George W. Bush in 2000 (and arguably in 2004), Trump won fairly. Unlike Barack Obama, he has kept his promises. His presidency is legitimate.

      It has nothing to with his alleged ethical and legal breaches. Impeachment is the proper instrument for charging and possibly removing a sitting president.

      The 25th Amendment was ratified in 1965 following the Kennedy assassination. It provides a mechanism for replacing a president who has become incapacitated physically—or, as seems to be the case for Trump, mentally.

      “Section 4 stipulates that when the vice president and a majority of a body of Congress declare in writing to the president pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House that the president is unable to perform the duties of the office, the vice president immediately becomes acting president,” according to the History channel. Currently then, Mike Pence and a majority (currently Republican) either of the House or the Senate would write to Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

    • Trump Runs PR For The Saudis But Congress Can Shut Him Down

      Last week’s absurd statement from the White House was supposed to resolve any lingering questions about Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi’s murder by the Saudi government. Instead, the statement only made clear that Donald Trump will do nothing to hold Saudi Arabia or Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) accountable—for his role in the Khashoggi murder or his destructive war in Yemen. Fortunately, this week the Senate can impose a reality check on the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia by voting to end the shameful U.S. role in the Saudi and United Arab Emirates (UAE) war in Yemen.

      Congressional impatience with the war in Yemen, which has been growing over the last three years, came to a fever pitch when MbS’s role in the murder of Khashoggi became irrefutable. Ending U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen has now become the de facto position of the Democratic Party. Attempts to force votes in the House and Senate have attracted bipartisan support in Congress and from the American public.

    • “American Nightmare” Is an Antidote to Misguided Faith in Liberal Politics

      Evidence abounds all over the world that oppressed people are no longer convinced. Workers in European Amazon fulfillment centers walked off the job during the peak of the Christmas buying season over the weekend, and citizens of France are demonstrating all over their country against a new punishing diesel fuel tax. Migrants from Central America defied a tear gas assault by Trump’s military forces at the Mexico-US border, bringing anew their own message of democratic defiance and courage to the world at large.

      Meanwhile, back in the US capitol, House Speaker-in-Waiting Nancy Pelosi took to the pay-walled pages of the Amazon Empire’s Washington Post mouthpiece in yet another attempt to convince the oppressed that her plutocratic Congress is in their corner.

    • Tax returns reveal one six-figure donor accounts for entirety of “dark money” funding Whitaker’s nonprofit

      A single six-figure donor accounted for 100 percent of funding raised by a nonprofit run by acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker before he became Jeff Sessions’ chief of staff last year, new tax documents obtained by the Center for Responsive Politics reveal.

      President Trump tapped Whitaker to become acting Attorney General earlier in November after Jeff Sessions was asked to resign.

      The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) is a self-proclaimed 501(c)(3) “watchdog” nonprofit.

      This is not the first year a single big donor has accounted for the entirety of FACT’s funding, according to an exclusive new analysis by CRP. Nearly 100 percent of FACT’s funding — all but a few dollars in interest accrued on money left-over from prior years — came from a single anonymous donor again in 2015, 2016 and again last year.

      CRP discovered FACT’s first tax return back in 2016, revealing its funding — $600,000 for 2014, its first year of operation — came entirely from a donor-advised fund called DonorsTrust, which acts as a pass-through vessel managing the money flow from wealthy individuals and foundations to nonprofit organizations while allowing the donors to remain anonymous. Beneficiaries of DonorsTrust include a breadth of conservative and libertarian initiatives. Due to DonorsTrust’s design, although CRP is able to reveal the direct funder of FACT by piecing together grants from different tax returns, the ultimate donor remains hidden.

    • Stacey Abrams Files Federal Lawsuit Detailing Georgia’s Extensive Voter Suppression in 2018

      The federal lawsuit filed by thwarted Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and a coalition of mostly female domestic workers on Tuesday portrays Georgia’s 2018 election as a veritable horror show of intentionally anti-democratic and often racist voter suppression tactics—possibly unmatched since Ohio’s 2004 presidential election.

      At every stage of the voter registration, ballot distribution, ballot validation and vote-counting process, a system of rules and state laws overseen by the governor-elect, Republican Brian Kemp—the top state election official until his resignation after Election Day—and State Election Board failed to help every eligible voter participate and cast a ballot that would be counted, the 65-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court enumerated in great detail.

      “Without the right to vote, all other democratic rights are illusory,” the complaint begins. “In the 2018 General Election, Georgia’s election officials broke that compact. The Secretary of State and State Election Board grossly mismanaged the election that deprived Georgia citizens, and particularly citizens of color, of their fundamental right to vote. This complaint describes the serious and unconstitutional flaws in Georgia’s elections process—flaws that exist today.”

    • Lying to Robert Mueller Is Just a Terrible Idea

      Donald Trump announced last week that he has completed his written answers for special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russian collusion investigation. “I write the answers. My lawyers don’t write answers,” he said during an Oval Office bill signing when asked if he had completed the questions himself. “I was asked a series of questions. I answered them very easily.” Then he finished his choco-milk like a big boy, you betcha.

      One question remains open and unresolved: Will Trump agree to a sit-down interview with Mueller? His attorneys make bold noises about how great a witness Trump would be, but here in reality, the lot of them would sooner be devoured by crabs than allow their client anywhere near the special counsel and a recording device.

