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12.08.18

Links 8/12/2018: Mesa 18.3.0, Mageia 7 Beta, WordPress 5.0

Posted in News Roundup at 4:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Server

    • IBM selling Lotus Notes/Domino business to HCL for $1.8B
    • IBM Sells Off Notes & Other Software You Barely Remember, for $1.8B – Light Reading
    • Red Hat fiddles with OpenShift Dedicated and lures customers with price cuts

      The team at Red Hat has continued its toiling in the Big Blue shadow of IBM, and has churned out some tweaks to its OpenShift Dedicated platform and also sliced a few prices for the Kubernetes service.

    • Simplifies Kubernetes on AWS, Cuts Prices

      Red Hat is simplifying deployments of its OpenShift managed Kubernetes service on Amazon Web Services, as well as cutting prices and rolling out other upgrades.

      OpenShift is Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT)’s platform for managing and running containerized Kubernetes applications; it runs on the customer premises or on any of 300 cloud and service provider partners, including AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, IBM and Alibaba.

    • Kubernetes: Your Next Application Server

      In the Java ecosystem, we have historically been enamored with the concept of the “application server,” the runtime engine that not only gave us portable APIs such as JMS, JAX-RS, JSF, and EJB but also gave us critical runtime infrastructure for things such as farm deployments, configuration, load-balancing, failover, distributed management, and monitoring.

    • Lufthansa Technik builds digital foundation with Red Hat

      Lufthansa Technik, the world’s largest independent provider of airline maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services, sought to create a digital platform for the aviation industry, AVIATAR. To support its development and operation, the company created a hybrid cloud infrastructure based on enterprise open source software from Red Hat. The AVIATAR team can now use agile DevOps approaches, automation, internal and third-party integration, and self-service capabilities to quickly iterate based on data and feedback. As a result, Lufthansa Technik provides an innovative digital platform that helps the world’s airlines optimise their operations.

    • Red Hat, Google: Open Source Collaboration
  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux Networking Performance To Improve Thanks To Retpoline Overhead Reduction

      One of the areas where Linux performance has been lower this year since Spectre came to light has been for networking performance, but with the upcoming Linux 4.21 cycle that will be partially addressed.

      Linux networking performance took a hit from the introduction of Retpolines “Return Trampolines” at the start of the year for addressing Spectre Variant Two.

    • Linux Foundation

      • A new ACT for open source compliance from The Linux Foundation

        What’s new in the world of open source? The Linux Foundation announced that they are launching a new tooling project for improving open source compliance. This new project’s goal is to ensure that when using open source projects, users understand what they are complying with.

        The Linux Foundation continues to be a leading beacon in the FOSS world, with worldwide events and over one million professionals enrolled in their free training courses. Just some of the successful projects that the Linux Foundation hosts include Rook, Node.js, Kubernetes, and Linkerd (which just got a fancy new UI makeover). You don’t have to look far to see names and noteworthy tools that you’re familiar with!

      • The Linux Foundation forms new Automated Compliance Tooling project

        “There are numerous open source compliance tooling projects but the majority are unfunded and have limited scope to build out robust usability or advanced features,” said Kate Stewart, senior director of strategic programs at The Linux Foundation. “We have also heard from many organizations that the tools that do exist do not meet their current needs. Forming a neutral body under The Linux Foundation to work on these issues will allow us to increase funding and support for the compliance tooling development community.”

        As part of the announcement, ACT is also welcoming two new projects that will be hosted at the Linux Foundation: OpenChain, a project that identifies key recommended processes for open-source management; and the Open Compliance Project, which will educate and help developers and companies better understand license requirements.

    • Graphics Stack

      • mesa 18.3.0

        Mesa 18.3.0 is now available.

        This release consists of approximately 1700 commits from 120 developers.

        Huge thanks to all the developers, testers and users for their ongoing work and support shaping up the 18.3.0 release.

      • Mesa 18.3 Released With Intel & Radeon Vulkan Driver Improvements, New GPU Support

        Mesa 18.3 is now available as the latest quarterly feature update to these open-source OpenGL and Vulkan graphics drivers for Linux.

        The Mesa 18.3 features are aplenty and on the AMD side range from Raven 2, Picasso, and Vega 20 support through RADV Vulkan transform feedback, faster RadeonSI fast color clears, OpenGL 4.5 compatibility profile support, and many RADV Vulkan additions. The Intel stack meanwhile picked up new PCI IDs, various Vulkan driver extensions, and more.

      • Mesa 18.3.0 for those of you using the open source drivers

        For those of you using Intel and AMD (and some older NVIDIA cards) Mesa 18.3.0 was officially released today.

        It has been three months since the last major release, so as expected this new and improved version comes with all the latest bells and whistles.

      • NVIDIA 415.22 Linux Driver Adds Mainline Support For Vulkan Transform Feedback

        NVIDIA has released an updated stable 415 series Linux driver today. While normally their stable driver updates aren’t too exciting compared to the beta development releases, this update is notable for adding VK_EXT_transform_feedback.

      • NVIDIA driver 415.22 is out for Linux, finally adding Transform Feedback support

        Finally, after waiting for a few months NVIDIA has released a new mainline driver which includes Transform Feedback support. Previously, you had to use their special Vulkan beta driver to get it.

        The “VK_EXT_transform_feedback” extension is one that was made especially for helping support translation layers from other 3D APIs. In our case, it helps DXVK plus Wine (and so Valve’s Steam Play) with certain Windows games when run on Linux.

      • Cedrus Video Decode Driver Moving Along With Allwinner H5/A64 Support

        With the Linux 4.20 kernel the Cedrus VPU decoder driver was mainlined that was developed this year over at Bootlin for providing open-source accelerated video support for Allwinner SoCs. That driver continues to be ramped up to increase its usefulness.

      • Intel GVT Might Introduce Coffeelake Support In Linux 4.22

        While Coffeelake processors have been available for a year now, Intel initially didn’t intend to support their open-source Graphics Virtualization Technology (GVT) with these chips but now are in the process of bringing up such support.

        This feature request has been tracking the Coffeelake GVT-g support request the past year. Initially they didn’t intend to support Coffeelake nor Cannonlake but were focusing resources on Icelake and maintaining the existing Skylake/Kabylake support for this tech that allows KVM/Xen virtual machines to access the Intel HD/UHD Graphics hardware.

      • AMD Adding New Vega 10 & Vega 20 IDs To Their Linux Driver

        While we are looking forward to AMD’s next-gen Navi architecture in 2019, it looks like the Vega family may be getting bigger soon.

        Hot off finishing up the Radeon RX 590 Linux support as their new Polaris refresh, it looks like another Vega 20 part may be in the pipeline as well as multiple new Vega 10 SKUs.

        Friday afternoon patches to the company’s RadeonSI Mesa and AMDKFD/AMDGPU kernel drivers reveal some new PCI IDs. On top of the five “Vega 20″ PCI IDs already part of the Linux driver, a 0x66A4 ID is being added. So far AMD has just announced the Radeon Instinct MI50 and MI60 accelerators as being built off Vega 20 with no consumer parts at this time. As with most new product generations, it doesn’t necessarily mean AMD will be launching 5~6 Vega 20 products, but sometimes PCI IDs are reserved for pre-production hardware, the possibility of expanding the product line in the future, etc.

    • Benchmarks

      • AMD Radeon RX 590 Linux Benchmarks, 18-Way NVIDIA/AMD Gaming Comparison

        With the very newest AMDGPU Linux kernel patches, the Radeon RX 590 is now working correctly on Linux. Here’s a look at how this latest Polaris graphics card is performing for Linux games against seventeen other AMD Radeon and NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards in a variety of OpenGL and Vulkan benchmarks.

        AMD launched the Radeon RX 590 in mid-November as a Polaris shrink down to 12nm and featuring 36 compute units, a base frequency up to 1469MHz and boost up to 1545MHz, 2304 Stream processors, 8GB of GDDR5 video memory, and is rated for up to 7.1 TFLOPs of performance potential.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • Best New Linux Desktop Environments

      Most Linux users have their own desktop environment preference. For example, I enjoy using MATE, where other users I talk with get a lot of value out of XFCE, GNOME or KDE. Yet it surprised me when I asked my Linux using friends what they thought of some of the “newer” Linux desktop environments.

      About half of these Linux users have never tried any desktop environment outside of the ones mentioned above. Because of this, I thought it would be interesting to compare the best new Linux desktop environments making a name for themselves.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • AMI joins the LVFS

        American Megatrends Inc. may not be a company you’ve heard of, unless perhaps you like reading early-boot BIOS messages. AMI is the world’s largest BIOS firmware vendor, supplying firmware and tools to customers such as Asus, Clevo, Intel, AMD and many others. If you’ve heard of a vendor using Aptio for firmware updates, that means it’s from them. AMI has been testing the LVFS, UpdateCapsule and fwupd for a few months and is now fully compatible. They are updating their whitepapers for customers explaining the process of generating a capsule, using the ESRT, and generating deliverables for the LVFS.

      • AMI Is The Latest Vendor Joining The Linux Vendor Firmware Service

        The Linux Vendor Firmware Service has scored a major win in the trek of easily updating of BIOS/firmware images from Linux… BIOS/firmware vendor AMI has joined the LVFS!

        Red Hat’s Richard Hughes shared today that AMI has joined the LVFS. AMI has been vetting LVFS, UpdateCapsule, and Fwupd for months now and are offering compatibility for updating their firmware using this open-source tech and providing guidance to their many customers on how to deploy firmware updates on this platform.

  • Distributions

    • PCLinuxOS/Mageia/Mandriva Family

      • Mageia 7 Beta Finally Rolls Along For Testing

        It’s been a year and a half since the release of Mageia 6 while finally the Mageia 7 beta images have surfaced.

        The Mageia 7 Beta is shipping with the KDE Plasma 5.14 desktop environment, is running on the fresh Linux 4.19 kernel, provides the Mesa 18.3 3D drivers, and has a wealth of package updates compared to the state shipped by Mageia 6. Mageia 7 also offers reworked ARM support (including initial AArch64 enablement), DNF as an alternative to URPMI, and a variety of other updates. The in-progress release notes cover some of the other Mageia 7 changes.

      • Announcing Mageia 7 Beta 1

        Everyone at Mageia is very happy to get the first step towards Mageia 7 released! Mageia 7 beta 1 comes with lots of exciting changes and updates, and while a beta with lots of development work, it has been a nice release for a beta, not needing too many rounds of building to get workable images.

        There is still a lot of work to come before Mageia 7 is ready, a big Qt and Plasma update, fixes for MATE and more checks on 32-bit hardware as well as the artwork for Mageia 7. We are all looking forward to implementing these changes and getting all of the rough edges polished out with all of the help from the community.

        This release will see the return of the Classical Installer as well as the Live Images, with the standard lineup of architectures and Desktop Environments – 32 and 64-bit Classical Installers; 64-bit Plasma, GNOME and Xfce Live DVD’s and a 32 bit Xfce Live DVD.

      • Mageia 7 Beta 1 Run Through

        In this video, we look at Mageia 7 Beta 1. Our first glimps of Mageia 7 and it looks great! Enjoy!

      • The December 2018 Issue of the PCLinuxOS Magazine

        The PCLinuxOS Magazine staff is pleased to announce the release of the December 2018 issue. With the exception of a brief period in 2009, The PCLinuxOS Magazine has been published on a monthly basis since September, 2006. The PCLinuxOS Magazine is a product of the PCLinuxOS community, published by volunteers from the community.

    • Fedora

      • PHP version 5.6.39, 7.0.33, 7.1.24 and 7.2.12

        RPM of PHP version 7.2.13 are available in remi repository for Fedora 28-29 and in remi-php72 repository for Fedora 26-27 and Enterprise Linux ≥ 6 (RHEL, CentOS).

        RPM of PHP version 7.1.25 are available in remi repository for Fedora 26-27 and in remi-php71 repository for Enterprise Linux (RHEL, CentOS).

        RPM of PHP version 7.0.33 are available in remi-php70 repository for Enterprise Linux (RHEL, CentOS).

        RPM of PHP version 5.6.39 are available in remi-php56 repository for Enterprise Linux.

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      • PHPUnit 7.5
      • FPgM report: 2018-49
      • Fedora rawhide – fixed bugs 2018/11
    • Debian Family

      • Demo of displaying labtainers labs in a Web browser through Guacamole

        Here’s a first report on trying to add Guacamole to Labtainers in order to allow running Labtainers in a headless way, without an X display, in containers, and accessing the GUI in a Web browser, through the use of VNC and Guacamole.

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Ubuntu Touch OTA-6 Now Rolling Out to Ubuntu Phone Users, Here’s What’s New

            Ubuntu Touch OTA-6 is now rolling out to Fairphone 2, Nexus 5, OnePlus One, BQ Aquaris M10 FHD, Nexus 4, Meizu PRO 5, Meizu MX 4, BQ Aquaris E4.5, and BQ Aquaris E5 HD devices as an incremental update to the OTA-5 version released two months ago, which rebased Ubuntu Touch on the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus) operating system series.

            “Ubuntu Touch is the privacy and freedom respecting mobile operating system by UBports. Our newest update, OTA-6, is rolling out over the next five days (completing on Wednesday, December 12). You can skip to “How to get OTA-6″ to get it now if you’re impatient, or read on to learn more about this release,” said UBports in today’s announcement.

          • Ubuntu Touch OTA-6 Officially Released
          • Oneplus One improvements
          • Need a Linux Distro for Deep Learning Applications? Try Ubuntu

            If your target market is finance, healthcare, or manufacturing, you know AI, ML, and DL solutions in demand for use cases ranging from fraud detection and cancer screenings to industrial automation. There are also interest and backing for applications including language translation, chatbots and service bots, facial recognition, and self-driving cars. A major challenge that the developer has to overcome with these applications, however, is dealing with massive quantities of unstructured data including image, voice, and sound.

            NVIDIA CUDA, which enables general computing on graphical processing units (GPUs), allow developers to increase the speed of their applications. You can use these graphics cards to Ubuntu with traditional PCI slots on motherboards or with external Thunderbolt adapters. In fact, NVIDIA’s DGX Systems for deep learning run on Ubuntu.

            Canonical, which produces Ubuntu with the help of its community, has also worked with Google to develop Kubeflow, which simplifies the process of installing AI tools and framework, as well as making it easier to use GPUs.

            In addition, Ubuntu’s extensive libraries, tutorials and examples related to AI, ML, and DL make it the preferred OS choice for these applications. Ubuntu is also known for the support it offers for the most recent versions of free open source platforms and software.

