11.27.18

Links 27/11/2018: GCC 7.4 Coming Soon and a Rare ‘Supply Chain’ Incident

Posted in News Roundup at 2:29 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • What the open source community means to me

    Every time I tell my friends about my hobby—which became my career as the executive director at The Document Foundation—I face lots of questions. A worldwide community? Contributors around the globe? An open source community? Can you eat that?!

    Well, actually sometimes you can eat it. But seriously, today, I’d like to share my very personal view about what the open source community means to me and why being active is not only fun but also benefits your whole life.

  • Preparing for 2019 Open Source Security Initiatives

    I read a very interesting article in the September-October 2018 issue of the Harvard Business Review entitled “Too Many Projects”, by Rose Hollister and Michael D. Watkins. The article, based on the author’s consulting work, detailed their observations around root causes of initiative overload, including impact blindness, multiplier effects, political logrolling, unfunded mandates, cost myopia and inertia. “Understanding those causes,” claim the authors “can help leaders diagnose the risks in their organizations and make smarter decisions about what to keep and what to kill.”

    On page 7 of the print edition (page 6 of the online edition), I noticed an interesting sidebar entitled “Questions to Ask Before You Launch an Initiative”. As I read through the sidebar I found my mind connecting the dots between these proposed project pre-launch questions and the selection of an open source security tool within an organization. All too often individuals suggest implementing an open source tool to address an organizational pain point because, at face value, open source tools have no upfront implementation cost. What happens, however, is that during the implementation the organization quickly realizes the unanticipated operational expenditures associated with their chosen tool.

  • Yubico Introduces Open Source YubiHSM SDK for Securing Infrastructures and Cryptographic Key Material

    Yubico, the leading provider of hardware authentication security keys, today announced a new open source YubiHSM 2 (hardware security module) software development kit (SDK) available for developers and engineers to easily implement the YubiHSM 2 for an unlimited amount of use cases. The YubiHSM 2 delivers the highest levels of security for cryptographic digital key generation, storage, and management, supporting an extensive range of enterprise environments and applications, in a cost effective and minimalistic form factor.

  • Drone.io gives open-source community free continuous integration service

    Continuous delivery platform provider Drone.io is giving back to the open-source community with the release of a continuous integration hosted service solution. Drone Cloud is being released to the open-source community for free with the help of bare metal cloud provider Packet.

    According to the company, the solution is being powered by infrastructure donated from Packet.

    “We were really excited about Brad’s (founder of Drone.io) reasons for rolling out Drone Cloud,” Jacob Smith, CMO of Packet, wrote in a blog post. “When he spoke about all of the Drone (and other) users who are building for an exploding set of architectures and operating systems. Pairing Intel, AMD, Arm and (hopefully soon) other bare metal systems with new features in Drone meant that our two small companies could make a real impact on a lot of projects.”

  • IVI Leads Progress in Value Assessment Through Open-Source Platform

    In recent weeks, CVS Caremark announced that it will be using ICER’s cost-effectiveness reports to determine coverage for drugs, using a specific cost per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) threshold for those determinations. This decision has led to vocal opposition and debate. Patient groups have spoken out strongly against the CVS approach, specifically objecting to the use of QALYs.

    Journal of Clinical Pathways spoke with Mark Linthicum, MPP, and Jennifer Bright, both with the Innovation and Value Initiative (IVI), regarding the need to find a rational middle ground and to work toward more tailored use of value information for decision-making.

  • ARM RISC OS (with BBC BASIC) goes open source

    The original ARM operating system RISC OS has gone open source.

    The OS itself was originally developed by Acorn Computers in Cambridge, England and was first released in 1987.

    It was initially developed to run the 32-bit Arm processor family and was built using assembly language.

    RISC OS is open sourced and available under the Apache 2.0 licence — it was one of the first operating systems to support the Raspberry Pi.

  • Web-Scale Companies Pioneer Open Line Systems, but Will Network Operators Follow?

    First, some background: An optical line system consists of optical amplifiers, multiplexers/demultiplexers and ROADMs. Historically, the line system has been tightly coupled with the terminal systems (i.e., transponders) with both line and terminal supplied by the same vendor. The end-to-end optical network has historically been a closed and proprietary system. Lately, though, some web-scale providers have concluded that this model stifles innovation and are bringing the concept of disaggregation to optical networking in the form of the open line system (OLS).

    An open line system decouples the optical line elements from the terminals to create several potential benefits for service providers, with rapid technology adoption being one of the biggest drivers. Coherent detection and photonic integration (including silicon photonics) have spurred rapid innovation in transponders, while line systems are evolving more slowly. Decoupling the line from the terminals allows service providers to advance through several generations of transponder technologies without having to change the line systems.

  • Events

    • KDAB Talks at Qt World Summit Berlin

      KDAB is presenting two great talks at Qt World Summit. At 13:30, you can get an in-depth look at a new concept for designers and developers with James Turner.

      At 14:30, Milian Wolff will be presenting some of KDAB’s renowned opensource tools, some of which, like Hotspot, he created himself.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • This Week In Servo 119

        Our roadmap is available online, including the overall plans for 2018.

      • William Lachance: Making contribution work for Firefox tooling and data projects

        One of my favorite parts about Mozilla is mentoring and working alongside third party contributors. Somewhat surprisingly since I work on internal tools, I’ve had a fair amount of luck finding people to help work on projects within my purview: mozregression, perfherder, metrics graphics, and others have all benefited from the contributions of people outside of Mozilla.

        In most cases (a notable exception being metrics graphics), these have been internal-tooling projects used by others to debug, develop, or otherwise understand the behaviour of Firefox. On the face of it, none of the things I work on are exactly “high profile cutting edge stuff” in the way, say, Firefox or the Rust Programming Language are. So why do they bother?

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

    • Community Member Monday: Cathy Crumbley

      At our recent LibreOffice Conference in Tirana, Albania, we invited community members across the globe to join us. Cathy Crumbley from Massachusetts, USA, has recently been involved in the documentation project, and flew over to meet us. Here’s what she had to say:

  • Education

  • Amazon Spying/Openwashing

  • Funding

    • Feeling generous? Open source software community gives shelter to code

      Open source communities have never been as bustling, and joining the fray has never been easier. Are you looking for a new project to work on? Do you have some code that you’d like to donate? We take a look at some organizations that deserve a time in the sun and your attention.

    • Why Citus Data is donating 1 percent equity to PostgreSQL foundations

      The distribution model for databases is shifting to the cloud. With this shift, the economics of open source communities are changing. One of the most important issues in modern software is building sustainable open source models in the age of the cloud.

      A challenge with being an independent open source project, however, is financial. The PostgreSQL community is committed to driving innovation on the world’s most advanced open source database. How does the funding model evolve over time to ensure the sustainability of Postgres?

      We sat down and had a chat with Umur Cubukcu, CEO and co-founder of Citus Data to learn more about the open source community.

  • BSD

    • Abandon Linux. Move to FreeBSD or Illumos. [iophk: "chokes on Microsoft propaganda towards the end"]

      Is your company based on opensource based software only? Do you have a bunch of developers hitting some kind of server you have installed for them to “do their thing”? Being it for economical reasons (remember to donate), being it for philosophycal ones, you may have skipped good alternatives. The BSD’s and Illumos.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • Richard Stallman: Bitcoin Doesn’t Protect Privacy; Better Options Are Yet To Come

      If you keep yourself updated with the latest happenings in the world of cryptocurrency, you must be aware of the fact that Bitcoin is currently facing one of the worst weekly losses since 2013. Currently, it’s trading below $4,000.

      In my view, it’s a perfect time to analyze if the current set of cryptocurrencies is our best bet. In a recent interview with CoinDesk, the Free Software founder Richard Stallman echoed similar sentiments.

    • Richard Stallman hates Bitcoin
    • Is There A Better Option Than Bitcoin? Free Software Movement Founder Believes Better To Come

      Richard Stallman is largely known for being the founder of the free software movement. This movement is over three decades old, and the non-profit organization focuses on supporting software developers to create free software. Recently, Stallman sat down for an interview with CoinDesk, discussing his theories of where the cryptocurrency industry can go from here.

      Stallman spoke abut the way that right-wing comprise much of the Bitcoin pool of early adopters, quickly establishing himself as someone that doesn’t quite favor the technology involved. Though some of the reason seems to be political, it isn’t entirely so. He hasn’t used Bitcoin at all, despite creating a similar technology that allows for digital payments with the GNU Project. Still, he makes it clear that their Taler system is about cryptography and not cryptocurrency. Realistically, this project is meant for a “post-blockchain” world.

    • GCC 7.4 Status Report (2018-11-22), GCC 7.4 RC1 scheduled for next week
    • GCC 7.4 Is Being Released Soon

      While GCC 9 is releasing in early 2019, for those still depending upon last year’s GCC 7 compiler series, the GCC 7.4 point release will soon be out.

      SUSE’s Richard Biener is putting the finishing touches on GCC 7.4. He intends to issue the first release candidate towards the end of this week while the official GCC 7.4.0 compiler release shouldn’t be long after that. The GCC 7 branch remains open for bug and documentation fixes.

    • GRUB Picks Up Zstd Support To Handle Compressed Btrfs File-Systems

      For the past year the Btrfs file-system in the mainline Linux kernel has supported Zstd as one of its file-system compression options. With the very latest GRUB boot-loader code, it can now deal with your Zstd-compressed Btrfs file-systems.

      As of Monday, the GNU GRUB boot-loader pulled in a copy of the Zstd decompression code.

  • Programming/Development

    • Researchers estimate that Python, Javascript, and R contribute billions to GDP

      Gross domestic product, perhaps the most commonly used statistic in the world for evaluating economic progress, has some issues.

      Increasingly, one of the biggest problems is that GDP generally underestimates the value of free goods and services—checking facts on Wikipedia or sharing photos on Instagram, for instance. GDP is best at measuring the impact of TV and car sales—not of things available for free or that require you to view ads, like broadcast TV or Facebook, explains the Financial Times’s Gillian Tett.

      As a new research paper points out, this shortcoming also means GDP may be missing a lot of value created in the form of free programming languages (pdf). The most popular programming languages, like JavaScript and Python, are open source. This means that anyone can use them for free and modify them to develop new programs that they can then offer for free or for sale. JavaScript, for example, is used on about 95% of websites. Python, the most popular tool for data scientists, is used by companies like Google and Facebook to analyze data and develop new products.

    • The rumors of java’s demise are greatly exaggerated

      If you do an Internet search on the phrase, “Is Java dead,” more than 62 million hits will come up. The idea that Java has passed its useful life has been predicted for almost a decade. And yet Java remains the No. 1 programming language, according to surveys.

      At the same time, enterprises are becoming more comfortable with having a polyglot programming environment, allowing developers the flexibility to use the tools they consider appropriate for the task at hand.

      This makes it more likely – not less – that Java will continue to thrive. If enterprise environments are becoming more splintered, Java, with its huge installed base and experienced programmers, is unlikely to be overtaken by any new language for many years to come.

    • Coverage.py 5.0a4: the sys.path to hell

      Another alpha of Coverage.py 5.0 is available: 5.0a4. This fixes a few problems with the new SQLite-based storage. Please give it a try, especially to experiment with dynamic contexts.

      The challenge with this release was something that started as a seemingly simple fix. Coverage.py tries to emulate how Python runs programs, including how the first element of sys.path is set. A few people run coverage with sys.path fully configured, and coverage’s setting of sys.path[0] was breaking their stuff.

    • RQuantLib 0.4.6: Updated upstream, and calls for help

      The new 0.4.6 release of RQuantLib arrived on CRAN and Debian earlier today. It is two-fold update: catching up QuantLib 1.14 while also updating to Boost 1.67 (and newer).

      A special thanks goes to Josh for updating to the binary windows library in the rwinlib repository allowing us a seamless CRAN update.

      The package needs some help, though. There are two open issues. First, while it builds on Windows, many functions currently throw errors. This may be related to upstream switching to a choice of C++11 or Boost smart pointers though this throws no spanners on Linux. So it may simply be that some of the old curve-building code shows its age. It could also be something completely different—but we need something with a bit of time, debugging stamina, at least a little C++ knowledge and a working Windows setup for testing. I have a few of the former attributes and can help, but no suitable windows (or mac, see below) machine. If you are, or can be, the person to help on Windows, please get in touch at this issue ticket.

    • How to use multiple programming languages without losing your mind

      With all the different programming languages available today, many organizations have become digital polyglots. Open source opens up a world of languages and technology stacks developers can use to accomplish their tasks, including developing and supporting legacy and modern software applications.

      Polyglots can talk with millions more people than those who only speak their native language. In software environments, developers don’t introduce new languages to achieve specifc ends, not to communicate better. Some languages are great for one task but not another, so working with multiple programming languages enables developers to use the right tool for the job. In this way, all development is polyglot; it’s just the nature of the beast.

      The creation of a polyglot environment is often gradual and situational. For example, when an enterprise acquires a company, it takes on the company’s technology stacks—including its programming languages. Or as tech leadership changes, new leaders may bring different technologies into the fold. Technologies also fall in and out of fashion, expanding the number of programming languages and technologies an organization has to maintain over time.

      A polyglot environment is a double-edged sword for enterprises, bringing benefits but also complexities and challenges. Ultimately, if the situation remains unchecked, polyglot will kill your enterprise.

    • How many programming languages is too many for one project?

      One great thing about programming languages is that there is such diversity that you can choose the best one to solve any given problem. But sometimes the worst thing can be when projects take advantage of this and build applications or systems of applications that require domain knowledge of many different languages. When this happens, it can be difficult for everyone, or even anyone, to fully understand the scope of the project.

    • 54: Python 1994 – Paul Everitt

      Paul talks about the beginning years of Python.
      Talking about Python’s beginnings is also talking about the Python community beginnings.
      Yes, it’s reminiscing, but it’s fun.

    • PyDev of the Week: Reimar Bauer

      This week we welcome Reimar Bauer (@ReimarBauer) as our PyDev of the Week! Reimar is a core developer of the popular Python wiki package, MoinMoin. He has spoken at PyCON DE, FOSDEM and EuroPython about Python. Let’s take a few minutes to get to know him better!

    • RLSL Continues Maturing For Compiling Rust To SPIR-V For Use With Vulkan Drivers

      One of the most passionate topics by readers in the Phoronix Forums is the Rust programming language. For about one year now “RLSL” has been in the works as a Rust-based shading language that can compile into SPIR-V. While initially I held off on writing about it to see if it would be just another small toy project, RLSL has continued maturing and seeing new functionality added in.

    • Andy Wingo: instruction explosion in guile

      In the previous blog post I wrote about how to write a RGB to grayscale conversion filter for GStreamer in Rust. In this blog post I’m going to write about how to optimize the processing loop of that filter, without resorting to unsafe code or SIMD instructions by staying with plain, safe Rust code.

      I also tried to implement the processing loop with faster, a Rust crate for writing safe SIMD code. It looks very promising, but unless I missed something in the documentation it currently is missing some features to be able to express this specific algorithm in a meaningful way. Once it works on stable Rust (waiting for SIMD to be stabilized) and includes runtime CPU feature detection, this could very well be a good replacement for the ORC library used for the same purpose in GStreamer in various places. ORC works by JIT-compiling a minimal “array operation language” to SIMD assembly for your specific CPU (and has support for x86 MMX/SSE, PPC Altivec, ARM NEON, etc.).

    • [Older] Speeding up RGB to grayscale conversion in Rust by a factor of 2.2 – and various other multimedia related processing loops

      In the previous blog post I wrote about how to write a RGB to grayscale conversion filter for GStreamer in Rust. In this blog post I’m going to write about how to optimize the processing loop of that filter, without resorting to unsafe code or SIMD instructions by staying with plain, safe Rust code.

      I also tried to implement the processing loop with faster, a Rust crate for writing safe SIMD code. It looks very promising, but unless I missed something in the documentation it currently is missing some features to be able to express this specific algorithm in a meaningful way. Once it works on stable Rust (waiting for SIMD to be stabilized) and includes runtime CPU feature detection, this could very well be a good replacement for the ORC library used for the same purpose in GStreamer in various places. ORC works by JIT-compiling a minimal “array operation language” to SIMD assembly for your specific CPU (and has support for x86 MMX/SSE, PPC Altivec, ARM NEON, etc.).

    • Selenium, jQuery and File uploads

      One of the contracts I’ve been working on recently is working with Gurock building a test automation system for a PHP application, their test management app TestRail. As well as building the instrastructure for the application testing and the API testing I’ve once again been involved in the nitty-gritty of testing a web application with Selenium and all the fun that involved.

      And actually it has been fun. We’ve had a bunch of issues to overcome and despite the usual pain and trauma and running round in circles we seem to have overcome most of them and have a test suite that is robust against the three different platforms we’re testing against.

    • Continuous Integration with Python: An Introduction

      When writing code on your own, the only priority is making it work. However, working in a team of professional software developers brings a plethora of challenges. One of those challenges is coordinating many people working on the same code.

      How do professional teams make dozens of changes per day while making sure everyone is coordinated and nothing is broken? Enter continuous integration!

    • Python Cyber Monday Sales
    • Truths programmers should know about case

      A couple weeks ago I gave a talk about usernames at North Bay Python. The content came mostly from things I’ve learned in roughly 12 years of maintaining django-registration, which has taught me more than I ever wanted to know about how complex even “simple” things can be.

      I mentioned toward the beginning of the talk, though, that it wasn’t going to be one of those “falsehoods programmers believe about X” things. If you’re not familiar with those, you can just Google for “falsehoods programmers believe” and get a bunch of typical examples. My issues with the “falsehoods” articles is, basically, that they tell you a bunch of things they say are wrong, but many don’t tell you why those things are wrong or what they think you should do instead. Which I suspect will just lead people to read the article, pat themselves on the back, and then find new and exciting ways to be wrong that weren’t mentioned, because they haven’t actually learned about the underlying issues.

    • Python founder Guido van Rossum: What do do with your computer science career

      I regularly receive questions from students in the field of computer science looking for career advice.

      Here’s an answer I wrote to one of them. It’s not comprehensive or anything, but I thought people might find it interesting.