      The truth simply does not exist within the man, and his lawyers know it. If such an interview ever took place, Trump would lie with such volume and velocity that Mueller would have to invent a new crime to charge him with, like Double Super Mega Perjury With Extra Perjursauce or something. Common sense dictates such an event will never take place, but if Trump and his ego decide on a showdown, all bets are off.

    • Trump Administration Quietly Resumes ‘Zero Tolerance’ by Another Name
    • How to Get Your Lawmakers to Listen

      The User’s Guide to Democracy has always wanted to help you become not only a more informed voter, but also a more engaged citizen. So, with the winners declared, how do you get your elected representatives in Washington to listen to your voice now?

      At a live event on Nov. 13 with the New York Public Library, Derek Willis (my colleague here at ProPublica) and Paul Kane (an ace Congressional reporter for The Washington Post) tackled this question with the help of a panel of Capitol Hill insiders. The event, called “Irregular Order: How Congress Really Works,” was moderated by comedian/actor/writer Wyatt Cenac.

      James Wallner, senior fellow for the think tank R Street (and a former Republican Senate staff member); Lindsey Cormack, Stevens Institute of Technology assistant professor of political science; and Stephanie L. Young, communications director for When We All Vote (also a former Democratic House staffer); explained how to get lawmakers to listen to you and act on the issues you care about.

    • Chuck Schumer Ignites Calls for Ouster as Senate Minority Leader
    • ‘This Is Political Cowardice’: Fury at Schumer for Offering $1.6 Billion for Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Agenda

      With the brutal consequences of President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda on full display after U.S. Border Patrol fired tear gas at asylum seekers in Mexico, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sparked fury from progressives and immigrant rights groups on Tuesday by telling reporters that he is perfectly willing to cede ground to the president’s xenophobic policies and offer up $1.6 billion for “border security” funding in upcoming budget talks.

    • How a future Trump Cabinet member gave a serial sex abuser the deal of a lifetime

      On a muggy October morning in 2007, Miami’s top federal prosecutor, Alexander Acosta, had a breakfast appointment with a former colleague, Washington, D.C., attorney Jay Lefkowitz.

      It was an unusual meeting for the then-38-year-old prosecutor, a rising Republican star who had served in several White House posts before being named U.S. attorney in Miami by President George W. Bush.

      Instead of meeting at the prosecutor’s Miami headquarters, the two men — both with professional roots in the prestigious Washington law firm of Kirkland & Ellis — convened at the Marriott in West Palm Beach, about 70 miles away. For Lefkowitz, 44, a U.S. special envoy to North Korea and corporate lawyer, the meeting was critical.

      His client, Palm Beach multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein, 54, was accused of assembling a large, cult-like network of underage girls — with the help of young female recruiters — to coerce into having sex acts behind the walls of his opulent waterfront mansion as often as three times a day, the Town of Palm Beach police found.

    • Progressives Outraged as House Democrats Elect ‘Big Money’ Centrist Hakeem Jeffries Over Barbara Lee for Caucus Chair

      In a bid to move the party’s leadership in a more bold direction, progressive groups and activists mobilized urgently in recent weeks to pressure House Democrats to elect Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) as the party’s next Caucus Chair.

      But, ultimately, their campaign was not enough to overcome the party establishment’s support for the more “moderate” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who was elected on Wednesday by a vote of 123-113.


      “He is a fan of charter schools and fiscal rectitude,” The Economist reported. “Though he supports the principle of universal healthcare coverage, he speaks of ‘the importance of market forces and getting things done in a responsible fashion.’ Quoting Ronald Reagan approvingly, he suggests this means promoting a flourishing private sector outside the ‘legitimate functions’ of government.”

      Additionally, critics recalled after he won Wednesday’s election that Jeffries issued a fawning statement in support of Israel as the nation carried out Operation Protective Edge, the vicious 2014 attack on the occupied Gaza Strip that left thousands of Palestinians dead.

      “When you live in a tough neighborhood Israel should not be made to apologize for its strength,” Jeffries declared. “You know why? Because the only thing that neighbors respect in a tough neighborhood is strength.”

      Aida Chavez, a reporter for The Intercept, also called attention to Jeffries’ derisive 2016 comments about Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who he smeared as a “gun-loving socialist with zero foreign policy experience.”

    • ‘Run Bernie Run!’: New Campaign by Progressive Democrats Says ‘Courage and Vision’ of Sanders Best Choice for 2020

      “At this hour of our history, we need to hear from America’s strongest advocate for working people, for honest democracy, and a courageous response to the climate emergency. We need Bernie Sanders on the main stage,” declared PDA executive director Alan Minsky in a statement. “Bernie Sanders is prepared to lead the United States. PDA does not want a Medicare for All gradualist or a money-in-politics or voting rights gradualist. We do not want a candidate too timid to address the realities of institutional racism, and most certainly, we cannot support a climate change gradualist.”

      “On all of these issues and more, Bernie Sanders has demonstrated that he has the courage and vision to lead,” Minsky continued. “Bernie Sanders would be a great President. Therefore, we at PDA are, once again, proclaiming Run Bernie Run!”