          • Fresh Snaps from November 2018

            Another month passes and we’ve got a collection of applications which crossed our “desk” (Twitter feed) towards the end of 2018. Take a look down the list, and discover something new today.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • SD Times Open-Source Project of the Week: Crossplane

    With the release of open-source multi-cloud management interface Crossplane, cloud services developer Upbound wants to provide an open and consistent way to handle integrations with whichever cloud platforms you throw at it.

    “Crossplane presents a declarative management style API that covers a wide range of portable abstractions including databases, message queues, buckets, data pipelines, serverless, clusters, and many more coming,” Upbound CEO Bassam Tabbara wrote in a blog post. “It’s based on the declarative resource model of the popular Kubernetes project, and applies many of the lessons learned in container orchestration to multicloud workload and resource orchestration.”

  • JD.com And Open Source Technology Development

    Currently running the largest Kubernetes cluster in the world, JD.com has demonstrated how companies can use data infrastructures in new and innovative ways. One of the first companies to shift to Kubernetes, Jingdong has since been able to forge partnerships with other companies, including CNCF, to create even stronger relationships with IT developers, users, and software companies. Because of this, open source development has started to become a much bigger aspect of many company’s IT plans.

    Due to its commitment to innovation, Jingdong recently became a platinum end user member of CNCF, meaning the company now has a spot on the governance board. This will now allow Jingdong to have a say in the direction of future Foundation initiatives. As a result, increased efficiency, reduced costs, and higher levels of customer service will be on display in Jingdong and other companies in the years ahead.

    By using Kubernetes clusters, Jingdong and other companies can now support even wider ranges of IT applications, as well as big data and Artificial Intelligence applications. With these expanded technological options, it will now be possible to reduce silos between DevOP teams and operations personnel. By making the process between these teams even more efficient, JD.com has been able to contribute significant code to many important corporate projects, including Prometheus and Vitess.

  • Events

    • You want some SUSE socks? We know you do; SUSE x KubeCon.

      Looking for socks? How about a nice, juicy, SUSE chameleon? If you’re going to KubeCon, you can get them. Stop by the SUSE booth, G17, and we’ll hook you up. After you’ve got yourself some socks and your very own SUSE chameleon, head on over to see Rob De Canha-Knight, EMEA Technical Strategist at SUSE, for his birds of a feather session on diversity and inclusion.

  • Web Browsers

    • Tor Browser: An Ultimate Web Browser for Anonymous Web Browsing in Linux

      Most of us give a considerable time of ours to Internet. The primary Application we require to perform our internet activity is a browser, a web browser to be more perfect. Over Internet most of our’s activity is logged to Server/Client machine which includes IP address, Geographical Location, search/activity trends and a whole lots of Information which can potentially be very harmful, if used intentionally the other way.

  • CMS

    • Welcoming WordPress 5.0 And The New Editor

      The major new version of WordPress scheduled for release today is a big deal, both anticipated and feared by those who rely on the world’s most popular web publishing platform.

      WordPress is used by everyone from solo bloggers and small businesses to major publishers (including Forbes) and marketing organizations. Thomas Griffin has written here about How To Use WordPress As A SaaS Platform, the foundation of your own cloud software business. WordPress has a corporate backer, a private company called Automattic, but also benefits from open source code contributions from developers around the world.

      Part of what makes WordPress popular is that its open source foundation means you can get started with it “for free” and, equally important, you can extend or tweak its functionality to make it serve your needs. Editing the core software code is not a good idea because then it becomes challenging to preserve those changes if you ever upgrade, but most of the core functionality can be modified with plugins and themes, software modules that hook into a fairly well documented set of function calls. That is what makes WordPress a software platform, not merely a software product.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • Public Services/Government

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

    • Open Hardware/Modding

      • RISC-V Summit Debuts to Showcase Open Source ISA

        This week there’s further proof that RISC-V has arrived. Something over 1,000 professionals, mostly on the hardware side of tech, are attending the first ever RISC-V Summit at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Silicon Valley.

  • Programming/Development

    • The Case for Data-Driven Open Source Development

      Every year the number of Open Source companies and developer communities continues to grow. Open Source is becoming the de facto standard for software development as companies realize the cost, agility and innovation benefits. In addition to embracing Linux, Microsoft recently open sourced its entire patent portfolio to all member of the Open Invention Network. Companies are not only hiring engineers based on their Open Source Software (OSS) knowledge but also allocating 100 percent of their time to external projects. As a result, these projects quality and feature sets improve significantly which further accelerates their adoption in the enterprise. Very successful Open Source projects such as Kubernetes have helped define best practices for contributions (both technical and non-technical), communication (both online and offline), openness (Summits, Special Interest Groups, etc.) and governance (maintainer-ship, Technical Advisory Board, etc.). No need to reinvent the wheel, there are well-established frameworks for companies to work with.

      There is, however, one major problem that needs to be addressed: the lack of standardized metrics, datasets, methodologies and tools for extracting insights from Open Source projects is real.

    • In support of Coraline Ada Ehmke

      Last night, the linux.org DNS was hijacked and redirected to a page that doxed her. Coraline is doing extremely valuable work with the Contributor Covenant code of conduct, which many free software projects have adopted already.

    • Linux.org domain hacked, plastered with trolling, filth and anti-transgender vandalism

      “This evening someone got into my partner’s netsol account and pointed linux.org DNS to their own cloudflare account,” McLagan wrote, adding: “The production env (web / db) wasn’t touched. DNS was simply pointing to another box.”

    • Focusing on the simple things

      Which I guess shows that I could’ve spent the time thinking about an interesting concept on more pragmatic things, like testing the surveil script on another machine.

      Finally, I’m looking for a way to do testing; and I’m wondering of a good way to test that the command-line interface functions as expected as well.

    • Introducing PySide2 (Qt for Python) Snap Runtime

      Lately at Crossbar.io, we have been PySide2 for an internal project. Last week it reached a milestone and I am now in the process of code cleanup and refactoring as we had to rush quite a few things for that deadline. We also create a snap package for the project, our previous approach was to ship the whole PySide2 runtime (170mb+) with the Snap, it worked but was a slow process, because each new snap build involved downloading PySide2 from PyPI and installing some deb dependencies.

    • Quick Tip: SQLAlchemy for MySQL and Pandas

      For years I’ve used the mysql-python library for connecting to mysql databases. It’s worked well for me over the years but there are times when you need speed and/or better connection management that what you get with mysql-python. That’s where SQLAlchemy comes in.

      Before diving into this, if you are doing things that aren’t dependent on speed (e.g., it doesn’t matter if it takes 1 second to connect to the database and grab your data and close the database) then you can easily ignore this tip. That said, if you have multiple connections, that connect time can add up.

      For example, I recently had an issue where it was taking 4.5+ seconds to connect to a database, run analysis and spit out the results. That’s not terrible if its something for you only but if its a production system and speed is a requirement, that might be too long (and it IS too long).

    • Mopidy-MPRIS 2.0 released

      I’ve released Mopidy-MPRIS 2.0, the first major update to Mopidy-MPRIS in about 3.5 years.

      Mopidy-MPRIS is a Mopidy extension that makes Mopidy controllable from other programs on the same machine through D-Bus. This makes it possible to control Mopidy from various widgets in GNOME/KDE/etc, as well as with keyboard media keys.

    • I’m moving to the Red Hat OpenJDK team

      I’m very excited to announce that I’ve moved roles within Red Hat: I am now part of the OpenJDK team!

    • DataExplore – free Python based data plotting and analysis software

      DataExplore is an open source desktop application for data analysis and plotting intended for use in both research and education. It’s targeted at non-programmers who want to perform fairly advanced table manipulation methods. It also offers fast, dynamic plot creation from selected data suitable for publication. A variety of table analysis tools are provided.

      The software seeks to bridge the gap between graphical interface and command driven or programmatic approaches to data analysis. If you find it daunting to use RStudio, DataExplore might be a perfect fit.

      The software is written in Python and is based on the PyData suite of Python libraries. It works with Python 2.7 and <=3.4. It relies on pandas and matplotlib.

      The program allows quick visualization of data, table manipulation tools and supports large data tables. One advantage is the ability to load and work with relatively large tables as compared to spreadsheets. The focus is on data manipulation rather than data entry though cell editing and row/column changes are supported.

    • Automatic continuous development and delivery of a hybrid mobile app

      This makes Node.js an appealing option. Node.js is a JavaScript runtime built on the Chrome V8 JavaScript engine. It can make the API development backend very fast and easy, and it integrates fully with web technologies. You can develop a Cordova plugin, using your Node.js backend, internally in your hybrid app, as I did with the nodejs-cordova-plugin. This plugin, following the Cordova guidelines, integrates a mobile-compatible version of the Node.js platform to provide a full-stack mobile app.

    • Test and Code: 56: Being a Guest on a Podcast – Michael Kennedy
    • Episode #189: War Stories of the Developer Evangelists
    • EuroPython 2019: Venue and location selected
    • Create the about scene for pygame project
    • Seaborn Library for Data Visualization in Python: Part 2
    • Supercell opening new coding school (without teachers or classes)

      Instead, the project has been modelled on pioneering French school École 42. The three-year study program relies on peer-to-peer learning, with students organised into teams and tasked with various projects to demonstrate their skills.

      [...]

      However, the initial applications are only open to those aged between 18 and 30. Given the industry’s ongoing battle against ageism, GamesIndustry.biz has reached out to Supercell to see if this will be expanded in future.

    • Supercell clashes games skill shortage with free new coding school

      Applications for the program opened this month, with the first 100 successful applicants due to start in September 2019. The course takes a total of three years to complete and is inspired by Paris-based nonprofit school Ecole 42.

Leftovers

  • Science

    • It’s Been 50 Years: Take Some Time This Weekend To Watch Doug Engelbart’s Mother Of All Demos

      Normally, on the weekend, we look back at what we wrote about on Techdirt five, ten and fifteen years ago, but I’m going to pre-empt at least a bit of that with this post. Ten years ago, we wrote about the 40th anniversary of the famous and iconic “Mother of All Demos” by Doug Engelbart on December 9th, 1968. A little over five years ago, we wrote about it again, unfortunately on the occasion of Engelbart’s passing.

      But, Sunday will now mark the 50th anniversary of the demo, and there’s a very impressive looking Symposium about it happening at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

      It’s interesting, in Silicon Valley, how much disdain some have for the past. After all, it’s here that we’re always talking about inventing the future. Engelbart’s demo, 50 years ago, was exactly that. Before even the idea of a graphical user interface for a computer, or the concept of a wider internet, was conceived of, Engelbart was literally demoing a ton of ideas, products, concepts and services that we all use regularly today. Even the demo itself (let alone what he was demoing) was somewhat historic, as the demo showed what was happening on his computer on-screen, but part of it was done via teleconferencing and video sharing (again before most people even had the foggiest idea what that could mean). It demonstrated, for the first time, ideas like the computer mouse, a word process, windows, a graphical user interface, computer graphics, hypertext linking, collaborative editing, version control, dynamic linking and more.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • Federal Judge Puts Independent Review of Troubled Psychiatric Hospital on Hold

      With Aurora Chicago Lakeshore Hospital set to lose government funding, and children in state care no longer there, judge concludes investigation unnecessary.

    • New Trump Immigration Rule Could Devastate Rural Hospitals

      According to a recent report, the Trump administration’s proposed change to what’s known as the “public charge” immigration rule would endanger $17 billion in Medicaid reimbursements for hospitals across the United States. This could threaten some rural hospitals, which are already facing an epidemic of closures, and leave many communities without a hospital within a 35-mile radius.

      The rule proposed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services would require most immigrants seeking green cards to show that they have a middle-class income: specifically, more than 250 percent of the federal poverty line (about $62,750 for a family of four). Immigrants could also fail the test if they have received government benefits, including Medicaid and Medicare Part D, in the past or if officials feel they are likely to receive them at any point in the future. The test would also penalize use of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and housing assistance programs.

      Researchers at the consulting firm Manatt found the proposed changes could drive disenrollment from Medicaid, even for people who are lawfully in the United States, eligible for coverage, and wouldn’t be subject to the public charge rule, because they fear running afoul of the new requirements. Similar fears are already pushing eligible immigrant families off SNAP, especially those in “mixed status” households that include lawful residents, citizens, and/or undocumented people

    • $3.5 Trillion on Healthcare Each Year and We’re Still Uninsured, Underinsured, and Unhappy

      It’s time for a reality check when it comes to universal healthcare. Usually, that means those with an idealistic vision of equity and justice must give it up in favor a more achievable program. But in this case, the reality of what’s achievable exceeds the low expectations and compromises that have for decades limited the healthcare reform debate.

      Providing this reality check on how we turn from our wasteful healthcare industry to a system of guaranteed healthcare is a new study by the PERI at UMass-Amherst whose lead author is noted labor economist Robert Pollin. Through a comprehensive literature review and rigorous empirical work, the study show the average worker getting a 9% raise, and businesses saving 8% of payroll, as health outcomes improve, costs go lower and the economy benefits.

    • ‘Complete Wiping Away of Clean Water Act’: Trump EPA Rule Would Free Corporations to Pollute Nation’s Water as Much as They Please

      The Obama-era Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule, which the Trump administration has long been aiming to roll back, was designed to limit pollution in most of the nation’s large bodies of water in an effort to protect drinking water from contamination.

      The Trump EPA is attempting to reinterpret the WOTUS rule in a way that allows oil giants, real estate developers, and golf course owners to freely pollute rivers and streams. Critics have pointed out that Trump’s businesses may stand to profit from any weakening of the WOTUS rule.

      According to E&E News, which obtained a copy of EPA talking points, the Trump administration’s rule “will erase federal protections from streams that flow only following rainfall, as well as wetlands not physically connected to larger waterways.”

      “The exact number of wetlands and waterways losing federal protections won’t be known until the full, detailed proposal is released,” E&E News reported on Thursday.

      Daniel Estrin, general counsel and advocacy director at Waterkeeper Alliance, argued that the success of the Clean Water Act—while far from complete—has led many to forget how contaminated and visibly polluted the nation’s water supply was before the law.

  • Security

    • Security updates for Friday
    • Old and new OpenSSH backdoors threaten Linux servers [Ed: ESET is spreading/reusing/repurposing FUD against OpenSSH of the OpenBSD project. SSH itself is secure, but because some malicious actors make poisoned binaries with back doors we're supposed to fear; supply chains matter.]

      Nearly five years ago, ESET researchers helped to disrupt a 25 thousand-strong botnet of Linux machines that were saddled with an OpenSSH-based backdoor and credential stealer named Ebury. The attackers wielding it first performed a check if other SSH backdoors are present at the targeted system before deploying the malware.

      This spurred the researchers to search for and analyze these type of (server-side OpenSSH) backdoors.