      The question about “9-5″ vs. “enterpreneur” is a complex one — not everybody can be a successful entrepreneur (who would do the work? :-) and not everybody has the temperament for it. For me personally it was never an option — there are vast parts of management and entrepreneurship that I wouldn’t enjoy doing, such as hiring (I hate interviewing and am bad at it) and firing (too emotionally draining — even just giving negative feedback is hard for me). Pitching ideas to investors is another thing that I’d rather do without.

    • Contributor Focus: Zander Brown

      All I can say is that I’m thankful for his considerable contributions to Mu’s code base, eagle-eyed code reviews and seemingly limitless Pythonic knowledge.

      Actually, when I met Zander for the first time in July, it turned out he’s a 17 year-old studying for his A-levels (the exams teenagers sit in the UK to help them to get into university). He’s doing A-levels in Maths, Physics and Computer Science. He’s third from the left in the picture below:

Leftovers

  • Science

    • How do we make nautical charts?

      A nautical chart is a map of the sea. Just as a map helps us navigate on land, a nautical chart helps those traveling on the ocean get where they’re going safely and efficiently.

      In 2017, $1.6 trillion worth of goods moved through U.S. ports. With all that traffic, it’s important that those navigating through our ports and along our coastlines have the information they need about the shape of the shoreline and seafloor, water depths, potential hazards in the water, buoys, anchorages, and other features.

      Federal laws say most commercial vessels must have nautical charts while traveling in U.S. waters. NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey makes and updates all charts of U.S. coastal waters, the Great Lakes, and waters surrounding U.S. territories. So how do these important resources get made and updated? It’s a continuous process that involves many people from different disciplines and organizations.

  • Hardware

    • The Chipmaker Caught in U.S. Assault on China’s Tech Ambitions

      That’s where Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co. built a $6 billion plant to produce semiconductors as part of China’s goal of making the country a self-sufficient technology powerhouse. But after the U.S. President barred exports to the company, its dream is now in tatters with consultants from American suppliers gone, the factories silent and workers rattled.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • An Anti-Vaxxer’s New Crusade

      On the morning of April 19, 2016, Melanie Lilliston received an urgent call from the Little Dreamers day care center, in Rockville, Maryland. Her 6-month-old daughter, Millie, was being rushed to the hospital. Doctors there found that Millie had fractured ribs, facial bruises and a severe brain injury. Melanie watched as her daughter was loaded onto a helicopter for emergency transport to Children’s National Medical Center, in Washington, D.C., where doctors discovered more injuries: a fractured leg and arm, as well as bleeding in her eyes. Millie died three days later.

      The day care operator, Kia Divband, told police that Millie had started choking while drinking a bottle of milk and lost consciousness. The Montgomery County medical examiner, however, determined that her injuries were caused by blunt force. Investigators discovered, on Divband’s phone and computer, internet searches for “broken bones in children” and “why are bone fractures in children sometimes hard to detect.” A former employer of Divband’s told them that the day before Millie was hospitalized, Divband had called to inquire about a job, and a baby could be heard wailing in the background. Divband told him the baby wouldn’t stop crying and that “he just couldn’t take it anymore,” the former boss recalled. Divband was arrested and charged with fatally abusing Millie.

      At Divband’s trial, last year, a radiologist named David Ayoub testified for the defense. Ayoub, who is a partner in a private radiology practice in Springfield, Illinois, told jurors he had reviewed X-rays and other medical records, and concluded that Millie had rickets, a rare condition that causes fragile bones. The disorder, which is usually brought on by a prolonged and severe lack of vitamin D, could explain Millie’s injuries, Ayoub said.

    • California Wildfire Likely Spread Nuclear Contamination From Toxic Site

      The incredibly destructive Woolsey Fire in southern California has burned nearly 100,000 acres in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, killed three people, destroyed more than 400 structures, and at the time of this writing, was finally nearly completely contained.

      The fire may also have released large amounts of radiation and toxins into the air after burning through a former rocket engine testing site where a partial nuclear meltdown took place nearly six decades ago.

      “The Woolsey Fire has most likely released and spread both radiological and chemical contamination that was in the Santa Susana Field Laboratory’s soil and vegetation via smoke and ash,” Dr. Bob Dodge, president of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles (PSR-LA), told Truthout.

      The fire has been widely reported to have started “near” the Santa Susana Field Laboratory site (SSFL), but according to PSR-LA, it appears to have started at the site itself.

      The contaminated site — a 2,849-acre former rocket engine test site and nuclear research facility — is located just 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

  • Security

    • New cryptominer seeks out root permissions on Linux machines [Ed: Bad reporting, connecting "DirtyCow" (on already-infiltrated machines) to something that looks to exploit bad username/password combinations (weak password selected by users)]

      The trojan seeks root permissions by using the Linux kernel exploits DirtyCow (CVE-2016-5195) and Linux.Exploit.CVE-2013-2094 to escalate its privileges. T

    • This Linux virus is a total jerk, even by malware standards

      Comprised of over 1,000 lines of code, Linux.BtcMine.174 (the company is better at identifying malware than giving it a headline-friendly name), is particularly malicious thanks to the number of ways it attacks its host computer.

      As the name suggests, the main function of the malware is to mine cryptocurrency – in this case Monero – but before it even gets to that point, it has some fun with its Linux host. At the start of the infection, it finds a folder it has write permissions for, so it can copy itself and download additional modules.

      It then tries a couple of privilege escalation exploits – including Dirty Cow (now that’s how you name an exploit!) – to obtain root access giving it root permissions and full access to the OS. It then sets itself up as a local daemon and gets the nohup utility if it’s not already there, and downloads and runs a DDoS malware strain called the Bill Gates trojan for good measure.

    • Open Source Security Podcast: Episode 124 – Cloudflare’s service workers and the economics of security

      Josh and Kurt talk about Cloudflare’s new Workers service. We spend a lot of time discussing how economics drives technology, not security. It’s quite likely this new service is less secure than existing alternatives, but it will be cheaper and faster which will matter more than security.

    • UK cops won’t go after researcher who reported security issue to York city officials

      York city officials face backlash after reporting security researcher who found a bug in one of their mobile apps to law enforcement.

    • Critical Flaw In USPS’s Website Risked Data Of Millions Of Users

      The United States Postal Service (USPS) has fixed its broken API that had exposed the account details of 60 million users who had signed up for the service “Informed Delivery”.

      Informed Delivery is a new service that USPS is providing through which people can see scanned pictures of all their incoming mails. The images are sent before the mail is actually delivered by the company. People can keep a track of their mails and find out beforehand whether any important mail is due to arrive today or not.

    • Overview of Meltdown and Spectre CPU issues

      The out-of-order execution features of processors, together with
      speculated execution and lacking permission checking recently lead to
      new two major classes of side channel attacks that could leak privileged
      information.
      The core issue is that some side effects of out-of-order execution are not
      being rolled back fully when the respective instructions flow is not executed,
      leaving some lingering effects, like cache presence of fetched data.
      The last year saw various attacks and mitigations being published for
      these effects, but so far they lacked classification and an overview of
      those attacks.

    • Chrome and Firefox Developers Aim to Remove Support for FTP

      Google developers have wanted to remove FTP support from Chrome for years and an upcoming change in how files stored on FTP servers are rendered in the browser may be the first step in its ultimate removal.

      Currently when a user opens a file on a FTP server using Chrome, it will try and render that file in the browser. For example, if you go to the URL ftp://ftp.hp.com/pub/extaccel/landing.jpg, it will render the image directly in the browser as shown below.

    • Google Wants to Remove FTP From Chrome. Would You Even Care?

      Google has wanted to remove FTP from Chrome for years, and Chrome developers are taking a new step towards that goal. After all, FTP is an old, unencrypted protocol. We should have stopped using it years ago.

    • Select Xorg X11 Server Versions Are Vulnerable To Privilege Escalation Exploits, OpenBSD and CentOS Affected [Ed: A lot of these machines do not have X installed and more importantly one has to already have an account and access to the server to leverage (patch available)]
    • Security updates for Monday
    • Linux malware of no use unless it gains access through SSH

      A script that mines for cryptocurrencies on Linux systems first needs to infect these systems, either by using brute force to guess SSH passwords or else by gaining entry through the use of stolen credentials that can be bought on dark web forums.
      Security researcher Alexander Vurasko, who runs the Dr Web anti-virus firm, told iTWire in response to queries that the malware itself — which he has named Linux.BtcMine.174 — was a long and complicated script that could do a number of things, including upping its privileges if the system was still vulnerable to a two-year-old flaw known as the Dirty Cow vulnerability.

      The malware has been reported by some without offering any perspective as to how it first gains entry to a system, with a bid to apparently protray it as a weakness in Linux itself.

    • BitPay’s Copay Wallet Compromised by Malicious Code, Firm Issues Advice for Users
    • Fake Developer Sneaks Malicious Code into BitPay’s Copay Wallet
    • Backdoor in Popular JavaScript Library Set to Steal Cryptocurrency
    • Unknown dev gets rights to popular module, adds crypto stealer
    • Popular BitPay Wallet Hacked, Your Private Keys Might Be Exposed
    • PSA: Vulnerability in popular Bitcoin wallet exposes your private keys
    • Confirmed: “Malicious Code Deployed on Versions 5.0.2 through 5.1.0 of Copay & BitPay apps”
    • Hacker backdoors popular JavaScript library to steal Bitcoin funds
    • Breaking: Numerous Bitcoin Wallets May Have Been Compromised by Rogue Developer
    • Widely used open source software contained bitcoin-stealing backdoor

      The malicious code was inserted in two stages into event-stream, a code library with 2 million downloads that’s used by Fortune 500 companies and small startups alike. In stage one, version 3.3.6, published on September 8, included a benign module known as flatmap-stream. Stage two was implemented on October 5 when flatmap-steam was updated to include malicious code that attempted to steal bitcoin wallets and transfer their balances to a server located in Kuala Lumpur. The backdoor came to light last Tuesday with this report from Github user Ayrton Sparling. Officials with the NPM, the open source project manager that hosted event-stream, didn’t issue an advisory until Monday, six days later.

    • Malware vector: become an admin on dormant, widely-used open source projects

      Many open source projects attain a level of “maturity” where no one really needs any new features and there aren’t a lot of new bugs being found, and the contributors to these projects dwindle, often to a single maintainer who is generally grateful for developers who take an interest in these older projects and offer to share the choresome, intermittent work of keeping the projects alive.

      Ironically, these are often projects with millions of users, who trust them specifically because of their stolid, unexciting maturity.

    • What’s up with backdoored npm packages?

      A story broke recently about a backdoor added to a Node Package Manager (NPM) package called event-stream. This package is downloaded about two million times a week by developers. That’s a pretty impressive amount, many projects would be happy with two million downloads a year.

      The Register did a pretty good writeup, I don’t want to recap the details here, I have a different purpose and that’s really to look at how does this happen and can we stop it?

      Firstly, the short answer is we can’t stop it. You can stop reading now if that’s all you came for. Go tell all your friends how smart you are for only using artisan C libraries instead of filthy NPM modules.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Be it Obama, Clinton, Trump or Kanye West, the US will never hold MbS accountable for Khashoggi’s murder
    • Argentine prosecutors consider criminal charges against Saudi crown prince ahead of G20 arrival

      Argentine prosecutors are considering possible criminal charges against Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as he plans to attend the G20 summit this week in Buenos Aires, according to reports.
      The investigation focuses on allegations of war crimes during the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen and allegations of torture including the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
      The probe was initiated by a complaint filed by Human Rights Watch on November 26 to an Argentine federal prosecutor.

    • With Peace Talks on the Horizon, Saudis Defy Truce to Redouble Deadly Strikes on Yemen’s Civilians
    • With New Hope for War Powers Vote, Poll Shows American Public Strongly Favors End to US-Backed War in Yemen

      Following an escalation in the Saudi-led assault on the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, most Americans said in a survey released Monday that the U.S. must end the support that has made possible the Saudis’ war in the impoverished country.

      A poll commissioned by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and taken by YouGov found that three-quarters of 1,168 respondents were opposed to U.S. military support of the war—support which has included hundreds of billions of dollars in weapons sales, refueling support, and intelligence.

      Americans across the political spectrum expressed strong disapproval of U.S. involvement in the war, which, by some estimates, has left more than 15,000 civilians dead, more than three million displaced, 14 million on the brink of famine, and 85,000 children dead of starvation. More than half of conservatives joined nearly nine in 10 liberals and progressives who took the survey, in calling for an end to American support.

    • How The Saudis With U.S. Help Made The Middle East “A Very Dangerous Place”

      The Middle East, like the rest of the world, is a “very dangerous place!” according to President Trump. The Saudis, with America’s tacit help, made it so.

      President Trump’s bizarre and strange recent statement giving Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) a pass on his involvement in journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder raises a number of serious issues that Trump cavalierly dismisses or doesn’t know about in the first place. Beyond the half-truths and the lame rationale he has offered in defense of MbS, the president is in fact undermining America’s long-term interests in the region and putting the lives of American citizens—civilians, diplomats, and military—in that part of the world at risk.

      To ascribe theories of political realism, international trade, or regional power competition to Trump’s apologia of Saudi Arabia is to give unwarranted credit to the rambling statement that Trump reportedly dictated. By attributing such lofty “transactional” doctrines as the realpolitik and liberal order paradigm to the statement is to presume that the president had studied the realities of the Middle East, the history and dynamics of American-Saudi relations over the years, the Saudi role in preaching a radical version of Sunni Islam in the past half century, or the emergence of the international order since World War II. The piece failed to show any such analytic depth or informed expertise. Instead, it was no more than a disjointed, truth-challenged, strategy-devoid, and Iran-bashing ode to Arab dictators, tribal Sunni potentates, and MbS in particular. It takes the president’s dystopian view of the world to another level.

    • The War in Yemen Is Not a War. It Is a Massacre

      The numbers are mind-blowing: Since the beginning of the conflict in Yemen, an estimated 85,000 children under five may have died from extreme hunger and disease, according to the last analysis by Save the Children, the international health and human rights organization. Although children are the most affected by the conflict, 14 million people are at risk of famine, according to data compiled by the United Nations.

      For almost four years, Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, has been ravaged by a bloody conflict between Houthi rebels and supporters of Yemen’s internationally recognized government. In 2015, Saudi Arabia formed a coalition of Arab states to fight the Houthis, which included Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, and Senegal. These countries have either sent troops to fight on the ground in Yemen or have carried out air attacks.

      Iran has reportedly sent armaments and military advisers to help the Houthis, thus exacerbating their long-held animosity against the Saudis. In addition to fighting the Houthis in Yemen, the Saudis are backing the rebels fighting against Bashar al-Assad’s government, while Iran has a strong influence over the Assad regime. In Lebanon, while Iran has shown strong support for Hezbollah, Saudi Arabia supports the Sunni Future Movement, led by Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

      The Yemen war, however, goes beyond a Saudi-Iranian geopolitical or Sunni-Shia conflict. The Houthis’ demands have been primarily economic and political, trying to take the Yemenis out of a cycle of poverty. The brutal and indiscriminate attacks of the Saudi-led coalition have left a ravaged country, with millions of civilians fighting for survival.

    • Whitewashing Murder is Simply Wrong

      Last Tuesday, within about an hour of his announcement on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi announcement, in the heat of the moment, I commented on the president’s acceptance of the Riyadh royals’ explanation of the Istanbul consulate incident. I called his statement “crude” and “buttheadedly amoral.” I should have stated the obvious broader point: It was wrong.

      Marxists have historically inveighed (appropriately) against capitalism, imperialism, semi-feudalism etc.—neutral moral categories—using such terms as “reactionary” and “opportunist” when desiring to add a moral edge. And certainly capitalist profit and imperialist hegemony factor into Trump’s response to the cold-blooded crime. But sometimes it’s best to go back to the basics, and draw upon primordial human vocabulary. The murder of the dissident Saudi journalist was pure evil.

      The prohibition on killing occurs in the earliest law codes and taboo lists. It’s understood to have limited application; rulers can use military force to maintain power and “preserve order.” But generally speaking humans concur that it’s wrong to kill someone. It’s wrong. This is basic. For those arriving from outer space it is Humanity 101. It is of course the Sixth Commandment in the Bible. It is fundamental to the contrat social of Rousseau.

      Killing means something different to those who believe in an afterlife and those who believe we die and disappear. Those of us who believe the latter perhaps value life more since it’s all we expect. The taking of another’s life seems especially presumptuous when you cannot, for example, pray for the soul of the person you’ve slain encouraging its rebirth somewhere, like in the Pure Land of Amida. The warrior Kumagae supposedly prayed for Atsumori after killing him during the Genpei War in Japan in the 1180s, to alleviate his sorrow and guilt..

    • ‘This is no eulogy’: Jamal Khashoggi’s daughters write for Washington Post

      Writing for the Washington Post, the daughters of the murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi declared: “This is no eulogy, for that would confer a state of closure.”

    • We can Break Saudi Arabia’s Hold over the US by Driving Electric Cars

      Trump has openly and consistently given Saudi control of oil prices as the reason for which he doesn’t want to sanction Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman for having dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi murdered and then dismembered.

      Trump is, as usual, wildly exaggerating. Saudi Arabia produces perhaps 11% of the oil pumped daily in the world. It cannot dictate prices, since if it reduces production, other countries– Iran, Russia, Kuwait and others– would likely just step in to replace lost Saudi production. Only if Saudi Arabia can convince the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) jointly to reduce production across the board can Riyadh hope to have a big impact on the price of oil. Such concerted efforts at dictating to the oil markets are rare and are usually born of a moment of contentious politics.

    • Trump Ramped Up Drone Strikes in America’s Shadow Wars

      The U.S. president inherited a remotely piloted weapon of death from his predecessor. In his earliest period in office, he used this lethal robot force promiscuously, sharply escalating attacks on suspected terrorists away from his declared wars. As time went on, his use of drone strikes in those places diminished.

      Barack Obama? Well, yes. But a look at available statistics for drone strikes on America’s undeclared battlefield shows that this description also applies to Donald Trump.