    • UK Hosts Theatrical Facebook Hearings On ‘Fake News’… Undermined By Creating Fake News Itself

      As you may have heard, the UK Parliament put on quite a show on Tuesday in what it claimed was an attempt to go after Facebook for its “fake news” problem. Of course, in the process, the hearings themselves created some fake news that undermined the entire point. To be clear, upfront, Facebook does have many issues that should be taken seriously. But this hearing did not get at those, and actually showed how, when political grandstanding is the focus, it’s quite easy to create “fake news” in the process. Still, boy, was that hearing theatrical. It was apparently the first time since 1933 that the UK Parliament had representatives from other countries participate in a hearing, and so there were nine other countries present, including Canada, France, Belgium, Brazil, Ireland, Latvia, Argentina and Singapore.

    • ‘Republicans Just Don’t Want All the Votes to Count’ – CounterSpin interview with Ari Berman on 2018 voter suppression

      Janine Jackson: You can read analysis all day long about the effect of the 2018 midterm elections on Republicans, on Democrats, on Congress and on Donald Trump, but in an election that saw broken voting machines, overheated machines, missing machines, confusion over absentee ballots, over provisional ballots, long lines—someone needs to be looking out for what the midterms meant and mean for people.

    • Aiming to ‘Revitalize Our Democracy,’ Sanders Institute to Host 250 Progressive Leaders at Weekend Gathering Focused on Bold Solutions

      With the stated mission of “revitalizing our democracy,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Jane O’Meara Sanders are hosting a gathering of 250 progressive thinkers, politicians, and activists this weekend in Burlington, Vermont, where they’ll discuss bold solutions to persistent inequality, the climate crisis, human rights violations, and other issues in the U.S. and around the world.

      The inaugural Sanders Institute Gathering—which Common Dreams plans to cover over the three days—will include panel discussions and speeches including an opening keynote speech given by the senator on Thursday evening, as well as appearances by author Naomi Klein and Cornel West; politicians such as Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz; economists Stephanie Kelton and Jeffrey Sachs; former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis; U.S. labor leaders Roseann DeMoro and Peter Knowlton; organizers Bill McKibben and Nina Turner; and many others.

      “The core intent of the Sanders Institute Gathering is to share replicable policies, develop actionable steps, establish ongoing networks and articulate a progressive vision,” the Institute shared on the event website. “Economic, environmental, racial and social justice issues will be threaded throughout the conference as we discuss the climate crisis, healthcare, housing, democracy, foreign policy, criminal justice, labor issues, and more.”

    • First Step Post-Election – Open Up the Closed, Secretive Congress

      Following the mid-term elections, progressive citizen groups have to advance an agenda that makes Congress work for all Americans. The first step, however, is to acknowledge that Capitol Hill has walled itself off from the people, on behalf of corporate autocrats.

      Currently, Congress is open for avaricious business, not for productive democracy. Congress itself is a concentrated tyranny of self-privilege, secrecy, repressiveness, and exclusive rules and practices. Congress fails to hold public hearings on many important matters and too often abandons oversight of the executive branch, and shuts out citizens who aren’t campaign donors. (See my new book, How the Rats Re-Formed the Congress at ratsreformcongress.org.)

      Having sponsored in the nineteen-seventies the bestselling book ever on Congress – Who Runs Congress, I have a frame of reference for the present, staggering institutional narcissism of the Congress as the most powerful, though smallest, branch of our federal government.

    • ‘Revealing and Alarming’: US President Donald Trump Spends Wednesday Morning Retweeting Wacko Right-Wing Memes and Other Nonsense

      President Donald Trump fired out a flurry of tweets Wednesday morning, including retweets from a Trump fan account depicting Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller in jail for treason, and a tweet suggesting the special counsel is engaged in McCarthyism in his probe of potential Russian election interference.


      Hillary Clinton also continued to be a target of the president in the tweets. In addition to showing her among the group behind bars, Trump retweeted twice a recent video clip of an interview she had with Recode, in which the interviewer appeared to confuse Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) with former Attorney General Eric Holder.

      The posts include four retweets from “The Trump Train,” which describes itself as a fan account and “the greatest political movement in history.” Its recent tweets include calling the Democratic Party “the party of abortions and pedophilia” and giving a plug for a “Great Christmas gift”—an “LGBT Merica Style” t-shirt, which says “Liberty, Guns, Beer, Trump.”

    • A Statement About Facebook and Color of Change

      Recently, some concerning allegations regarding practices by Facebook have been raised in high-profile media coverage, including a New York Times article. We are pleased that Facebook is meeting with Color of Change to discuss these issues. We hope Facebook and Color of Change can identify ways that we, as a tech community, can work together to address the biggest challenges facing the internet.

    • Firefox fights for you

      That’s why thousands of you made Facebook listen when the news broke showing they and Cambridge Analytica had played fast, loose and irresponsible with millions of users’ personal information. Hundreds of thousands of you installed our Facebook Container extension to keep yourself free from Facebook’s cross-site tracking.

      Tens of thousands of you joined us and stood up in the fight to protect net neutrality. We faced a setback with the vote to effectively end net neutrality in the United States, but we’re not giving up. Just last week Mozilla filed arguments in the US courts to keep the fight going. Our efforts to reinstate net neutrality in the United States will continue.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Antiterrorism Censorship: Macron teams up with the Web giants to set up mass surveillance

      Two months ago, the European Commission published a proposal for a Regulation on terrorist censorship. We denounced it, explaining that this project would destroy the entire decentralized Web. Since then, we have met the French Ministries in charge of the file: our fears have increased.