      “Malicious OpenSSH binaries are quite common and have features that help us detect them among legitimate OpenSSH binaries. While, as soon as we got them, we used the samples collected to improve our detection, we only began sorting and analyzing them in 2018. Surprisingly, we discovered many new backdoor families that had never been documented before,” they noted in a recently released report detailing nine previously documented and 12 new OpenSSH malware families.

    • Researchers uncover 21 Linux malware families
    • Feral Interactive Bringing DiRT 4 to Linux in 2019, Chrome 71 Blocks Ads on Abusive Sites, New Linux Malware Families Discovered, The Linux Foundation Launches the Automated Compliance Tooling Project, and GNU Guix and GuixSD 0.16.0 Released

      Cyber-security company ESET has discovered 21 “new” Linux malware families, and all of them “operate in the same manner, as trojanized versions of the OpenSSH client”. ZDNet reports that “They are developed as second-stage tools to be deployed in more complex ‘botnet’ schemes. Attackers would compromise a Linux system, usually a server, and then replace the legitimate OpenSSH installation with one of the trojanized versions. ESET said that ’18 out of the 21 families featured a credential-stealing feature, making it possible to steal passwords and/or keys’ and ’17 out of the 21 families featured a backdoor mode, allowing the attacker a stealthy and persistent way to connect back to the compromised machine.’”

    • Visibility is the key to prioritizing open source vulnerability remediations [Ed: TechRadar entertains anti-FOSS firm whose sole contribution is FUD because it tries to sell some 'solution'. The author writes about his own firm that also collaborates with Microsoft on this FUD.]
    • SUSE CaaS Platform Updated to Address Kubernetes Vulnerability

      For an open source project of its size (both in terms of code and of prevalence of adoption), Kubernetes has been surprisingly free of security vulnerabilities. Its perfect record has come to an end, though, with the project’s disclosure on December 3, 2018 of a security vulnerability in all previous versions of Kubernetes, and therefore, of SUSE CaaS Platform.

    • Linux Rabbit Attacks IoT Devices to Secretly Mine Monero [Ed: Nothing to do with "Linux". Relies on open ports with weak passwords, unlike Windows, which just has intentional back doors.]

      The global cryptocurrency mining malware trend isn’t coming to an end anytime soon. A newly discovered malware strain specifically targets Linux and IoT devices. This is a different approach as most of these attacks focus on Windows devices. Researchers are concerned this new mining software will only make cryptojacking an even bigger problem. Known as Linux Rabbit, this software kit packs quite the punch.

    • Linux Rabbit and Rabbot Malware Leveraged to Install Cryptominers [Ed: They even called it “Linux Rabbit”; could just call it "WeakPassword Rabbit”]
  • Defence/Aggression

    • Microsoft reckons it’s patriotic to provide AI tech to the US Army
    • Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq

      At the close of the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was denounced as a ferocious villain for ordering his retreating troops to destroy Kuwaiti oil fields, clotting the air with poisonous clouds of black smoke and saturating the ground with swamps of crude. It was justly called an environmental war crime.

      But months of bombing of Iraq by US and British planes and cruise missiles has left behind an even more deadly and insidious legacy: tons of shell casings, bullets and bomb fragments laced with depleted uranium. In all, the US hit Iraqi targets with more than 970 radioactive bombs and missiles.

      It took less than a decade for the health consequences from this radioactive bombing campaign to begin to coming into focus. And they are dire, indeed. Iraqi physicians call it “the white death”-leukemia. Since 1990, the incident rate of leukemia in Iraq has grown by more than 600 percent. The situation is compounded by Iraq’s forced isolations and the sadistic sanctions regime, recently described by UN secretary general Kofi Annan as “a humanitarian crisis”, that makes detection and treatment of the cancers all the more difficult.

      “We have proof of traces of DU in samples taken for analysis and that is really bad for those who assert that cancer cases have grown for other reasons,” said Dr. Umid Mubarak, Iraq’s health minister.

      Mubarak contends that the US’s fear of facing the health and environmental consequences of its DU bombing campaign is partly behind its failure to follow through on its commitments under a deal allowing Iraq to sell some of its vast oil reserves in return for food and medical supplies.

      “The desert dust carries death,” said Dr. Jawad Al-Ali, an oncologist and member England’s Royal Society of Physicians. “Our studies indicate that more than forty percent of the population around Basra will get cancer. We are living through another Hiroshima.”

    • The Mean, Rough Legacy of George H.W. Bush

      The triumphal and counter-factual celebrating of President George H.W. Bush as an “honorable” leader who evoked kindness and “civility” raises a potently crucial question: What does it mean to be civil and kind in person and in word, yet brutal in policy and deed? Despite the gentlemanly veneer, even a cursory recalling of Bush 41’s record shows a legacy of war, criminality, and venality that belies the media’s amnesiac heroizing.

      In the early morning hours of December 20, 1989, less than a year after promising a “kinder, gentler nation” at his inauguration, President George H.W. Bush mobilized 26,000 troops for a pre-Christmas invasion of Panama to oust former CIA contractor Manuel Noriega. Around midnight, the bombs began dropping and flames billowing over Panama City, in a “swift, intense, and merciless” invasion that led to thousands of casualties and deaths, as “millions of American tax dollars were swallowed up in three days of brutal violence,” reported the award-winning documentary, “The Panama Deception.”

      Bush 41’s Panama invasion killed an estimated 500 to 1000 Panamanian people and was roundly condemned by the UN general assembly as a “flagrant violation of international law” and of Panama’s sovereignty. In bombings that ravaged civilians in barrios like El Chorrillo—which U.S. planes “indiscriminately bombed because it was thought to be a bastion of support for Noriega”—about 10,000 people “were left homeless after the invasion,” Panamanian officials estimated.

      As Human Rights Watch reported, Bush 41’s administration “undertook several covert actions designed to remove Noriega before launching an invasion.” This included $10 million worth of CIA meddling in Panama’s elections that year, “to finance opposition activities, including clandestine radio broadcasts, printing, and other election expenses.” (While worry persists over Russia’s influence in Trump’s 2016 win, this intensive—and expensive—U.S. intrusion on foreign elections, shepherded by Bush Sr., merits reminding.)

    • Dave Lindorff on Pentagon Fraud

      This week on CounterSpin: Early this year, Congress approved a budget of some $700 billion for the Department of Defense, more than the Trump administration even requested. Corporate media, for whom proposals like free college tuition or universal healthcare are all about the price tag, didn’t even blink. The Pentagon budget was “a rare act of bipartisanship,” the New York Times told readers, that “sets forth a muscular vision of America as a global power.” That article had three sources—two approving state officials and a rep from a thinktank funded by Defense contractors, who said the US military is underfunded. The Times didn’t find it relevant that the US already spent more on “defense” than the next eight countries combined, six of whom are US allies—and the idea of standing that $700 billion alongside the estimate, of the UN and others, that it would cost just $30 billion per year to end world hunger—well, don’t be silly.

      But if serious people are not supposed to consider Pentagon spending in any sort of context, or conversation about priorities, can we at least ask why it’s not just hard, but impossible, to find out how much the Pentagon spends and on what? Elite media reception of new research in that arena suggests they’d just as soon keep the whole thing under wraps—while reserving their right to entertain complaints about food stamps, however.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian

      Those at The Guardian certainly felt they were onto something. It would be a scoop that would have consequences on a range of fronts featuring President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Julian Assange and the eponymous Russian connection with the 2016 US elections.

      If they could tie the ribbon of Manafort over the Assage package, one linked to the release of hacked Democratic National Committee emails in the summer of 2016, they could strike journalistic gold. At one stroke, they could achieve a trifecta: an exposé on WikiLeaks, Russian involvement, and the tie-in with the Trump campaign.

      The virally charged story, when run towards the leg end of November, claimed that Manafort had visited Assange in the embassy “in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016.” Speculation happily followed in an account untroubled by heavy documentation. “It is unclear why Manafort would have wanted to see Assange and what was discussed. But the last apparent meeting is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.”

      It was a strikingly shoddy effort. An “internal document” supposedly garnered from the Ecuadorean intelligence agency named a certain “Paul Manaford [sic]” as a guest while also noting the presence of “Russians”. No document or individual names were supplied.

      The enterprise was supposedly to come with an added satisfaction: getting one over the prickly Assange, a person with whom the paper has yet a frosty association with since things went pear shaped after Cablegate in 2010. Luke Harding, the lead behind this latest packaging effort, has received his fair share of pasting in the past, with Assange accusing him of “minimal additional research” and mere reiteration in the shabby cobbling The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man (2014). “The Guardian,” Assange observed in reviewing the work, “is a curiously inward-looking beast.” Harding, for his part, is whistling the promotional tune of his unmistakably titled book Collusion: How Russia Helped Trump Win the White House. The feud persists with much fuel.

      Unfortunately for those coup seekers attempting a framed symmetry, the bomb has yet to detonate, an inert creature finding its ways into placid waters. WikiLeaks was, understandably, the first out of the stables with an irate tweet. “Remember this day when the Guardian permitted a serial fabricator to totally destroy the paper’s reputation. @WikiLeaks is willing to bet the Guardian a million dollars and its editor’s head that Manafort never met Assange.”

    • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can leave Ecuador embassy in London

      Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno said on Thursday that “the way has been cleared” for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to leave the country’s embassy in London.

      Assange, 47, has spent the last six years in Ecuador’s embassy to avoid arrest and extradition to Sweden on allegations of sexual assault. Sweden has since dropped the case, and Ecuador says there are no pending extradition requests against him.

    • If Assange Is Prosecuted, The Government Will Gain Precedent To Arrest Any Leaker It Wants

      All of the facts back up the ACLU’s assessment. The documents WikiLeaks has put out are no more illegal to publish than were the Pentagon Papers, the Downing Street Memo, and all the other private documents that news sources have leaked throughout history. This routine journalistic practice is the only “crime” that WikiLeaks has ever committed; there’s no evidence that WikiLeaks worked with Trump and Russia to obtain the DNC emails as part of a grand conspiracy to “influence the election,” any more than there’s evidence that Russia was behind the DNC leak.

      Therefore, if the government can prosecute Assange after he’s likely forced out of the Ecuadorian embassy, we’ll enter a new era of a censored press.

    • Julian Assange: WikiLeaks founder rejects deal allowing him to leave Ecuador embassy in London after six years

      The investigation by the Swedish authorities was later dropped.

      In a local radio interview, Mr Moreno said the sentence for skipping bail would be “not long”. According to the president, the UK has told Ecuador that his jail time would not exceed six months and that he would not face extradition if he left the embassy.

      “I do not like the presence of Mr Assange in the Ecuadorean embassy, but we have been respectful of his human rights and with that respect in mind we think that six years is too long for someone to remain nearly incarcerated in an embassy,” said Mr Moreno.

    • Ecuador’s President: Assange Can Leave the Embassy Whenever He Wants, Report Says – Fortune
    • Letter to the editor: Stand up for Julian Assange

      Please review and listen to this short video appeal in the link below from the mother of a courageous journalist. Please do what you can to bring justice and freedom for Julian Assange. Please make your voice known publicly on this important issue affecting this brave man.

      We cannot claim to be a free and democratic nation if we try to silence truth-tellers while trying to marginalize and torture them into submission. What have we become? Where are the elected officials willing to stand up for Julian Assange and against the tyrannical way in which he is being abused by way of the obvious conspiracy of vengeance conspired in by the U.S. government, the U.K. government, along with the current government of Ecuador, while keeping him trapped and imprisoned in the Ecuadorian embassy for over six years without a charge of any kind?

      Where do you stand on this? Where does your conscience lead you on this issue? Can you allow it to be honest with you? Julian Assange has shown himself to be a man of courage and integrity. A widely respected journalist willing to expose the corruptions of power, of governments, of powerful individuals, and of a cowardly and corroborating corporate media establishment which refuses to lift a finger in his defense. His only crime being that he is a threat to their own expanding criminal conspiracy of lies and manipulation.

    • WikiLeaks Asks Judge to Toss DNC Conspiracy Claims

      “Even the prospect of liability at all, much less RICO treble damages, for publication of truthful information of public interest would have a devastating chilling effect on the press’s exercise of constitutionally protected speech,” WikiLeaks attorney Joshua L. Dratel wrote in a 25-page brief.

      “It would quickly drive independent and less financially secure media organizations – and ultimately even the titans – as well as individual journalists at every level everywhere, from reporting and publishing altogether,” the brief continues. “All that would remain would be a shell of the First Amendment practiced by a cowed and self-censoring media, intimidated by the fear of lawsuits designed to deprive the public of its right to information about powerful public figures and entities.”

      Earlier this year, the DNC filed a federal lawsuit accusing WikiLeaks of conspiring with Russian intelligence and the Trump campaign to act as a “racketeering enterprise” during the 2016 presidential election, implicating 15 people and entities.

    • The Persecution of Julian Assange: WikiLeaks Editor Says Media Is Giving the U.S. Cover to Extradite Him

      Last week, The Guardian published a “bombshell” front-page story asserting, without producing any evidence, that Julian Assange had secretly met the recently convicted former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort in 2013, 2015 and 2016. The Guardian’s attack on Assange came only days after it was confirmed that he has been indicted some time ago, under seal, and that the U.S. will seek his extradition from the U.K. The story was published just hours before a hearing brought by media groups trying to stop the U.S. government from keeping its attempts to extradite Assange secret.

      The story went viral, repeated uncritically by many media outlets around the world, including Newsweek. This falsely cast Assange into the center of a conspiracy between Putin and Trump. The Guardian even had the gall to post a call to its readers to donate to protect “independent journalism when factual, trustworthy reporting is under threat.”

      These three meetings with Manafort did not happen.

    • Insider reveals likely players behind the Guardian’s ‘fake’ Assange-Manafort story

      In an extensive interview, a former Ecuadorian diplomat says he assumes that intelligence contractors were a source of the smear which claimed former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

      This follows an exclusive Canary article in which the same diplomat called the Guardian story “fake”, explaining why visits by Manafort could not have taken place. WikiLeaks, the Intercept‘s Glenn Greenwald, the Courage Foundation, and others outlets all shared or referenced this article.

    • The trials of Julian Assange

      I was able to visit him on November 19, after 8 months of failed attempts, because last March the Ecuadorian authorities cut off all his social and professional contacts, with the exception of his lawyers, and in the preceding 8 months, I had asked for permission to visit him nine times without success—the Ecuadorian authorities didn’t reply at all to my requests.