      In 2009 and 2010, Obama launched 186 drone strikes on Yemen, Somalia, and especially Pakistan. Donald Trump’s drone strikes during his own first two years on three pivotal undeclared battlefields, however, eclipse Obama’s – but without a corresponding reputation for robot-delivered bloodshed, or even much notice. In 2017 and 2018 to date, Trump has launched 238 drone strikes there, according to data provided to The Daily Beast by U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and the drone-watchers at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London.

      Those numbers come with a slew of asterisks. The amount of drone strikes on the full-fledged acknowledged battlefields of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria have, ironically, proven far more difficult to track than those in shadow warzones—and knowledgeable observers like Chris Woods of the UK’s Airwars organization believe that the true center of the drone strikes is found there. Additionally, the toll of how many people, particularly civilians, those strikes on shadow battlefields have slain is, at best, a rough estimate.

    • As Trump Pledges Support to Murderous Saudis, Comedian Michelle Wolf Suggests President Would “Be on My Side If I’d Killed a Journalist”

      Comedian Michelle Wolf offered a succinct, withering reply to President Donald Trump’s early Wednesday attack on her by drawing attention back to his continued support for Saudi Arabia in the face of a report linking the kingdom to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi—after his clear attempt to distract from the matter.

      After Trump claimed Wolf had “bombed so badly” in her viral remarks at the White House Correspondents Association (WHCA) dinner last year, Wolf suggested that the president would likely have come to her defense if she’d killed a journalist, as Saudi Arabia has admitted it did—with the CIA reporting that Trump ally Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) likely ordered the murder—instead of simply telling the truth about his administration.

    • Khashoggi murder: Senator ‘disagrees’ with Trump on CIA

      U.S. Republican Senator Mike Lee on Sunday said he “disagrees” with President Donald Trump’s dismissal of CIA assessment that Saudi crown prince ordered murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

      Lee was speaking in an interview on NBC News in response to Trump’s Thursday remarks that the CIA “did not come to a conclusion” about Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in the murder.

      [...]

      Khashoggi’s murder also put a spotlight into Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, with US lawmakers pushing the Trump administration to stop its support for the Kingdom as a punishment for the killing.

      Lee said the war in Yemen is “unauthorized” and “unconstitutional” from the U.S. standpoint.

    • Chris Hedges: Neoliberalism’s Dark Path to Fascism

      Neoliberalism as economic theory was always an absurdity. It had as much validity as past ruling ideologies such as the divine right of kings and fascism’s belief in the Übermensch. None of its vaunted promises were even remotely possible. Concentrating wealth in the hands of a global oligarchic elite—eight families now hold as much wealth as 50 percent of the world’s population—while demolishing government controls and regulations always creates massive income inequality and monopoly power, fuels political extremism and destroys democracy. You do not need to slog through the 577 pages of Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” to figure this out. But economic rationality was never the point. The point was the restoration of class power.

      As a ruling ideology, neoliberalism was a brilliant success. Starting in the 1970s, its Keynesian mainstream critics were pushed out of academia, state institutions and financial organizations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank and shut out of the media. Compliant courtiers and intellectual poseurs such as Milton Friedman were groomed in places such as the University of Chicago and given prominent platforms and lavish corporate funding. They disseminated the official mantra of fringe, discredited economic theories popularized by Friedrich Hayek and the third-rate writer Ayn Rand. Once we knelt before the dictates of the marketplace and lifted government regulations, slashed taxes for the rich, permitted the flow of money across borders, destroyed unions and signed trade deals that sent jobs to sweatshops in China, the world would be a happier, freer and wealthier place. It was a con. But it worked.

    • The Neo-Nazis in Canada’s Military

      Given that people who espouse neo-Nazi ideology are attracted to the military, it is disappointing to learn what a poor job the generals do to uncover and expel them. Or perhaps the inaction reflects a deeper problem.

      A recent stream of stories about right wing extremists in the Canadian military prompted the leadership to scramble to get ahead of the story. But, the Chief of the Defence Staff’s effort to simply blame low-ranking individual members was neither convincing, nor satisfying.

      Ricochet reported that three soldiers in Alberta operated an online white supremacist military surplus store that glorifies white ruled Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

      VICE concluded that Nova Scotia reservist Brandon Cameron was a prominent member of the neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division.

      The three founders of Québec anti-Islam/immigrant “alt right” group La Meute are ex-military. Radio-Canada found that 75 members of La Meute’s private Facebook group were Canadian Forces members.

      On Canada Day 2017 five CF members disrupted an indigenous rally in front of a statue of violent colonialist Edward Cornwallis in Halifax. The soldiers were members of the Proud Boys, which described itself as “a fraternal organization of Western Chauvinists who will no longer apologize for creating the modern world.”

    • Trump Takes a Tougher Line on Pakistan, but the 2008 Mumbai Attack Goes Unpunished

      In a sharp break from the caution and inertia of his predecessors, President Donald Trump has slashed U.S. military aid to Pakistan and warned that Washington will take further punitive measures unless the Pakistani government acts decisively against Islamist terrorists.

      “They were just one of many countries that take from the United States without giving anything in return,” the president tweeted about Pakistan on Nov. 19. “That’s ENDING!”

      But while the Trump Administration has freely vented its frustration with Islamabad, current and former officials said it has been slow to seek justice for the 2008 massacre of 166 people — six of them Americans — in Mumbai, India, by a terrorist group that has worked closely with Pakistan’s intelligence service.

      In 2011, federal prosecutors in Chicago indicted four Pakistanis, including a serving officer of the country’s powerful intelligence service, in connection with the Mumbai attacks. Yet after an initial flurry of effort by the Obama administration, the government has done little to press Pakistan to arrest those suspects or to condition U.S. support on progress in the hunt for the suspects, the officials said.

    • Ukraine Mulls Martial Law After Russia Fires on Vessels

      Ukraine’s president demanded Monday that Russia immediately release Ukrainian sailors and ships seized in a standoff around Crimea that sharply escalated tensions between the two countries and drew international concern.

      Ukrainian lawmakers were set to consider a presidential request for the introduction of martial law in the country on Monday following an incident in which Russian coast guard ships fired on Ukrainian navy vessels.

      An emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council was also called for Monday. The European Union and NATO called for restraint from both sides.

      Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said at a meeting of Ukraine’s national security council Monday that “we demand that (the ships and crews) are urgently turned over to the Ukrainian side” and called for a “de-escalation” of the crisis around Crimea.

      The Ukrainian navy said six of its seamen were wounded when Russian coast guards opened fire on three Ukrainian ships near the Kerch Strait and then seized them late Sunday.

    • EU army won’t threaten NATO future: ex-CIA official

      Pillar says an irony is that European self-sufficiency in defense, as a European military force would embody, would mean Europe assuming more of the burden for its own defense–which is what Donald Trump has been calling for every time he complains about NATO and its members.

    • More Drones, More Bombs, More Deaths—Our Machine of Military Intervention Grinds On

      One reason drone strikes increased is that the rules have been loosened up: Now drone strikes are allowed when there’s a “reasonable certainty” of hitting a particular senior terrorist rather than the “near certainty” previously required. As a result, there have been 35 drone strikes in Somalia in 2017, more than the 33 that took place there during Obama’s entire term.

      [...]

      But we’re still risking military lives in Afghanistan without any evidence that we’re making anything better over there. On Saturday, Sgt. Leandro A.S. Jasso, 25, of Leavenworth, Washington, was killed in the Helmand Province, apparently after getting shot. The details are thin and his death is still under investigation. We do know that this was Jasso’s third deployment to Afghanistan after enlisting in 2012. That means he was barely of legal age when he joined the Army and yet had been sent to a war zone three times by the time he hit 25.

    • US Accuses Russia of ‘Outlaw Actions’ as Worries Grow Over Escalating Tensions Between Kiev and Moscow

      Tensions between Ukraine and Russia escalated dangerously on Monday as an emergency UN Security Council meeting was held and the two nations exchanged a volley of threats after conflagrations in the Black Sea on Sunday resulted in Russia seizing Ukrainian vessels by force and left outside observers warning that simmering disputes—mixed with unintended consequences and political instability in Ukraine—could spark wider war between the former allied nations.

      The Russian foreign ministry accused Kiev of coordinating with the U.S. and the E.U. in a “planned provocation” that took place in the Kerch Strait, a body of water that separates the Black Sea from the smaller Sea of Azov, which hugs the contested Crimean peninsula.

      In the wake of the Russian Navy seizing three vessels and protests in the capitol of Kiev, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday called for the Ukrainian parliament to approve his request to impose martial law as a way of restoring order in the country where both anti-Russian protests have broken out alongside new reports of fighting in the country’s eastern region along the Russian border.

    • Killing of Mulana Samiul Haq and Afghan Peace Process

      On 2nd November, Jamiat Ulema Islam-Sami (JUI-S) chief and former Senator Mulana Samiul Haq was assassinated at his residence in Rawalpindi. According to reports he stabbed multiple times. Samiul Haq’s spokesperson Mulana Abdul Majeed said there was no one present at the residence when he was killed. He further said “We do not know who attacked him. He was alone, the person who was supposed to be with him had gone to the market.”The assassination of Maulana Samiul Haq, chief of his faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), has sent shockwaves and sorrows throughout the country. The respected religious scholar exercised significant influence through his seminary Darul Uloom Haqqania based in Akora Khattak, which produced many leaders of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan. He also wielded political weight, having served as a senator for many years, and was currently aligned with the ruling PTI. He was also connected to the politics in Afghanistan and was sought after for advice by many stakeholders.

    • India remembers 2008 Mumbai attacks

      India has paid tribute to the more than 160 people killed in a 2008 Islamist militant attack on the city of Mumbai, the 10th anniversary of an assault that raised fears of war with Pakistan.
      Senior state politicians laid wreathes and paid tribute to the victims at a Martyrs’ Memorial in downtown Mumbai, while other events were held at some of the sites of the three-day attack, which began on November 26, 2008.
      Six Americans were among the 166 people killed by 10 gunmen who infiltrated the financial hub by boat and spent three days spraying bullets and throwing grenades around various city landmarks.
      “A grateful nation bows to our brave police and security forces who valiantly fought the terrorists during the Mumbai attacks,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter.

    • Forget Khashoggi, Where Were Our Elites When Obama Assassinated American Citizens?

      In the wake of Trump’s announcement this week that his administration would continue to “stand with Saudi Arabia” despite the recent murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, America’s mainstream media elites erupted in their usual paroxysms of despair and condemnation of the president. Although this time the typical “orange man bad” stories tended to omit calls for Trump to be immediately overthrown by the military or his own cabinet, almost every other major trope was preponderant.

      This was especially true of Khashoggi’s former place of employment at the Post, where journalists almost universally portrayed Trump as having blood on his hands for his refusal to directly take action against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, now widely believed to have ordered Khashoggi’s murder.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • WikiLeaks Denies Manafort Ever Met With Assange, Slams The Guardian

      The official WikiLeaks Twitter account denied that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort ever met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and slammed The Guardian — which originally reported the news — and its sources for the report.

    • WikiLeaks: Guardian Report Claiming Assange Met with Manafort Untrue

      Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, right around the time he joined Trump’s campaign, according to The Guardian, which as is now the norm in reports of this kind refers to unnamed “sources.”

      [...]

      The 69-year-old Manafort has denied any involvement in the release of the emails, and has said that the claim is “100% false.”

      While Manafort was jailed this year under a plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller, on Monday, Mueller said that Manafort had repeatedly lied to the FBI, breaching his deal. According to documents filed in court, Manafort committed “crimes and lies” covering a “variety of subject matters.”

      According to The Guardian, Manafort’s first visit to the Ecuadorian embassy occurred one year after Assange was granted asylum inside, according to two sources. To add icing to the cake, “a separate internal document written by Ecuador’s Senian intelligence agency and seen by The Guardian lists “Paul Manaford [sic]” as one of Assange’s several well-known guests, along with… “Russians.”

    • Manafort met with Julian Assange around the time he joined Trump campaign, Guardian reports

      “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.”

    • Manafort reportedly met with WikiLeaks’ Assange around time he joined the Trump campaign

      WikiLeaks said in a statement that it’s “willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor’s head that Manafort never met Assange.”

    • Federal judge delays decision on unsealing ‘interesting’ Julian Assange case
    • No Decision at Hearing to Unseal Julian Assange’s Charges, Court to Reconvene Next Week

      Judge Leonie Brinkema, who was appointed by Clinton in 1993, heavily sided with the government’s arguments against making any potential charges public prior to his arrest. She agreed to allow both sides to bring in additional material next week.

      In what appears to have been a copy and paste error in a filing, it was revealed last week that the Justice Department had filed secret charges against Assange. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press promptly filed a lawsuit seeking access to any criminal complaint, indictment or other charging documents relating to the case.

    • Judge weighs request to unseal Assange charges

      An apparent criminal complaint against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is the subject of a federal court hearing in Virginia.

    • US won’t ‘confirm or deny’ charge against Wikileaks’ Assange

      Supporters of embattled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange are expected to ask a U.S. district court judge Tuesday to unseal the mystery case against Assange that prosecutors mistakenly revealed recently in an unrelated criminal case in Virginia.

      But in a line right out of a spy movie, the U.S. government on Monday said in a court filing that they won’t even “confirm or deny” there is an Assange case at the courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.

      Court documents dated from August in a sex crimes case with no connection at all to Assange or WikiLeaks appeared to have been a cut and paste job gone awry — a federal prosecutor using what was apparently an Assange-related document as a template failed to delete two references to Assange’s last name in the unrelated case’s motion to seal. Seamus Hughes, a terrorism researcher at George Washington University, discovered the error this month, which revealed that Assange appears to have “been charged” with a federal crime.

    • How Would U.S. Prosecutors Go After Assange?

      For years, American prosecutors have struggled with what has become a fundamental question of 21st century journalism: how to distinguish WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, from mainstream news outlets, since both regularly publish leaked classified material.

      Soon, that question may be tested in a U.S. courtroom. This week, reporters discovered that a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of Virginia inadvertently revealed in a court filing the existence of criminal charges against Assange. According to the Wall Street Journal, Justice Department officials have grown more confident that they will be able to extradite Assange from the United Kingdom, where has lived in internal exile inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after receiving asylum in 2012.

    • Calling for some compassion with our transparency

      That way of acting is critical to maintaining the organizational agility that helps us stay ahead of challenges. But while we often speak of agility as it relates to actions, we rarely apply the term to beliefs.

      In truly agile environments, where situations change unexpectedly and today’s best practices become tomorrow’s “legacy thinking,” positions you once held may no longer be valid. And when those positions get recorded, they can be weaponized.

      Weaponized transparency occurs when someone uses information about a person as an argument against them. It doesn’t matter that something was knowingly made transparent; what matters here is how that something is used.

      Need an example? Just watch what happens to any politician who takes a position contrary to one they held in the past. Weaponized transparency can deter openness, so it poses a real problem to open organizations.

      So what’s the solution to balancing transparency and agility in an open organization?

      Not becoming less transparent. Instead, we should foster “compassionate transparency.”

    • ‘Unacceptable’: Groups Urge National Archives to Reject Zinke’s Request to Destroy Federal Documents Related to Drilling, Mining, Timber, and Species Protections

      Warning that it could threaten the ability to hold the department accountable, a watchdog group on Monday urged the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to refuse a request (pdf) from the Interior Department to destroy records including ones related to oil and gas leases and endangered species issues.

      “It’s unacceptable that Interior is already turning their efforts to destroying documents when they can’t even respond to the public records requests they have coming in,” said Chris Saeger, executive director of Western Values Project (WVP).

      “Despite his claims to the contrary,” Saeger added, “[Interior Secretary Ryan] Zinke is trying yet again to pull wool over the eyes of the American people by keeping the public in the dark while his department wages attacks on public lands and wildlife.”

    • UK and Ecuador Conspire to Deliver Julian Assange to U.S. Authorities

      The accidental revelation in mid-November that U.S. federal prosecutors had secretly filed charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange underlines the determination of the Trump administration to end Assange’s asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been staying since 2012.

      Behind the revelation of those secret charges for supposedly threatening U.S. national security is a murky story of a political ploy by the Ecuadorean and British governments to create a phony rationale for ousting Assange from the embassy. The two regimes agreed to base their plan on the claim that Assange was conspiring to flee to Russia.

      Trump and his aides applauded Assange and WikiLeaks during the 2016 election campaign for spreading embarrassing revelations about Hillary Clinton’s campaign via leaked DNC emails. But all that changed abruptly in March 2017, when WikiLeaks released thousands of pages of CIA documents describing the CIA’s hacking tools and techniques. The batch of documents published by WikiLeaks did not release the actual “armed” malware deployed by the CIA. But the “Vault 7” leak, as WikiLeaks dubbed it, did show how those tools allowed the agency to break into smartphones, computers and internet-connected televisions anywhere in the world — and even to make it look like those hacks were done by another intelligence service.

      The CIA and the national security state reacted to the Vault 7 release by targeting Assange for arrest and prosecution. On March 9, 2017 Vice President Mike Pence called the leak tantamount to “trafficking in national security information” and threatened to “use the full force of the law and resources of the United States to hold all of those to account that were involved.”

    • Julian Assange: Have the media found him guilty?

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

      Last week, in court papers filed in the United States, in a case completely unrelated to Assange, was a paragraph confirming that a secret indictment had been filed against him. Prosecutors called it an administrative mistake, meaning a supposed clerical error.

      It seemed to confirm something that Assange had always feared, but that the US Department of Justice never admitted: It wants him in jail.

      However, what hasn’t been revealed in that paragraph is “what the charges are and what period of WikiLeaks activity they relate to,” points out James Ball, author of WikiLeaks: News in the Networked Era.

    • Assange Case, If It Exists, Can’t Be Made Public, U.S. Argues

      The news media has no legal right to learn whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was charged in a sealed proceeding, despite an inadvertent filing in an unrelated case that said the Justice Department has accused him of wrongdoing, the U.S. said.

      The Justice Department responded Monday to a Nov. 16 lawsuit by the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press, which seeks access to any criminal complaint, indictment or other charging documents relating to Assange.