      France, with the support of Germany and the European Parliament, will do everything to prevent a democratic debate on this text: the government does not talk about it in the press, wants to force its urgent adoption and invokes “national security secrets” to avoid any facts-based debate.

      Why so many secrets? Probably because this text, written with Google and Facebook, will submit the whole Web to these giants, to whom the State is already selling out its role in the fight against terrorism online. The collaboration announced on Monday by Macron between the State and Facebook is just a small, but revealing, step towards such a broader alliance.

    • Will the anti-terrorist Regulation destroy Signal, Telegram and ProtonMail?

      Two weeks ago, we gave an update on the proposition of the European Regulation on anti-terrorism censorship. As a reminder, this text will impose on all actors of the Internet unrealistic censorship obligations: removal within one hour of content reported by the police, surveillance of all content leading to automatic censorship…

      Today, we focus on another danger of this text: as it targets not only content disseminated to the public, but also those which are exchanged privately (such as emails and instant messaging), this text could bring an end to the possibility of protecting our exchanges through end-to-end encryption.

      A careful reading of the Regulation reveals that this text is indeed not limited to content disseminated to the public.

    • Our Bipolar Free-Speech Disorder And How To Fix It (Part 1)

      When we argue how to respond to complaints about social media and internet companies, the resulting debate seems to break down into two sides. On one side, typically, are those who argue that it ought to be straightforward for companies to monitor (or censor) more problematic content. On the other are people who insist that the internet and its forums and platforms—including the large dominant ones like Facebook and Twitter—have become central channels of how to exercise freedom of expression in the 21st century, and we don’t want to risk that freedom by forcing the companies to be monitors or censors, not least because they’re guaranteed to make as many lousy decisions as good ones.

      By reflex and inclination, I usually have fallen into the latter group. But after a couple of years of watching various slow-motion train wrecks centering on social media, I think it’s time to break out of the bipolar disorder that afflicts our free-speech talk. Thanks primarily to a series of law-review articles by Yale law professor Jack Balkin, I now believe free-speech debates no longer can be simplified in terms of government-versus-people, companies versus people, or government versus companies. No “bipolar” view of free speech on the internet is going to give us the complete answers, and it’s more likely than not to give us wrong answers, because today speech on the internet isn’t really bipolar at all—it’s an “ecosystem.”

      Sometimes this is hard for civil libertarians, particularly Americans, to grasp. The First Amendment (like analogous free-speech guarantees in other democracies) tends to reduce every free-speech or free-press issue to people-versus-government. The people spoke, and the government sought to regulate that speech. By its terms, the First Amendment is directed solely at averting government impulses to censor against (a) publishers’ right to publish controversial content and/or (b) individual speakers’ right to speak controversial content. This is why First Amendment cases most commonly are named either with the government as a listed party (e.g., Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire) or a representative of the government, acting in his or her government role as a government official, as a named party (e.g. Attorney General Janet Reno in Reno v. ACLU).

    • California Is Still Trying to Gag IMDb. We’re Telling A New Court: Don’t Let It.

      California is still trying to gag websites from sharing true, publicly available, newsworthy information about actors. While this effort is aimed at the admirable goal of fighting age discrimination in Hollywood, the law unconstitutionally punishes publishers of truthful, newsworthy information and denies the public important information it needs to fully understand the very problem the state is trying to address. So we have once again filed a friend of the court brief opposing that effort.

      The case, IMDB v. Becerra, challenges the constitutionality of California Civil Code section 1798.83.5, which requires “commercial online entertainment employment services providers” to remove an actor’s date of birth or other age information from their websites upon request. The purported purpose of the law is to prevent age discrimination by the entertainment industry. The law covers any “provider” that “owns, licenses, or otherwise possesses computerized information, including, but not limited to, age and date of birth information, about individuals employed in the entertainment industry, including television, films, and video games, and that makes the information available to the public or potential employers.” Under the law, IMDb.com, which meets this definition because of its IMDb Pro service, would be required to delete age information from all of its websites, not just its subscription service.

    • Google employees demand that Google stop work on censored Chinese search

      “Many of us accepted employment at Google with the company’s values in mind, including its previous position on Chinese censorship and surveillance, and an understanding that Google was a company willing to place its values above its profits,” the protesting employees wrote in a Tuesday Medium post.

      “Our opposition to Dragonfly is not about China,” the employees added. “We object to technologies that aid the powerful in oppressing the vulnerable, wherever they may be.”

    • Google employees push to cancel Chinese search engine in new letter

      Over a thousand Google employees signed a letter protesting Dragonfly in August. This new Medium post focuses on similar concerns, but it’s being posted online, rather than circulated internally. “Google leadership has failed to respond to employees who have raised questions for months,” it says. “So far, there have been no satisfactory answers.”

    • Employees call on Google to cancel China project

      More than 200 Google employees have published a letter, calling on the company to cancel its proposed censored search engine for China, a project that has been named Dragonfly.

    • Google staff urge firm to ditch ‘oppressive’ Chinese search engine

      The plans, codenamed ‘Project Dragonfly’, were recently confirmed by Google head honcho Sundar Pichai, who said that the development of the controversial search engine is going “very well.”