      When I was finally granted permission to visit the WikiLeaks founder at the Ecuadorian embassy in London last November, I was literally shocked to see the huge impact his isolation has had on his health. Because I have worked as a media partner with him and his organisation, WikiLeaks, for the last nine years, I have met him many times and can tell when there are any changes in his body and mind. I wondered how his mind could keep working; but after talking to him in the embassy for two hours, I have no doubt that his mind is working fine. I still wonder how that’s possible after six and a half years of detention without even one hour of being outdoors. I would have had a physical and mental breakdown after just 6 months, not after 6 years.

    • WikiLeaks seeks dismissal from DNC lawsuit

      Lawyers for WikiLeaks asked a U.S. federal judge late Friday afternoon to dismiss a lawsuit brought on behalf of the Democratic National Committee in response to the anti-secrecy organization’s publication of internal DNC documents during the 2016 presidential race.
      Defense attorneys filed documents in Manhattan federal court seeking dismissal from an expansive lawsuit initiated by the DNC in April, roughly two years after WikiLeaks began publishing leaked DNC emails allegedly sourced by Russian state-sponsored hackers.
      “WikiLeaks’s conduct — publishing truthful information of public concern as a media organization — is protected by the First Amendment,” layer Joshua Dratel wrote in a 33-page motion, calling the lawsuit an “existential threat” to the group’s constitutional right.

    • Ecuador president says there is ‘path’ for Assange to leave London embassy
    • Ecuador president says there is ‘path’ for Assange to leave London embassy
    • VIDEO : Ecuador president says there is ‘path’ for Assange to leave London embassy
    • The column I didn’t want to write about Julian Assange [Ed: Corporate media in Australia admits: “We don’t like Julian Assange. That much is clear.”]
    • Julian Assange, WikiLeaks publisher, rejects deal to leave Ecuador’s London embassy: Lawyer
    • Julian Assange Refuses to Leave Ecuadorian Embassy in London
    • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange can leave Ecuador embassy in London
    • Ecuador struck a deal with the U.K. to get Assange out of its embassy — but he still won’t go
    • Julian Assange REJECTS ‘deal’ to leave London embassy after Ecuador said Britain had guaranteed not to extradite him to ‘any country where he’d face the death penalty’
    • Conditions met for Julian Assange to leave Ecuador embassy in London: president
    • Assange’s lawyer rejects deal to end stay in Ecuador’s embassy

      President Lenin Moreno earlier said an agreement had been reached with the British government and that the WikiLeaks founder could not be extradited to face the death penalty.

      “The suggestion that as long as the death penalty is off the table, Mr Assange need not fear persecution is obviously wrong,” Assange’s lawyer Barry Pollack told the Telegraph.

      “Since such charges appear to have been brought against Mr Assange in the United States, Ecuador should continue to provide him asylum,” he added.

    • Ecuadorian Ex-Diplomat: Report Claiming Assange Met Manafort Is False

      The Guardian report claiming WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange met with Paul Manafort is fake news, says the former consul in Ecuador’s London embassy, Fidel Narváez. But it is true that Trump’s ex-campaign chairman met with new Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno to discuss handing Assange over to the US.

    • Ecuadorian president hints again at moves to renege on Julian Assange’s asylum

      In a radio interview on December 6, President Lenín Moreno effectively demanded that WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Assange was granted political asylum by Ecuador in its embassy in 2012 because he faces the danger of prosecution in the US in retaliation for WikiLeaks’ publication of leaked information exposing US war crimes, diplomatic conspiracies, intelligence agency spying and political intrigues.
      Hinting at the prospect that he will renege on the protection provided to Assange by his predecessor Rafael Correo, Moreno said: “I do not like the presence of Mr. Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy.”
      Moreno claimed that he had been given a “guarantee” by Britain that Assange would not be extradited if he faced the threat of a death sentence. “The road is clear,” Moreno incredibly declared, “for Mr. Assange to take the decision to leave into near freedom.”

    • Assange rejects Ecuador president’s ‘no death penalty’ deal with UK

      A lawyer for WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has rejected Ecuador’s offer for the publisher to leave the London embassy under the guarantee that he won’t face the death penalty, leaving open potential criminal persecution.

      “The suggestion that as long as the death penalty is off the table, Mr. Assange need not fear persecution is obviously wrong,” Assange’s lawyer, Barry Pollack, told the Telegraph while commenting on the deal with the UK announced by the Ecuador President Lenin Moreno on Thursday.

      [...]

      Moreno however, did not elaborate on how “near” that freedom would be, considering Assange is still sought in the UK on bail violation charges dating back to 2012. The UK authorities reportedly told Ecuador that the maximum sentence for the minor offence will not exceed six months.

      Being spared from capital punishment does not mean that Assange is safe from getting extradited and going on trial in the US for releasing troves of US diplomatic cables – something Pollack is not OK with.

      “No one should have to face criminal charges for publishing truthful information,” the lawyer told the Telegraph.

      Assange exposed some 750,000 of classified military documents provided by whistleblower Chelsea Manning. The documents shed light on the abuse and indiscriminate killings by US soldiers, among other revealing information about US military practices.

      It was recently revealed that Assange has already been charged in the US. The bombshell was found through an unrelated case handled by a US attorney’s office in Virginia. While the reported charges remain sealed, they may include espionage, conspiracy, government property theft and others.

    • WikiLeaks’ Co-Founder Julian Assange Rejects ‘No Death Penalty’
    • Ecuador says ‘yes’ to Assange ‘freedom’ deal, but Julian says ‘nyet’

      Wikileaks alumni Julian Assange has apparently turned down a proposed deal that would have seen him leave the Ecuadorian embassy he has been camped out in for over six years.

      The government-secrets spaffing outfit on Friday confirmed that it would not be taking a deal that Ecuador has struck with the UK that would have given assurance that Assange would not be extradited to a country where he could face the death penalty (read: The US).

      According to Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno, the deal between Ecuador and the UK wouldn’t have guaranteed Assange’s freedom outright, but would have given some assurance that professional secrets-dealer would not be at risk of execution should he be arrested and charged. He still faces charges in the UK for jumping bail, and Assange’s camp fears that, once arrested, he will promptly be handed over to the US.

      “The road is clear for Mr Assange to take the decision to leave,” Moreno said in a radio interview.

    • A Doer of Good among Rats and Snakes: The Vindication of Activist and Journalist Randy Credico

      In case you missed it, last week the creator and producer of Empire Files, Abby Martin, released an in-depth interview with Randy Credico, a long-time activist and Julian Assange supporter who has been embroiled in the Mueller investigation ever since Nixon bagman Roger Stone fingered him as a back channel to WikiLeaks.

      Credico has taken a beating from both sides of the political spectrum, with the left blaming him for Donald Trump’s ascension to the White House while the far-right has condemned him for the troubles that seem to be brewing for Trump and their fallen hero, Roger Stone. He’s even received death threats but, as Abby Martin pointed out, Credico has a rich history of political activism and — with the latest information coming out about Stone, Corsi, and others — his full vindication seems imminent.

    • Live Vigil for Assange Friday

      ConsortiumNews will broadcast live a vigil for Julian Assange as the publisher comes under new pressure to be expelled from Ecuador’s London embassy, while charges await him in the United States.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity

      As the nations of the world are gathered in Poland to fret about the state of the climate, there’s an unpleasant truth—one might say an inconvenient truth—that climate advocates have long refused to face: Big Fossil Fuel has beaten us.

      We’ve done our damnedest to stop them from wrecking the climate, but they’re nonetheless pulling carbon from the ground in wondrous quantities. It was once astonishing that in the U.S. alone they could extract 55 quadrillion BTUs worth of oil, gas, and coal each year, as they did from 1970 to 2005. (A new home furnace puts out about 50,000 BTUs.) But 55,000,000,000,000,000 BTUs looks almost quaint now. Big Carbon extracted 60 quadrillion BTUs from U.S. soil in 2011, 70 quadrillion in 2015, and next year it’s expected to be 75 quadrillion. No wonder the 40 billion tons in CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases that our species emitted in 2001 became 45 billion in 2004, 50 billion in 2009, and 55 billion today. Climactivists have mostly preferred to ignore these ugly facts and focus instead on the impressive growth in renewable energy. And it is impressive. But here’s another somewhat inconvenient truth: We’re not using the new renewables to replace fossil fuels. We’re just using them to keep up with new energy demands—demands from our growing population and the newly consumptive lifestyles of once-poor peoples being lifted from their poverty. In short, Big Carbon is a juggernaut that we’ve hardly checked.

      Sure, we’ve won some important skirmishes. We’ve gotten fracking banned in New York, Maryland, and Vermont. We’ve convinced big investors who control more than $7 trillion in assets to divest the $400 billion or so they once held in fossil fuels. Last year when Big Fossil Fuel put Prop 23 on the California ballot to poleaxe the state’s limits on greenhouse gases, we outspent them $30 million to $10 million and won the vote 61 percent to 39 percent. There’s no denying our scrappy militia is growing bit by bit into a guerilla army.

    • Oil Industry Spent Millions to Defeat Carbon Tax in Washington State

      Climate change appeared on the ballot in numerous states during the 2018 midterm elections, an indication of the growing concern among average citizens about the catastrophic effects of fossil fuel burning. But the struggle for regulations on emissions was repeatedly blocked by the money machinery of the oil industry. Record amounts of money were spent trying to derail the efforts of activists and labor unions fighting to save the environment. One such instance was over Initiative 1631 in Washington State where the oil industry spent more than $30 million trying to sabotage the struggle for a better world. In this exclusive Truthout interview, Jeff Johnson — who led the fight for the passing of Initiative 1631 — reflects on the lessons activists nationwide can draw for the future from the climate change struggle in Washington State.

      [...]

      Unions representing 60.2 percent of the 450,000 members of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO supported I-1631 and care passionately about addressing climate change. To a varying degree they understand the existential nature of the crisis we face and understand that working people are disproportionately impacted by climate disaster. Some of our unions, mostly building trades, were opposed to the initiative on the grounds that it would cost their members more money and/or crowd out dollars for investing in transportation projects. While I understand their arguments, I think they are both wrong and short-sighted.

      As more and more jobs, income, property, lives and public resources are lost to climate disasters the understanding that we need to deal with the issue systemically will grow. Unfortunately, it is a moral race that we are currently losing.

    • Ryan Zinke Is Shamefully Promoting Logging in the Wake of California’s Deadly Wildfires

      Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, already facing several federal investigations, has sunk to a new low.

      A prominent figure in Trump’s plan to roll back environmental regulations, he’s using deadly fires in California to push for policies that would pave the way for more logging in U.S. forests.

      But here’s the truth: Logged areas with less stringent environmental protections lead to the most intense and dangerous fires.

    • What a New Governor Means for Renewable Energy in Maine

      Short days and frequent snows can make Maine winters seem gloomy. But for renewable energy companies and supporters, the gloom has persisted for the last eight years under a governor openly hostile to solar and wind energy. With the 2018 election, a pro-environment Democratic governor and Democratic majorities in both chambers of the state legislature were swept into power.

      “One of the more frustrating things over the last eight years has been the inability to have a conversation around a shared goal that is based in reality,” said Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association (MREA). He said they’re now looking forward to having “a positive, fact-based discourse around energy policy.”

    • Politicians who deny reality aren’t fit to lead

      When faced with conclusive evidence of a major threat to citizens, a true leader would do everything possible to confront it.

      So, what was the U.S. president’s reaction to a U.S. scientific report compiled by more than 300 scientists and endorsed by a dozen different agencies, including NASA, NOAA and the defence department, that warned climate change poses a dire threat to the American economy, way of life and human health? “I don’t believe it,” Trump told reporters.

      [...]

      The report should be enough to rouse everyone to action, especially those whose job it is to serve the people. It opens with a clear warning: “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities.” It goes on to show that if greenhouse gas emissions are not brought under control, the U.S. can expect “growing losses to American infrastructure and property”; hundreds of billions in economic impacts; catastrophic rising sea levels; increasing extreme events such as heavy rains and floods; more wildfires, crop and livestock failures leading to food shortages; continuing ocean acidification; and thousands of deaths.

      It also emphasized the need to reduce emissions immediately: “Because several GHGs, in particular carbon dioxide, reside in the atmosphere for decades or longer, many climate-influenced effects are projected to continue changing through 2050, even if GHG emissions were to stop immediately.”

      Those who stand in the way of protecting people and countless other species from the worst consequences of climate disruption, especially those with the power to do something, are committing crimes against humanity. They aren’t fit to lead.

    • Bayou Bridge Charged $450 for Trespassing and Building Oil Pipeline Without Permission on Louisiana Parcel

      After three landowners filed a legal challenge against Bayou Bridge Pipeline, LLC’s right to build a pipeline on their land — which it did without their permission — the case concluded this week with a very small fine for the company.

      On December 6, Louisiana State Judge Keith Comeaux fined the pipeline company $450 for trespassing during construction before properly obtaining permission. The judge also granted the company the permission it sought to expropriate the land it had already built on.

      The legal challenge came almost a year after construction began on the 163-mile-long Bayou Bridge pipeline, which spans southern Louisiana from Lake Charles, near the Texas border, to St. James, on the banks of the Mississippi River. The controversial pipeline is the tail end of a crude oil pipeline network that will transport Bakken oil from North Dakota to the Gulf Coast, likely for export.

      “The Court should not supplant the well-thought and well-researched opinions of the various agencies that permitted this project,” Judge Comeaux wrote in his ruling, according to The (Baton Rouge) Advocate. “Therefore, the Court finds that the proper permitting has been done, and that the public purpose and necessity has been proven by Bayou Bridge Pipeline, LLC.”

      The ruling stated that each landowner was entitled to $75 for their share of the land in question — which Bayou Bridge argued would only net $1.11 combined if the land was put up for sale since the land was shared by so many others. The judge also awarded each landowner an additional $75 due to the trespassing offense.

    • Winona LaDuke Calls for Indigenous-Led ‘Green New Deal’ as She Fights Minnesota Pipeline Expansion

      While world leaders converge in Poland for the U.N. climate change summit, we look at the indigenous-led fight against destructive oil pipelines and the revolutionary potential of the Green New Deal with Winona LaDuke, Ojibwe environmental leader and executive director of the group Honor the Earth. She lives and works on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota.

    • Rich Nations Aren’t ‘Paying Their Fair Share’ to Mitigate the Climate Crisis, Says Report Released at COP24

      Rich countries—and the United States in particular—aren’t “paying their fair share” in terms of taking concrete actions to mitigate the global climate crisis, according to an independent review released at the COP24 talks in Poland, where world leaders are discussing how to meet the aims of the Paris agreement.

      After Paris: Inequality, Fair Shares, and the Climate Emergency (pdf)—produced by an international coalition of social movements, environmental and development organizations, trade unions, and various other groups—declares that “equity is not a moral or academic nicety, but a practical necessity in meeting the Paris goals.”