      Prosecutors said that if a record of charges isn’t publicly available, that means the person hasn’t been charged or the case is under seal.

      “In either event, the government is not required to publicly acknowledge which of those two possibilities happens to be the case with respect to any individual,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg wrote in a filing in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. “The First Amendment does not require the government to confirm or deny the existence of criminal charges in this case.”

    • The detention and isolation from the world of Julian Assange

      They are destroying him slowly. They are doing it through an indefinite detention which has been going on for the last eight years with no end in sight. Julian Assange has become one of the most widely known icons of freedom of the press and the struggle against state secrecy. Recently, his detention in the Ecuadorian embassy in London has been joined by isolation, strict rules and various forms of pressure which seem to have no other purpose than to break him down. A grip meant to destroy his physical and mental ability to resist until he either breaks down or he steps out of the Ecuadorian embassy, unleashing the beginning of his own end. Because if he does step out, he will be arrested by the UK authorities, and at that point the US could request his extradition so that they can put him in jail for publishing classified US documents. Julian Assange is in extremely precarious conditions.

      After eight months of failed attempts, la Repubblica was finally able to visit the WikiLeaks founder in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, after the current Ecuadorian president, Lenin Moreno had cut him off from all contacts last March with the exception of his lawyers. No contact with friends, stars, journalists, no phone calls, no internet access. Indeed a very heavy isolation regime for anyone, but for Julian Assange in particular, considering that he has been confined to that tiny embassy for the last six years, and also considering that for Assange the internet is not an optional like any other: it’s his world.

    • Newsweek-Employed Spy Explains To Us Why Assange Should Be Prosecuted

      So it turns out it’s really really important for powerful people to be able to lie to us with impunity, you guys. I know this because an actual, literal spy told me that that’s what I’m meant to believe in an article published by Newsweek yesterday.
      If you were wondering how long it would take the imperial propagandists to ramp up their efforts to explain to us why it is good for the Trump administration to prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after we learned that sealed charges have been brought against him by the United States government, the answer is eight days. If you were wondering which of those propagandists would step forward and aggressively attempt to do so, the answer is Naveed Jamali.
      To be clear, I do not use the word “propagandist” to refer to a mass media employee whose reliable track record of establishment sycophancy has propelled him to the upper echelons of influence within platforms owned by plutocrats who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, as I often mean when I use that word. When I say that Jamali is a propagandist, I mean he is a current member of the United States intelligence community telling Newsweek’s readers that it is to society’s benefit for the US government to pursue a longstanding agenda of the US intelligence community in imprisoning Julian Assange.

    • Federal prosecutors fight effort to unseal Assange charges
    • Fight to unseal Assange charges challenged

      “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 US prosecution.

    • Federal prosecutors fight effort to unseal criminal complaint against Julian Assange

      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.

    • U.S. prosecutors oppose request for unsealing possible Assange charges

      Federal prosecutors have told a United States District Court judge that they oppose a request by a journalists’ group for the unsealing of any pending U.S. criminal indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and declined to admit whether such charges exist.

      In a filing submitted on Monday to Judge Leonie Brinkema, prosecutors in Alexandria, Virginia said a recent disclosure in a court document filed in an unrelated criminal case that prosecutors had obtained a sealed indictment against Assange was an “unintentional error.”

      Prosecutors said the erroneous filing does not constitute a confirmation or denial by them as to whether sealed criminal charges against Assange exist, and argued that neither the U.S. constitution nor U.S. common law “require that the government provide such a confirmation or denial.”

    • After Major Court Filing Fail, Gov’t Refuses to Say if Julian Assange Faces Criminal Charges

      WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has or hasn’t been charged, the government said in a cagey Monday court filing.

      The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) responded to the news that federal prosecutors had erroneously exposed Assange as a target of criminal charges by requesting that the government unseal Assange’s criminal prosecution. The government’s response? Get lost.

    • Justice Department says Julian Assange charges, if they exist, can’t be made public

      The Justice Department said Monday it is not required under the law to reveal whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been charged in a sealed case, even after an accidental filing in an unrelated case said he had been accused of a crime.

      The argument came in response to a Nov. 16 lawsuit by the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press. That group is seeking to unseal the government’s possible charges against Assange that appeared to be revealed accidentally.

      Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg said in a court filing Monday that the Justice Department will neither confirm nor deny whether such charges exist because “neither the First Amendment nor the common law require that the government provide such a confirmation or denial.” Because the possible charges have not been made public, Kromberg said, Assange has either not been charged or the charges are under seal.

    • U.S. preparing indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

      U.S. officials had no comment on the disclosure and the exact nature of the charges against Assange was not immediately known.

      Prosecutors sought to keep the charges confidential until after Mr. Assange’s arrest, saying the move was essential to ensure he did not evade or avoid arrest and extradition in the case.

      U.S. officials have previously acknowledged that federal prosecutors based in Alexandria, Virginia, have been conducting a lengthy criminal investigation into WikiLeaks and its founder.

      Senior officials in the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have publicly called for Assange to be aggressively prosecuted.

    • Federal Prosecutors Fighting Request to Unseal Charges Against Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange
    • ‘The party chose to pander to Muslim fears’: Wikileaks cable on Congress’ dangerous politics over 26/11 terror attack

      A leaked WikiLeaks document reveals how the Congress party played politics over the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. It did not escape the notice of even the then U.S. ambassador to India, David Mulford.

      Minority Affairs Minister Antulay’s remarks

      In the leaked memo, Mulford is seen talking about the Congress party’s politics over the 26/11 Mumbai tragedy. He mentions that P. Chidambaram officially denied any Hindutva link to the terror attacks after the UPA Minority Affairs Minister made outrageous claims. Antulay had claimed that Hindutva element was behind the death of Hemant Karkare. Antulay said, “Superficially speaking, they (terrorists) had no reason to kill Karkare. Whether he (Karkare) was a victim of terrorism or terrorism plus something I do not know.” “Karkare found that there are non-Muslims involved in acts of terrorism in some cases. Any person going to the roots of terrorism has always been the target,” Antulay had said, adding: “There is more than what meets the eye.”

    • Remote Viewing: Resurrecting the CIA’s Art of Psychic Travel

      After the volunteers are settled and briefed on housekeeping protocols (silencing phones, estimated duration of the workshop, etc.), Coburn and Hatcher explain that remote viewing is the technique whereby an individual in one location psychically travels to another physical site and records what they can ‘see’, first in writing and drawing, then in clay.

      Along with a number of other experiments in extrasensory perception and psychokinesis, remote viewing was developed in the 1970s as part of the US’s Cold War-era covert intelligence programme, eventually known by the 1990s as the ‘Star Gate Project.’ Applications included spying on military facilities behind enemy lines and the location of missing aircraft, personnel, fugitives and hostages. It was defunded in 1995, and remote viewers involved in the government programme today give workshops for civilian purposes such as industrial espionage. (It has been alleged that active intelligence personnel secretly consulted military-trained psychics for information following the 9/11 attacks.)

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • The Trump administration tried to bury its own climate change report — and right-wing media helped

      This story has been updated.

      President Donald Trump is trying to bury the findings of a new climate change report commissioned by his own administration.

      The National Climate Assessment, which is required to publish its findings every four years, released its latest 1,656-page report during the holiday doldrums on Black Friday. In the process, the administration effectively buried the scientists’ conclusions on how man-made climate change will devastate America’s public health, economy, infrastructure and coastlines, as well as cause hundreds of billions of dollars of damage to the planet over the next few decades.

      “This report will be used in court in significant ways. I can imagine a lawyer for the Trump administration being asked by a federal judge, ‘How can the federal government acknowledge the seriousness of the problem, and then set aside the rules that protect the American people from the problem?’ And they might squirm around coming up with an answer,” Richard L. Revesz, an expert in environmental law at New York University, told the Times.

    • A Step Forward for Conservation in Mongolia?

      Balanced between the Russian and Chinese superpowers, both of which are mineral- and energy- hungry, Mongolia is rich in resources. Three million people share a landmass one-sixth the size of the United States. Because of the sparseness of the population, several of its ecosystems are complex enough to host rare and endangered large mammal species. Wild camels, for example — distinct from their domesticated cousins used for transport and food — shyly evade human contact in southern Mongolia. An aboriginal herding tradition is surviving even as it changes. Even though dirt bikes (rather than horses) are often used for herding, for example, traditional grazing and hunting routes are still used because the land is not parceled into private property.

    • ‘The Administration’s Refusal to Consider the Reality of Climate Change Is Very Difficult’

      One of the first things Donald Trump did upon taking office was to reverse the Obama administration’s permit rejection for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would move crude from oil sands in Canada to Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast. Restarting work on this extension of the existing Keystone pipeline, along with greenlighting the likewise hotly contested Dakota Access pipeline, was part of what one newspaper called Trump’s “ambitious plans” for a US “makeover.” A federal judge has just blocked construction on Keystone XL again, however, seeming to suggest, essentially, that Trump’s “because I want to” reasoning was insufficiently persuasive.

      Here to help us understand this ruling and where it leaves us is Jackie Prange, senior attorney and managing litigator with the Natural Resources Defense Council. She joins us now by phone from the Bay Area. Welcome to CounterSpin, Jackie Prange.

    • Bolsonaro names climate denier as Brazil’s foreign minister

      Ernesto Araújo has praised US president Donald Trump and accused the political left of appropriating climate change to serve an ideological agenda. He currently runs Brazil’s US and Canada department, a relatively junior position in the foreign service, and only became an ambassador this year.

      On Twitter announcing his new minister, Bolsonaro called Araújo a “brilliant intellectual”.

      During the election campaign, Araújo started a blog, which he used to question the moral underpinnings of internationalism. In a post on 12 October, Araújo wrote that the left twisted legitimate causes “to serve their political project of total domination”.

    • The Christian Vacation Camp Where Kids Are Taught by Notorious Climate Science Deniers

      Each morning at Camp Constitution’s summer camp, the kids and parents go off to classes while staff members do a room inspection.

      “What we look for is not just cleanliness, but a patriotic and Godly theme,” says camp director Hal Shurtleff in a video of the 2016 camp.

      “We are looking for creativity — are they learning what we are teaching them?”

      And what are they being taught? Conspiracy theories about the United Nations (UN) and how climate change is a hoax, and they’ve drafted in two of the world’s most notorious climate science denialists to do the job.

      The rooms — named after “places of refuge in the old testament” — are covered with U.S. nationalistic garlands and flags. A “Make America Great Again” (MAGA) hat is perched on a wooden bunk post.

      Children take quotes they’ve learned from classes, and turn them into posters. One encourages the United Nations to keep out.

    • No, Wind Farms Don’t Kill 75% of Birds Nearby- Birds Just Don’t Hang Out Around Turbines

      Deniers are crowing over a new study in Nature that’s supposedly claiming wind turbines are killing 3/4ths of birds in the areas around them. Obviously that’s absurd, so what the flock is going on?

      This new myth took flight with a Daily MailOnline story with a headline claiming “Wind farms are the ‘new apex predators’: Blades kill off 75% of buzzards, hawks and kites that live nearby, study shows.” The GWPF quickly posted the Mail story on its site, WUWT lazily copied GWPF’s copy of the Mail, and JoNova excerpted it.

      The problem is that the study did not, at all, in any way or at any point, show that wind turbine blades “kill off 75% of buzzards, hawks and kites.” While it mentions once, in passing, that turbines can kill birds and bats by direct impact, the study has no tally of bird corpses or anything dealing with avian mortality at the study site.

    • Caroline Lucas calls for Select Committee on Climate Change after “vague” speech by Gove
    • Carbon Capture – Does it Work?

      Harken! Good news (maybe) “encouraging news” is a better description, as Negative Emissions Technology (“NET”) starts coming into focus. Conceptually, carbon removal or direct air capture removes CO2 from the atmosphere, which would be great for suppressing climate change.

      In that regard, Elizabeth Kolbert recently interviewed (Yale Environment 360) Stephen Pacala (Princeton professor) chairman of the US scientific panel studying carbon removal under the auspices of the National Academies. Which means the project has top-notch clearances, in fact, blue chip.

      Of course, the big question about direct carbon capture is whether it can fix a very big problem created by humans burning fossil fuels like crazed Madhatters portending an ecological disaster-in-waiting because of excessive levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, possibly leading to human extinction way ahead of schedule, too early, or looked at another way, extinction occurring well ahead of scientists’ models. But really, honestly and truly who in his/her right mind “models” human extinction?

      Negative Emission Technology -NET- that removes carbon dioxide (“CO2”) from the atmosphere would be a dream come true, assuming it happens fast enough to prevent already-collapsing ecosystems from further total collapse, e.g., permafrost throughout the Northern Hemisphere, especially in the East Siberian Arctic Sea, ESAS, where subsea permafrost covers massive quantities of methane (CH4) in extraordinarily shallow waters. It’s the world’s largest reservoir, and CH4 is the most potent of the greenhouse gases. Problem: The subsea permafrost protective cap is rapidly thinning because of global warming. Already a Russian/American research team has witnessed alarmingly large columns of methane escaping into the atmosphere in the ESAS.

    • Employment, Ecology, Extinction: French Students Take on the System to Save the Species

      On my last day of teaching Environmental Studies, I posed a question to my students. I explained that for some time in my childhood, my father worked in the airline industry. “What does this have to do with the environment?” I asked. Sadly, even after an entire semester, few if any of my students could make the connection. Air transportation is one of the most polluting industries. Depending on the type of car you use and the amount you use it, one to two flights can generate the same amount of carbon emissions as a whole year of driving. From the consumption of fossil fuels, to the toxic substances utilized or emitted such as jet fuel and de-icing fluid, to all of the disposable products and packages within the plane and the airport, to so much more, there is nothing sustainable at all about air travel. Thus, for a part of my childhood, the majority of our family income was derived from a highly polluting industry that has contributed greatly to the dire environmental predicament we are currently facing.

      Of course, mine is not the only family whose income is linked to environmental destruction. In fact, one could make the case that nearly all American households, especially the most affluent, have made their money through directly or indirectly exploiting and polluting the environment (and often exploiting people as well). For example, a conference on “Peace Engineering” just concluded, which implored engineers to consider “ethics, social good, the biases and unintended consequences of the technology they build.” Clearly, this implies that engineering does not usually contemplate the deleterious environmental and social effects of its work. My point in bringing this conversation to my students was to help them think about the career paths they were exploring or embarking upon and for them to keep in mind the ecological impact these careers. At this crucial time in history, when thus far we have all but ignored the warnings to drastically reduce our resource consumption, toxic waste, and carbon emissions for the sake of our incomes, it is imperative that this generation of students take bold steps to help make the fields in which they work more sustainable and to help to permanently put to rest unnecessary industries that are not. In fact, a group of French college students are trying to do just that.

    • ‘Crime Against Humanity’ and ‘International Embarrassment’: Trump Refuses to ‘Believe’ Climate Report

      Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump said of the National Climate Assessment (NCA4), “I’ve seen it, I’ve read some of it, and it’s fine.” Asked about the report’s conclusions on the climate crisis’s economic impact on the country, Trump declared, “I don’t believe it.”

      “We cannot afford a leader who sticks his head in the sand while people suffer the consequences,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club.

      “The climate assessment, put forth by Donald Trump’s own administration,” Brune added, “makes it clearer than ever that if we don’t act now, the catastrophic effects of climate change will reshape the United States and the world to the detriment of those alive today, and for generations to come.”

    • Hotter climate will cost Europe dear

      The continent must brace itself for the big heat: a hotter climate will cost Europe dear if average global temperatures soar by 3°C near the end of the century, when heat extremes could claim an additional 132,000 deaths a year.

      Labour productivity in some southern European countries could fall by 10 to 15%. As sea levels rise, there could be a five-fold increase in coastal flood damage, to affect more than 2 million people and wreak economic tolls of €60 billion (US$68 bn) a year.

      As extremes of rainfall increase, swollen rivers could expose three times as many people to inland flooding, and the damage from river floods could rise from €5.3m a year to €17.5m.

      If, on the other hand, the world keeps the promise it made to itself in Paris in 2015, and contains global warming to 2°C or less by the century’s end, coastal flooding – which already affects 100,000 people and costs €1.25 bn a year – will affect only an estimated 436,000 and total €6 bn a year in annual damage.

    • Oil Is the Poison That Burns Paradise, Kills Kashshoggi, Inflames Paris. When Will We Quit?

      By now, everyone knows about the Friday news dump — the penchant for sleazy companies or even sleazier government agencies to hold onto a piece of really bad news until late on a Friday afternoon, so that any headlines that are generated come out when everybody’s working for the weekend, or in Saturday newspapers that nearly nobody reads.

      So, when the bad news involves mass death and disease, a never-ending bowl of natural disasters, the extinction of species, etc. — and when your boss is on the wrong side of the mass-death issue — that calls for the Mother of All News Dumps. That would be a news release at 2 p.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving, when no one works and most Americans are either waiting on a rope line at Walmart or couch-prone in a tryptophan coma.

      “This is, unfortunately, par for the course for this president that he would try to bury this news and deny it,” Jake Levine, who’d worked on climate issues during Barack Obama’s presidency, said on MSNBC right after the Trump administration realized that Black Friday — while a month ahead of schedule — was their preferred day to drop a congressionally mandated report on climate change that predicted dire consequences if America and the world do not respond quickly.

      Don’t let Trumpian government dump on your right to this life-or-death information. Now that Thanksgiving is over and blood sugar is returning to normal-albeit-elevated levels, you should read the government’s Climate Assessment (the work of 13 different federal agencies) or check out some of the better summaries of its findings from the New York Times or Vox.

  • Finance

    • Sanders Wants Corporations to Fulfill Trump’s Tax Cut Promise

      Last year’s Republican tax cut was sold to the American people as a plan to boost growth and wages. The centerpiece of the plan was a large cut in the corporate income tax, with the tax rate reduced from 35 percent to 21 percent.