    • Google employees call on firm to abandon plans for a censored search engine in China

      The plans, code-named Dragonfly, mark a U-Turn by Google, which pulled out of China in 2010 following cyberattacks by the Chinese government. It has since been vocal in its opposition to censorship in the country.

    • Googlers: Google Must Stop Drop Chinese Search Project “Dragonfly”

      In response to Google’s work on Project Dragonfly, a censored version of Google’s search service for China, numerous Google employees have joined hands with Amnesty International. They’ve signed an open letter, calling on the search giant to cancel the project altogether.

    • Sundar Pichai To Testify Before Congress On December 5 On Biased Search Results
    • We are Google employees. Google must drop Dragonfly.

      We are Google employees and we join Amnesty International in calling on Google to cancel project Dragonfly, Google’s effort to create a censored search engine for the Chinese market that enables state surveillance.

      We are among thousands of employees who have raised our voices for months. International human rights organizations and investigative reporters have also sounded the alarm, emphasizing serious human rights concerns and repeatedly calling on Google to cancel the project. So far, our leadership’s response has been unsatisfactory.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • EFF Asks Court to Unseal Secret Docket in Case Involving Wiretap of Encrypted Facebook Messenger Calls

      EFF joined an effort to unseal court records today in a groundbreaking case where the government reportedly tried to force Facebook to compromise the encryption in Facebook Messenger voice calls. Earlier this year, Reuters reported that the government sought the company’s assistance in carrying out a wiretap and intercepting Messenger calls in connection with the investigation of suspected MS-13 gang activity. Although later reports indicated that the court ruled Facebook did not have to comply, the entire proceeding took place under seal, so we could only speculate about the legal arguments made by both sides and the case’s implications for user security.

      According to press reports, the U.S. Department of Justice tried to get Facebook to turn over customer data and unencrypted Messenger voice calls using a wiretap order. To our knowledge, this hasn’t been done before, and it raises novel questions about modern communication providers’ duties to assist with wiretaps involving encryption. The Wiretap Act is written to cover companies that have the ability to monitor communications traveling over their networks, like traditional phone companies. Facebook, however, likely cannot decrypt encrypted Messenger texts and voice calls. (Read our explanation of how we think Facebook Messenger secures communications.)

      In our petition filed today in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, EFF, the ACLU, and Riana Pfefferkorn of Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society seek to shed light on this important issue. We’re asking the court to release all court orders and related materials in the sealed Messenger case.

    • Questions We Should Be Asking About Facebook’s Smear Campaign Against Its Critics

      The New York Times published a blockbuster story about Facebook that exposed how the company used so-called “smear merchants” to attack organizations critical of the platform. The story was shocking on a number of levels, revealing that Facebook’s hired guns stooped to dog-whistling, anti-Semitic attacks aimed at George Soros 1 and writing stories blasting Facebook’s competitors on a news site they managed. As Techdirt points out, however, while the particulars are different, the basic slimy tactics are familiar. Any organization that runs public campaigns in opposition to large, moneyed corporate interests has seen some version of this “slime your enemies” playbook.

      What is different here is that Facebook, the company seeking to undermine its critics, has a powerful role in shaping whether and how news and information is presented to billions of people around the world. Facebook controls the hidden algorithms and other systems that decide what comes up in Instagram and Facebook experiences. And it does so in a way that is almost completely beyond our view, much less our control.

    • Euro consumer groups: We think Android tracking is illegal

      Seven European consumer organisations have filed a blockbuster complaint arguing that Google’s location tracking in Android lacks a valid legal basis in the European Union.

      At the heart of the complaint is that the user control of location tracking falls far short of what’s required by the union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – the consent controls are both deceptive and ineffective.

    • European consumer groups want regulators to act against Google tracking

      Google is already facing a lawsuit in the United States for allegedly tracking phone users regardless of privacy settings.

      The consumer groups, which included those in the Czech Republic, Greece, Norway, Slovenia and Sweden, filed complaints with their respective national data protection authorities, based on research by their Norwegian counterpart.

      Consumer lobby the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) alleges that Google uses various methods to encourage users to enable the settings ‘location history’ and ‘web and app activity’ which are integrated into all Google user accounts.

      “These unfair practices leave consumers in the dark about the use of their personal data,” BEUC, speaking on behalf of the countries’ consumer groups, said.

    • Google Faces GDPR Violation Complaints For Location Tracking

      European countries that have filed complaints with their respective national data protection authorities include Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, Greece, Norway, Slovenia, and Sweden.

      In an interview with AP News back in August, the Silicon Valley tech giant confirmed it does track your location for its Maps, Google Search, and Weather — even if you have turned location services off.

    • WhatsApp’s chief business officer is leaving

      Roughly one year after WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton made his highly-publicized exit from Facebook, another executive and early employee of the messaging platform is doing the same. Neeraj Arora, WhatsApp’s chief business officer, announced today that he would be “taking some time off to recharge and spend time with family.”

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • A Journalist Was Killed in Mexico. Then His Colleagues Were [Cracked].

      Javier Valdez, a prominent investigative reporter, had been shot dead only a day earlier. Then came a sudden breakthrough: According to a text message received by his colleagues, his killers had been detained.