  • Finance

    • America’s Rigged Tax Collection System

      Charges of rigging fill the air in today’s America. Elections, the economy, college admissions, the list seems endless. Whatever the truth in other cases, our tax collection system is undeniably rigged. It’s been so from the beginning, rigged against the vast majority of workers.

      In 1943, under pressure to pay for World War II, Congress passed a law requiring employers to withhold taxes and report the incomes of their employees. The same law implicitly allows self-reporting by huge numbers of largely high-income taxpayers: landlords, self-employed professionals, small businesses, et al.

      Tax compliance figures for the two groups differ starkly. The latest estimate from the Internal Revenue Service shows 99% compliance by wage and salary earners. Self-reporters, by contrast, are evading scores of billions in taxes year after year.

    • Tribal Justice

      One wonders if a voltafaccia, an about face, after 2008, one in which the looted and not the financial institutions that did the looting were bailed out would have deflated the conditions that has brought us to the doorstep of autocracy.

      One wonders if this response to the collapse would have put the nail in neoliberalism and neoconservatism’s coffin and turned us toward an economics of justice.

      That did not happen. Instead of rejecting our economics, we have collapsed into tribalism, into a moshpit of anger, virulent attack, mutual suspicion, downright hatred that is more difficult to define and locate than the point of contention in the War Between the States.

      Rather than specify our Monopoly game economics as a cause of immiseration, the precariat class blames particular people — Hillary or Obama or Pelosi, Liberals, Democrats, Socialists, the Federal government, the intelligence community, Coastal elites, political correctness, Leftist professors, The New York Times and so on.

      Instead of proceeding to find rational correctives to our economic system after 2008, which clearly showed us that the perfections of an unregulated market were bullshit, we descended into the irrationalities within which the country is drowning.

      Trump did not initiate those irrationalities but they nourished him and he does all he can, either to protect and enhance his ego, or, because like the scorpion it is in his nature, to fuel the tribal world we are now in.

    • HUD Official to Move Into Public Housing?

      The federal housing official responsible for the New York City region says she plans to move into public housing to spotlight inhumane conditions, but if she really wanted to spotlight inhumanity in housing, she’d move big money out of precious city housing stock.

      Longtime Trump aid Lynne Patton told the press recently that she intends to move out of Trump Plaza, where she lives, and into public housing to cast a spotlight on the inhumane conditions in which some city residents live.

    • Judge Calls for Examination of Quality Controls in New York Supported Housing System

      He ordered an independent report to assess the effectiveness of the state’s incident reporting system, got the state to commit to examining its service-coordination program and suggested the state develop a program to help residents learn and practice basic life skills in supported housing.

      Four years ago, in a landmark settlement secured by advocates, Garaufis issued a court order offering more than 4,000 adult home residents in New York City a chance to move. The idea was that many did not need to live in such facilities — which can house hundreds of residents and have a history of abuse and neglect — and could instead thrive in their own apartments with the right support. The order instructed evaluators to presume that all residents would be fit to do so.

      But ProPublica and Frontline found that clinicians evaluating adult home residents for the transition felt censored when they raised concerns about a person’s ability to live alone, and that workers felt pressured to “sell the move,” even to people who they thought were ill-equipped.

    • Unemployment Rate Stays at 3.7 Percent, Wage Growth Picks Up Pace

      The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the economy added 155,000 jobs in November, with the unemployment rate unchanged at 3.7 percent. With a modest downward revision to the job growth reported for the prior two months, the average over the last three months was 170,000, a clear slowing from the 204,000 average rate over the last year. Both the overall and prime age (ages 25–54) employment-to-population ratios (EPOP) were unchanged in November at their highs for the recovery.

      Within the prime-age population there have been notable differences in employment patterns over the last year. Overall, the EPOP is up by 0.7 percentage points over the year. Monthly data are erratic for subgroups, so taking three-month averages finds the sharpest increase is for men and women between the ages of 25–34, with a rise of 1.0 percentage points for both. The rise for the former group is especially noteworthy since some economists had previously argued they had lost interest in work due to the attractiveness of video games.

    • Wall Street’s Corruption Runs Deeper Than You Can Fathom

      Of the myriad policy decisions that have brought us to our current precipice, from the signing of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to the invasion of Iraq and the gerrymandering of House districts across the country, few have proven as consequential as the demise of Glass-Steagall. Signed into law as the U.S.A. Banking Act of 1933, the legislation had been crucial to safeguarding the financial industry in the wake of the Great Depression. But with its repeal in 1999, the barriers separating commercial and investment banking collapsed, creating the preconditions for an economic crisis from whose shadow we have yet to emerge.

      Carmen Segarra might have predicted as much. As an employee at the Federal Reserve in 2011, three years after the dissolution of Lehman brothers, she witnessed the results of this deregulation firsthand. In her new book, “Noncompliant: A Lone Whistleblower Exposes the Giants of Wall Street,” she chronicles the recklessness of institutions like Goldman Sachs and the stunning lengths the United States government went to accommodate them, even as they authored one of the worst crashes in our nation’s history.

    • Why Don’t We Riot Over Wealth Inequality?

      Tell people their gas taxes are going up and they will riot, literally. Tell people that 62 individuals hold the same amount of wealth as the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world’s population and we don’t blink an eye. Okay, maybe we do a hard blink but we certainly don’t riot. Or perhaps gas tax riots are actually severe wealth inequality riots in disguise?

      France has been embroiled in mass and violent protests to proposed diesel and gas tax increases that have forced France’s government to suspend its plans to increase taxes and to also immediately freeze prices on electricity and home heating fuel. The proposed taxes, meant to curb climate change by weaning motorists off petroleum products and to generate funding for renewable energy projects, were received negatively by several sectors of the French population. Their message carried out by the “gilets jaunes” (yellow vest) movement resulted in violent protests in Paris and caused four deaths.

      A number of U.S. publications chimed in on the French protests claiming they show a Global Carbon Tax Revolt, claiming that people from Washington to Ontario to France are saying no to taxing carbon. But what they conveniently portray as a revolt on carbon taxes (which happens to match their ideological opposition to climate action) I see as a sign of frustration and impotence over massive wealth inequality.

    • Bernie Sanders: Concentrated Wealth is Concentrated Power

      So what you have here is, first of all, massive income and wealth inequality. And as a nation we have got to think from a moral perspective and an economic perspective whether we think it is appropriate that three people, one, two, three, own more wealth than the bottom half of the American society. You know, that’s really quite outrageous, and it’s appropriate that we take a hard look at that. But it is not just that the one tenth of 1 percent owns more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. They don’t put their wealth underneath their mattresses, right. They use that wealth to perpetrate, perpetuate their power. And they do that politically. So you have the Koch brothers and a handful of billionaires who pour hundreds of millions of dollars into elections, because their Supreme Court gutted the campaign finance laws that were in existence, and now allow billionaires quite openly to buy elections.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • The Republican Party Has Become ‘a Conspiracy to Seize Power’

      A brute-force power grab by Republicans in Wisconsin highlights the disregard for democracy that has infected the party of Lincoln.

    • What to Know About the Messy Election Fraud Allegations Leveled Against North Carolina Republicans

      How did this all come together? In North Carolina, voters are required to have two witnesses sign their absentee ballots. The law also says that only the voter or a near relative can turn in an absentee ballot.

      But, according to CNN, a set of 161 absentee ballots the news station obtained showed that the same nine people signed at least 10 ballots each. And, according to CNN, several of those nine people appear to be connected.

    • Unusual pattern of signatures emerges as North Carolina probes allegations in House race

      In Bladen, about 40% of the requested absentee ballots, or 495 ballots, were not returned. In Robeson, about 62%, or 1,180 ballots, were not returned. Both percentages are much higher than the district’s non-return rate, which was 24%.

      “In addition, if ballots were manipulated without the registered voter’s knowledge, and votes were changed or spoiled to negate a vote, that would raise serious concerns about the integrity of the 9th Congressional District’s election,” Bitzer wrote.

    • Is Bush’s Legacy Really Much Different Than Trump’s?

      As the federal government closed shop for a day of national mourning for the late President George H.W. Bush, an image of came to my mind.

      It’s an ad by his supporters claiming presidential candidate Michael Dukakis “allows first degree murderers to have weekend passes,” as an image of an African American man, Willie Horton, flashes across the screen. More photos of Horton are shown, along with the words “stabbing, kidnapping, raping.”

      I wasn’t even born when this ad aired in 1988. I know it because I studied it in my media classes as a classic example of how politicians stoked racist fears to link black people to crime and further a mass incarceration agenda.

      Just last month, President Donald Trump’s political team ran an ad inspired by the same race-baiting tactic. An ad so obviously racist even Fox News stopped running it. It depicts Mexican immigrant Luis Bracamontes saying he would “kill more cops,” and claims “Democrats let him into our country. Democrats let him stay.” (These claims were false.)

      The ad was designed to link Central American immigrants to crime just as a caravan of asylum seekers from Honduras was headed to the U.S.-Mexico border.

      As I recall H. W. Bush’s legacy, the similarities keep coming.

    • What Chicago Voters Can Look Forward to in a Very Crowded Mayoral Election

      With the Chicago mayoral election approaching, ProPublica Illinois reporter Mick Dumke and Chicago Reader reporter Ben Joravsky talked City Hall politics at their monthly show, “First Tuesdays,” at the Hideout, a nightclub just northwest of downtown. Their guests: Alderman Ricardo Muñoz, from the 22nd Ward, who is retiring after 25 years in office, and veteran political consultant Kitty Kurth.

      During the roughly 75-minute show, they discussed the Feb. 26 election to succeed Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who decided not to run for a third term; the importance of candidates gathering the required ballot petitions to qualify for the election; and the realities of what Chicago aldermen actually do.

    • Factcheck False Equivalence

      In an era when the president of the United States is an inveterate, habitual, daily liar, about all things great and small, and especially about himself, factchecking sites can provide an invaluable—if increasingly overwhelmed—public service. Though the siloing off of this core function of journalism still presents, I’d submit, something of a moral hazard—the implication being that the existence of a distinct factcheck team alleviates political beat reporters from the responsibility of meticulously calling out spin and falsehoods on a routine basis—there are resource benefits to having a dedicated team focused on separating fact from fiction.

      This does not mean, however, that factcheck journalism in the corporate press is free from the institutional pressures of “both sides” objectivity. Precisely because of President Trump’s unprecedented propensity to lie, there can be a latent urge among factcheckers to find similar examples of dishonesty among the left, to provide some semblance of “fairness.” And, at times, these efforts can devolve into obtuse, bad-faith examples of nitpicking and false equivalence.

    • Wisconsin Schools the Nation on Hypocrisy and Partisan Power Grabs

      Wisconsin elected the state’s respected school superintendent as governor on November 6. Now a disgruntled GOP leadership is schooling the nation on hypocrisy and partisan power grabs.

      After an all-nighter Wednesday, Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald succeeded in passing a package of bills to diminish the power of newly elected Democratic Governor Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, and they will truncate early voting hours while they are at it.

      It was called an “Extraordinary Session,” and it was an extraordinary week that made national and international headlines, including “The Republicans’ post-midterm strategy: Thievery” in the Washington Post. “What Republicans didn’t win at the polls, they would seek to preserve by pilfering,” said Dana Milbank, writing of the Wisconsin and Michigan lame ducks as well as the North Carolina election fraud.

    • Republicans Don’t Want Your Vote to Count

      Wisconsin Republicans have made the news again. After losing the governor’s race (but maintaining control of the state legislature, thanks to gerrymandering), Republicans have passed a series of measures to limit the power of Democratic Governor-elect Tony Evers.

      For those who have not been following Wisconsin state politics for the last decade, it’s worth a quick recap on the goings on in the Dairy State.

      In 2011, Republican Governor Scott Walker and the Republican legislature gutted the power of public sector unions (including my union, the TAA, a union of graduate student workers at University of Wisconsin), resulting in the largest protests in the state since the Vietnam War.

      As unions tend to support Democrats, and the union-gutting bill, Act 10, exempted the two unions that more often support Republicans (police and firefighters), the bill was clearly a partisan power grab by Republicans.

      Wisconsin Republicans then passed a law requiring photo IDs for voting. I have a state-issued photo ID because I’m a student at University of Wisconsin, a state school. However, although college students are allowed to vote where they attend school, my school photo ID is not considered a valid ID for voting.

      Requiring photo IDs to vote fixes a problem that does not exist. Voter fraud is incredibly rare.

    • No Relief: William Barr Is as Bad as Jeff Sessions — if Not Worse

      Barr’s record suggests he will continue the former attorney general’s worst policies while promoting a sweeping view of executive power.
      Donald Trump’s nomination of William Barr to succeed Jeff Sessions as attorney general ought to raise alarm bells across the country. Barr is as bad as Sessions was on the full range of civil rights issues that fall with the Justice Department’s purview. And he’s a longstanding advocate of expansive executive power.

      It’s almost certainly the latter view that attracted President Trump, whose own power is likely to be called into question should the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election disclose wrongdoing at the top. But the Senate, who must confirm Barr, and the U.S. citizenry, who will have to live under him as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, should be aware of the full range of threats he poses to constitutional law, civil rights, and civil liberties.

      It’s worth reflecting on the Justice Department Barr would inherit.

      Under Sessions’ leadership, it has become a force for injustice in virtually every important area of civil rights. Sessions was an aggressive defender of Trump’s cruel and inhuman family separation policy, the Muslim ban, and obstacles to asylum. He rolled back critical civil rights protections for LGBT persons. He opposed legislative efforts to reform the criminal justice system and directed federal prosecutors to file the harshest charges possible against criminal defendants, regardless of mitigating circumstances. He reversed the department’s position in voting rights cases, going from attacking to supporting voter suppression initiatives. And he sought to punish state and local governments that exercised their constitutional right to choose to leave federal immigration law enforcement to federal officials. Few attorney generals have done more to undermine the causes that the Justice Department is supposed to defend.

    • Trump Nominates William Barr, a ‘Fanatic Who Believes in Dictatorship of Executive Power,’ for Attorney General

      After spending much of his morning hysterically attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation, President Donald Trump announced on Friday that he will nominate William Barr—a frequent critic of the Mueller probe who holds an expansive view of executive power—to be the next U.S. attorney general.

      “As attorney general, Barr could defund or shut down Mueller’s investigation,” Public Citizen warned on Twitter. “That’s what’s at risk if we don’t push the Senate to act. Call your senators and demand a vote on legislation to protect Mueller.”