      Most immediately, this looks like a big handout to shareholders, which means the wealthy, since stock ownership is so heavily skewed to the top. The richest 1 percent of households hold close to half of the stock held by individuals, and the richest 10 percent of households hold almost 90 percent.

      So when we give a tax break to corporations, we are handing money to those at the very top and those close to it.

      But the Trump administration promised that the benefits would trickle down. They claimed the tax cut would lead to a massive investment boom, which would then lead to a surge in productivity, and finally translate into higher wages.

      We were promised an average wage gain of $4,000 a year above baseline growth for an average family within four years.

      As we approach the end of year one, we are not on track to hit the Trump administration’s target. Wages are growing modestly above the rate of inflation. Over the last year, average hourly earnings have risen by just 0.7 percent more than prices.

      While that is going in the right direction, there is no evidence of any speed-up in wage growth due to the tax cut. Wages are in line with baseline projections. At this pace, workers are going to have to wait a very long time to make up the ground lost during the recession.

      The lack of any pick-up in wage growth is hardly surprising. Again, there is no evidence of any tax cut-generated investment boom. Investment is modestly higher in 2018 than in 2017, but there were several years in the Obama administration with more rapid investment growth.

    • Trump’s “America Incorporated”

      In the runup to the 2016 election, candidate Donald J. Trump proposed, if elected, to run government “like a business.” As President, he has largely done just that.

      The Republican Party has become in effect his board of directors; a fawning “base,” his shareholders. As President, Trump hires and fires appointees like a CEO, demanding unfailing personal loyalty. When Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation in accordance with established conflict of interest rules, Trump forced him to resign.

      More like a corporate CEO than an elected head of state, Trump rules by tweets and executive order. With a closed circle of ideologue advisors, he decrees without regard to institutional limits and regularly threatens “enemies of the people”—his term for the media.

      Former business executives dominate the President’s cabinet. They often abolish regulations that impose environmental or other limits on their actions. When there is a choice, they prefer to hire private firms rather than rely on government agencies to deliver public services. Secretary of Education DeVos, for example, promotes private charter schools at the expense of public education.

      An expanding reliance on private companies to manage federal prisons and immigrant detention centers has led to a skimping of services. Corporate responsibilities run more to shareholders than to the prison inmates they serve or the federal government. By reducing the costs of food and labor (to the detriment of prison quality), management can reward its shareholders and top management with higher dividends and salaries.

    • ‘Corporate Greed at Its Worst’: After Reaping $514 Million From GOP Tax Scam and Billions in Public Subsidies, GM to Fire Nearly 15,000 Workers

      Tax reform and labor advocates were among those who expressed outrage Monday at the news that General Motors—one of the corporate giants that benefited immensely from the Republican tax plan last year—would cut 15 percent of its workforce, shuttering production facilities in three states as well as Canada to trim costs.

    • Everything Is for Sale Now. Even Us.
    • China Plans To End America’s GPS Domination With New Navigation System

      To make themselves self-dependent in the aerospace industry and to topple the Western dominance, China is also developing rivals to the planes run by Airbus SE and Boeing Co. Chinese investors are also funding domestic startups that would challenge Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and Amazon owner Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.

    • Three visible paths out of the current Brexit fog

      So where are we now on Brexit?

      We are in a fog.

      We are in a situation the outcome of which nobody can predict, at least with any certainty.

      There is no pundit, no official, no politician who knows what will happen with Brexit.

      In this fog, however, there are paths which are currently more visible than any others.

    • Facts That Privileged Americans Don’t Want Us to Know

      Offshore hoarding of private American wealth is estimated to be $3.3 trillion (4% of U.S. $82 trillion financial wealth).

      The safety net costs about $400 billion per year, or, including Medicaid, about $900 billion per year.

      Taking on the tax cheaters seems like an obvious response, instead of cutting the safety net. But the IRS budget itself has been steadily cut. Amazingly, and perversely, the Internal Revenue Service, which could be recovering much of our hidden money, has seen its staff and budget slashed 14 to 18 percent since the recession.

    • Caroline Lucas: Brexit TV debate must be cross-party

      Calling on broadcasters to include the Green Party in any TV debate on the Government’s Brexit deal, Caroline Lucas MP said:

      “It’s good to hear the Prime Minister is considering reaching out to the public with a TV debate on her bungled Brexit deal. But for this conversation about our collective future to have any semblance of democracy, it must represent the views of everyone.

      “That means it must be cross-party, featuring a diverse range of voices representing every nation, as well as every stance on this deal and our relationship with the EU – not just the Government and an opposition party who are falling far short of actually opposing the Prime Minister’s approach.

    • Fight Child Hunger This Winter by Supporting a Backpack Program

      If you didn’t grow up hungry as a child, you probably have fond memories of the holidays. When the bell rang for the last time, you got two whole weeks of freedom from class. But for the one in five children who live in poverty, the holidays can be less-than-jolly, because they rely on school lunch to meet some or all of their nutritional needs.

      Over 12 million children experience food insecurity – and that doesn’t just mean they don’t always know when their next meal is, although that’s bad enough. Food insecurity goes hand-in-hand with poverty, and it can be accompanied by poor health outcomes, difficulties in school, emotional disturbances and much more.

      [...]

      If your school doesn’t have a backpack program, consider getting more information about the school’s demographics to see if there are low-income students who might benefit from a similar program. Approach stakeholders like the local food bank, community children’s organizations and the school itself to explore the possibility of starting one and ask how you can help bring it into action.

      Be aware that issues around childhood nutrition and programs like these can get complicated. If you haven’t been involved with these challenges before, you may encounter some skepticism from people who feel like you appeared from nowhere to tell them they’re doing it wrong.

    • French Tax Officials To Start Digging Through Social Media Posts For Expensive Cars It Thinks You Can’t Afford

      I guess French tax collectors will be scrolling through social media profiles with lists of tax dodgers and a keen appraiser’s eye. There may be several reasons people have expensive items showcased on social media, and not all of them will have anything to do with ill-gotten net gains. A very common internet pastime is presenting your life as more exciting, dynamic, and filled with material goods than it actually is. Photoshop may be involved. Some of what tax officials come across will be evidence of nothing more than self-esteem issues.

      However, this statement may not actually reflect what French tax officials have in mind. This may just be an inelegant (and partially inaccurate) depiction of the program being put in place. It appears this social media monitoring will follow the UK’s lead, which doesn’t have much to do with scanning social media posts for inexplicable luxury cars. If the French are on the UK Plan, as this article suggests, auditors will bury themselves in mountains of data and hope the algorithm sorts the cheats from the dreamers.

    • France to hunt for tax cheats on social media

      France’s tax administrators will start searching through social media accounts in early 2019, a pilot project in the fight against tax avoidance, Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin told weekly business TV show Capital.

      The idea is to identify potential frauds by analyzing publicly-available data on individuals’ social media accounts, Darmanin said, according to excerpts of the show to be broadcast on Sunday.

    • Tariffs and Quotas: Who Gets the Money?

      The NYT reported that the Trump administration is considering replacing the tariffs is imposed on aluminum and steel imports from Mexico and Canada with a system of quotas. There is an important economic dimension to such a shift that was left out of the piece.

      If the U.S. imposes a tariff on an import then it is effectively imposing a tax on U.S. consumers. The government gets to keep the revenue. For example, if steel is imported at a price of $700 a ton and we impose a 10 percent tariff, then the price to steel consumers rises to $770 a ton with the government getting $70 for each ton that is imported. (For simplicity, this assumes that the tariff does not affect the price of the steel. In reality it will fall somewhat in response to the tariff.)

    • Restore Higher Tax Rates for Corporations That Can’t Contain CEO Pay

      There is an argument that carries considerable currency on the right about the need to force the poor to do things that are actually good for them. This comes up frequently in the context of work requirements for people receiving benefits like Medicaid or food stamps (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

      The claim is that people will be made better off by working, since that will give them a foot into the labor market. They can eventually move up and earn enough so they no longer need these benefits. A major flaw in this argument is that the vast majority of non-disabled people who receive these benefits are already working.

      While the idea of forcing people to help themselves doesn’t make much sense for these anti-poverty programs, they could make considerable sense for the governance of major US corporations. The problem is that shareholders seem to be unable to avoid paying out tens of millions of dollars to CEOs, even when these CEOs are not especially competent.

      The problem is the structure of corporate governance. The people who most immediately determine the CEO’s pay are the corporation’s board of directors. These directors have incredibly cushy jobs. They typically get paid several hundred thousand dollars a year for perhaps 150 hours of work.

    • Swann Song

      That comes as no surprise. Lynn Swann says he would like to have as much money as Bill Gates. Gates’s foundation is a major investor in private prisons. Swann, after having often introduced President Bush when he ran for re-election, ran unsuccessfully for governor of Pennsylvania in 2006 as a Republican on a program of lowering corporate taxes even further. His running mate, mortgage banker Jim Matthews, was later convicted of perjury. Swann, who’s served on the boards of Hershey and H.J. Heinz, didn’t even bother to vote in the majority of elections in which he could have participated.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Time is different now

      This is also by design. Because social networks are built to maximize engagement, the global news economy — which has again moved to those same platforms — is just another product that boosts time spent online. The churn flattens and packages human lives and human misery into something that’s easy to parse and easy to become apathetic to. Time is different now, and so are we.

    • Just Being Anti-Trump ‘Not Good Enough’: Sanders Urges Democrats in New Congress to Embrace This Detailed Progressive Agenda

      While affirming that he “strongly” disagrees with former Newt Gingrich, who led the GOP in the House in the mid-1990s, “on virtually every issue,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is calling on Democrats in Congress to rip a page of out the Georgia Republican’s playbook by creating—and aggressively pushing—a new progressive version of the Contract With America in order to galvanize the nation, offer real solutions to its most urgent problems, and go beyond being simply anti-Trump.

      In stark contrast to Gingrich’s original version—”a radical right-wing agenda full of tax breaks for the wealthy, massive cuts to programs vital to working families, and racist and cruel bills to ‘reform’ welfare and our criminal-justice system”—Sanders argues in a Washington Post op-ed on Thursday that Democrats should instead forge a vision that “reflects the needs of working Americans — centered on economic, political, social, racial and environmental justice.”

    • Top five ways Trump put America Last with Whitewash of Saudi Prince

      Trump’s statement on his policy toward Saudi Arabia in the wake of the murder in Istanbul of dissident Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi brought a profound shame on the United States that will, as FDR put it, live in infamy. Trump began by saying he was putting America first, but that was the last thing he was doing. He was putting his own personal predilections and policies, and perhaps profit, above the interests of the United States.

    • Zuckerberg Defends Company in Friday Meeting With Employees

      The company had also hired Definers Public Affairs, a Washington, D.C. consulting firm, to seed opposition research on Facebook critics. Definers also linked George Soros, the liberal financier, to anti-Facebook groups. Facebook cut ties with the firm after The Times investigation was published.

      In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Mr. Zuckerberg criticized what Definers had done on behalf of his company and said he and Ms. Sandberg were not aware of the specific work the outside firm was doing. He added that someone on the company’s communications staff probably hired Definers, although he later complimented the communications staff for their “hard work.”

      “In general, we need to go through all of our relationships and evaluate what might be more typical D.C. relationships and decide if we want to continue with them,” Mr. Zuckerberg said on the call.

    • Stress in America, or how Donald Trump is making us sick

      Not a big fan of reality television, I never did see why so many Americans wanted to watch a jackass fire people from fake jobs on a weekly basis. Like most reality TV shows, The Apprentice appeared to be specifically designed to humiliate those lucky enough to appear on it. But The Apprentice took it one step further and turned the phrase “You’re fired” into part of the national vernacular. As someone who had to actually fire people in real life, I never found any pleasure in it, and did not understand why the viewing audience would want to watch it happen to some stranger. Still don’t, but in those days I had an easy out: I could simply change the channel.

      Until the same people who enjoyed watching an idiot degrade people on television decided that he needed a wider audience and so went to the polls on November 8, 2016, and cursed our nation with his constant presence.

      What were they thinking? That somehow this smarmy blowhard with a bad comb-over would become statesman-like? That he would magically gain the intelligence necessary to begin to understand how our government works? Did they think he could grow a brain or a heart in the few months between the election and the inauguration? Did they even think at all, or were they just hell-bent on owning those dangerous, politically correct liberals that Fox had been warning them about for 20 years?

      If that was the case, then they should have been gratified when Americans began turning to mental-healthcare providers to help them deal with their increasing anxiety.

    • The BBC Has Legal Protection to Spread Fake News: the Curious Case of ISIS, Andrew Neil and Jeremy Corbyn

      The BBC spreads fake news. We all know that. From the uncritical parroting of the British government’s Iraqi weapons of mass destruction claims to the unchallenged lies spouted by war-mongering politicians, that Libya’s dictator (who was armed and trained by Britain, incidentally) was going to commit a “bloody massacre” in Libya’s Benghazi region. (A postwar British government report confirmed that the “ethnic cleansing” claim was based on what they cautiously called poor intelligence. The cruel irony is that after the BBC helped whip up support for the invasion, it reported on a real ethnic cleansing of black Libyans committed by the Islamist terrorists organized by the US and Britain to topple Gaddafi.)

      But what if the BBC had legal protection to tell and spread lies? As I document in my book Real Fake News, the answer to a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that, as an arts, literature, and news organization, the BBC has no legal obligation to give its audience any information about its sources. Often, journalists cannot and should not name their sources, for obvious reasons; the main one being that no one will tell them anything in confidence ever again. However, when general claims that contradict the customary understanding of things are made, and without supporting evidence, it’s only fair to ask where the person making the claim obtained their information.

    • Excited About the Big Voter Turnout in the 2018 Midterms? Don’t Be

      Our democracy just won the trophy for Most Improved: The 49.4% voter turnout this month was higher than any midterm election in a century. But once we finish patting ourselves on the back, we need to look at the numbers again to take stock of what’s missing: half of the eligible voters in the United States.

      We’re never going to see 100% voter turnout. But when half of the electorate is abstaining, we install elected officials who don’t necessarily represent the majority opinion. We can’t “vote the bums out” if we don’t vote.

    • Trumps Foreign Policy War on Americans

      Beyond any reasonable doubt, in substance if not in appearance, Donald Trump is a thoroughly conventional American politician. It’s a wonder that anyone requires proof at this late date.

      This couldn’t be clearer than in foreign policy. Some of us who understand the links among freedom, free trade, durable prosperity, and a noninterventionist foreign policy always doubted the sincerity of Trump’s occasional renegade soundbites during his presidential campaign. But some fantasists fell for them, and they refuse to let go of their tissue-thin hope that this execrable man will liquidate the American empire. Nothing will convince them, so efforts at persuasion are futile.

      The funny thing is that Trump himself seems to be working hardest to persuade those supporters that he has no intention of changing U.S. foreign policy. He would no more liquidate America’s global empire than liquidate his own global business empire. Alas, America is not going anywhere. Sure, he may hector imperial allies to spend more on their militaries (while insisting he respects their sovereignty), but that’s just a show. He’s an all-in imperialist, so we shouldn’t be fooled by the staged populism that sometimes is mistaken for come-home-Americanism. America First in practice embodies George H. W. Bush’s summation of America’s foreign policy: “What we say goes.”

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Twitter removes far-right account calling for breakup of America and ‘world war’

      After Twitter banned the account of far-right provocateur Jesse Kelly on Sunday…

    • Australian parliamentary inquiry discusses intensifying internet censorship

      A little-reported federal parliamentary hearing last week became a forum, involving Labor, Liberal-National and Greens MPs, media representatives and academics, on expanding the censorship of the internet.
      The November 20 session was part of an inquiry into the “conduct of the 2016 federal election and matters related thereto.” Its ostensible purpose was to review whether social media or the internet had been used improperly to “influence” that election. None of those who testified, however, provided any evidence that it had.
      Instead, those who spoke claimed it was necessary to combat “fake news.” This is the banner under which the major technology giants, operating in lockstep with the US government, have sought to restrict access to progressive, anti-war and socialist content online.
      The speakers warned against growing suspicion of the mainstream media among broad layers of the population and the accompanying interest in alternative sources of information.
      Dr Michael Jensen claimed, without any evidence, that Twitter accounts-linked to Russia had sought to “influence” discussions on Australian politics. Jensen is a senior research fellow at the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, a government-funded think tank with close ties to the state apparatus and intelligence organisations.

    • The Website That Shows How a Free Press Can Die

      Origo’s editors were never imprisoned and its reporters were never beaten up. But in secret meetings — including a pivotal one in Vienna — the website’s original owner, a German-owned telecommunications company, relented. The company, Magyar Telekom, first tried self-censorship. Then it sought a nonpartisan buyer.

      But, ultimately, Origo went to the family of Mr. Orban’s former finance minister.

    • Dante’s Damnation and Dostoevsky’s Desolation: Literary Censorship in Kuwait

      For the overwhelming majority of banned books, it takes only the vaguest understanding of their premises to guess why they were banned. 1984, the eternal and easiest example of a banned book, has been censored because of its overt political themes. Stalin removed it from bookshelves across the USSR for its supposedly anti-communist message, while Jackson County FL removed it for its supposedly pro-communist message. Other books are banned because of moral objections: Nabokov’s Lolita reigns supreme in this category for its less-than-damning portrayal of pedophilia. Of the 4,390 books that the Kuwaiti government has banned in the last five years, the Encyclopedia is probably the most difficult to pin down as objectionable in any way.

      The reason for the banning of an Encyclopedia was stated to be a picture of Michelangelo’s David within the book. Kuwait’s Ministry of Information ostensibly objected to David’s nude, sans-fig leaf portrayal. While banning the apotheosis of 16th century renaissance sculpture for indecent exposure seems singular in its absurdity, David is not alone. Ariel, the little mermaid, was similarly banned from Kuwaiti bookstores because of the alleged promiscuity of her bikini top.