      Despite the tragedy, his co-workers were suspicious. More than 90 percent of murders go unsolved in Mexico. How did the authorities solve the case so soon?

      More likely, they worried, the text messages were an attempt to infiltrate their smartphones — part of a pattern of [cracking] attempts involving sophisticated spying technology bought by the Mexican government.

      They were right.

    • Ottawa should press for release of Saeed Malekpour

      For just over a decade now, a Canadian resident has languished in an Iranian prison on trumped-up charges. Saeed Malekpour has been subjected to torture and for years lived under a sentence of death. Now his family and friends say he has suffered a heart attack and his health is failing.

    • “Red Flag Laws”: Rights Can’t be “Suspended,” Only Violated

      Hanna Scott of Seattle’s KIRO radio reports that prosecutors in Washington are wrestling with the question of whether or not the state’s “Red Flag law” applies to minors, and trying to stretch it to do so. Under the “law,” Scott writes, a judge can issue an “Extreme Risk Protection Order” to “temporarily suspend a person’s gun rights, even if they haven’t committed a crime.”

      Scott gets that part wrong. Judges who issue ERPOs aren’t “suspending” their victims’ gun rights and constitutionally mandated due process and property protections. They’re ordering police to violate those rights and ignore those protections. There’s a difference.

      Rights are inherent characteristics possessed by all human beings, not privileges to be granted or withheld at the whim of a bureaucrat in a black dress. And the point of the 5th Amendment’s due process clause is precisely to protect the life, liberty, and property of Americans against arbitrary judicial edicts. Under the US Constitution, “laws” which violate those protections are null and void.

      Several state governments have passed, or begun more active implementation of, these “Red Flag laws” since a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida in February.

    • How Trump Weaponized the Government’s Refugee Resettlement Agency

      Back in April, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection, both under the Department of Homeland Security, entered into a memorandum of agreement with an obscure government agency known as the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services. The office, known by its initials ORR, had traditionally served vulnerable immigrant youth coming to the United States without an adult. The agency took custody of those children while it worked to place them with a sponsor, often a relative, who would care for them. But thanks to the Trump administration’s family separation policy, ORR also began taking custody of the thousands of immigrant children forcibly separated from their parents in the past year.

      The memorandum of agreement (MOA) transformed ORR from an agency intended to protect the best interests of children into an arm of the government’s deportation force with devastating consequences for children and sponsors alike, as the Associated Press reported on Wednesday. Thanks to the MOA and a new information-sharing system under which ORR is essentially conducting surveillance for DHS, there has been a nearly sixfold increase in children detained by the Trump administration. The ACLU strongly objected to these policy changes when they were first proposed.

    • Ignorance Of The Law Is No Excuse, Court Tells Cop

      We’ve grown accustomed to law enforcement being given a pass for not knowing the laws they’re enforcing. A 2014 Supreme Court decision made being ignorant precedential, providing cops with an out citizens can’t use. Ignorance of the law can be the best excuse when it’s a cop trying to keep his evidence from being thrown out of court.

      With rare exceptions, courts have said it’s okay for officers to predicate stops on perceived traffic violations, rather than actual traffic violations. Officers really have to make an effort to run afoul of the Supreme Court-created Fourth Amendment loophole.

      Another rare exception to the Heien rule has surfaced. The Kansas State Court of Appeals has denied an officer’s attempt to salvage a stop and the evidence derived from it by asking for an application of the “ignorance of the law is an acceptable excuse” band-aid. The appeals court isn’t willing to allow an officer’s personal interpretation of motor vehicle laws to stand in for the actual wording of the law used as an excuse to pull a driver over. (via The Newspaper)

      In this case, the driver was ultimately charged with DUI and not operating a vehicle with an ignition interlock device. The defendant argued the stop wasn’t reasonable under the Fourth Amendment because the violation stated as the reason for the stop wasn’t actually a moving violation.

    • Migrant Teens at Risk as FBI Checks Are Waived for Detention Staff

      The Trump administration has put the safety of thousands of teens at a migrant detention camp at risk by waiving FBI fingerprint checks for their caregivers and short-staffing mental health workers, according to an Associated Press investigation and a new federal watchdog report.

      None of the 2,100 staffers at a tent city holding more than 2,300 teens in the remote Texas desert are going through rigorous FBI fingerprint background checks, according to a Health and Human Services inspector general memo published Tuesday.

      “Instead, Tornillo is using checks conducted by a private contractor that has access to less comprehensive data, thereby heightening the risk that an individual with a criminal history could have direct access to children,” the memo says.

      In addition, the federal government is allowing the nonprofit running the facility — BCFS Health and Human Services — to sidestep mental health care requirements. Under federal policy, migrant youth shelters generally must have one mental health clinician for every 12 kids, but the federal agency’s contract with BCFS allows it to staff Tornillo with just one clinician for every 100 children. That’s not enough to provide adequate mental health care, the inspector general office said in the memo.

      BCFS acknowledged to the AP that it currently has one mental health clinician for every 50 children at Tornillo.

    • Border Fence Quietly Slated to Expand as Congress Debates “the Wall”

      Legislators are moving toward a final showdown over one of President Trump’s central campaign promises: a southern border wall. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriations funding will make up part of a year-end spending deal that is expected to dominate the remainder of the congressional session.