    • Celebrating a Congress That Looks ‘Like America,’ Ilhan Omar Shrugs Off Right-Wing Islamophobic Rant

      Incoming Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Friday reminded a right-wing pastor and others who would lament the new cultural diversity of the U.S. Congress that the 2018 midterm elections simply gave Americans—particularly Democratic voters and progressives—the representation they asked for in Washington: the kind that looked like America.

      After conservative minister and radio host E.W. Jackson delivered an Islamophobic rant on his show on Wednesday, decrying Omar’s status as one of the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress and warning that the Capitol is turning into a “institution of Sharia law,” the current state legislator replied simply that the pastor would “have to just deal.”

    • ‘To Defend the Indefensible,’ Trump Picks Former Fox News Anchor to Push Dangerous US Foreign Policy at United Nations

      As President Donald Trump confirmed on Friday that he will nominate State Department spokeswoman and former Fox News anchor Heather Nauert as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, critics argued that while the president’s decision to select someone with zero diplomatic experience to represent the U.S. before the international community is “appalling,” the belligerent foreign policy and contempt for human rights that Nauert will be in charge of selling is immeasurably more dangerous.

    • The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot

      During the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Donald Trump repeatedly promised that he would “drain the swamp” of Washington’s corrupt politics. In one of his numerous Tweets, he promised: “I will Make Our Government Honest Again — believe me. But first, I’m going to have to #DrainTheSwamp.” Unfortunately, the swamp is festering, a symptom of the rot at the head of the political system.

      The Miami Herald’s recent series on the relationship between Palm Beach, FL, billionaire hedge-fund manage, Jeffrey Epstein, and R. Alexander Acosta, the Sec. of Labor, is an invaluable case study as to how corruption works. It’s the latest — but likely not the last — scandal to befall the Trump administration.

      Epstein is an American financier with a long association with the rich and powerful. He began his career at Bear Stearns before forming his own firm, J. Epstein & Co. In a 2002 puff-piece, New York magazine noted his close relations with Bill Clinton, Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker. The piece quotes no less an authority of moral character as Trump who said he knew of Epstein’s interest in “younger” women. “I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy,” Trump blathered. “He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.”

    • Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta Must Resign For Allowing Serial Child Molester Jeffrey Epstein To Escape Justice

      Jeffrey Epstein is a serial child molester who used his wealth, power and influence to escape serious penalties for his crimes. The charges brought against him could have resulted in Epstein spending the rest of his life in prison —but instead, he played “let’s make a deal” to subvert justice and escape punishment. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who as U.S. Attorney in Miami cut the deal with Epstein, must resign.

      Jeffrey Epstein plays by the same rule book as Donald Trump, Les Moonves, Harvey Weinstein, Eric Schneiderman and other powerful men who have been revealed as serial abusers of women. Epstein’s scant 13-month stay in a county jail—where he was even allowed to spend twelve hours a day, six days a week, at his office—was made possible by a culture of powerful men enabling each other, while dismissing, excusing or demeaning the women and children they brutalize with physical and sexual violence.

      But this toxic culture must end. We cannot allow our legal system to be hijacked by rich men and those who stand by idly while profiting from their abuses of power. Those in law enforcement, politics and business who defend and protect these abusers are also complicit. They used their privilege to shred the law and make a mockery of justice. But the #MeToo movement is shining a light on their conduct, and that light must not fade.

    • For Allowing Serial Sexual Abuser to Escape Justice, Demand for Labor Secretary Acosta to Resign Immediately Surges

      One of the nation’s leading women’s rights organizations joined a number of political commentators on Friday in demanding to know: How does Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, who was accused last week in an in-depth investigative article by the Miami Herald of helping a serial sexual abuser secure a lenient plea deal, still have a job?

      The sexual abuse charges brought against Jeffrey Epstein—a hedge fund manager who counts President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton among his friends—”could have resulted in Epstein spending the rest of his life in prison,” said Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization for Women (NOW). “But instead, he played ‘let’s make a deal’ to subvert justice and escape punishment. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who as U.S. Attorney in Miami cut the deal with Epstein, must resign.”

      The Herald’s year-long investigation revealed that in 2007, Acosta helped Epstein to secure a plea bargain that included just 13 months in a county jail and a non-prosecution agreement after being indicted for “assembling a large, cult-like network” of dozens of underage girls and coercing them into sexual activity.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • TSA’s Roadmap for Airport Surveillance Moves in a Dangerous Direction

      The Transportation Security Administration has set out an alarming vision of pervasive biometric surveillance at airports, which cuts against the right to privacy, the “right to travel,” and the right to anonymous association with others.

      The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018, which included language that we warned would provide implied Congressional endorsement to biometric screening of domestic travelers and U.S. citizens, became law in early October. The ink wasn’t even dry on that bill when the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) published their Biometrics Roadmap for Aviation Security and the Passenger Experience, detailing TSA’s plans to work with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to roll out increased biometric collection and screening for all passengers, including Americans traveling domestically.

      This roadmap appears to latch on to a perceived acceptance of biometrics as security keys while ignoring the pervasive challenges with accurately identifying individuals and the privacy risks associated with collecting massive amounts of biometric data. Furthermore, it provides no strategy for dealing with passengers who are unfairly misidentified.

      Worst of all, while the roadmap explicitly mentions collaborating with airlines and other partners inside and outside the government, it is alarmingly silent on how TSA plans to protect a widely distributed honeypot of sensitive biometric information ripe for misuse by identity thieves, malicious actors, or even legitimate employees abusing their access privileges.

    • Soon, you may opt to withdraw your Aadhaar number

      The Union government is in the last stages of finalising a proposal to amend the Aadhaar Act to give all citizens an option to withdraw their Aadhaar number, including biometrics and data.

      This follows the Supreme Court judgment in September that upheld the validity of Aadhaar, however, with certain riders.

      A Constitution Bench had struck down Section 57 of the Act that allows private entities to use the unique number for verification. The Bench also declared that seeking to link it with bank accounts and SIM cards was unconstitutional.

    • Aadhaar Users Will Soon Be Allowed To Delete Biometric Data

      Aadhaar linking has been a headache we all have had! However, now, Aadhaar card holders in India could soon get the option to withdraw his or her Aadhaar number.

      A new report by The Hindu suggests that the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is in the final stage of coming up with a decision, allowing citizens to opt out of his or her Aadhaar cards.

    • Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi

      Can I be the only one – apart from his own sycophants – to find the sight of America’s finest Republicans and Democrats condemning the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia for murdering Jamal Khashoggi a bit sickening? “Crazy”. “Dangerous”. A “wrecking ball”. A “smoking saw”. These guys are angry. CIA director Gina Haspel, who was happy to sign off on the torture of her Muslim captives in a secret American prison in Thailand, obviously knew what she was talking about when she testified about Mohammed bin Salman and the agony of Jamal Khashoggi.

      US government leaks suggest that Haspel knew all about the shrieks of pain, the suffering of Arab men who believed they were drowning, the desperate pleading for life from America’s victims in these sanctuaries of torment in and after 2002. After all, the desperate screams of a man who believes he is drowning and the desperate screams of a man who believes he is suffocating can’t be very different. Except, of course, that the CIA’s victims lived to be tortured another day – indeed several more days – while Jamal Khashoggi’s asphyxiation was intended to end his life. Which it did.

    • Saudis Targeted Khashoggi With This Israeli Surveillance Tool

      Saudi activist Omar Abdulaziz, who is based in Montreal, filed a lawsuit in an Israeli court on Sunday against Tel Aviv-based cyber intelligence company NSO Group for monitoring his messages with Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The company has denied accusations that its spyware played a role in Khashoggi’s killing at the Saudi consulate in Turkey in October.

      Researchers at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto reported that Abdulaziz’s phone had been infected by NSO’s Pegasus spyware, which can access photos, phone calls and emails, as well as a user’s GPS location. The researchers had previously found possible Pegasus surveillance operations in 45 countries, including the United States.

      “The hacking of my phone played a major role in what happened to Jamal, I am really sorry to say,” Abdulaziz told CNN. “The guilt is killing me.” He has requested $160,000 in damages and for NSO Group to stop selling its products to Saudi Arabia.

      In 2014, American private equity firm Francisco Partners bought NSO for $130 million. Other critics of the Saudi regime who have been targeted with the Pegasus software include human rights activist Yahya Assiri and political satirist Ghanem Almasarir, both of whom are based in the United Kingdom.

    • Facebook poses potential threat to democracy, says ex-GCHQ chief

      Facebook could be a threat to democracy unless it is properly regulated, a former head of GCHQ has warned.

      Robert Hannigan said Facebook was not a “fluffy charity” providing free services to users, but rather social media firms were trying to “squeeze every drop of profit” out of personal data.

      The former intelligence chief was sceptical about whether tech giants could reform themselves and suggested new laws may be required.

    • Google Reveals Plans to Monitor Our Moods, Our Movements, and Our Children’s Behavior at Home

      Patents recently issued to Google provide a window into their development activities. While it’s no guarantee of a future product, it is a sure indication of what’s of interest to them. What we’ve given up in privacy to Google, Facebook, and others thus far is minuscule compared to what is coming if these companies get their way.

      These patents tell us that Google is developing smart-home products that are capable of eavesdropping on us throughout our home in order to learn more about us and better target us with advertising. It goes much further than the current Google Home speaker that’s promoted to answer our questions and provide useful information, and the Google-owned Nest thermostat that measures environmental conditions in our home. What the patents describe are sensors and cameras mounted in every room to follow us and analyze what we’re doing throughout our home. […]

    • New NYPD Drone Policy Represents a Serious Threat to Privacy

      The police department’s drone policy places no meaningful restrictions on the invasive technology’s use and threatens New Yorkers’ privacy.
      The New York Police Department announced this week that it will deploy 14 new drones as part of its policing activities across New York City. The use of this highly invasive technology represents a new frontier for both public safety and abuses of power.

      The department did reach out to the NYCLU to ask us for input on a draft of the policy governing the use of its drones. But while the department did make some changes based on our recommendations, we remain deeply concerned about the policy’s serious shortcomings.

      First, it’s important to understand just how powerful drones are. The NYPD’s drones are outfitted with cameras equipped with sophisticated technology and 4K resolution. The mere presence of these police cameras can create a chilling effect on people exercising their rights to free speech, protest, and other lawful activities.

      Because they are so small, nimble, and relatively inexpensive, drones are in many cases much more attractive surveillance tools than, say, police helicopters. Mass-deploying helicopters is prohibitively expensive, but regularly using drones is much more feasible. And, because they are small, they can fly in places helicopters can’t reach, like into a person’s garage or just outside a bedroom window.

      Given how easy drones make surveillance and the NYPD’s troubling history of unlawful spying, it’s critical that the policies that govern their use put strict limits on when and where they can be deployed.

    • Aussie Surveillance Law Imperils Secure Comms

      Australia has followed the UK in passing its own draconian surveillance laws which could force technology providers to engineer de facto backdoors into their end-to-end encryption products.

      The opposition Labor Party stood aside at the eleventh hour to let the bill pass, on the understanding that its amendments would be passed in the new year, something the government now says it will only “consider.”

      As is the norm, the government had argued that law enforcers and security services needed to be able to access specific communications to fight serious crime and protect national security.

      “This ensures that our national security and law enforcement agencies have the modern tools they need, with appropriate authority and oversight, to access the encrypted conversations of those who seek to do us harm,” attorney-general, Christian Porter is reported to have said.

    • UK Parliament publishes reams of Facebook docs, exposing firm’s machinations for user data

      The first is that Facebook allowed some companies to keep “full access” to Facebook users; friends data even after it change its privacy rules in 2014 and 2015 to limit the data access third-party developers have.

    • British Member of Parliament publishes 250 pages of damning internal Facebook documents that had been sealed by a US court

      Kramer is CEO of Six4Three, a creepy US startup whose Facebook app helped you find pictures of your friends in bikinis; when the app was neutered by a change to Facebook’s API, Six4Three sued Facebook and in the course of pre-trial discovery, they were given extensive internal documents from Facebook, which the judge in the case had ordered sealed. Somehow, Collins got wind of the fact that Kramer, his laptop, and the documents were all in London, and — having been spurned by Mark Zuckerberg, who repeatedly refused demands to appear in Parliament — saw his chance.

      Now, Collins has dumped a 250 page file, hosted on Parliament’s servers, which includes the documents from Kramer’s laptop and Collins’s summary.

    • Big tech has your kid’s data — and you probably gave it to them

      Potential dangers for children no longer just entail speeding cars and strangers with candy. The rise of smart technology and data-surveying gadgets means that tons of private information is being collected and disseminated in completely new ways. The full extent of how our data is being gathered and used is something we’re still working to understand, let alone be able to fully explain to children.

      In her report, Longfield writes that today’s kids are the most at risk because they have the largest digital footprint in history. Between the Nest cameras watching kids at home, kids’ games that target them with ads, and purchase preferences on Amazon and Google, their data is being harvested at an unprecedented rate.

    • Australia passes new law to thwart strong encryption

      However, the law as currently written seems to contain what some view as a loophole. The statute says that companies cannot be compelled to introduce a “systemic weakness” or a “systemic vulnerability” into their software or hardware to satisfy government demands.

      Those terms are not fully defined in the current law but are set to be added in the forthcoming amendments.

    • Australia data encryption laws explained

      Australia has passed controversial laws designed to compel technology companies to grant police and security agencies access to encrypted messages.`

    • Australia just voted to ban working cryptography. No, really.

      Making this bill work would mean a raft of extreme measures: seizing and altering every general purpose computer in Australia; banning the importation of any computing device, including phones and laptops, into Australia; blocking Github and every other software distribution site at the national level, and more.

      Australia is the first, but may not be the last. Rod Rosenstein wants to bring this to America. Ian Levy, GCHQ’s Technical Director, wants to bring it to the UK.

    • The Facebook papers are a timely reminder that Mark Zuckerberg is totally ruthless about making money

      If you take one thing away from wading through 250 pages of Facebook documents, it is this: Here is a company that is ruthless about growth.

      [...]

      But the papers, which date as far back as 2012, provide evidence that Facebook cut deals that fell just short of selling data. Notably, it signed off on preferential “whitelisting agreements” with firms including Netflix and Airbnb, giving these firms great access to data.

    • Facebook Is Built on Inequality

      In short, the reciprocity arrangement Zuckerberg was describing involved the terms Facebook sets for third-party apps built on its platform. The arrangement determines how much, and which kinds, of data Facebook requires those apps to provide in return for access to its network. In this case, apps were given access to friend lists. With data gathered through reciprocity, Facebook’s advertisers would be able to target users even better than before.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Terrorist Content Regulation: Civil rights groups raise major concerns

      On 4 December 2018, a coalition of 31 civil society organisations published a letter that raises significant concerns regarding the proposal for a Regulation to prevent the dissemination of terrorist content online. The letter was addressed to the EU Member States’ Home Affairs Ministers, ahead of their meeting on 6 December.