    • EFF to Court: Remedy For Bad Content Moderation Isn’t to Give Government More Power to Control Speech

      We’ve taken Internet service companies and platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to task for bad content moderation practices that remove speech and silence voices that deserve to be heard. We’ve catalogued their awful decisions. We’ve written about their ambiguous policies, inconsistent enforcement, and failure to appreciate the human rights implications of their actions. We’re part of an effort to devise a human rights framing for removing or downgrading content and accounts from their sites, and are urging all platforms to adopt them as part of their voluntary internal governance. Just last week, we joined more than 80 international human rights groups in demanding that Facebook clearly explain how much content it removes, both rightly and wrongly, and provide all users with a fair and timely method to appeal removals and get their content back up.

      These efforts have thus far been directed at urging the platforms to adopt voluntary practices rather than calling for them to be imposed by governments through law. Given the long history of governments using their power to regulate speech to promote their own propaganda, manipulate the public discourse, and censor disfavored speech, we are very reluctant to hand the U.S. government a role in controlling the speech that appears on the Internet via private platforms. This is already a problem in other countries.

    • Opinion: UD’s Illegal ideological censorship

      The University of Delaware has a long history of infringing on academic freedom and the free speech of its faculty and students. In 1976, UD President Arthur Trabant fired theater professor Richard Aumiller for publicly defending homosexuality. A federal judge, ruling that Trabant had violated Aumiller’s academic freedom, fined not only the university, but also Trabant personally. In another well-known episode, for several years in the early 1990’s UD made strenuous efforts to block the research funding of two professors, Jan Blits and Linda Gottfredson. Its stated reason: the granting agency, the Pioneer Fund, had an ideology inconsistent with the university’s own. Again the censorship effort failed in the legal process. Apparently, however, some UD administrators have learned nothing from UD’s disgraceful history of ideological censorship. On the contrary, they now send armed police to suppress ideas they do not like. At UD, “thought police” is now not a metaphor, but a literal fact.

    • Conservative Journalist Threatens to Sue Twitter Over Censorship

      A conservative journalist, banned on Twitter for criticizing an Islamic congresswoman, is threatening to file a lawsuit.

      Laura Loomer, an investigative journalist, was banned by Twitter on November 21 after commenting that Minnesota Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar is a radical islamist who supports female genital mutilation (FGM), the oppression and killing of homosexuals and women, and hatred of Jews.

      She threatened on Friday to sue the social media giant for suppressing her right to free speech.

    • The wall of censorship has fallen

      The Court of Appeals of Kuwait has canceled the decision of the Kuwaiti ministry of information to prevent the circulation of a number of books. The court justified its decision by stating that censorship was no longer feasible in these changing times and this open world!

      In my opinion, the Kuwaiti court based its decision on the current reality in dealing with the issue of banned books. The traditional tools used to ban published opinion no longer work, as the barriers between countries are eliminated because of the Internet and developments in technology and communication.

    • Universities Join Push to Advance Tech Censorship

      Professors and staff at several different universities are researching how they can contribute to Big Tech’s censorship push, by means of developing a new system that can “flag” social media posts containing “prejudice.”

    • Twitter censors feminist over trans feud

      How a left-leaning writer fell afoul of the left wing social media site began last August when she wrote, then tweeted about Kreut.

      [...]

      What triggered the spat was Murphy and others upset at Kreut being asked to speak at the annual Women’s March because of her views on rough sex and prostitution.

      Murphy said: “This was, after all, a march for women.”

      Batten down the safe spaces!

      And after Murphy wrote about the march, Twitter locked her account. She was only allowed back on after she agreed to delete the tweet.

    • Study: With new govt, Malaysia making great strides in enhancing civic freedom

      “A bright spot in our research on the region is Malaysia, where the change of government in May 2018 has resulted in some progressive steps towards enhancing civic freedoms,” said Civicus Civic Space Research Officer Josef Benedict in a statement accompanying the report.

      The report noted that scores of activists and government critics previously facing prosecution over their views or for taking part in peaceful rallies have either been acquitted or have had their charges dropped.

    • Google must not capitulate to China’s censorship demands

      Google’s plans to launch a censored search app in China could irreparably damage internet users’ trust in the tech company, Amnesty International said today, warning that going ahead with the app would set a dangerous precedent for tech companies enabling rights abuses by governments.

      [...]

      Following a public outcry from Google’s own workforce, Amnesty International is reaching out to the company’s staff through protests outside Google offices and targeted messages on LinkedIn calling on them to sign the petition. A spoof promotional video offering Google staff the chance to participate in Project Dragonfly ends with a twist on Google’s motto: “Don’t be evil – unless it’s profitable”.

      “This is a watershed moment for Google. As the world’s number one search engine, it should be fighting for an internet where information is freely accessible to everyone, not backing the Chinese government’s dystopian alternative,” said Joe Westby, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Technology and Human Rights.

    • Censorship: Google has introduced a new service

      Division of cybersecurity company Alphabet, Jigsaw has developed a product designed to provide maximum data security combined with ease of setup and use. In fact, it is a project of Google, so the quality of the product can not survive. It is designed for people without deep technical knowledge of journalists and activists who are forced to work in conditions of censorship.

    • Twitter Permanently Banned Conservative Pundit Jesse Kelly

      Jesse Kelly, a conservative writer, radio host, and failed Republican political candidate is no longer welcome on Twitter: The social media site permanently banned him on Sunday, for reasons unknown.

      Many on the right saw this as evidence that Twitter is unfairly silencing conservatives; others were neither surprised nor particularly sad to see Kelly disappear. Twitter is a private company, and can ban anyone it wants, of course. But it would be helpful if the site administrators explained what exactly Kelly did to merit such draconian measures—especially if Twitter wishes to put a damper on the right-wing notion that social media censorship is a serious issue meriting federal intervention.

    • Twitter Bans Iraq Combat Vet And GOP Congressional Candidate Jesse Kelly

      It’s unknown if Kelly will run for office again, but if he does he’ll have to do so without a Twitter account — a major disadvantage for a politician in the digital era.

      Kelly currently hosts The Jesse Kelly Show on iHeart Radio. He frequently appears as a guest on Fox News and other cable networks. Coincidentally, his most recent appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show was about internet censorship, which Kelly now appears to be a victim of.

    • Twitter Just Banned A Conservative Combat Veteran And Federalist Contributor For No Reason

      Federalist Contributor Jesse Kelly was permanently suspended from Twitter on Sunday for “repeat violations of the Twitter rules,” according to a message from Twitter Support. Kelly is a combat Veteran Marine, conservative radio host, and former Republican candidate for U.S. Congress.

      Twitter did not explain what rules Kelly violated, or if there was a specific tweet in question.

    • Iraq War vet who called out social media censorship booted from Twitter

      Iraq War veteran and former Republican congressional candidate Jesse Kelly has been banned from Twitter for unclear reasons, becoming yet another conservative personality to be kicked from the platform.
      Kelly’s account on Twitter was disabled on Sunday, drawing anger from many conservative commentators, as the ban was apparently affected with no prior notice.

      A guessing game started about what might have prompted Kelly’s suspension, while liberal Twitter welcomed the move, accusing the Marine Corps vet of stoking violence.

    • Do not censor Netflix, Amazon Prime Video in India
    • Russia’s media censor wants to fine Google for refusing to censor search results
    • Kremlin proposes hefty fines for tech companies neglecting censorship laws
    • Russia pursues fine for Google over banned websites

      Russia has filed charges to fine Google (GOOG, GOOGL) — though not much — for failing to go along with government censorship on banned websites.

    • Russia fines Google for failing to block banned websites
    • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate censors one of Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s main characters
    • Shanxi Authorities Censor Sunday School Content

      All references to God and religion were removed from the reading materials for children, including the Ten Commandments.

      In Hongdong county of the northern province of Shanxi, a Hong Kong-based charity recently set up a Sunday school for “left-behind children.” The term refers to children whose parents have gone to work in the city, leaving them in the countryside in care of their relatives or friends. According to official statistics, in 2016, there were 61 million children left behind in villages across China by their migrant worker parents.

    • China’s mega-collider would be a good idea if it weren’t for The Great Firewall

      Plans to build a “mega-collider” somewhere in China appear to be moving forward with construction set to begin as early as 2022.

    • Fans Furious Mariah Carey’s Ample Cleavage Is Too Hot For International Censors

      Apparently, Mariah Carey’s ample cleavage is way too hot for international censors, so it was blurred out during a broadcast of her appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

      The songstress shared a laugh with fans on Twitter on Saturday after she saw photos of her chest blurred out during a re-broadcast of her Tonight Show appearance in Asia and clapped back in her own distinctive style.

    • RUMOR: Winnie The Pooh Rides, Character Being Removed From Shanghai Disneyland
    • Winnie-the-Pooh memes cause trouble for Kingdom Hearts 3 in China
    • Kingdom Hearts 3 Creates Some Censorship Problems In China

      With Kingdom Hearts 3 set to release in around two months, for many, it’s one of their most anticipated games. One particularly character in the Disney umbrella is, however, causing more than a few problems in China. You see, believe it or not, Winnie the Pooh is actually censored within the media.

      Why? Well, more than a few people have used him as a comparison to their current Chairman. As you might imagine, not for flattering reasons either.

      Therefore, with the Chinese media beginning to report on the game, they are having to make a few rather amusing omissions. Namely, Winnie the Pooh has been deleted!

    • Twitter Banned Me For Literally No Reason, But In The End They’ll Lose

      I try my best not to complain about the curveballs of life that come my way, but I wish people understood the tremendous burden that comes with being a clairvoyant genius who sees the future. You see, Twitter banned my account yesterday. They did not suspend it. They banned it.

      I had almost 80,000 followers and those poor people are now left aimlessly wandering the social media landscape in search of a greatness they’ll never find again. Now, I don’t really care because I’m just going to start a new account and it will be even better than my last one (if that’s possible). This isn’t about me. This is about what kind of country we have become and what kind of country we want to be.

      We have become a nation of sensitive losers who care about words. We care about how things “make us feel.” The exception these days is the man who just wants to put his talent and his thoughts in the marketplace of ideas and see if people will buy it.

    • Censorship could stifle China’s art market

      Increasingly stringent censorship in China under president Xi Jinping’s regime could be a barrier to the otherwise unparalleled growth of the art market in mainland China, a Western dealer has said.
      Speaking during Shanghai Art Week in November, as the West Bund Art & Design and Art021 fairs opened alongside the Shanghai Biennale and numerous exhibitions, the dealer—who wished to remain anonymous—said the week compares to Frieze week in London or Fiac week in Paris. “It has the same intensity. But the government will have a big say in the growth of this art market, because the last few years have not shown an opening in attitudes, but almost the opposite.”

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • New GDPR Ruling In France Could Dramatically Re-shape Online Advertising

      The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation only came into force in May of this year. Since then, privacy regulators across the EU have been trying to work out what it means in practice. As Techdirt has reported, some of the judgments that have emerged were pretty bad. A new GDPR ruling from France has just appeared that looks likely to have a major impact on how online advertising works in the EU, and therefore probably further afield, given the global nature of the Internet.

      The original decision in French is rather dense, although it does include the use of the delightful word “mobinaute”, which is apparently the French term for someone accessing the Internet on a mobile device. If you’d like to read something in English, Techcrunch has a long and clear explanation. There’s also a good, shorter take from Johnny Ryan of the browser company Brave, which is particularly interesting for reasons I’ll explain below.

    • To Prosecute A Single Bombing Suspect, FBI Demands Identifying Info On Thousands Of YouTube Viewers

      We waved goodbye to general warrants with the Fourth Amendment back in 1791. Now, thanks to tech companies collecting tons of info on site visitors and the FBI’s apparent inability to craft a narrow warrant, it’s the late 1700s all over again!

      With a wealth of information a subpoena or warrant away, law enforcement is asking for everything and promising to sort it all out properly. This hasn’t worked as well in practice as it has in theory. Investigators looking for evidence of one crime have found others to charge defendants with simply by sifting through the digital haystacks they’re able to acquire with a single piece of paper.

      In other cases, investigators have decided everyone is a suspect and that the massive amount of data obtained with this dubious legal theory will somehow point them to the real criminals. That’s the theory behind law enforcement’s “reverse” searches: ones where they demand all cell site location info from everyone connecting to certain cell towers before paring down the list of suspects from “everyone” to “everyone in certain locations at certain times.”

      A warrant requested by the FBI related to a bombing in New York last year is operating under this same premise. The search warrant ostensibly seeks to obtain information about defendant Victor Kingsley’s YouTube viewing habits. Kingsley is facing federal charges for killing a New York City landlord with a handmade bomb. Kingsley was allegedly targeting a police officer who he thought lived at that address as revenge for his arrest by that officer three years earlier.

    • Officers and Agents

      I explain this in detail about every three years, but it is plain from my twitter stream today I have made no significant inroads into public consciousness.

      MI6 officers, when operating abroad, do so 99% of the time disguised as British diplomats. They serve three or four year postings like other Embassy staff and will have a “cover job” doing something else in the Embassy. Back home in the UK their “cover job” is working in the FCO.

      A proportion of them will be “declared” to their host country, including the Head of Station, and operate in liaison with the host intelligence services. A portion will be “undeclared” and spy on the hosts themselves or on others in territory without the hosts’ knowledge.

      Those are MI6 officers, British career spies. The great advantage of the Embassy cover is that they have diplomatic immunity and when they mess up and get caught, they are simply expelled.

      “Agents” are not “officers”. In MI6 terminology “agent” is another word for “informant”. The fictional James Bond is not in fact a “secret agent”. He is an officer.

      Agents are usually nationals of the host country, but not always. They are “recruited” and “run” by MI6 officers. Motives vary but in the large majority of cases agents provide information for cash. British people who provide information to the Embassy from motives of patriotism will usually do so to a normal diplomat and not to MI6, but British people can be recruited as agents for MI6, in situations where the information being provided is in some sense deeply secret.

      Agents of course run far greater risks than the actual MI6 officers and do not have diplomatic immunity.

    • Dystopia Now: Insurance Company Secretly Spying On Sleep Apnea Patients

      So for years digital rights activists have worried about insurance companies getting their hands on everything from your smart car data to your pacemaker information and using that to deny you coverage, charge you more money, or make an extra buck selling said data to the highest bidder. That’s especially a problem in an era where consumer privacy rights are under constant siege, alongside the right to repair and open access these devices (and any data they might store about you).

      If you thought this rather dystopian future was activist hyperbole or still a decade or so out, you may be disappointed.

    • To Obtain Documents About Facebook Data-Sharing, UK Gov’t Seizes And Detains A US Lawyer Working For A Different Company

      Something strange and disturbing happened in the UK this weekend. That it targeted pariah du jour Facebook doesn’t make it any less bizarre or worrisome.

      The short story is this: peeved at being blown off repeatedly by Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook representatives, members of Parliament shook down an American third party for documents possibly related to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The long story — broken by Carole Cadwalla of The Guardian — fills in the details.

      But first a little background: Six4Three, developers of a scuzzy app that scanned profiles for bikini photos, is currently suing Facebook for yanking its API access. The lawsuit has traveled from the federal court system to a California state court, where Six4Three is hoping for a ruling declaring Facebook’s actions to be a violation of various state-level competitive business laws.

      During the course of this suit — which was filed in January 2017 — Six4Three has obtained internal Facebook documents through discovery. These documents may contain info related to Facebook’s data-sharing and data-selling practices, which could possibly include its deals with Cambridge Analytica.

    • Google’s New Smart Home Patent Is A Direct Attack On Our Privacy

      Google is famous for tracking users and showing them targeted advertisements even if users do not want to see it. The search giant’s new patents for smart-home technology suggest that Google now wants to enter your bedroom to track you more efficiently.

      The first patent talks about a smart device that could scan and analyze the surroundings of your home, and offer targeted ads on the basis of it. For instance, the device would be capable of scanning Will Smith’s face on a T-shirt lying on the floor of a closet. The device would then offer you suggestions related to Will Smith’s movies.

    • DHS plans to use credit-scores to judge who may become a citizen

      The US Department of Homeland Security has published a new proposed rule that would make people ineligible for US citizenship if their credit-scores were poor.

      Notionally, the rule-change is meant to prevent immigrants from becoming burdens on the welfare system (migrants do not make disproportionate use of any public welfare system).

      However, the credit reporting bureaus are notoriously inaccurate and arbitrary in the credit-scores they assign; if you have a lot of assets but do not borrow money, you will have a much lower credit-rating than if you unwisely enroll in a number of high cost/high fee store cards and pay them off after running up debts on them and paying significant interest (I am allergic to debt, and with the exception of my mortgage have no debts at all; because of this I have a fairly low credit-score, despite the fact that both my wife and I earn very good livings).

    • The United States’ toughest biometric privacy law is facing a challenge from Six Flags

      The case centers on the mother of a teenage boy, who brought a suit against Six Flags after her son’s thumbprint was scanned for season pass entry. Lawyers for the family argue that the move violated the law, but the company has said that, since there was no actual harm done by the collection of the print, they aren’t liable.

      This week, after rulings from lower courts, the State Supreme Court heard arguments. Whatever the court decides, it could have major ramifications: [...]

    • NYU School of Medicine Releases Largest-Ever Open-Source Dataset to Speed Up MRIs using Artificial Intelligence in Collaboration with Facebook AI Research [Ed: NYU School of Medicine should be shredded to pieces for giving Facebook medical data ]
    • NYU releases open-source MRI dataset as part of Facebook collaboration
    • Facebook AI research and NYU school of medicine announces new open-source AI models and MRI dataset as part of their FastMRI project

      Facebook AI Research (FAIR) and NYU school of medicine announced yesterday that they’re releasing new open source AI research models and data as a part of FastMRI. FastMRI is a new collaborative research project by Facebook and NYU School of medicine, that was announced back in August this year.

      FastMRI makes use of artificial intelligence (AI) to make the (MRI) scans up to 10 times faster. By releasing these new AI models and the MRI data, the FastMRI team aims to help improve diagnostic imaging technology, which in turn can increase patients’ access to more powerful and life-saving technology. The latest release explores new AI models, and the first large-scale MRI data set for reconstructing MRI scans.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Trump True Intentions to Use Census to Round Up Immigrants

      “This latest discovery is one more rock on top of a mountain of evidence that the Trump administration is trying to rig the Census to pursue their radical, white supremacist agenda. We will fight it all the way to the Supreme Court. Immigrants founded this country, and we will be here long after Donald Trump is President.”