      The negotiations could spark a partial federal government shutdown in coming weeks, as newly emboldened Democrats seek to push back against the president’s agenda.

      Meanwhile, even as debate continues over wall funding, the existing fence at the US-Mexico border is poised to expand. A new section of border fence is slated to come up in South Texas in February, and activists there are already pushing back.

    • With Sinclair’s Latest “Must-Run” Segment Defending Tear Gassing of Refugees, Trump’s Dream of State TV Comes True

      Though President Donald Trump this week expressed an interest in establishing a state-run TV news network due to his dissatisfaction with the media’s coverage of his historically unpopular presidency, the Sinclair Broadcast Group on Tuesday appeared to fulfill that role with another of its “must-run” pro-Trump segments, this time defending the use of tear gas on migrant children at the southern U.S. border.

      In a segment all 173 Sinclair stations were ordered to air, former Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn rejected criticism of the tear gassing and said the actions taken by U.S. border patrol agents on Sunday were necessary for the nation’s security.

      As Tim Karr of the media advocacy group Free Press wrote on Twitter, the network is already effectively serving as the state TV station the president has alluded to.

    • Government Use of Tear Gas Is Illegal in War. It Should Be Illegal Here, Too.

      Pictures of migrant women and children fleeing in panic as tear gas canisters were fired at them by U.S. border agents this week shocked many Americans, but the Trump administration praised the Border Patrol for responding “admirably and responsibility” in deploying the “accepted use of nonlethal force.”

      But using tear gas on a crowd of unarmed, largely peaceful migrants, including children, is far from “accepted.” Under international human rights law, U.S. border officials may use force only when necessary, and the force used must be proportionate to the seriousness of the offense and the legitimate objective to be achieved — when it is necessary to maintain order and protect lives. By the Border Patrol’s own unverified account, only four of its agents were hit by rocks or other projectiles, and their protective gear ensured that they were not injured. That clearly doesn’t justify hurling Triple-Chaser tear gas grenades against a crowd of a few hundred largely peaceful men, women, and children.

      And while tear gas has been outlawed as a method of warfare on the battlefield by almost every country in the world, that prohibition does not apply to domestic law enforcement officers using tear gas on their own citizens. Unfortunately, U.S. law enforcement personnel use tear gas all too often against peaceful crowds.

    • How Tear Gas Became a Favorite Weapon of U.S. Border Patrol, Despite Being Banned In Warfare

      As the Trump administration continues to defend firing tear gas into crowds of asylum seekers, we look at the history of tear gas, which is banned in warfare but legal for federal authorities and police to turn on civilians. Border authorities’ use of tear gas has spiked under the Trump administration, with the agency’s own data revealing it has deployed tear gas over two dozen times this year alone. Customs and Border Protection told Newsweek Tuesday it began using tear gas under the Obama administration in 2010. The agency’s use of tear gas has now reached a seven-year record high. We speak with Stuart Schrader, lecturer in sociology at Johns Hopkins University. He has studied how tear gas went from a weapon of war used in Vietnam to being deployed by law enforcement at home. His forthcoming book is titled “Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing.”

    • America Has Desegregated in Name Only

      It’s a little-acknowledged reality that housing markets distribute more than mere dwellings. That’s because people’s place in the social order is intimately related to their geographic place generally, and where they live specifically.

      Housing quality functions both as a reflection and driver of inequality. Beyond that, however, better homes come with better neighborhoods that afford other opportunity-expanding advantages: good, well-funded schools; high-quality and readily available health care; agreeable recreational facilities and parks; full-service grocery stores with healthy foods; excellent retail outlets; nice sit-down restaurants; well-kept roads and other infrastructure; safe distance from pollutants, major transport and cargo routes; proximity to pleasing natural vistas and settings; a vibrant civic and institutional life; abundant professional services; enjoyable public facilities, events and more. The least pleasant, spacious, healthy and expensive homes are commonly found in places where these and many other interrelated social premiums are scarce.

      One’s chances of moving up in the social order are enhanced when one can move over in the spatial order—­over to communities that offer more opportunity for social advancement. That’s the underlying truth of the classic theme song from “The Jeffersons,” a TV show that followed the travails of a middle-class black family that leaves the ghetto for a more affluent neighborhood of Manhattan. “Well we’re movin’ on up,” the lyric went, “To the East Side.” (Of course, gaining spatial entry to the privileged Upper East Side required the Jeffersons to first move up the economic ladder in order to afford access to the spatial and residential premiums of predominantly wealthy white living.)

    • Court Tells Former NRA President The First Amendment Protects Far More Than Polite Speech

      Here in America, unpleasant speech is still protected speech, something a federal court recently reminded a plaintiff. (h/t Adam Steinbaugh)

      The person bringing the lawsuit is Marion Hammer, the first female president of the National Rifle Association. A frequent target of online criticism, hate mail, and harassment, Hammer decided to sue a handful of her many, many detractors. The lawsuit [PDF] alleges an ongoing campaign of harassment and cyberstalking engaged in by the four defendants.

      The suit was filed in July. Three of the four defendants failed to respond. The fourth, Lawrence T. “LOL” Sorensen, responded with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Sorensen argued his communications with Hammer were protected speech. The judge agrees. In Robert Hinkle’s short decision [PDF], the judge reminds Hammer that the First Amendment protects a lot of speech people don’t like, even when it’s targeting them.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • From $1.50 To $10 Per Month: How Comcast’s Bogus Fees Are False Advertising

      The Trump administration has put the safety of thousands of teens at a migrant detention camp at risk by waiving FBI fingerprint checks for their caregivers and short-staffing mental health workers, according to an Associated Press investigation and a new federal watchdog report.