    • Resisting Law Enforcement’s Siren Song: A Call for Cryptographers to Improve Trust and Security

      The world is waking up to something that digital security experts have known for a very long time: Digital security is hard. Really hard. And the larger and more complex the systems, the more difficult it is to plug all the security holes and make them secure and trustworthy. Yet security is also increasingly important in systems ranging from the smartphones in our hands to our power grids. So why isn’t everyone—especially the governments of the Five Eyes countries—promoting, supporting, and celebrating important security work? In part, it’s because law enforcement in each of these countries wants to take advantage of the same security holes that criminals do—a result that puts us all at risk. Even worse, many of these governments are now pushing companies—both through both law and through nonlegal pressure—to ensure that any future technology that the public relies on continues to have security holes they (and criminals) can use.

    • Tennessee Electrocutes Second Prisoner in Five Weeks

      A Tennessee inmate became the second person to die in the state’s electric chair in just over a month Thursday, nearly two decades after Tennessee adopted lethal injection as its preferred method of execution.

      David Earl Miller, 61, was pronounced dead at 7:25 p.m. at a Nashville maximum-security prison.

      Miller was convicted of killing 23-year-old Lee Standifer in 1981 in Knoxville and had been on death row for 36 years, the longest of any inmate in Tennessee.

      At 7:12 p.m. and after Miller had been strapped into the chair, Tennessee Department of Correction officials raised a blind that had covered the windows to a witness room. Miller looked straight ahead, his eyes seemingly unfocused and his face expressionless.

    • 30 Years Ago, Maine Changed Its Law To Curb Forfeiture Abuse. Records Show Nothing Has Changed.

      It is clear agencies are still directly benefiting from civil asset forfeiture. To route around state restrictions, local agencies are bringing in the feds to take advantage of a sharing program that’s not subject to local laws. Federal records show state agencies have taken home $13 million in funds from federal adoption of forfeitures since 2000.

      The lack of contribution to the state’s general fund shouldn’t be taken to mean state agencies have abandoned non-federal-assisted forfeiture. A public records request by the Institute for Justice obtained data showing state agencies are still racking up about $250,000 a year in cash forfeitures alone. That should have made its way to the state fund, but there’s no records showing that ever happened.

      Rule changes mean nothing if no one’s willing to enforce them. The state legislature made an effort thirty years ago to reform forfeiture, but for the last decade-plus, no one in the state has done anything to ensure agencies are complying with the rules. Law enforcement agencies aren’t going to hold themselves accountable and they’d still like to be the largest — if not the only — beneficiary of seized property. That’s exactly what appears to be happening here. Laws mean nothing if they’re not enforced — a truism law enforcement agencies are keenly aware of.

    • Fed Up With Trump’s Knickers and Golf Shirts and Insults

      Hypocrisy, thy name is: Turns out the racist ghoul who unceasingly reviles, belittles and otherwise trash-talks undocumented immigrants has employed a bunch of ‘em at his own tacky clubs – here, here, here – and one, according to the New York Times, has had enough. Victorina Morales is a Guatemalan housekeeper who’s worked at Trump’s glitzy Bedminster golf resort in New Jersey for five years, during which time by all accounts she hasn’t raped or murdered anyone, even though she’s undocumented. She has, however, busted her butt. She’s made Trump’s bed, cleaned his toilet, washed his windows, dusted the golf trophies he reportedly bought, washed and ironed his white boxers, golf shirts, khaki trousers, sheets and towels.

      For a while she worked inside his house, cleaning while he watched TV or standing quietly when he brought in potential Cabinet members for interviews: “I never imagined (I) would see such important people close up.” She once saw Trump throw a fit over orange stains on the collar of his white golf shirt, the stubborn remnants of the makeup that gives him his ghostly orange glow. Another time, he ran his teeny finger along surfaces she’d just dusted as she nervously watched; he declared she’d done “a good job” and gave her a tip. What a gold-plated prince: The club has entrance fees of over $100,000 a year and pays her a whopping 13 bucks an hour. Overall, she did such a good job she got a White House certificate recognizing her service.

      Still, when Trump became president, he started getting uglier, as did those around him. Morales, who came here in 1999 with two years of schooling and no English, was hurt to hear Trump equating immigrants like her with criminals; she was also upset by supervisors calling her and the many other immigrant workers “stupid,” “illegal,” with “less intelligence than a dog.” When it became too much, she and Sandra Diaz, a former maid, went to the Times. In a statement, Anibal Romero, an attorney for Morales and Diaz, said that “while working there and interacting with the President and his immediate family, my clients and others were repeatedly subjected to abuse, called racial epithets and threatened with deportation…This toxic environment was designed to intimidate these women, leaving them fearful for their safety.”

    • Arrested CFO Faces Bail Hearing in Canada Friday: Huawei Update

      The arrest of Huawei Technologies Co.’s chief financial officer in Canada provoked outrage from China at a critical point in trade talks with the U.S. Wanzhou Meng faces extradition to the U.S. over potential violations of American sanctions on Iran.

    • Noam Chomsky Turns 90

      I want to wish a happy birthday to Professor Noam Chomsky, who turns 90. He was born in the East Oak Lane section of Philadelphia, PA and received a Deweyite education as a youngster. He often states that the progressive education he received in his formative years was so effective that he didn’t even realize that he was a good student until he attended the academic high school. His parents, Elsie and William taught Hebrew in the city and Chomsky started writing, studying and devouring books at an early age, often traveling to visit his uncle Milton in New York City who ran a newsstand.

      Many Chomsky fans are familiar with this early story. He really doesn’t prefer to talk about it unless asked. Nor does Chomsky believe in the creation of celebrities through their work. To this day I’m not entirely sure he has ever seen the documentary film, Manufacturing Consent, a project he may have agreed to and entered reluctantly, after learning it was mainly about his political life.

    • Concentration Camps From Here to China

      It’s all a matter of perception. Often the outside observer doesn’t have the proper view of things and fails to appreciate that what is observed is not what is actually taking place. Consider the Uighurs in far West China and illegal immigrants along the southwest border of the United States.

      In the United States, there is great concern for the plight of the Uighurs. It was well described in an editorial that appeared in the New York Times on December 1, 2018. It was titled: “Who Will Speak Up for the Uighurs?” The editorial writer described the “urgent need to address at the highest levels of the American government what have been described as China’s worst human rights abuses in decades.” The need for the editorial seems obvious.

      The Uighurs, and members of other Muslim minority groups are being held in China’s far northwestern Xinjiang region, in what are described by outside observers as beyond deplorable conditions. The number of Uighurs detained may be in excess of one million and the inhabitants of the camps are reportedly subject to torture, and food deprivation. There have reportedly been countless deaths resulting from the treatment of the Uighurs by the Chinese authorities.

      It comes as no surprise to learn that the Chinese do not have the same perception of life in the camps as outside observers, former inhabitants of the camps and the editorial board of the New York Times.

      Explaining the treatment of the Uighurs, the Chinese say it is necessary to crackdown on them to “combat extremism and terrorism on its western frontier. Mimicking the Trump, who says the same things about immigrants in the United States on its southern border, the Chinese say: “many of those detained are common criminals.”

    • When A ‘Trade War’ Involves Seizing And Imprisoning Foreign Execs, It’s No Longer Just About Trade

      company’s equipment would send information back to the Chinese government. Of course, when our own government investigated this, it could find no evidence at all that this was true. It also seems notable that Huawei itself asked for this investigation, claiming that it would clear the company’s name, since it wasn’t doing anything that people were accusing it of doing. This doesn’t mean that the company isn’t doing something nefarious, but such claims should have some sort of evidence to back them up, and so far they’ve been lacking.

      Of course, this may have been one of those situations where people assumed that whatever we would do to others, others must be doing to us, because what we do know, is that the NSA broke into Huawei’s computers and grabbed a bunch of emails and source code. That bit seems to get left out of all the fear mongering reporting about Huawei. Oh, and it later came out that much of the whisper campaign about Huawei spying for the Chinese government… originated from the US firm Cisco, which was seeing its market share eroded by Huawei.

      So we’ve long taken the claims about Huawei with a large grain of salt, even as most in the media have been willing to repeat the allegations about Huawei without mentioning the lack of evidence, Cisco’s involvement, or the fact that the US government swiped a bunch of stuff from Huawei, even though all of those things seem kinda relevant.

      By now, of course, you’ve probably heard that Canadian officials arrested Huawei’s CFO, Meng Wanzhou, who also happens to be the daughter of the founder, and there are plans to try to extradite her to the US. While no charges have been revealed, most people claim it has to do with violating US sanctions on Iran by shipping US made equipment to Iran. The details here will matter, but it’s still incredibly unusual to have a friendly country arrest a top exec and then try to extradite them.

    • CIA Torture Killed My Father. I Want to Know What They Did With His Body.

      I believe there are two paths in life — the paths of right and wrong — and that all people know the right path in their hearts. So I believe that people in America, if they can read this, will know the right thing for their government to do is tell me and my family what happened to my father’s body.

      My father was Gul Rahman. Sixteen years ago, he was wrongfully imprisoned by the CIA because it suspected he was a militant. He was then tortured and killed in a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan — the only person known to have been killed at a CIA “black site.”

      I was 10 years old when he disappeared. He was a good and ordinary man and a wonderful father to me and my three younger sisters. We were living then in a camp in Pakistan for Afghan refugees fleeing the war in our country. We had little, but we were eating and surviving, and my father always had a positive outlook. He was always working to solve not only my family’s problems but also the problems of others around us who had even less than we did.

      We were poor, but he had a way of making us feel as though we owned a mountain. Even today, I can picture how he looked when he laughed and get back a little bit of that feeling.

    • When schools use child protective services as a weapon against parents

      Tiffany Banks sat in her living room, a ruby-red wall decorated with family photographs behind her, listing all the ways her life had unraveled over the past year. Her 6-year-old son had been removed from her care for more than a month. She was forced to close an in-home child care business, and she’d been temporarily displaced from her preschool teaching job, which she’d held for 17 years. Her teenage daughter refused to talk to the 6-year-old, blaming him for the family’s troubles.

      Banks didn’t blame her little boy. She blamed his school, and the investigators from the state’s child welfare agency they’d sent to her door.

      Until last fall, Banks had only good things to say about her children’s school. She’d carefully chosen the K-8 institution, a magnet school across town from her single-family house on Chicago’s West Side, for its academic rigor and diverse student body. Her daughter, now 16, had thrived there, she said, and her middle son did well too. But when her youngest son entered first grade last year, he started misbehaving and making trouble for teachers. “He really struggles behavior-wise,” said Banks, a tall, self-assured woman who’d attended neighborhood public schools in Chicago and desperately wanted something different for her kids. “And at this school they have a low tolerance for it.”

    • What Does Eleanor Roosevelt Have to Do with Black Lives Matter?

      Eleanor Roosevelt famously said that human rights must begin in “small places, close to home.” To speak to people’s everyday experiences in these places, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — drafted with her leadership — protects not only civil and political rights but also socioeconomic rights “indispensable” for human dignity. These include the rights to work and to just and favorable conditions of work; to education; and to housing, medical care, and social services necessary to ensure an adequate standard of living.

      During her lifetime, Roosevelt would not have seen much progress towards the realization of socioeconomic rights for many in her own country (she died in 1962). But today that egalitarian vision is increasingly animating civil society activism and influencing political discourse in the United States. On the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that’s worth celebrating.

    • After Getting FOSTA Turned Into Law, Facebook Tells Its Users To Stop Using Naughty Words

      Well, well. As we’ve covered for a while now, FOSTA became law almost entirely because Facebook did an about-face on its position on the law — which only recently was revealed to have happened because COO Sheryl Sandberg decided it was important to appease Congress on something, even against the arguments of Facebook’s own policy team. As we pointed out at the time, this was Facebook basically selling out the internet, and we wondered if Facebook would then help clean up the collateral damage it causes?

      The early indications are that, not only will it not help clean up the mess it caused, it’s leaning in on this new puritanical internet that it wants to create. We’ve already noted that Facebook has been sued under FOSTA by someone arguing that it has helped facilitate sex trafficking. And now, just days after Tumblr’s weird pivot away from sex, Facebook has put up a bunch of new guidelines in its “community standards” document, under the head of “sexual solicitation” that ban a wide variety of things from naughty words to expressing a sexual preference.

    • Facebook’s Sexual Solicitation Policy is a Honeypot for Trolls

      Facebook just quietly adopted a policy that could push thousands of innocent people off of the platform. The new “sexual solicitation” rules forbid pornography and other explicit sexual content (which was already functionally banned under a different statute), but they don’t stop there: they also ban “implicit sexual solicitation”, including the use of sexual slang, the solicitation of nude images, discussion of “sexual partner preference,” and even expressing interest in sex. That’s not an exaggeration: the new policy bars “vague suggestive statements, such as ‘looking for a good time tonight.’” It wouldn’t be a stretch to think that asking “Netflix and chill?” could run afoul of this policy.

    • Clear-Eyed Antidotes to Ingenuous Accolades for George H.W. Bush

      Thus sniffed the Daily Beast, which, like numerous other outlets that engaged in ingenuous whitewash of the former president, said more about itself than anyone else.

      It isn’t merely that it’s no part of journalists’ job to stoke misty visions of powerful public figures, dead or living; asserting that George H.W. Bush was America’s lovable Grandpa—that only the insolent would gainsay such an image—erases the many people harmed grievously by his actions and inactions.

      But those bombarded with corporate media accolades about how “responsible and reasonable” Bush Sr. was (according to the Washington Post—12/1/18); how he, in USA Today‘s words (12/1/18), “personified a time when….careful international diplomacy was not scorned as a sign of weakness”; how as the Chicago Tribune (12/1/18) had it, we were all touched by his “modesty, seriousness and gentlemanly grace,” could find their antidotes—not mean-spirited, just clear-eyed.

      Mehdi Hasan at The Intercept (12/1/18) ran down some of Bush Sr’s “war crimes, racism and obstruction of justice.” (Bush campaign director Lee Atwater eventually apologized for the infamous Willie Horton ad; Bush never did).

    • ‘Europe Condemns People to Drown’ by Forcing MSF Ship to Cease Migrant Rescue Missions

      “Europe condemns people to drown,” warned Médecins Sans Frontières—also known as MSF or Doctors Without Borders—which operated the ship, Aquarius, with its partner SOS MEDITERRANEE. With just this vessel, the groups have rescued an estimated 30,000 people since February of 2016.