      The New York Immigration Coalition filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York in conjunction with the ACLU and four other immigrant rights groups against the administration’s attempt to target immigrant communities, challenging the addition of the citizenship question by adding an intentional discrimination claim. The lawsuit argues that adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census violates the Constitution and reverses seven decades of precedent without a factual basis.

    • Saying Trump “May Not Rewrite the Immigration Laws” by Decree, Judge Orders Administration to Stop Ban on Asylum Seekers

      “This ban is illegal, will put people’s lives in danger and raises the alarm about President Trump’s disregard for separation of powers,” said Lee Gelernt of the ACLU, which along with the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Center for Constitutional Rights had challenged the president. “There is no justifiable reason to flatly deny people the right to apply for asylum, and we cannot send them back to danger based on the manner of their entry.”

    • A Climate of Racism Took Two Lives at My Kroger

      In October, two Black grandparents were gunned down by a white supremacist in a Kroger supermarket in Louisville, Kentucky, sending shock waves through the Black community. The shooter was recorded on surveillance video trying to get into a predominately Black church just before the killing.

      Michelle Randolph, who teaches fourth grade in a school with a majority of Black and immigrant students in Jefferson County, Kentucky, lives in the neighborhood and shops at the Kroger that was targeted. Randolph helped organize the over 5,000 Kentucky educators who shut down schools in 30 counties and rallied with students, parents and unionists on the state Capitol for education funding.

    • Fear of Immigrants (and Soros)

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

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

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

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

      The bill creates a crime called “promoting and supporting illegal migration.” It bans organization and individuals from giving any help to undocumented immigrants. It is drafted in such a way that, as simple an act as providing food or shelter to an immigrant, would be a violation of the law.

    • ‘Tear Gassing Children Is Outrageous and Inhumane’: US Condemned for Violence Against Asylum Seekers

      As legal experts and human rights advocates overnight and Monday morning continued to denounce the tear gassing of children and other asylum seekers by U.S. forces at the Mexico border on Sunday, Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was among Democratic lawmakers who slammed the Trump administration for its treatment of refugees as she issued a reminder that vulnerable people fleeing violence and persecution have the right, codified by domestic and international law, to apply for asylum protection.

    • Shooting Pepper Spray at Children Okay, Former CBP Deputy Chief Tells Fox News, Because ‘You Could Actually Put It on Your Nachos and Eat It’

      Amid widespread outrage and condemnation over the tear gassing of mothers, their children, and other asylum seekers and migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border on Sunday, Ronald Colburn, president of the Border Patrol Foundation and former national deputy chief of the CBP, appeared on Fox & Friends Monday morning and claimed the gas—which reports said led to children “screaming and coughing in the mayhem” that resulted from it—was really just a “natural” product and “you actually could put it on your nachos and eat it.”

      [...]

      Actually BOTH tear gas and pepper spray were fired at migrants. I’ve been in a tear gas chamber for training purposes and know its effects. Either way, it’s unconscionable.

    • Jeff Sessions’ Legacy Is Full of Dangerous Successes

      Attorney General Sessions proved how dangerous the nation’s top prosecutor can be to criminal justice reform.
      In his 636 days in office, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions secured a legacy that has been described as “unprecedented” and “dark.” But Sessions’ unwavering actions against criminal justice reform may also earn another descriptor for his time in office: successful. Whether it’s civil asset forfeiture, sentencing, or police accountability, Jeff Sessions has reversed or hamstrung Obama-era policies at the Justice Department that sought to reform the nation’s criminal justice system.

      In July of 2017, Sessions restored the federal government’s full use of civil asset forfeiture, which allows state agents to seize property even if someone hasn’t been accused, much less convicted of a crime. Sessions revived the “federal adoption” loophole, reformed by former Attorney General Eric Holder, which allows local law enforcement agencies to circumvent more restrictive state forfeiture laws by partnering with the federal government.

      In doing so, Sessions ignored the ways in which asset forfeiture has created a policing-for-profit paradox for police departments, which are always seeking more funding. In one of his speeches on the matter, Sessions insisted, “We need to send [a] clear message that crime does not pay.” But, as has been documented, poorly regulated asset forfeiture policies ensure that crime does pay — it pays law enforcement — which, as civil liberties organizations have proved, can be unconstitutional.

    • Trump’s Immigration Policies Are So Cruel, They Defy Understanding (Video)

      In the latest episode of his new Netflix show “Patriot Act,” comedian Hasan Minhaj explains the different branches of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and tries to make sense of Stephen Miller, the mastermind behind the administration’s immigration policies.

      Beginning with an explanation of how immigration was once handled by the Department of Labor, Minhaj explores how the U.S. “went from, ‘Immigrants are coming to work,’ to ‘Immigrants are coming to kill you’ ” in the post 9/11 years, an approach that has been consistent (and consistently heinous) throughout the George W. Bush and Barack Obama tenures.

    • ‘Mark of Shame on All Our Societies’: UN Finds More Women Killed by Domestic Violence Than Any Other Crime

      In a quarter of the world’s countries, no laws exist protecting women and girls from what a new United Nations study says is the crime most likely to kill them: violence perpetrated by their intimate partners and family members.

      Marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime on Sunday released a global study on homicide, focusing on gender-related killings, and revealed that out of 87,000 women who were murdered around the world in 2017, 58 percent of them were killed by family members or partners.

      U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called violence against women “a moral affront to all women and girls, a mark of shame on all our societies and a major obstacle to inclusive, equitable, and sustainable development.”

    • Far Right Increasingly Responsible for Mass Violence: Report

      On the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, U.S. Border Patrol fired tear gas on Central American migrants at the Mexican border. Many of the victims were children, brought with their parents who are fleeing violence in their home countries. The Trump administration views, or at least claims to view, these families as a threat to American safety. However, as a new report from The Washington Post shows, perhaps they should be looking closer to home.

      “Over the past decade,” the Post writes, “attackers motivated by right-wing political ideologies have committed dozens of shootings, bombings and other acts of violence, far more than any other category of domestic extremist.”

      The trend has only gotten worse. As the Post observes, “while the data show a decades-long drop-off in violence by left-wing groups, violence by white supremacists and other far-right attackers has been on the rise since Barack Obama’s presidency—and has surged since President Trump took office.”

      Anti-Semitic attacks in particular have surged, with a 17 percent rise in such hate crimes in 2017, as the FBI found in Hate Crime Statistics 2017, a report released this month.

    • Rev. William Barber: Tear Gassing Central American Migrants is Inhumane, Unconstitutional, Immoral

      U.S. border patrol officers fired tear gas into a crowd of desperate Central American asylum-seekers Sunday in Tijuana, Mexico as some tried to push their way through the heavily militarized border with the United States. Mothers and small children were left gagging and screaming as the tear gas spread. The migrants are from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and are fleeing widespread violence, poverty and mass unemployment. We speak with Rev. Dr. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach.

    • Rev. Barber: MS Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith Jokes About Hangings, But Her Policies Will Strangle the Poor

      Mississippi voters will head to the polls Tuesday in the state’s hotly contested runoff senate election, as incumbent Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith faces off against Democrat Mike Espy. In a state that Donald Trump won by 20 percentage points two years ago, Espy is attempting to become Mississippi’s first African-American senator since Reconstruction. His opponent, incumbent Sen. Hyde-Smith, attended and graduated from an all-white segregationist high school and recently posed for photos with a Confederate Army cap and other Confederate artifacts. Earlier this month, a viral video showed Hyde-Smith praising a campaign supporter, saying, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.” Mississippi was once considered the lynching capital of the United States. We speak with Rev. Dr. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach. He recently traveled to Mississippi to get out the vote.

    • Homicide, Sexual Assault Cases On The Line After Crime Lab Discovers Tech Using The Wrong Tools For The Job

      When life and liberty are on the line, law enforcement lab techs are there to turn hard science into a roulette wheel. Once you get past the fact that a lot of forensic investigative techniques are little more than junk science, you run directly into the failures of the humans staffing forensic/drug testing labs.

      In the state of Massachusetts alone, more than 30,000 cases are in the process of being tossed due to lab tech misconduct. One lab tech faked most of her work, speeding through her workload by faking tests and test results. Another used the drug lab as her own personal drug stash, using whatever substances she wanted from incoming evidence and replacing it with filler.

      Forensic science is plagued with incompetence and overconfidence, which is an incredibly bad combination when people’s freedom is on the line. Only in recent years has the DOJ instructed forensic experts to stop overstating the certainty of their findings. But that hardly fixes the problem. Outside debunkings have led to zero changes in law enforcement forensic work — a fact so disheartening a judge very publicly resigned from a committee seeking to fix these problems when it became apparent the committee wasn’t actually supposed to fix anything.

    • Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Thin Blue Border’

      There are at least six million Syrian refugees who have fled the war-torn country since 2011. Millions are in countries, where they fled, waiting in camps for a chance to sail to freedom. They yearn for an opportunity to rebuild their lives in Europe, even as the rise of virulent strains of right-wing politics threaten their ability to seek asylum.

      Ryan Harvey, Kareem Shimara, and Shireen Lilith call attention to the plight of Middle Eastern refugees, especially Syrians, with their protest song, “Thin Blue Border.”

      The song refers to the “coast guard on the horizon” taking bribes. “Revolutionaries and widows, orphans, survivors, and heroes” will have to get past them to continue their harrowing journey.

    • Immigrant Women in Abusive Relationships Face Long Delays for Green Cards—and Possible Deportation

      When Mayela Sanchez Miles finally fled her abusive marriage toward the end of 2016, she pinned all her hopes on filing for a green card through the Violence Against Women Act. But she had to wait over 16 months for her paperwork to process. Unable to work legally, she was trapped in a sort of immigration limbo dependent on friends and her local Houston church.

      “It was so hard,” said Miles, swallowing tears. “Breaking from him, standing alone with my pain, my trauma, my four children, not able to work. I thought we would be on the street.”

      Form I-360 is a green card petition that immigrants who are on a path to receiving an Immediate Relative Immigrant Visa can use under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). If they begin experiencing intimate partner violence, VAWA allows them to continue on that path without being forced to stay with the abuser.

      According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the processing time for this petition is 16 to 20.5 months, up from an average of 4.8 months two years ago.

      Suzanne Tomatore, an attorney at the New York City Bar Justice Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, called this timeline “insane.”

    • Trump Is Forging His Own Gaza on the Southern Border

      When a crowd is exposed to tear gas, an aerosol containing the chemical agent 2-chlorobenzaldene malononitrile (CS), nasal passages begin to run, eyes water uncontrollably and breathing grows short and painful. Those directly exposed can experience vomiting or diarrhea. Effects take hold within 30 seconds, and the symptoms can last up to 10 minutes, even after the air has cleared or the afflicted have managed to scramble to safety.

      For these reasons, nearly every nation in the world banned the compound’s use in warfare under the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993. Yet despite ratifying these agreements, the United States continues to utilize tear gas for domestic riot control. Police shot dozens of canisters at protesters over several days in Ferguson, Mo., and now U.S. Border Patrol agents have fired upon Central American migrants and their toddlers in Tijuana, Mexico, seeking asylum in the United States—an act of aggression that almost certainly violates international law.

    • For I Was A Stranger and You Tear-Gassed Me and Then Denied It

      Rage and horror fatigue from seeing the spectacle of U.S. thugs of the state use chemical weapons against poor, brown, terrified, exhausted people, many of them children, seeking to escape nightmarish political conditions that we often helped create. The atrocity came after US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents closed down San Ysidro Port of Entry between Tijuana and California, stranding hundreds of thousands of travelers and deliberately slowing the processing of entirely legal asylum cases by already distraught people; cursed with one more hardship, about 30 frustrated migrants tried to take down the fence, and a few others threw stones. Once again, they were victims of mindless, cruel incompetence by those in power, who have known for weeks the migrants were coming. If they were normal, sentient humans, they could have sent tents or buses or medical workers or case managers. Because they’re not, they sent tear gas.

      [...]

      As appalling as the vile actions – there was no more reason to close the crossing than there was to lock kids in cages – are the viler reactions. Citing the handful of futile stones tossed, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the migrants “sought to harm CBP personnel by throwing projectiles at them.” Dismissing outrage at attacking women and children with tear gas, the racist morons at Fox blathered no worry – it’s natural and you can put it on tacos – while resident Fascist Tomi Lahren declared the sight “the highlight” of her weekend. Likewise rejecting criticism, the CBP’s head henchman said gassing people “prevented a dangerous situation from getting worse.” And Liar-In-Chief Trump – “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears” – said it didn’t happen, and besides, these were “stone-cold criminals.” In Nazi Germany, it’s said, a third of the people killed another third, while a third watched. Speak up. And seriously, fuck these people and what they’re doing to our country.

    • Neoliberalism Has Vandalized Latin America

      I WANT to begin by naming the region I am writing about as America, I don’t mean the United States of America — I mean America, the continent.

      For us in Latin America, America is one continent, not a single country. As Eduardo Galeano writes in his book Open Veins of Latin America, “We even lost the right to call ourselves Americans.”

      The reason to talk about the continent of America, not the country of the United States of America, is that many people continue to live with the illusion that a simple change of elected leadership in a Latin American country can bring a fundamental change for the region. I would argue that this is not possible.

      When we focus only on who is elected into power in one country or another in America, there can be a tendency to ignore the ruling class forces that hinder the possibilities for social change and the working class forces that fight for liberation.

    • Artificial Intelligence May Destroy Humanity by Accident (But It Won’t Apologize)

      The U.S. military has quietly said it wants 70 unmanned self-driving supply trucks by 2020. And seeing as $21 trillion has gone unaccounted for 21 trillion has gone unaccounted at the Pentagon over the past 20 years, when the Pentagon wants something, it tends to get that something.

      Of course supply trucks in and of themselves don’t sound so bad. Even if the self-driving trucks run over some poor unsuspecting saps, that will still be the least destruction our military has ever manifested. But because I’ve read a thing or two about our military, I’ll assume that by “supply trucks,” they mean “ruthless killing machines.” In fact, it’s now clear the entire “Department of Defense” is just a rebranding of “Department of Ruthless Killing Machines.”

      And even if they do mean simple supply trucks, once those unmanned trucks are commuting themselves around the Middle East like a cross between “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Platoon,” how long do you think it will be until some a-hole general blurts, “Why don’t we put a missile or two on those things?”

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Kiss your cable bill goodbye: The best TV antennas for cord cutters

      Putting up an antenna is easy, but before you buy one you’ll need to figure out what channels are available where you live, how strong the signals are likely to be, and what direction they’re coming from. See TechHive’s guide to choosing an antenna to figure all that out.

    • Mobile Networks Are Getting Faster Than Wi-Fi Globally

      It is commonly assumed that Wi-Fi connections offer faster downloading speed than mobile networks, but that isn’t necessarily true — as in some countries, using Wi-Fi for downloading can be a pain.

      OpenSignal recently conducted a study to analyze downloading speed in different countries. It found that mobile data is faster than Wi-Fi in 33 countries, including several African, European, Latin American and Middle Eastern nations.

    • Net Neutrality Defenders Announce ‘Epic Final Protest’ to Demand Congress Repeal FCC Rollback Before Fast-Approaching Deadline

      Fight for the Future announced Wednesday that on Nov. 29, supporters of restoring nationwide net neutrality rules—which the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rolled back last year—are planning “an epic, final protest to pressure lawmakers before a crucial deadline to save the internet.”

    • Daniel Stenberg: HTTP/3 Explained

      I’m happy to tell that the booklet HTTP/3 Explained is now ready for the world. It is entirely free and open and is available in several different formats to fit your reading habits. (It is not available on dead trees.)

      The book describes what HTTP/3 and its underlying transport protocol QUIC are, why they exist, what features they have and how they work. The book is meant to be readable and understandable for most people with a rudimentary level of network knowledge or better.

      These protocols are not done yet, there aren’t even any implementation of these protocols in the main browsers yet! The book will be updated and extended along the way when things change, implementations mature and the protocols settle.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • The CJEU in Teva-Gilead: a word of warning for UPC seafarers?

      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.

    • There’s a new IPO report on designs infringement – game-changer or stating the obvious?

      Four years is a long time in politics but not a particularly long time in the land of government reports. Just under four years ago the UK Intellectual Property Office commissioned research to address the lack of existing data on design infringement. The results of that research were published last week.

      Designs are an important part of the UK economy. In 2015, the UK design economy was worth 6% of the nation’s total economy. It was therefore considered a worthwhile exercise to review the current designs regime and identify opportunities for improvement.

    • Trademarks

      • Square Looks To Block Trademark App Of Indie Game Over Game Franchise It Acquired A Decade Ago And Did Nothing With

        You will recall that several years back there was a very stupid trademark dispute between Notch, maker of MineCraft, and Bethesda, which owns the rights to the Elder Scrolls franchise. At issue was Notch’s new game Scrolls (which has since been retitled Caller’s Bane) with Bethesda crying trademark infringement, claiming it owned the trademark rights to basically everything “scrolls.” Disappointingly, the whole thing ended in a settlement with Notch getting to keep his game’s name but not getting his trademark.

        While in that case one could at least lend Bethesda the acknowledgement that Elder Scrolls games are very much still active in the marketplace and haven’t become simply methods for retro enjoyment, the same cannot be said of Square’s ownership of the Conflict series. And, yet, Square has decided to oppose the trademark application of an indie developer in Malta for its title Conflict Of Nations: World War 3.

    • Copyrights

      • New copyright negotiation documents: more words, not more solutions

        With every blog post or update I write, I try to illustrate why today is decisive in the negotiations for the copyright reform. The legislative process may seem neverending and repetitive – indeed, the same criticisms of articles 11 and 13 hold today, as they did a year ago – but fact is that we are nearing the end. Every meeting is more decisive than the last.

        Tonight the European Parliament and Council negotiators enter the third intransparent, closed-door trilogue meeting. On the draft agenda today you will find some of the most controversial articles, including article 11 on the link tax and article 13 on upload filters. A few weeks ago we laid out where individual member state governments stand on these issues. As they are represented in the negotiations by the Austrian Council Presidency, we will see tonight whether they have softened or hardened their approach.