      None of the 2,100 staffers at a tent city holding more than 2,300 teens in the remote Texas desert are going through rigorous FBI fingerprint background checks, according to a Health and Human Services inspector general memo published Tuesday.

      “Instead, Tornillo is using checks conducted by a private contractor that has access to less comprehensive data, thereby heightening the risk that an individual with a criminal history could have direct access to children,” the memo says.

      In addition, the federal government is allowing the nonprofit running the facility — BCFS Health and Human Services — to sidestep mental health care requirements. Under federal policy, migrant youth shelters generally must have one mental health clinician for every 12 kids, but the federal agency’s contract with BCFS allows it to staff Tornillo with just one clinician for every 100 children. That’s not enough to provide adequate mental health care, the inspector general office said in the memo.

      BCFS acknowledged to the AP that it currently has one mental health clinician for every 50 children at Tornillo.

    • Activists Make One Last Push To Restore Net Neutrality Via Congressional Review Act

      Efforts to reverse the FCC’s historically unpopular attack on net neutrality using the Congressional Review Act (CRA) have been stuck in neutral for several months, but activists are backing one last push in a bid to get the uphill effort over the hump.

      The CRA lets Congress reverse a regulatory action with a simple majority vote in the Senate and the House (which is how the GOP successfully killed broadband consumer privacy protections last year). And while the Senate voted 52 to 47 back in May to reverse the FCC’s attack on net neutrality, companion efforts to set up a similar vote in the House haven’t gained much traction as the clock continues to tick. A discharge petition needs 218 votes to even see floor time, and another 218 votes to pass the measure.

      But the needed votes have lingered at around 172 for months, split (quite stupidly, given broad public support) along strict partisan lines.

    • Pompous ‘International Grand Committee’ Signs Useless But Equally Pompous ‘Declaration On Principles Of Law Governing The Internet’

      So just a few weeks after a bunch of countries (and companies and organizations) signed onto a weird and mostly empty Paris Call for Trust and Safety in Cyberspace, a group of nine countries — Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Ireland, Latvia, Singapore and the UK, have declared themselves the “International Grand Committee on Disinformation and Fake News” and signed onto a Principles of the Law Governing the Internet. If that list of countries sound familiar, that’s because it’s the same list of countries that put on that grandstanding inquisition of Facebook that produced fake news in its own way, by falsely claiming that Facebook had discovered Russians extracting 3 billion data points via its API back in 2014 (it wasn’t Russia, it was Pinterest; it wasn’t 3 billion, it was 6 million; it wasn’t abuse of the API, but using it correctly).

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Changes to draft EU legislation introducing an export manufacturing waiver to SPCs

      A consolidation and modernization of Europe’s intellectual property framework, featuring a “recalibration” of patent and SPC protection and possibly the creation of a unitary SPC title – those were the ambitious aims set out in the European Union’s single market strategy adopted in 2015. This was followed by a comprehensive evaluation of the legal aspects of the SPC system and its economic impact, which gave reason to believe that the groundwork for a fundamental reform had been laid.

    • Copyrights

      • Open Music Initiative: Seeking To Drive The Beat On Global Standards, Rights Attribution

        The Open Music Initiative provides a forum for collaboration across academic, tech and music industry stakeholders around the world, and is working to develop the global standards for music rights attribution that could stand for the next 100 years. Establishing such standards will enable fair compensation to rights holders and creators, and establish a basis for ongoing innovation in the music industry, leading to new digital platforms and services, and new music, according to Open Music members.

      • Australian Parliament Moves Copyright Amendment Out Of Committee and Into Law

        As we have been discussing over the past few months, Australia has been considering updating its copyright law from one which does site-blocking with judicial oversight to one which does site-blocking, mirror-blocking without judicial oversight, search results blocking, and expands the definition of the types of sites to be blocked from those with the primary “purpose” of infringement to those with the primary “effect” being infringement. These changes came with concerns in tow, both from government officials and tech companies, and it’s understandable why. Any time the government looks to lessen its own oversight in the interest of making it easier for corporate interests to censor the internet for the common citizen, it creates a situation practically begging for abuse with the principal effect being dampening the primary purpose of the internet as a communications tool. The concerns raised over this change in the law focused on those very things, while also highlighting how the copyright industries have been touting the site-blocking already in place as a success.

      • Marrakesh Treaty is no paper tiger: EU Commission sues 17 countries for non-compliance

        On 26 November 2018, the EU Commission initiated proceedings for infringement of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union against 17 (out of 28) Member States for non-compliance with the Directive requiring the transposition into national law of the Marrakesh Treaty (Directive (EU) 2017/1564).

        The Marrakesh Treaty is a WIPO-administered convention that was signed on 27 June 2013 and entered into force on 30 September 2016. The convention seeks to facilitate “the production and international transfer of specially-adapted books for people with blindness or visual impairment” (here). This was done by creating copyright limitations and exceptions to allow the creation of copies of protected works accessible to the visually impaired, when none is otherwise available.

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