      “This is a dark day,” declared MSF general director Nelke Manders. “Not only has Europe failed to provide search and rescue capacity, it has also actively sabotaged others’ attempts to save lives. The end of Aquarius means more deaths at sea, and more needless deaths that will go unwitnessed.”

      As the BBC noted, citing data from the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM), “more than 2,000 people have died or gone missing making crossings this year, compared to more than 3,000 last year.” At least a dozen people died this week, according to IOM, when a rubber boat that had spent more than 10 days at sea capsized off the Libyan coast.

    • White Supremacy Apologists Are Having a Field Day

      The Washington Post popped a story Tuesday night describing yet another instance of the Trump administration going out of its way to coddle white nationalists. This version featured Georgia Coffey, chief diversity specialist at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), who was shut down last year by Trump appointee John Ullyot when she tried to craft a statement on behalf of the department denouncing the racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

      The issue was pressing to Coffey for a wide variety of reasons, not the least of which was the definite need to represent the viewpoint of the VA staffers. “A statement from VA leaders was necessary, Coffey wrote in one email to Ullyot, because the agency’s workforce was unsettled by the uproar caused by the Charlottesville violence,” reports The Post. “Minorities make up more than 40 percent of VA’s 380,000 employees, the federal government’s second-largest agency.”

      The clash between Coffey and Ullyot came after President Trump’s ham-fisted defense of the white nationalists, fascists and Klansmen whose Charlottesville rally exploded in violence, leaving Heather Heyer dead and many others injured. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms,” said Trump, “this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides.” Trump refused to explain what “many sides” meant, but his refusal to condemn the actual agitators in Charlottesville was what poker players call a great big “tell.” Coffey has since left the agency.

      [...]

      The same White House where the son of the president constantly retweets white nationalist memes. The same White House where the president himself retweets white nationalist videos.

    • An Elkhart Police Officer Was Convicted of Drunken Driving — Then the Chief Promoted Him

      Elkhart, Indiana, Police Chief Ed Windbigler is currently serving a 30-day suspension, in part for misleading a civilian oversight commission about the severity of misconduct committed by two officers who repeatedly punched a handcuffed man in the face.

      But that wasn’t the first time Windbigler had provided the commission with inaccurate or incomplete information about an officer’s misconduct, according to records obtained by the South Bend Tribune and ProPublica.

    • Indiana Police Chief Promoting As Many Bad Cops As He Can To Supervisory Positions

      There’s another level of oversight that may rein some of the worst cops in, but Chief Windbigler is actively avoiding its scrutiny. The Public Safety Board is supposed to be the disciplinary body handling misconduct cases, but Chief Windbigler isn’t giving it anything to work with. As the article notes, previous police chiefs brought 20 cases a year to the PSB. Windbigler brought zero cases to the board during his first full year as chief. Since then, he has only brought eight. For all of this accountability-dodging, his officers voted the chief “Officer of the Year,” despite the fact the honor is supposed to go to actual officers, not top PD brass.

      The news only gets worse for Elkhart residents, who will be paying bad cops to oversee possibly worse cops. The mayor, Tim Neese, has decided to reform the Public Safety Board. Neese, whose son is an Elkhart police officer, will be dropping his two appointees and replacing them with more cops.

    • The Nauseating Spectacle of George H.W. Bush’s Funeral

      You will often find mentioned, in history books recounting the grim march of the 20th century, the 1910 funeral of King George VII. A clownish panoply paraded through the streets of London: nine monarchs, a small army of minor royals, a wire fox terrier named Caesar. These honored guests, the great potentates of Schleswig-Holstein and Mecklenburg-Strelitz, were already dead, and did not know it. Ridiculous relics of an age that had already elapsed—of swordsmen, doffed hats, and fur-hatted hussars—their kind would soon be incinerated in the trenches of World War I.

      The same stench is in the air over a century later, in America, now that George Herbert Walker Bush has been laid to rest. The 41st president of the United States finally expired, after an extended dotage spent leering from a wheelchair like an ailing mob boss. And to a degree that is still somehow surprising, Bush’s death has inspired a low-grade panic among a certain class of American elite—ludicrously rich, self-obsessed in the extreme, lifelong killers.

      For those invited, the events Wednesday within the National Cathedral constituted a rearguard maneuver against what should be the final judgment of every living thing. George H.W. Bush dealt out an awful lot of death over the course of his life to a diverse array of peoples: AIDS patients, bereft of comfort and care; terrified Iraqis, slaughtered in retreat or at their homes; young people of color, jailed on an industrial scale. Any remembrance of such victims was an uphill battle, against the cold kind of power that not only killed them, but rendered them despicable first—in effect, worthy of killing.

    • The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler

      The prolonged nationally televised commemorations of the racist, corporatist, and imperialist killers John McCain and George H.W. Bush – both privileged sons of the United States military industrial complex – have been nauseating for any decent and historically knowledgeable human being to behold. But the national rituals attached to the deaths of these monstrous butchers have also been very instructive in the age of Trump.

      Following the nation’s so-called mainstream media during the Trump years, you might almost think it has become anti-establishment and anti-authoritarian. Outside FOX and other right-wing outlets that function as de factoTrump state media, the reigning U.S. news and public affairs complex has been consistently skeptical, critical, and even mocking in its coverage of and commentary on Donald Trump.

      What is wrong with Trump in the minds of the corporate and financial establishment that owns the corporate media oligopoly? Is it that he’s a product and tool of a corporate and financial oligarchy so extreme that three absurdly rich people (Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates) now possess as much wealth between them as the bottom half of the nation – this while the upper tenth of the One Percent holds the same net worth as the bottom 90 percent?

    • Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai to US Congress: “Don’t Greet Refugees With Tear Gas”

      Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for her activism promoting girls’ education—and her work toward that equity made her a target of the Taliban; members of the extremist group shot her in the head in 2012.

      “Malala speaks powerfully to the strength and perseverance of women and girls who are oppressed,” said David Gergen, professor of public service at Harvard Kennedy School and director of the Center for Public Leadership in an earlier press release announcing the award. “Her remarkable story has inspired girls—and boys as well—to follow in her footsteps and has activated a generation of practitioners and legislators who are fighting for equality in their own communities.”

      Previous recipients of the Gleitsman Award have included African National Congress President Nelson Mandela in 1993; Maria Adela Antokoletz, Argentinean founder of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, in 1997; and International Bridges to Justice founder Karen Tse in 2009.

      [...]

      The Trump administration, for its part, has drawn international outrage for, among other things, its recent firing of tear gas by U.S. Border Patrol agents against migrants including families with young children.

    • ‘Small Measure of Justice for Heather Heyer’ as Neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. Convicted of Murdering Her With His Car

      Self-professed neo-Nazi James Alex Fields Jr. was convicted of first-degree murder on Friday for killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer when he intentionally drove his car into a group of counterprotesters at last year’s violent Unite the Right rally that brought scores of white supremacists to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia.

      The 21-year-old with ties to the hate group Vanguard America is now facing up to life in prison. After more than seven hours of deliberations, the jury found him guilty of Heyer’s murder and several other charges—five counts of aggravated malicious wounding, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of leaving the scene of a crime—related to the dozens of others who were injured.

      While Fields isn’t scheduled to be sentenced until next week, news of his conviction was widely celebrated by anti-racist activists and many others as “a small measure of justice for Heather Heyer.”

    • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!

      These are the words in the preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) promulgated 70 years ago on December 10, 1948. They were supposed to reflect a new understanding of the causes of war and a commitment to the highest values of the “international community.”

      The UDHR was the first major instrument produced by the United Nations (UN), an institution itself created at the end of the second world war. Its creation was hailed as a breakthrough that would give institutional substance to the pledge by member states to promote international cooperation, commit to peaceful relations among states and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

      According to Elenore Roosevelt, wife of President Roosevelt and U.S. representative to the UN Human Rights Commission, the structure responsible for producing the UDHR, the declaration reflected those natural and eternal rights that, nevertheless, were not always seen but under the right circumstances could be revealed and nurtured.

      It was thought by many that the UDHR with its commitments to freedom of thought and speech, assembly, education, life-long social security, health care, food, the right to culture etc., represented the hope of an international community that had learned from the carnage of the second world war, grew up as a result and ready to collectively center the dignity of everyone.

    • Wendy Was No One’s Enemy

      Busy day of bedlam, what with the Mueller memo declaring Trump a two-time felon and the felon, deep in his lunatic fog, responding by happily proclaiming, “Totally clears the President. Thank you!” Though we are now “deep into the worst case scenarios,” we at least have Twitter punching back for comic relief: “No, honey….When you can’t read…Dude. Refresh your feed. Shit’s not good…Who’s going to tell Individual 1?” and, from George Conway, “Except for that little part where the US Attorney’s Office says that you directed and coordinated with Cohen to commit two felonies. Other than that, totally scot-free.”

      For 24 hours before Mueller released his memo, a panicked Trump hysterically rage-tweeted about all the lying leaking crooked everyones being mean to him. In the midst of his tantrum, he again spewed his vile canard, “FAKE NEWS. THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” Joshua McKerrow, a photojournalist at the Capital Gazette where five journalists were shot dead last June, wasn’t having it. Coming back from a Christmas story he had long covered with one of the victims, his friend and colleague Wendi Winters – and having earlier chronicled the “sea of traumas” those in the newsroom were enduring – he offered a heart-rending, bittersweet, deeply human remembrance of Winters in a series of tweets, and a fierce defense of what they/we do.

      “Today I did the annual story on holiday decorations at the Governor’s residence,” he wrote. “I’ve done it every year, for years. A very light but very fun story. Every year my reporting partner was Wendi Winters. This year, it was Selene. Wendi was murdered in June.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • FCC Tries to Bury Report Showing Many Broadband Users Still Don’t Get The Speeds They Pay For

      So every year like clockwork since 2011 the FCC has released a report naming and shaming ISPs that fail to deliver advertised broadband speeds. The Measuring American Broadband program, which the FCC runs in conjunction with UK firm SamKnows, uses custom-firmware embedded routers in subscriber homes to collect data on real-world speeds (an improvement from years past when the FCC would just take ISPs’ at their word).

      In the years since, the program has been an effective way to name and shame ISPs that fail to deliver speeds promised to consumers. For example, in the first report, the FCC announced that some ISPs, like New York’s Cablevision, had delivered just 50% of advertised speeds during peak hours. By the next report Cablevision had moved to fix its under-provisioning issues, and the FCC found that the company was now offering more bandwidth than advertised at peak hours. In the absence of more competition, simply using real data was a useful way to motivate apathetic regional monopolies to try a little harder.

    • QUIC and HTTP/3 : Too big to fail?!

      Much has been said about the potential benefits of QUIC, most of it based on Google’s experience with an early version of the protocol. However, its potential shortcomings are rarely talked about and little is yet known about the properties of the upcoming, standardized versions (as they are still under active development). This post takes a (nuanced) “devil’s advocate” viewpoint and looks at how QUIC and HTTP/3 might still fail in practice, despite the large amount of current enthusiasm. In all fairness, I will also mention counter arguments to each point and let the reader make up their own mind, hopefully after plenty of additional discussion.

    • You need neither PWA nor AMP to make your website load fast

      There has been a trend of new “revolutionary” techniques on the Web that basically let you do stuff possible decades ago.

    • Contrary To Media Claims, There’s No Evidence Russia Was Behind Fake Net Neutrality Comments

      Earlier this week we noted how the Ajit Pai FCC again shot down journalist FOIA attempts to find out who was behind the millions of bogus comments that plagued the agency’s net neutrality repeal. The move prompted one of the agency’s commissioners, Jessica Rosenworcel, to accuse her own agency of a coverup–since Pai refuses to work with either journalists or law enforcement investigations trying to uncover the truth of who was behind the comment fraud.

      In an uncharacteristically snarky statement (pdf) issued the same day, Pai attempted to dismiss the criticisms as purely partisan attacks. But he also acknowledged something we already knew…that 500,000 or so of the email addresses used in the FCC’s comment form came from users purportedly on Russian ISPs.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • SPCs under friendly fire

      Why would anyone want to have their own supplementary protection certificate (SPC) revoked? – The answer is, quite simply, Article 3(c).

      Under Article 3(c) of Regulation (EC) 469/2009 on SPCs for medicinal products (and, likewise, under Article 3(1)(c) of Regulation (EC) 1610/96 on SPCs for plant protection products), an SPC shall be granted only if “the product has not already been the subject of a certificate” in the respective EU member state. In practice, this requirement effectively means that different holders of basic patents can each be granted one SPC for the same product, while the same holder of several patents cannot be granted more than one SPC for the same product. This has become known as the “one SPC per product per patent holder rule”.

      So, what can patent holders do if they wish to obtain an SPC for an active ingredient X on the basis of their recently issued patent P2 even though they have already obtained a prior SPC for this same active ingredient X on the basis of an earlier granted patent P1? Could the patent holder have its prior SPC revoked with retroactive effect (ex tunc) and thereby clear the way for a new SPC filing? Similarly, if the basic patent underlying an SPC is revoked and the SPC is consequently rendered invalid (with retroactive effect), can this give the SPC holder a “second chance” to file a new SPC for the same active ingredient on the basis of a different patent?

    • Trademarks

      • The Emmys People Are Opposing A Pet Products Company Named After A Dog Named ‘Emmy’

        In the pantheon of dumb trademark disputes, you would probably expect there to be some correlation between the volume or level of dumb of a dispute and the involvement of a member of the entertainment industry. Without having any hard data in front of me, I still feel quite comfortable stating that this expectation is almost certainly correct. The entertainment industries are notoriously protective of all things intellectual property, after all. Still, sometimes you run across a dispute that is so silly it takes your breath away.

        Meet Kevin Rizer. Kevin owns a pet products company in Texas. When he named his company, he drew inspiration from his own furry, four-legged friend, his cancer-surviving dog, whose name is Emmy. Thus, Emmy’s Best was created to make pet products, and, damn it, you already know where this is going, don’t you?

    • Copyrights

      • South Africa Parliament Passes Sweeping Copyright Bill; Final Step Expected In New Year

        South Africa’s National Assembly this week approved redrafted versions of the Performers’ Protection Amendment Bill and the Copyright Amendment Bill that includes stronger protections for copyright holders but also a fair use provision preserving some exceptions. But there is still an additional hurdle to go before it reaches the President for signature, likely in the New Year.

      • Major Rightsholders Are Not Happy With Article 13 Either

        Several prominent representatives of the audiovisual and sports sectors, including the MPA and the Premier League, are not pleased with the current Article 13 proposals. Their objections don’t concern the possibility of upload filters, but with potential new liability shields for large Internet services, which they say will only gain power at the detriment of copyright holders.

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