      • Google, Village Roadshow Weigh In On New Search Blocking Amendments To Australian Copyright Law

        As we’ve been talking about for some time, Australia is set to amend its copyright laws to expand what were site-blocking provisions into search-blocking ones. It’s an odd bit of mission creep, as the copyright industries in Australia have at once praised site-blocking as being very effective at curbing piracy while also insisting that search-blocking needs to be done to curb piracy. Despite this, the amendment appears to have broad government support, with the exception of a few detractors. The Australian government is still taking comments about the proposed changes and Google has decided to wade in. As is typical with Google, the arguments it makes are nuanced and careful, whether you agree with them or not.

      • The Expanded DMCA Exemption for Video Game Preservation Grants a Small Victory Amidst the Seventh Triennial Rulemaking

        Online games have finally found their way into the video game preservation exemption to Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). This is a small expansion of user protections against an overbroad law. While the expansion is limited to particular users, it is nonetheless a small victory that will allow the preservation of video game history to develop further. The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment, assisted by the Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic at Berkeley Law, championed this year’s effort.

        Over the past decade the number and revenue of online games have reached new heights in the video game industry. From the success of popular titles like League of Legends and Fortnite, there does not appear to be any indication that the online gaming community will stagnate soon. The success of games has also encouraged scholars to research the potential social and behavioral impacts on the people who play them. From analyzing teamwork for collaborative in-game missions to cyber-bullying and romantic relationships, online games of the past and present can be fertile ground for research, furthering our understanding of how the digital era shapes social interactions. Sadly, many games eventually become discontinued, unplayable, and forgotten. For many games, no one, including researchers, can play or legally access them once game developers pull the plug.

11.26.18

No, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) Has Not Changed Its Position on Software Patents, Which Are Bunk

Posted in Courtroom, Deception, Patents at 12:06 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Patent law (litigation) firms, looking to profit from software patenting and litigation with such patents, are still offering intentionally bad advice (about patentability and success rates in courts); they should instead embrace PTAB and undo the mess they’ve created

THE FINE art of cherry-picking, e.g. cherry-picking of court decisions, has been mastered by law firms looking for “marketing opportunities”. We saw that earlier this year with the Berkheimer lie and as we shall show in a moment, they’re doing it again. Their goal is to legitimise this old fiction that software patents are still worth pursuing at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and moreover suing over. Only lawyers would win. They don’t care if the patents are virtually worthless and litigation goes nowhere because they profit regardless (legal bills).

“They don’t care if the patents are virtually worthless and litigation goes nowhere because they profit regardless (legal bills).”For similar reasons, law firms encourage automation; they would want millions of patents pursued per year (like in China) and they constantly promote the concept of computer-generated inventions [sic], which sometimes get conflated with “AI” (not searching patents using classifiers or patenting software by dubbing it “AI”). Unified Patents, incidentally, has just taken note of an essay, “Computer-Generated Inventions, addressing the legal issues surrounding the patenting of computer-generated inventions.”

Terms like “computer-generated inventions” (a misnomer) aren’t to be confused with “computer-implemented inventions,” the misnomer long used by the European Patent Office (EPO) to bypass the EPC and facilitate software patents in Europe, except in European courts (they would typically reject these). There was an attempt to bypass the national courts using an EPO-connected Unified Patent Court (UPC), but thankfully it’s never going to happen. As one UPC proponent from Germany has said: “The draft Agreement on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU (“Brexit” Agreement, draft of November 14) is completely silent on the faith of the Unified Patent Court (UPC). Does this mean that the participation of the UK in the UPC system is off the table?”

“The patent maximalists try hard to abolish PTAB or overcome the courts, which they frequently bash or misrepresent.”“UPC has been off the table for at least a year,” I told him, but “CIPA and other lobbies, conjoined with law firms-owned media, just keep lying about it and lying to politicians…”

How does all this relate to the US? Well, the Federal Circuit keeps rejecting software patents, typically upon appeals emanating from Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) inter partes reviews (IPRs). The patent maximalists try hard to abolish PTAB or overcome the courts, which they frequently bash or misrepresent. They would have us believe that the Federal Circuit changed its position, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Let’s examine the past week’s news.

Last week Joseph Herndon wrote about a Federal Circuit case where prior art (§ 102) was leveraged to show that a US patent was invalid. This related to PTAB as explained below:

Patent owner Acceleration Bay, LLC (“Acceleration”) appealed the final written decisions of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board holding unpatentable claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 6,829,634; 6,701,344; and 6,714,966. Activision Blizzard, Inc., Electronic Arts Inc., Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., 2k Sports, Inc., and Rockstar Games, Inc. (collectively, “Blizzard”) cross-appealed portions of the Board’s decisions holding that the Lin article is not a printed publication under 35 U.S.C. § 102(a), among other issues.

Here, we look at the determination of features in a “preamble” as being limitations of the claim, as well as, requirements of an article being considered a printed publication for prior art purposes.

The patents at issue are directed to a broadcast technique in which a broadcast channel overlays a point-to-point communications network. The communications network consists of a graph of point-to-point connections between host computers or “nodes,” through which the broadcast channel is implemented.

Blizzard filed six inter partes review (“IPR”) petitions—two for each of the ’344, ’966, and ’634 patents—based principally on two different prior art references: one set of IPRs challenged claims based on the Shoubridge article alone or combined with a prior art book Direct-Play (“Shoubridge IPRs”), and another set of IPRs challenged claims based on the Lin article alone or combined with DirectPlay (“Lin IPRs”).

[...]

Here, the Board found that although Lin was indexed by author and year, it was not meaningfully indexed such that an interested artisan exercising reasonable diligence would have found it, which is a proper consideration under the Federal Circuit precedent. As such, the Federal Circuit found that Lin was not a printed publication under § 102.

PTAB found these claims to be lacking novelty and thus unpatentable. It should not matter whether the prior art was printed or fully implemented or whatever; the important point is, prior art does exist. If something is not novel, then it isn’t novel, period.

“It should not matter whether the prior art was printed or fully implemented or whatever; the important point is, prior art does exist.”§ 102 isn’t so commonly leveraged in this context. Fake patents that are software patents are trivial to discredit and easy to invalidate using Section 101 (35 U.S.C. § 101). When it’s just algorithms, nothing physical, the SCOTUS Alice decision comes handy. A few days ago someone wrote: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has awarded Xerox a patent for a blockchain-driven auditing system for electronic files, according to a patent filing published Nov. 13. #xerox #blockchain https://lnkd.in/dxSzNNx

We wrote about it last weekend; this should be presumed invalid, just like every other “blockchain” patent.

But sometimes marketing defies reality and logic. How about the buzzword/term “AI”?

“…it’s almost the end of the year and the Berkheimer lie (from back in Valentine’s Day) is still being propped up by lying lawyers looking for a buck.”Aaron V. Gin is trying to call algorithmic patents i.e. software patents, “AI”. It’s done to hide/distract from the fact that Section 101 would invalidate all of them in court. They’re all abstract. As we explained numerous times in the past, the term “AI” is just being invoked/used/misused a lot more than before; Gin, however, says that “research indicates, perhaps as expected, that AI-related patent application filings have been increasing throughout the world at growing annualized rates. Figure 1 illustrates the number of AI-related patent application filings in various jurisdictions between the years 2006 and 2016.”

So they (mis)use the term more than before. That means nothing at all. It’s like a fashion. “An interesting piece of work from one of the world’s largest patents law firms,” a patent maximalist called it. So they analyse a bunch of buzzwords? More so ones that have been (re)popularised in the past couple of years? What a weak hypothesis and method.

Moving on to the next example, it’s almost the end of the year and the Berkheimer lie (from back in Valentine’s Day) is still being propped up by lying lawyers looking for a buck.

“To claim that Berkheimer had any meaningful effect would be patently false, but the above is just marketing anyway.”“Courts are trending toward broader patent eligibility,” wrote Jessica L.A. Marks in the headline. She “is a patent attorney at Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLC,” according to her bio and she wrote along with “Virginia L. Carron [who] is a partner at Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, LLP. She practices patent and trademark litigation and counseling.”

They are just spreading lies. The patent courts do the exact opposite, narrowing patent scope. So what’s the premise of this article? The Berkheimer nonsense, which changed nothing at all. To quote some portions:

In addition to those Supreme Court decisions, the lower courts and the USPTO’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) also began finding numerous previously patented inventions unpatentable under the new guidance. For example, between the Alice decision and June 2015, over 70% of patents challenged in federal courts as ineligible under this new standard were ultimately found invalid.

The U.S. Patent Office followed suit, strictly analyzing and rejecting applications under 35 U.S.C. § 101, the statute that governs patent eligibility. The number of rejections under § 101 for biological, genetic, and organic chemistry inventions doubled after Alice.

But in the last year, the tide has been turning. The Federal Circuit, the appellate court one step below the Supreme Court that handles all patent appeals, has issued several decisions that have gone the other way, upholding patent eligibility. Based on these decisions, the USPTO has issued memoranda to its patent examiners. These memoranda interpret federal circuit decisions and provide guidance to the patent examiners on issuing patent eligibility rejections. Each of these memoranda indicate that the USPTO is interested in allowing more patents.

For example, the Berkheimer memo, issued April 19, 2018, instructed that examiners could no longer reject claims as being “well-understood, routine, and conventional” without providing written support as to why each individual element and the combination of elements was “well-understood, routine, and conventional.”

To claim that Berkheimer had any meaningful effect would be patently false, but the above is just marketing anyway. Truth is not a necessity to them.

“In a super rare decision, one single software patent was upheld in CAFC…”As Berkheimer did not really help them much, on they move to (or latch onto) another case, the exceptionally rare kind of decision on HTC and Ancora (covered here before). A patent troll expressed glee over it, saying: “software [patent] licensing [extortion] is an area we pioneered: happy about this ruling…”

They linked to Charles Bieneman, a software patents proponent (law firm, obviously!) who belatedly wrote about Ancora Technologies, Inc. v. HTC America, Inc.

To quote:

Reversing a District Court decision, the Federal Circuit had held that patent claims directed to enforcing software licenses are patent-eligible under 35 U.S.C. §101 and the Alice abstract idea test. Ancora Technologies, Inc. v. HTC America, Inc., No. 2018-1404 (Nov. 16, 2018) (precedential) (opinion by Judge Taranto, joined by Judges Dyk and Wallach). Claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,411,941 recite “methods of limiting a computer’s running of software not authorized for that computer to run.” Relying on Enfish, LLC v. Microsoft Corp., (Fed. Cir. 2016), the Federal Circuit reversed the lower court’s Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, holding that “the claimed advance” was patent-eligible as “a concrete assignment of specified functions among a computer’s components to improve computer security.”

The most hilarious spin came from the patent trolls’ lobby, IAM. It not only wrote about it behind paywall; it then proceeded to encouraging fruitless litigation with tweets like: “Patent owners [sic] have less to fear from early Alice motions after recent CAFC decision…”

“That was 10 days ago and they’re still talking about it. How much longer? A month? A year?”“A welcome 101 boost for software patent owners [sic] from CAFC,” said another tweet and later they added: “A CAFC judgment which overturns a lower court decision to invalidate a software-relate patent has provided some welcome relief to those holding rights [sic] in the field.”

In a super rare decision, one single software patent was upheld in CAFC and the firm behind it, Brooks Kushman P.C., is showing off as follows:

On November 16, 2018, the U.S. Court Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that a software security patent owned by Ancora Technologies, Inc. claims eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. The decision reversed a district court ruling that the patent was invalid as directed to an abstract idea. The decision establishes that patents claiming computer-related inventions directed to improving the function of a computer system by applying a specific improvement, rather than claiming only the improvement in the abstract, are patent-eligible under §101. Brooks Kushman PC represented Ancora in the Federal Circuit appeal.

That was 10 days ago and they’re still talking about it. How much longer? A month? A year? Like we said last weekend, this is a rare exception of a case, hardly the ‘norm’; almost every other 35 U.S.C. § 101 case winds up with CAFC’s unanimous invalidation of the underlying patents (the above is about one single patent, unlike cases where several are involved). Watchtroll wrote about a more typical 35 U.S.C. § 101 outcome at CAFC (from around the same time):

On Tuesday, November 13th, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued another in a growing number of Rule 36 judgments. This particular Rule 36 patent eligibility loss for the patent owner came in Digital Media Technologies, Inc. v. Netflix, Inc., et al., and affirmed the district court’s finding that patent claims asserted by Digital Media against Netflix, Amazon and Hulu were invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101 because they were directed to an abstract idea.

The Federal Circuit panel of Circuit Judges Alan Lourie, Timothy Dyk and Todd Hughes decided to issue the Rule 36 judgment without opinion despite counsel for Digital Media contending at oral arguments that the district court did not properly administer the Alice/Mayo test when reaching a determination that the asserted patents were patent ineligible, and despite the district court admitting the pure subjective nature of determining whether a claim is directed to an abstract idea.

The patent-at-issue in this case is U.S. Patent No. 8964764, titled Multimedia Network System with Content Importation, Content Exportation, and Integrated Content Management. It claims a multimedia system that addressed various needs in the field of managing digital information in a way that makes it easy to download audio/video content from the Internet while providing reliable and flexible content protection and incorporates the use of digital video recorders (DVRs) for multiple users within a premise or vehicle.

It would be wiser for law firms to just simply accept 35 U.S.C. § 101 and try to profit from the invalidation of bogus patents. Over the weekend Strafford had this ‘advert’ in which is dealt with the question: “How can patent litigation defendants take advantage of the guidance for §101 challenges?”

“It would be wiser for law firms to just simply accept 35 U.S.C. § 101 and try to profit from the invalidation of bogus patents.”It is a “Patent Eligibility Post-Alice” ‘webinar’ (one among other Strafford ‘webinars’ that Patent Docs has just advertised [1, 2], the sole exception being the American University Washington College of Law). It is no secret that software patents have generally become easy to invalidate. Lawyers can profit that that, too

Why don’t they focus on cleaning up the mess they created rather than combat the status quo and lie to their customers? As it stands at the moment, any time they 'pull a Berkheimer' they just harm their reputation by offering bad advice to clients.

11.25.18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[...]

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

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

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

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

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

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

[...]

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

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

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

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

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

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • RHEL

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

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

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

    • What’s new in RHEL 8

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

  • Audiocasts/Shows

    • Episode 44 | This Week in Linux

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

  • Kernel Space

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

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

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

    • Linux 4.20-rc4

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

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

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

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

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

      Linus

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Benchmarks

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

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

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • Xfce Screensaver 0.1.3 Released

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

    • [Older] Adventures in primary display land

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

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

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

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • This week in Usability & Productivity, part 46

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

      • KDE Frameworks 5.53 Will Have An Important KIO Performance Fix

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

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

      • Updating openSuSE – math fun

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

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

      • Qactus 1.0 is out!

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

      • Automatic QML import by Qt deployment tools

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

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

      • Syntax Highlighter for Wayland Traces

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

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

  • Distributions

    • Reviews

    • New Releases

    • Screenshots/Screencasts

    • Gentoo Family

      • Portability of tar features

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

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

    • Fedora

      • Touchscreen and stylus now working on HP Envy x360

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

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

    • Debian Family

      • Derivatives

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

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

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

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

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

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

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

  • Review: Haiku R1 Beta1

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Ohio University to switch to open source fonts

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

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

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

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

  • BSD

    • FreeBSD 12.0-RC2 Now Available

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

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

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

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

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Access/Content

      • Time to break academic publishing’s stranglehold on research

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

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

  • Programming/Development

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

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

    • Sentiment analysis on Trump’s tweets using Python

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

    • John Cook: Ellipsoid distance on Earth

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

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

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

Leftovers

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Samsung apologises for cancer deaths caused by toxic factories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      [...]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • The Counterinsurgency Paradigm: How US Politics Have Become Paramilitarized

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

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

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

    • Ukraine Says Russia Fired on Ships in Black Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      [...]

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

    • Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Arabia’s Dismemberment of Yemen

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

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

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Crucifying Julian Assange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • America’s Mood Swing Diplomacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Prosecuting Assange is Essential for Restoring our National Security

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

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

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

      [...]

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

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

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

    • FEATURE PHOTO: Protesting for Assange

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

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Rain Tamps Down California Fire but Turns Grim Search Soggy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Ocean Warming Study Criticism Shows How the Scientific Method Works

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

    • Flights to Cornwall will accelerate climate disaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Will Democrats Back a ‘Green New Deal’?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Rain Tamps Down California Fire but Turns Grim Search Soggy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Koch Industries Lobbies Against Electric Vehicle Tax Credit

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

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

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

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

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

    • Protesters demand a Green New Deal

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

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

      [...]

  • Finance

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

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

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

    • Why we must regulate the blockchain

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

      [...]

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

      [...]

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Brexiteers, backstops, and the bloody Irish border

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • 2020 Presidential Contenders More Likely to Take on Wall Street

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

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

    • Trump’s Trade Wars Hurt Everyone in Farm Country

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

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

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

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

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

    • Skip Cyber Monday—Support a Real Local Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      [...]

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

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

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

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

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

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Feed the Swamp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Birds of a Feather

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

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

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

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

      [...]

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

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

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

  • Censorship/Free Speech

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Camera traps designed for animals are now invading human privacy

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

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

    • Parliament seizes cache of Facebook internal papers

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

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

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

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

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

    • Facebook’s Internal Documents Seized By The UK Parliament

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

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

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

      [...]

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

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • ICE Is Trump’s Gestapo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      [...]

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

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

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

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

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

    • Why Is Johns Hopkins Enabling ICE?

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

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

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

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

  • Intellectual Monopolies

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

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

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

      [...]

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

    • Copyrights

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

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

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

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

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

Hytera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[...]

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tilman Müller-Stoy
Image source

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, the irony.

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

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

Patents Are Not Property

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LOT Network: A WHOLE LOT OF SOFTWARE PATENTS

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

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

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

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

DJI acquired US patents from Microsoft amid litigation fight with competitor

[paywall]

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

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

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

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

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